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]

Libraries need the right to exclude

Colchester always looks prosperous when I go there. There are designer clothes at prices I cannot afford in its charity shops. I think of it as a place where the last serious incident of anti-social behaviour was in AD 61. Not so, according to the Telegraph:

How libraries changed from local sanctuaries to antisocial behaviour hotspots

All the crime in British libraries has traditionally been contained between the covers of our books – any rowdiness instantly quelled by the librarians’ famous “Shh!”

But in Colchester, Essex, that idyll increasingly resembles fiction. Over the past three months, the city’s local library has recorded a shocking 54 incidents of antisocial behaviour, forcing librarians to consider donning bodycams for their own protection.

Books have been snatched from the shelves, tossed about and destroyed. An irreplaceable collection of local 18th-century maps has been defaced with obscene sketches. A glass door has been shattered, fires have been lit on the carpet tiles of the quiet study area and staff have been subjected to appalling verbal abuse and – on one occasion – a physical assault.

Non-paywall version of the story here.

It continues,

Perhaps most worrying of all, however, is that the Essex librarians are far from alone, with similar learning sanctuaries across the country now battling a wave of criminality and disorderly behaviour.

In Kent, such institutions witnessed a 500 per cent increase in antisocial incidents affecting staff and library users between 2020 and 2023, while in Bristol, several libraries were forced to close or change their opening hours over the school holidays last year to deter unruly young visitors.

Note the timeframe. I suspect that this startling 500% increase in antisocial incidents in Kent public libraries between 2020 and 2023 was a ripple from the Black Lives Matter tsunami finally making landfall after crossing the Atlantic. However that is but the latest book in a multi-volume saga. The article speaks of any rowdiness being ‘instantly quelled by the librarians’ famous “Shh!”’ When did that last happen, 1975? Perhaps there really were Shh-ing librarians like that once. My imagination gives them beehive hair and cat-eye glasses. Never actually saw one though, and in the 1980s I spent vast amounts of time in the local public library. All my life, trendy young librarians lived in terror of being thought to be that sort of librarian, and the fear never went away while they gradually turned into old librarians who’ve still got their CND badges in a drawer somewhere.

No longer the silent book storage and study areas of old, libraries have evolved to become “community hubs” offering a wide range of free or affordable services to visitors of all ages. You can go to a library to access the internet and use printers and photocopiers. They host knitting clubs, manga drawing sessions and bereavement support meetings. Often they’ll loan out medical equipment such as blood pressure monitors, with many becoming Covid vaccination centres during the pandemic. A new Scottish scheme even offers up musical instruments for users.

In Colchester’s library, parents and grandparents are supervising toddlers clambering around a small soft play area situated on the two-storey building’s ground floor.

There is nothing wrong with the manga drawing or the soft play areas in themselves. Nor do I have any automatic objection to a library, in the sense of a place whose primary purpose is to make books available to the public, also hosting activities such as Drag Queen Story Hour, as Colchester library has done. Although I do think the famous Rainbow Dildo Butt Monkey whom Redbridge council commissioned to do the rounds of its children’s libraries in 2021 might have been a little off-putting to certain demographics.

If public, government-run libraries were private, commercially-run libraries as once existed in the UK – Boots the Chemist used to run a mass-market circulating library – we could have lively competition between the “We’re not your grandma’s library” libraries and the “We are your grandma’s library” libraries. I am sure there is room for both.

But that is a dream. In the real world, low as its fees were, “Boots Book-Lovers’ Library” could not compete with the government-subsidised version which proudly boasted it was free to all. And the generations of public librarians since then thought they were being non-authoritarian by taking that “to all” literally. “The library isn’t just about books”, they said. The banks of computers pushed the books into a corner. “The library isn’t just for swots”, they said. “We won’t make you stay quiet”, they said. It stopped being a quiet haven for swots. “We are inclusive”, they said. “The library is for all sorts of people.” And, lo, no one was excluded and all sorts of people came.

Samizdata quote of the day – Jerry Seinfeld college address edition

“If I messed up a funny story around my relatives, they would go ‘That’s not how you tell that joke. The prostitute has to be behind the drapes when the wife comes in.’ You went to Duke—that is an unbelievable privilege. I now have an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from Duke University. And if I can figure out a way to use that, I will. I haven’t figured anything out yet. I think it’s pretty much as useful in real life as this outfit I’m wearing. But so what? I’ll take it. My point is we’re embarrassed about things we should be proud of and proud of things we should be embarrassed about.”

Jerry Seinfeld drops some humorous truth bombs at a college speech.

A bastion undermined

“Little by little, the Government is seizing control of our great universities”, writes James Tooley in the Telegraph.

Fifty years ago this week, Lord Hailsham laid the foundation stone for the University of Buckingham. Even back in the 1970s, eminent scholars feared the increasing encroachment of the state on higher education, with deleterious consequences for academic freedom if it was allowed to continue. If a university could be created that did not receive government funding, they argued, then it could escape the need for state regulations. Buckingham was born as a beacon for independence, a bastion of free speech and freedom of thought.

Fast forward 50 years. Our founders would be shocked to see the all-encompassing regulations emerging from the Office for Students (OfS), the higher education regulator in England which took over university regulation in 2018. There are 25 sets of regulations covering an enormous range of topics, including its current major foci, equality of opportunity and quality.

Thank goodness that the University of Buckingham is exempt from this interference! Wait a minute, it’s not:

A private university like Buckingham, which doesn’t receive any direct government funding, has to satisfy all but three of these 25 sets of regulations – known as “Conditions of Registration” – even though ostensibly the regulations are to ensure taxpayer value for money. If a university is found to be in breach of any of these conditions, then the OfS has a variety of sanctions at its disposal, including removal of a university’s title and status, even if these were awarded through a venerable Royal Charter.

Samizdata quote of the day – campus horror show edition

“Enough is enough. It’s time to stop this nonsense. Students should be expelled and acts of violence should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Foreign students who harass Jewish students or commit acts of violence and vandalism should have their student visas revoked and be deported immediately. Colleges and universities that cannot or will not protect their Jewish students should suffer consequences as well, having their federal funding suspended. Alumni should suspend donations to their alma maters. And under no circumstances should universities cancel graduations or force students into virtual classrooms. There should be thorough investigations, and university presidents should be forced to resign, or be fired.”

Vikram Mansharamani

Consequences does not have to mean coercion

AJ Edelman, OLY, MBA
@realajedelman
I received an email asking me to contribute to Yale for my class reunion.
My response:
“Last year I faced suspension and a trespassing charge if I returned to campus without proof of a 5th COVID shot.
Perhaps you can ask one of the fine Yalies bravely harassing their Jewish peers instead. They’re easy to find; they’re hosting a Jew hatred festival in the middle of campus and calling for violent intifada.”
12:30 AM · Apr 30, 2024

Now that’s what I call an effective non-violent protest.

“At about midnight, I got a knock on the door”

This is not a quote about life under a Communist or Fascist regime. It is about life in Exeter University in 2018.

I heard about this story from an article by Sanchez Manning in the Mail on Sunday:

A philosophy student overheard through the wall of his room saying ‘veganism is wrong’ and ‘gender fluidity is stupid’ was threatened with expulsion by his university, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Robert Ivinson said he was disciplined after a student next door in halls of residence at Exeter University heard the comments then complained he had been offensive and ‘transphobic’.

Mr Ivinson, who expressed the views in a phone call to a friend, was hauled before university officials and put on a ‘behavioural contract’ for the rest of his studies.

This video made by the Committee for Academic Freedom shows Robert Ivinson giving his own account of what happened.

Mr Ivinson acknowledges that a legitimate part of the complaint against him was that he was speaking too loudly in the phone call in question so that noise was coming through the wall. However he says that the university hearing refused to separate the issues of him making too much noise and what he said in a private conversation being deemed offensive.

Though Mr Ivinson appears perfectly reasonable, indeed likeable, in his video, I would like to believe that there is something missing from his account – because I do not want to believe that a British university can have fallen so far from what a university is meant to be. The Mail on Sunday article says “Exeter University was approached for comment but did not respond.” I shall be most interested to see what the University’s response turns out to be.

46% of British Muslims say they sympathise with Hamas

“Only one in four British Muslims believe Hamas committed murder and rape in Israel, report reveals”, reports the Telegraph.

Only one in four British Muslims believe that Hamas committed murder and rape in Israel on Oct 7, a major report has found.

46 per cent of British Muslims said they sympathise with Hamas, according to a poll commissioned by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a counter-extremism think-tank.

Later in the article Fiyaz Mughal, who has done as much as anyone alive to work against Muslim extremism, is quoted as saying, “The Government has got to provide better guidance for teachers, schools and education establishments.” He is not wrong as far as it goes but I don’t think sending even a really super government guidance circular to education establishments is going to be much help now:

Younger and well-educated Muslims were the most likely to think Hamas did not commit atrocities on Oct 7, with the proportions rising to 47 per cent among 18 to 24-year-olds and 40 per cent among the university-educated.

*

An Excel table giving the full results of the polling carried out by J.L. Partners for the Henry Jackson Society can be downloaded from this link. Two polls were conducted, one of British Muslims over the period 14th February – 12th March 2024 and one of the British public in general over 4th – 6th March 2024.

Wanjiru Njoya on the feminist double standard

“The feminist double standard was born. Women could invade men’s spaces, but men could not do the reverse. Girls could play for the boys’ high school soccer team if they were good enough, but boys could not play on the girls.’”

Wanjiru Njoya is correct, and the point is general. Defend the rights of others as you would defend your own rights. Because you are defending your own rights.

The Hockey Stick on trial

I think it’s about time we mentioned that the Steyn v Mann defamation trial is currently taking place in Washington D.C.. For those who have forgotten – or never knew in the first place – this concerns articles that Mark Steyn and his co-defendent blogger Rand Simburg wrote twelve years ago accusing university employee Michael Mann of fraud in scientific research.

This is the first time the Hockey Stick graph – which suggested a dramatic and unprecedented rise in global temperatures – has been subject to judicial examination.

If you want to follow daily proceedings you might like to check out the Climate Science on Trial podcast hosted by Phelim McAleer and Ann McIlhenny.

What Nigel Biggar says about the British Empire

We are constantly being told by that coalition of communists and racists that talk about “de-colonisation” that the British Empire was a Bad Thing and that therefore we whiteys should a) be ashamed, b) tear down any monuments to that empire and c) give all our money and wealth to the descendents of the alleged victims of that empire. This despite the fact that there is almost no one alive who had anything to do with said empire. There is no force for good like inter-generational guilt.

For some time Oxford Academic Nigel Biggar has been discomfited by this claim and these demands. In 2017, he was denounced by “fellow” academics for running an “Empire and Ethics” project. Last year saw the publication of his book Colonialism: A Moral Reckoning. This itself was something of a palaver with Biggar’s original publisher dropping the thing in what appeared to be a cancellation. Luckily there is still some competition in the publishing world and another publisher came to the rescue.

Biggar is at pains to point out that he is an ethicist not a historian. He deals in moral issues not historical ones; hence the title of the book. Well, that’s the theory but with over a hundred pages of footnotes it would appear he is quite good at the not-day job.

He examines the various claims that the “de-colonisers” make: Amritsar, slavery, Benin, Boer War, Irish famine. In all cases he finds that their claims are either entirely ungrounded or lack vital information that would cast events in a very different light.. Amritsar? Dyer was dealing with political violence that had led to murder. Some victims had been set alight. Anyway, he was condemned for his actions by the British authorities and, indeed, his own standing orders. Slavery? Everyone had it and Britain was the first to get rid of it. Benin? They had killed unarmed ambassadors. Irish famine? They tried to relieve it but they were quite unequal to the size of the task. In the case of Benin he comes very close to accusing the leading de-coloniser of knowingly lying. The only one of these where I don’t think he is so convincing is the Boer War. He claims that Britain was concerned about the future of the Cape and especially the Simonstown naval base and also black rights. I think it was the pursuit of gold even if it does mean agreeing with the communist Eric Hobsbawm.

He is far too polite about the “de-colonisers”. They are desperate to hammer the square peg of reality into their round-hole of a theory. To this end they claim knowledge they don’t have, gloss over inconvenient facts, erect theories that don’t bear scrutiny and when all else fails: lie. Biggar tackles all of these offences against objectivity with a calmness and a politeness that you can bet his detractors would never return.

The communists – because they are obsessed with such things and are past masters at projection – like to claim that there was an “ideology” of Empire. Biggar thinks this is nonsense. As he says:

There was no essential motive or set of motives that drove the British Empire. The reasons why the British built an empire were many and various. They differed between trader, migrant, soldier, missionary, entrepreneur, financier, government official and statesman. They sometimes differed between London, Cairo, Cape Town and Calcutta. And all of the motives I have unearthed in this chapter were, in themselves, innocent: the aversion to poverty and persecution, the yearning for a better life, the desire to make one’s way in the world, the duty to satisfy shareholders, the lure of adventure, cultural curiosity, the need to make peace and keep it, the concomitant need to maintain martial prestige, the imperative of gaining military or political advantage over enemies and rivals, and the vocation to lift oppression and establish stable self-government. There is nothing morally wrong with any of these. Indeed, the last one is morally admirable.

One of the benefits of the British Empire is that it tended to put a stop to local wars. How many people lived because of that? But that leads us on to another aspect. Almost no one ever considers what went on before the Empire arrived. Was it better or worse than went before it? Given that places like Benin indulged in human sacrifice, I would say that in many cases the British Empire was an improvement. And if we are going to talk about what went before what about afterwards? He has little to say about what newly-independent countries have done with their independence. The United States, the “white” (for want of a better term) Commonwealth and Singapore have done reasonably well. Ireland is sub-par but OK. Africa, the Caribbean and the Indian sub-continent have very little to show for themselves. This may explain why Britain needed very few people to maintain the Empire. At one point he points out that at the height of the Raj the ratio of Briton to native was 1 to 1000. That implies a lot of consent. Tyrannies need a lot more people.

The truth of the matter is that talk of reparations is rooted in the failure of de-colonisation. If Jamaica were a nicer place to live than the UK, if Jamaica had a small boats crisis rather than the UK then no one would be breathing a word about reparations or colonial guilt. All this talk is pure deflection from the failure of local despots to make the lives of their subjects better.

Biggar has nothing to say about what came after the empire and he also has little to say about how it came about in the first place – so I’ll fill in that gap. Britain acquired an empire because it could. Britain was able to acquire an Empire because it mastered the technologies needed to do it to a higher level and on a greater scale than anyone else. Britain mastered technology because it made it possible to prosper by creating wealth. That in itself was a moral achievement.

Of course, modern Britons don’t actually need to justify the Empire. As I pointed out at the beginning none of us had anything to do with it. You could argue (does anyone actually do this?) that we current-day Britons are the inheritors of the same culture and perhaps we should be ashamed about that. Except that I am not in the mood to condemn a culture that produced the rule of law, freedom of speech, property rights and the Industrial Revolution. Anyway, does anyone seriously think that modern British culture would be capable of giving birth to a second empire? Culture changes. The other argument is that many of us continue to be the beneficiaries of the Empire. At very least those who have started with nothing and yet are still on the hook for reparations are entitled to feel a bit miffed. But one only has to look around to see that most of Britain’s prosperity is much more recent in origin. Sure, that big house might have originally been built from a slaver’s profits but if a more recent person hadn’t kept the roof intact it would be a ruin by now.

A narrative about a rapacious British Empire is being used to first humiliate and shame modern Britons in preparation for their impoverishment and eventual extermination. OK, maybe I am getting ahead of myself here but I’ll bet you some of them of thinking that. There is certainly nothing in the “decolonisation” belief system to prevent it. Biggar’s achievement is to demonstrate that – if you do believe in intergenerational guilt  – there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Robert Reich’s article about Claudine Gay’s resignation is dishonest even by Guardian standards. Sorry, make that US academic standards.

In the days when Comment really was Free at the Guardian, an article as dishonest as this would have received short shrift from the commenters below the line. Because since then the Guardian has decided to protect its writers from hearing what their readers think of them, the author, President Clinton’s former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, probably believes he made his case well. Here is the article: “Powerful donors managed to push out Harvard’s Claudine Gay. But at what cost?”

In the fifth paragraph, Mr Reich writes,

I don’t know enough to address the charges of plagiarism against her, but it’s worth noting that all of them apparently came from the same source, via the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative online journal.

He doesn’t know? Could he not have found out? It’s been all over the news, and not just from the Washington Free Beacon, though it was their scoop. (The first two links are to the NYT and the BBC respectively.) It’s not as if Reich would have had to spend months on research and do a paper with Harvard citations and everything. As well as being a former Secretary of Labour, Robert Reich is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at University of California at Berkeley. One might have expected an academic at a famous American university to be concerned enough by a claim of plagiarism against a distinguished colleague to put some effort into potentially clearing her name rather than weakly throwing his hands in the air and saying, “I dunno”. Unless, of course, he did not wish to know.

A little while later Reich does it again. He writes,

Stefanik then asked the presidents whether calls for intifada against Jews on campus violated the codes of conduct or harassment policies at their universities.

This is deceptive. The answers from the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania that caused such deep outrage were not said in response to Elise Stefanik asking them about whether calls for intifada against Jews violated the codes of conducts or harassment policies at their universities. They were said in response to Elise Stefanik asking them whether calls for genocide against Jews violated the codes of conduct or harassment policies at their universities. Watch the video. The relevant exchange is right at the start. Rep. Stefanik says, “And, Dr Gay, at Harvard, does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment, yes or no?”. Dr Gay replies, “It can be, depending on the context.”

Genocide. Not intifada. Genocide. My apologies for being so repetitive, but the difference between “intifada” and “genocide” matters rather a lot.

Weirdly, one of Reich’s subsequent paragraph gets this right:

They should have answered unambiguously and unequivocally that calls for genocide of any group are intolerable.

What happened to make Reich change from claiming the equivocal answers from the three university presidents came in response to a question about “calls for intifada against Jews” in one paragraph to correctly saying that the issue was “calls for genocide against Jews” three paragraphs later? One might expect a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley would see the importance of accurately quoting someone. Unless, of course, the professor of public policy wanted the public to be confused.

Related post: “Why you can be a free speech absolutist and still think the presidents of Harvard, MIT and UPenn should resign in disgrace.”

Should the faces of the students at San Francisco State University who were happy to pay to kill Jews be blurred out, or not?

Ami Horowitz
@AmiHorowitz
My new video!
How bad is Antisemitism on campus?
Will Leftist college students give me money to kill Jews?!!!

The video linked to in the tweet starts with a clip of Horowitz talking to a San Francisco State University student whose back is facing us. Horowitz says,

“…And we want to fund operations against soft targets, schools, hospitals, Jewish cafes…

The video then cuts to Horowitz talking straight to camera. He says,

“I’m Ami Horowitz and anti-semitism is rising precipitously across the globe. How bad is it? I’m here at San Francisco State University, one of the most left-leaning instersectional schools across the country.

I’m here to raise money to kill Jews.”

Horowitz, who, in case anyone is unclear on this point, is not actually trying to raise money to murder Jews but to warn how commonplace support for the murder of Jews has become at American universities, proceeds to politely stop various young people who are walking along the paths in the SFSU campus and solicit their support for terrorism against Jews. There is no obfuscation about “Zionists” or “Israelis”; Horowitz says “Jews” throughout and is abundantly clear that he is talking about physical violence. In the sequence starting at 1:02 he says, “Attack, blow things up … blow shit up … all we have a rockets and suicide bombers”. The SFSU students are fine with that.

I can sympathise with Rebecca Levin who said in the replies,

Can you release any full conversations without breaks? I find this a bit hard to believe even as a Jew who recently graduated from college and editing can be deceptive and well, I’d really like for you to be a fraud vs this actually being real.

I, also, would really like this not to be true.

It would be a good thing for Horowitz to release the full videos. Deceptive editing is on my mind right now. Remember the way that George Eaton of the New Statesman was nice as pie when he went to interview Sir Roger Scruton and then maliciously edited Scruton’s words to make it seem that Scruton believed that each Chinese person is “a sort of replica of the next one”, when what Scruton had actually said was how frightening it was that the Chinese Government was trying to force each Chinese person into being a replica of the next one? Remember how Eaton posted a picture of himself swigging champagne to celebrate how he had got Scruton fired from an unpaid government role?

Well, that same George Eaton is celebrating again now. He has just been made Senior Politics Editor of the New Statesman. Deceptive editing does happen and is no bar to a successful career in journalism. At least… not if the journalist is left wing, a protection that Mr Horowitz does not have.

Like Rebecca Levin, if Mr Horowitz’s video were to be revealed to be deceptively edited, the moment of annoyance I would feel of seeing left wingers gloat at the “gotcha” would be far, far outweighed by the relief of knowing that it was not really the case that 28 out of 35 San Francisco State University students Horowitz spoke to expressed support for killing Jews and 17 out of 35 students Horowitz approached pledged money to kill Jews.

But, even though I would like to see the full unedited videos, it is difficult to see how the girl with the black bag could claim to have misunderstood Horowitz when he told her at 0:36 that he was raising money to strike Jews “around the world, in France, in Germany, in Britain, wherever they are”. Conceivably he could have edited out her horrified objections to this proposed terrorism, but could he really have made her appear to say, as she does say at 1:14, “Because it’s like, part of their religion. Like, they wanted to take over”? She then pledges him $30.

Given that the presidents of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, three of the top universities in the United States, found it tricky to say whether calling for the genocide of Jews was against the rules of their respective universities, I suppose we should not be surprised that San Francisco State University (“SF State prepares its students to become productive, ethical, active citizens with a global perspective”) wants to follow their lead.

Is contributing money that one has been explicitly assured (0:55) will be used to blow up “cafe’s, hospitals, Jewish schools, Jewish buses, synagogues, that kind of thing” legal in the United States? Whether it is or not, is there any good reason why the anonymity of sweetie with the black bag and the others who openly put their support, and in many cases their money, down for some Jew-killing should be preserved?