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Azeem Rafiq’s own racist tweets do not excuse the racism he suffered but the double standards are astonishing

On 16th November the UK press featured dozens of stories about the former cricket player Azeem Rafiq’s testimony to a Parliamentary committee about his experiences of racism, particularly when playing for Yorkshire. A typical story was this one from BBC Sport, “Azeem Rafiq: Yorkshire cricket racism scandal – how we got here”

Surprisingly, that BBC report did not include what surely must be the most serious of the allegations Mr Rafiq made, that when he was fifteen and playing cricket at club level for Barnsley, he was pinned down by other players and had red wine poured down his throat. (He is a Muslim.) To hold someone down and force them to do something that they consider religiously forbidden, and in many cases something that also disgusts them, is an assault on their bodily integrity that ought to horrify anyone.

However it was widely covered elsewhere, as was every word of Mr Rafiq’s testimony to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing.

This Google search for mentions of “Azeem Rafiq” between 16th and 17th November shows how seriously his allegations were taken. “Azeem Rafiq’s testimony exposes how power works in cricket – and in Britain”, said the Guardian. Azeem Rafiq: ‘A trailblazer who has created a watershed moment’, said the BBC. Azeem Rafiq: Sport England could cut cricket funding after ‘wake-up call’, said the Times.

Though I do not believe that the government should fund sport at all, and I would prefer it if the horribly-named Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport did not exist, given that it does exist and does fund cricket I broadly agree: government money should not go to bodies that tolerate racism.

Well, that was the situation on the 17th. On the 18th it all fell apart.

Azeem Rafiq apologises for historical anti-Semitic Facebook messages said the BBC. The Times reported:

The Times has seen an exchange of messages that appear to have been sent ten years ago between Rafiq and the former Warwickshire and Leicestershire player Ateeq Javid. Sources believe they are discussing another Asian cricketer, at the time playing for Derbyshire, whom they seem to accuse of being reluctant to spend money on a meal out because “he is a jew”. Rafiq jokes that he will “probs go after my 2nds again ha . . . Only jews do tht sort of shit”.

Mr Rafiq was quick to apologise. The same Times article said,

Rafiq said: “I was sent an image of this exchange from early 2011 today. I have gone back to check my account and it is me. I have absolutely no excuses. I am ashamed of this exchange and have now deleted it so as not to cause further offence. I was 19 at the time and I hope and believe I am a different person today. I am incredibly angry at myself and I apologise to the Jewish community and everyone who is rightly offended.”

In most respects I think we should accept that apology. The business of excavating tweets made by sportsmen years ago has reached absurd lengths – the footballer Marc Bola was charged with “aggravated misconduct” by the Football Association for a tweet he made when he was fourteen.

But the double standards rankle. Mr Rafiq said, “I have gone back to check my account and it is me.” In other words, he had no memory of making that racist tweet in 2011. But if Mr Rafiq cannot remember what he himself tweeted in 2011 then should we not at least allow for the possibility of error in his memory of the racist remark that he says he remembers the former England captain Michael Vaughan making in 2009? Or if it turns out Mr Vaughan did make that remark (Vaughan denies it), should we not grant that Michael Vaughan might well be “a different person” after twelve years, just as Azeem Rafiq says that he is after ten?

More generally, the revelation that Mr Rafiq was exchanging racist banter with Ateeq Javid did not call forth anguished calls for reform from MPs and newspaper columnists. Apparently it did not reveal anything in particular about how power works in cricket, or in Britain. It was not a watershed moment, it was not a wake up call, and cricket’s government funding is not imperilled.

I am going to end by repeating what I said in the title of this post: Azeem Rafiq’s own racist tweets do not excuse the racism he suffered, particularly not the physical assault. But I agree with what Andrew Hills said in the most-recommended comment to that Times article:

I think it is important this has come out; wokeness creates the lie that there is the pure “righteous” group over here and the racists and the homophobes over there. Let’s punish them whilst we glory in our own greatness. The reality is that we are all screw ups, and we should be working together as a bunch of messed up people to make a better society for all.

Kyle Rittenhouse acquitted

“Kyle Rittenhouse found not guilty after fatally shooting two in Kenosha unrest”, the Guardian reluctantly reports.

Good. Not because it makes Guardian reporters cry, but because Mr Rittenhouse was quite clearly acting in self defence.

Most relevantly, scroll down this piece by Nellie Bowles, formerly of the New York Times, writing in the Substack account of Bari Weiss, also formerly of the New York Times, shedding light on what and when readers of that publication got to hear about the Kenosha riots:

A note on Kenosha in light of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial: Until quite recently, the mainstream liberal argument was that burning down businesses for racial justice was both good and healthy. Burnings allowed for the expression of righteous rage, and the businesses all had insurance to rebuild.

When I was at the New York Times, I went to Kenosha to see about this, and it turned out to be not true. The part of Kenosha that people burned in the riots was the poor, multi-racial commercial district, full of small, underinsured cell phone shops and car lots. It was very sad to see and to hear from people who had suffered. Beyond the financial loss, small storefronts are quite meaningful to their owners and communities, which continuously baffles the Zoom-class.

Something odd happened with that story after I filed it. It didn’t run. It sat and sat.

Now it could be that the piece was just bad. I’ve sent in bad ones before, and I’ll do it again. A few weeks after I filed, an editor told me: The Times wouldn’t be able to run my Kenosha insurance debacle piece until after the 2020 election, so sorry.

There were a variety of reasons given—space, timing, tweaks here or there.
Eventually the election passed. Biden was in the White House. And my Kenosha story ran. Whatever the reason for holding the piece, covering the suffering after the riots was not a priority. The reality that brought Kyle Rittenhouse into the streets was one we reporters were meant to ignore. The old man who tried to put out a blaze at a Kenosha store had his jaw broken. The top editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer had to resign in June 2020 amid staff outcry for publishing a piece with the headline, “Buildings Matter, Too.”

If you lived in those neighborhoods on fire, you were not supposed to get an extinguisher. The proper response — the only acceptable response — was to see the brick and mortar torn down, to watch the fires burn and to say: thank you.

Update: Within the last few minutes Bari Weiss herself posted this commentary on the case: “The Media’s Verdict on Kyle Rittenhouse – Why so many got this story so wrong.”

Here is what I thought was true about Kyle Rittenhouse during the last days of August 2020 based on mainstream media accounts: The 17-year-old was a racist vigilante. I thought he drove across state lines, to Kenosha, Wisc., with an illegally acquired semi-automatic rifle to a town to which he had no connection. I thought he went there because he knew there were Black Lives Matter protests and he wanted to start a fight. And I thought that by the end of the evening of August 25, 2020, he had done just that, killing two peaceful protestors and injuring a third.

It turns out that account was mostly wrong.

[…]

This wasn’t a disinformation campaign waged by Reddit trolls or anonymous Twitter accounts. It was one pushed by the mainstream media and sitting members of Congress for the sake of an expedient political narrative—a narrative that asked people to believe, among other unrealities, that blocks of burning buildings somehow constituted peaceful protests.

Another update: Glenn Greenwald tweets, “Just look at how many people were radically deceived about this case – and still are! – including people paid to follow and “report on” these matters for a living” and illustrates his point with a hilarious screenshot of the Independent‘s front page of a few minutes ago. Somebody must have told them, they’ve since corrected it. But, c’mon man, imagine the Independent‘s reporters of all people relying on the Independent as a source.

Why the tabloids are the choice of adults

The Daily Mail reports, EXCLUSIVE: Suicide bomber who died when his device blew up outside Liverpool hospital was pizza chef, 32, who fled Middle East and converted to Christianity at cathedral ‘he wanted to attack’ and was once arrested for carrying a knife

I was much taken by this comment from someone called “SorcerousSinner” on the normally left wing subreddit /r/ukpolitics:

The Daily Mail is the best news source for stuff like this because they have the least restraint and just publish all the info, and rumours. Footage of the killings. Fake news. Everything.

Broadsheet journalists are always concerned with carefully steering us, the dumb rabble, towards what they believe we should believe

So, the mail is the choice of adults who think they can handle the responsibility of getting all the info, possibly fake info.

“Wrong, wrong, wrong” is putting it kindly

When All The Media Narratives Collapse – Andrew Sullivan, writing on Substack:

Think of the other narratives the MSM pushed in recent years that have collapsed. They viciously defamed the Covington boys. They authoritatively told us that bounties had been placed on US soldiers in Afghanistan by Putin — and Trump’s denials only made them more certain. They told us that the lab-leak theory of Covid was a conspiracy theory with no evidence behind it at all. (The NYT actually had the story of the leak theory, by Donald McNeil, killed it, and then fired McNeil, their best Covid reporter, after some schoolgirls complained he wasn’t woke.) Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The MSM took the ludicrous story of Jussie Smollett seriously because it fit their nutty “white supremacy” narrative. They told us that a woman was brutally gang-raped at UVA (invented), that the Pulse mass shooting was driven by homophobia (untrue) and that the Atlanta spa shooter was motivated by anti-Asian bias (no known evidence for that at all). For good measure, they followed up with story after story about white supremacists targeting Asian-Americans, in a new wave of “hate,” even as the assaults were disproportionately by African Americans and the mentally ill.

As Greenwald noted, the NYT “published an emotionally gut-wrenching but complete fiction that never had any evidence — that Officer Sicknick’s skull was savagely bashed in with a fire extinguisher by a pro-Trump mob until he died.” The media told us that an alleged transgender exposure in the Wi Spa in Los Angeles was an anti-trans hoax (also untrue). They told us that the emails recovered on Hunter Biden’s laptop were Russian disinformation.

It pays to brief your own side properly

Some time in the early 1990s I was a witness to a brief exchange in the House of Commons that went unnoticed at the time but would go on to change the world.*

The scene was an ill-attended debate on Legal Aid Fees – the fees paid to lawyers by the state for representing those of slender means, as the White Paper setting up the Legal Aid scheme in 1949 put it. At the time, I was a very junior civil servant, sent to sit in the Visitors’ Gallery as a minor jolly and to give me some idea of how Parliamentary Questions played out in real life.

Speaking for the Lord Chancellor’s Department – none of yer new-fangled “Ministry of Justice” rubbish then – was a Tory MP I will call My Guy. It was him I sometimes got to write whole paragraphs of briefing papers for. Speaking for the Opposition was a Labour bloke whom I will call Labour Bloke. Up pops Labour Bloke, newly briefed by the Law Society (the “professional association” for UK lawyers, like a trade union but less honest) on how the wicked Tories were driving legal folk to penury and leaving the poor without representation as a result. “What is the Minister going to do,” he said, or words to that effect, “about the savage and unjustified cuts to Legal Aid fees?”

My Guy – a lawyer himself but now poacher turned gamekeeper – smiles and says, “There have been no cuts to Legal Aid Fees”. Labour Bloke visibly checks the papers in his hand but restrains himself from saying the words “But it says here”. He did manage to stammer out something, to which My Guy, who was a bit of a snot but in the right here and knew it, merely responded with the same words again: “There have been no cuts to Legal Aid Fees”.

There followed some bandying of figures, but Labour Bloke never recovered his momentum. The reason the poor chap had been so sure there had been cuts was that the Law Society had made the mistake of feeding him the same guff they put out to the Guardian, which was cleverly worded to make the fact that fees had gone up by less than inflation sound like they had been cut. I could tell Labour had taken their line straight from the Law Society by the familiarity of the words and figures used. I remember thinking how foolish Labour had been to rely so much on one source, and even more strongly, how damning it was that a bunch of barristers [Edit: solicitors, not barristers, according to commenter “llamas”], professional arguers by all that’s holy, had failed to appreciate the folly in both law and politics of not telling their own advocate the whole story.

I was reminded of that exchange by seeing two things on the internet about the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, which, please bear in mind, is not over.

One was this Guardian article, “Jury watches drone footage of Kyle Rittenhouse shooting man dead.” I do not say it contains any lies, but if that were your only source you would never know, you would never guess, you would never imagine, the existence of this video clip.

Imagine, dear reader, that you are a committed progressive. Imagine that you go online to argue against Rittenhouse, armed, if you will forgive the phrase, only with that Guardian article. How would it go? The mainstream media has passed a milestone in its decline to irrelevance when someone who wants to successfully argue for the same things the MSM argues for must use other sources besides the MSM.

*OK, the change concerned was that a quarter of a century later it would inspire me to write this Samizdata post, but that is undeniably part of the world and the world will have changed from not including my musings to including them once I press “Publish”, which I am doing now.

Samizdata quote of the day

The fact that Chinese state media so widely shared a particularly credulous New Yorker article by Peter Hessler about China’s coronavirus response did not escape China expert Geremie Barmé, who cautioned its author that it reminded him of “another American journalist, a man who reported from another authoritarian country nearly a century ago … Walter Duranty …”

Michael Senger

This is one of the classic signs of a cult

“Dismiss anything else. We will continue to be your single source of truth.

– Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

When I first clicked on the video of Jacinda Ardern saying those words that is embedded in this tweet from “Darren of Plymouth” via Not the Bee, I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. All of us sometimes say things that “come out wrong”. By “single source of truth” I thought she might have meant no more than “convenient one-stop place you can go to get truthful information”. Apparently there is a concept in information systems design that goes by the name “Single Source of Truth (SSoT)”; perhaps she had picked up this piece of jargon somewhere.

However I only had to wait until 1:02 in the video to see Ms Ardern demonstrate that she meant it exactly the way it sounded:

“When you see those messages, remember that unless you hear it from us, it is not the truth.

Edit: I assume the “Not the Bee” link got Darren’s tweet enough engagement to alert Twitter’s censorship team. When I first made this post two and a half hours ago the link to the tweet worked, but commenter ‘Dyspeptic Curmudgeon’ has pointed out that it has now disappeared. Here is a YouTube clip of the same speech filmed from a different angle and here is another YouTube clip that seems to be the same one I saw.

A couple of points to note:

– The speech is older than I thought, from May 2020.

– The silence of the press. This all takes place at a press conference. The room is full of cameras and microphones wielded by journalists, news providers. Yet not one of them protests when the prime minister of their country says that they should not be trusted as a source of news. Have they no pride in their profession?

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.