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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Ooh, can I be poor too?

The gullible Metro freesheet claims that 14,300,000 people in Britain are living in poverty, quoting something called the Social Metrics Commission.

The current population of the UK is 66.87 million. According to the Office for National Statistics Labour market overview for July 2019, 32.75 million people aged 16 years and over are in employment, 354,000 more than for a year earlier. The unemployment rate is lower than at any time since 1974. I have no doubt that poverty still exists but this claim is not credible.

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.

There is nothing new under the sun

“What has been will be again,” as it says in Ecclesiastes, “what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Yesterday – to my shame I did not spot it until today – the Times reprinted a letter to the editor that was a century old to the day. I wish I could say that it was merely of historical interest.

From The Times July 15, 1919

To the Editor of The Times

Sir, Will you permit an elderly man, who is not a politician nor a public character, but merely an individual among millions of honest, sober persons whose liberty is attacked by a moral tyranny, to state an opinion with regard to the crusade against moderate drinkers? It is not needed even in the cause of morality. When I was a child excess in drinking was patent in every class of society. Now, in my wide circle, I do not know of one man or woman who is ever seen “under the influence of liquor”. Why not leave the process of moderation, so marked within 60 years, to pursue its normal course? It is untrue to say that a reasonable use of alcohol is injurious to mind, body or morality. My father, whose life was one of intense intellectual application, and who died from an accident in his 79th year, was the most rigidly conscientious evangelical I have ever known. He would have been astonished to learn that his claret and water at his midday meal, and his glass of Constantia at bedtime, were either sinful in themselves or provocative to sin in others.

There is no blessing upon those who invent offences for the pleasure of giving pain and who lay burdens on the liberty of others. We have seen attempts by the fantastically righteous to condemn those who eat meat, who go to see plays, who take walks on Sundays. The campaign against the sober use of wine and beer is on a footing with these efforts, and should be treated as they have been. Already tobacco is being forbidden to the clergy! The fact that Americans are leading the campaign should be regarded with alarm. We do not express an opinion, much less organize propaganda, against “dryness” in the United States. It is not for us to interfere in their domestic business. If Englishmen went round America urging Americans to defy their own laws and revolt against their customs, we should be very properly indignant. Let crusading Americans be taught the same reticence.

The propagandist teetotaler is active and unscrupulous. He fights with all weapons, whether they are clean or no. We must resist, without fear of consequences, the cruel and ignorant fanaticism of these apostles.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

EDMUND GOSSE

Imagine there’s no countries

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine, John Lennon

The Times editorial I am about to quote, like John Lennon’s much-loved song, begins with the word “Imagine”. It describes a little incident, seemingly unimportant to all but those most directly affected, that took in the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. At least, Vanuatu calls itself a nation, and it has a flag and a seat at the UN and all the paraphernalia of a nation, but it seems to have decided that it no longer wishes to function as a separate state. A little incident that took place there four days ago gives a preview of what Lennon’s dream of a world where borders did not matter would really be like.

Imagine for a moment that last Friday a charter flight full of police officers from a foreign power landed at Heathrow. Picture those officers then driving to a series of addresses, identifying four British and two foreign citizens and then, declining to tell British authorities on what grounds they were taking this action, detaining them and forcing them on board the aircraft, which then took off. What might we call such behaviour?

This exact scenario was played out just before the weekend in the South Pacific republic of Vanuatu. Vanuatu might be the answer to a quiz question, but though it has a population the size of Hull it is also an independent sovereign country and a democracy. Nevertheless, last week the Chinese government sent officials to Vanuatu and arrested five men and one woman, all of Chinese ethnicity.

That the republic’s government was complicit in these arrests makes the position more and not less worrying. Before the Chinese police arrived it is reported that the six had been held without charge for several days on the premises of a Chinese company. Though the Chinese informed the government that their officers possessed Chinese arrest warrants, neither the islanders nor anyone else has been told what the charges actually are. In spite of this, local police assisted with the accompanying of the detained individuals to the China-bound aircraft.

Almost incredibly the internal affairs minister of Vanuatu has told the press that the reason why the six detainees did not appear before a Vanuatu judge was that they were not charged with any crime in the territory. Presumably if they had been then they would have had their day in court. As it is the minister has, in effect, connived at an abduction of his own citizens by a foreign power almost certainly in contravention of his country’s laws.

The South China Morning Post report on the same story is quite bold to make an explicit link to the protests in Hong Kong against the proposed bill allowing extradition to mainland China, given that the newspaper has itself been subject to pressure from Beijing.

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?

The choice before us

The weekend papers have been dominated by the story of how Boris Johnson and his partner had a screaming row. Their neighbours called the police (defensible, possibly admirable), recorded the row (defensible – it might be required for evidence later)… and sold the recording to the Guardian.

The Times reports,

Revealed — the neighbours who taped Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds’s quarrel

The neighbours who called police about a row between Boris Johnson and his partner are Tom Penn and Eve Leigh, a left-wing dramatist who boasted only a few days before that she had “given the finger” to the former foreign secretary.

Penn, who broke cover after questions from The Sunday Times, voted against Brexit but insisted last night that he and his wife had not acted because of politics. He said they felt “frightened and concerned for the welfare of those involved”. Johnson’s partner, Carrie Symonds, was heard screaming, “Get off me” and “Get out of my flat.”

Penn said: “With my wife, [I] agreed that we should check on our neighbours. I knocked three times at their front door, but there was no response. I went back upstairs into my flat, and we agreed that we should call the police.”

However, he admitted that even after officers called back “to let us know that nobody was harmed”, the couple decided to pass a recording they had made of the incident to The Guardian newspaper.

Penn said: “I felt that it was of important public interest. I believe it is reasonable for someone who is likely to become our next prime minister to be held accountable for all of their words, actions, and behaviours.”

In the Times comments to this story “savetheplanet” said,

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs.

I’m being offered a world run by Boris (fortunately lazy and delegates) or Corbyn and folk like Tom and Eve .

Not a great choice but Logic says Boris is the lesser of those evils.

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?

Yes. But?

In the Spectator, Brendan O’Neill writes In defence of Jo Brand:

Brand’s comedy-crime was to say the following about the recent spate of milkshake attacks on politicians: ‘Why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?’ Boom-tish. Funny? I think so. I like Brand’s dry, deadpan wit, so to me it was funny to hear her jokingly propose something so wicked in her droll tones. Others will disagree. That’s subjective taste for you.

But what we surely cannot disagree on — unless we’ve taken leave of our senses, which I think we have — is that Brand was joking. We know she was joking for the following reasons: 1) she tells jokes for a living; 2) she said it on a comedy talk show; 3) she confirmed that it was a joke. ‘I’m not going to do it’, she said, clearly remembering that we live in humourless times in which people are constantly pouncing on someone’s words as proof of their violent intent. ‘It’s purely a fantasy’, she clarified.

And

Amazingly, people have been saying that in response to the Brand controversy. The same political figures, tweeters and tabloids who normally have a field day mocking soft leftists for crying over questionable jokes or edgy ideas are now demanding the censure of Jo Brand. You staggering hypocrites. What is sorely lacking in the free-speech debate today is consistency. The whole point of freedom of speech is that it must apply to everyone. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t free speech at all — it’s privileged speech, enjoyed by some, denied to others.

So here goes: Jo Brand must have the right to joke about throwing battery acid at politicians. Jimmy Carr must have the right to make rape jokes. Frankie Boyle should be free to make fun of people with Down’s syndrome. Boris is perfectly at liberty to say women in burqas look like letterboxes. People must be free to film their dogs doing Nazi salutes. Do you get it now? When it comes to mere words and ideas, no one should ever be censured, censored or punished for anything. Literally anything.

I do not hesitate to endorse the last paragraph (though I would delete the word “censured” from “no one should ever be censured, censored or punished for anything”) but in defence of the snowflakes of the Right who are making a fuss about this, could it not be said that they are only applying the fourth of Saul Alinsky’s famous Rules for Radicals, “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

A month ago the YouTuber and UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin a.k.a. Sargon of Akkad was investigated by the police for saying “I wouldn’t even rape you” to the Labour MP Jess Phillips. Someone called Steve on Twitter posted this clip of what Jo Brand said about Carl Benjamin then:

“I think it shocking that politics has been reduced to vile personal attacks… especially from a twat-faced beardy tiny-cocked tosser like him.”

She delivers the line rather well, but did not seem too concerned that Benjamin was being investigated by the police for making a crass but obviously not seriously intended threat to commit a crime. Technically it wasn’t even a threat; he said he wouldn’t rape Jess Phillips. Now the boot is on the other foot. If Carl Benjamin wants some quick brownie points he should ride out in Jo Brand’s defence like a non-rapey knight in shining armour.

I assume nearly everyone who reads this believes in free speech. In the present circumstances, what should we be doing to defend it? Should we take the high road, or apply Rule 4?

An intersection

When I watched the by now viral video of a mob jeering at and throwing a milkshake over an elderly British Trump supporter, led by a screaming feminist called Siobhan Prigent, a number of lines of thoughts got like Ms Prigent, intersectional.

– Watching the video made me angry. A year or so ago my son asked me an interesting question, “Are you still a feminist?” He knew that I had previously described myself as one. Eventually I answered that yes, I was, but that my understanding of what being a feminist entails seems to have been abandoned by most of those who describe themselves as feminists. Is Siobhan Prigent what a feminist looks like now? I’m still holding on to the idea that “what a feminist looks like” can include what I see in the mirror. But it is getting harder.

– Talk of feminism leads me to the next thought. What did that frail-looking female police officer do that was any more use than a chocolate teapot? Would a more physically imposing male officer have been more useful, or was the lack of police action when the old man was assaulted a matter of policy and nothing to do with whether the presiding teapot was male or female?

The man also claimed he was kicked in the legs, and attacked with a banner with a stick on the end. The demonstrators also attempted to remove his Make America Great Again hat – which he eventually got back.

The Londoner told how police officers removed him from the protest on Parliament Square for his own safety.

He told police that he didn’t want to officially report what had happened as he knew ‘nothing would come of it’.

“Removed for his own safety”. “He knew ‘nothing would come of it'”. Modern policing in a nutshell.

– Intersectional feminist Ms Prigent has now intersected with the consequences of her actions. She has been forced to quit her job. She says that her friends and family have been threatened and abused alongside her. If the part about her family is true that is very bad. As for Ms Prigent herself, while she certainly deserves to suffer some public scorn for her bad behaviour, doxxing someone is like breaching a dam: once the wall breaks the situation is out of anyone’s control.

There was another feminist in the news today. The Scotsman reports that “Feminist speaker Julie Bindel ‘attacked by transgender person’ at Edinburgh University after talk”

“We had had a very positive meeting – I was speaking about male violence against women and never even mentioned transgender people – and when I came out this person was waiting.

“There had been a protest outside earlier, but that had gone so he was obviously waiting for me.

“He was shouting and ranting and raving, ‘you’re a f***** c***, you’re a f****** bitch, a f****** Terf” and the rest of it. We were trying to walk to the cab to take us to the airport, and then he just lunged at me and almost punched me in the face, but a security guard pulled him away.

“I got my phone out to film him to get evidence and he went for me again. It took three security guys at the stage to deal with him.

And

After the attack, it was revealed on social media platform Twitter that her attacker was a transwoman called Cathy Brennan, who it has been reported has previously advocated violence against women.

At this point I tried to research a little more about Cathy Brennan, but I’ve deleted what I said on the grounds of complete confusion. It seems that there are two people with the same name prominent on opposite sides of the debate. At least two. It doesn’t help in determining who’s who that half of the relevant Twitter accounts have now been deleted.

The Scotsman article continues,

“Brennan has previously tweeted in support of violence against women who believe that changing the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to self-identify as any gender, rather than needing a medical diagnosis, would endanger women’s rights to safety, privacy and dignity by doing away with single-sex spaces. One tweet read: “Any trans allies at #PrideLondon right now need to step the f**kup and take out the terf trash. Get in their faces. Make them afraid. Debate never works so f**k them up”

I have borne a grudge against Julie Bindel since she called me a rape defender about ten years ago. In the comments to an article she wrote for the Guardian I had brought up the possibility that not every claimed rape had actually occurred. Since then Ms Bindel’s version of radical feminism has been overtaken by another strand and she now finds herself on the receiving end of the denunciations she once handed out so freely. Still, I never heard she attacked anyone with anything other than words.

Correct priorities

Viewers upset as BBC One replaces Homes Under the Hammer with Theresa May’s resignation speech

Fans of Homes under the Hammer were upset after the BBC replaced the show to make way for Theresa May’s resignation speech.

Viewers of the popular home renovation and auction series said they were “furious” that the BBC decided to move the latest episode – scheduled for 10am on BBC One – over to BBC Two, in order to air Mrs May’s statement to the public.

The Prime Minister’s tearful announcement that she would be stepping down was met with sympathy and support by many on Twitter, but not by angry audiences of the morning show.

“I’m absolutely furious.. this news has ruined my day.. thanks to this event they moved Homes Under The Hammer to BBC2 and I didn’t know.. nearly missed it,” tweeted one user.

While another wrote: “Couldn’t you have done this at 11? I’m missing Homes Under The Hammer. #theresamayresigns. Worst PM ever.”

The trouble with “political theatre” is that life imitates art

“This Milkshake Spring isn’t political violence – it’s political theatre”, wrote Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian the day before yesterday.

From Nigel Farage to Tommy Robinson and Carl Benjamin, dangerous figures on the right are being reduced to ridicule

Today’s “dangerous figure on the right” was an elderly Brexit Party teller called Don:

Brexit Party teller attacked by milkshake

Don, A Brexit Party teller and 22 year army veteran in Aldershot described as a “popular man with the local community,” has been attacked by a man on a bike with a milkshake. Former Army Major Dominic Farrell described the scene…

“Bloke on a cycle passed by, saw his rosette, gave him the finger and abuse, then went to a shop, bought the milkshake and attacked him.”

How do people think this is acceptable..?

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