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]

Samizdata quote of the day

In recent times, the common courtesy of trying to avoid wantonly stepping on people’s toes has developed into an editorial phobia of almost psychotic intensity.

This exaggerated concern for the tender toe has, of course, been vociferously encouraged by every sort of hypersensitive minority. The most frantic form of it is displayed by movie producers, who are more sensitive to the tinkle of the cash register than any other species of artistic entrepreneur, and who also know they are catering for a more infantile audience than any other medium other than television.

…Even on the domestic scene, Negroes, Chinese, Jews, Catholics, Baptists or Holy Rollers, can only be depicted as lovable paragons. It has reached the point where the only villain who can be safely used to-day is a white American or British agnostic, preferably named Smith.

– Leslie Charteris, The Second Saint Omnibus, Hodder & Stoughton: London, 1952, p55. No I don’t know what a Holy Roller is either. This volume came into my possession as a result of the Plunder Party on Friday night in which a number of us gathered at the late Brian Micklethwait’s flat to pillage and loot his book and CD collection. Judging by the rather full shelves when I left, libertarians are unlikely to make good Vikings. Mind you, I am told there were some 5,200 books to choose from.

Never apologise. Explain without apology.

“In politics apologies just make things worse”, writes Daniel Finkelstein in the Times. The subtitle to his piece is “Boris Johnson should be sorry about the Owen Paterson affair but actually saying so would do him more harm than good”, and that sums up the article: the rather bleak observation that in politics apologies do not pay. Finkelstein stresses that he is not saying they shouldn’t work, just that they usually don’t. To illustrate this he cites an experiment carried out by Cass Sunstein:

In Cass Sunstein’s recent book This Is Not Normal he describes two pieces of work that seek to measure the impact an apology has on people’s opinion of the person doing the apologising.

The first uses two real events. In a survey respondents were told about an occasion when the senator Rand Paul seemed to suggest that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was wrong to forbid private discrimination on the basis of race. They were also told of the difficulty Lawrence Summers got himself into as president of Harvard University. Summers had talked about genetic differences between men and women that might influence their scientific interest and ability.

Different versions of each of these stories were tested. Some respondents were told that Paul or Summers had apologised and tried to make amends; some were told they had toughed it out. Would you vote for senator Paul? Should Summers face negative consequences?

For Paul, an apology made no difference. For Summers the apology produced a serious negative reaction. And indeed in real life Paul avoided an explicit apology and remained a senator while Summers repeatedly apologised yet had to resign.

That was Finkelstein quoting Sunstein. This is me: neither Rand Paul nor Larry Summers should have apologised. The inefficacy of apology as a tactic had very little to do with it. They should not have cringed, they should have roared.

Senator Paul was right to say what he did. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was wrong to forbid private discrimination on the basis of race. The various US Civil Rights Acts were utterly right to sweep away the state-mandated apartheid of the Old South, and to dismantle the system of legal dirty tricks designed to make it almost impossible for black Americans to actually exercise their theoretical right to vote. But they should have left individuals alone. There would now be less racism, not more, if the US government had stuck to its job of enforcing the equal application of the laws and had kept out of men’s souls. Instead for my entire lifetime it has been trying to help the poor, poor blacks and reform the wicked, wicked whites. The keenest supporters of that policy proclaim its utter failure: they tell us that fifty-seven years after the Act white supremacy is embedded in every American institution. So let’s take them at their word, cease pursuing this obviously futile strategy, and try something else.

Lawrence Summers was also right to say what he did, which was that people should be unafraid to honestly consider all hypotheses as to why there are fewer women in science and engineering, including the one that men just tend to be better at science and engineering. He was right to say that no hypothesis should be off the table, and even if he had been wrong about that particular hypothesis (speaking as a woman who was once in that world, I don’t think he was wrong), he was right to raise the question. Harvard’s decline from a place of free scientific enquiry to a training ground for little Lysenkos became almost inevitable from the moment it forced out its last independent president. Not that the other American universities or the British ones are much better. They are all full of people each competing to apologise the most fervently for their own institution’s sinful existence. I begin to think that, here, too, the best thing might be to take them at their word.

Brian and I chat for the last time

As promised.

By the way, I found this rather good obituary of Brian by Sean Gabb at The Critic.

Update. The post was initially put up with the wrong link (hence Paul’s comment). It has now been corrected.

Spartacus writes to the Times

Sir,

The historian Andrew Graham-Dixon has just been blacklisted by Keir Bradwell, president of the Cambridge Union, for doing a Hitler impression, which is something that almost all of us have done occasionally over the past 80 years. I have written to Mr Bradwell to ask him to put me on his blacklist, and I wish to use the letters page of The Times to urge all historians, writers, artists, scientists and public intellectuals to write to any student union, academic or public institution that practises cancel culture, demanding to be put on their blacklist. I also call on them to boycott these institutions absolutely.

Louis de Bernières
Denton, Norfolk

Mr de Bernières is the author of the historical novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

I am not sure if this is in response to the call from Mr de Bernières or not, but John Cleese, having done a famous Hitler impression himself in a 1975 episode of Fawlty Towers, has blacklisted himself from the Cambridge Union “before someone else does”.

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.

Charged with sedition – for cheering the wrong side at cricket

Back in 1990 the Conservative MP Norman Tebbit got a lot of stick for his “cricket test”. Amateur. They play that game more seriously in India. The Hindustan Times reports,

‘Those celebrating Pak’s victory will face sedition case’: Yogi Adityanath

Chief minister [of the state of Uttar Pradesh] Yogi Adityanath on Thursday said that the sedition charges will be invoked against those celebrating Pakistan’s victory against India in the recent T20 World Cup match.

“Those celebrating Pakistan’s victory will face sedition,” a tweet posted on the official handle of Adityanath’s office said.

The Pakistan cricket team on Sunday defeated the Indian side by 10 wickets in a Super 12 game in Dubai for their first win in 13 attempts over their arch-rivals in a World Cup match.

A senior police official said a total of five cases were registered against seven people in Agra, Bareilly, Budaun and Sitapur for allegedly using indecent words against the Indian cricket team and celebrating Pakistan’s vicory. He said one case each was lodged in Agra, Budaun and Sitapur while two cases were registered in Bareilly’s Izzatnagar police station.

The three Kashmiri students were produced in the court of the special chief judicial magistrate on Thursday. The court sent them to 14 days’ judicial custody. “During the course of the investigation, section 124-A (sedition) was added against these three Kashmiri students,” said PK Singh, the inspector in charge of Jagdishpura police station.

The report continues,

In Budaun, the FIR was lodged under IPC section 124 A for sedition and section 66 of the IT Act against one person at the Faizganj Behta police station.

“Sedition charges should not be invoked in case of cheering in sports. No violence happened in these cases. England had been our bigger and worst enemy ever. But many times people in India do laud England’s team or players.”, said a Samajwadi Party leader on condition of anonymity

The (wisely) anonymous speaker may have been prompted to mention India’s relatively friendly cricketing relations with England by the fact that, as the article says, most of the accused were charged under the notorious Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. In 1922, Gandhi was imprisoned by the British under Section 124A and referred to it as the “prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”. Ninety-nine years have gone by, seventy-four of them with India as an independent nation, and the prince remains in power.

ACAB

As the vultures circle above Glasgow for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference a.k.a. Cop26, here is a flashback to Cop15 which took place in Copenhagen in 2009:

Above all, Obama needed to be able to demonstrate to the Senate that he could deliver China in any global climate regulation framework, so conservative senators could not argue that US carbon cuts would further advantage Chinese industry. With midterm elections looming, Obama and his staff also knew that Copenhagen would be probably their only opportunity to go to climate change talks with a strong mandate. This further strengthened China’s negotiating hand, as did the complete lack of civil society political pressure on either China or India. Campaign groups never blame developing countries for failure; this is an iron rule that is never broken. The Indians, in particular, have become past masters at co-opting the language of equity (“equal rights to the atmosphere”) in the service of planetary suicide – and leftish campaigners and commentators are hoist with their own petard.

– Mark Lynas writing in the Guardian on 22 December 2009: “How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room”

The majestic cycle continues: “Biden heads to crucial climate talks as wary allies wonder if US will deliver”. He won’t. China will wreck the deal. Developing countries will grandstand, led by the Maldives. Doom will be imminent if we do not get a Green New Deal within a timeframe just longer than one electoral cycle. Preparations will begin for Cop27.

Brian (Micklethwait) and I chat about how lucky we are to NOT live in the Middle Ages

Brian and I recorded a couple of conversations which remained unpublished at the time of this death. This is the first.

Any comments – which would be gratefully received – are probably best left here on Samizdata.

Interesting and significant (probably) to see Brian’s influence all over the preceding post. My apologies to anyone reading this who didn’t know him and feels left out.

There was a time when Scottish universities were havens of free thought

Then:

After the Uniformity Act 1662, for about two centuries, it was difficult for any but practising members of the Church of England to gain degrees from the old English universities, at Cambridge and Oxford. The University of Oxford, in particular, required – until the Oxford University Act 1854 – a religious test on admission that was comparable to that for joining the Church. The situation at the University of Cambridge was that a statutory test was required to take a bachelor’s degree.

English Dissenters in this context were Nonconformist Protestants who could not in good conscience subscribe (i.e. conform) to the beliefs of the Church of England. As they were debarred from taking degrees in the only two English universities, many of them attended the dissenting academies. If they could afford it, they completed their education at the universities of Leyden, Utrecht, Glasgow or Edinburgh, the last, particularly, those who were studying medicine or law.

Now:

After making their grades and unpacking their bags, new students may be forgiven for thinking they are ready to launch themselves into university life.

But at one of Britain’s leading institutions, they must now clear one more hurdle before beginning their studies: they must accept “personal guilt”.

St Andrews has introduced compulsory modules on sustainability, diversity, consent and good academic practice and will not allow students to matriculate if they do not “pass” by agreeing with certain statements. The university is one of a growing number insisting that students undertake training on subjects including anti-bullying and climate change.

[…]

At St Andrews, the induction asks students to agree with statements including: “Acknowledging your personal guilt is a useful start point in overcoming unconscious bias.” Those who tick “disagree” are marked incorrect and too many wrong answers mean they have failed the module and must retake it.

Another question from the course asks: “Does equality mean treating everyone the same?” Those who respond yes are told: “That’s not right, in fact equality may mean treating people differently and in a way that is appropriate to their needs so that they have fair outcomes and equal opportunity.”

Students are also asked to agree with the statement: “It is important to think about and understand our own prejudices and stereotypes so we don’t treat someone else unfairly or inappropriately.”

Steal Labour’s clothes, look like Labour

Britain’s electricity supply is in peril. On Monday (20 Sep) the Financial Times reported,

Peter McGirr wanted to modernise the British consumer energy market when he founded Green three years ago, building a customer base of more than 250,000 households. Now, with the sector in meltdown, he says it is “incredibly unlikely” the Newcastle-based supplier will survive until Christmas without government intervention.

Five smaller suppliers have collapsed in the past six weeks, with four or five more expected to join them in the next 10 days as the industry is battered by unprecedented surges in wholesale electricity and gas prices.

Observers are predicting as few as 10 suppliers will make it through the winter, implying 40 could go bust. Some executives have privately suggested the sector could go back to a big four, five or six companies.

How did this happen to us? I know who to blame for setting the UK on this disastrous course. On Tuesday 24 September 2013, eight years ago tomorrow, the then Leader of the Labour party, Ed Miliband, gave his big speech to the Labour party conference in Brighton. One item was particularly popular:

“If we win the election 2015 the next Labour government will freeze gas and electricity prices until the start of 2017. Your bills will not rise. It will benefit millions of families and millions of businesses. That’s what I mean by a government that fights for you. That’s what I mean when I say Britain can do better than this.”

The response from the Tories was immediate and scathing:

As the Guardian reported,

Energy minister Greg Barker attacks Labour’s plan to cap energy prices

In response to Ed Miliband’s announcement, the energy minister says capping energy prices would have catastrophic consequences for investment in the UK

Figures from the gas industry chipped in:

The lights could go out if Labour introduces its 20-month freeze on energy prices, Ian Peters of British Gas said. “If we have no ability to control what we do in the retail prices” and wholesale prices suddenly go up within a single year “that will threaten energy security,” he said. Asked if that meant the lights would go out, he replied: “I think that is a risk.”

But Mr Miliband’s policy had equally vigorous defenders. On 25 September 2013, the day after Mr Miliband’s speech, Alex Andreou of the New Statesman thundered:

Ed Miliband’s critics think his energy pledge will make the lights go out. They are wrong

The critics were wrong. Ed Miliband is innocent OK! It was not his pledge that a Labour government would limit energy prices that has brought us so near to having the lights go out.

The Conservative manifesto of 2017 included energy price controls, duly introduced by Prime Minister Theresa May on 1st January 2019.

And here we are.

Came for tea, stayed for the rape: a beloved children’s classic re-analysed

They’ve come for the tiger.

“Children’s book ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ could lead to rape and harassment’ because it reinforces gender inequality that causes violence against women, campaigner claims”, reports the Mail.

It may have delighted generations of children, but The Tiger Who Came To Tea reinforces gender inequality which causes violence against women and girls, a campaigner said yesterday.

Rachel Adamson, of Zero Tolerance, a charity working to end men’s violence against women, said Judith Kerr’s 1968 classic was ‘problematic’ because of its ‘old fashioned’ portrayal of women and family dynamics.

The book sees an uninvited tiger join a young girl and her mother for tea before eating all the food in the house, drinking everything, running the taps dry and leaving.

The girl’s father then comes home and takes her and her mother to a cafe.

Miss Adamson did not call for the book to be banned but said it could be used to ‘raise a conversation’ in nurseries.

She told BBC Radio Scotland: ‘We know that gender stereotypes are harmful and they reinforce gender inequality, and that gender inequality is the cause of violence against women and girls, such as domestic abuse, rape and sexual harassment.’

Adamson questioned the tiger’s gender and why he was not female or gender neutral.

Um… would this campaigner against violence inflicted on women and girls, whose organisation specifically defends its focus on men’s violence against women really want to see a children’s book in which the enormous, physically dominant predator who blags its way into a space which a woman and a girl had thought their own and abuses their hospitality was female or transgender?

Sigh. As the Mail article points out, Judith Kerr knew a thing or two about prejudice leading to violence. Her father was a well known German Jewish writer who had to flee with his family when the Nazis came to power and put a price on his head. They only just escaped. She wrote a lightly fictionalised account of her family’s story in When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Nonetheless, she always resisted attempts to claim that the tiger was a metaphor for Nazism. It was just a big hungry but affable tiger who ate all the buns and drank all the water in the tap.

→ Continue reading: Came for tea, stayed for the rape: a beloved children’s classic re-analysed

Here we go again

BBC News 17:16 BST: Taliban take over Presidential Palace – reports

Conveniently, Afghanistan has had its own Samizdata tag for nearly twenty years. It is interesting, if depressing, to look at the old entries.