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]

How to hand in your resignation

I thought about putting this in The Great Realignment, but the link to politics is slight. This is more about fantasy fulfilment. Have you ever dreamed of telling a bad boss what you think of him? Have you ever dreamed of telling the world what you think of your bad boss, shortly before making him your ex-boss? Meet Gareth Arnold, who until today seems to have handled the Twitter account for Jared O’Mara MP, regarded by all sides as the most useless MP in Parliament today. Actually as of now (20:36 BST) Mr Arnold still is handling Mr O’Mara’s account but Mr O’Mara may not be entirely happy with that.

The first indication that something was up came at 8:03. A tweet allegedly from Mr O’Mara said,

Jared O’Mara
@jaredomaramp

Comms Team signing off… forever: Jared, you are the most disgustingly morally bankrupt person I have ever had the displeasure of working with. You do not care about your constituents. You do not care about anyone but yourself.

Thick and fast they followed:

I cannot and will not defend you and your vile, inexcusable contempt for the people who voted you in. You selfish, degenerate prick.

*

My fear is that now (as I quit) the rest of the staff will leave and once again you will close your office and stop helping anyone but still take your wages until you have the decency to call a byelection.

*

Leaving constituents desperate for representation again. No matter if they are having their homes taken away, their liberaties disgraced or being deported because of your inaction.

*

Sheffield Hallam deserves so much better than you. You have wasted opportunities which people dare not to even dream of.

*

Consider this my resignation.

Thanks

Gareth Arnold
– @garetharnolduk

“GnasherJew” has archived the thread to keep it for posterity.

P.S. In other news, Boris Johnson will be made PM tomorrow.

Why is Russia trying to influence other countries’ elections by means of targeted advertising wrong?

“Nick Clegg denies misuse of Facebook influenced Brexit vote”, reports the Guardian.

Umm, okay. A lot of people are saying “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?”.

Sir Nick Clegg, for those readers who have forgotten this rather forgettable chap, used to be leader of the Liberal Democrats and was Deputy Prime Minister for a while, back when the Lib Dems were in coalition with the Conservatives. He lost his seat in the 2017 election, which made him sad. Then he got a “communications” job with Facebook at a salary that probably made him feel better.

So nine years after Cleggmania, here he is back on our TV screens again. The Times report on the same story says,

The former Liberal Democrat leader said that social media could not be blamed for the vote to leave the European Union.

He said: “Much though I understand why people want to reduce that eruption in British politics to some kind of plot or conspiracy — or some use of new social media through opaque means — I’m afraid the roots to British Euroscepticism go very, very deep.”

Sir Nick added: “Yes, Facebook has a heavy responsibility to protect the integrity of elections from outside interference. I also think we have a duty to explain fact from some of the allegations that have been made.”

Calling for greater regulation of the internet, he said: “We forget that though these companies are huge and affect every aspect of our lives — our social lives, our business lives — nonetheless it has all happened in such a short period of time.

It is no surprise to find Nick Clegg “calling for “greater regulation of the internet”. Not only was more regulation of corporations his schtick when he was a politico, it also suits his current employers very well. Facebook can buy another twenty floors of lawyers whenever it needs them; struggling new startups cannot.

But to hear such a lifelong Europhile admit that the roots of British Euroscepticism go deep was a surprise. He is right. Russia’s puny efforts to interfere in the EU referendum were the equivalent of the eternally slandered King Canute calling the tide forward.

But in all this debate about how effective or ineffective Russia’s “outside interference” in the referendum was I have not yet heard a convincing explanation of what exactly is wrong with “outside interference” anyway.

I need not list the real crimes – waging unjust wars, murders, domestic repression – that can be laid at Putin’s door. On an infinitely smaller scale, making use of harvested data that people did not agree to make available is a bad if commonplace thing. But what is bad in principle about Russia trying to persuade British people to vote a particular way by advertising? Where did this idea come from that only British ideas are allowed to enter British brains during an election or referendum campaign? In a democracy you are allowed to vote on any criteria you like. You can vote for a candidate because you carefully researched his or her voting record and found that it best aligned with your political beliefs, or because your family has always voted for the Reds or the Blues, or because you think the candidate has nice eyes, or because your imam told you which way to vote, or because Vladimir Putin did. They all count equally. If we were to operate a system of Juche when it comes to political thought, would that not also exclude political ideas originating in the European Union?

Katie Jones is the face of the future

“That LinkedIn connection could be a spy using a fake, AI-generated face”, warns Raphael Satter of the Associated Press in the Tampa Bay Times.

LONDON — Katie Jones sure seemed plugged into the Washington’s political scene. The 30-something redhead boasted a job at a top think tank and a who’s-who network of pundits and experts, from the centrist Brookings Institution to the right-wing Heritage Foundation. She was connected to a deputy assistant secretary of state, a senior aide to a senator and the economist Paul Winfree, who is being considered for a seat on the Federal Reserve.

But Katie Jones doesn’t exist, the Associated Press has determined. Instead, the persona was part of a vast army of phantom profiles lurking on the professional networking site LinkedIn.

So what’s new? Haven’t the Russkies been stealing people’s photos for years and using them to illustrate fake profiles on sites like LinkedIn? They have, but on this occasion it seems that the one thing of which they were not guilty was identity theft:

Several experts contacted by the Associated Press said Jones’ profile picture appeared to have been created by a computer program.

“I’m convinced that it’s a fake face,” said Mario Klingemann, a German artist who has been experimenting for years with artificially generated portraits and says he has reviewed tens of thousands of such images. “It has all the hallmarks.”

Klingemann and other experts said the photo — a closely cropped portrait of a woman with blue-green eyes, copper-colored hair and an enigmatic smile — appeared to have been created using a family of dueling computer programs called generative adversarial networks, or GANs, that can create realistic-looking faces of entirely imaginary people. GANs, sometimes described as a form of artificial intelligence, have been the cause of increasing concern for policymakers already struggling to get a handle on digital disinformation.

Katie is telling us that the era of evidence is drawing to a close. What changes will this bring?

Samizdata quote of the day

In the internet age, for a political party to get their message out, talking to the Old Media is an option, not a necessity.

– Perry de Havilland

Putting names to the faces of a parcel of rogues

A month late, I found this video by “Change Britain”, a pressure group founded by leaders of the Vote Leave campaign:

Brexit Betrayal montage: “2 minutes of broken promises!”

The montage consists of politician after politician saying that the government would do whatever people voted for in the referendum, that there would be no second referendum, that the UK would leave the European Union on March 29th 2019, and so on and so forth, liars that they are.

It is very effective… if you know your politicians by sight. When it comes to spotting the Lesser British Politician in its natural habitat I would get my Brownie badge, but even I could not name all the distinguished lawmakers shown in this montage.

This matters. That effective video would be twice as effective at naming and shaming lying politicians if it, er, named them. This ties in to what I said in my earlier post, “Some examples of promises that Remainer MPs made to get elected and then broke” about the importance of having the damning quotes in written as well as video form:

I thought it was very useful that he [Tom Harwood] added subtitles to the videos, as that makes it easier to find and cite the most strikingly dishonest passages in the MPs’ speeches. By writing out the speeches and the contents of the election flyers and leaflets here in this Samizdata post I hope to make it still easier to spread the word of how these Remainer Members of Parliament are not to be trusted.

To that end, here are the names that I could provide, together with party and role:

0:01 David Cameron, Conservative, Prime Minister at the time of the broadcast
0:02 Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat, then leader of that party
0:06 George Osborne, Conservative, then Chancellor of the Exchequer
0:09 Peter Mandelson (Baron Mandelson), Labour peer and former cabinet minister, prince of darkness
0:17 John Major, Conservative, former Prime Minister
0:22 Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party
0:25 Sadiq Khan, Labour, Mayor of London
0:30 George Osborne again
0:32 Philip Hammond, Conservative, Chancellor of the Exchequer
0:34 Anna Soubry, formerly Conservative now Change UK
0:36 Sir Keir Starmer, Labour, Shadow Secretary for Exiting the EU
0:43 Peter Mandelson again
0:50 Cameron
0:53 Is that Nick Boles? Assuming it’s him, he’s ex-Tory, now “Independent Progressive Conservative” Peter Kyle, Labour
0:55 A bloke. Labour from his red tie. Hilary Benn, Labour.
0:58 Chuka Umunna, formerly Labour now Change UK
1:01 Damn, I know who she is but the name won’t come to me Justine Greening, Conservative.
1:03 John McDonnell, Labour, Shadow Chancellor
1:11 Sarah Wollaston, formerly Conservative now Change UK
1:12 Is that worried looking woman Labour’s Yvette Cooper? She looks different without her lipstick on. General opinion is yes, it is Yvette Cooper.
1:17 Identified in the comments as Dr Phillip Lee, Conservative. He does resemble the former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, but it isn’t him.
1:22 Heidi Allen, formerly Conservative, now Change UK
1:27 Theresa May again
1:31 Osborne again
1:32 Now identified as Sir Oliver Letwin, Conservative
1:36 May
1:43 Cameron
1:50 May
1:54 Cameron
1:57 May

If you can supply the missing names, please let me know in the comments.

Besides naming the parcel of rogues, the other point of this post is that, while a video is better than text for making your point with emotional force, if you want to make that point spread far and wide, it pays to back the video up with writing. Subtitle it, caption it with the names of speakers, and write down significant timestamps as the “sticky” maker’s comment to the video so people can search for the clip most relevant to them.

For instance I was particularly interested in the words of Sir Keir Starmer that “The referendum is clear and has to be accepted. We can’t have a re-run of the question which was put to the country”. Sir Keir Starmer KCB QC (he got the knighthood before becoming a Labour MP and would probably now prefer it not to be mentioned) is the Great White Hope of the anti-Corbynite, Europhile section of the Labour Party. Sir Keir is spoken of as the next leader, and he is certainly more intelligent and in most matters less fanatical than its current leader. Even some socialists would prefer their party be led by a member of the Order of the Bath than by a man who looks like he needs one.

Do not welcome Sir Keir into your hearts just yet.

He was the Director of Public Prosecutions at the time of the Twitter Joke Trial. And, of course, a man who first said that “The referendum is clear and has to be accepted. We can’t have a re-run of the question which was put to the country” but weaselled out of that as soon as the wind changed.

Sir Keir Starmer’s weaselling should be widely known. I am grateful to Change Britain for bringing it to my attention. However I was only able to find out that Starmer had once said that “the referendum is clear and has to be accepted” because (a) I am the sort of person who watches two minute montages of politicians lying about Brexit, (b) I already knew that Sir Keir is currently one of the Labour party’s leading advocates of a second referendum, and (c) I am one of the 5% – make that 1% – of British people who can put a name to his suspiciously handsome face.

The remark in question is thirty-six seconds in if you want to check it for yourself without watching the whole montage. Seeing a certain short extract from a montage video is a thing people might often wish to do, so, makers of montages, make it easy for them. If someone reading this wants to send a Starmer-struck friend a clip of that video starting at that very moment, pause the video, right click, and select “Copy video URL at current time”.

Update: Thank you Alex, Mr Ed, Peter Briffa and Martin Keegan for all the names you have supplied. The one remaining name that I am not sure about is the chap at 0:53 (actually 0:52) who I tentatively ID’d as ex-Tory now-Independent Nick Boles. The name of Ed Balls of Labour has been suggested (he of the sacred Day) – unless I’m mixed up about which talking head Peter Briffa was indicating. But while I’ve lost confidence in naming the mystery man as Nick Boles, he doesn’t look like Ed Balls to me either.

Another update: Martin Keegan has identified him as Peter Kyle, Labour.

I created a YouTube channel for myself specifically in order to add this list of names to the Brexit Betrayal montage. If you are on YouTube and agree that putting names to faces for this montage of dishonest MPs is a useful thing to do, please consider liking my comment. It’s currently the most recent one.

A final thought: the only MP or ex-MP there whom I would exempt from the charge of dishonesty is David Cameron. He has many faults, including dishonesty on other matters, but so far as I know he has not tried to backtrack on the commitment to adhere to the result of the referendum he himself called, little though he liked the result.

Samizdata quote of the day

BBC should be abolished, not because of blatant bias but because the whole idea of a state broadcaster was a terrible idea on day 1 of the BBC’s existence. And in the internet age, it is now an anachronistic bad idea. Bin it entirely or at least make it voluntary subscription

– Perry de Havilland

I seek a software or sporting metaphor to explain why a second referendum would be wrong

When discussing Brexit I am often asked, not always disingenuously, “What is so wrong with having another referendum? Is not another vote more democratic by definition? Now that we know more, isn’t a good idea to check if people really do want to leave the European Union?”

I have been trying to think of a metaphor to explain what my objection to a second referendum is. The non-metaphorical explanation is that the government solemnly promised in the pamphlet sent to every household that whatever people voted for in the referendum of 23rd June 2016, “the government will implement what you decide”. A so-called democracy that will not allow certain results is a sham democracy.

(“Buuut,” comes the cry, “we aren’t disallowing any results. We’re just checking.”)

It was the European Union’s habit of ignoring or repeating referendums that gave the “wrong answer” which more than anything else turned me against it. I can truly say that even when it was in its infancy I foresaw that the trick of making a few cosmetic changes then running the referendum again would work devilishly well because it is difficult to describe in one sentence what is wrong with it. One can point out that it only ever seems to work one way: results of which the EU approves never seem to need to be confirmed. But to do that requires that you recite a whole chunk of history about Denmark and Ireland and the difference (clue: there wasn’t one) between the European Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty. If your interlocutor is young, as a lot of Europhiles are, then this is a lot to take in and a lot to take on trust.

I wish there were a quick, engaging story I could tell to show what I mean. Two possible types of anecdote occur to me, one from the world of sport and one from the world of computers. Being ignorant of both fields, I would like to ask readers if they know of anecdotes or examples from sporting history or computery stuff which would fit the bill.

Computers first: it infuriates me when the efforts of Microsoft or Samsung to get me to adopt their proprietary software seem almost to amount to harassment. I have a Samsung phone. One day this crappy thing called “Samsung internet” appeared on the front screen or whatever it’s called. I don’t recall that I ever asked for it but I cannot make it go away. To be honest I probably did ask for it in the sense that I once, once, failed to reject it on some occasion when some damn prompt asking me to take it popped up and I had to get rid of the pop-up quickly in order to get on with whatever I wanted to do.

That anecdote is probably wrong in its terminology. I may have been overly harsh to Samsung or its internet. The point is that this type of situation, where the user has to keep rejecting something that the software company is pushing, and if they slip up just once they are deemed to have accepted it, is widely recognized to be a right pain. Can anyone give me the words to make this a metaphor for why “neverendums” are a bad thing?

Or what about an example from the history of sport? Little though I know about sports, even I can see that there can be few things more frustrating for an athlete than to run the race of your life – and then have it announced that, “Oh, sorry, old chap, that was a false start. We’ll have to run it again.” This would be even worse if it were suspected that the sporting authorities had applied the rules in a partial manner. For instance there may have been times when white athletics officials were more prone to declare that a re-run was necessary if a black athlete won than if a white athlete did.

I may have described a similar situation regarding football in an earlier post I cannot find now.

Has this scenario actually happened? Dates, names and places please!

And if you know as little as I do of those two fields, how do you make the argument against a second referendum?

Or, if you prefer, what stories, anecdotes or metaphors do you use to argue in favour of a second referendum?

Samizdata quote of the day

To a great extent, the threat to free speech posed by iPlod will depend upon how its employees exercise their discretion and whether they’re politically neutral. Unfortunately, it will be staffed by the same sort of quangocrats that run the Advertising Standards Authority, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and Public Health England, and we know from experience that these busybodies will use whatever powers they have to extend the reach of the nanny state. That nearly always involves enforcing left-wing orthodoxy, whether consciously or not.

Toby Young

Samizdata quote of the day

Canute’s point wasn’t that he could control the tides and waves. Rather, that fawning courtiers needed to learn the lesson of the limit to State competence. A thousand years later we’re still waiting for the lesson to sink in.

Tim Worstall

What do people think of Open Rights Group?

The White Paper expresses a clear desire for tech companies to “design in safety”. As the process of consultation now begins, we call on DCMS to “design in fundamental rights”. Freedom of expression is itself a framework, and must not be lightly glossed over. We welcome the opportunity to engage with DCMS further on this topic: before policy ideas become entrenched, the government should consider deeply whether these will truly achieve outcomes that are good for everyone.

– remarks by Jim Killock and Amy Shepherd on the ORG site.

Seems to me that ORG thinks the ‘Online Harms Strategy’ just needs to be written better rather than the very notion of the government poking its nose into the internet is an abomination that needs to die in a fire. I have not followed the ORG closely, so am I being unfairly critical? Perhaps I am just allergic to the incredibly dangerous ‘positive rights’ language I see in some ORG articles. Opinions?

Enemies everywhere

Lovers of liberty are surrounded by enemies. Paul Marks posted a video by tech and social commentary YouTuber Computing Forever explaining possible consequences of yesterday’s votes on articles 11 and 13 of the EU Copyright Directive. I am also fond of the gaming YouTuber ObsidianAnt, who is less certain but still worried.

It is unclear how this directive will be implemented, but it seems awfully unpleasant. Even if this is not the end of the Internet, regulations have ratcheted a little bit more and there is no sign of any future change in direction. At best, life will be made harder for small content creators and innovation will be stifled. YouTube, I suspect, will make a minimum effort to implement tougher content filters which will annoy the big channels and kill off marginal smaller ones. Google will pay the occasional big fine since the system will be impossible to implement perfectly. Some other content sharing platforms will exit the EU or be killed off. All kinds of unseen new things will never come to be. To some extent rules like the link tax will be ignored and not enforced, except against people who are sufficiently unpopular. To some extent people will work around the directive, and in response the EU will try to tighten regulations further.

This is a great example of just how hard it is for grass roots efforts to change the minds of the European Commission. Years of campaigning could not stop the directive. I can not imagine any way the direction of travel can be reversed. The EU is making a really good case for Brexit.

On the other hand, when asked, the British government responded: “We support Articles 11 and 13, which seek to ensure creators and producers are rewarded when their works are used online, but agree they must include safeguards for freedom of expression.” I do see any sign of safeguards. Will the UK government now refuse to implement the directive during the transition period? Boris is against it, at least.

Meanwhile, some more EU plans are afoot to fit cars with speed limiters and black boxes. “The Department for Transport said the system would also apply in the UK, despite Brexit.”

The British government may not be much better for liberty than the EU and in some cases may be worse, but I can at least imagine how it might be possible to change it. I think we need to get out of the EU so we can concentrate on opposing opponents of liberty in Westminster. Perhaps in a few weeks we will have some idea how close a prospect that is.

The EU just destroyed the internet…

For your information…