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]

You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh…

Why black graduates of the USC Marshall School of Business may start finding it hard to get international jobs

Back in January 2016 Victor Mair, professor of Chinese at the University of Pennsylvania, started an interesting discussion in the blog “Language Log” about a common Chinese word that sounds like a racial insult in English. Professor Mair wrote,

As soon as I read “a phrase that sounds uncannily like the N-word” in the first paragraph, I knew exactly what my colleague’s friend was talking about. The Chinese grad student was saying “nèige 那个 (that)”.

Grammatically, “nèige 那个” begins as a demonstrative, but it is frequently attenuated to become a pause particle or filler word. It is often uttered many times in succession, thus “nèige nèige nèige…”, and people who have a tendency to stutter may get stuck on it for an embarrassingly long time. Even individuals who are not actually stutterers may have an excessive addiction to such words.

That guy Mair must have a time machine. Scroll forward four years to 2020. Inside Higher Education reports,

Professor suspended for saying a Chinese word that sounds like a racial slur in English.

In a controversial decision, the University of Southern California replaced a professor of business communication with another instructor in one of his classes for saying a Chinese word that sounds like an English slur.

Late last month, Greg Patton, the professor, was teaching a lesson on “filler words” in other languages — think “err,” “um” or “like” in English — in his master’s-level course on communication for management.

“Taking a break between ideas can help bring the audience in,” Patton said, according to a recording of one of the Zoom course sections and a transcription that appeared next to him on screen. “In China,” for instance, he continued, “the common pause word is ‘that that that.’ So in China it might be ne ga, ne ga, ne ga.”

Patton, who has worked in China but is not a scholar of Chinese, did not warn students that 那个, or ne ga, (alternatively spelled nà ge and nèige) sounds something like the N-word — which it does. And some or all of the Black students across three sections of the course were offended by what they’d heard. So they wrote a letter to the dean of the Marshall School of Business, Geoffrey Garrett, among others, describing Patton as insensitive and incapable of teaching the three-week intensive communications course.

Whereupon one would expect to read that the University of Southern California told them that anyone above the age of ten should know that words which are harmless in one language but rude in another are ubiquitous, and that an intensive course on business communications that left out mention of such words would be a con. That’s the English meaning of “con”, not the French one.

“Whereupon one would expect…”, wrote I, sounding dead posh. Who was I kidding, this is 2020. What actually happened was this:

… Garrett, dean of the business school, sent students an email saying that Patton was being replaced as instructor of the course, effective immediately.

“It is simply unacceptable for faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students,” Garrett wrote. Patton “repeated several times a Chinese word that sounds very similar to a vile racial slur in English. Understandably, this caused great pain and upset among students, and for that I am deeply sorry.”

If the students’ “psychological safety” is harmed by the knowledge that unfortunate cross-linguistic homophones exist, maybe “business communication” is not the best subject for them. Business often involves meeting foreigners, who at any moment might forget who they are talking to and speak their own language. Even in America one is not safe from people who speak other languages!

While the change was presumably applauded by those students who urged action against Patton, his effective suspension from teaching the course angered many other students and alumni.

One petition for Patton’s reinstatement with thousands of signatures says, “For him to be censored simply because a Chinese word sounds like an English pejorative term is a mistake and is not appropriate, especially given the educational setting. It also dismisses the fact that Chinese is a real language and has its own pronunciations that have no relation to English.”

Ninety-four Marshall alumni, many of whom are Chinese and now live in China, wrote their own letter to the dean and other administrators, expressing support for Patton.

“All of us have gained enormous benefit from the academic leadership of Prof. Patton. His caring, wisdom and inclusiveness were a hallmark of our educational experience and growth at USC and the foundation of our continued success in the years following,” the named alumni wrote.

Moreover, they said, “We unanimously recognize Prof. Patton’s use of ‘na ge’ as an accurate rendition of common Chinese use, and an entirely appropriate and quite effective illustration of the use of pauses. Prof. Patton used this example and hundreds of others in our classes over the years, providing richness, relevance and real world impact.”

After a gap of four years, Professor Mair wrote an update of his 2016 post in the context of Greg Patton’s dismissal: “That, that, that…”, part 2.

It is well worth a read. It quotes the full text of the grovelling letter to students written by Dean Geoff Garrett, a copy of which should be printed out and kept in your medicine cabinet should need arise for a quick-acting emetic.

This comment by “Twill” resonated with me:

I suppose it is “unacceptable to use words that marginalize”, but perfectly acceptable to marginalize every other language on this planet by insisting that any words that might arbritrarily offend English speakers should be stricken from the dictionary, no matter what they actually mean or are used. I fail to see how we can “engage respectfully with one another while fostering and exemplifying the knowledge and skills needed to lead and shape our diverse and global world” if we don’t extend the courtesy of letting other languages speak for themselves.

And what’s the betting that these people, who demand their delicate ears be protected from the sounds of the most spoken language in the world, call Trump voters “hicks” and mock their supposed provincialism?

This will have a predictable effect on the value of a USC Marshall MBA. Imagine you are the CEO of an international company. You seek to fill an executive position that requires the postholder to move confidently between Western and Chinese business environments. Are you going to go for the candidate from a school where students are taught honestly about the potential pitfalls of cross-cultural communication, or the one from the USC Marshall School of Business who has only been fed the Disney version? The issue is not limited to that one word 那个, or to the Chinese language. It is about whether a potential employee can cope outside the bubble of an “elite” US academic institution.

And of course the bad effect on a candidate’s chances will be reinforced if the candidate is black, whether or not they personally had anything to do with this affair. No need to assume the potential employer is racist. They simply will prefer not to hire someone who has been primed to freak out when a Chinese colleague says the equivalent of “like, er, you know” for a word on the tip of their tongue.

Actually, I think there was enough context

“It’s actually a Republican myth that has, over the last 20 years, really crawled into even leftist discourse: that the small-business owner must be respected, that the small-business owner creates jobs and is part of the community.”

That was said by Vicky Osterweil, author of In Defense of Looting. Ms Osterweil was given such a fawning interview by Natalie Escobar of the American state radio station npr (note the cool lowercase initials) that it became an embarrassment, and the record of it is now prefaced by the words:

This story was updated on Sept. 1, 2020. The original version of this story, which is an interview with an author who holds strong political views and ideas, did not provide readers enough context for them to fully assess some of the controversial opinions discussed.

Welcome to our horrible racist university

Heather Mac Donald has written an important essay for City Journal, Conformity to a Lie. (Hat tip to Sarah Hoyt at Instapundit.)

The essay contains much that saddens and enrages me, but in places it is funny. After quoting several examples of college presidents and deans craving pardon for the racism of their institutions, she writes,

All such institutional self-accusations by college presidents leave out the specifics. Which faculty members do not treat black students fairly? If that unjust treatment is so obvious, why weren’t those professors already removed? What is wrong with an admissions process that lets in thousands of student bigots? In other moments, college presidents brag about the quality of their student body and faculty. Are they lying? Shouldn’t they have disclosed to black applicants that they will face “racist acts” and “systems of inequality” should they attend?

Edit: Thinking about it, this is a smaller scale example of the rule that in time of revolution it is safer to be a Tsarist than an Old Bolshevik.

A half hour video of the incident in Portland on 16th August 2020

If I have understood correctly, this video of the incident involving Adam Haner and Marquise Love, in connection with which Mr Love is being sought by Portland Police, was taken by a man called Drew Hernandez. Here is his twitter post directing viewers to the YouTube channel where the video is hosted.

This Daily Mail story includes a much shorter (1 minute 49 seconds) video of the same incident.

Obviously, both videos show scenes of violence.

I am a strong believer in the presumption of innocence, so I will say no more than “Watch for yourselves”.

Edit: “It’s a stain on the movement”: Portland Protest Organizers Condemn Truck Driver Assault, reports the Portland Mercury. However at the time of writing the Twitter account of the national (US) Black Lives Matter movement has said nothing about it.

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.

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.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean”

UK Black Lives Matter on 29th June 2020:

When we say ‘Defund the police’ we mean ‘Invest in programmes that actually keep us safe like youth services, mental health and social care, education, jobs and housing. Key services to support the most vulnerable before they come into contact with the criminal justice system’.

UK Black Lives Matter on 21st June 2020:

We are an ABOLITIONIST movement, we do not believe in reforming the police, the state or the prison industrial complex. It is a direct contradiction to BLM for events to be held promoting reform and subduing valid criticisms of the police, the government and Boris Johnson. And when events are meant to be those heavily affected by police violence like the LGBTQIA+ Black community, this is especially disrespectful.

Perhaps I should not be so harsh. Among the multifarious possible meanings of the phrase “Defund the police” there are a few I could support. While I think about it, please send me a million pounds.

It was the New Deal which put the Great in the Great Depression

The most significant thing about this Daniel Hannan tweet, I think, is not his praise of a Michael Gove speech, but his aside to the effect that FDR “turned a recession into a depression”. This idea is really getting around, and this is a very good thing.

It was the New Deal which put the Great in the Great Depression. (I found myself emitting this sentence at the end of this at my personal blog, which started out being about something else entirely, namely the current Lockdown, rather than about how the world will or will not emerge successfully from it.)

I just googled the above epigram, and the first piece I got to asked: Did New Deal Programs Help End the Great Depression? That item one in such a search casts doubt on (rather than simply endorsing) the claim that The New Deal did end the Great Depression, is a big propaganda step in the right direction.

What people now think is the quickest and best way to end an economic recession matters very much. That surely being why Hannan felt the need to say this about FDR’s disastrous economic policies, even though he was tweeting about something else.

A dilemma if you think private individuals shouldn’t own firearms

Here’s a thought for today: If the Democrats claim (the cynic in me suggests that party is full of BS on this) that police forces must be “defunded”, ie, that fewer resources should be steered to said police, how are they also going to make good on any threats to outlaw the private possession of firearms?

I know that those of a more libertarian slant have no problem with wanting to reform policing to reduce abuses and so that police actually protect life and property rather than enforce victimless crime laws, and be corrupted by the likes of asset forfeiture rules, politically-motivated “woke” crime enforcement, and so on. One thing to be clear on is that if qualified immunity is removed from cops, cops are also entitled to be protected against frivolous lawsuits from idiots since otherwise no rational man or woman will want to serve as a cop in such a situation. And that applies to any kind of policing or security, including private security guards.

And a more libertarian model of policing is congruent with a population of law-abiding persons being free to own firearms and competent to look after themselves. In fact, having law-abiding people own guns, and be trained in their responsible use, is a net plus for civil society and peaceful order. (An armed society is a polite society, as R A Heinlein liked to point out.) But what is NOT compatible is to claim that we should shut policing down, empty the jails, and all the rest of it, and still push for gun control. To take that stance is to treat the public as idiots.