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]

N star star star star, not N star star star star star

Either the Independent‘s “Race Correspondent” (who, to add to the comedy, is called Nadine White) has written a report almost designed to be misunderstood, or she is a satirist of genius. I present to you this story:

“Now the royal family is dragged into the n-word race row”

Juicy! Which one of ’em was it? Will Meghan’s Spotify podcast be coming back so she can discuss it? Sorry to disappoint, but the connection to the current royal family is strong as a cobweb: it seems a catalogue of gems and jewels owned by the Royal Collection “contained more than 40 mentions of offensive racial terms”. The aberrant public catalogue concerning a sub-collection of jewels, cameos, and other small items was actually published fifteen years ago in 2008 but remained on the Royal Collection’s website until the intrepid offence archaeologists of the Independent found it last Thursday. Since the cataloguing and study of the whole collection by historians is an ongoing process, those particular entries could have been written decades earlier. Here is the current webpage. Fear not, it has been purged.

And about that “offensive racial term” in the 2008 version… it wasn’t the n-word the Independent wants you to think it was.

In the latest instance, the offensive terms are mostly used to describe people of African ancestry who appear on the jewels. The words are also included in a number of names of items in the collection.

One brooch is described in the following terms: “Head of a n**** in three-quarter profile to the right, with drop-pearl earring. This type of a n****’s head is found on several sixteenth-century cameos.”

Another item depicting a white person is accompanied by this description and slur: “Athough it uses the dark layers of the stone for the profile, the features are not n*****d’.

Count the asterisks. Four, not five. Ergo it was egro, or in the final example, egroid.

UPDATE 16:20 BST: Someone at the Independent read the readers’ comments. The newspaper has now changed n**** to n***o throughout the article.

The meaning of the Coronation…

(…and at risk of annoying Natalie.)

I don’t know what it was like for other readers but I found yesterday’s coronation a bit of a chore – way too long, way too much God, way too much fancy dress. And I’m someone who likes fancy dress. Nevertheless I felt that I should at least make some attempt to understand it. So, here goes.

At some point human beings gained the ability to reason. And when they did they observed that life was pretty precarious. You could do your best, you could build something and yet all that could be wiped out by floods, storms, earthquakes, disease or pests. How to explain it? The star-gazers may have done some pretty clever things like work out when the next eclipse was likely to take place but they still haven’t cracked more down-to-earth problems (literally). No, you were going to have to go with God. He was a bit like you but a lot more powerful. And capricious. But if you did as he said – or what you thought he said – or what those blokes in fancy robes said he said – then maybe, just maybe, he’d spare you from disaster. Oh, and the eternity of hell.

And if God could explain natural disasters maybe he could explain man-made disasters like war. Maybe he was responsible for choosing your chief warrior – or “king”. If so, then you’d better obey the “king” as well because he was God’s chosen one. If you happened to be king this was really good. You were no longer some thug who was just a bit better at killing than your rival thugs. You had divine authority. It didn’t mean you couldn’t get offed – as Edward II and Richard II found out – but people would think twice about it. On the downside you had to believe this stuff – or at least give the impression that you believed this stuff. It was also pretty good if you were an official of the king’s favoured religion. You got to swan around in fancy robes, you literally didn’t have to get your hands dirty and the general population was forced to pay for you.

And this brings us to yesterday’s coronation. What we saw was that ancient bargain being renewed. Unfortunately for the participants over the centuries the stargazers upped their game. They explained the motion of the planets and then of apples. They explained smallpox and diphtheria. And cured them. They led us into a world where peace was the norm not war. They led us into a world which didn’t need God to explain it. And because they did yesterday’s ceremony looked ridiculous. It will look even more so when the stargazers get around to issuing an accurate weather forecast.

But when we do find ourselves cavilling at the absurdity we should pause to remember that our ancestors were not fools and that for them it was very much a matter of life and death.

Not a bad basis for a system of government, akchully

For those not following, the woman you saw bearing the sword in today’s proceedings is Penny Mordaunt MP, twice-failed candidate to be leader of the Conservative Party, whose previous peak as a search term on Google Images was when she did a belly flop in a TV diving contest. In 2019 she held the post of Secretary of State for Defence for 85 days. When Boris Johnson became prime minister and promptly fired her, she probably thought her days of exerting the traditional politician’s privilege of being photographed in close proximity to weaponry were over. But having landed the somewhat-ancient office of Lord President of the Council (“Unlike some of the other Great Officers of State, the office of Lord President is not very old”, sneers Wikipedia because it only dates from 1529), she got to carry the king’s sword and at least look capable of chopping off the heads of any enemies of the realm who might try to reach him via her.

Dennis the Peasant had a point. It’s all a bit daft. But I think history shows that when the illogical mess of tradition is stripped away from a people, what they find to replace it is rarely pure reason.

Free speech is indivisible

Let no one say that the police response to anti-monarchist protests is without precedent:

Nizhny Novgorod, 12 March 2022: Russian police arrest demonstrator for protesting with a BLANK SIGN

London, 13 September 2022: Man threatened with arrest if he wrote ‘not my King’ on blank sheet of paper

It is true that I am tempted to sarcasm when I see all the outrage about this from people who were silent about such things as the police telling someone to take down a tweet because it contained the term “illegal alien” a few days ago, or about five coppers being sent to arrest a man for posting an image of four “LGBTQ+ Progress Pride” flags arranged so the triangular bits formed a swastika.

Still, new recruits to the great cause of free speech are always welcome. Better late than never!

Daniel Hannan had a good response:

So we’re all agreed then? Hate speech laws are wrong? Provided you stop short of incitement to violence, you can insult King Charles, Jesus Christ, the Prophet Muhammad or George Floyd? Because that’s the thing about free speech: it’s an indivisible principle.

May he defend our laws

Have you sung it yet? Here’s the second least worst known verse:

Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her him be pleased to pour,
Long may she he reign!
May she he defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen! King!

After Charles was proclaimed king at St James’s Palace, the same ceremony has been repeated up and down the country. They also told the royal bees.

However the Scotsman reports that a spot of bother broke out while the new king was being proclaimed in Edinburgh:

Moments before the ceremony on Sunday afternoon (September 11), a demonstrator appeared in the crowd opposite the Mercat Cross. She held a sign saying “f*** imperialism, abolish monarchy”.

Officers appeared behind her and took her away, prompting the crowd to applaud.

One man shouted: “Let her go, it’s free speech,” while others yelled: “Have some respect.”

A police spokesman said a 22-year-old woman was arrested “in connection with a breach of the peace”.

I would like to think there are still some people left who would say both “Let her go, it’s free speech” and “Have some respect.”

To be sure, such suppression of “Progressive” speech, routine a few decades ago, is now rare. These days the boot is more often on the Progressive foot. Courtesy of the Bad Law Project:

Listen to the @swpolice [South Wales Police] tell a citizen journalist to take down a post because he uses the term ‘illegal alien’. Being offensive is not an offence. Yet again, the police are grossly misrepresenting the law in order to intimidate the public.

As I have often said, once the principle of free speech is gone, what speech is censored is merely a matter of who happens to be momentarily on top at that time and place. Notice how far removed both the recent examples are from the true rule of law. In Scotland the woman was arrested under the vague catch-all charge of “breach of the peace”. In Wales the threats against the man by an officer of the law had no legal basis at all. (England is just as bad. Trust me.)

Many people have said that King Charles III will find it hard to win anything close to the level of public affection given to his late mother. But there is no denying that freedom of speech declined markedly in the final years of her reign. If the new king wants to do something useful, he could do worse than make real the role of the monarch as defender of our laws, like the song says. What better start than to direct one of his famous “black spider memos” to one of our actual rulers saying that the right to free speech of all his subjects is to be respected, including – oh, most certainly including – those who do not wish to be his subjects at all.

A good death

Our ancestors, wiser than we, were not shocked by the idea of praying for a good death for oneself or others. Queen Elizabeth II’s health is clearly failing. I pray that she will have a good death, whenever it comes.

Nobody, least of all a libertarian, would invent the idea of monarchy if designing the world from scratch. But we do not design the world, we inherit it. Constitutional monarchy is like one of those very old houses which started to fall down centuries ago but somehow settled into an unexpectedly beautiful state of wonky stability. Elizabeth has been a very good constitutional monarch.

Update: She has died. May she rest in peace.

The King can do no wrong

George Archer-Shee died at nineteen, in what might almost be called a natural death for a young British man of his class at that time – he was killed in the First Battle of Ypres. His name is inscribed on the Menin Gate but he has no known grave.

He shared the manner of his death with thousands of others, but, quite against his own wishes, his short life before that had taken an unusual turn. At the time of his death he had been famous for six years.

It all started in 1908 when George Archer-Shee was thirteen and a cadet at the Royal Naval College, Osborne. He was accused of having stolen a five shilling postal order intended for another cadet. An elderly post office clerk said she remembered Archer-Shee as having cashed two postal orders that day, one of his own (which no one denied) and the stolen one. Archer-Shee protested his innocence to no avail; he was expelled without much ceremony.

That should have been that, a minor story of Edwardian disgrace, but his father refused to take it lying down. He engaged one of the most celebrated lawyers of the day – Sir Edward Carson, famous for many reasons, some of which are still controversial today, and determined to pursue the case to the highest court in the land. But there was a slight problem: if I have understood it right, at that time one could not sue the Crown.

Quoting a 1939 article in the Pennsylvania Law Review:

It was early recognized in England that while an action could not be brought against the King, yet as the “fountain of justice and equity” he would entertain petitions from his subjects for the redress of their wrongs; and it was established during the reign of Edward I that the subject might bring a petition of right, which, if approved by the King, would be heard in his courts. The King indicated his approval of the petition by writing on it, “Let right be done”. A petition of right, as distinguished from a petition of grace, asked “for something which the suppliant could claim as a right, if the claim were made against any one but the King”. Originally a petition of right was employed only to recover some interest in land, and there was doubt whether it would lie to recover chattels, but by the time of Henry VI it was settled that it would lie for the recovery of goods and chattels. It was not until 1874 that it was decided that the petition would lie for breach of contract. It would never lie for a tort, for the King can do no wrong.

At the time the petition of right was filed in the Archer-Shee case the law was clear that those in the service of the Crown, whether military or civil, could be dismissed at will and were without remedy by petition of right or otherwise.

Carson won in the end, as he usually did. Archer-Shee was exonerated. And the important precedent was set that the King can do wrong, and can be sued.

So far, so Whig history. The setting of that precedent is how I come to know about the case. I think I read a rather good account of it and why it mattered in Look and Learn magazine in the mid 1970s. Terence Rattigan wrote a play loosely based on the story called The Winslow Boy. It has been filmed at least twice.

But a more recent event also involving the Post Office – and the refusal of the Post Office to admit the possibility of error – and the refusal of the British State as a whole to admit the possibility of the Post Office being in error – and the blackening of the names of innocent people – made me think that we need to learn that lesson again.

Let the BBC tell the story:

Post Office scandal: What the Horizon saga is all about

A group of former sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses have seen their names cleared at the Court of Appeal after the UK’s most widespread miscarriage of justice.

It marks the latest stage of a computer scandal, and a long and complex legal battle, which could leave the Post Office with a huge compensation bill.

Between 2000 and 2014, the Post Office prosecuted 736 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses – an average of one a week – based on information from a recently installed computer system called Horizon.

Some went to prison following convictions for false accounting and theft, many were financially ruined and have described being shunned by their communities. Some have since died.

Edit: In the comments Rudolph Hucker pointed out that the doctrine driving the Post Office’s reckless prosecution of so many of its own employees bore an even closer parallel to the doctrine, supposedly overturned by the Archer-Shee case, that “the King can do no wrong” than I thought. He linked to a piece from the radio station LBC called ‘The Post Office were mendacious in the way they denied justice’ The title is a quote from Nick Wallis, a journalist who has been covering the Horizon scandal for many years.

Due to its long legacy, the Post Office has a “proximity to state power that is almost unparalleled.”

Mr Wallis continued: “It was able to use its own investigation and prosecution units to bypass the CPS and the police force to prosecute its own employees to the tune of one a week for 14 years. There were 736 successful convictions just using Horizon IT evidence.”

He told Shelagh that when the Post Office found out its prosecutions may be unsafe, “they covered it up.”

“They went out of their way to say to campaigning MPs and the Justice for the Postmasters’ Alliance that nothing was going wrong with the IT system and there was nothing wrong with their prosecution.”

They then “threw tens of millions of pounds trying to deny the subpostmasters justice,” Mr Wallis said.

“They were mendacious in the way they went about denying justice and they colluded with the Government in order to do this, because the Government is 100% shareholder of the Post Office and it has skin in this game.

Samizdata quote of the day

How do you feel about the palace hearing you speak your truth today?

“Your truth”. That phrase slipped off Oprah’s tongue with such ease during her interview with Meghan and Harry. But on this apparently simple construction hangs a question that has divided us with an explosion of animosity: how many truths can there be?

With the new world once again pitted against the old, I find myself reminded of the words of another Royal confidante, those of Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. “To thine own self be true,” he advised his son. This sentiment seems to encapsulate so much of what is philosophically at stake in this interview, with the Prince and the Princess expressing “their truth”, a truth that was as much a function of the need to be true to who they are, as it was a reference to objective reality.

Put aside for one moment the on-going debate about their claims concerning Royal racism, for it seems to me that there is a troubling tension between two meanings of truth going on here: being true to yourself, something we have come to call authenticity, and truth as an empirical statement of fact.

Giles Fraser

The BBC used to at least pretend to be impartial

The current BBC News headline is:

LIVE US vote goes to wire as Trump falsely claims fraud

The URL above is just the standard https://www.bbc.co.uk/news. The content to which it links will change. I have tried to insert a screenshot of the current headline below. I am very tired. My apologies if I have got it wrong:

How does the BBC know Trump’s claim is false? Has it carried out an investigation?

Not that I deny that the BBC has longstanding expertise when it comes to matters of fraud:

Princess Diana’s brother accuses BBC of ‘whitewash’ over faked bank statements that led to historic Panorama interview

Is anything happening?

Just curious.

The anti-Watergate

Did you ever watch All The President’s Men? It was a true story about two heroic journalists doggedly tracking down and bringing to light a scandal at the heart of American politics. “The list is longer than anyone can imagine. It involves the entire US intelligence community. FBI, CIA, Justice. It’s incredible.”

There won’t be a sequel any time soon.

Gerard Baker, the sole Times regular who is not rooting for Biden, writes,

Anti-Trump censorship threatens democracy

For all the media hysteria about the existential menace Donald Trump supposedly represents to American democracy and western liberalism, there’s a softer but more pervasive authoritarianism that poses a greater threat to the freedoms on which our way of life rests.

Suggestions that four years of Trumpian oppression have left America’s journalists and news organisations cowering in fearful submission to the iron fist of a repressive regime would be hilarious if they weren’t so widely believed.

There can’t have been a better funded, more vocal, less suppressed “Resistance” in all of human history. Flick through the TV channels any evening and watch “pundits” and “entertainers” loudly mouthing uniformly expressed complaints about the condition of the nation. Media companies that were dying a quiet, unmourned death from sheer tedium and obsolescence before Bad Orange Man came along have sprung back to life on a saline drip of Trump-hatred. Online, search and social companies play host to every conceivable form of critique, ridicule and denunciation of the president, his administration, his party and anyone associated with them.

And good luck to them all. If liberty means anything, to paraphrase the man, it means the right to tell me things I don’t want to hear. But that’s the problem. It’s not Trump-loathing that the people with the best access to the public square don’t want us to hear. It’s everything else.

The much larger threat to the sort of free and challenging debate about issues of public importance is socially enforced ideological conformity to the prevailing orthodoxy of our cultural leadership.

and

Typically, such a story from one of the nation’s most well-known newspapers would have birthed a frenzy of follow-up reporting to confirm, expand or clarify the original reporting. Not in today’s media.

Instead what we got was a fullbore effort by virtually every major media and company in America to discredit the reporting. Journalists dashed to social media and TV studios to defend the Bidens and condemn fellow reporters. Beating up on another news organisation is not unheard of. But this was more than that. The story was not just sloppy or biased, they claimed, it was the result of a campaign of Russian disinformation, planted by the Kremlin’s ubiquitous intelligence people.

“We are reducing its distribution on our platform”

The New York Post has a big story. Very big.

Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad

By Emma-Jo Morris and Gabrielle Fonrouge

Hunter Biden introduced his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, to a top executive at a Ukrainian energy firm less than a year before the elder Biden pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company, according to emails obtained by The Post.

The never-before-revealed meeting is mentioned in a message of appreciation that Vadym Pozharskyi, an adviser to the board of Burisma, allegedly sent Hunter Biden on April 17, 2015, about a year after Hunter joined the Burisma board at a reported salary of up to $50,000 a month.

“Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together. It’s realty [sic] an honor and pleasure,” the email reads

An earlier email from May 2014 also shows Pozharskyi, reportedly Burisma’s No. 3 exec, asking Hunter for “advice on how you could use your influence” on the company’s behalf.

The blockbuster correspondence — which flies in the face of Joe Biden’s claim that he’s “never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings” — is contained in a massive trove of data recovered from a laptop computer.

But the story of what is happening to that story is even bigger. The Daily Mail reports,

Outrage as Facebook AND Twitter throttle story about Joe Biden meeting son’s Ukraine partners until it’s been vetted by its third party so-called ‘fact-checkers’.

The Mail article describes how Sohrab Ahmari, an editor at the New York Post, tried to tweet about his paper’s story, and got this message:

Tweet not sent

Your Tweet couldn’t be sent because the link has been identified by Twitter or our partners as being potentially harmful. Visit our Help Center to learn more.

And Andy Stone, policy communications director at Facebook, has announced:

While I will intentionally not link to the New York Post, I want to be clear that this story is eligible to be fact checked by Facebook’s third-party fact checking partners. In the meantime, we are reducing its distribution on our platform.

Edit: Not knowing much about social media myself, I have two questions for readers. (1) What can people do to spread the New York Post‘s report about Joe Biden’s lies regarding Hunter Biden’s business dealings in the Ukraine? (2) What can people do to spread the even more important news that Facebook and Twitter are censoring this story?

Update: Via Instapundit, I learn that Sohrab Ahmari’s twitter account has been suspended. They are silencing the opinion editors of major newspapers.