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]

Keep your eyes peeled

Julius Caesar, Act III Scene III:

CINNA THE POET: Truly, my name is Cinna.
FIRST CITIZEN: Tear him to pieces; he’s a conspirator.
CINNA THE POET: I am Cinna the poet, I am Cinna the poet.
FOURTH CITIZEN: Tear him for his bad verses, tear him for his bad verses.
CINNA THE POET: I am not Cinna the conspirator.
FOURTH CITIZEN: It is no matter, his name’s Cinna; pluck but his name out of his heart, and turn him going.
THIRD CITIZEN: Tear him, tear him! Come, brands ho! fire-brands: to Brutus’, to Cassius’; burn all: some to Decius’ house, and some to Casca’s; some to Ligarius’: away, go!

The BBC reports:

Sir Robert Peel statue removal calls ‘targeting wrong man’

Anti-racism campaigners calling for the removal of statues of a former British prime minister have been accused of targeting the wrong man.

There are several statues of Sir Robert Peel, who founded the modern police.

But city leaders said people appeared to be confusing him with his father, of the same name, who opposed the abolition of slavery.

In contrast the Robert Peel of the statue, to quote Wikipedia, “often started from a traditional Tory position in opposition to a measure, then reversed his stance and became the leader in supporting liberal legislation. This happened with the Test Act, Catholic Emancipation, the Reform Act, income tax and, most notably, the repeal of the Corn Laws.” He also, most pertinently, laid down the principles of policing by consent that many forces would do well to re-learn. Oh, and as Prime Minister he “supported William Wilberforce’s Anti-Slavery Bill wholeheartedly” against the opposition of many in his own party.

So there you are. Two Robert Peels, father and son, same name but very different people. This whole statue-toppling thing is stupid but a little mix-up like that did not exceed the base level of stupidity. Easy mistake to make.

The next bit, however…

Despite acknowledging the mistaken identity, campaigners are still calling for the Leeds statue to go.

[…]

Although organisers recognised they had initially referred to the wrong person, they said they wanted it removed because “we should not celebrate colonisers”.

The petition states: “With the legitimacy of current policing in question, the history of policing, its origins in colonialism and its role in suppressing dissent deserves greater scrutiny.

“Peel’s statue belongs in a museum, as part of an exhibition for others to learn about the history of British colonialism.”

Edit: There are two petitions currently running on Change.org relating to different statues of Peel. The first is “Keep the Bradford Robert peel statue” and the second is “Keep the Sir Robert Peel statue in Picadilly Gardens”

As the BBC article states, the petition to remove the statue of Peel in Leeds got its target number of signers. You can see it here.

Peel created the London Metropolitan Police in 1829, the ideas for which he developed while overseeing the British colonial occupation of Ireland. He was pivotal in setting up the police forces which maintained British rule in Ireland and a system which led to the poverty, famine and displacement of Irish people. Colonialism and racism – in this case anti-catholic sentiment – are central to British history. Not only that but with the legitimacy of current policing in question, the history of policing, its origins in colonialism and its role in suppressing dissent deserves greater scrutiny.”

That is an extract from the version they wrote after they were made aware that they had misidentified the Robert Peel depicted in the statue.

The State’s lament: ‘A substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened;’

Thus went the UK government’s discussion paper on increasing social distancing on 22nd March 2020.

The perceived level of personal threat needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging. To be effective this must also empower people by making clear the actions they can take to reduce the threat.

There were other considerations:

Hong Kong’s experience:

Having a good understanding of the risk has been found to be positively associated with adoption of COVID-19 social distancing measures in Hong Kong

And carrots:

Incentivisation
6. Social approval: Social approval can be a powerful source of reward. Not only can this be provided directly by highlighting examples of good practice and providing strong social encouragement and approval in communications; members of the community can be encouraged to provide it to each other. This can have a beneficial spill-over effect of promoting social cohesion. Communication strategies should provide social approval for desired behaviours and promote social approval within the community.

And of course, coercion, along with ‘social disapproval’:

Coercion
7. Compulsion: Experience with UK enforcement legislation such as compulsory seat belt use suggests that, with adequate preparation, rapid change can be achieved (16). Some other countries have introduced mandatory self-isolation on a wide scale without evidence of major public unrest and a large majority of the UK’s population appear to be supportive of more coercive measures. For example, 64% adults in Great Britain said they would support putting London under a ‘lock down’ (17). However, data from Italy and South Korea suggest that for aggressive protective measures to be effective, special attention should be devoted to those population groups that are more at risk (18). In addition, communities need to be engaged to minimise risk of negative effects. Consideration should be given to enacting legislation, with community involvement, to compel key social distancing measures.

8. Social disapproval: Social disapproval from one’s community can play an important role in preventing anti-social behaviour or discouraging failure to enact pro-social behaviour (15). However, this needs to be carefully managed to avoid victimisation, scapegoating and misdirected criticism. It needs to be accompanied by clear messaging and promotion of strong collective identity. Consideration should be given to use of social disapproval but with a strong caveat around unwanted negative consequences.

So, for us rats in the lab, we can see the experimental parameters. I can’t find the words ‘rights‘, ‘freedom‘, ‘free‘ or ‘liberty‘ anywhere in this document. I can see this, my emphasis in bold, with the lie about people being ‘asked’:

9. Community resourcing: People are being asked to give up valued activities and access to resources for an extended period. These need to be compensated for by ensuring that people have access to opportunities for social contact and rewarding activities that can be undertaken in the home, and to resources such as food. Adequately resourced community infrastructure and mobilisation needs to be developed rapidly and with coverage across all communities (6, 15).

10. Reducing inequity: Adherence to these measures is likely to be undermined by perceived inequity in their impact on different sections of the population, especially those who are already disadvantaged, e.g. those in rented accommodation and those working in precarious employment. Reducing costs of phone calls, data downloads etc. by ‘responsibility deals’ or government subsidies should be considered.

Just in case you don’t think that this is an experiment, there is a reference to methodology including this, but read the whole thing:

The criteria go under the acronym, APEASE (Acceptability, Practicability, Effectiveness, Affordability, Spill-over effects, Equity)

Edit: Just after Paul’s comment, a bit more has just come out, from 25th February 2020, about the risk of disorder, foreseeing a risk of PPE shortage on 25th February 2020, so they knew that they could be short long before they did anything about it:
The last paragraph says it all:

Promote a sense of collectivism: All messaging should reinforce a sense of community, that “we are all in this together.” This will avoid increasing tensions between different groups (including between responding agencies and the public); promote social norms around behaviours; and lead to self-policing within communities around important behaviours.

It lets us pretend that it is us talking

Samizdata no longer needs me. Soon it will no longer need you. I took the text from the sidebar:

The Samizdata people are a bunch of sinister and heavily armed globalist illuminati who seek to infect the entire world with the values of personal liberty and several property.

and copied it into Talk To Transformer.

The Samizdata people are a bunch of sinister and heavily armed globalist illuminati who seek to infect the entire world with the values of personal liberty and several property. Most of them are rich white males who are probably atheists, but many are probably questioning the existence of a god as they revel in their limitless wealth. They believe that anyone who is unprotesting of their cause is a threat to their cause and a threat to their own existence. They don’t care if you are a child and a physician or an Arab and a journalist. You must conform and accept their conspiracies. This is the true face of

Comments are, as ever, welcome. Even from humans.

What’s the UK equivalent of ‘NeverTrumper’?

Did you know that Boris doesn’t know who won the battle of Stalingrad? If you did not know this, please continue not to know it, because it is not in fact true. Should you encounter a reader of The Economist, however (one of life’s occasional joys of which I am now deprived by the lockdown), you may be told that Boris’ biography of Sir Winston Churchill reveals this and other remarkable lacunae in our current PM’s historical knowledge – told in a tone of great certainty and with the firmest assurance that any milder speculations you offer (for what Boris might have said to appear to mean such things) are not possible, so established are the facts.

I have never once in my entire life given money to The Economist in exchange for the doubtful privilege of reading it (and see very much less than no reason whatever to begin now), so I encounter copies but rarely in airplane lounges and on other people’s coffee tables. I therefore cannot tell you whether Economist readers believe this because an Economist writer once told them that or implied it, or merely because reading The Economist renders one credulous of such urban legends (insofar as the habit of reading The Economist does not reveal that one already is).

So astonished was I to be assured of this claim (by the undoubtedly educated and well-read) as a matter both unsurprising and beyond all doubt, that I have now once in my entire life given money to Boris (not to some cause he also espouses) in exchange for a copy of his Churchill biography – something I deduce Economist-readers are more loath to do even than I am to buy their rag. It struck me as a more primary source for verification than tracking down whatever years-old copy of The Economist had reviewed it or made a passing reference to it, or tracing the origin of its readers’ urban legends about it.

I was not surprised to learn that Boris knows what the gardener, the hairdresser and even the teenager all know – that Stalingrad did not end well for Adolf. I was not surprised to find I was correct in my pre-purchase guess that some throwaway one-liner about how far Adolf got despite Churchill (to suggest how dangerously further he might have got without Churchill) would be the sole basis for the bizarre claim that Boris didn’t. But after reading right through the book I am very surprised to discover just how vicious and/or deranged a reviewer would have to be to pretend and/or imagine that the text even remotely suggests such a thing (and likewise for the other claims).

That, however, is secondary. In her study of anti-semitism, Hannah Arendt explains that establishing the history of how ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ was forged is secondary. The historian’s primary subject is that the forgery is being believed. That someone – maybe originally some writer for The Economist but maybe, for all I know, originally just some reader of it holding forth to other readers in an upscale SW1 pub – claimed that Boris did not know a historical fact so famous that even an update of ‘1066 and all that’ might call it ‘memorable’, is secondary. The greater strangeness is that this claim is being believed – not by Jeremy two-Es Corbyn and his Momentum followers but by at least a few highly educated people who, in the late 1980s, were voting for Thatcher’s and Reagan’s economic policies even as they virtue-signalled disdain for their populism. What goes on in otherwise-intelligent minds to let a person move from that to this? How can their sense of reality be so deficient that they can be told Boris does not even know who won Stalingrad and still hear no alarm bell, no, “Maybe I should just check whether even Boris could really not know even that”?

The Economist was founded in 1843, not so long before Mill explained that democracy works best when:

“the sovereign Many have let themselves be guided (which in their best times they have always done) by the counsels and influence of a more highly gifted and instructed One or Few.” (‘On Liberty’, John Stewart Mill, 1859)

By this definition, The Economist has always been just what it claims to be: ultra-liberal. It is said that a senior editor once gave a junior colleague terse advice on how to write his first Economist leader article:

“Pretend you are God.”

The Economist has sometimes changed its mind in fact – it was rather late to abandon its Keynsianism for monetarism in the 1980s but it did. What never changes is the unapologetic arrogant smugness of a pretence that one suspects senior editors do not always recall is pretence. The Economist’s latest editor, a woman named Beddoes, is a Keynsian who thought Obama was wonderful. She belongs irredeemably to those whom Dominic Cummings described as:

aways writing about how ‘shocking’ things are to them – things that never were as low probability events as they imagined

Brexit winning, Trump as president, Boris as PM – how shocking that the omniscience of pretend-God be challenged by such unforeseen events. Late last year, I was aware from my acquaintance how much Economist-readers loved Fintan O’Toole’s ‘explanation’ that Brexit arose from the idiocy of backward-looking British voters (Fintan O’Toole: ‘Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain’, published November 2019). Fintan laughed when Brexit-supporting reviewers warned him to worry instead about a real ugliness in his own Southern Irish electorate – until he was again shocked by an Éire election result that was (regrettably but foreseeably) never such a low-probability event as he and EU-negotiation-supporting taoiseach Varadkar imagined. (Corbyn’s success in 2017 is one on-balance-hopeful analogy to draw; there are others.)

It is said of communists that they think their party is God – a God sadly lacking the attributes of forgiveness and absolution. People who have the sense to know communism is stupid can still be very wilfully deluded about how much they themselves understand and how unshocking it should be to be proved not merely wrong but clueless.

So what is the UK equivalent of ‘NeverTrumper’? We all know what ‘Guardian-reader’ means. Is it time to be aware what ‘Economist-reader’ can mean?

Everybody gets to be racist eventually

The latest newly discovered racist is Trevor Phillips.

Trevor Phillips, the former head of the equalities watchdog, has condemned Labour’s decision to suspend him from the party over alleged Islamophobia, while defending his view that the UK Muslim population is “different”.

Phillips, a pioneering anti-racism campaigner who previously chaired the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), has been suspended from Labour pending an investigation and could be expelled.

To me, the remarks in question seem to have an honest attempt to engage with the fact that the attitudes of the Muslim population do differ sharply from the UK average – surely a matter of public interest. Some here, remembering Mr Phillips’ previous role as head of the Commission for Racial Equality and his lifetime of commitment to the ideal of enforced equality, will speak of karma and say “what goes around comes around”. I disagree. As a matter of policy and humanity, when someone starts to move in the right direction we should not rebuff them.

An algorithmic snake brain and an algorithmic world

At my personal blog, on Friday February 28th (Friday being my day for animal kingdom related stuff, most of it very silly), I posted a link (among other links of a similar level of profundity) to a video, of a snake that had swallowed a towel having the towel extracted back through its mouth by helpful vets. Ho, ho.

The link I posted, to a tweet someone had done, no longer works, but here is the drama I’m referring to.

But now, today, AndrewZ added a comment to that posting of mine which seems to me to deserve rather wider attention than it would get if I merely left it where he first put it. He wrote this:

A snake is a simple creature driven by its instincts. It follows a set of hardwired rules which it can’t question and which can lead to dangerous errors when it encounters something outside of its normal experience, like a towel. In other words, a snake’s mind is a very limited algorithm. But the world today is saturated with algorithms, from Facebook to FinTech to facial recognition systems used by the police and ten thousand other things. The $64,000 question – perhaps, the $64 billion dollar question or the 64,000 lives question – is how many of them are still operating at the “dumb snake swallows a towel” level of sophistication.

This is not, to put it mildly, my area of expertise. But, on the other hand, this is just the kind of thing that the Samizdata commentariat enjoys chewing on, metaphorically speaking. So, ladies and gents, chew away.

Architecture wars

Robinson Meyer tweets:

If most Americans hate architectural abstraction and Mies-inspired modernism, then there’s still a compromise solution. It’s simple: All federal buildings should be designed in the style of India’s National Fisheries Development Board.

Trump has put architecture centre stage in the culture wars. Which will make it all much more interesting. Especially if more creature buildings are built, like the one in the picture above. And especially if they built something like a huge panda building or huge frog building, in Washington.

Eventually, there should be a giant building in Washington, the tallest in town, shaped like Donald Trump. A giant Trump sculpture. That would drain the swamp. They’d all flee in terror.

To be a bit more serious, but only a bit, just think about Trump’s edict, which says that from now on, all Federal Government buildings in the USA must be designed in the “classical” style. No more office blocks looking like multi-story car parks or international space stations. From now on, they’ll have to have a Parthenonic frontage stuck onto them.

Were any such buildings actually to get built, everyone who looks at one of these buildings is going to see … Trump. But all the people who work in government buildings hate Trump from the depths of their tax-dollar-sucking bossy-boots souls. So, they’ll make a huge stink to ensure that no such buildings ever get built. How beautiful is that? The governmental classes will, for the duration of Trump’s reign of architectural terror, expend huge amounts of energy opposing the expansion of the Federal Government.

The more I hear and see of Trump, the more I like him. But I’m talking about America, and what do I know about America? Luckily, we have plenty of commenters who do know about America, because they live there. Gentlemen, start your engines.

Titania McGrath takes to the stage

Whilst the British ‘comedy’ circuit has long been the preserve of the Left, events have taken a dramatic turn as Titania McGrath, radical socialist, feminist, intersectionalist, Twitter SJW par excellence and all-round good egg has escaped from Twitter into real life and has brought her insight to the stage.

The Culture War rages on.

Eat, drink and be merry. Tomorrow comes the Ice.

Hat tip to Ed Driscoll of Instapundit for at least giving Britain a few hours’ notice of its icy doom.

The news was first reported by Mark Townsend and Paul Harris in the Guardian‘s Sunday sister the Observer on Sun 22 Feb 2004. Since the world did not take the preventative measures the experts warned were necessary it is clear that nothing can save us now:

Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us

· Secret report warns of rioting and nuclear war
· Britain will be ‘Siberian’ in less than 20 years
· Threat to the world is greater than terrorism

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

Let’s just accept that we live in a low-probability timeline

Continuing my series of “Newspaper headlines mentioning vaguely newsworthy persons that I thought at first sight were jokes but turned out to be literally true”,

Prominent lawyer Jolyon Maugham clubs fox to death while wearing kimono.

Well, I suppose it is traditional to kill foxes on Boxing Day.

Yesterday’s entry: The Attorney General reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”

The Attorney General reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”

Like it says on the tin, here is a video in which Geoffrey Cox reads ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.

No political point is being made. I just thought he read it rather well. If the politics gig doesn’t work out, a more respectable career awaits him as a voiceover artist.

Happy [insert festival of choice here, including but not limited to Christmas and Wednesday] to all our readers.

Lawyers having a riot – in a hospital – some killed

I am surprised that this story from Pakistan – perhaps this is real ‘lawfare’? –

Three die as marauding Pakistan lawyers rampage through cardiac hospital

has not gained more attention, there is a paywall but there is other coverage. The gist of it is that after a dispute at a cardiac unit over priority for treatment, and insults being traded between physicians and lawyers, a riot of lawyers ensued that the Pakistani police could only contain with military assistance, and there are unconfirmed reports of patients dying after either being attacked by lawyers or deserted by medical staff.

Breitbart has the story too, with a death toll of around 12.

A mob of two hundred lawyers attacked the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) in Lahore, Pakistan, on Wednesday, causing at least 12 deaths, several of them critical care patients whose treatments were interrupted by the riot.

The swarm of lawyers was armed with firebombs and a number of handguns. Police cars were set ablaze during their confrontation with riot police, while the hospital suffered damage to windows, doors, and delicate equipment inside.

The genesis of the dispute is reported as being:

The bizarre rampage was touched off by a scuffle on Tuesday that sounds like a comedy skit gone horribly wrong: a lawyer demanded priority treatment at the hospital, the doctors said no, and the lawyer marched off to the local police station to demand they arrest the recalcitrant doctors on terrorism charges.

When the police said no, the infuriated lawyer returned to the hospital with some of his colleagues for a confrontation with the doctors, who filmed the ensuing confrontation and posted the video online with commentary mocking the lawyers. The following day, a mob of two hundred enraged lawyers descended upon the hospital and began trashing everything from parked cars to medical equipment.

So the good news is that Pakistan’s police have a firmer grasp of the concept of the rule of law than this gang of lawyers.

The hospital itself is the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, which provides free health care to almost 500,000 patients a year. Presumably it is State-funded, but there may be some religious charitable giving. It does accept donations for patient welfare, and provides private treatment in the evenings.

So why couldn’t the uppity lawyer who started this have waited till the evening and paid for some private care?

There may be more to this than meets the eye, the article alludes to long-running tensions between lawyers and doctors in Lahore (but no reason for them). A local lawyers’ rep. doesn’t seem to be particularly conciliatory:

The vice chair of the Pakistan Bar Council, Syed Amjad Shah, condemned the violence but described it as “the individual act of a few lawyers” while blaming the doctors for starting the fight by “misbehaving.”

Presumably the ‘lawyer’ pictured pointing a pistol in this local piece fully complies with the rules of professional conduct? In the USA, he might be simply vigorously demonstrating the Second Amendment.

What is the answer to this sort of behaviour, apart from rigorous law enforcement? It is, I suppose, a backhanded compliment to Pakistan’s hospitals that people will kill if denied priority treatment. Why doesn’t the NHS provoke such passions?