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]

Power in the U.S. – that doesn’t make the U.S. powerful

“If you want to know what power looks like, watch a man safely, even smugly, do interviews for decades, without ever worrying whether he will be asked the questions he doesn’t want to answer.” (Monica Lewinsky, talking about Bill Clinton, in 2018)

If you want to know what power looks like, watch Democrat after Democrat safely, even smugly, say that Republicans intend to “put y’all back in chains”, to “go back to the days of enslavement and to the days of Jim Crow”, without ever worrying whether they will be asked which party backed slavery and Jim Crow back in the day. (Biden in 2012, Pelosi and others in 2022, lots in the decade between.)

Leftist pushback against wokeness

There is an article in today’s Guardian by Nesrine Malik called “Scared to be ‘woke’? It’s time for progressives to take a stand in the culture wars”. The title is a fair summary of her argument.

As so often, the comments were more interesting than the article. The five most popular top-level comments were:

Wiretrip
14 hours ago
647

What is the point in winding everyone up about an empire that is long gone? Meanwhile China continues to exploit Africa and slavery is alive and well in Dubai.

Quaestor
14 hours ago
578

No one need be scared to be woke. The people who are threatened are those who are not woke, and who are abused and have their livelihoods attacked by the intolerant. Even when the woke have a point, the way they attack their opponents hardens opinion against them. I will support very nearly anyone attacked by the woke, and especially people like J K Rowling, Katharine Birbalsingh, Kathleen Stock and Howard Winstone. The only sensible response to cancellation tactics is to block the woke and let them scream and shout among themselves.

Lump
13 hours ago
478

The trouble with the woke is that they act as self appointed thought police in a land where policing is supposed to be by consent. Then they accuse any dissenters of having started a “culture war” and seek to have them ostracised, deplatformed, cancelled, fired, made to issue a grovelling apology. Is it any wonder they are disliked?

ServiusGalba
14 hours ago
428

I think this fails to understand just how toxic “woke” is. “Owing” and doubling down on narratives like “white privilege” and “critical race theory” and in particular using them in schools is likely to get you annihilated in the polls and rightly so. As has recently been seen in the gubernatorial elections in Virginia following the Loudoun county school incidents. The only way to deal with woke is to abandon it altogether and become true liberals again.

Giovanni1234
14 hours ago
373

Among the various diversity, the most important should be the diversity of opinion.

The days are long gone when the Guardian comment section was called “Comment is Free” and, true to its name, allowed readers to comment on practically every article. These days comments are rarely allowed except on those articles where most of the Guardian readership is likely to agree with the Guardian‘s own line. This article was an exception. Of course, the newspaper has every right to pursue whatever policy on comments it wishes, but the habit of not permitting people to talk back has costs. One loses the chance to feel the wind change. I think Nesrine Malik will have been surprised by the hostile reaction to her article, and many of the commenters will be surprised to find out how many of their fellow left wingers share their doubts.

Jesus College, Cambridge, pays reparations for abolishing slavery

the college staged a fulsome ceremony, in which the statuette was handed to a descendent of the Obas of Benin, the slavers from whom it was confiscated. The British who freed the Oba’s slaves were described by the Master as having committed “a wrong that is so egregious”

The article I’m quoting from also notes Jesus College’s

embarrassing record of lucrative sycophancy towards the Chinese regime

in which

discussion of human rights has been regarded as “unhelpful”

All this “comes from the University and College administrations”, who clearly grasp that the British Empire’s duty to pay reparations for abolishing slavery follows inevitably – unavoidably – from the entire woke project, which cannot make sense without it.

However it seems Cambridge administrators are not yet finding this logic quite as easy as they expected to communicate to their own students. On 11 November (Armistice Day), at the Cambridge Union, the debate motion “This House is ashamed to be British” lost

“by a considerable majority, in a packed chamber.”

You might almost suspect an element of astroturfed collusion in the narrative of woke students forcing university administrators to do these things.

Samizdata quote of the day

People tend to believe things that further their personal interests, and universities are no exception. Wokification succeeded largely because it gave a lot of different people a lot of different things that they wanted. It gave the increasingly powerful university administration a reason to hire more administrators to manage diversity and ensure its forward march. Self-propagation is the highest goal of administrators everywhere. Wokeness also became a useful tool in ongoing turf wars between administrators and faculty. Diversity is a simple metric via which the administration can interfere with faculty hiring and academic operations; new diversity hires know who is buttering their bread and remain loyal to the administrators whose policies brought them in. For the increasingly mediocre and incapable faculty who now teach at even the most august American schools, the woke circus has its own attractions. It provides distraction from the unrelenting demands of objectivity and originality, and permits a pleasing, self-righteous indulgence in moral scolding. In Woke Studies, the answers are always predetermined and it is very easy to get anything published, provided you say the right things. For students, Wokeness has still other attractions—as a font of easy coursework, as an opportunity for social networking, and as a locus for the periodic ritual entertainment of false moral outrages and protests.

– The indispensable Eugyppius

ξ Who Must Not Be Named

As explained by the Wikipedia article on the official nomenclature for variants of SARS-CoV-2, the use of letters of the Greek alphabet to refer to the different variants of Covid-19 was chosen by the World Health Organization specifically to avoid referring to variants by their country of origin, as practised by certain naughty former US presidents. We have had the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu and Nu variants.

I guess the WHO didn’t anticipate the list would go past thirteen.

“Omicron variant reaches Britain”, reports today’s Sunday Times.

Only the fourteenth letter of the Greek alphabet is not Omicron. It’s Xi.

Edit: In the comments TomJ says that actually two letters have been skipped. The variant all the papers were calling “Nu” the day before yesterday was hastily renamed “Omicron”. Allegedly they jumped over “Nu” because it sounds like “new” and they jumped over have “Xi” because it is a common surname, a story to which I might give an iota of credence if it came from someone other than the World Health Organisation. The excellent investigation by the Sunday Times Insight Team, China, the WHO and the power grab that fuelled a pandemic, is unfortunately behind a paywall, but here is an excerpt:

Our investigation reveals today how a concerted campaign over many years by Beijing to grab power inside the WHO appears to have fatally compromised its ability to respond to the crisis. It raises serious concerns about the extent of Beijing’s influence over the WHO and its director-general, and how this undermined the organisation’s capacity — and willingness — to take the steps necessary to avert a global pandemic. Its leadership put China’s economic interests before public health concerns. The results have been nothing short of catastrophic.

The Xi variant, indeed. Pity there isn’t a Greek letter called Pu.

Beware the prepared PC put-down

“But despite that [her years of experience]”, the lady said, “I still had to get re-certified. It started with an equality and diversity test, and I got the first question wrong.”

“Everyone does”, said the other lady. “They ask you what equality means and the first answer in the list is ‘Equal treatment’ but the right answer is ‘Equal outcomes’. If you question it, they tell you that if you give two women the same leaflet in English but one of them speaks English and the other speaks Farsi then that’s equal treatment but not equal outcomes.”

Many retired doctors or nurses offered to help during the pandemic, only to discover there were bureaucratic hoops to jump through before they would be allowed to do so. Arguably, this was a pity from the point of view of health in the UK, but as a man once said, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste – whereas time in a crisis apparently isn’t.

The lesson I took from this conversation is that the politically correct are trained to see you coming, so have their put-downs ready. Diversity training for us commoners may include being on the receiving end of those put-downs. Diversity training for the trainers includes being ready with them.

“I prefer questions that cannot be answered to answers that cannot be questioned.” (Richard Feynman)

On the road from the culture of free speech to that of

“Shut Up”, he explained

there is a country of answers we’re being trained not to question through the use of put-downs they’re trained to use if we dare to.

Commenters are invited to report any such put-downs they’ve met, any pithy rejoinders to such would-be-conversation-ending put-downs that they know of, and of course their thoughts.

Came for tea, stayed for the rape: a beloved children’s classic re-analysed

They’ve come for the tiger.

“Children’s book ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ could lead to rape and harassment’ because it reinforces gender inequality that causes violence against women, campaigner claims”, reports the Mail.

It may have delighted generations of children, but The Tiger Who Came To Tea reinforces gender inequality which causes violence against women and girls, a campaigner said yesterday.

Rachel Adamson, of Zero Tolerance, a charity working to end men’s violence against women, said Judith Kerr’s 1968 classic was ‘problematic’ because of its ‘old fashioned’ portrayal of women and family dynamics.

The book sees an uninvited tiger join a young girl and her mother for tea before eating all the food in the house, drinking everything, running the taps dry and leaving.

The girl’s father then comes home and takes her and her mother to a cafe.

Miss Adamson did not call for the book to be banned but said it could be used to ‘raise a conversation’ in nurseries.

She told BBC Radio Scotland: ‘We know that gender stereotypes are harmful and they reinforce gender inequality, and that gender inequality is the cause of violence against women and girls, such as domestic abuse, rape and sexual harassment.’

Adamson questioned the tiger’s gender and why he was not female or gender neutral.

Um… would this campaigner against violence inflicted on women and girls, whose organisation specifically defends its focus on men’s violence against women really want to see a children’s book in which the enormous, physically dominant predator who blags its way into a space which a woman and a girl had thought their own and abuses their hospitality was female or transgender?

Sigh. As the Mail article points out, Judith Kerr knew a thing or two about prejudice leading to violence. Her father was a well known German Jewish writer who had to flee with his family when the Nazis came to power and put a price on his head. They only just escaped. She wrote a lightly fictionalised account of her family’s story in When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Nonetheless, she always resisted attempts to claim that the tiger was a metaphor for Nazism. It was just a big hungry but affable tiger who ate all the buns and drank all the water in the tap.

→ Continue reading: Came for tea, stayed for the rape: a beloved children’s classic re-analysed

I could not have said it better myself

(Nor, indeed, have I ever yet said it as well.)

as a law professor I try to see all sides of public and legal issues, and in my teaching and writing to present the best case for each contesting view in any dispute. Critical race theory, as actually practised in many classrooms in California and across the country, seems to me to defy any hope of defending or justifying it. Its mix of half-truths and sheer falsehoods, its stereotyping and scapegoating of entire races of people, its relentlessly divisive setting of one group against another, its visceral hostility to reasoned debate, freedom of thought, and freedom of expression, and its well-documented tendency to proceed by stealth, all evoke the practices of authoritarian and even totalitarian regimes.

Those who read instapundit will already have encountered Maimon Schwarzschild’s evidence to the Orange County Board of Education, but I’m happy to give further visibility to “what oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed”. We’ve often said what we think about CRT here, but I don’t recall a paragraph that covers all the bases, touching each concisely and clearly, as well as the above. (If you do, by all means link to it in the comments – it might be good to gather several effective summaries in one place.)

The name Schwarzschild (like the name Maimon) is not that common. I wonder if Maimon is related to Karl Schwarzschild, the first man to solve Einstein’s equations. Karl computed the solution for a simple (non-rotating, uncharged) spherical mass (today, it’s famous as the basic black hole solution – ‘the Schwarzschild solution’ – but Chandrasekhar computed ‘the Chandrasekhar limit’ in the same year, to pass the time on a ship travelling from India to Britain, so Karl did not yet know a black hole was even theoretically possible). Karl did this work while serving in the Germany army, less than a year before his death during WWI. As to why Karl’s (surviving) descendants and collaterals are now to be found in the United States, not Germany, well Maimon also testified that:

My own family had personal experience of some of the totalitarian regimes in 20th century Europe, and some of the tropes and techniques of ethnic studies and critical race theory, as now practised in many US classrooms, have chilling parallels in the techniques of ideological indoctrination in the schoolrooms of those regimes.

The sacrifice of Jewish fathers like Karl for the fatherland in WWI proved a weak reed indeed for their children in WWII.

Having ancestors who fought against slavery won’t protect anyone from charges of ‘toxic whiteness’ either, any more than family experience of past racial hatred will protect Maimon from woke hatred today.

Less economy of truth, please: ‘Maths is Racist’ – no, not even this

Teacher training in Louisville, Kentucky is succumbing to the woke bandwagon of “maths is racist”. I’ve already said what I wanted to say about “maths is racist” – but I noticed a remark of a rightly-disgusted observer of this latest example. Trying to imagine how any maths lesson could be racist (since “no matter your color, religion, sex, or anything else, 2+2 will always equal 4”), she said she “would call math racist” only if the questions were like:

“Two Blacks and two Jews are walking through the street. They meet a gang of three Hitler Youth and three KKK members. If the Blacks and Jews are armed with six sticks weighing three ounces each, and the Hitler Youth and KKK are armed with six bats weighing eight ounces each, how long will it take the Hitler Youth and the KKK members to drive the Blacks and Jews out of town?”

I read that – and instantly remembered an incident from Christabel Bielenberg’s autobiography ‘The Past is Myself’. Some months into Hitler’s first year in power, she and husband Peter were dining out. At another table, three Jews were quietly finishing their meal. Six SA men strolled into the establishment. One of them spotted the Jews and loudly alerted his fellows.

“Beside me, Peter stood up. Shades of my Irish father! I know when there’s going to be a fight. I stood up too, but I was thinking: six burly-looking SA men, three not very athletic-looking Jews, Peter and me – and my state of mind would not have won the Victoria cross.”

Despite what Christabel had learnt from her father, there was not a fight. The sudden upstanding protest of a very nordic-looking couple gave the stormtroopers pause, the Jews were eager to leave and swiftly did so, and it all calmed down. As she sat down again, Christabel took in the body language of all the other German diners. Their poses said, as loudly as an open declaration, that, though many of them might not have positively welcomed their dining experience being enhanced with a floor-show of SA Jew-baiting – might indeed have disliked the prospect, her computation of

6 stormtroopers > 3 unathletic Jews + Peter + her

would not have been altered by the addition of any of them to that equation’s right-hand side.

It was then that I realised that something really nasty had come to town.

When the racism that calls itself anti-racism comes to your town, and you have to decide whether to stand up for Secoriea or kneel to her murderers, then you too (unless your state of mind is one that will win the Victoria cross – and maybe even if it is) will make these mental calculations – and they will be no more racist than any other kind of maths. Both racism and resisting it lie in actions, not calculations.

—-

(The above quotes from ‘The Past is Myself’ are from memory, as I do not have the book in front of me while writing this. It is well worth reading.)

Readers’ poll: what on earth did Boris mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inclusion and diversity is so 2020

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

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