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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

If you want to be welcome, do not demand entry

The ceremonial of the State Opening of Parliament includes a moment when Black Rod, the Queen’s representative, approaches the door of the Commons to summon MPs for the Queen’s Speech. Tradition demands that he – or in 2019, she – has the door slammed in her face to symbolise the independence of the Commons from the Crown. Only after knocking three times is Black Rod allowed to enter.

The door closed to a demand but open to a request is a powerful symbol.

In the election we have just had, one of the most contentious issues was immigration and nationality. As stated in its manifesto Labour’s policy was to give the vote to “all UK residents”, and not just the vote, automatic citizenship, according to the Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey. Labour did not exactly shout about the fact that “UK residents” includes foreign citizens, but several people including the Prime Minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings did notice. He then informed the nation in his own inimitable style: “BATSIGNAL!! DON’T LET CORBYN-STURGEON CHEAT A SECOND REFERENDUM WITH MILLIONS OF FOREIGN VOTES”.

But underneath the all-caps headline he made a fair point:

Before the 23 June 2016, many such as the Economist and FT predicted a Leave win would boost extremists and make immigration the central issue in politics. VL said the opposite would happen: that once people know there’ll be democratic control, it will quickly fade as an issue and attitudes towards immigrants will improve. VL was right, the FT was wrong — as all academic research shows. If you want immigration to fade from politics, then democratic control is the answer. If you go with Corbyn and free movement for the whole world, then immigration will be all over the news and extremism will grow. A system like Australia’s will be fairer, good for the economy and take the heat out of the issue.

Imagine that Corbyn had won, formed a coalition government, enacted Labour’s manifesto promise to give the vote to EU citizens and others, and held a second referendum in which their 2.4 million votes for Remain swept away the majority for Leave among British citizens. Imagine if the ignored and scorned people of Leave-voting towns in what were once Labour heartlands saw that Labour had imported a new foreign electorate to replace them. Some may not like that wording but it would have been accurate. Imagine the bitterness towards foreign residents in the UK if that had happened.

It didn’t, thanks in no small measure to Mr Cummings himself. In a month or two the Guardian will report that public hostility to immigration has gone down and attribute it to a burgeoning movement to rejoin the EU. But the real reason will be that people will feel that at some level the wishes of the existing citizens of the UK control who else comes in the country. When you know you can close the door you become more willing to open it in welcome.

Having written the above, I remembered that this is not the first post of mine with a title that uses the metaphor of knocking on a door. Rather than be embarrassed at repeating myself, I will assert that it is a metaphor with several applications. Here is the old post: “To knock on the door is better than booting it in”. It is about relations between transgender and cisgender women.

Samizdata quote of the day

Based on the reaction from defenders of the new gender orthodoxy, you would have thought Bailey were a Cossack leader announcing a pogrom. “This is frightening and nasty. There is no LGB without the T,” tweeted Owen Jones, who is perhaps Britain’s best-known gay journalist. (This is not new behaviour for Jones, who often starts pile-ons against anyone he regards as transphobic—especially women.) Anthony Watson, an advisor to the opposition Labour Party, said he was “horrified and disgusted,” and described the Alliance as a “#hategroup.” Linda Riley, the editor of Diva, a lesbian magazine that proclaims itself “trans-inclusive,” adapted Martin Niemöller’s famous 1946 confession, First They Came, Tweeting, “First they came for the T…”—thereby suggesting that refusing to prioritize the artifice of gender ideology over inborn sexual orientation is the first step toward some kind of real or metaphorical Holocaust.

Helen Joyce

Stackoverflow and pronouns

Stackoverflow is a website so focused on getting good technical answers to good technical questions that thank-you notes are removed because they are noise. And yet somehow there is now a 17 point FAQ about the gender pronoun rules recently added to the code of conduct. Says one response:

I am all in favor of wanting to be respected, I really do, but this is the most overhead to “don’t be mean” I have ever seen.

Another takes aim at the people who run the web site:

Putting identity politics front-and-center in what is supposed to be a neutral, objective Q&A environment promotes division and strife, not inclusion, and more importantly, it distracts from the primary mission of these sites: getting good answers to good questions. Our values reject it.

If you truly value your community, that means respecting the community’s values, not attempting to impose new and incompatible ones by fiat. Your values are out of alignment with the values of the community you are supporting. Please fix them.

Another points out that too many rules do not help:

I would very much like if we could all get along. We have rules and moderators because in a big community, there’ll always be a few participants who can’t get along. But increasingly, getting along is against the rules.

One of two things is going on.

  • This is just people on the Internet arguing because they can and anyone with things to get done will simply ignore them.
  • This is an example of an attempt to infiltrate and change a community, and the resistance to this attempt.

See also: Linux and its code of conduct.

Samizdata quote of the day

Y’all need to remember that heteronormative whiteness is the discursive cultural mechanism by which an oppressive hegemonic discourse of phallogocentrism serves to delegitimise a black/homoexclusive modality and reinscribes a proxi-fascist rearticulation of power structures.

Titania McGrath

That’s the entire Tweet, but the replies are worth a look too. This one is my favourite so far.

Another unfortunate speaks

A few months back I posted about the conflict between feminists and strippers at the Spearmint Rhino strip club in Sheffield.

Writing in the Guardian, Kate Lister both provides an update on that dispute and brings up a fascinating parallel from a hundred and sixty years ago:

Today’s sex workers, like their Victorian sisters, don’t want ‘saving’

In a series of letters written to the Times in 1858, an anonymous sex worker, referring to herself as “Another Unfortunate”, challenges the widespread assumption that all sex workers are an “abandoned sisterhood”. The tone of Another Unfortunate is defiant, proud and attacks the paternalistic moralising of the groups who wish to save her.

I had no idea that such things were allowed to be said in the Times in 1858. I suspect it would not have been allowed in 1958.

If you want Pride you must allow the cry of “Shame!”

The Daily Mail shows a video in which

Muslim woman wearing a niqab shouts ‘shame on all of you despicable people’ in shocking homophobic rant at Pride march in London

This is the shocking moment a Muslim woman spits homophobic abuse at a reveller on a Pride march in east London.

The niqab-wearing woman was filmed screaming ‘shame on you’ to a woman draped in the LGBT rainbow flag during the rally on Hoe Street, Walthamstow, yesterday.

She screeches ‘God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’ while a marshal in a high-vis jacket moves in to shield the clearly shaken Pride marcher.

The video was shared on Twitter by Yusuf Patel who wrote: ‘Disgusting homophobic abuse at those on Waltham Forest Pride today.

The report continues,

The Walthamstow arm of the Metropolitan Police said officers are investigating and branded the abuse a hate crime.

The force tweeted: ‘We are aware of footage circulating on social media of abuse directed at those taking part in the Waltham Forest Pride event and enquiries are underway.

‘Abusing someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is a hate crime.

Put aside the question of the direction in which your first impulse of sympathy might fall, and consider whether there is any objective reason to say that the Muslim woman is aggressing against the Pride marcher rather than vice versa – or neither. The Mail writer says that the Muslim woman “spits homophobic abuse” at the Pride marcher, but she does not literally spit. It cannot have been pleasant to have been on the receiving end of that tirade, but all she ultimately did was vehemently tell the marcher that she thought they ought to be ashamed of their sexuality. The very purpose of the Pride parades, as the name indicates, is for the participants to declare that they are not ashamed of their sexuality. To that end the Pride marchers went – proudly wrapped in their rainbow flags – down Hoe Street, Walthamstow, where they knew full well that many of the inhabitants would deeply disapprove of them. (I used to live in Walthamstow, just off Hoe Street. It is not a “Muslim area” as such, but there are many Muslims there.) The law allows Pride parades to do this, just as the law allows Orange Order parades in Northern Ireland to carry their flags through Catholic areas.

The current Establishment would like to ban the Orange Order march and arrest the Muslim woman for protesting against the LGBT Pride march. In my childhood it would have been the other way round. I would not be surprised to see the cycle return to something like its starting point (although perhaps with the roles of the protected national causes and religions played by different actors) before I die. Or, just a thought, we could let everyone speak.

It is wrong to force a person into sexual activity

I had thought that all decent people, whatever their politics or religion, accepted that each human being has the inalienable right to refuse to engage in sexual activity, and that for each person the decision as to what level of physical intimacy with any other person was acceptable to them was theirs and theirs alone.

I would never have guessed that was a case that still had to be argued. That would be like… having to go to court to argue all over again that prostitutes should have the right to refuse clients, or that marital rape should not be allowed. Or that forced concubinage should not be allowed, or any of the other forms of sexual slavery that stain the record of humanity.

Of course I knew that there were even now places in the world where people, usually women, still do not have the legal right to refuse sexual activity. Now that Daesh has been defeated, the first such place that comes to mind is the territory controlled by Boko Haram.

In British Columbia, the second most progressive province of Canada, they’re thinking about it.

“It’s about all of us”

There’s an interesting video story on the BBC website today:

Spearmint Rhino strippers fighting for the right to strip

Feminist[s] campaigners have secretly filmed at the Spearmint Rhino strip club in Sheffield. They claim the recording shows sexual acts taking place in the club, which breaks the licensing rules.

Ella, a stripper at the club, is furious with Not Buying It for secretly filming dancers naked and fears losing her job as the club may now lose their licence.

But Dr Sasha Rakoff who assisted the secret filming insists this was the only way to expose the dark side of the industry.

My immediate sympathies were with Ella, but I can see both sides. I support the right of women (indeed the right of all people) to do what they like with their own bodies. On the other hand, the Spearmint Rhino club agreed to abide by certain rules about what could be done on the premises, and it does seem to me as if the covert filming by “Not Buying It” made a good case that those rules were being broken. I did not find Ella’s argument that the investigators had misunderstood what they saw entirely convincing. And it won’t wash to say that the conditions of the club’s licence were merely another example of state repression; though it would be better if they were voluntarily entered contracts between private parties, zoning rules of that broad type would probably still exist in a libertarian utopia.

Still, I found this statement from Dr Rakoff problematic:

Feminism, kind of like the rest of society has been somewhat infected by these really neo-liberal, really dumbed down, simplistic, very selfish attitudes that it’s all about me, me, me and what I choose and if I choose something it’s my right. That’s not what feminism has ever been about, it’s about all of us. So even if these women do choose to be lap dancers, it’s not just about them, it’s about wider social attitudes which is breeding Harvey Weinsteins.

So, according to Dr Rakoff feminism has never been about women’s individual choices. I had heard otherwise but perhaps that merely reflects my ignorance of modern feminism. As I said in a recent post, ‘I’m still holding on to the idea that “what a feminist looks like” can include what I see in the mirror. But it is getting harder.’

I would also like to know exactly who is included in the “all of us” she mentions as having some right to override an individual woman’s choice to be a lap dancer. All of humanity? Just the female half of it? Self-identified feminists? Or just those feminists who meet Dr Rakoff’s standard of feminism uninfected with neo-liberal selfishness?

An intersection

When I watched the by now viral video of a mob jeering at and throwing a milkshake over an elderly British Trump supporter, led by a screaming feminist called Siobhan Prigent, a number of lines of thoughts got like Ms Prigent, intersectional.

– Watching the video made me angry. A year or so ago my son asked me an interesting question, “Are you still a feminist?” He knew that I had previously described myself as one. Eventually I answered that yes, I was, but that my understanding of what being a feminist entails seems to have been abandoned by most of those who describe themselves as feminists. Is Siobhan Prigent what a feminist looks like now? I’m still holding on to the idea that “what a feminist looks like” can include what I see in the mirror. But it is getting harder.

– Talk of feminism leads me to the next thought. What did that frail-looking female police officer do that was any more use than a chocolate teapot? Would a more physically imposing male officer have been more useful, or was the lack of police action when the old man was assaulted a matter of policy and nothing to do with whether the presiding teapot was male or female?

The man also claimed he was kicked in the legs, and attacked with a banner with a stick on the end. The demonstrators also attempted to remove his Make America Great Again hat – which he eventually got back.

The Londoner told how police officers removed him from the protest on Parliament Square for his own safety.

He told police that he didn’t want to officially report what had happened as he knew ‘nothing would come of it’.

“Removed for his own safety”. “He knew ‘nothing would come of it'”. Modern policing in a nutshell.

– Intersectional feminist Ms Prigent has now intersected with the consequences of her actions. She has been forced to quit her job. She says that her friends and family have been threatened and abused alongside her. If the part about her family is true that is very bad. As for Ms Prigent herself, while she certainly deserves to suffer some public scorn for her bad behaviour, doxxing someone is like breaching a dam: once the wall breaks the situation is out of anyone’s control.

There was another feminist in the news today. The Scotsman reports that “Feminist speaker Julie Bindel ‘attacked by transgender person’ at Edinburgh University after talk”

“We had had a very positive meeting – I was speaking about male violence against women and never even mentioned transgender people – and when I came out this person was waiting.

“There had been a protest outside earlier, but that had gone so he was obviously waiting for me.

“He was shouting and ranting and raving, ‘you’re a f***** c***, you’re a f****** bitch, a f****** Terf” and the rest of it. We were trying to walk to the cab to take us to the airport, and then he just lunged at me and almost punched me in the face, but a security guard pulled him away.

“I got my phone out to film him to get evidence and he went for me again. It took three security guys at the stage to deal with him.

And

After the attack, it was revealed on social media platform Twitter that her attacker was a transwoman called Cathy Brennan, who it has been reported has previously advocated violence against women.

At this point I tried to research a little more about Cathy Brennan, but I’ve deleted what I said on the grounds of complete confusion. It seems that there are two people with the same name prominent on opposite sides of the debate. At least two. It doesn’t help in determining who’s who that half of the relevant Twitter accounts have now been deleted.

The Scotsman article continues,

“Brennan has previously tweeted in support of violence against women who believe that changing the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to self-identify as any gender, rather than needing a medical diagnosis, would endanger women’s rights to safety, privacy and dignity by doing away with single-sex spaces. One tweet read: “Any trans allies at #PrideLondon right now need to step the f**kup and take out the terf trash. Get in their faces. Make them afraid. Debate never works so f**k them up”

I have borne a grudge against Julie Bindel since she called me a rape defender about ten years ago. In the comments to an article she wrote for the Guardian I had brought up the possibility that not every claimed rape had actually occurred. Since then Ms Bindel’s version of radical feminism has been overtaken by another strand and she now finds herself on the receiving end of the denunciations she once handed out so freely. Still, I never heard she attacked anyone with anything other than words.

Samizdata quote of the day

“In the past few decades, digital pornography has been blamed for—well, pick a noun and add the word sex. It’s been named as a culprit for both sex addiction and sex abstinence. It’s been blamed for poor sex education, rampant sexual violence, and rising sexual dysfunction. Pornography is practically the Swiss Army knife of social calamity.”

Derek Thompson, The Atlantic.

Reminds me of the old gag: Why was the Swiss military so optimistic about the outcome of a war?
Answer: Because they had a wine corkscrew in their knives.

She falsely accused nine men of rape and six of sexual assault on four separate occasions but still the BBC puts scare quotes around the word ‘liar’.

Jemma Beale’s repeated lies caused an innocent man to spend two years in jail, and untold anxiety to many others. Part of Beale’s motive appears to have been to make her lover jealous, but she told a former girlfriend that she did it in order to get compensation money from the government. She was tried and convicted for her crimes and is now in jail.

You’d think that after all that her guilt would have been established beyond reasonable doubt. Yet with what strange new respect for the presumption of innocence (even after conviction!) does the BBC report her case:

Jemma Beale: Rape claim ‘liar’ loses conviction appeal

A “serial liar” who invented false rape and sexual assault allegations has failed in a bid to clear her name.

Jemma Beale, 27, from Hounslow, west London, was jailed for 10 years in August 2017 after claiming she was sexually assaulted by six men and raped by nine over the space of three years.

She challenged her convictions for perjury and perverting the course of justice and her sentence.

Her bid was rejected by three judges at the Court of Appeal.

Beale’s lawyer Gillian Jones QC argued the trial judge should have given the jury directions about the “danger of assumptions, myths and stereotypes” relating to victims of sexual offences.

I agree with Beale’s lawyer. The trial judge should have warned about the danger of the currently fashionable assumption, myth and stereotype that “women never lie about rape”. Fortunately the jury saw through Beale anyway.

British pushback against the problem of transgender athletes competing in women’s events

News of interest on the Transgender Athletes front, from the BBC:

Dame Kelly Holmes, Paula Radcliffe and Sharron Davies say they are going to write to the International Olympic Committee asking for more research on the “residual benefits” of being a transgender athlete.

I don’t quite get why these transgender athletes bother. When all the medals in some “Women’s” athletic event go to transgender athletes, these athletes can bully us all into not calling them fake winners to their faces, but that’s what most of us will go on thinking. And I bet Martina Navratilova hasn’t changed what she actually thinks. Which may indeed be that “cheats” is not quite the right word. After all, these transgender athletes all played by the rules as currently written. It’s the rules that need updating. Maybe there should be a distinct athletic category of competitions for Transgender Athletes, distinct from regular women.

For athletes who transgender from male to female anyway. As the BBC notes drily:

Athletes who have transitioned from female to male can compete without restrictions.

But maybe they too need a separate category?

But what do I know about this ruckus? My basic point here is that some British women athletes of great renown have begun what looks like a significant pushback against something that seems to me and to many others to be a very silly sort of competition.