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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The mask slips

In today’s Sunday Times Camilla Long has a slight but amusing piece called “Jeffrey Toobin is caught with his pants down and he’s the victim? That’s a touch too much”. I realise that this audience would have little interest in the doings of the titular Toobin-

Oh, all right. Here it is:

If you thought the weak, the poor, the sick and the elderly had it bad during Covid, you might like to consider a new and extremely vulnerable and at-risk minority group: bored, rich, horny alpha males between the ages of 50 and 70 who have been shut away in their luxury triplexes with not a single sexy secretary or waitress to perve over.

In normal times these poor and lonely red-blooded millionaires wouldn’t go five minutes without putting their hands down their own pants or someone else’s — but now they must do everything for themselves, including, disastrously, setting up and managing Zoom calls.

My heart goes out, for example, to “the Tiger Woods of legal journalism” — Jeffrey Toobin — who was reported to have suffered some kind of extreme trouser event at his computer during a Zoom session with his colleagues at The New Yorker. During an “election simulation” — easy, fellas — with a radio station in which journalists assumed various roles, the 60-year-old writer — famous in America for his coverage of the OJ Simpson trial — apparently forgot to turn his camera off while his co-workers enjoyed a “strategy session” in “their respective breakout rooms”.

Toobin seemed to be “on a second video call”, said witnesses; when the groups returned, he had lowered the camera and was “touching his penis”. He then left the call, came back and, in the manner of someone who’s rarely been held accountable for anything — a boomer for whom life just falls into place — he seemed oblivious to the fact he’d destroyed his career, literally at a stroke.

Though as Ms Long points out later in the piece, working two jobs at once has not destroyed his career, because

…if there’s one group even more protected than a rich white alpha male in our society, it’s the rich white alpha male who hates Donald Trump.

All very amusing, but the last two paragraphs spoilt my mood:

It is true that the desperate scramble to shore up the hopeless Biden has reached extraordinary levels of deceit and manipulation — accounts are locked, reporting is pulled, likes and retweets seem to be managed.

Three months ago I myself got on the wrong side of Twitter’s political posturing by questioning whether masks worked — and my account is still down, with no response to appeals. If you think it’ll censor over that tiny issue, why not the presidential election?

My opinion is that masks probably do almost nothing to protect the wearer from Covid-19 and similar bugs, but they do confer significant protection to others. Feel free to discuss this question if it interests you, but I will not be participating in that particular debate. My uninformed opinion would add no value. And in any case the processing power that is available inside my head to think about any topic related to masks is entirely consumed by trying to deal with the revelation that Twitter censorship goes that far. I was naive. I did not know. Ms Long is quite wrong to call it a “tiny issue”. As with climate change, my now rather shaken belief in the “scientific consensus” was based on thinking it was a scientific consensus. I think it was Sir Peter Medawar in Advice to a Young Scientist who said that the dominance of the dominant hypothesis should be like that of a champion prizefighter: he is the champ because he has taken on and beaten all comers, and because he extends an open invitation to the whole world to displace him if they can.

But when people begin to suspect with good reason that the dominance of the dominant hypothesis is more like that of the champion golfer Kim Jong Il, it is no wonder that conspiracy theories spread like wildfire.

The anti-Watergate

Did you ever watch All The President’s Men? It was a true story about two heroic journalists doggedly tracking down and bringing to light a scandal at the heart of American politics. “The list is longer than anyone can imagine. It involves the entire US intelligence community. FBI, CIA, Justice. It’s incredible.”

There won’t be a sequel any time soon.

Gerard Baker, the sole Times regular who is not rooting for Biden, writes,

Anti-Trump censorship threatens democracy

For all the media hysteria about the existential menace Donald Trump supposedly represents to American democracy and western liberalism, there’s a softer but more pervasive authoritarianism that poses a greater threat to the freedoms on which our way of life rests.

Suggestions that four years of Trumpian oppression have left America’s journalists and news organisations cowering in fearful submission to the iron fist of a repressive regime would be hilarious if they weren’t so widely believed.

There can’t have been a better funded, more vocal, less suppressed “Resistance” in all of human history. Flick through the TV channels any evening and watch “pundits” and “entertainers” loudly mouthing uniformly expressed complaints about the condition of the nation. Media companies that were dying a quiet, unmourned death from sheer tedium and obsolescence before Bad Orange Man came along have sprung back to life on a saline drip of Trump-hatred. Online, search and social companies play host to every conceivable form of critique, ridicule and denunciation of the president, his administration, his party and anyone associated with them.

And good luck to them all. If liberty means anything, to paraphrase the man, it means the right to tell me things I don’t want to hear. But that’s the problem. It’s not Trump-loathing that the people with the best access to the public square don’t want us to hear. It’s everything else.

The much larger threat to the sort of free and challenging debate about issues of public importance is socially enforced ideological conformity to the prevailing orthodoxy of our cultural leadership.

and

Typically, such a story from one of the nation’s most well-known newspapers would have birthed a frenzy of follow-up reporting to confirm, expand or clarify the original reporting. Not in today’s media.

Instead what we got was a fullbore effort by virtually every major media and company in America to discredit the reporting. Journalists dashed to social media and TV studios to defend the Bidens and condemn fellow reporters. Beating up on another news organisation is not unheard of. But this was more than that. The story was not just sloppy or biased, they claimed, it was the result of a campaign of Russian disinformation, planted by the Kremlin’s ubiquitous intelligence people.

So, Mr Dorsey and Mr Zuckerberg, how are your fact checkers getting on with that New York Post story about Hunter Biden?

“When will they be reporting? Surely not after the election?”
“What have they found out so far?” You know you could check on the veracity of the emails by asking other recipients – have you done that?”
“Have you liaised with the FBI regarding the progress of their no doubt rigorous ongoing investigation of the material found on the computers?”
“Why was the dissemination via your platforms of illegally obtained material not a problem for the New York Times when it released a ‘trove’ of Donald Trump’s tax returns at the end of September?”
“Why was the dissemination via your platforms of leaked material not a problem when someone leaked Christine Blasey Ford’s confidential letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein that accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault?”
“Oh, and about that whole Russian collusion story about which we heard so much on Facebook and Twitter but which turned out to be nothing…”

I would so enjoy seeing the Senate Judiciary Committee make the cool, hip founders of Twitter and Facebook squirm with a barrage of questions that laid bare their revolting left-wing billionaire hypocrisy, before swatting away the law they have been hiding behind to censor their political enemies while pretending to be mere providers of a means of communication. The Republicans are as mad as hell and they ain’t gonna take it any more. Yay! Go Republicans! And Go Democrats, too, because Joe Biden wants to revoke Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act too. So now that all sides agree, let’s do this thing!

Or perhaps not. All laws passed to acclaim from both sides of the aisle turn out badly. It is a law of nature, like Boyle’s or Murphy’s. Besides that, as Andy Kessler argues in the Wall Street Journal,

…if we repeal 230, we’ll end up with more censorship. Why? Because if platforms are suddenly liable for everything posted, the knee-jerk reaction will be to take down everything questionable, leaving us with giant receptacles of Baby Shark videos, which would diminish the channels small businesses use to reach customers. Then, say goodbye to competition. There are hundreds of smaller social media competitors that wouldn’t be able to afford the software, let alone the tens of thousands of humans, to take down posts.

There’s no simple way to “fix” Section 230 either. The feds could require nonpartisan, balanced views. But who decides what’s balanced? We’d be back to where we started. Any fix would open a can of worms of special interests, maybe even a new Digital Diction Department staffed by justice warriors deciding which phrases are no longer acceptable, like “master bedroom” or even “preference.” And then the law would get larded with special exceptions. The thinking would be, “Let politicians say what they want, for democracy’s sake, but protesters should also get a pass, depending on their grievances.” It would never end.

“We are reducing its distribution on our platform”

The New York Post has a big story. Very big.

Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad

By Emma-Jo Morris and Gabrielle Fonrouge

Hunter Biden introduced his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, to a top executive at a Ukrainian energy firm less than a year before the elder Biden pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company, according to emails obtained by The Post.

The never-before-revealed meeting is mentioned in a message of appreciation that Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of Burisma, allegedly sent Hunter Biden on April 17, 2015, about a year after Hunter joined the Burisma board at a reported salary of up to $50,000 a month.

“Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together. It’s realty [sic] an honor and pleasure,” the email reads

An earlier email from May 2014 also shows Pozharskyi, reportedly Burisma’s No. 3 exec, asking Hunter for “advice on how you could use your influence” on the company’s behalf.

The blockbuster correspondence — which flies in the face of Joe Biden’s claim that he’s “never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings” — is contained in a massive trove of data recovered from a laptop computer.

But the story of what is happening to that story is even bigger. The Daily Mail reports,

Outrage as Facebook AND Twitter throttle story about Joe Biden meeting son’s Ukraine partners until it’s been vetted by its third party so-called ‘fact-checkers’.

The Mail article describes how Sohrab Ahmari, an editor at the New York Post, tried to tweet about his paper’s story, and got this message:

Tweet not sent

Your Tweet couldn’t be sent because the link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful. Visit our Help Center to learn more.

And Andy Stone, policy communications director at Facebook, has announced:

While I will intentionally not link to the New York Post, I want to be clear that this story is eligible to be fact checked by Facebook’s third-party fact checking partners. In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform.

Edit: Not knowing much about social media myself, I have two questions for readers. (1) What can people do to spread the New York Post‘s report about Joe Biden’s lies regarding Hunter Biden’s business dealings in the Ukraine? (2) What can people do to spread the even more important news that Facebook and Twitter are censoring this story?

Update: Via Instapundit, I learn that Sohrab Ahmari’s twitter account has been suspended. They are silencing the opinion editors of major newspapers.

Samizdata quote of the day

YouTube went from restricting speech containing “violence and hate” to apparently suppressing information connecting Disney to actual violence and hate in China—the largest mass incarceration of an ethnic minority since the Holocaust. A rich irony indeed, but one that would not have surprised George Orwell.

Jon Miltimore

Bonus:

YouTube has deleted every comment I ever made about the Wumao (五毛), an internet propaganda division of the Chinese Communist Party. Who at Google decided to censor American comments on American videos hosted in America by an American platform that is already banned in China?

Palmer Luckey

If Corbyn had won we’d have had free broadband by 2030

As in we would have had it.

15 November 2019:

General election 2019: Labour pledges free broadband for all

Labour has promised to give every home and business in the UK free full-fibre broadband by 2030, if it wins the general election.

The party would nationalise part of BT to deliver the policy and introduce a tax on tech giants to help pay for it.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC the “visionary” £20bn plan would “ensure that broadband reaches the whole of the country”.

28 May 2020:

No more free petrol, Maduro tells Venezuelans

Venezuela’s socialist government says it is ending its policy of allowing motorists to fill up with free petrol as the country confronted an economic meltdown.

“Petrol must be paid for,” said President Maduro in a state TV address. He described the change, euphemistically, as a “normalisation and regularisation plan.”

Big Tech platforms – are they common carriers? Clearly not.

Platforms like YouTube and Vimeo protect themselves from liability springing from what gets published on their platforms by claiming to be common carriers, like a phone company or ISP. But they are clearly nothing of the sort.

I have a saved file copy of this for later publication in case this video is also taken down. This is not about whether or not you support or oppose the lockdown, this is about being allowed to say what you think about it and why. Here is the original video.

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.

Samizdata quote of the day

I’ve Got Mine Now Sod Off Says Zuckerberg

Tim Worstall providing a typically succinct summation.

I just did a bit of copying and pasting

Of this:

Born in New York City in 1945, Tesler eventually studied computer science at Stanford University before working in the school’s artificial intelligence research lab in the late 1960s. He moved to Xerox in 1973, where he devised the time-saving concepts to cut, copy and paste in computer systems.

“Your workday is easier thanks to his revolutionary ideas,” Xerox tweeted Thursday to honor Tesler.

Oh, it goes far beyond that, for me and surely for many others. My whole life was made possible by this sort of stuff.

With thanks to Instapundit. It’s little postings like this that keep me going back there. If all there was there was politics, I’d keep going back, but surely not so often.

Imagine having to copy out just the two links above, letter by letter, number by number. Absurd.

A BIT LATER: I put together all of the above for my personal blog, but then I thought: this should go to Samizdata. So I copied and pasted it across. Took me about two minutes.

What, if anything, should we be doing about Huawei?

There is a kerfuffle here in the UK over 5G. I can’t in all honesty say that I have the slightest idea what 5G is but I surmise that it is one better than 4G. The issue is around whether the Chinese company, Huawei, should be allowed to supply some of the equipment. Lots of people, including James Delingpole say, “no”. And very few people say, “yes”.

The first question that springs to (my) mind is, what has this got to do with the government? Which I suppose is bound up with the question of what is the threat? Assuming that there is a threat and that government should be “doing something about it”, what is that something?

About the only thing I know about China and telephony is that you should never take your phone to China.

Oh, and one other thing. Guido Fawkes observed that the real scandal is that Chinese technology should prove to be better than western technology. Is this true and is it a portent?

Name me one good thing about Brexit…

Start with this:

Article 13: UK will not implement EU copyright law

Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore has said that the UK will not implement the EU Copyright Directive after the country leaves the EU.

Several companies have criticised the law, which would hold them accountable for not removing copyrighted content uploaded by users, if it is passed.

EU member states have until 7 June 2021 to implement the new reforms, but the UK will have left the EU by then.

The UK was among 19 nations that initially supported the law.

That was in its final European Council vote in April 2019.

This Samizdata post from March 2019 contains a list of links to other posts that give the background.