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]

The treason trials of 2021

The Mirror‘s columnist Susie Boniface*, who writes under the name “Fleet Street Fox”, would like to see them happen. She writes,

If you abandon your country to join ISIS, you can be stripped of citizenship. If you join a proscribed terror organisation, you face 10 years in jail. And if you talk about staging a coup, encourage birth defects, or lie about a lifesaving vaccine, you’re committing something terrifyingly close to murder, insurrection, and child abuse, yet go unpunished.

Spreading lies that damage the NHS, downgrade democracy, or cause child deformities is a crime against all that Britain is supposed to stand for, but it’s difficult to proscribe a loose affiliation of lunatics. Updating our laws to make the spreading of harmful conspiracy theories an act of treason, though, would mean that not only could the ringleaders be shut down, they also could be deradicalised, medicated and educated. They are terrorists, and should be treated as such.

Take out the co-ordinators, and their converts could be deprogrammed. Which would leave the rest of us able to continue the important business of moving as far away as possible from the 14th century, and all its terrifying ignorance.

*In the early days of her “Fleet Street Fox” identity, Ms Boniface wanted to write anonymously. If that were still the case, I would not have said her real name even if I knew it. But since she outed herself in the pages of the Times back in 2013 and is quite happy to identify herself as being “Fleet Street Fox” on her personal website, her pseudonym is clearly now part of her brand rather than actually intended to keep her name secret.

The healing power of media lies

I’ve been in hospital over the last few days for a long-planned operation. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to the Los Angeles Times for its part in my recovery. After my op, for a while my blood pressure was worryingly low. The doctors and nurses, bless ’em, think that it was a blood transfusion that got my blood pressure back up again. Nope. It was all down to fact that America’s fifth largest newspaper, founded in 1881, is but the skin of its former self inhabited by creatures reminiscent of the ichneumon wasp, a parasite that devours its host from the inside.

As Megan Fox writes at P J Media:

Under the headline “LAPD is investigating altercation involving Larry Elder at Venice Homeless Encampment,” the Times ran a photo (seen below) that makes it look like Elder is slapping a woman. This is a complete fabrication and not at all what really happened. Instead, it was a white woman in a gorilla mask hurling an egg at Elder. This photo that the Times used is of Elder greeting a woman in the crowd. The woman actually commented on the Times tweet to hold the paper accountable for this hideous lie. “Are you kidding me?” wrote Soledad Ursua. “You use this picture to make it look like [Larry Elder] is slapping me? He was attacked by a white female wearing a Gorilla Mask. Are you covering for racists? Disgusting.”

Samizdata quote of the day

The BBC isn’t part of a free and pluralistic media, unafraid of questioning power. It is part of a State policy communication strategy which aims to convince the public to accept the authorised reality. Among these propagandist outlets the BBC is perhaps the most servile by virtue of its Charter and its reliance upon State funding.

The commercial broadcasters are also limited by Ofcom regulation and their dependence upon government advertising. The alleged pandemic saw the State become the UK’s leading advertiser.

When we consider that their second-biggest source of advertising revenue are the pharmaceutical corporations, the notion of an “independent” mainstream broadcast media in the UK is laughable.

Iain Davis

Samizdata quote of the day

Journalists, like good novelists, should be curious about everything and empathetic about everyone. They should seek to tell a different story, not the story everybody else is telling. They should instinctively want to report on what it felt like to be Amy Cooper that morning in Central Park, as well as Christian Cooper. The corollary of this attitude is a deep suspicion of stories with angels and demons which perfectly fit our own story about how the world is. Moral clarity means nothing to report.

Ian Leslie

This month’s heresy is next month’s orthodoxy

“YouTube suspends Rand Paul for a week over a video disputing the effectiveness of masks”, reports the New York Times.

I have no strong opinion on the question, but Senator Rand Paul is also Doctor Rand Paul, so his medical opinion holds some weight. This post on Rumble takes you to the video that got him banned: “It Is Time For Unfiltered News”

As Glenn Greenwald points out,

JUST LAST WEEK: Biden’s former COVID adviser, the epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, told @camanpour [the CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour] exactly the same thing.

YouTube and Facebook* play a merry game. On April 16 2020, Guy Rosen, Facebook’s “VP Integrity”, posted “An Update on Our Work to Keep People Informed and Limit Misinformation About COVID-19”. That post is as good as a soap opera; the writers are always adding new and dramatic plot twists.

On February 8, 2021 at 10:00AM PT, they announced that claims that “COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured” would be removed.

On May 26, 2021 at 3:30PM PT, they said, “In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts, we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured from our apps.”

In like spirit, Dr Paul is doing no more than returning to the medical orthodoxy before last. From the Independent, Thursday 12 March 2020:

Coronavirus: Face masks could increase risk of infection, medical chief warns

Members of the public could be putting themselves more at risk from contracting coronavirus by wearing face masks, one of England’s most senior doctors has warned.

Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer, said the masks could “actually trap the virus” and cause the person wearing it to breathe it in.

*I initially mistyped that as Facesbook, and my spellchecker, set, of course, to British spellings, suggested an amusing alternative.

A huge crack appears in the media’s narrative dam

This is nothing less than the highest circulation newspaper not just in Germany but all Europe publicly repenting their role in spreading state propaganda and fake news. This is from 28 May 2021, and yet I only heard about this today; the fact it was not front page news across the world is very revealing indeed.

(turn on translation subtitles if you do not understand German. Also, partial transcript here in English and French)

What is the payoff for producing such obviously counter-productive propaganda?

One of these links will take you to an article in today’s Times by David Charter:

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

“Texas stops teaching that Ku Klux Klan was morally wrong”

Which link is it? It doesn’t matter*. You all guessed right. You had no need to actually read the article to predict with a high degree of accuracy what it would say. You had no need of a Times subscription to know that whatever Texas was doing would turn out to be something far less dramatic than the headline suggests.

I am not going to quote the article even now. Do not feel deprived. As I find increasingly often these days, the readers’ comments are better than the stuff above the line.

A commenter called Dick Marlow says,

I think that this headline is misleading.

As I understand it the State of Texas has decided that it should not enumerate in law incidents and beliefs that 99.9% of Texans accept were both wrong and repugnant. This is not the same as “stops teaching that the KKK was morally wrong” which can be interpreted as meaning the state permits teaching that the KKK was morally acceptable.

This is not what they are attempting to do. They are shifting the responsibility of identifying which unacceptable events need to be taught from the state legislature and shifting it downstream, nearer both the ISDs, parents and teachers.

But you already knew it would turn out be something like that.

Why do they do this? I cannot even say that a clickbait headline lets down a respectable article, since the unknown subeditor has merely re-phrased Mr Charter’s very first line. The Times used to be better than this. David Charter has been known to be better than this. It’s not like they’re fooling anyone: there is a veritable flood of comments saying, no, the Texas Department of Education has not decided to take a neutral position on whether the Klan was a Bad Thing.

What is the payoff for producing such obviously counter-productive propaganda?

*The important question, and the one to which you will not find the answer by hovering your mouse over the link, is which of them takes you to the cute video of a sloth in a boat.

Samizdata quote of the day

[Overheard on a train in UK]

Passenger 1: “Have you seen what’s happening in South Africa? The authorities have let order completely break down. It’s getting so bad even BBC is starting to show coverage.”

Passenger 2: “Yeah, it’s terrible, Natal is starting to look like Portland.

Deleting the weather report to make the rain go away

“Facebook axes team over far-right data”, says the Times.

Facebook has disbanded one of its teams after the data they produced suggested that far-right commentators outperformed all other users.

Facebook executives, including Sir Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister, became concerned that the CrowdTangle tool was being used by journalists to produce embarrassing evidence that right-wing content was read more than anything else on the platform.

The analytics tool is owned by Facebook but is available to the public. It is one of the only ways for users to measure how well a post is doing in terms of being shared, commented on, liked or receiving a reaction emoji.

Clegg, Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs, told colleagues last September that he was concerned “our own tools are helping journos to consolidate the wrong narrative”, according to The New York Times.

CrowdTangle’s data showed that in the US the links posted on Facebook to other websites which got the most engagement was to content by right-wing commentators such as Ben Shapiro and the Fox News host Sean Hannity, and to right-wing sites including Breitbart and Newsmax.

A commenter called LucasTheCat gave me the title for this post when they responded, “This is strange for two reasons – none of the commentators listed are what I would consider to be ‘far right’ and isn’t removing the report – the same as taking the weather report out of your paper – because you don’t like the weather – or am I missing something?”

By the way, the idea that Nick Clegg was released on the world deliberately is a fringe conspiracy theory that Facebook has rightly banned. The current theory is that he was accidentally leaked from an insufficiently secured British political system.

“Many Trump supporters don’t know for certain whether ballots were faked in November 2020, but they know with apodictic certainty that the press, the FBI, and even the courts would lie to them if they were”

Hat tip to commenter Shlomo Maistre for this link to an important piece by Darryl Cooper, published by Glenn Greenwald on his Substack site.

Who are these people?

And what does “apodictic” mean?

“Apodictic” means “clearly established or beyond dispute”. I first read it as “apocalyptic” and honestly that word would have worked as a political metaphor. For a worldview of basic trust in American institutions that has has held sway for more than a century, these are the end times.

Glenn Greenwald is a left wing independent journalist and blogger. He first came to my attention circa 2003 when he was against the Iraq war when I and most of the people I followed were for it. To be frank the main reason I remembered his name was a silly incident when he got caught out bigging up his own reputation under a different name. That was nearly twenty years ago. I now say without irony that he is one of the journalists I most admire in the world. He used to work for the Guardian, but wanted more independence so he resigned from there in 2013 to join with two other people and found a news outlet called the Intercept. Then when the Intercept tried to stop him writing about the Hunter Biden laptop story he resigned from there and went over to Substack. Greenwald is wrong about many things. But he is that strange, old-fashioned type of person, a reporter who won’t shut up for the good of the Party.

Darryl Cooper, who goes by the Twitter handle of “MartyrMade”, is a podcast host who thought he had given up Twitter. Then he got talking to a friend’s mother about Trump and the US election, and decided to crystallise the conversation in a series of thirty-five tweets that went viral. Fox News host Tucker Carlson read out most of the sequence on air. Donald Trump mentioned him by name. His current article, the one this post is about, is that Twitter thread all in one place. Here it is: Author of the Mega-Viral Thread on MAGA Voters, Darryl Cooper, Explains His Thinking.

Reading this from another country, I want to home in on one thing. There is much about the whole Trump phenomenon starting from his election in 2016 and ending four years later that I do not understand. I do not know the truth of every claim and counter-claim. But I do know one thing with apodictic, apocalyptic certainty. If they – Twitter and Facebook and the Democrat-supporting media, which is most of the media in the English-speaking world including the UK, and the FBI and the CIA, who the media used to boast of holding to account but are now their bosom friends – did find evidence of election fraud, they would not tell us. They would lie and censor just like they did about the contents of Hunter’s laptop.

That knowledge is not in itself proof that fraud did occur. But every belief about the world is buttressed by the unspoken certainty that if something turned up to contradict it, we would be told. When that buttress is kicked away one starts to wonder about a lot of previously unquestioned beliefs.

Edit: Great minds think alike. Unknown to me, while I was typing out this post my Illuminated colleague was posting the video of Tucker Carlson reading out Darryl Cooper’s thread.

Hey, Scottish council workers, how about we use your pension to build social housing?

To its credit the Times publishes several columnists who go against the opinions of its readers. Sometimes, however, I suspect that the Times ignobly picks writers who are not the best ambassadors for their causes. The readership of the paper’s Scotland section is devoutly Unionist. Every week Fiona Rintoul reminds them why. In an article called “Scotland can prosper once we take the wheel”, she writes:

Fresh ideas have also come from Jim Osborne, of the Scottish Banking and Finance Group. He has proposed reforming the pension system to benefit pensioners and the wider community. Scotland’s council pension funds, which control £45.5 billion of assets, could, he feels, help to support the expansion of Scotland’s social housing stock. This chimes with global developments in pension funds’ asset allocation. With bond yields at historic lows, pension funds are turning to infrastructure investments for yield.

Osborne has also suggested that Scottish local authorities be allowed to issue municipal bonds to power spending. Again, this chimes with global developments as bond markets diversify. Scottish local authority “munis” could form suitable investments for pension funds too.

Revoking an apology

Until yesterday Winston Marshall was a member of the English folk rock band Mumford & Sons.

In this post on medium.com he explains why he is leaving:

At the beginning of March I tweeted to American journalist Andy Ngo, author of the New York Times Bestseller, Unmasked. “Congratulations @MrAndyNgo. Finally had the time to read your important book. You’re a brave man”. Posting about books had been a theme of my social-media throughout the pandemic. I believed this tweet to be as innocuous as the others. How wrong I turned out to be.

Over the course of 24 hours it was trending with tens of thousands of angry retweets and comments. I failed to foresee that my commenting on a book critical of the Far-Left could be interpreted as approval of the equally abhorrent Far-Right.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Thirteen members of my family were murdered in the concentration camps of the Holocaust. My Grandma, unlike her cousins, aunts and uncles, survived. She and I were close. My family knows the evils of fascism painfully well. To say the least. To call me “fascist” was ludicrous beyond belief.

I’ve had plenty of abuse over the years. I’m a banjo player after all. But this was another level. And, owing to our association, my friends, my bandmates, were getting it too. It took me more than a moment to understand how distressing this was for them.

Despite being four individuals we were, in the eyes of the public, a unity. Furthermore it’s our singer’s name on the tin. That name was being dragged through some pretty ugly accusations, as a result of my tweet. The distress brought to them and their families that weekend I regret very much. I remain sincerely sorry for that. Unintentionally, I had pulled them into a divisive and totemic issue.

Emotions were high. Despite pressure to nix me they invited me to continue with the band. That took courage, particularly in the age of so called “cancel culture”. I made an apology and agreed to take a temporary step back.

Rather predictably another viral mob came after me, this time for the sin of apologising. Then followed libellous articles calling me “right-wing” and such. Though there’s nothing wrong with being conservative, when forced to politically label myself I flutter between “centrist”, “liberal” or the more honest “bit this, bit that”. Being labeled erroneously just goes to show how binary political discourse has become. I had criticised the “Left”, so I must be the “Right”, or so their logic goes.

Why did I apologise?

“Rub your eyes and purify your heart — and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well.” — Aleksander Solzhenitsyn once wrote. In the mania of the moment I was desperate to protect my bandmates. The hornets’ nest that I had unwittingly hit had unleashed a black-hearted swarm on them and their families. I didn’t want them to suffer for my actions, they were my priority.

Secondly, I was sincerely open to the fact that maybe I did not know something about the author or his work. “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak,” Churchill once said, “courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen”. And so I listened.

I have spent much time reflecting, reading and listening. The truth is that my commenting on a book that documents the extreme Far-Left and their activities is in no way an endorsement of the equally repugnant Far-Right. The truth is that reporting on extremism at the great risk of endangering oneself is unquestionably brave. I also feel that my previous apology in a small way participates in the lie that such extremism does not exist, or worse, is a force for good.

That speaks for itself, but my eye lingered on one line in particular:

my previous apology in a small way participates in the lie that such extremism does not exist, or worse, is a force for good.

It is proverbial that it takes courage to apologise. Sometimes it takes courage to un-apologise.