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]

Mahsa Amini was beaten to death by the Iranian hijab police. Guess what Twitter did next.

Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian Kurdish woman, was arrested by the morality police for having an improperly adjusted hijab. Witnesses say that she was beaten in the police van. Her relatives published pictures of her lying in a coma in intensive care. They wanted the world to know what had been done to her. She never woke from that coma.

Anything a social media company might do pales in comparison to the evil of beating a woman to death because she did not cover her hair in the approved way – but what Twitter did next is still worth noting.

Vahid Yücesoy reports,

I’ve just spoken to @AlinejadMasih. @Twitter chose to suspend her account because she shared the picture of #MahsaAmini, 22-year-old Iranian girl in coma after she was severely beaten by the hijab police and later died.

Alinejad Masih’s post was mass-reported by supporters and hirelings of the Iranian regime. The grounds for suspension of her account were that she had included an image of “graphic violence” in her tweet. The fact that it was a true image of Iranian government brutality that Mahsa Amini’s family wanted the world to see was ignored. This is how a system of pre-emptive censorship inevitably works.

(Via Jim Treacher.)

I read it as “digital collar”

From the White House website:

President Biden often summarizes his vision for America in one word: Possibilities. A “digital dollar” may seem far-fetched, but modern technology could make it a real possibility.

A United States central bank digital currency (CBDC) would be a digital form of the U.S. dollar. While the U.S. has not yet decided whether it will pursue a CBDC, the U.S. has been closely examining the implications of, and options for, issuing a CBDC. If the U.S. pursued a CBDC, there could be many possible benefits, such as facilitating efficient and low-cost transactions, fostering greater access to the financial system, boosting economic growth, and supporting the continued centrality of the U.S. within the international financial system. However, a U.S. CBDC could also introduce a variety of risks, as it might affect everything ranging from the stability of the financial system to the protection of sensitive data.

To be fair, these remarks by Dr. Alondra Nelson, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Alexander Macgillivray, Principal Deputy United States Chief Technology Officer, and Nik Marda, Policy Advisor do acknowledge the existence of risks:

For example, these objectives state that a U.S. CBDC system should expand equitable access to the financial system, preserve the role of physical cash, and only collect data that is strictly necessary.

Given the record of the FBI, the CIA and the NSA, I would put very little faith in their definition of “strictly necessary” as a shield against the US government spying on its citizens.

First there was #GamerGate and then there was #NAFO

I have written here about the #GamerGate phenomenon before, which was a series of rolling online flash mobs, events and activist commentary mostly doing its thing circa 2014-16. This was kicked off by something specific but quickly evolved into a far wider reaching grassroots pushback against rampant corruption, collusion and ever more woke politicisation in games ‘journalism’ and indeed games themselves.

Naturally the gaming press harrumphed with indignation, howling that GamerGater was an unconscionable harassment campaign; its largely nameless supporters all racist/sexist/homophobic. And much to their shock it didn’t work. GamerGaters ridiculed their evolving official narratives. And to the PR wonks working for MSM publications and their assorted vassals, none of it made any sense, which is why they still make sure the preposterous Wikipedia entry conforms to the official narratives (i.e. very little relation to reality). Too bad guys, you can’t bomb a hashtag.

GamerGate was something that drove (and still drives) many people insane, living rent free in their heads for years. Even now, the mere sight of GamerGate mascot Vivian James (video games, geddit?) can cause hilarity and rage in certain people.

Vivian James

Fast forward to 2022 and behold #NAFO: the North Atlantic Fellas Organisation.

And who are ‘the fellas’? A large and growing online pack of attack dogs countering, dare I say smothering, official Russian troll factory output, as well as other pro-Kremlin talking heads online. And their mascots are daft cartoon dogs (variations of a Shiba Inu to be precise). If journalistic collusion was a constant target of #GamerGate, the Russian troll farms are the modern analogy to that, constantly targeted and smothered by NAFO posting either pro-Ukrainian counter-narratives or just ridiculing or flagging up pro-Russian ones.

Many people, particularly those operating within institutions, don’t understand #NAFO for same reason PR departments of various video games companies & press outlets didn’t (and still don’t) understand #GamerGate.

Is #NAFO engaged in ‘information warfare‘? Absolutely. They even get a shout out from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence. But they are not managed out of an office in Langley, Virginia nor by some adjunct of the Ukrainian intelligence services. #NAFO is a hashtag, a phenomena, it isn’t “run” by anyone, because it doesn’t need to be. Like GamerGate, NAFO is a confluence of the motivated willing in every timezone on the planet.

And just as GamerGate had a single original trigger, which was then largely forgotten as the ‘movement’ grew and started attacking larger more juicy prey, NAFO started as a fund raising effort for the Georgian Legion (a now battalion sized unit of about 600 within the Ukrainian army made up mostly of Georgian volunteers). At blinding speed, NAFO rapidly morphed into a wider distributed online effort supporting Ukraine in the “information space”.

NAFO… daft, puerile, bonkers, pervasive. But it works.

“The media could not be played”, and that frightens me even more

The video embedded in this tweet from Laurence Fox apparently shows someone being arrested for tweeting. I cannot see the video, but the top comment says,

“Chap shares a post by @LozzaFox and the police arrest the chap, even though Laurence is actually stood there 👀

This is disgraceful. People upset by hurty words need to turn the Internet off and remember the old children’s rhyme – Sticks and Stones.”

Apparently the arrest had something to do with that meme that shows four LGBTQ+ Progress Pride flags (my goodness, “Newsround” has changed a lot since John Craven presented it) arranged so that the triangular inserts form a swastika. Fox’s Wikipedia entry says, “In June 2022 Fox tweeted an image of a swastika made from the LGBTQ+ Progress Pride flag with the caption ‘You can openly call the [Union Jack] a symbol of fa[s]cism and totalitarianism on Twatter. You cannot criticise the holy flags’. This led to him being temporarily suspended from Twitter for a day.”

This tweet from Richard Taylor of GB News may show the same video.

As you can probably tell, I am not at all sure what is going on. Is my inability to play the video censorship by Twitter, or just my old computer not being up to the job? Some accounts seem to imply that that the threatened arrest was not carried through, although that reassures me very little. As we have all seen, making the process the punishment has been a very successful way for the police to chill free speech while avoiding having to defend their actions in court.

Someone is banned/cancelled…

Someone is banned/cancelled, then someone else is banned/cancelled for talking about the person who was banned/cancelled…

Sic transit gloria mundi

Some thoughts on the Assange case

Julian Assange is on the verge (as he has been for ten years, but this time for real) of being extradited from the UK to the US. The question I ask is, has he done anything wrong?

If it were the case that he had supplied information that would have been useful to a hostile power then I would say hang the bastard. But that is not what the US government is accusing him of. The accusation is that he helped to steal the information. Now, if someone steals my stuff, I want them to have their hands cut off. Along with a few other appendages. But Assange “stole” information not stuff. And remember the US government is not claiming that that information would have been useful to a foreign power.

Which puts a rather different gloss on things. US government information is – if we are to take the US government’s own position seriously – owned by the US people. They have every right to see it. More or less. As well as military secrets there may be commercial contracts which – possibly – they don’t want to disclose. For instance, one of my frustrations in the UK was that you couldn’t inspect the contract of a Train Operating Company because it was deemed to be “commercially confidential”. Whatever, it doesn’t apply in this case.

So, it would appear that all Assange has done is to supply the US population with something it already owned and had every right to have.

Have I got that right?

Government love

“Tinder Wants Money. We Want Love. The Solution: Socialize Dating Apps”, writes Nick French in Jacobin magazine.

Really jump in

“Top Biden aide prods big tech to crack down on climate change misinformation”, Axios reports.

Gina McCarthy, President Biden’s top domestic climate adviser, said tech companies should do more to prevent the spread of inaccurate information about climate change and clean energy.

Driving the news: “The tech companies have to stop allowing specific individuals over and over again to spread disinformation,” she told Axios’ Alexi McCammond at a virtual event that aired Thursday.

“We need the tech companies to really jump in,” McCarthy said.

Who is “we”?

And what the [fossil fuel] industry is now doing is seeding, basically, doubt about the costs associated with that and whether they work or not.”

Expressing doubt about the cost of a proposed government measure, and whether it will actually work as promised? How dare they! Such dangerous speculation cannot be allowed.

Hat tip: Iain Murray.

Dear Troll Factory…

All you chaps with impeccably British names like Stephen Brown, John Smith (seriously?), Jane Austin (lol), Jim Williams, Paul Strong, Sarah Evans… explaining why the Bucha atrocity is dubious/faked/black ops… pro-tip… I can see your Russian IP addresses and you ain’t getting past the moderation page 😀

Hey “Mike Jackson”, are you guys still based at 55 Savushkina Street, St. Petersburg or has your employer moved to bigger premises to accommodate all the new hires? I suppose its a safer job than getting burned alive in your BMP in Ukraine, right?

Йдіть в пизду, йобані рашисти!

Out: Labour is about collective action. I’m listening to you. In: Take the debate off social media. Only experts should comment.

Here is Angela Rayner MP writing in the website Labour List on 13th January 2020 and making her pitch to Labour members for the job of Leader of the Labour Party: “Leadership starts with listening – and I want to hear from you”

As a trade union organiser for most of my life, I know this isn’t done through top-down structures. Our movement’s story is of collective action to achieve change. I don’t have all the answers – no one person does. But I know a few million people who can help.

That’s why I’m asking members, affiliates, councillors, candidates and everyone across the movement what you think we need to do. It starts with the lessons to learn from the election campaign but it goes much deeper than that – we haven’t won an election since 2005 and have lost support in too many areas of the country.

How should we be campaigning as a party? Is there something your CLP or branch is doing that you think everyone should know about? What resources and technology would really get us moving? What frustrates you – but also what inspires you? To be blunt: what went wrong this time, what can we do better and where do we need wholesale change? You can tell me here.

She didn’t get the top job, that went to Sir Keir Starmer. However Ms Rayner is currently Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

The slogan “Labour is listening” still gets plenty of Google hits, mostly linked to the websites of local Labour parties. However Angela Rayner has no time for that stuff any more.

Conor Clark of Gay Times reports, ‘Angela Rayner says discussion on trans rights “shouldn’t be debased into a debate”’

Angela Rayner said “debate” over transgender rights needs to be taken “away from commentators” as it “debases the serious issues” at hand.

During an appearance on Sky News on 29 March, Kay Burley questioned the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party on whether or not the world has “gone mad” because of people “struggling” to say whether or not a woman can have a penis.

Her question followed Sir Keir Starmer declining to answer the question during a radio interview a day earlier.

“This really upsets me because I think about a young person who’s struggling at the moment, who’s struggling with their identity, and when we’re having a social media or a debate around whether someone’s, what genitalia someone’s got, I think it really debases the serious issues that people face in their lives,” Rayner told Burley.

“There [are] protections for women and women that are in vulnerable situations, and we should also be looking after our young people who may be facing identity crises and making sure they get the help and support they need. When we debase it to whether or not what genitalia you’ve got, I think all that does is damage people and it doesn’t help us go forward on some of the real issues that people are facing.”

Trans rights are often the source of a so-called “debate” in the media, particularly when it comes to topics like self-ID.

Rayner called for these discussions to be taken “away from commentators” and handled by professionals instead.

She added: “Sure, we have to take everybody into account, and that’s why it shouldn’t be debased into a debate that is being had in media by people who are not qualified to discuss some of these issues.”

This tweet by Kay Burley contains a video clip of the words in question. Gay Times‘s summary of Angela Rayner’s words is fairly accurate – correcting her grammar in the first sentence of the quote did not change the meaning of what was said – but by presenting Angela Rayner’s words in a different order to that in which they were said, Mr Clark’s report makes them appear both more coherent and more benign than they actually were. Given that Mr Clark goes on to put scare quotes around the word “debate” in

Trans rights are often the source of a so-called “debate” in the media, particularly when it comes to topics like self-ID”

perhaps I should not have been surprised that he saw nothing wrong in Rayner’s suggestion that debate about gender should be “taken off” social media. However I am rather shocked that neither Kay Burley herself nor any other media outlet picked up on the implications of:

Rayner called for these discussions to be taken “away from commentators” and handled by professionals instead.

Her exact words at 0:35 were “I think we should be taking it off social media, taking it away from commentators and actually having…”

She never does say what “we” should be actually having, but abruptly changes course mid-sentence to saying that there are protections in place for “women in vulnerable situations”, which is another topic entirely. It sounds to me as if she started to say something nakedly authoritarian and then stopped herself. I would have liked to hear the end of the sentence. Who is the “we” that she thinks should be taking the debate off social media? Politicians? Labour politicians? The bosses of social media companies? The least alarming answer would be “we as a society should take the debate off social media”, but even that is a far cry from the egalitarian way she talked in 2020 when she sought the aid of “a few million people” to set the direction of the Labour party and hence, she hoped, the country. But that relatively benign meaning of Angela Rayner’s “we” – a call for us all to refrain from talking about the gender issue on social media – does not seem the most likely meaning. Later at 1:20 she says, “Sure we have to take everybody into account and that’s why it shouldn’t be debased into a debate that’s being had on media by people who are not qualified to discuss some of these issues.”

Most commentary on social media – read it while you still can – has centred around Angela Rayner’s answer to the question “Can a woman have a penis?” As I have said before, there is no one answer to that question and “there would be more scope for respectful compromise if people could agree to differ on the definition and get down to questions of what to do in difficult cases.” But there is a world of difference between “agree to differ” and “be forbidden to express your opinion if it differs from that of ‘experts'”. If Angela Rayner does not believe that non-experts should debate these matters, it is difficult to see why she believes that non-experts should be allowed to vote on them.

“All right then,” some may say, “what should we do in difficult cases?” Actually there is a simple answer, with a proven track record of success in reducing conflict. It is called “freedom of association”. The difficulty arises in having the self-restraint to apply it. It is hard for human beings not to exercise power.

Samizdata quote of the day

If you go back to the Arab Spring and the Green Revolution there was generally a sense of triumphalism. Back then, the CEO of Twitter said that we are the free speech wing of the free speech party. That’s how Silicon Valley saw itself. Ten years later, you have the widespread view that Silicon Valley needs to restrict and regulate disinformation and prevent free speech on its platform. You’d have to say that the turning point was 2016, when Trump got elected against the wishes of pretty much everyone in Silicon Valley. That was a little too much populism for them. And they saw social media as being complicit in Trump’s election.

David Sacks