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]

So who signed off the Tots ‘n’ Bondage Bears ad, Balenciaga?

Remember what a fun day it was when the Rainbow Dildo Butt Monkey came to Redbridge children’s library?

I posted about it here, and asked, “How did this happen? Why did no one question it?” The answer was the title of that post: it was a bad career move to be the first one to object. Objecting would have marked you out as a prude, a bigot, a hater.

The Daily Mail‘s headline writer probably thought his next chance to write a headline like “Parents’ disgust as actor in rainbow coloured monkey costume with fake penis and nipples appears at library event encouraging children to read” would not soon come again.

He need not have worried. Today’s Mail gave him another opportunity to practise his art: “Balenciaga apologizes for bondage-themed campaign featuring a child and excerpt from SCOTUS ruling on child pornography – fashion house vows to sue photographer behind it”

  • Fashion brand Balenciaga is apologizing for a photoshoot with a child holding a teddy bear dressed in a BDSM outfit that outraged many
  • Perhaps even more bizarrely one of the photos hides an excerpt from the US Supreme Court opinion in United States v. Williams, which upheld part of a federal child pornography law
  • Balenciaga appear to be laying the blame at the photographer, Gabriele Galimberti
  • They released a statement apologizing for the shoot and seemingly suggesting they would take legal action against Galimberti and anyone else involved
  • ‘We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,’ they wrote
  • They continued: ‘We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set’
  • One thing that comes with the territory of being a libertarian is a lifetime of explaining that one can very much not wish to say “Ban this sick filth”, while still thinking the thing concerned is sick filth. Whether for racism or “edgy” adverts that promote sexualised images of children, I think the moral obligation on libertarians to condemn morally bad speech is greater, not lesser, because we do not seek to silence the speaker.

    From what I have seen of the adverts they managed to stay this side of the line of actually violating the child actors themselves, but “the makers of this advertisement would probably escape jail time” is not much of a recommendation. Balenciaga as a company ought to be ashamed. And enough with the weasel words about it all being the fault of the photographer. Someone at the company signed this off. Why didn’t he or she take one look at the juxtaposition of a sad-eyed child and BDSM imagery and have Gabriele Galimberti escorted off the premises by security? The answer is the same as for the Redbridge Rainbow Dildo Butt Monkey. It was a bad career move to be the first to object.

    A real-world ethics question that is not especially hard

    In New York Times, John Leland asks,

    Real-world ethics question: In a well-used city park, a man with a history of erratic behavior attacks a dog and its owner with a stick; five days later, the dog dies. The man is Black, the dog owner white; the adjoining neighborhood is famously progressive, often critical of the police and jail system. At the same time, crime is up in the neighborhood, with attacks by emotionally disturbed people around the city putting some residents on edge.

    In a dog-loving, progressive enclave, where pushing law and order can clash with calls for social justice, what’s the right thing to do? How do you protect the public without furthering injustice against this man?

    The question is not theoretical. On August 3rd, Jessica Chrustic and her dog Moose were attacked in Prospect Park, Brooklyn by a homeless man.

    According to Ms. Chrustic, he started yelling about immigrants taking over the park,

    Had he not been black, that detail would have answered Mr Leland’s question in short order.

    then grabbed a bottle of what she later concluded was urine and sloshed it at her and her dog. She tried to run away, but Moose, her 80-pound golden retriever mix, was straining toward the man, trying to protect her.

    The man started swinging the stick, she said. One blow hit her, not seriously. Another connected solidly with the dog’s snout. Mary Rowland, 56, a hospital manager who was walking her dog nearby, said she heard the crack of wood on bone and came running toward them, screaming at the man to get away.

    The man fled, but the next weekend, Moose developed sepsis from a perforated intestine. Emergency surgery was not enough to save him.

    What was done about this unprovoked attack on a woman and her dog? Nothing.

    She was especially frustrated that the man, who was well known to people in the park, had not been arrested. “You have a person who is walking around the park who is violent and needs to be removed,” she said. “He’s known by the community. It’s disheartening.”

    It was a random incident that might once have been discussed by a group of dog owners. But now it had a forum for a much wider community, with arguments about policing, vigilantism, homelessness, mental health care and progressive obstinacy all feeding into a conversation that evolved beyond the crime that set it off.

    “It’s complicated,” said S. Matthew Liao, a professor of bioethics, philosophy and public health at New York University. “It’s a conflict of values, between wanting security and social justice. Everybody has a responsibility in some ways.

    All together now… WE ARE ALL GUILTY! Dr Heinz Kiosk has been reborn, but not as funny this time.

    I disagree with Professor Liao. It is not complicated at all.

    Regarding Mr Leland’s question, “In a dog-loving, progressive enclave, where pushing law and order can clash with calls for social justice, what’s the right thing to do?”, Suzy Weiss of the New York Post described what some of the residents of this dog-loving, progressive enclave did do: “Bizarre meeting of Park Slopers over how to handle murdered pooch”.

    Lizardmen need tampons too

    Pollsters talk about “the lizardman constant”. It was given that name in this “Slate Star Codex” post by Scott Alexander:

    So first we get the people who think “Wait, was 1 the one for if I did believe in lizardmen, or if I didn’t? I’ll just press 1 and move on to the next question.”

    Then we get the people who are like “I never heard it before, but if this nice pollster thinks it’s true, I might as well go along with them.”

    Then we get the people who are all “F#&k you, polling company, I don’t want people calling me when I’m at dinner. You screw with me, I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to tell you I believe lizard people are running the planet.”

    Alexander put the lizardman constant at about 4%. Keep that figure in your mind.

    A month ago, the polling company YouGov did a survey on “period poverty” (Tabs here.) The survey found that:

    Period poverty looks likely to increase as the cost of living crisis bites

    6% who currently have periods have been unable to afford period products in the last 12 months

    13% are likely to be unable to afford period products in the next 12 months

    The final line really ought to refer to “13% think they are likely”. The percentage of British wom… of British people who currently have periods who claim they have actually experienced being unable to afford period products is 6%. That’s the Lizardmen plus two percent.

    Why so small? Because, though it is a real problem in the Third World, in developed countries period poverty no longer exists except in the minds of earnest sixth formers, publicity-hungry politicians and progressives seeking a government sinecure. The problem was solved years ago. As I said in a post from 2017 called “The Bleeding Obvious”, capitalism solved it. At Boots, tampons cost 4p each. Aldi’s tampons cost 4p each. Tesco’s tampons have been hard hit by inflation; at the time of the previous post they used to cost 4p each but now it’s 5p. As you can see if you click the links, tampons are usually sold in boxes of 20 to 24. I no longer have periods, but when I did, I used a little under one box per period. I usually picked up tampons in Tescos at £1 a packet. At nights I sometimes used sanitary towels instead or as well. 70p for ten. Some women might require more; so double that, no, triple it – you are still only looking at just over £5 per month.

    So, market competition has developed period products that are far more hygienic, comfortable and discreet than the bloody rags of yesteryear, has evolved a distribution network to put them in every village shop, and has carried the price down almost to nothing. But not quite all the way, the evil bastards: four pence per tampon is not zero. That last 4p is an opportunity for some. Like a mediocre footballer who pushes forward to nudge the ball last and hence get the glory for a goal that others set up, the State can still swoop in at the last moment and get applauded for making them FREE.

    In theory, there ought to be no need for this. In the UK, Universal Credit or other welfare payments ought to be enough, but sometimes the welfare system fails, and even if a woman’s problems are partly self-caused by drink or drugs or poor budgeting, I think most people would say, for pity’s sake, just help her anyway.

    How is that best done?

    The Scottish government’s form of help was this: (1) Pass a law called the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act. The procedure for passing a bill in the Scottish Parliament is described here. I have no idea what it all costs, but no doubt it was less than most bills because no MSP was brave enough to oppose it. (2) Appoint a Period Dignity Regional Lead Officer (salary of £33,153 – £36,126 per annum) for each Scottish region, and a bunch of lesser Period Dignity Regional Officers to serve under the Lead ones. The salary and other employment costs of these new local government posts would depend on how many of these regions there are. I hope a region is more than just one Local Authority, because Scotland has 32 of those. (3) Just for fun, appoint a bloke as your first ever Period Dignity Regional Lead Officer, then scrap the role because of the controversy, and wait ’til he sues for sex discrimination. The costs of that argy-bargy remain to be seen, but the services of barristers, sorry, advocates since it’s Scotland, do not come cheap. (4) After the Members of the Scottish Parliament, assorted Parliamentary researchers and support staff, recruitment consultants, HR managers, Period Dignity Regional Lead Officers, Period Dignity Officers and the lawyers have all had their cut, use whatever is left over to buy some tampons to give away. Good thing tampons are cheap.

    Rotherham 1400, Telford 1000

    Twenty-two years after 16-year-old Lucy Lowe, her mother and her sister were burned to death in a house fire started by Azhar Ali Mehmood (the 26-year-old who impregnated her when she was 14), the inquiry into grooming gangs in Telford has released a report on the phenomenon of which that was an example.

    the authorities dismissed the 1,000 figure as ‘sensationalised’ and suggested the newspaper had ‘made it up on the back of a fag packet’. This week, inquiry chair Tom Crowther QC described the Sunday Mirror’s estimate as a ‘measured, reasonable and non-sensational assessment’. (h/t spiked)

    It’s another example of how one of the things Blair made it unsafe to say back then was not only true in Telford (and true enough to compete with Rotherham – and with Rochdale, Aylesbury, Oxford, Derby, Halifax, Keighley, Peterborough, Huddersfield, Manchester and Newcastle) but became much more common, much more true, because the resulting politically-correct suppression of anything resembling basic policing “emboldens offenders”.

    ‘Islamophobia’ is not the only ‘phobia’ restricting free speech. But it has a certain claim to priority in this century’s war on free speech in Britain, so if we want to know what’s coming up for the others, we’d better pay attention to what the effects of hating free speech were as ‘Islamophobia’ permeated culture and law.

    Samizdata word for today: paraprofessional

    their paramilitary character must be understood in connection with other professional party organisations, such as those for teachers, lawyers, physicians, students, university professors, technicians and workers. All these were primarily duplicates of existing non-totalitarian professional societies, paraprofessional as the stormtroopers were paramilitary. … None of these institutions had more professional value than the imitation of the army represented by the stormtroopers, but together they created a perfect world of appearances in which every reality in the non-totalitarian world was slavishly duplicated in the form of humbug. (Hannah Arendt, ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’)

    After seizing power, the Nazi party ‘coordinated’ all the existing professional organisations they had already duplicated. Sometimes the party organisation was the direct instrument of ‘coordination’ but at other times it could be just the threat – the ‘coordinated’ organisation could survive and even thrive if it outdid its party rival in zeal for “working towards the fuhrer”. For people and for the organisations they led, out-radicalising your rival was key to survival.

    David Burge described today’s ‘coordination’ technique in fewer words: Identify a respected institution. Kill it. Gut it. Wear its carcass as a skin suit, while demanding respect.

    Each organisation they gain helps the paraprofessionals conquer the next. In the US, coordinating education helped them coordinate the media step by step. The death of standards in those two then assisted coordinating some electoral processes, which in turn is now enabling more vigorous work on coordinating the military – and much else.

    Meanwhile, the trains themselves may not run on time but those who run them are well-coordinated. If your bank is not doing much for your wealth, then it’s probably doing wonders for your pronouns. Medical organisations march in coordinated lockstep, from the psychologists to the pharmacists; even your pet had better get used to the care of a coordinated vet. And I could write so much more.

    Paraprofessional: I think it is a word we need again today. And, like Hannah Arendt, I think its relationship to ‘paramilitary’ needs to be understood.

    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