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]

Ribbons tied in a bow

Eight days ago I posted about Marion Millar of Airdrie, Scotland, who was summoned to a police station for a compulsory interview over allegations that she had posted homophobic and transphobic tweets.

She has now been charged.

“Activist Marion Millar charged with sending homophobic and transphobic tweets”, reports the Times.

Marion Millar, 50, from Airdrie, was charged under the Malicious Communications Act for tweets published in 2019 and 2020. If convicted she faces up to two years in prison.

The messages investigated by officers are understood to include a retweeted photograph of a bow of ribbons in the green, white and purple colours of the Suffragettes, tied around a tree outside the Glasgow studio where a BBC soap opera is shot.

It is one at least six tweets reported to Police Scotland. The nature of the others is unclear. Millar, who owns an accountancy business, was bailed to appear at Glasgow sheriff court on July 20.

Her supporters said that the prosecution was an attack on the rights of women to express themselves.

Added later: The Times has turned off the comments to its account of the Marion Millar case, presumably for fear of committing contempt of court, so the readers have taken to making veiled allusions to it when commenting on other stories in the paper’s Scotland section.

A couple of the Scottish papers have also reported on the case:

Feminist campaigner charged with ‘hate crime’ – Tom Gordon in the Herald.

Woman charged with malicious communication over ‘transphobic’ tweet – Gina Davidson in the Scotsman.

The point is that anyone can do this to anyone

Don’t like what someone says on social media? Don’t worry, with just one phone call you can arrange for whoever said it to have to tell their autistic kids that mummy has to go away and doesn’t know when she’ll be allowed to come back.

“I can’t sleep, says accountant Marion Millar in trans tweet row”, reports the Times.

Marion Millar, an accountant from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, was told to report to a police station over allegations that she had posted “homophobic and transphobic” tweets.

Her account of her ordeal has been viewed by millions of people on social media. Millar, who works for For Women Scotland (FWS), a feminist group, wrote: “On April 28 I received a call from a PC Laura Daley from Police Scotland requesting I attend an interview under the malicious communications act. She told me I had to attend East Kilbride police station so I could be then transported to Cathcart station in a police car because I would have to go to a station where there are holding cells.”

Millar was told that social workers would be sent to look after her young twin boys, who are autistic, while she was questioned.

“This nonsense has been hanging over my head for a month,” she said. “I still don’t know what the offending tweet is. Anyone who knows me knows I am not homophobic or transphobic. ”

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “We received two complaints regarding comments made on social media, enquiries into this are ongoing.”

To comply with human rights legislation interviews have to take place at a station with custody suites, which East Kilbride does not have.

I cannot but admire the elegance of using the supposed protections offered by human rights legislation into a vehicle for twisting the knife a little more. Shame if you aren’t allowed to return home, love. But don’t worry, we have a nice custody suite.

Some of you might think this is an example of what a oppressive place Scotland is becoming now that the Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill has been passed. If so, you are wrong. It is an example of what an oppressive place Scotland already is under existing law. Ms Millar was summoned for offences under the Malicious Communications Act. And before English, Welsh or Northern Irish readers feel superior, let me say that as far as I know that same 1988 Act applies to the whole of the UK. As I said in a post from 2012 called “The kraken wakes”, despite its obvious potential for oppression, for the first twenty years or so of its existence the Malicious Communications Act 1988 did not seem to do much harm … but you are not safe just because a monster sleeps.

The Streisand-Challenor effect

On the evening of the 22nd March, visitors to the main UK politics subreddit, /r/ukpolitics found a mysterious message saying that the subreddit, which has nearly 400,000 members, had been set to “private” by its own volunteer moderators.

It was the beginning of a cascade. The lights are going off all over Reddit! Subreddit after subreddit was set to private in sympathy with /r/ukpolitics. Most of them dealt with topics unrelated to politics. At its peak the wave of protest closures affected subreddits collectively having tens of millions of members all over the world.

To understand why this protest against Reddit by its own users gained such traction, we need to go back to the 8th of March when the Spectator published an article by its unlikeliest new writer, the radical left wing “gender critical” feminist Julie Bindel, called “The Green party’s woman problem”. It contained the lines,

The formidable feminist author and journalist Bea Campbell, a former Green party candidate, resigned from the party last year after being disciplined, in part for refusing to keep quiet about the shocking and disturbing Aimee Challenor case.

That brief reference to “the Aimee Challenor case” was to have dramatic consequences. A hyperlink on the word “case” linked in turn to this Independent article dated 13 January 2019:

Aimee Challenor: Green star failed to properly alert party of father’s child rape charges Independent investigation found transgender activist only alerted two colleagues in ‘informal’ Facebook message

Having parted ways with the Greens, Aimee Challenor joined the Liberal Democrats. Once again her association with the party ended as a result of child safeguarding issues related to someone with whom she lived. This time it was her fiancé Nathaniel Knight. He claims his twitter account was hacked.

A point to note: these events were widely reported. Given a prompt about a person who had left both the Greens and the Lib Dems under a cloud, anyone who follows UK political news would probably be able to dig up her name in half a dozen keystrokes.

Getting back to the main story, at about quarter to eleven on the morning of the 23rd, the ukpolitics subreddit reappeared. It now carried the following announcement:

→ Continue reading: The Streisand-Challenor effect

The Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill is due to pass tonight

In the (Glasgow) Herald, Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf writes,

New Hate Crime Bill extends protection of people

Odd headline. Make that some people.

This week Parliament will consider further amendments to the Hate Crime Bill before a final vote on our proposed reforms

By “Parliament” Mr Yousaf means the one with him in it, i.e. the Scottish Parliament. The SNP love this rhetorical trick of pretending the Scottish Parliament is the only one of any relevance to Scotland. Wishing this to be so is a perfectly legitimate goal, but pretending it is already so is premature. Of course all the Scottish people have to do to ensure that the Parliament with Mr Yousaf in it becomes the sole decider of what laws they live under is carry on voting for Mr Yousaf’s party in the numbers they now do.

The new Bill will modernise and consolidate hate crime law and provide clarity. It brings together various piecemeal additions and changes to the law made over time, while also recognising the need to clamp down further on this all too pervasive, damaging behaviour.

As a person of colour the law has protected me, for the last 35 years, from anyone stirring up hatred against me due to my race.

The law cannot have done a very good job of protection, given that he said in the previous paragraph that hate crime was “pervasive”, and that he complains a few paras down about all the hate he receives.

This Bill now extends that protection to people in relation to their age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or variation of sex characteristics (previously known as intersex).

The legislation has come a long way. As Parliament has been considering the detail of the Bill the Government has listened – making changes and reflecting on concerns to improve a piece of powerful legislation that I believe is fitting of the Scotland we live in.

That being the Scotland where race hate crime is pervasive.

Robust Parliamentary scrutiny has been essential to the process.

Concerns over the impact that stirring up hatred offences could have on freedom of expression were raised. And these have been listened to and are being acting upon. We have made a number of significant changes already, including ensuring that any successful prosecution for the new offences must prove that the person intended to stir up hatred. We have also inserted a “reasonable person test” to clarify that when determining if behaviour is “threatening or abusive” an objective test is applied.

By “we” Mr Yousaf means that the SNP reluctantly accepted one amendment from the Scottish Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins. That link takes you to a Guardian article that also notes that “Tomkins and fellow Conservative Liam Kerr failed to secure an amendment that they argued would protect disagreements, for example, at the family dinner table.”

Mr Yousaf continues,

The Justice Committee has offered critical scrutiny and recently held constructive discussions on a freedom of expression clause that would further protect everyone’s right to freedom of speech.

You don’t say whether these discussions led to any action, Mr Yousaf. Hint: they didn’t. His only reason for cooing about how constructive the discussions were is to conceal the fact that the this clause that would theoretically further protect everyone’s right to freedom of speech was not actually constructed, just talked about.

I am confident that our proposed amendment on this now strikes the right balance between protecting groups targeted by hate crime and respecting people’s rights to free speech.

A number of national Women’s Organisations, such as Scottish Women’s Aid, Engender and Rape Crisis Scotland have raised concerns over the inclusion of a Sex Aggravator.

I’m not surprised. They should never have let a Sex Aggravator sit on a parliamentary committee. → Continue reading: The Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill is due to pass tonight

The mask slips

In today’s Sunday Times Camilla Long has a slight but amusing piece called “Jeffrey Toobin is caught with his pants down and he’s the victim? That’s a touch too much”. I realise that this audience would have little interest in the doings of the titular Toobin-

Oh, all right. Here it is:

If you thought the weak, the poor, the sick and the elderly had it bad during Covid, you might like to consider a new and extremely vulnerable and at-risk minority group: bored, rich, horny alpha males between the ages of 50 and 70 who have been shut away in their luxury triplexes with not a single sexy secretary or waitress to perve over.

In normal times these poor and lonely red-blooded millionaires wouldn’t go five minutes without putting their hands down their own pants or someone else’s — but now they must do everything for themselves, including, disastrously, setting up and managing Zoom calls.

My heart goes out, for example, to “the Tiger Woods of legal journalism” — Jeffrey Toobin — who was reported to have suffered some kind of extreme trouser event at his computer during a Zoom session with his colleagues at The New Yorker. During an “election simulation” — easy, fellas — with a radio station in which journalists assumed various roles, the 60-year-old writer — famous in America for his coverage of the OJ Simpson trial — apparently forgot to turn his camera off while his co-workers enjoyed a “strategy session” in “their respective breakout rooms”.

Toobin seemed to be “on a second video call”, said witnesses; when the groups returned, he had lowered the camera and was “touching his penis”. He then left the call, came back and, in the manner of someone who’s rarely been held accountable for anything — a boomer for whom life just falls into place — he seemed oblivious to the fact he’d destroyed his career, literally at a stroke.

Though as Ms Long points out later in the piece, working two jobs at once has not destroyed his career, because

…if there’s one group even more protected than a rich white alpha male in our society, it’s the rich white alpha male who hates Donald Trump.

All very amusing, but the last two paragraphs spoilt my mood:

It is true that the desperate scramble to shore up the hopeless Biden has reached extraordinary levels of deceit and manipulation — accounts are locked, reporting is pulled, likes and retweets seem to be managed.

Three months ago I myself got on the wrong side of Twitter’s political posturing by questioning whether masks worked — and my account is still down, with no response to appeals. If you think it’ll censor over that tiny issue, why not the presidential election?

My opinion is that masks probably do almost nothing to protect the wearer from Covid-19 and similar bugs, but they do confer significant protection to others. Feel free to discuss this question if it interests you, but I will not be participating in that particular debate. My uninformed opinion would add no value. And in any case the processing power that is available inside my head to think about any topic related to masks is entirely consumed by trying to deal with the revelation that Twitter censorship goes that far. I was naive. I did not know. Ms Long is quite wrong to call it a “tiny issue”. As with climate change, my now rather shaken belief in the “scientific consensus” was based on thinking it was a scientific consensus. I think it was Sir Peter Medawar in Advice to a Young Scientist who said that the dominance of the dominant hypothesis should be like that of a champion prizefighter: he is the champ because he has taken on and beaten all comers, and because he extends an open invitation to the whole world to displace him if they can.

But when people begin to suspect with good reason that the dominance of the dominant hypothesis is more like that of the champion golfer Kim Jong Il, it is no wonder that conspiracy theories spread like wildfire.

Discussion point: can children consent to puberty blockers? What about other drastic treatments?

Before you weigh in, please read both the Guardian articles.

“UK court hears children cannot consent to puberty blockers”, reports the Guardian today.

In a statement in the submission, Bell said she had been left with “no breasts, a deep voice, body hair, a beard, affected sexual function and who knows what else that has not been discovered”. She had to live with the fact that if she had children in the future, she would not be able to breastfeed. “I made a brash decision as a teenager (as a lot of teenagers do) trying to find confidence and happiness, except now the rest of my life will be negatively affected,” she said.

On the other hand, the abstract of this medical study published in the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics records that the study found that

There is a significant inverse association between treatment with pubertal suppression during adolescence and lifetime suicidal ideation among transgender adults who ever wanted this treatment. These results align with past literature, suggesting that pubertal suppression for transgender adolescents who want this treatment is associated with favorable mental health outcomes.

Another Guardian article published on 28 September raised similar issues of principle regarding a treatment that must be given to children if it is to work at all:

‘There is a fear that this will eradicate dwarfism’: the controversy over a new growth drug.

Two extracts:

Samuel Gray is very brave about his daily injections. At six-and-a-half, confident and happy, he was a boy who knew his own mind and made a big decision about his future. His parents had asked him if he wanted to take part in a clinical trial for a drug that could improve some of the conditions associated with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, with which Samuel was born.

[…]

In 2015, BioMarin Pharmaceutical, the company that developed vosoritide, released the results of phase two of its study. At the time, Leah Smith, a spokeswoman for Little People of America (LPA), the largest organisation in the US for people with dwarfism, said: “People like me are endangered and now they want to make me extinct.” Recently, the actor Mark Povinelli, who is president of the LPA, told the New York Times that the drug “is one of the most divisive things that we’ve come across in our 63-year existence”.

An Australian senator is summoned by the Equal Opportunities Commission

This is an excerpt from Hansard Australia recording a debate that took place in the Parliament of Australia on the 3rd September 2020:

Chamber Senateon 3/09/2020

Item ADJOURNMENT – Freedom of Speech

Senator CHANDLER (Tasmania) (17:45): Last week in the Senate I spoke about World Rugby’s efforts to defend the integrity and safety of women’s sport by ensuring women’s rugby is for female players. At the end of my speech, I referenced the recent case of a woman being fired from her job for speaking about the reality of biological sex. I posed the question:

How do Australians know that they are able to speak freely about women’s rights and the reality of biological sex without being censured or fired by their employer?

Well, it didn’t take long to get the answer to that question. The answer is that Australians are not free to acknowledge the realities of sex or to defend the integrity of women’s sport.

Today I received a letter from the Tasmanian equal opportunity commission, summoning me to attend a conciliation conference to answer for my statements on free speech and sex based rights. The complaint, made under the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act, is in relation to an op-ed I had published in The Mercury earlier this year about, quite ironically, free speech. My op-ed started:

The recent publication of an open letter signed by 150 writers and academics in defence of free speech offers a glimmer of hope that we can put a stop to the anti-democratic cancel culture which has taken root in many corners of society.

Well, I’m not so sure about there being a glimmer of hope for free speech now. The complaint letter I received today says, in referencing my actions: ‘It is clear or can be inferred from her comments that she considers people who are born male and seek to live as a female should not have access to female toilets, facilities or sports. This is problematic because excluding someone who is designated male at birth and currently expresses their gender as female from single-sex facilities or sport may be direct discrimination on the basis of gender identity.’ It is open to the commissioner to dismiss the complaint as vexatious but without substance, but she has chosen instead to pursue it and to compel me to attend a compulsory mediation with the complainant.

Many democracies have a system whereby parliamentary committees or their equivalent demand the attendance of citizens so that questions can be put to them by the MPs. These sessions almost invariably display elected lawmakers at their most arrogant. I cheered when Dominic Cummings refused to appear before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the UK Parliament. But I have found one thing I hate more than elected politicians summoning members of the public for (theoretically) compulsory questioning: unelected bureaucrats summoning elected politicians for actually compulsory “conciliation”.

“Compulsory Conciliation” was the title of the post in the pro Scottish Independence blog “Wings Over Scotland” where I saw this illustration of how fast once-cherished notions of free speech can fall. It would have surprised me in 2014 to know that in 2020 I would be grateful to Stuart Campbell for the good work he is doing to protect civil liberties in Scotland. But that is the sort of thing that happens when a Bill allows as much scope for abuse as does the Hate Crime Bill (Scotland). People from all quarters of politics have seen the danger and come together to oppose it. And do not think for a moment that what happens in Scotland or Australia can be ignored elsewhere.

By the way, I was not particularly interested in Senator Claire Chandler’s exact views about the transgender issue, only in the fact that an “equalities” official can summon a Senator of the Parliament of Australia for questioning over her “problematic” opinions.

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?

Peak Guardian in the Independent, and independent thought in the Guardian

Amrou Al-Kadhi writing in the Independent:

What the white supremacist roots of biological sex reveal about today’s transphobic feminism

Thomas Chatterton Williams writing in the Guardian:

We often accuse the right of distorting science. But the left changed the coronavirus narrative overnight

Edit 11 June: The Independent, perhaps stung by mockery in the readers’ comments, has changed the headline of the article by Amrou Al-Kadhi to “How Britain’s colonial past can be traced through to the transphobic feminism of today”.

That leads me to muse on what the Guardian has lost by the decision of its editor, Katharine Viner, to guard its writers from abuse by not permitting its readers to debate those of its articles they are most likely to want to debate. The Independent was able to see that the original headline to the Amrou Al-Kadhi article was not going down well even among its notably “progressive” readers. The Guardian can see from the number of clicks and shares that the Thomas Chatterton Williams article is getting a reaction – but what? I think it is favourable. I see comments from left wingers who are relieved to hear someone finally articulate their sense of unease and embarrassment at the speed with which the “party line” on social distancing was reversed. But that’s going by the comments of the writers I read and the websites I visit. The Guardian is no less hampered than I am.

I hope so

Harry Miller: “This is a warershed moment for liberty”

The police response to an ex-officer’s allegedly transphobic tweets was unlawful, the High Court has ruled.

Harry Miller, from Lincolnshire, was contacted by Humberside Police in January last year after a complaint about his tweets.

He was told he had not committed a crime, but it would be recorded as a non-crime “hate incident”.

The court found the force’s actions were a “disproportionate interference” on his right to freedom of expression.

In a separate story from the one I quote above, the BBC goes on to report that

Mr Justice Julian Knowles said the effect of police turning up at Mr Miller’s place of work “because of his political opinions must not be underestimated”.

He added: “To do so would be to undervalue a cardinal democratic freedom.
“In this country we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi. We have never lived in an Orwellian society.”

I did not know we still had judges like that.

Edit: This is the text of the judgement: Miller -v- College of Policing, 14 February 2020.

Bringing a criminal to justice at the cost of telling their victims what they would rather not have known

A horrible thought occurred to me while reading press accounts of the recent trial and conviction of Reynhard Sinaga, who may have been Britain’s most prolific rapist.

Sinaga’s modus operandi was as follows:

He would wait for men leaving nightclubs and bars before leading them to his flat, often offering them somewhere to have a drink or call a taxi. Giving them a drugged drink, believed to have been spiked with GHB, Sinaga would then assault the victims while they were unconscious and video the attack with a mobile phone.

In this fashion he got away with more than a hundred rapes because his victims did not know they had been raped. Finally,

In June 2017, his last victim, an 18-year old, regained consciousness during the rape, fought off his attacker, and reported the incident to the police. Sinaga was badly beaten and was taken to hospital, while police initially arrested his victim on suspicion of grievous bodily harm. Subsequent examination of Sinaga’s iPhone by the police led to the discovery of more than 3 terabytes of digital video evidence of his assaults and rapes. Many of his victims were traceable because Sinaga kept their phones, watches, ID cards, etc., and he had used social media to reach his unknowing victims online.

Note the word “unknowing”. The horrible thought that occurred to me was this: some (not all, but a substantial number) of Sinaga’s victims have said that their lives were seriously damaged by the police tracing them and telling them that they had been raped while drugged and unconscious. They would have preferred not to know. More painful yet, the fact that they had been raped became public knowledge at the trial. But if the police had not traced Sinaga’s victims and marshalled the evidence against him for the judge and the jury to see, he would have been able to continue with his crimes indefinitely.

In the end, I would say that in Sinaga’s case the public interest had to take precedence: he had to be stopped. Yet I think that situations could occur where it might be justifiable to let a criminal go unpunished in order to save his or her unknowing victims from the pain of discovering that they had been wronged.

If women own their bodies they can choose to modify them

The BBC reports,

Calls for ‘virginity repair’ surgery to be banned

Campaigners are urging the government to outlaw “virginity repair” surgery.

Many Muslim women risk being outcast, or in extreme cases killed, if their spouses or families discover they have had sex before marriage.

And some are opting for a medical procedure in which doctors restore a layer of membrane at the entrance to the vagina.

But there are concerns a ban would increase the dangers to Muslim women by driving the procedure underground.

Guidelines from the General Medical Council (GMC) state a patient’s consent to undergo a procedure should come into question if it is suspected of being “given under pressure or duress exerted by another person”.

Those GMC guidelines are correct. Forcing a woman to have her hymen repaired is a serious crime, as is threatening her with violence because she had sex outside marriage to get it broken in the first place. That violent threats so often go unpunished is a national scandal.

But the fact remains that most women who go to have their hymens repaired want it done. In less drastic cases they want the procedure for such reasons as to get and keep a husband, to avoid letting their parents know that they no longer adhere to traditional Muslim mores, or to avoid a breach with their husband’s family. You may say that it is a bad thing that such crushing social pressure for a bride to be a virgin remains prevalent in some communities in the UK. But the principle that an adult human being owns their own body does not cease to apply because he or she gives in to social pressure. Plenty of women get boob jobs and bum lifts because of social pressure, too. Are these bad decisions? Possibly. Cosmetic surgery has risks. But good or bad, the decision is theirs to make.

In more drastic cases women want their hymens repaired because it is the only way to protect themselves from the twisted “honour” of their fathers and husbands. Of course no woman should have to resort to such desperate measures in order to be safe from murder. But what sort of idiocy is it to see a person taking extreme measures to protect themselves from murder and then to think the course of action that best serves justice is to prosecute the victim – or the surgeon who is helping her keep safe?

The usual sort, unfortunately.