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]

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.

What is the payoff for producing such obviously counter-productive propaganda?

One of these links will take you to an article in today’s Times by David Charter:

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

Which link is it? It doesn’t matter*. You all guessed right. You had no need to actually read the article to predict with a high degree of accuracy what it would say. You had no need of a Times subscription to know that whatever Texas was doing would turn out to be something far less dramatic than the headline suggests.

I am not going to quote the article even now. Do not feel deprived. As I find increasingly often these days, the readers’ comments are better than the stuff above the line.

A commenter called Dick Marlow says,

I think that this headline is misleading.

As I understand it the State of Texas has decided that it should not enumerate in law incidents and beliefs that 99.9% of Texans accept were both wrong and repugnant. This is not the same as “stops teaching that the KKK was morally wrong” which can be interpreted as meaning the state permits teaching that the KKK was morally acceptable.

This is not what they are attempting to do. They are shifting the responsibility of identifying which unacceptable events need to be taught from the state legislature and shifting it downstream, nearer both the ISDs, parents and teachers.

But you already knew it would turn out be something like that.

Why do they do this? I cannot even say that a clickbait headline lets down a respectable article, since the unknown subeditor has merely re-phrased Mr Charter’s very first line. The Times used to be better than this. David Charter has been known to be better than this. It’s not like they’re fooling anyone: there is a veritable flood of comments saying, no, the Texas Department of Education has not decided to take a neutral position on whether the Klan was a Bad Thing.

What is the payoff for producing such obviously counter-productive propaganda?

*The important question, and the one to which you will not find the answer by hovering your mouse over the link, is which of them takes you to the cute video of a sloth in a boat.

Deleting the weather report to make the rain go away

“Facebook axes team over far-right data”, says the Times.

Facebook has disbanded one of its teams after the data they produced suggested that far-right commentators outperformed all other users.

Facebook executives, including Sir Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister, became concerned that the CrowdTangle tool was being used by journalists to produce embarrassing evidence that right-wing content was read more than anything else on the platform.

The analytics tool is owned by Facebook but is available to the public. It is one of the only ways for users to measure how well a post is doing in terms of being shared, commented on, liked or receiving a reaction emoji.

Clegg, Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs, told colleagues last September that he was concerned “our own tools are helping journos to consolidate the wrong narrative”, according to The New York Times.

CrowdTangle’s data showed that in the US the links posted on Facebook to other websites which got the most engagement was to content by right-wing commentators such as Ben Shapiro and the Fox News host Sean Hannity, and to right-wing sites including Breitbart and Newsmax.

A commenter called LucasTheCat gave me the title for this post when they responded, “This is strange for two reasons – none of the commentators listed are what I would consider to be ‘far right’ and isn’t removing the report – the same as taking the weather report out of your paper – because you don’t like the weather – or am I missing something?”

By the way, the idea that Nick Clegg was released on the world deliberately is a fringe conspiracy theory that Facebook has rightly banned. The current theory is that he was accidentally leaked from an insufficiently secured British political system.

“Many Trump supporters don’t know for certain whether ballots were faked in November 2020, but they know with apodictic certainty that the press, the FBI, and even the courts would lie to them if they were”

Hat tip to commenter Shlomo Maistre for this link to an important piece by Darryl Cooper, published by Glenn Greenwald on his Substack site.

Who are these people?

And what does “apodictic” mean?

“Apodictic” means “clearly established or beyond dispute”. I first read it as “apocalyptic” and honestly that word would have worked as a political metaphor. For a worldview of basic trust in American institutions that has has held sway for more than a century, these are the end times.

Glenn Greenwald is a left wing independent journalist and blogger. He first came to my attention circa 2003 when he was against the Iraq war when I and most of the people I followed were for it. To be frank the main reason I remembered his name was a silly incident when he got caught out bigging up his own reputation under a different name. That was nearly twenty years ago. I now say without irony that he is one of the journalists I most admire in the world. He used to work for the Guardian, but wanted more independence so he resigned from there in 2013 to join with two other people and found a news outlet called the Intercept. Then when the Intercept tried to stop him writing about the Hunter Biden laptop story he resigned from there and went over to Substack. Greenwald is wrong about many things. But he is that strange, old-fashioned type of person, a reporter who won’t shut up for the good of the Party.

Darryl Cooper, who goes by the Twitter handle of “MartyrMade”, is a podcast host who thought he had given up Twitter. Then he got talking to a friend’s mother about Trump and the US election, and decided to crystallise the conversation in a series of thirty-five tweets that went viral. Fox News host Tucker Carlson read out most of the sequence on air. Donald Trump mentioned him by name. His current article, the one this post is about, is that Twitter thread all in one place. Here it is: Author of the Mega-Viral Thread on MAGA Voters, Darryl Cooper, Explains His Thinking.

Reading this from another country, I want to home in on one thing. There is much about the whole Trump phenomenon starting from his election in 2016 and ending four years later that I do not understand. I do not know the truth of every claim and counter-claim. But I do know one thing with apodictic, apocalyptic certainty. If they – Twitter and Facebook and the Democrat-supporting media, which is most of the media in the English-speaking world including the UK, and the FBI and the CIA, who the media used to boast of holding to account but are now their bosom friends – did find evidence of election fraud, they would not tell us. They would lie and censor just like they did about the contents of Hunter’s laptop.

That knowledge is not in itself proof that fraud did occur. But every belief about the world is buttressed by the unspoken certainty that if something turned up to contradict it, we would be told. When that buttress is kicked away one starts to wonder about a lot of previously unquestioned beliefs.

Edit: Great minds think alike. Unknown to me, while I was typing out this post my Illuminated colleague was posting the video of Tucker Carlson reading out Darryl Cooper’s thread.

“The background and motive of yesterday’s attacks were unclear”

The above is a quote from a Times article with the title

“Three dead after knifeman goes on rampage in Bavarian city of Würzburg”.

At least three people were killed and several more injured in an apparent spree of stabbings in the Bavarian city of Würzburg.

A 24 year-old man from Somalia

There is more, but I have quoted the part relevant to what I want to say in this post. Almost every comment to the Times piece (those that have not been replaced with the phrase “This comment violated our policy”) sneers at the evasion. Journalists, please stop doing this “motives unclear” thing. It dos not decrease hostility towards Muslims, it increases it.

They have been playing this stupid game for a long time. I often find it illuminating to link back to old Samizdata posts that share a common theme with whatever I am posting about now. Here is one from 2011: “Two contrasting articles by Michael Tomasky on spree killers”. It feels like yesterday. For one mass-murderer Mr Tomasky wrote,

You don’t have to believe that alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, is a card-carrying Tea Party member (he evidently is not) to see some kind of connection between that violent rhetoric and what happened in Arizona on Saturday.

For the other,

We have much more to learn about Hasan before we can jump to any conclusions.

and

We should assume until it’s proven otherwise that Hasan was an American and a loyal one, who just snapped, as Americans of all ethnicities and backgrounds and political persuasions do.

BBC quote of the pandemic

What’s changed is not the evidence – of which there is none so far to prove either scenario – but the politics. The lab-leak theory, born into an environment poisoned by disinformation, was undermined not so much by China’s denials, but by the fact it was being pumped by former US President Donald Trump.

Media organisations everywhere gave it the cold shoulder. My own attempts to look seriously at the lab-leak theory in May last year ran into long and fraught editorial discussions before it finally made it to publication.

Thus says the BBC’s China correspondent in a story linked from the BBC’s front page today. When Trump raised it, it was poisonous disinformation. Now Biden is raising it, the BBC is treating it with more respect.

What the Bashir story revealed about how far the BBC would go should not have surprised me – but did. By contrast, the only surprising thing about this revelation is that they admit it. (So give a little credit where a very little credit is due. Others in the MSM will pretend that “new evidence now indicates what only an absurdist like Trump would believe last year”, or take the even easier line, already much used with masks, of silently implying that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.)

Meanwhile, of course, ‘our’ BBC will continue to insist that just because they forge bank statements to pretend their fake news is true, that doesn’t mean that we can forge bank statements to pretend we’ve paid their licence fee. And while the beeb take the lab-leak theory seriously now that Biden does, I think that even if Biden were to come out with another gaffe-boast about having

“the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organisation in the history of US politics”

the BBC would not become a jot less derisive of Trump’s theory about that. No experience of the failure of their reporting seems to shake the BBC’s faith in its essential excellence.

The Streisand-Challenor effect

On the evening of the 22nd March, visitors to the main UK politics subreddit, /r/ukpolitics found a mysterious message saying that the subreddit, which has nearly 400,000 members, had been set to “private” by its own volunteer moderators.

It was the beginning of a cascade. The lights are going off all over Reddit! Subreddit after subreddit was set to private in sympathy with /r/ukpolitics. Most of them dealt with topics unrelated to politics. At its peak the wave of protest closures affected subreddits collectively having tens of millions of members all over the world.

To understand why this protest against Reddit by its own users gained such traction, we need to go back to the 8th of March when the Spectator published an article by its unlikeliest new writer, the radical left wing “gender critical” feminist Julie Bindel, called “The Green party’s woman problem”. It contained the lines,

The formidable feminist author and journalist Bea Campbell, a former Green party candidate, resigned from the party last year after being disciplined, in part for refusing to keep quiet about the shocking and disturbing Aimee Challenor case.

That brief reference to “the Aimee Challenor case” was to have dramatic consequences. A hyperlink on the word “case” linked in turn to this Independent article dated 13 January 2019:

Aimee Challenor: Green star failed to properly alert party of father’s child rape charges Independent investigation found transgender activist only alerted two colleagues in ‘informal’ Facebook message

Having parted ways with the Greens, Aimee Challenor joined the Liberal Democrats. Once again her association with the party ended as a result of child safeguarding issues related to someone with whom she lived. This time it was her fiancé Nathaniel Knight. He claims his twitter account was hacked.

A point to note: these events were widely reported. Given a prompt about a person who had left both the Greens and the Lib Dems under a cloud, anyone who follows UK political news would probably be able to dig up her name in half a dozen keystrokes.

Getting back to the main story, at about quarter to eleven on the morning of the 23rd, the ukpolitics subreddit reappeared. It now carried the following announcement:

→ Continue reading: The Streisand-Challenor effect

Why do so many Americans get their news from British newspapers? This is why.

Today’s Daily Mail:

“Nothing to see here: How most of the left-leaning US media totally ignored Biden’s Air Force One stumble – while the foreign press did their job for them”

The Mail’s Keith Griffith writes,

Major left-leaning U.S. press outlets are largely avoiding mention of President Joe Biden’s repeated stumbles as he boarded Air Force One, while many foreign publications are devoting prominent coverage to the incident.

As of Friday afternoon, the homepages of MSNBC, CBS News, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and New York Times had no mention of Biden’s stumbling incident earlier in the day at Joint Base Andrews.

and

In contrast to the lack of interest in Biden’s stumbles, mainstream U.S. outlets heavily covered an incident last year, in which Trump took mincing baby-steps down a ramp at West Point, which he later explained was ‘very slippery.’

Although Trump did not stumble during the incident, it sparked rampant speculation about his health and criticism over his capacities, including from Biden himself.

‘Look at how he steps and look at how I step,’ Biden said in September 2020, in a clip featured on CNN. ‘Watch how I run up ramps and he stumbles down ramps. OK? Come on.’

If you want to follow Mr Biden’s own advice and compare Trump to Biden on Trip Advisor, the indefatigable New York Post is one of the few US papers with clips of both.

Spread the word

“Second translator of Amanda Gorman’s Joe Biden inauguration poem dumped”, reports the Times.

A fresh controversy over translations of the poem read out at President Biden’s inauguration has erupted after a Catalan man said that his version had been rejected because he had the wrong “profile”.

Amanda Gorman’s five-minute poem, The Hill We Climb, was initially commissioned to be translated by Victor Obiols, a 60-year-old Catalan poet and musician. Five thousand copies of the version by Obiol, who has translated works by Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare, were set to be brought out by the Catalan publishing house Univers by April 8.

However, Ester Pujol, of Univers, told the Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia that the author’s US agency had subsequently expressed a preference that the translation be done instead by “a woman who is young, an activist and a poet, with experience as a translator and, preferably, African American.” Gorman is 23 and black.

How many African-Americans speak Catalan – at all, let alone to the level required of a professional translator? How many Americans speak Catalan? Most translation agencies insist that their translators work into their native tongue because it is very rare for anyone to gain a command of a second language equal to that of their first. Why do Ms Gorman’s US agents value the nationality of their translator above their having Catalan as their mother tongue? Even if we assume that the only reason Gorman’s agents specified “African-American” was that they have set their autocorrect with that as the replacement for “black”, there still cannot be many people who fulfil all those criteria. There are not many black Catalans. Experienced translators of any race are not likely to be young.

The Dutch writer Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, 29, resigned as translator of Gorman’s work in the Netherlands after criticism that she was not black.

Despite the precedent, the Catalan poet was taken aback by the publisher’s decision. “If I cannot translate a poet because she is a woman, young, black, and a American of the 21st century, then I cannot translate Homer either because I am not an eighth-century BC Greek,” he said. “Nor could I have translated Shakespeare because I am not a 16th-century Englishman.”

Banned from Twitter

I just got banned from Twitter, which I do find hilarious to be honest, given the things they tolerate. Have no intention of pressing that ‘remove’ button. Wotevah…

On Gab.com from now on, was moving away from Twitter anyway as more and more of the interesting people have been banned.

I foresee a steady division process in which Twitter only tolerates what Kristian Niemietz describes as “high status opinions”, with platforms like Gab, Minds and Parler etc. becoming the home for contrary views. In short, social media will be more of an echo chamber, much like it was during the ‘golden age of blogging’ 2001-2009, when you knew exactly what to expect from a given site (such as this one for example). I always saw the whole point of platforms like Twitter as being where things get mixed up and people spar across the divide. But that will increasingly not be the case, so not sure what Twitter et al are really for.

Parler is back

Twitter competitor Parler is back after having been de-hosted by Amazon, a salutary lesson om how unwise it is to make your business dependent on people who hate you.

Seems a good time to introduce a new Samizdata category: culture wars