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]

Samizdata quote of the day

When Ikea pulled its GBN ads yesterday, it said it wanted to make sure the content on the channel was in line with the firm’s ‘humanistic values’. You might ask what humanism has to do with selling flat-pack furniture. More to the point, what does humanism have to do with spying on employees – something else Ikea has been up to of late?

[…]

It’s also worth noting that while Ikea is pulling promotional material from GBN, it has previously edited its promotional materials for use in Saudi Arabia, to better align with the regime’s values. In 2012, it was forced to apologise after it was found to have airbrushed women out of images in its catalogue.

Tom Slater, Ikea and the con of woke capitalism

Readers’ poll: what on earth did Boris mean?

Sky News on Twitter: “Boris Johnson has suggested the world’s leading nations should support a more ‘gender-neutral and feminine’ way of post-COVID economic recovery.”

“Gender neutral and feminine”? Click on the words below* that in your opinion best match what was going through Boris’s tousled head as he said these words.

(a) Pay up, Matt, I did it.

(b) Hey, if Joe can get away with “Those RFA pilots”, I can get away with this.

(c) You’re looking awfully pretty today, Carrie.

(d) You’re looking awfully pretty today, Ursula.

*Nothing will happen when you click. But you will feel better for having expressed yourself.

A flinching depiction

A Google search for the words “unflinching depiction” got me 57,100 hits. Not so long ago “unflinching” was only just edged out by “edgy” as a term of praise for a work of fiction. Novelists prided themselves on their willingness to probe the depths of the human psyche. No criticism by a reviewer stung more sharply than to say that the characters in a novel were “sanitised” or “bowdlerised”.

We know better now. And how uplifting that our modern novelists submit to the judgement of the people and engage in spontaneous self-criticism!

“Elin Hilderbrand asks for Anne Frank reference to be cut from novel after complaints”, reports the Guardian.

It features a short passage in which Vivi, as a child, is planning to stay in her friend’s attic. “‘You’re suggesting I hide here all summer?’ Vivi asks. ‘Like … like Anne Frank?’ This makes them both laugh – but is it really funny, and is Vivi so far off base?”

Judging from the extract quoted, I will not be rushing out to buy Ms Hilderbrand’s latest even after it is cleansed of the fictional depiction of one child making a tasteless joke and another child laughing at said joke. There are some things one cannot forgive. The novel appears to be written in the present tense.

Sir Keir Starmer takes the knee: a case study in the perils of seizing the moment

A year ago today, the leader of the Labour party knelt in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Here is how it was reported at the time:

The Independent: Black Lives Matter: Keir Starmer takes knee in solidarity with ‘all those opposing anti-black racism’

The Sun: ‘WE KNEEL WITH YOU’ Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer takes a knee in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests

Sky News: George Floyd death: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer takes a knee in support of Black Lives Matter movement

Sir Keir himself, on Twitter: We kneel with all those opposing anti-Black racism. #BlackLivesMatter

The Daily Mail: Labour leader Keir Starmer ‘takes a knee’ in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters as Parliament holds a minute’s silence in memory of George Floyd

I had forgotten about Parliament as a whole holding a minute’s silence for George Floyd, yet the BBC report has that as the headline and leaves mention of Sir Keir Starmer until far down the page.

And that is the point of this post. Heaven knows, I detest the BLM movement as it actually is: an engine for manufacturing racial hatred founded by self-described “trained Marxists” whose goals are, not surprisingly, Marxist. But if you got your news from the BBC or the Guardian in June 2020, you would not have heard about all that “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family” stuff. Come to think of it, you probably still won’t have heard about it from those sources in June 2021.

It must have seemed a reasonable move at the time. The day before hitting the carpet, on June 8th 2020, Sir Keir had participated in a radio phone-in hosted by LBC’s Nick Ferrari in which he talked about the toppling of the statue of Sir Edward Colston and said,

“It shouldn’t have been done in that way, completely wrong to pull a statue down like that,” he said. “Stepping back, that statue should have been taken down a long, long time ago. We can’t, in 21st century Britain, have a slaver on a statue. A statue is there to honour people.

“That statue should have been brought down properly, with consent, and put, I would say, in a museum.”

This nuanced line had gone down rather well. Most of the callers were polite. In the press, many of the comments on his performance were favourable, even in outlets like the Mail or the Sun that are traditionally hostile to Labour.

How natural, then, to balance out that right-wing law ‘n’ order talk with a harmless gesture to show he was still on-side. Everyone else was doing it: the UK Parliament as mentioned above, a bunch of senior Democrats in the US, the Metropolitan Police in London and many others worldwide.

Yet Sir Keir kneeling is now widely seen as a political disaster. Looking at the trendlines of Sir Keir’s performance as Leader of the Opposition as measured by YouGov, “doing badly” is not much affected but “doing well” flattens out there and then, and, crucially I think, the numbers saying they “don’t know” suddenly decrease. There were quite a lot of people who started to have an opinion about Sir Keir as a potential prime minister when they saw him on his knees.

A dastardly personal attack

I thought it was a photoshop prank when I first read Matt Walsh’s tweet, but this does appear to be a genuine Independent headline: “Rightwing blogger launches gofundme for AOC’s Puerto Rico grandmother in latest personal attack”

In an attempt to shame Ms Ocasio-Cortez, Mr Walsh then started a gofundme to raise money for the congresswoman’s grandmother’s home repairs, paying just under $500 into the fundraiser himself.

Ben Shaprio, another conservative commenter who regularly attacks the congresswoman, also donated $499 and called on other conservative media personalities to do the same.

The fundraiser’s goal of just under $50,000 was met and exceeded by Friday afternoon, currently sitting at just under $60,000.

“Hi @AOC, we are raising money to help your abuela. It’s been inspiring to see the response so far. Can you send me a DM so that I can get the necessary information to ensure that this money makes it to your grandmother? Thank you!” he wrote on Twitter.

So long as the money is transferred as promised, and is transferred without strings attached so that Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s grandmother can turn right round and give it to her granddaughter’s re-election campaign if she wants to, I felt that the Independent‘s description of this as an “attack” was… incomplete.

Just as a discussion point for the libertarian argufiers out there: in what circumstances would giving someone money, or giving their relatives money, actually violate the non-aggression principle?

Samizdata quote of the day

The management and communication during the epidemic has been plagued by misleading statistics, the cherry-picking of the worst data, alarmist language, horror-film-style advertising, one-sided media coverage and coercive language and tactics, all of which I wrote about in my new book, A State of Fear.

Bludgeoning people with ‘nudge’ (behavioural psychology), weaponising fear, and tightly controlling the narrative risk undermining the public’s trust in government, public-health messaging and the media. This is the third time I have reported on anti-lockdown protests for spiked, and the third time I have been slack-jawed by the lack of honesty in how the media misrepresents the scale and purpose of these protests. This mistrust can be read clearly in the placards.

Laura Dodsworth

Thoughts provoked by a photo of Lenin

Earlier today, at the Historic Photos Twitter feed, I encountered this photo, of Lenin:

Here is how Historic Photos describes the state Lenin had arrived at, when this photo was taken:

What is believed to be the last photograph of Vladimir Lenin, taken in 1923 by which stage he had suffered three strokes and was paralyzed and completely mute. Next to him are his sister and his doctor. He died on January 21st 1924 aged 53.

I have read many things, including many books, about Lenin and his sayings and doings, yet I have never come across this photo until now. That could be me, just not having noticed it. But I think there’s a reason why this particular piece of Lenin imagery has not done much circulating.

There is still fierce disagreement about Lenin and his impact upon history. Many still revere him, as the man who set in motion the most serious attempt to overthrow capitalism that has so far happened on this planet, and many others detest the man for the same reason, and for the disgusting brutality with which he set about doing this. Some think Lenin (good) was “betrayed” by Stalin (bad). Others, such as I, think that Lenin (bad) started what Stalin (bad) carried on doing. But what all of us, on all sides of such debates, agree about is that Lenin was a very important and very consequential figure, who had a lot to say for himself and who did a lot to shape the course of history, for good or for bad.

However, in the above photo, we see Lenin in a state of utter impotence, looking downright comical.

And that’s surely why this photo doesn’t get out much. Either Lenin had immense power and did hugely important and noble things or he had immense power and did monstrously evil things, but whatever he was he was certainly not a joke. If those of us with things to say about Lenin, one way or the other or yet another, wish to decorate our judgments about Lenin with a photo of the man, the above photo is not going to be the one that any of us would choose.

To generalise, images of historic figures get circulated a lot, or not, depending on whether they illustrate how we already think of them. The world’s cameras spit out a daily torrent of portraits of the great, the good and the bad, and it is in the editorialising process, when the “best” images are selected and the rest put aside, that the camera is made to tell a particular sort of story. This is surely an important way that cameras lie, or at the very least mislead, although there are of course others.

Image googling confirmed my hunch. If you go here and keep scrolling down, you will scroll down in vain if you wish to see the above “historic” photo, or any others resembling it. No, all you will get are pictures and graphic recreations of Lenin being anything but “paralyzed and completely mute”.

Inclusion and diversity is so 2020

“Chicago mayor’s decision to only speak to journalists of color is commendable, not racist”, writes someone in the Independent. The apparent erasure of the author’s identity was the Independent‘s doing, not mine, but they – the author – describe themselves as a Black and Native American writer who finds Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s demand to only speak with journalists of colour commendable.

On libertarian principle, I support the right of Ms Lightfoot or anyone else to refuse to associate with people of a different race, but unlike this author I disapprove of racism.

CMV: the threat to liberty from mandatory voter ID is insignificant

“CMV” stands for “Change my view”. It is the name of a subreddit where people go to argue, expecting disagreement, as I expect it now.

In the most recent Queen’s Speech, Her Majesty told the Lords and the Commons that “My Government will invest in new green industries to create jobs”, but there were serious proposals as well. She also said, “Legislation will be introduced to ensure the integrity of elections”. This was a reference to the proposed Electoral Integrity Bill. You can read the Hansard account of the debate in Parliament here. Chloe Smith MP, who it appears is the Minister for the Constitution and Devolution, there’s posh now, said,

Asking voters to prove their identities will safeguard against the potential in our current system for someone to cast another person’s vote at the polling station. Showing identification is something people of all backgrounds do every day.

Northern Ireland has used voter identification in its elections since 1985, and expanded this in 2003 during the last Labour Government. In the first general election after photographic identification was introduced in Northern Ireland by the then Labour Government (2005), turnout in Northern Ireland was higher than in each of England, Scotland and Wales. Since then, the experience in Northern Ireland has shown that once voter identification is established as part of the voting system the vast majority of electors complete the voting process after arriving at the polling station. A wide range of countries, such as Canada and most European nations, require some form of identification to vote.

New research published yesterday on www.gov.uk clearly indicates that the vast majority of the electorate of Great Britain, 98% of electors, already own an eligible form of identification, which includes a broad range of documents and expired photographic identification.

And, um, that sounds fair to me. Note that the Northern Irish Electoral Identity Card is not required to be shown before one can vote. It is but one of several acceptable forms of ID, and is issued free of charge to those people who don’t have any of the other forms so that nobody will be unable to vote due to poverty. It is not the abominable high-tech integrated without-this-you-starve Identity Nexus proposed by the Right Honourable Tony Blair. My opinions on that have not changed since 2003. To look at, the Northern Irish Electoral Identity card is a poxy little photocard that looks like it was issued by your local library. This lack of sophistication, the fact that you only need the effing thing once every five years or so, and the fact that voters have been obliged to show ID before voting in Northern Ireland for years without any obvious bad consequences, lead me to not to fear the rollout of a similar scheme in the rest of the UK as the first step on the slippery slope towards a national ID card.

As to whether a legal requirement to show photographic ID before one votes is a thing good, bad or indifferent in itself, that is a separate debate. Dawn Butler MP, writing in the Times, says, “This, to me, is nothing more than a cynical attempt at voter suppression by our government — and it must be stopped. It mirrors some of the subversive tactics deployed in some states in America.” Jess Garland of the Electoral Reform Society writes in the Guardian that it would undermine democracy. Over in the US, where the state of Georgia has recently passed its own Election Integrity Act, President Biden said a thing about eagles.

Samizdata quote of the day

“There’s also the problem of, as our liberal friends would put it, power dynamics. At least when Stewart was battling the Bush administration, you could make the argument that liberalism was a minority persuasion in America. Today, the left is a political and cultural juggernaut, dominating the elected federal government, the civil service, the mainstream press, Hollywood, Big Tech, increasingly even the corporate world. It’s our new civic religion, which has turned its comedians into something like high priests, mouthing its tenets and ridiculing its apostates. All the old rules of satire — don’t punch down, afflict the comfortable — amount to a generally anti-authoritarian and iconoclastic mindset. Yet Stewart’s imitators exist only to reinforce the existing authorities while at the same time pretending they don’t have any authority at all.”

Matt Purple. He is writing in the US edition of the UK-based Spectator, so usual health warnings apply to the American misuse of the word “liberal”.

Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

“Who reads the Daily Mail?” asks Ed West in Unherd.

Yet while the newspaper’s power is waning, it has now opened up a new chapter beyond, with the Mail Online having just overtaken the New York Times to become the most visited newspaper site on earth, drawing over 50 million unique visitors a month.

The Mail is particularly successful in the US, where it has found a niche among mainstream news sites that are both dreadfully boring and ideologically dishonest, so deliberately cryptic that you have to be a Bletchley Park veteran to actually understand what is being reported. The Mail is popular with many Americans because, in contrast, it tries to tell a story – which is, after all, what journalism should be about.

I predicted this, it didn’t happen. I predicted this, it didn’t happen. I predicted this, it’s happening.

European MPs targeted by deepfake video calls imitating Russian opposition