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]

Wanjiru Njoya on the feminist double standard

“The feminist double standard was born. Women could invade men’s spaces, but men could not do the reverse. Girls could play for the boys’ high school soccer team if they were good enough, but boys could not play on the girls.’”

Wanjiru Njoya is correct, and the point is general. Defend the rights of others as you would defend your own rights. Because you are defending your own rights.

What I did on my holidays

Switzerland is a great country. In most respects Machiavelli’s description of the Swiss as “armatissimi e liberissimi”, “most armed and most free”, still applies. But…

It says,

Mandatory shooting
Mandatory program

Compulsory shooting training applies to all soldiers equipped with an assault rifle and must be completed every year until the end of military obligations.
It must be carried out by August 31 with a recognized shooting club. You can check the dates and times in official publications or on the internet.
Further information can be found at: http://www.be.ch/militaire

The Wikipedia article on Conscription in Switzerland says,

Switzerland has mandatory military service (German: Militärdienst; French: service militaire; Italian: servizio militare) in the Swiss Army for all able-bodied male citizens, who are conscripted when they reach the age of majority,[1] though women may volunteer for any position.[2] Conscripts make up the majority of the manpower in the Swiss Armed Forces.[3]

On September 22, 2013, a referendum that aimed to abolish conscription was held in Switzerland.[4] However, the referendum failed with over 73% of the electorate voting against it, showing strong support for conscription of men in Switzerland.

Much as I admire the Swiss, I cannot make myself believe that constitutes being liberissimi.

Sport with or without performance drugs could work, so long as competition is honest.

“Drug-taking ‘Enhanced Games’ aims to rival Olympics with 2024 launch” reports the Telegraph. It leads with how the proposal has been denounced, but leaves itself some wriggle room in case the outrage leaves early.

London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Anna Meares has slammed a proposed new rival Games with no drug testing as an unsafe “joke”.

Meares, who beat Victoria Pendleton to the women’s cycling sprint in London and was also a gold medallist in Athens, was responding to plans by the London-based businessman Aron D’Souza to stage an inaugural ‘Enhanced Games’ next year.

D’Souza says that the traditional Olympic model is exploitative and believes that, with no drug testing, events like the 100m sprint can be run in under nine seconds. The current official world record, set by Usain Bolt in 2009, is 9.58secs.

D’Souza argues that adult athletes should have the right to decide what goes into their bodies and that the current system has pushed the use of performance-enhancing drugs underground.

He hopes to stage the first Enhanced Games next December in track and field, swimming, weightlifting, gymnastics and combat sports and claims to have the support of several doctors, scientists and former Olympic athletes.

“Athletes are adults … and they have a right to do with their body what they wish – my body, my choice; your body, your choice,” D’Souza told the Australian Associated Press.

“Nothing will improve the productivity of our society more than preventing ageing. It sounds like science fiction now but we live in the future, look at the rise of artificial intelligence and other technologies. We believe that science makes humanity – and sports – better and fairer.”

If the rules of a given competition or league are clearly stated and impartially enforced I do not see a problem with this. It would be better and safer than the current situation in which performance drugs are taken surreptitiously by many. This harms honest sportspeople who do not take them and lose as a result. It has often harmed the cheats as well, because all the protocols that make it relatively safe to put foreign chemicals into one’s body when done openly for medical purposes cannot operate in secret.

And as Aron D’Souza says, adult athletes should have the right to choose what they put into their bodies.

I can relate to the way the Guardian spun this

On December 3rd 2021, New Zealand spinner Ajaz Patel took all 10 wickets in one innings of a Test Match against India. He was only the third bowler in history to achieve this feat in international cricket.

On April 7th 2023, the Guardian‘s Elle Hunt joined the ranks of great spinners from New Zealand:

“With a text message sent to the wrong group chat, New Zealand’s Greens have never been so relatable.”

New Zealand’s Green party is in highly public turmoil after one politician sent a message seeming to criticise a colleague to a group of their other colleagues, apparently by mistake.

While the Greens’ Chlöe Swarbrick was speaking in the House on Wednesday, her fellow MP Elizabeth Kerekere texted a group of Green politicians and staff: “omg what a crybaby” – seeming to refer to Swarbrick’s failed amendment bill, aiming to reduce harm from alcohol.

After a colleague responded with “I think this is the wrong chat …?” – which ranks alongside “We need to talk” in its ability to instantly strike fear into the heart of its recipient – Kerekere deleted the text, then apologised for the “inappropriate message … which was not meant for this thread”.

The comments show Guardian readers wrestling with the difficult moral dilemmas thrown up by this situation. Swarbrick is female and LGBTQ. Kerekere is female, LGBTQ and Maori, seemingly giving her an unassailable lead. Then again, Swarbrick is vegan and sees a psychologist every week. And as the top comment by JunoNZ reminds us, “Chloe was trying very hard to persuade Parliament to advance a bill that would improve our terrible alcohol laws. These laws have a huge impact, especially on people living in poverty. And that includes some transgender people and their whanau as well as a disproportionate number of Maori and Pacifica, the groups supposedly of concern to EK.”

Bringing in “transgender people and their whanau” was a smart tactical move. Merely to mention transgender people, though a sound enough strategy in debates about the provision of bus shelters or the cost of electricity, would not have been enough to negate Kerekere’s Maori advantage, but, like all the best spin bowling, the sudden and logically unjustified use of the word “whānau” won by sheer audacity.

More thoughts on bias, TV presenters and contracts

I was going to put this into a comment on Patrick Crozier’s excellent item about Gary Lineker, the UK former footballer, and now TV show presenter (and enthusiastic Tweeter). But as the comment was chunky I am taking the liberty of putting it here.

On social media I come across the argument that Lineker hosts a sports programme, not a current affairs show about politics, so he’s not causing a problem by taking heated positions on a private twitter account. There are several problems with this line of reasoning.

Football these days is, alas, political. Maybe it always has been – even George Orwell disliked international games because he thought it stoked rather than reduced national ill feeling. Today, footballers have “taken the knee” over the Black Lives Matter eruptions, for example, or spoken about the Qatar World Cup and the row about maltreatment of stadium construction workers. There is a new UK government regulator of football (dealing with issues such as the finances of the game), and that is bound to be a political issue that a pundit like Lineker will want to talk about. Four years after Russia annexed Crimea, Lineker and the rest were in Russia to commentate on the World Cup of 2018. The footballing body, FIFA, was the centre of a massive corruption scandal. Brexit affected European football, such as because of the UK’s exit from the Single Market and the consequent impact on free movement and labour market contracts. And so on.

Why mention all this? Because it will not do for Lineker to say his role has nothing to do with politics so it’s okay to slag off the UK government or whatever on A or B, particularly in harsh language. That is why his principal, if not sole employer – the BBC – is entitled to ask him to tone it down on social media, or at least issue some small disclaimer along the lines “my views aren’t necessarily shared by the BBC” sort. The BBC is paid for by a tax known as the licence fee. In its charter, it has to uphold impartiality as part of the bargain, although in reality this is very hard to achieve consistently (which is why I think the fee needs to go).

For those who aren’t in such a role, or who have an independent income, they are freer to upset, provoke and delight anyone with equal measure. (This is also a reason why protecting savings from inflation is good precisely because it makes independent sources of income easier.)

But where a certain stance comes with the day job, then a contract of employment/service is entitled to contain some form of words about certain pronouncements. For Lineker, unfortunately, the “beautiful game” is no longer just about men (now women) kicking a bag of air around.

Final point: It is not as if Lineker, in condemning UK policy on illegal migrants, was adopting a particularly brave or original stance. His views are standard “liberal” boilerplate. I cannot imagine Lineker saying “Net Zero is BS”, or “All Lives Matter” or “Brussels is out of control” or “gender is not a social construct”.

Go on Gary, prove me wrong.

Thoughts on the Lineker Affair

There is a bit of a kerfuffle here in England. National hero, sports presenter and self-appointed moral authority Gary Lineker reacted to government plans to reduce illegal immigration by posting a tweet which could be construed to suggest that he thought they – that’s the government not the illegal immigrants – were a bunch of Nazis. His employers – the sinister British Broadcasting Corporation – have suspended him. His colleagues have walked out in solidarity which means that today’s edition of Match of the Day – a football highlights show which Lineker presents – will be very odd indeed.

Some thoughts:

  • As libertarians we believe in freedom of speech. As libertarians we also believe in the enforcibility of contracts. But what if those two principles are in conflict? I don’t think any company or organisation can be entirely indifferent if their employees or associates make controversial remarks in public.
  • The BBC is funded by money extorted from people who own televisions. As such it should not exist. If it must exist then it ought to be impartial. Except that there is no such thing as impartiality. Even if there was would it last? The late Brian Micklethwait was of the opinion that bias in media organisations was inevitable. If so the BBC have embraced the idea with gusto. For the most part its output is little more than communist propaganda interspersed with cookery shows. BBC sports coverage itself is a cesspit of virtue signalling and wokery. Except, of course, when it comes to covering a major international tournament in a blood-soaked petro-tyranny.
  • It is interesting that his co-presenters have rushed to his side. Why? Maybe they believe this stuff.
  • I don’t think this – should it end in his sacking – counts as cancel culture. But I am not quite sure. Cancellation seems to me to involve ending a person’s career something that has happened to any number of academics, doctors and YouTubers. Certainly, it isn’t – at least, it shouldn’t be – disastrous for Lineker.
  • I haven’t noticed anyone rushing to defend his actual words. If an historical analogy is appropriate then it would be the US from the 1920s not Germany from the 1930s.
  • Matt Le Tissier was an ex-footballer and was also a pundit. He also made controversial remarks. He got fired. No one rushed to support him. But he wasn’t expressing Establishment opinions so that’s OK.
  • Maybe Lineker should post anonymously. Problem solved. Except no one would listen to him then. Problem doubly solved. This, of course, is an approach taken by a number of my fellow Samizdata writers. Oh you thought Perry de Havilland was his real name? Ha!
  • I have this awful feeling that if you truly wish to exercise your right to free speech you have to be independently wealthy.
  • Lineker is a great presenter.

Kann Union wirklich Meister werden?*

Well over a decade ago fellow Samizdatista Michael Jennings and I walked into a bar in Berlin. There was a game of German Second Division football on the telly between Ingolstadt and Union Berlin. Union scored and the place went nuts. Other than ourselves and the bar staff there were 3 other people in the bar. Clearly, this was no ordinary team.

Indeed it wasn’t. Union had been reasonably successful in the East German league – although – perhaps wisely – not as successful as Dynamo Berlin who were backed by the Stasi. Now you might have thought with reunification teams from the East would have been welcomed with open arms. Not so. West German teams didn’t really fancy the competition. If you have ever wondered why Celtic and Rangers don’t play in the English Premier League much the same reasoning applies. So Union found themselves playing in a regional league. They almost went bust. At one point fans gave blood to keep the club in business. At another they found themselves rebuilding the stadium.

Just to get into the German Second Division was an achievement. A few years later they got themselves into what the Germans call “Relegation”. This is where the third best Second Division club plays the third worst First Division Club to decide who gets to play in the superior league. Usually, the First Division team wins but on this occasion – inspired by the club song written by Nina Hagen no less and one of the most fanatical sets of supporters to be found anywhere – the boys from Köpenick – yes, that Köpenick – triumphed.

Of course, it is one thing to be promoted to the top division, quite another to stay there. It is not as if Union is overburdened with advantages. Berlin is not a particularly rich city. Their ground has a capacity of a mere 22,000. Their Berlin rivals (Herta) get the Olympic Stadium – yes that Olympic Stadium – to call their home. Union’s utter refusal to depart from the fan-owned system means they have no sugar daddy to spoil them. And yet, at the time I started writing this post this was how the table looked:

Oh, I don’t think this will be how it looks at the end of the season. I suspect they’ll fall away in much the same way I suspect the EPL’s own temporary over-achievers will fall away over the next couple of months but even so, given where they’ve come from this is a hell of an achievement.

*Headline in Bild.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Governments over the years have ruined many successful domestic industries. Interference in football could well have the same doleful effect. We have enough problems for the government to sort out before it interferes in yet another area of economic and social life.”

– Professor Len Shackleton, IEA Editorial and Research Fellow, and author of the report Red Card. The quotation came from a press release I received today from the IEA.

Swatted by Siri

“How a personal trainer’s smart watch caused 15 armed police officers to turn up to his Sydney gym while he was teaching a client”Daily Mail.

Apparently, Jaime Alleyne, who is a a Muay Thai and boxing trainer, called out “one, one, two” followed by “good shot” to a client he was sparring with. He was not wearing his smart watch but it was still active – and 112 is one of the Australian emergency phone numbers. Mr Alleyne said, “Next minute about 15 officers including undercovers showed up, with several ambulances parked out the front, and that’s when I started bricking myself.”

He would have had no need to fear an over-zealous response from the UK emergency services. They would still be waiting for a risk assessment.

Why Stalin giving a hockey player a house the other day was not as nice as it seemed

For some reason I was not as enthused about the recent actions of the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Muthuvel Karunanidhi Stalin, as the mykhel.com reporter seemed to be:

Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin gifts a house to India hockey player Karthi Selvam on seeing current house condition

Chennai, Nov 30: Rising India hockey player Selvam Karthi has a new abode where he can live with his family. The new house has been gifted to the hockey player by Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin. Stalin recently paid a visit to the Karthi’s house in the Ariyalur district, which is 360 kilometres away from Chennai, and seeing the dilapidated condition of the Indian player’s residence, he gifted him a new house.

I have nothing against sporting achievement being rewarded, but there does seem to be something disturbingly arbitrary about a public servant having the power to give away entire houses to players who have a good debut against New Zealand. Given that Mr Stalin celebrates Social Justice Day, I assume he was not generously donating his own money: the “gifting” was actually done, involuntarily, by the taxpayers of Tamil Nadu. Aside from that, history relates that when sportsmen are lavishly rewarded by political leaders it does not always go well for them in the long run. While I am sure that Karthi Selvam, the young player in question, is happy with his new house, he should remember that what the State giveth, the State can taketh away. I hope for Mr Selvam’s sake that he does not disappoint in his next game.

“We don’t have to feel like prey”

Fair play to the Guardian for running (sorry) this article, which will have gone against the preconceptions of many of its readers:

‘We don’t have to feel like prey’: the female joggers running with guns

Jamie, a 40-year-old runner who prefers to withhold her last name for privacy, says, “Women who carry while running are not monolithic, but we are often characterized as such in the media. We are characterized as right-wing, aggressive, backwards-thinking, and ignorant of the risks of gun ownership. I am none of these. I am educated, politically moderate, and sane.”

Jamie goes on to describe her own experiences. “I was followed around a popular lake trail by a man who exposed himself to me … about a half mile later, I heard steps behind me and it was him.” It was getting dark, and Jamie realized she was alone with the man, who she assumed was strong enough to overpower her. He came closer and closer, ignoring her entreaties to leave her alone, and backed her into some trees. Finally, “I put my hand on my [up until then concealed] pistol like I was about to draw and I told him to get away from me.” Suddenly, Jamie’s aggressor completely changed his demeanor, telling her to, “stay safe”, and running away.

“By refusing to take part in this collective operation”

Idrissa Gueye is a Senegalese footballer who plays for his country and for the French side Paris Saint-Germain.

On Sunday 15th May, Paris Saint-Germain played Montpellier. On that day, players in the French Ligue 1 were meant to wear football jerseys with the numbers in LGBT rainbow colours in order to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. Unexpectedly, Mr Gueye did not play in that match. So far as I can find out with my limited ability to search news reports in French, he has not said why he sat out the match, but it is widely believed that it was because he felt that it would be incompatible with his religious beliefs to wear a shirt in Pride colours. He is a practising Muslim.

Via Paul Embery, I found this quotation from a letter that the FFF (Fédération Française de Football / French Football Federation) sent to Mr Gueye on May 17th:

“There are two possibilities, either these allegations are unfounded and we invite you to speak out without delay to silence these rumours. For example, we invite you to accompany your message by a photo of yourself wearing said shirt.”

“Or the rumours are true. In this case we invite you to realise the impact of your act, and the grave error committed. The fight against discrimination towards different minorities, whoever they might be, is a vital fight for all times. Whether it’s skin colour, religion, sexual orientation, or any other difference, all discrimination is based on the same principle which is rejection of the other because they are different from the majority.”

“By refusing to take part in this collective operation, you are effectively validating discriminatory behaviour, and rejection of the other, and not just against the LGBTQI+ community. The impact of football on society and the capacity for footballers to be a role model for those who admire them gives us all a particular responsibility.”

The report and translation come from the website Get French Football News. It says that it is quoting a story from the French sports paper L’Equipe. I believe the original L’Equipe story is this: “Le Conseil national de l’éthique de la FFF a écrit à Idrissa Gueye (PSG)” The headline means, “The National Ethics Council of the FFF has written to Idrissa Gueye (PSG)”.

One does not have to share Mr Gueye’s religious beliefs, or his (probable) opinions on LGBT issues, to see something sinister in this demand that he make a display of loyalty to prove his “innocence” of a charge that he did not participate in what is effectively the visual equivalent of compelled speech.

Why do they bother? They say Gueye must get himself photographed in a rainbow shirt because he’s a footballer and thus allegedly a role model. But such gestures of solidarity are inspiring only if they are known to be sincere. No one is going to be inspired to rethink their prejudices regarding gay people if and when Idrissa makes some obviously reluctant gesture of support.