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]

An industry that despises its customers, and I don’t mean Hollywood

I shall miss the Times. My subscription only has a few weeks left to run. I cancelled it because it is no longer permitted to comment under a pseudonym. Will I still see interesting little stories like this when I make my hejira to the Telegraph? “French cinema is full of flops, says former culture minister Roselyne Bachelot”

In an extraordinary attack, Roselyne Bachelot, who was replaced last May after two years in President Macron’s cabinet, has settled her score with an arts establishment with which she had clashed. The highly subsidised film industry is her chief target in her memoirs, 682 Days — The Hypocrites’ Ball.

To ensure France’s “cultural exception”, the film industry is “stuffed with money” allowing it turn out more films than anywhere else in Europe, but its members complain endlessly about their conditions, she writes.

“The famous ‘cultural exception’ allows very many French films ‘not to find their public’, as they say politely, or more explicitly, to be flops,” she writes. “This system also guarantees lead actors to earn fabulous fees, three or four times higher than actors in the American independent cinema.”

The system, which includes direct subsidies, tax breaks and advances on box office earnings, pours hundreds of millions of euros a year into production, “creating an assisted economy that hardly cares about the tastes of spectators and is even contemptuous of popular, profitable films,” she added.

Good stuff, but do not assume that she has seen the light about the enervating effect of state subsidy. An article I found in an outlet new to me, The Fashion Vibes, said:

However, she [Mme* Bachelot] denied that her comments about the film’s financing implied that she felt France was pouring too much government money into the film.

“Oh no! It makes perfect sense to continue it. If France is the only European country with a film industry which in turn feeds an industry on the platforms, it is because of the policy we have had since 1946 , since the creation of the National Cinema Center (CNC),” she said. We must keep it.”

*I had better be careful to use the correct title – Madame Bachelot herself was instrumental in the banning of the term “Mademoiselle” from French government documents. I have no objection to that, so long as the “ban” is limited to being an instruction to civil servants.

Samizdata quote of the day – Twitter wars edition

Schiff and Takano ostensibly are just asking questions and urging Musk to step up enforcement of Twitter’s ban on “hateful conduct.” But they are doing that in their official capacity as members of Congress, a job that gives them no authority to police speech or insist that anyone else do so. To the contrary, the First Amendment explicitly bars Congress from “abridging the freedom of speech.” By publicly pressuring Musk to censor “hate speech,” which is indisputably covered by the First Amendment, Schiff and Takano are trying to indirectly accomplish something that the Constitution forbids.

Because government officials have the power to make life difficult for social media companies through regulation, litigation, and legislation, their demands for “action” always carry an implicit threat. Schiff and Takano’s letter is an example of the “jawboning against speech” that Cato Institute policy analyst Will Duffield describes in a recent report. “Government officials can use informal pressure—bullying, threatening, and cajoling—to sway the decisions of private platforms and limit the publication of disfavored speech,” Duffield notes. “The use of this informal pressure, known as jawboning, is growing. Left unchecked, it threatens to become normalized as an extraconstitutional method of speech regulation.”

Jacob Sullum

So who signed off the Tots ‘n’ Bondage Bears ad, Balenciaga?

Remember what a fun day it was when the Rainbow Dildo Butt Monkey came to Redbridge children’s library?

I posted about it here, and asked, “How did this happen? Why did no one question it?” The answer was the title of that post: it was a bad career move to be the first one to object. Objecting would have marked you out as a prude, a bigot, a hater.

The Daily Mail‘s headline writer probably thought his next chance to write a headline like “Parents’ disgust as actor in rainbow coloured monkey costume with fake penis and nipples appears at library event encouraging children to read” would not soon come again.

He need not have worried. Today’s Mail gave him another opportunity to practise his art: “Balenciaga apologizes for bondage-themed campaign featuring a child and excerpt from SCOTUS ruling on child pornography – fashion house vows to sue photographer behind it”

  • Fashion brand Balenciaga is apologizing for a photoshoot with a child holding a teddy bear dressed in a BDSM outfit that outraged many
  • Perhaps even more bizarrely one of the photos hides an excerpt from the US Supreme Court opinion in United States v. Williams, which upheld part of a federal child pornography law
  • Balenciaga appear to be laying the blame at the photographer, Gabriele Galimberti
  • They released a statement apologizing for the shoot and seemingly suggesting they would take legal action against Galimberti and anyone else involved
  • ‘We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,’ they wrote
  • They continued: ‘We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set’
  • One thing that comes with the territory of being a libertarian is a lifetime of explaining that one can very much not wish to say “Ban this sick filth”, while still thinking the thing concerned is sick filth. Whether for racism or “edgy” adverts that promote sexualised images of children, I think the moral obligation on libertarians to condemn morally bad speech is greater, not lesser, because we do not seek to silence the speaker.

    From what I have seen of the adverts they managed to stay this side of the line of actually violating the child actors themselves, but “the makers of this advertisement would probably escape jail time” is not much of a recommendation. Balenciaga as a company ought to be ashamed. And enough with the weasel words about it all being the fault of the photographer. Someone at the company signed this off. Why didn’t he or she take one look at the juxtaposition of a sad-eyed child and BDSM imagery and have Gabriele Galimberti escorted off the premises by security? The answer is the same as for the Redbridge Rainbow Dildo Butt Monkey. It was a bad career move to be the first to object.

    Elon the Leveller

    In 1647 Colonel Thomas Rainborowe famously said, “The poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he … I think it’s clear, that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under.”

    Rainborowe was speaking during the Putney Debates, which as Wikipedia says, “…were a series of discussions over the political settlement that should follow Parliament’s victory over Charles I in the First English Civil War. The main participants were senior officers of the New Model Army who favoured retaining Charles within the framework of a Constitutional monarchy, and radicals such as the Levellers who sought more sweeping changes, including One man, one vote and Freedom of thought, particularly in religion.”

    Time was when the Left would have proudly claimed to be the political descendants of the Levellers, although as these posts by Brian Micklethwait point out, at least as good a case can be made that they were proto-libertarians. Nonetheless, I miss the days when the Left wanted to be seen as the ones who sought to give “the poorest he” an equal voice with “the greatest he”.

    They do so no longer.

    “So basically Elon thinks Bubba’s opinion is just as valid as a credentialed journalist,” tweets Chris D. Jackson who describes himself as “Dad, Husband, Local Elected Official, Fmr. State Director @YEOnetwork, Fmr. Dem. Party Chair, Animal Enthusiast, Higher Education Advocate, OG #TeamJoe member”

    I have a grudge against Elon Musk for reasons I described in this post. And though I certainly think that Bubba’s opinions and the journalists’ opinions are equally valid in the sense of having an equal right to be said, I do not claim to know whether Bubba or the journalist is more often right. But if Musk brings about a situation whereby Bubba can speak on the same terms – a fee of $8 – as the highest paid graduate of the most prestigious school of journalism in the United States, then he, too, is a Leveller.

    The link to Daniel Hannan’s Oxford Union speech in the first of Brian Micklethwait’s posts no longer works, but a video of the speech can be seen here. The part about the Levellers starts at 10:30. Hannan paraphrased Richard Overton’s 1646 pamphlet An Arrow Against All Tyrants, which deserves to be better known. This passage might particularly resonate for Americans as they choose new legislators tomorrow:

    “For the edge of your own arguments against the king in this kind may be turned upon yourselves. For if for the safety of the people he might in equity be opposed by you in his tyrannies, oppressions and cruelties, even so may you by the same rule of right reason be opposed by the people in general in the like cases of destruction and ruin by you upon them”

    Samizdata quote of the day

    A hundred years since its founding, the Beeb is now a preachy HR department with some TV channels attached.

    Gareth Roberts

    The attacks on Paul Pelosi and Gabby Giffords: some parallels

    There is no doubt that Paul Pelosi, husband of Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has been the victim of a vicious assault. There is no doubt that the person who carried out this attack was David DePape. There is widespread doubt about many other aspects of the story. The most common theory is that far from breaking into to the Pelosi residence as an assassin, DePape was invited in as a male prostitute, only for the two men to quarrel over payment or drugs. I will not rehash the arguments put forward in support of this theory, which are available to be read all over the internet. I do wish to stress that if all or any of this is true, it in no way excuses the crime. It would, however, make it a different type of crime from the one the media say it is.

    The media would have you believe that these doubts come only from mad conspiracy theorists. They are not helping their case by silently changing details of their own reporting.

    Look at these screenshots of two Politico accounts of this story, presented side by side by Stephen L. Miller under the apt caption “Seriously WTF”.

    The screenshot on the right takes you to a Politico story about the attack on Paul Pelosi written by Jeremy B. White and Nicholas Wu. I was familiar with this version because I had read it myself a few hours earlier. The title is “Police offer new details in Paul Pelosi assault” and the dateline (in American format) is given as 10/28/2022 09:46 PM EDT. The URL is https://www.politico.com/news/2022/10/28/police-pelosi-attack-intentional-00064098. Do I labour the point? That’s because I think this version of the story will disappear soon. Read it while you can. It says:

    → Continue reading: The attacks on Paul Pelosi and Gabby Giffords: some parallels

    Where the birds do not fly free

    “The bird is freed”, says Elon Musk after buying Twitter.

    “In Europe, the bird will fly by our 🇪🇺 rules”, replies Thierry Breton, the EU Commissioner for Internal Market.

    A real-world ethics question that is not especially hard

    In New York Times, John Leland asks,

    Real-world ethics question: In a well-used city park, a man with a history of erratic behavior attacks a dog and its owner with a stick; five days later, the dog dies. The man is Black, the dog owner white; the adjoining neighborhood is famously progressive, often critical of the police and jail system. At the same time, crime is up in the neighborhood, with attacks by emotionally disturbed people around the city putting some residents on edge.

    In a dog-loving, progressive enclave, where pushing law and order can clash with calls for social justice, what’s the right thing to do? How do you protect the public without furthering injustice against this man?

    The question is not theoretical. On August 3rd, Jessica Chrustic and her dog Moose were attacked in Prospect Park, Brooklyn by a homeless man.

    According to Ms. Chrustic, he started yelling about immigrants taking over the park,

    Had he not been black, that detail would have answered Mr Leland’s question in short order.

    then grabbed a bottle of what she later concluded was urine and sloshed it at her and her dog. She tried to run away, but Moose, her 80-pound golden retriever mix, was straining toward the man, trying to protect her.

    The man started swinging the stick, she said. One blow hit her, not seriously. Another connected solidly with the dog’s snout. Mary Rowland, 56, a hospital manager who was walking her dog nearby, said she heard the crack of wood on bone and came running toward them, screaming at the man to get away.

    The man fled, but the next weekend, Moose developed sepsis from a perforated intestine. Emergency surgery was not enough to save him.

    What was done about this unprovoked attack on a woman and her dog? Nothing.

    She was especially frustrated that the man, who was well known to people in the park, had not been arrested. “You have a person who is walking around the park who is violent and needs to be removed,” she said. “He’s known by the community. It’s disheartening.”

    It was a random incident that might once have been discussed by a group of dog owners. But now it had a forum for a much wider community, with arguments about policing, vigilantism, homelessness, mental health care and progressive obstinacy all feeding into a conversation that evolved beyond the crime that set it off.

    “It’s complicated,” said S. Matthew Liao, a professor of bioethics, philosophy and public health at New York University. “It’s a conflict of values, between wanting security and social justice. Everybody has a responsibility in some ways.

    All together now… WE ARE ALL GUILTY! Dr Heinz Kiosk has been reborn, but not as funny this time.

    I disagree with Professor Liao. It is not complicated at all.

    Regarding Mr Leland’s question, “In a dog-loving, progressive enclave, where pushing law and order can clash with calls for social justice, what’s the right thing to do?”, Suzy Weiss of the New York Post described what some of the residents of this dog-loving, progressive enclave did do: “Bizarre meeting of Park Slopers over how to handle murdered pooch”.

    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.

    “Little by little the truth of lockdown is being admitted”

    A retired and now ennobled supreme court judge writes in the Times that the decisions of the government during a crisis were wise and good and that if, perchance, any slight errors were made, fear not, lessons will be learned.

    Bzzt. Click. System error. Commence program reset.

    A retired and now ennobled supreme court judge – Lord Sumption – writes in the Times that “Little by little the truth of lockdown is being admitted: it was a disaster”.

    In a remarkably candid interview with The Spectator, Rishi Sunak has blown the gaff on the sheer superficiality of the decision-making process of which he was himself part. The fundamental rule of good government is not to make radical decisions without understanding the likely consequences. It seems obvious. Yet it is at that most basic level that the Johnson government failed. The tragedy is that this is only now being acknowledged.

    Sunak makes three main points. First, the scientific advice was more equivocal and inconsistent than the government let on. Some of it was based on questionable premises that were never properly scrutinised. Some of it fell apart as soon it was challenged from outside the groupthink of the Sage advisory body. Second, to build support, the government stoked fear, embarking on a manipulative advertising campaign and endorsing extravagant graphics pointing to an uncontrolled rise in mortality if we were not locked down. Third, the government not only ignored the catastrophic collateral damage done by the lockdown but actively discouraged discussion of it, both in government and in its public messaging.

    Lockdown was a policy conceived in the early days by China and the World Health Organisation as a way of suppressing the virus altogether (so-called zero Covid). The WHO quickly abandoned this unrealistic ambition. But European countries, except Sweden, eagerly embraced lockdown, ripping up a decade of pandemic planning that had been based on concentrating help on vulnerable groups and avoiding coercion.

    At first Britain stood up against the stampede. Then Professor Neil Ferguson’s team at Imperial College London published its notorious “Report 9”. Sunak confirms that this was what panicked ministers into a measure that the scientists had previously rejected. If No 10 had studied the assumptions underlying it, it might have been less impressed. Report 9 assumed that in the absence of a lockdown people would do nothing whatever to protect themselves. This was contrary to all experience of human behaviour as well as to data available at the time, which showed that people were voluntarily reducing contacts well before the lockdown was announced.

    I find myself in the odd position of being slightly more in sympathy with the government than is a former supreme court judge. Frightened men make mistakes. I also find myself slightly more in sympathy with Rishi Sunak than I was yesterday. However, I have to ask why he did not voice his doubts at the time.

    Samizdata quote of the day

    Journalism is something you do, not something you are.

    – Glenn Reynolds

    Samizdata quote of the day save draft publish

    ‘End Of Quote, Repeat The Line’: Biden Reads Teleprompter Instructions Out Loud During Speech

    With Joe more voicemail than man and Boris only just clinging to the wreckage, at least the Anglosphere is demonstrating that it can get by without anyone in charge. Though we have much to learn before we can challenge the true masters of the art of doing without a government.