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 choir

“For centuries, the cherubic faces of choirboys in white ruffs have been part of church culture”, said the Guardian. Whenever a news report begins by saying that a tradition has endured for centuries you know that tradition is about to die. Sure enough the story which I quote tells of the ending of that aspect of historical Anglican culture in one cathedral at least:

Decision to disband Sheffield cathedral choir strikes discordant note

But is this change progressive or not? The next line of the story lets the hard pressed Guardian reader know what attitude to take:

Choristers usually came from privileged backgrounds, were coached by expert music masters at fee-paying schools attached to cathedrals and churches, and performed exquisite choral music, often in Latin.

Some of that has changed. The first girls were admitted, at Salisbury cathedral, almost 30 years ago and choirs have become more diverse.

Now Sheffield cathedral is going a step further, disbanding its choir in order to make a “completely fresh start” with a new team of choristers that reflects and engages with a changing city.

The cathedral would pursue “a new model for Anglican choral life here, with a renewed ambition for engagement and inclusion”, said a statement on its website.

The population of Sheffield and the surrounding area was growing, getting younger and becoming more diverse. In recent years, the cathedral had welcomed refugees and supported people living on the streets, Bradley said.

“We need to be engaging with people who are part of this changing city. We believe strongly in equality and giving as many children as possible the opportunity to sing at the highest level.”

The appeal of church music was wide but was sometimes “presented in a way that can be seen as elitist”, Bradley said.

That was in late July. Since then this apparently obscure local story about the disbandment of one cathedral choir has been widely reported. These are just a few of many examples:

  • Why is Sheffield Cathedral’s choir being disbanded for ‘inclusivity’? – the Spectator
  • Sheffield Cathedral Choir disbanded in “complete fresh start” for music and diversity – the website of the radio station Classic FM
  • Dean defends disbanding of Sheffield Cathedral ChoirChurch Times
  • Sheffield Cathedral closes choir and looks for new one to reflect urban diversity – the Times
  • Diversity is no reason to scrap Sheffield’s cathedral choir – the Telegraph

    As some of those titles indicate, the decision to close down the Sheffield cathedral choir has angered people who have not been to church for years and would not normally much care for church music. Why has it resonated so widely? I think I know why, and the knowledge depresses me. Until a few months ago I would have said that the UK had done relatively well in promoting an inclusive, non-racial sense of patriotism in which immigrants were seen as “joining the team” and adding their culture to the indigenous culture rather than displacing it. The maiden speech of Kemi Badenoch, my MP, expressed this idea well. “I chose to make the United Kingdom my home”, she says, and speaks of the British Dream: “It is a land where a girl from Nigeria can move here aged sixteen, be accepted as British, and have the great honour of representing Saffron Walden”.

    But that ideal of inclusive patriotism is being eroded by decisions like this one. It is scarcely surprising that white British people begin to see diversity as a threat to their culture when they are told that a part of their culture that has gone on for centuries is to be abolished in the name of diversity.

  • There are still some scientists left

    The BBC reports,

    Hydroxychloroquine being ‘discarded prematurely’, say scientists

    The Oxford University-led trial is aiming to enrol 40,000 frontline workers around the world.

    Investigators hope the large-scale, double-blind randomised study will show if early use of the treatment prevents the virus from getting worse.

    “We know now that it doesn’t work in treatment of hospitalised patients,” says Prof Nick White, one of the study’s investigators.

    “But it’s still is a medicine that may prove beneficial in preventing Covid-19.”

    The UK medicines regulatory body MHRA halted hydroxychloroquine trials, following a now-discredited paper in The Lancet claiming it caused harms.

    Trials resumed in late June but the investigators says these concerns over safety, and the drug’s politicisation, have made it difficult to get participants.

    I know nothing about medicine and have no opinion as to whether Hydroxychloroquine is any use in treating the coronavirus or as a preventative. But I know enough about the history of science to be deeply frightened by this:

    And social media companies have removed viral online posts by doctors who reject the scientific consensus, praising the drug’s effectiveness.

    I am just glad to see that there are still scientists such as Professor White who keep an open mind and are willing to go on the record as saying that the politicisation of Hydroxychloroquine may have cost lives. In fact there is no “may” about it: whether Trump is wrong or right on this occasion, the politicisation of science always costs lives. The politicisation of science is the cessation of science.

    How not to oppose the Scottish hate crime bill

    The Courier‘s Jenny Hjul is on the right side. She knows the Hate Crime Bill (Scotland) needs to be opposed:

    JENNY HJUL: SNP’s hated hate crime bill would outlaw all controversial debate… it has to be stopped

    The SNP’s Hate Crime Bill seems to have created a rare consensus in Scotland, with just about everybody agreeing that it is at best naïve and at worst plain dangerous.

    She leads with the point of principle:

    The Justice Minister, Humza Yousaf, said the Scottish Government was aiming for zero tolerance of hate crime, which is increasing in Scotland. The problem with his new law, however, is that in trying to make bad people nicer it will also potentially make good people villains.

    She deftly follows up with the practical point that the proposed Scottish bill is wider in scope than the equivalent law in England and Wales:

    If passed, the bill will criminalise those judged to have spoken abusively or offensively, and could imprison them for up to seven years. It goes further than similar laws in England and Wales, where intent has to be established for a person to be criminalised for their behaviour.

    Later in the article Ms Hjul points out that Nicola Sturgeon’s proposed new law is opposed by experts, including those who might be expected to have some personal sympathy with her:

    Alistair Bonnington, former honorary professor of law at Glasgow University – and Nicola Sturgeon’s one-time lecturer – slammed the legislation as “daft” as well as naïve.

    “This is yet another example of the SNP’s failure to understand fundamental principles of Scots law,” he said this week, referencing other instances of “stupidity”, such as the Named Persons legislation and the “outstandingly idiotic” law forbidding sectarian singing at football matches, which was later rescinded.

    “Fundamental human rights freedoms, such as free speech, are not understood or respected by the Scottish government,” he said.

    Finally Ms Hjul correctly observes that the bill is so hated that even sworn enemies have come together to denounce it, and furthermore that the police, often suspiciously keen on the sort of policing that can be done in comfort via a screen, do not fancy enforcing this one at all:

    Among those who agree with him are the Law Society of Scotland, the Catholic Church – which fears the bill would criminalise possession of the Bible, the National Secular Society, and the Scottish Police Federation, which warned that the legislation would see officers policing speech.

    But Ms Hjul undoes much of the good work she has done by the following ill-judged foray:

    Perhaps the SNP’s Hate Crime Bill might have achieved more support if it had sought to target a specific Scottish problem: the spreaders of hate in its own movement, for example.

    If it could stifle once and for all the most toxic elements of Scottish nationalism and make stirring up hatred of unionists a crime, it might not be a complete waste of time. But that is a political perspective.

    I have no doubt she did not literally mean that the Hate Crimes Bill would be acceptable if only it also targeted hate among Scottish Nationalists. It was probably meant as an exasperated joke. The trouble is that those two sentences turn off those she most needs to convince: people who usually support the Scottish National Party but are troubled by this and other authoritarian measures the SNP have put forward. It is this group who Sturgeon’s government are most likely to listen to.

    Too late now

    Labour launches new campaign with “24 hours to save British jobs” warning, reported the website Labour List the day before yesterday.

    To a background of Coldplay, Lomborg fisks Stiglitz

    “Greta Thunberg’s message of doom is religion not reality”, writes Iain Martin in the Times:

    Earlier this month, Thunberg set out in an open letter a list of demands that, if implemented, would make the economic effects of Covid-19 seem mild. Her co-signatories included assorted celebrities, activists and, inevitably, Coldplay. Climate catastrophists are clearly keen to get the alarmist show back on the road, perhaps because they have been eclipsed by the pandemic.

    Martin then goes on to say that,

    With intelligent use of technology and mitigation measures, mankind is more than capable of adapting to warmer conditions.

    This is one of the points made in Bjorn Lomborg’s important new book False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet. Mr Lomborg is a long-standing environmentalist regarded as a heretic by hardliners in the movement because he is an optimist who says that humanity is not doomed. Global warming is happening, he says, but populations have been “scared witless” into thinking that it means the end of life on Earth. “The rhetoric on climate change has become ever more extreme and less moored to the actual science,” he says. “The science shows us that fears of a climate apocalypse are unfounded. Global warming is real, but it is not the end of the world. It is a manageable problem.”

    […]

    For the sin of deviation from the apocalyptic consensus, The New York Times — woke bible and host of the Greta event at Davos in January — unleashed the eminent economist Joseph Stiglitz to lambast Mr Lomborg, who has since responded with an amusing line-by-line demolition of Mr Stiglitz’s claims.

    And here it is:

    The New York Times’​ stunningly false and deceptive hit piece to preserve climate alarmism.

    I do love a good old fashioned fisking.

    What is so bad about Russian “interference” with UK referendums anyway?

    “49% of voters believe Kremlin interfered in Brexit referendum”, reports the Guardian.

    Almost half the British public believes the Russian government interfered in the EU referendum and last year’s general election, according to a poll. The latest Opinium poll for the Observer found that 49% of voters think there was Russian interference in the Brexit referendum, with 23% disagreeing. Some 47% believed Russia interfered in the December general election.

    The poll findings come after the long-awaited publication of the report into Russian interference by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee last week. It found that the government had not attempted to investigate potential Russian interference in the referendum. It said the UK had “badly underestimated” the Russian threat.

    I am busy and must be brief. Vladimir Putin belongs at the end of a rope for his crimes: crimes like murdering his political opponents, sponsoring terrorism and waging aggressive war against neighbouring countries. But most of the events described in this hyped up list are technical crimes of a sort that should not be a crime at all. Most rules on election spending and use of data to target potential voters are nothing but political protectionism. We call it “interference” when the Russian government tries to influence the political opinions of British people and “outreach” when the British government or the European Union tries to influence the political opinions of Russian people. You hear the words “interference in elections” and are meant to think of stolen ballot boxes and forged votes. But Russians posting anonymous, dishonest and obnoxious opinions on Twitter and Reddit for money – who cares? They are lost in the crowd of Brits doing the same for free.

    Samizdata quote of the day

    Twitter is not on the masthead of the New York Times. But Twitter has become its ultimate editor. As the ethics and mores of that platform have become those of the paper, the paper itself has increasingly become a kind of performance space. Stories are chosen and told in a way to satisfy the narrowest of audiences, rather than to allow a curious public to read about the world and then draw their own conclusions. I was always taught that journalists were charged with writing the first rough draft of history. Now, history itself is one more ephemeral thing moulded to fit the needs of a predetermined narrative.

    Bari Weiss

    Thoughts on Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech

    For me, the most important thing about President Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech, apart from the splendour of what it says, is that, thanks to the internet, we can all of us, if we wish, read the entire speech, without depending upon any of those people whom Instapundit refers to as Democratic Party operatives with bylines to tell us what they merely want us to think that Trump said. We now live in a world where those old broadsheet “newspapers of record” have been reborn, and are now readable at no extra cost by anyone with an internet connection.

    I’m a libertarian, and what I really want is a really libertarian enclave of territory, somewhere in the world, which will really prove to the world for ever the superiority of all of my opinions about how the world should really be, over the opinions of all others. But meanwhile, I’m the sort of libertarian (which nothing like all libertarians are) who will settle for the actually existing United States of America, as it is now is and as it has been since it was founded, a vast but very imperfect nation, constantly disfigured by unfreedoms imposed upon it by collectivist would-be despots of one sort or another, yet constantly disappointing those same despots with those pesky freedoms which it started out by proclaiming. Likewise, American military might is frequently hurled by careless American adventurers at places that ought to be left to solve their own problems, in a way which only makes such problems even worse. Nevertheless, the world is surely a better place than it would have been had America made no attempts of this sort to bully it into behaving better. A world that consisted only of the Old World would surely be a much duller and poorer and more brutal place.

    The New York Times and the Washington Post, echoed by many other organs in America and beyond, have described Trump’s speech as “dark and divisive”. Well, it was a bit divisive. It divided Americans into two camps. In the one camp are violent looters and rioters and despotic cancellers, and their enablers in slightly less impolite society, like the people who run the New York Times and the Washington Post. In the other camp are all the many Americans of the sort who feel approximately as I do about America and its flawed and violent but nevertheless inspiring history.

    I especially like what Trump said about how the fundamental principles of the USA meant that those principles would, in the end, put an end to slavery and legally imposed racial discrimination. The fundamental principles bloody well took their time, but they eventually did just this.

    Here, in case you doubt me, is how Trump said this:

    We must demand that our children are taught once again to see America as did Reverend Martin Luther King, when he said that the Founders had signed “a promissory note” to every future generation. Dr. King saw that the mission of justice required us to fully embrace our founding ideals. Those ideals are so important to us – the founding ideals. He called on his fellow citizens not to rip down their heritage, but to live up to their heritage.

    To call this speech racially divisive, as many have, is a flat out lie.

    And, a “dark” speech? Again, I don’t think so. Naive and optimistic, starry-eyed even, historically over-simplified, yes, maybe all of that. But “dark”? Hardly.

    But what of Trump’s enemies? The rioters are saying: “Screw America, smash America!” Their Democrat enablers indoors are saying: “America, you want this to stop? Vote for us, and then we’ll stop it. Meanwhile, it’s all Trump’s fault.” That’s rather “dark”, isn’t it?

    Trump’s America, aka “America”, is now resisting this uprising, and the uprisers and their enablers are now turning on each other. The rioters and outdoor looters, after all, have no love at all for Democratic Party insiders. On the contrary, they regard them as the people who stole the Democratic nomination from them and their man in 2016. Other rioters merely hate the rich and the powerful in their entirety, including those paying the wages of the people urging them to riot.

    It is now – is it not? – almost entirely in Democrat-governed places that the rioting, and now the crime waves consequent upon the hobbling by Democrat politicians of local police forces, are happening. Those McCloskeys, rather inexpertly waving their guns at rioters outside their nice big home are classic Democrat insiders. As is the Mayor of Seattle, who only shut CHOP down after her own home had been attacked by rioters.

    So, I want Trump’s America now to prevail and its enemies now to retreat in ignominy, many of them also to prison, because of their various crimes, indoors and outdoors. We win, they lose, as President Reagan said when asked about how to settle the Cold War. Reagan also made very “divisive” speeches about that big old misunderstanding, didn’t he? After which the Good Guys did win and the Bad Guys did lose. Again please.

    In this same spirit of melodramatic divisiveness, I would like now to suggest that the way that the writers of the New York Times and the Washington Post, and their many imitators, are using the word “dark” is blatantly racist. These people are assuming that to be “dark” is to be bad. This is the language of white supremacist slave-owners. Next thing you know, they’ll be referring to African Americans as “darkies”.

    I’m kidding, but I also sort of mean it. I entirely get what the wokist media are trying to say, and are not trying to say, with the word “dark”. Punishing them for being racist for using this word in this way is not a rule I’d want to see universally applied. On the other hand, rules of exactly this perverse sort are the rules that these people have been unleashing upon others. So the wokists now deserve, if not actually to die by this rule that I just made up, then at least to be chucked out into the streets for a while, there to think about what they’ve been doing.

    But my basic point here is that you don’t need to take my word, or anyone else’s word, for any of this. Trump’s speech itself, the complete text of it, is worth a second link. Read the whole thing. And as I said at the start of this, be glad that you can.

    LATER: Further thoughts from me about Trump’s speech in a piece entitled Trump as Republican Party Reptile. This is about how his Mount Rushmore speech echoes a piece by P.J. O’Rourke in the 1980s, about an epic journey across America in a Ferrari.

    Exposing baby racists

    “‘Cancel culture’ grows increasingly cruel”, writes Jeff Jacoby.

    …A working man fired because his hands fell into what some read as a “white supremacist” gesture and someone took a picture He had never heard of this gesture and was not even white.

    …A woman denounced by name in the Washington Post because she wore blackface to a party two years ago. She was a private citizen, not famous or active in politics. Once upon a time that would have meant that she was safe from the level of scrutiny that we expect to fall on those who seek office – but in these times ordinary people can be plucked out of obscurity to be pelted by the mob while the Prime Minister of Canada is forgiven for almost the same offence.

    I had heard of these cases, and most of the others that Jeff Jacoby writes about. I thought I knew about the cruelty of the American Red Guards. But the next example of it that Mr Jacoby wrote about took my breath away:

    Even children are being targeted as racist, with the encouragement of adults who explicitly call for the destruction of the kids’ future prospects.

    Skai Jackson, a former Disney Channel star, urged her young social media followers to expose their classmates or peers for posting racist comments or videos. “If you know a racist, don’t be shy! Tweet me the receipts,” Skai tweeted on June 4. On Instagram, she posted a similar threat, saying she would spotlight “Caucasian teens” who say or write something inappropriate: “Let me say this: If I see you post it, I WILL expose you!! If you think you’re big and bad enough to say it, I will most definitely put your own words on blast!!”

    What followed, predictably enough, was a flood of submissions from informers eager to publicly accuse young people of racism, sometimes expressed in online remarks years ago. Jackson readily publicized the accusations, making sure to include the targets’ full names and social-media handles. And for going out of her way to ruin the reputation of people for being young and foolish, she was extolled as a heroine. Entertainment Tonight hosts applauded Jackson’s “bold move” in ensuring that “justice can be served.” Essence magazine commended her for “using this time to reverse the blatant racism she’s seen on social media.”

    “I am so proud of you, @skaijackson,” tweeted actress Yvette Nicole Brown. “The good work you’re doing exposing all these ‘baby’ racists will ensure that their names, faces & deeds will be known as they enter the work force down the line. Which will protect everyone from the havoc racists cause in the workplace.”

    Note that the children whose lives Skai Jackson and Yvette Nicole Brown want to ruin for having succumbed to the common infantile desire to say shocking things are not the only children being harmed. The children who Jackson and Brown tempt into informing on their schoolmates and siblings will also have to live for a lifetime with the consequences of hasty words spoken before they were old enough to know better.

    Peak Guardian in the Independent, and independent thought in the Guardian

    Amrou Al-Kadhi writing in the Independent:

    What the white supremacist roots of biological sex reveal about today’s transphobic feminism

    Thomas Chatterton Williams writing in the Guardian:

    We often accuse the right of distorting science. But the left changed the coronavirus narrative overnight

    Edit 11 June: The Independent, perhaps stung by mockery in the readers’ comments, has changed the headline of the article by Amrou Al-Kadhi to “How Britain’s colonial past can be traced through to the transphobic feminism of today”.

    That leads me to muse on what the Guardian has lost by the decision of its editor, Katharine Viner, to guard its writers from abuse by not permitting its readers to debate those of its articles they are most likely to want to debate. The Independent was able to see that the original headline to the Amrou Al-Kadhi article was not going down well even among its notably “progressive” readers. The Guardian can see from the number of clicks and shares that the Thomas Chatterton Williams article is getting a reaction – but what? I think it is favourable. I see comments from left wingers who are relieved to hear someone finally articulate their sense of unease and embarrassment at the speed with which the “party line” on social distancing was reversed. But that’s going by the comments of the writers I read and the websites I visit. The Guardian is no less hampered than I am.

    I think I might be able to guess

    In the Guardian James Heathers, a research scientist, asks,

    “The Lancet has made one of the biggest retractions in modern history. How could this happen?”

    The Lancet is one of the oldest and most respected medical journals in the world. Recently, they published an article on Covid patients receiving hydroxychloroquine with a dire conclusion: the drug increases heartbeat irregularities and decreases hospital survival rates. This result was treated as authoritative, and major drug trials were immediately halted – because why treat anyone with an unsafe drug?

    Now, that Lancet study has been retracted, withdrawn from the literature entirely, at the request of three of its authors who “can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources”. Given the seriousness of the topic and the consequences of the paper, this is one of the most consequential retractions in modern history.

    It is natural to ask how this is possible. How did a paper of such consequence get discarded like a used tissue by some of its authors only days after publication? If the authors don’t trust it now, how did it get published in the first place?

    The answer is quite simple. It happened because peer review, the formal process of reviewing scientific work before it is accepted for publication, is not designed to detect anomalous data. It makes no difference if the anomalies are due to inaccuracies, miscalculations, or outright fraud. This is not what peer review is for. While it is the internationally recognised badge of “settled science”, its value is far more complicated.

    Just a guess, but I think there is a more immediate explanation for the way that this study was accepted a little too readily: a widespread desire among doctors and scientists to believe that anything Donald Trump believes must be wrong.

    As it happens he probably was wrong. Though the use of hydroxychloroquine to try to treat the coronavirus appears not to be the disaster it was reported as being, the latest tests say it is not a cure for Covid-19 either. It does pretty much nothing either way. But we would have found out that useful piece of information earlier if the trials had proceeded without interruption.

    All the more credit to the Guardian for its role in uncovering inconsistencies in the paper by Dr Mandeep Mehra, Sapan Desai and others that was retracted. That was a demonstration that ideology does not always trump old fashioned journalism, even when it means forgoing a chance to denounce Trump.

    But it does not inspire confidence that the editor of the Lancet is Dr Richard Horton. Some of you may remember him of old. In October 2006 I blogged about him sharing a stage with George Galloway and saying,

    “As this axis of Anglo-American imperialism extends its influence through war and conflict, gathering power and wealth as it goes, so millions of people are left to die in poverty and disease.”

    Please, gentle Nicola, will you bless a little child?

    Please, gentle Eva, will you bless a little child?
    For I love you – Tell heaven I’m doing my best
    I’m praying for you, even though you’re already blessed

    Please, mother Eva, will you look upon me as your own?
    Make me special, be my angel
    Be my everything wonderful, perfect and true
    And I’ll try to be exactly like you

    Santa, santa Evita
    Madre de todos los ninos
    De los tiranizados, de los descamisados
    De los trabajadores, de la Argentina

    Why try to govern a country when you can become a saint?

    *

    STV’s deleted ‘Thank you, Nicola’ video

    Cute kid A: The children of Scotland…
    Cute kid B: …would like to say thank you…
    Cute kid C: …to Nicola, our First Minister of Scotland.
    Cute kid D: We are so grateful, thank you for always…
    Cute kid E: …keeping us safe,
    Cute kid F: working so hard,
    Cute kid G: for being strong for us.
    Cute kid H: Thank you for caring for every individual life…
    Cute kid I: …and for always thinking about the children of Scotland.
    Cute kid J: Thank you Nicola.
    Cute kid K: Thank you.
    Cute kid L: Thank you.
    Cute kids M & N: Thank you.
    Supremely cute toddler: Dank yoo.

    STV launches inquiry into ‘North Korea’ children’s video

    STV has launched an internal investigation after the broadcaster released a video of children praising Nicola Sturgeon for “keeping them safe” during the coronavirus pandemic.

    A series of clips from the video were posted on Twitter yesterday before being taken down following a number of complaints.

    Some compared it to the sort of brainwashing media typical of totalitarian countries such as North Korea.

    (Want to see what these complaints are getting at? Here are a couple of examples: “North Korean children sing ode to Kim Jong Un”, and “Tearful schoolchildren salute Kim Jong-un in North Korea”.)

    Apparently reading from a script, they say: “The children of Scotland would like to say thank you to Nicola, our First Minister of Scotland. We are so grateful, thank you for always keeping us safe, working so hard, for being strong for us. Thank you for caring for every individual life and for always caring about the children of Scotland. Thank you Nicola.”

    Who in STV decided this was a good idea? Who made this video? Who wrote the script, who hired the children, who filmed it?

    Who was paid to show it and who paid to have it shown?

    Edit: Mr Ed comments,

    “Someone please do a mash-up of all the women saying ‘Thank you‘ to Nicola’s predecessor, provided that reporting restrictions are not breached.”