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]

Ask not for whom the tik toks

“TikTok and WeChat: US to ban app downloads in 48 hours”, reports the BBC.

All things considered, I do still want Trump to win the US election, but this sounds like a stupid measure. Banning things is almost always intrinsically stupid, as is running your politics by the threat of bans. It will also lose him votes from people who happen to like TikTok.

I suspect that like Sadiq Khan’s ban on Uber operating in London (the appeal against which will be heard on 28th September), Trump’s move is basically a shakedown. Note the delay before implementation in both cases. Either ban could be reversed at a moment’s notice for the right price. So far as I know Londoners can still use Uber now, and that will continue until the appeals process is exhausted, which could mean ten days or ten years. As for Tiktok in the US,

If a planned partnership between US tech firm Oracle and TikTok owner ByteDance is agreed and approved by President Trump, the app will not be banned.

How not to oppose the Scottish hate crime bill

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

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

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

She leads with the point of principle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The political purity spiral as experienced by the Instagram knitting community

I cannot knit and I am not on Instagram, but as someone who sews and is into politics, I cannot think how I came to miss this article from Gavin Haynes when it came out in January of this year. After seeing it recommended on the UK Politics subreddit, I hastened to post it here:

How knitters got knotted in a purity spiral

Mr Haynes discusses purity spirals throughout history, then narrows his focus to a couple of examples from 2018/19:

Our documentary analysed just two latter-day purity spirals — Instagram knitting culture and young adult novels. Both seemed perfectly-sized to be taken over — they were spaces big enough to have their own star system, yet small enough for the writ of a dominant group to hold.

In each, a vast tapestry of what were effectively small businesses competed for attention online by fluidly mixing personal and professional brand. On social media, opinion, diary and sales often existed within the same posts. Each individual small business was uniquely vulnerable to being un-personed, ‘cancelled’. But, simultaneously, each could benefit enormously from taking on the status of thought leader — from becoming a node that directed moral traffic.

To take the example of Instagram knitting: the unravelling began with a man called Nathan Taylor. Gay, living with HIV, nice as pie, Taylor started a hashtag aimed at promoting diversity in knitting, Diversknitty, to get people from different backgrounds to talk. And he did: the hashtag was a runaway hit, spawning over 17,000 posts.

But over the following months, the conversation took on a more strident tone. The list of things considered problematic grew. The definition of racism began to take on the terms mandated by intersectional social justice ideology.

The drama played out in the time-honoured way:

Finally, just as the guillotine had eventually come for Robespierre, Nathan Taylor, who had founded the #Diversknitty movement, found himself at its sharp end.

When Taylor tried to inject positivity back into Diversknitty, his moral authority burnt up inside minutes. A poem he’d written asking knitters to cool it (“With genuine SOLEM-KNITTY/I beg you, stop the enmity”) was in turn interpreted as a blatant act of white supremacy. When the mob finally came for him, he had a nervous breakdown. Yet even here, he was accused of malingering, his suicidal hospitalisation described online as a ‘white centring’ event.

Gavin Haynes also made a half hour Radio Four documentary telling the same story. (A BBC iPlayer sign-in is required to listen.) I am about to listen to it now.

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.

But what if she did consent?

The BBC reports,

‘Rough sex’ defence will be banned, says justice minister

The so-called “rough sex gone wrong” defence will be outlawed in new domestic abuse legislation, a justice minister has told MPs.

Alex Chalk said it was “unconscionable” that the defence can be used in court to justify or excuse the death of a woman “simply because she consented”.

“Simply”? Is the fact of her consent unimportant, then? If a woman (or indeed a man) chooses to engage in rough sex and as a consequence is accidentally killed by their partner then that does excuse their death, in the sense that any person who accidentally kills another person is excused from the guilt of murder. Depending on circumstances they may be guilty of a lesser crime, reckless endangerment perhaps – I do not know the legal details. But murder requires an intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm.

He said it would be made “crystal clear” in the Domestic Abuse Bill that it was not acceptable.

The bill, for England and Wales, is due to become law later this year.

Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, spoke on an amendment proposed by Labour MP Harriet Harman and Conservative MP Mark Garnier to the legislation, to prevent lawyers from using the defence, but withdrew it following assurances from Mr Chalk.

The campaign group We Can’t Consent To This, which wants the defence outlawed, said the minister’s response was “a big step forward”.

The very name of their group treats adult women like children. If this group wants to ban rough sex, they should have the guts to come out and say so. Some of their complaint seems to be that the rough sex defence has been used by men who truly were murderers to delude a jury into acquitting them. But the same could be said of any defence against any criminal charge: all of them will have at some time been successfully used to enable guilty men to go free. What alternative system do they suggest? The great eighteenth century jurist William Blackstone said, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” Would they prefer to reverse that ratio?

Discussion point: Don’t lock me down, baby

It seems that the Mekon might be about to be knocked off his levitating chair. Dominic Cummings is in trouble for breaking the lockdown. He joins the epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson, for whom the lockdown was no obstacle to pantsdown, in the list of those caught violating the quarantine they urged others to obey. Oh and let us not forget Scotland’s (former) Chief Medical Officer, Catherine Calderwood, though I must admit I had.

Should Calderwood and Ferguson have resigned? Should Cummings resign now? Are there any principled reasons for differentiating between the three cases, by which I mean principles better than which political parties each of them are associated with?

Kieren McCarthy criticises the proposed coronavirus contact-tracing app

Here is a link to yesterday’s article by Kieren McCarthy in the Register:

UK finds itself almost alone with centralized virus contact-tracing app that probably won’t work well, asks for your location, may be illegal

Is he right?

Update: Guido Fawkes is also on the case. He is engaged in a vigorous and very public debate with the government, specifically the Department of Health. Earlier he sent this missive their way: 10 Problems With the NHS’s New Coronavirus App. Fair play to them, they did respond, and he has now issued this: NHS App: Rebuttal and Response. (Hat tip to Niall Kilmartin, who independently mentioned this link in the comments.)

The homeschooling menace

One trend that has been a big push in recent weeks is – for obvious reasons – homeschooling. And those who run the education system in North America (and I presume, in other places) are worried that if youngsters learn at home, they’ll be less prone to teachers’ ministrations. Kids will start to think for themselves. This must be resisted because it undermines civic spirit, apparently, according to this Harvard Review article:

She views the absence of regulations ensuring that homeschooled children receive a meaningful education equivalent to that required in public schools as a threat to U.S. democracy. “From the beginning of compulsory education in this country, we have thought of the government as having some right to educate children so that they become active, productive participants in the larger society,” she says. This involves in part giving children the knowledge to eventually get jobs and support themselves. “But it’s also important that children grow up exposed to community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints,” she says, noting that European countries such as Germany ban homeschooling entirely and that countries such as France require home visits and annual tests.

Here’s another gem:

She concedes that in some situations, homeschooling may be justified and effective. “No doubt there are some parents who are motivated and capable of giving an education that’s of a higher quality and as broad in scope as what’s happening in the public school,” she says. But Bartholet believes that if parents want permission to opt out of schools, the burden of proving that their case is justified should fall on parents.

The problem with this article is that the author of the piece appears oblivious to parents’ worries about the poor quality of much public schooling in the US. There is also the default assumption that the State is entitled to impose a certain view and set of aptitudes and attitudes on children and that the burden of proof is on those who want the family, not the State, to be the primary decision-taker on education. An article in Reason magazine last year also directly challenged the idea that homeschooled kids are less likely to be well-adjusted adults. (Like with all these issues, there are clear exceptions, such as with children who are maltreated by parents, etc).

I will be interested to see if any of you fine Samizdata commenters have been schooled at home for any part of your time, and what your experience has been.

In times of crisis, certain viewpoints are challenged. Now is such a time.

This might work. And then?

“NHS phone app holds key to lifting UK’s coronavirus lockdown”, the Times reports.

Ministers have ordered the creation of an NHS mobile phone app the government hopes will help end the coronavirus lockdown.

The app would allow mobile phones to trace users who have come into contact with infected people, alerting them to get tested.

This would make it possible to start lifting the most stringent social-distancing measures from late next month, ministers hope.

Senior sources say NHSX, the health service’s technology arm, has been working on the app with Google and Apple at “breakneck speed”. The system will use Bluetooth technology to alert those who download the app if they have been in close proximity with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

Combined with a vast expansion in testing, which ministers claim will hit 100,000 a day by the end of the month, the app is a central plank in the government’s push to lift the lockdown. “We believe this could be important in helping the country return to normality,” a Whitehall source said.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is considering how to incentivise people to install the app. Experts say the “track and trace” concept only works effectively if 60% of people adopt it.

One idea under consideration would mean people being told they could resume normal work and home life if they installed it on their phones.

As I said in the title, the worst of it is that this might be the way to control the epidemic, an outcome greatly to be desired. And then it might be the way to control us.

Nigel Farage says ‘Say No to House Arrest’ – and a perspective on Red China

A video blog from Nigel, asking questions in his usual style about the lockdown and what it is for, police behaviour, and posing some questions about the UK’s relations with China. Then a China Uncensored video giving a view on the Red China ‘cure’ for coronavirus. He also has a good word for Stephen Kinnock going to see his Dad on his Old Man’s birthday.

A British politician calling for liberty, there is one.

And from China Uncensored, (a Taiwanese-backed channel I believe), a contrast on the American media’s soft touch on China with what has been going on.

This chicken has more freedom than anyone in Britain

A free chicken

Here is a free-range chicken in a layer flock at a site somewhere in Northamptonshire in the English Midlands. It roams free, it does not risk an unlimited fine for leaving its home without just cause, it can associate with chickens other than its flock, or any feathered or non-feathered friend. It does not have to queue to get into shops to buy basics, (nor did it ever), nor justify itself if it wishes to stroll around more than once a day. Although its parents were cooped up because of bird ‘flu a few years back, it knows only liberty. Mind you it doesn’t have the right to bear/bare arms, nor any right to free speech, nor protection against unreasonable searches or seizures. No one is going to ask it to self-incriminate, well, perhaps next week.

It is not required to keep itself 6 feet, 6 and three-quarter inches (or 2 metres) from other chickens not from its yard. It is not under sentence of death as it is not raised for meat. Welcome to the UK, where the chickens run free and there once was liberty. Do you think the concept might catch on?

Mind you, at least we are safer from the virus now, aren’t we.

We are all Uighurs now.

The ramblings of our Prime Minister this evening, no data, no projections, no reasoning other than the projected incompetence of our nationalised health care system, no laws cited (but they are there), and have been since 10th February 2020, backed up by threats and fear-mongering, announcing restrictions on the UK in an echo of what the Chinese Communist Party is imposing on Uighurs, evidence the triumph of the Chinese Communist Party in crushing the West, without (and indeed on account of not) lifting a finger.

And yet the borders remain open, as far as we know, to flights from hotspots such as China, Italy, Spain and Iran. This has all been thought through, and Johnson is content that it be so, is he being played or a player? if we wanted loo roll shortages and economic chaos and inflation we’d have voted in Corbyn last December, a man who is in power in terms of outcomes, but is not in office.