We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Distrust is the inevitable result of censorship. Oh, and announcing Peak 2021.

Doctors Fiona Godlee and Kamran Abbasi, editors of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), have written an open letter from from the BMJ to Mark Zuckerberg:

Dear Mark Zuckerberg,

We are Fiona Godlee and Kamran Abbasi, editors of The BMJ, one of the world’s oldest and most influential general medical journals. We are writing to raise serious concerns about the “fact checking” being undertaken by third party providers on behalf of Facebook/Meta.

In September, a former employee of Ventavia, a contract research company helping carry out the main Pfizer covid-19 vaccine trial, began providing The BMJ with dozens of internal company documents, photos, audio recordings, and emails. These materials revealed a host of poor clinical trial research practices occurring at Ventavia that could impact data integrity and patient safety. We also discovered that, despite receiving a direct complaint about these problems over a year ago, the FDA did not inspect Ventavia’s trial sites.

The BMJ commissioned an investigative reporter to write up the story for our journal. The article was published on 2 November, following legal review, external peer review and subject to The BMJ’s usual high level editorial oversight and review.[1]

But from November 10, readers began reporting a variety of problems when trying to share our article. Some reported being unable to share it. Many others reported having their posts flagged with a warning about “Missing context … Independent fact-checkers say this information could mislead people.” Those trying to post the article were informed by Facebook that people who repeatedly share “false information” might have their posts moved lower in Facebook’s News Feed. Group administrators where the article was shared received messages from Facebook informing them that such posts were “partly false.”

Readers were directed to a “fact check” performed by a Facebook contractor named Lead Stories.[2]

We find the “fact check” performed by Lead Stories to be inaccurate, incompetent and irresponsible.

— It fails to provide any assertions of fact that The BMJ article got wrong

— It has a nonsensical title: “Fact Check: The British Medical Journal Did NOT Reveal Disqualifying And Ignored Reports Of Flaws In Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Trials”

— The first paragraph inaccurately labels The BMJ a “news blog”

Do read the whole thing, which is quite an important step in both fighting censorship by social media and in fighting Covid-19. These aims are not in opposition. I stopped my excerpt there for what some may call a trivial reason: to leap to the defence of blogging. While I sympathise with the irritation felt by the editors of the BMJ at hearing their venerable journal, founded in 1840, described as a “news blog” I have to say that there are some blogs I would trust more than some newspapers, even some older than the BMJ. For instance I found out about this matter via Not the Bee.

Yes, that’s 2021, folks, when a link from the “truth is stranger than fiction” non-satirical spinoff of an American Christian satirical website (even as a Christian myself, those are weird words to put next to each other) takes me to an open letter from the editors of the august British Medical Journal in which they angrily respond to a so-called “fact checker” working for a social media site who thinks the best way to combat the conspiracy theory that “they” might be suppressing news about inadequacies in the testing of vaccines is to suppress news about inadequacies in the testing of vaccines.

ξ Who Must Not Be Named

As explained by the Wikipedia article on the official nomenclature for variants of SARS-CoV-2, the use of letters of the Greek alphabet to refer to the different variants of Covid-19 was chosen by the World Health Organization specifically to avoid referring to variants by their country of origin, as practised by certain naughty former US presidents. We have had the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu and Nu variants.

I guess the WHO didn’t anticipate the list would go past thirteen.

“Omicron variant reaches Britain”, reports today’s Sunday Times.

Only the fourteenth letter of the Greek alphabet is not Omicron. It’s Xi.

Edit: In the comments TomJ says that actually two letters have been skipped. The variant all the papers were calling “Nu” the day before yesterday was hastily renamed “Omicron”. Allegedly they jumped over “Nu” because it sounds like “new” and they jumped over have “Xi” because it is a common surname, a story to which I might give an iota of credence if it came from someone other than the World Health Organisation. The excellent investigation by the Sunday Times Insight Team, China, the WHO and the power grab that fuelled a pandemic, is unfortunately behind a paywall, but here is an excerpt:

Our investigation reveals today how a concerted campaign over many years by Beijing to grab power inside the WHO appears to have fatally compromised its ability to respond to the crisis. It raises serious concerns about the extent of Beijing’s influence over the WHO and its director-general, and how this undermined the organisation’s capacity — and willingness — to take the steps necessary to avert a global pandemic. Its leadership put China’s economic interests before public health concerns. The results have been nothing short of catastrophic.

The Xi variant, indeed. Pity there isn’t a Greek letter called Pu.

The Scarlet Letter

Although Boris’ letter is written in the most friendly and amiable manner towards Emmanuel and the EU generally, and its references to earlier discussions between them are phrased in a very positive way, I can make a guess at why Boris thought continuing the discussion somewhat more in the public gaze was a good idea. I can likewise make a guess at why this allowing the public a look at what is happening made Macron furious enough to cancel today the meetings agreed to yesterday.

However that is not the point of my post (but commenters are welcome to spread themselves on that subject if they wish). I want to discuss the letter itself. Overtly, everything in it is about the wicked people smugglers and their poor trafficked victims. I was reminded of ‘war on drugs’ rhetoric, typically eager to focus blame on evil pushers, not victimised addicts.

In the war on drugs, that way of looking at things is not always and only spin.

– I knew a woman whose life took a very different turn from anything she’d expected. She chanced to encounter a young drug addict – let’s call her Moira (not her name) in this post – whose family and friends, after trying very hard, had finally despaired of her. It became indisputably clear to my friend that either someone would work a miracle or Moira would be dead within a few months at most. Where ninety-nine in a hundred would have walked by on the other side, my friend took Moira into her own house and gave her that unconditional love that is so very much more often preached than practised. A few months later, Moira was clean – and stayed so. My friend went back to her old life, thinking, “that was weird” – but less than a year later she was confronted by a family quite literally on their knees before her, begging her to do for their daughter the miracle she had achieved for Moira. They were not the last to do so. Thus, gradually, not intending it, she discovered her vocation was to redeem drug addicts, one at a time. She had her successes and her failures. In the end, she become someone whom social work directors and suchlike government figures consulted – though she seemed to feel her hard-won, very tough-minded experience was more apt to shock than to change their fashionable theories.

– For years, a former neighbour went with his evangelical church group into Glasgow on Saturday nights, offering coffee and food, and encouragement to get out of that life, to any hookers-cum-addicts willing to visit their bus. There were funny incidents – one girl (still in her hooker’s outfit) came to his church, threw her arms around him and kissed him, gushing about how he had (physically and morally) saved her. “Does you wife know about this kind of thing?”, asked a staid member of the congregation. There were horrible incidents. Week after week, one girl came to argue them down, to tell the other girls not to fall for all this Jesus stuff. Then, one evening, when others were momentarily elsewhere, she quietly told him, “I know you think I’m horrible and hopeless, but actually I am listening”. A week later, she was dead – murdered. She was a nobody in her world – but knew too much to be let leave it. Where my friend thought he’d been urging her to resist temptation and failing – actually, she’d been fighting the temptation to risk trying.

These of course, are the exceptions – the miracles. We all know who else populate the drug addict world: people who give convincing impressions of having sold their souls and paid up; misery that loves company and inflicts it with psychopathic indifference; people who stopped being victims long ago. In between, there are those who are simultaneously both. One Saturday night, an honest policeman asked my old neighbour, “Why do you waste your time on such people?” – and had no lack of illustrative examples.

It’s the same in the people-trafficked world. The trafficked are a complicit commodity – and you can place great emphasis on both those words. This guy came to the UK to loot the welfare state and steal the rest of what he’d promised to his traffickers – knowing that his family back in Syria were his traffickers’ security. When being caught delayed his ability to pay them, they pimped out his wife and kids – whereupon he gave a strong proof that he was genuinely upset about that. Like some German officer late in WWII, aware that too swift a surrender might be revenged on his family, or some Soviet cold-war agent of influence who knew with certainty what Stalin would do to his family if he defected, the trafficked can be simultaneously enemies of the UK and victims of its more powerful enemies.

With that background under our belt, let’s return to the letter. I don’t care for the cautious deference Boris’ phrasing shows to “right-think” (i.e. left-think), with all the blame thrown on the traffickers and none on the illegal migrants. But the letter does challenge the far filthier PC narrative of ‘asylum seekers’, with the true nature of this political, commercial and above-all criminal operation not even mentioned to deny it, but just insolently ignored. Against that, I welcome the publicity Macron’s tantrum will give Boris’ letter. It’s a step towards wider understanding; may it start a journey.

Kyle Rittenhouse acquitted

“Kyle Rittenhouse found not guilty after fatally shooting two in Kenosha unrest”, the Guardian reluctantly reports.

Good. Not because it makes Guardian reporters cry, but because Mr Rittenhouse was quite clearly acting in self defence.

Most relevantly, scroll down this piece by Nellie Bowles, formerly of the New York Times, writing in the Substack account of Bari Weiss, also formerly of the New York Times, shedding light on what and when readers of that publication got to hear about the Kenosha riots:

A note on Kenosha in light of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial: Until quite recently, the mainstream liberal argument was that burning down businesses for racial justice was both good and healthy. Burnings allowed for the expression of righteous rage, and the businesses all had insurance to rebuild.

When I was at the New York Times, I went to Kenosha to see about this, and it turned out to be not true. The part of Kenosha that people burned in the riots was the poor, multi-racial commercial district, full of small, underinsured cell phone shops and car lots. It was very sad to see and to hear from people who had suffered. Beyond the financial loss, small storefronts are quite meaningful to their owners and communities, which continuously baffles the Zoom-class.

Something odd happened with that story after I filed it. It didn’t run. It sat and sat.

Now it could be that the piece was just bad. I’ve sent in bad ones before, and I’ll do it again. A few weeks after I filed, an editor told me: The Times wouldn’t be able to run my Kenosha insurance debacle piece until after the 2020 election, so sorry.

There were a variety of reasons given—space, timing, tweaks here or there.
Eventually the election passed. Biden was in the White House. And my Kenosha story ran. Whatever the reason for holding the piece, covering the suffering after the riots was not a priority. The reality that brought Kyle Rittenhouse into the streets was one we reporters were meant to ignore. The old man who tried to put out a blaze at a Kenosha store had his jaw broken. The top editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer had to resign in June 2020 amid staff outcry for publishing a piece with the headline, “Buildings Matter, Too.”

If you lived in those neighborhoods on fire, you were not supposed to get an extinguisher. The proper response — the only acceptable response — was to see the brick and mortar torn down, to watch the fires burn and to say: thank you.

Update: Within the last few minutes Bari Weiss herself posted this commentary on the case: “The Media’s Verdict on Kyle Rittenhouse – Why so many got this story so wrong.”

Here is what I thought was true about Kyle Rittenhouse during the last days of August 2020 based on mainstream media accounts: The 17-year-old was a racist vigilante. I thought he drove across state lines, to Kenosha, Wisc., with an illegally acquired semi-automatic rifle to a town to which he had no connection. I thought he went there because he knew there were Black Lives Matter protests and he wanted to start a fight. And I thought that by the end of the evening of August 25, 2020, he had done just that, killing two peaceful protestors and injuring a third.

It turns out that account was mostly wrong.

[…]

This wasn’t a disinformation campaign waged by Reddit trolls or anonymous Twitter accounts. It was one pushed by the mainstream media and sitting members of Congress for the sake of an expedient political narrative—a narrative that asked people to believe, among other unrealities, that blocks of burning buildings somehow constituted peaceful protests.

Another update: Glenn Greenwald tweets, “Just look at how many people were radically deceived about this case – and still are! – including people paid to follow and “report on” these matters for a living” and illustrates his point with a hilarious screenshot of the Independent‘s front page of a few minutes ago. Somebody must have told them, they’ve since corrected it. But, c’mon man, imagine the Independent‘s reporters of all people relying on the Independent as a source.

Why the tabloids are the choice of adults

The Daily Mail reports, EXCLUSIVE: Suicide bomber who died when his device blew up outside Liverpool hospital was pizza chef, 32, who fled Middle East and converted to Christianity at cathedral ‘he wanted to attack’ and was once arrested for carrying a knife

I was much taken by this comment from someone called “SorcerousSinner” on the normally left wing subreddit /r/ukpolitics:

The Daily Mail is the best news source for stuff like this because they have the least restraint and just publish all the info, and rumours. Footage of the killings. Fake news. Everything.

Broadsheet journalists are always concerned with carefully steering us, the dumb rabble, towards what they believe we should believe

So, the mail is the choice of adults who think they can handle the responsibility of getting all the info, possibly fake info.

Halleluyah! Antiviral drugs are coming (and remember, Don’t mention Ivermectin!)

Now the UK has approved an anti-viral drug, early treatment is on the official agenda (on this side of the pond at least). Also on this side of the pond is a Dr John Campbell, whose amiable video manner (like his bedside manner, I expect) avoids overawing his audience with the impression that he already knows everything, so need never be told anything. It’s a manner he seems to think some ‘fact-checkers’ could use. ‘Alternative Facts’ is the title of his video response to Facebook’s putting a…

Missing Context

Independent fact-checkers say this could mislead people.

…warning on the video he made last week about similarities between the pharmacodynamic mechanism of Ivermectin and that of the new Pfizer antiviral.

He learned of the ‘misleading’ fact-check (the misleading ‘fact-check’) from some followers who tried to share his earlier video on Facebook. After reviewing how, uh, ‘well’ qualified the fact-checkers were, he follows Natalie’s wise advice to brief his side properly, giving the fact-checkers a tick or half-mark wherever he can, before moving good-humouredly to reasons why it was nevertheless a bit arrogant of them to call it a fact-check.

To see the video, click this link and then the ‘Alternative Facts’ icon (second along in the list as of today). You can turn on auto-generated subtitles if you prefer reading to hearing, but if you like mild dry English humour you may be happy enough to listen to him.

“Wrong, wrong, wrong” is putting it kindly

When All The Media Narratives Collapse – Andrew Sullivan, writing on Substack:

Think of the other narratives the MSM pushed in recent years that have collapsed. They viciously defamed the Covington boys. They authoritatively told us that bounties had been placed on US soldiers in Afghanistan by Putin — and Trump’s denials only made them more certain. They told us that the lab-leak theory of Covid was a conspiracy theory with no evidence behind it at all. (The NYT actually had the story of the leak theory, by Donald McNeil, killed it, and then fired McNeil, their best Covid reporter, after some schoolgirls complained he wasn’t woke.) Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The MSM took the ludicrous story of Jussie Smollett seriously because it fit their nutty “white supremacy” narrative. They told us that a woman was brutally gang-raped at UVA (invented), that the Pulse mass shooting was driven by homophobia (untrue) and that the Atlanta spa shooter was motivated by anti-Asian bias (no known evidence for that at all). For good measure, they followed up with story after story about white supremacists targeting Asian-Americans, in a new wave of “hate,” even as the assaults were disproportionately by African Americans and the mentally ill.

As Greenwald noted, the NYT “published an emotionally gut-wrenching but complete fiction that never had any evidence — that Officer Sicknick’s skull was savagely bashed in with a fire extinguisher by a pro-Trump mob until he died.” The media told us that an alleged transgender exposure in the Wi Spa in Los Angeles was an anti-trans hoax (also untrue). They told us that the emails recovered on Hunter Biden’s laptop were Russian disinformation.

It pays to brief your own side properly

Some time in the early 1990s I was a witness to a brief exchange in the House of Commons that went unnoticed at the time but would go on to change the world.*

The scene was an ill-attended debate on Legal Aid Fees – the fees paid to lawyers by the state for representing those of slender means, as the White Paper setting up the Legal Aid scheme in 1949 put it. At the time, I was a very junior civil servant, sent to sit in the Visitors’ Gallery as a minor jolly and to give me some idea of how Parliamentary Questions played out in real life.

Speaking for the Lord Chancellor’s Department – none of yer new-fangled “Ministry of Justice” rubbish then – was a Tory MP I will call My Guy. It was him I sometimes got to write whole paragraphs of briefing papers for. Speaking for the Opposition was a Labour bloke whom I will call Labour Bloke. Up pops Labour Bloke, newly briefed by the Law Society (the “professional association” for UK lawyers, like a trade union but less honest) on how the wicked Tories were driving legal folk to penury and leaving the poor without representation as a result. “What is the Minister going to do,” he said, or words to that effect, “about the savage and unjustified cuts to Legal Aid fees?”

My Guy – a lawyer himself but now poacher turned gamekeeper – smiles and says, “There have been no cuts to Legal Aid Fees”. Labour Bloke visibly checks the papers in his hand but restrains himself from saying the words “But it says here”. He did manage to stammer out something, to which My Guy, who was a bit of a snot but in the right here and knew it, merely responded with the same words again: “There have been no cuts to Legal Aid Fees”.

There followed some bandying of figures, but Labour Bloke never recovered his momentum. The reason the poor chap had been so sure there had been cuts was that the Law Society had made the mistake of feeding him the same guff they put out to the Guardian, which was cleverly worded to make the fact that fees had gone up by less than inflation sound like they had been cut. I could tell Labour had taken their line straight from the Law Society by the familiarity of the words and figures used. I remember thinking how foolish Labour had been to rely so much on one source, and even more strongly, how damning it was that a bunch of barristers [Edit: solicitors, not barristers, according to commenter “llamas”], professional arguers by all that’s holy, had failed to appreciate the folly in both law and politics of not telling their own advocate the whole story.

I was reminded of that exchange by seeing two things on the internet about the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, which, please bear in mind, is not over.

One was this Guardian article, “Jury watches drone footage of Kyle Rittenhouse shooting man dead.” I do not say it contains any lies, but if that were your only source you would never know, you would never guess, you would never imagine, the existence of this video clip.

Imagine, dear reader, that you are a committed progressive. Imagine that you go online to argue against Rittenhouse, armed, if you will forgive the phrase, only with that Guardian article. How would it go? The mainstream media has passed a milestone in its decline to irrelevance when someone who wants to successfully argue for the same things the MSM argues for must use other sources besides the MSM.

*OK, the change concerned was that a quarter of a century later it would inspire me to write this Samizdata post, but that is undeniably part of the world and the world will have changed from not including my musings to including them once I press “Publish”, which I am doing now.

Sunday afternoon funnies

The world is going to hell in a eco-friendly handbasket, but the sun just broke through the clouds where I am, so here are a couple of things I recently found in the intertubes that made me laugh.

Ayn Rand’s Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone

Hero: Someone had ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ paged at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (via Ed Driscoll at Instapundit)

The whole “Let’s go, Brandon” phenomenon is a hoot. It’s inspiring to witness these hip young rebels sticking it to The Man while avoiding profanity. Remember when it was left wingers who used their wit to sneak under the censors’ radar?

—————————

Ian Birrell in the Mail on Sunday asks,

What are they hiding? At the start of Covid many scientists believed it likely leaked from Wuhan lab – until a conference call with Patrick Vallance changed their minds. We asked for his emails about the call. This is what we got . . .

Redacted letters

Preventing the truth

prevent, (verb) from latin prevene (pre vene): (literal meaning) to go before; (in modern usage) to hinder, to obstruct, to block, …

If you count yet again a stack of ballots, some valid but others not, what number do you get? The same as before, of course.

I foresaw from the moment the Arizona audit was scheduled that the first trivial task of the auditors would be merely to count all the ballots and observe the same 10,000-odd lead for Biden as before – after all, they could hardly count the votes that went missing before reaching the count in the first place*. The point of the audit was to see whether any of the ballots that were counted were demonstrably unsafe.

The media likewise foresaw these things. And both I and the media foresaw that even after all the vigorous non-cooperation of Maricopa county election officials and others, the auditors might still find more than 10,000 unsafe ballots (several times more in the event). So I foresaw the media would have a story prepared for dismissing this. (As David Burge remarked, modern journalism is about covering important stories – “with a pillow; till they stop moving”.)

What I did not foresee with quite the crystal clarity that it has this morning, is that their prepared story would be to treat the utterly predictable fact of the combined safe and unsafe ballots totalling to the same numbers as before as news. And I feel slow for not foreseeing how inevitably they would do that. After all, if your long-prepared headline is “Arizona audit confirms Biden win”, what else could you write beneath it?

The modern meaning of prevent makes amusingly unfortunate the over-literal translation of the old prayer, “O Lord, prevent us in all our doings”, as if Jesus’ job, like that of a modern mask Karen, was to rush around spotting anyone planning to have fun, so as to stop them before fun could even start. When it comes to our joyless media, however, I think we need to be better at preventing them (old sense – and then modern if, as so often, their plan is to lie, cheat and steal their way into power over us).

P.S. (FYI, Internet Health Warning)
* Within a short time of the asterisked link above first appearing a couple of weeks ago, attempts to reach it became apt to raise a maximum severity “This website appears to be trying to steal your data” warning. I feel sure the ‘Behind the Black’ website itself was not – but who knows, it could be some behind-the-scenes black-op was trying to steal the data of those who linked to that post, or someone wanted to discourage people from reading it. The warning no longer appears, so the black-op is over, or has improved its ability to run silently, or it was just another of those never-to-be-explained events the web throws up from time-to-time.

All the other links in my post above have always behaved normally for me.

This month’s heresy is next month’s orthodoxy

“YouTube suspends Rand Paul for a week over a video disputing the effectiveness of masks”, reports the New York Times.

I have no strong opinion on the question, but Senator Rand Paul is also Doctor Rand Paul, so his medical opinion holds some weight. This post on Rumble takes you to the video that got him banned: “It Is Time For Unfiltered News”

As Glenn Greenwald points out,

JUST LAST WEEK: Biden’s former COVID adviser, the epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, told @camanpour [the CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour] exactly the same thing.

YouTube and Facebook* play a merry game. On April 16 2020, Guy Rosen, Facebook’s “VP Integrity”, posted “An Update on Our Work to Keep People Informed and Limit Misinformation About COVID-19”. That post is as good as a soap opera; the writers are always adding new and dramatic plot twists.

On February 8, 2021 at 10:00AM PT, they announced that claims that “COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured” would be removed.

On May 26, 2021 at 3:30PM PT, they said, “In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured from our apps.”

In like spirit, Dr Paul is doing no more than returning to the medical orthodoxy before last. From the Independent, Thursday 12 March 2020:

Coronavirus: Face masks could increase risk of infection, medical chief warns

Members of the public could be putting themselves more at risk from contracting coronavirus by wearing face masks, one of England’s most senior doctors has warned.

Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said the masks could “actually trap the virus” and cause the person wearing it to breathe it in.

*I initially mistyped that as Facesbook, and my spellchecker, set, of course, to British spellings, suggested an amusing alternative.