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]

Can Abdul Ezedi beat this?

A week or so ago I posted about the case of Abdul Ezedi – the corrosive liquid attacker – and compared it with a similar case from a hundred years ago. Ezedi would appear to have been found in Mayor Khan’s makeshift morgue otherwise known as the River Thames. Meanwhile, a hundred years ago Ezedi’s counterpart’s case has reached a conclusion. This is from The Times of 29 February 1924:

At the Central Criminal court yesterday, EDITH LOUISA BASSETT, 30, was found Guilty of throwing corrosive fluid upon Arthur William Thompson, and upon three other persons, with intent to do grievous bodily harm to Thompson. MR. JUSTICE SHEARMAN sentenced her to three years’ penal servitude.

Only three years? But there’s a bit more to this woman:

After the jury had found the prisoner Guilty, Inspector Aldridge said she had a remarkable history. Throughout her life she had been of a violent disposition. In 1905 she was sentenced to 12 months’ hard labour for wounding with intent to murder. She had made the acquaintance of an omnibus driver and one night after he had stated that he wished to have nothing more to do with her she went on the top of his omnibus and cut his throat with a razor. In 1910 she married a man named Bassett. The marriage proved a unhappy one and the husband joined the Navy. She next met a wealthy young man, and saying that she was the daughter of a retired doctor, persuaded him to go through the ceremony of marriage with her. She was charged with bigamy and bound over. Later she went to Scotland and assaulted a gentleman whose son, she said, had failed to carry out his promise to marry her. The prisoner in 1914 was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment with hard labour at the Central Criminal Court for perjury in the name of Melville. In that case she had borrowed a person’s baby to obtain an affiliation order against a man. In 1915 she made the acquaintance of an Army officer, and told him that her father was a ranch-owner in Mexico, and induced him to marry her. She also married another officer, and in that case borrowed a baby to work on the generosity of the officer’s parents. For that bigamy she was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.

I make that 4 weddings, 4 assaults and 3 jail sentences. The women of today yesterday…

Senior election official admits vote-rigging

The Guardian reports that

A senior official in Pakistan has admitted to election rigging amid protests breaking out across the country over claims that its general election results were unfair.

The confessional statement throws further questions over the legitimacy of the 8 February elections, which were marred by controversies and allegations of rigging in Pakistan.

Commissioner Rawalpindi Liaqat Ali Chatta told reporters that authorities in Rawalpindi, Punjab province, changed the results of independent candidates – referring to candidates backed by the former prime minister Imran Khan’s party – who were leading with a margin of more than 70,000 votes.

Chatta said there was so much “pressure” on him that he contemplated suicide, but that he then decided to make a public confession. “I take responsibility for the wrong in Rawalpindi. I should be punished for my crimes and other people involved in this crime should be punished.”

He also accused the chief election commissioner and the chief justice of Pakistan for their roles in the rigging. Chatta was arrested by police after the statement.

For those unfamiliar with Imran Khan, the currently jailed former prime minister and leader of the party against which Mr Chatta says the vote-rigging was directed, in the 1970s, 80s and 90s he had fans worldwide as one of the best all-rounders in cricket history. During this period he was “known as a hedonistic bachelor and a playboy who was active on the London nightclub circuit” as Wikipedia puts it. Then he went home to Pakistan and binned his previous liberalism like a used condom. He encouraged the strict enforcement of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, and has pushed for insulting Muhammad to be made a crime all over the world. He is a hypocrite and a jerk. But those things do not change the fact that there is a strong prima facie case that his party should rightfully form Pakistan’s next government. His being in jail on an obviously trumped-up charge strengthens not weakens that argument.

The Guardian article was light on detail about how Commissioner Chatta (also spelled Chattha and Chatha, and I think the Guardian article is mistaken when it says his first name is Rawalpindi – it looks as if they have mixed up his name with his job title) says that the vote-rigging in which he participated was done. This article from Arab News gives more detail. It quotes him as saying,

“The wrongful act I have committed in this election [is that] we have made people, who had lost [the election], win 13 MNA (member of the National Assembly) seats from Rawalpindi. We have turned up to 70,000[-vote] lead of individuals into their defeat,” Chattha said.

“Even today, our people are putting fake stamps [on ballot papers]. I apologize to all my returning officers who were working under my supervision, who were crying when I was asking them to commit this wrongful act, and they were not willing to do it.”

I toyed with the idea of just posting about Pakistan, and leaving it up to the commenters to make the obvious parallels with the United States, but decided that would be a cop-out. → Continue reading: Senior election official admits vote-rigging

Seeing the world through vitriol-tinted glasses

One of the big stories over the last couple of week has involved an attack involving a corrosive substance. The fact that the perpetrator appears to have been an illegal immigrant has not gone unnoticed.

Here’s another case:

After being five weeks in hospital, Arthur William Thompson, an omnibus inspector, attended at the Westminster Police Court yesterday to give evidence against EDITH LOUISE BASSETT, alias Mabel Young, 31, of Fentiman-road, Lambeth, on the charge of throwing corrosive acid in his face in the vestibule of the Court with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

But – as you’ve probably guessed from the presence of the word “omnibus” and a hyphenated road name – this isn’t recent. In fact it’s from The Times from Thursday 14th February 1924. And it’s far from an isolated case.

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.

Samizdata quote of the day – do empires make economic sense?

One can see why this idea has taken off again: it sits at the intersection of two of the most voguish ideologies of our time, namely, woke progressivism and anti-capitalism. It is a story about white people – white men, mostly – oppressing non-white people, which also doubles up as an “original sin” story of capitalism.

But is it actually true that imperialism makes countries richer? Does imperialism make economic sense?

This question was already hotly debated at the heyday of imperialism. Adam Smith believed that the British Empire would not pass a cost-benefit test.

Kristian Niemietz

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.

There are some forms of privatisation of public property that socialists like just fine

“Alex Salmond given part of the Stone of Scone by son of student who stole it”, reports the Telegraph:

Alex Salmond was given part of the Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, by the son of one of the students who stole it from Westminster Abbey, newly released Scottish Cabinet papers have disclosed.

Prof Sir Neil MacCormick presented the then First Minister with part of the stone, on which kings and queens of Scotland were traditionally crowned, in 2008.

Sir Neil’s father, John MacCormick, advised and bankrolled the Glasgow University students who took the 150kg stone from the Abbey on Christmas Day 1950.

So Professor Sir (note the Sir!) Neil MacCormick felt free to give away this historic artefact because he inherited it from his father, who stole it while it was on display to the public. And Mr Alex Salmond, presumably on the strength of then being First Minister of Scotland, felt free to take an object of significance in Scottish history into his personal possession as if it were a mere curio. Nice to see the right of conquest and the hereditary principle being reaffirmed in this day and age.

There was very little in the government’s response to Covid that was in any way new

In 1923 they are dealing with a highly infectious but not particularly deadly disease. It has even made the editorial pages of The Times of 14 December, parts of which I quote below. I have made some redactions to emphasise the parallels with a more recent epidemic but – so help me – I have done my best to retain the meaning. See if any of it sounds familiar.

The return of the disease… is extremely disappointing.

…during the present crisis the regulations based on [a government inquiry’s] conclusions have been scrupulously observed. Every possible precaution, in fact, has been taken. Everything that knowledge and experience can suggest has been done to stop the ravages of the disease, and yet so far none of the measures adopted appears to have produced any tangible result.

In view of the gravity of the situation, it is not, therefore, altogether surprising that the suggestion has been made that, since in this particular instance the policy… has proved ineffective, it ought to be dropped.

Fortunately, however, there is not the least chance that such a suggestion will be carried out. The whole weight of the [expert] opinion of the country is against it.

The real alternative, as [a member of the Great and Good] said yesterday, “is… between [the draconian policy] and letting the thing rip.”

…In thirty-one years, up to last March, [the] disease has only cost the country £1,000,000, whereas the loss every year… in Holland is two-and-a-half times as large…

In case you were wondering the disease in question is foot & mouth disease – a disease that affects livestock. While it is tempting to claim that the government during the Covid era was treating us like cattle… or sheep… or pigs, I am not sure that is true; they weren’t actually sending round squads to do us in. Even so the similarities are remarkable.

Lest we remember

In my recent post, “Peace-lovers love using the passive voice”, I asked you to supply particularly egregious examples of media attempts to downplay murders by Hamas and other protected groups. Ben did just that. From Canadian TV:

In case it disappears, the tweet from @CTVNews says, “Canadian peace activist Vivian Silver, who went missing after Hamas attack, has died.

The use of “has died” rather than “is dead” makes it sound like she passed away in hospital within the last few days. Actually, she has been dead for a month because she was murdered on October 7th, alongside more than a thousand others. The only thing that has happened within the last few days is that they finally identified her remains. In most situations I would not read so much into a journalist’s slightly odd use of the present perfect for an event a month ago, but when every such oddity of phrasing works to push the murderers out of sight, it is not a coincidence, it’s a technique. Most headlines are written to grab the reader’s attention; these headlines are written to be forgotten. Like the small print in a dodgy contract, they are carefully crafted to meet the technical requirement of having been stated somewhere, but, in a betrayal of the normal function of journalism, those who write them would prefer you not to read on. That someone “has died” is scarcely news at all. Every morning’s news report gives its crop of vaguely prominent people who have died during the previous few days. They don’t want you to think about when or how she died. They don’t want you to think about the state in which Vivian Silver’s body must have been found, given that her remains were not identified for a month. They don’t want you to feel the horror of her murder.

I am going to post an image. If I have done this right, it will be hidden “below the fold”, so you must click the link in order to see it. I put it below the fold because it is horrifying. Am I doing the same as CTV in that tweet I was complaining about, then? No, the opposite. They do all they can to stop their readers ever thinking about the reality of terrorism. I am giving readers who cannot stop thinking about it the option not to see one particularly distressing photograph. The image I am talking about shows a poster put out by the Royal Ulster Constabulary in response to the La Mon restaurant bombing carried out by the IRA in 1978. These days people discussing this poster feel obliged to blur it out, but in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles they were not so sensitive. The poster shows what CTV and so many others in the modern media want to hide. Again and again, it says the word they will not say.

→ Continue reading: Lest we remember

Ten years ago, Brian Mickelthwait predicted the response to Covid-19

Ten years and ten days ago, the sadly missed Brian Micklethwait wrote this: “What if there is a real collective disaster?”

Brian quoted this article by Paul Murphy which said that the response of governments and the scientific establishment to what they saw as the global warming crisis had “destroyed the credibility of all involved” and “greatly weakened the world’s ability to recognize and respond to a real threat should one now materialize.”

Brian added,

An unfree society may be great at imposing immediate unanimity, but what if what it immediately imposes unanimously is panic and indecision? (Think Stalin when Hitler attacked the USSR in 1941.) And what if it then imposes a wrong decision about what needs to be done? A collectivity that is hastily assembled by freer and more independent persons is just as likely to act in a timely manner, and is far more likely to have a proper argument about what must be done, and hence to arrive at a better decision about that.

Besides which, what is often needed in a crisis is not so much collective action, but rather individual action for the benefit of the collective. That is a very different thing, and clearly a society which cultivates individuality will prepare individuals far better for such heroism than will societies where everyone is in the habit only of doing as they are told.

“An unfree society may be great at imposing immediate unanimity, but what if what it immediately imposes unanimously is panic and indecision?” There could scarcely be a better description of the response of the UK and the Western world as a whole to Covid-19. Masks are useless! Cancel that, masks are compulsory! Herd immunity! Cancel that, vaccines are compulsory! Lockdown! Cancel that, ‘Eat Out to Help Out’, er, cancel that, back to lockdown!

Netanyahu quits

“Netanyahu quits over withdrawal from Gaza”. Having got your attention, I will now admit that the Guardian story by Conal Urquhart to which I just linked dates from 8 August 2005. Despite the news of Netanyahu having quit being eighteen years out of date, it is worth your time to read. It will give you a sense of why, despite his many failings, Israelis might be willing to cut their current prime minister some slack:

Israel’s finance minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, resigned from the government yesterday, claiming its plan to withdraw from settlements in the occupied territories would allow the creation of a base for “Islamic terrorism”.

In what is widely seen as a prelude to a challenge to the leadership of the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, Mr Netanyahu submitted his letter of resignation as the cabinet met to rubber stamp the first phase of the evacuation of settlements in Gaza.

“I am not prepared to be a partner to a move which ignores reality, and proceeds blindly toward turning the Gaza Strip into a base for Islamic terrorism which will threaten the state,” he wrote.

He called it horribly right.

Here is another report from 2005, this time by the BBC, “Israel completes Gaza withdrawal”.

Israeli troops have pulled out of the Gaza Strip more than 38 years after capturing the narrow coastal area.
Tanks and armoured vehicles left under cover of darkness and the last officer shut the Kissufim border at dawn.

Thousands of jubilant Palestinians entered the former Jewish enclaves, and some set an abandoned synagogue ablaze in a settlement near Khan Younis.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas described the withdrawal as an historic and joyful day for his people.

In 2005, the Israelis finally did what so many goodhearted, decent, moderate people in their own country and worldwide had long urged them to do. They gave up land in the hope of peace. They dismantled the Jewish settlements, by force if necessary, but famously left behind high-tech greenhouses full of crops as a gift for the new owners of Gaza. The illusions of the donors who had funded that generous gesture did not last the day. The illusion that giving up the Gaza Strip would be a step towards peace lasted until October 7th, 2023, another historic and joyful day for the Palestinian people.

And now all the goodhearted, decent and moderate people – often, since the careers of newspaper columnists can span decades, literally the same people – are once again calling for Israel to be reasonable and call a ceasefire.

Until the morning of October 7th, the Israelis thought they had a ceasefire.

The Great Retcon

“Comic book fans will be familiar with the term ‘retcon’, which in layman’s terms means that the writer waves his hand and tells you ‘Remember when we said this? We screwed up, forget about that.'” – ‘Spoony’ quoted on the TV Tropes website.

“There is no history of Wales without the history of black experiences in Wales”, tweets @WelshLabour. Why do so many people say stuff like this nowadays? What do they think it achieves? Sure, it would be fair to say that any history of Wales that goes up to modern times but leaves out the chapter on Black Welsh people was incomplete. But, given that they make up only around 0.6% of the Welsh population now, and that prior to modern times their numbers were far lower than that, to say that the history of Wales does not exist unless it includes black history to say that entire history of Wales from Neolithic times until the mid twentieth century does not exist. It also implies that white experiences do not count as history unless there were some black people around at the same time to experience history properly. TV Tropes has a name for that idea, too, the “Magical Negro”.

This desperate retconning of the odd Phoenician, Libyan or Egyptian who turned up in British history as “black”, and the whole trend to exaggerate the number of black people in British history, has two effects, both of which increase racism. White people from the majority population resent seeing the history of their ancestors falsified and even erased, as the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, did when he said that “This city was built by migrants.” For black people, and indeed anyone of any colour whose ancestors did not come from these islands, it cements the idea that a person cannot truly be Welsh or British unless they can point to examples of people with enough genes in common with them having lived in those places centuries ago.

As I wrote a few years back,

For those that know their history, to read the line “Britain has always been a nation of immigrants” promotes scorn. When those who at first did not know the facts finally find them out, their reaction is cynicism. Worse yet, this slogan suggests that love of country for a black or ethnic minority Briton should depend on irrelevancies such as whether the borders were continually porous through many centuries, or on whether people ethnically similar them happen to have been here since time immemorial. (The latter idea is another “very odd corner” for progressives to have painted themselves into.) If either of these claims turns out to be false, what then?

Better to learn from the example of the Huguenots and Jews. Whether any “people like them” had come before might be an interesting question for historians (and a complex one in the case of the Jews), but whatever the answer, they became British anyway.

It is not necessary to have ancestors in a country to love it and to take inspiration from its history. This was well expressed in the maiden speech of Kemi Badenoch MP:

There are few countries in the world where you can go in one generation from immigrant to parliamentarian. Michael Howard spoke of the British dream—people choosing this country because of its tolerance and its opportunity. It is a land where a girl from Nigeria can move, aged 16, be accepted as British and have the great honour of representing Saffron Walden.

There are some in this country, and this Chamber, who seek to denigrate the traditions of this Parliament, portraying this House as a bastion of privilege and class, that “reeks of the establishment”, as someone said. It is no coincidence that those who seek to undermine the institutions of this island—Parliament, monarchy, Church and family—also propagate a world view that sees Britain, and the values we hold dear, as a force for bad in the world. Growing up in Nigeria, the view was rather different. The UK was a beacon, a shining light, a promise of a better life.