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]

Three cheers for the European Super League!

Nothing official yet but it would appear that there are plans for a European Super League. Yes, I know you’re thinking, “Don’t we already have one of those?” Sort of, except that the Champions League is not a league let alone one of champions. This, on the other hand, would be a proper week-in, week-out competition to determine who – really – is the best team in the world.

Shockingly, some people don’t seem to like it. UEFA doesn’t like it. FIFA doesn’t like it. The British Government – you really would have thought that Boris Johnson would have bigger things on his mind right now – doesn’t like it. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “If *a**e*s like FIFA and the British government are against it, it must be a good thing.” And you know what? you are absolutely right. But there are other reasons to like it. What it means is that ordinary people will be able to watch the best football in the world on a weekly basis. It also means that the footballers who people actually want to watch will get their just rewards. In many ways it is just as revolutionary as the creation of the Premier League in 1993 or the creation of the world’s first league in 1888 or the decision to ban handling and kicking people in the shins. Frankly, it’s about bloody time.

Of course, it is bad news for rubbish teams. But who cares about them? As it happens, I do. I support one of them, well, when they’re not promoting communist thuggery (but that’s another story). But I don’t expect the world to be discombobulated just so I can watch them pulverise the best team on the planet every once in a while. I will still be able to support them – subject to semi-permanent Covid restrictions, of course. They’ll just have to cut their coat to suit their cloth that’s all. Who knows, maybe the competition will stir the game’s organisers to improve it. Perhaps, we’ll see an end to the ridiculous offside rule or sin-bins instead of bookings or even the re-introduction of handling and kicking people in the shins.

His offence is “failure to condemn”

“Tory George Eustice fails to condemn Millwall fans who booed players for taking the knee”, the Mirror reports.

A Tory Cabinet minister has failed to condemn Millwall fans who booed players for taking the knee in support of black people’s rights.

George Eustice said people who express a view on fighting racism should be “respected”, but stopped short of directly condemning the outburst at Millwall’s ground The Den yesterday.

Millwall FC today said it was “dismayed and saddened” after some fans booed players who briefly took the knee at the start of a match against Derby County.

The gesture has been followed by footballers up and down the country in solidarity with black people and the Black Lives Matter movement.

But Tory minister Mr Eustice today said Black Lives Matter was “actually a political movement” which is different to “standing up for racial equality.”

The Times report on the same story is behind a paywall, but the most interesting thing about it is not the report itself but the readers’ comments. An early version of the story was posted on the Times website last night. That version contained the words,

A cabinet minister has ignored majority opinion by describing Black Lives Matter as a “political movement”

Of the twenty most popular comments, ten questioned that now-vanished statement and all twenty supported Eustice. In fact one would have to scroll past a lot more than twenty before finding anyone who did not agree with Eustice. The twenty-first most popular comment was by someone going by the name of “Bogbrush” who asked, “Do all footballers now have to do this before every game, forever?”

Another commenter, “Middlesbrough Man”, said that, “Interestingly my team does not ‘take the knee’ on the recommendation of our captain, who recommends community action not political gestures”. Middlesbrough’s captain is Britt Assombalonga, who also plays for the national team of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Definitions of what is shameful differ

A human interest story from the Daily Record:

‘Kalashnikov councillor’ running for seat in Scottish Parliament after machine gun shame

A shamed politician – dubbed the Kalashnikov councillor after being captured on video coaching his young children how to use a machine gun – is campaigning for a seat in the Scottish Parliament.

Former SNP councillor Jahangir Hanif was forced to apologise after footage emerged of him training his young children to fire an AK-47 assault rifle during a visit to Pakistan.

The SNP condemned his “inappropriate conduct” and suspended him for two months while his his own daughter wrote to the party demanding his expulsion, claiming she had been terrified on the gun-toting trip.

On the ukpolitics subreddit, where I saw this story, a commenter called “ragnarspoonbrok” says,

No ear defenders isn’t a good start. Only one hand on the rifle as someone else is holding the fore grip. Rifle not shouldered correctly. No one has their eye anywhere near the sight meaning it’s not aimed correctly with their bugger hook on the bang switch.

It’s not a small caliber it’s a 7.62

Wouldn’t really class that as safe.

Gary Lineker’s own goal

BBC football pundit Gary Lineker just brought the end of the BBC licence fee measurably closer.

In this tweet he quoted the BBC Press Office saying he had signed a new five year deal with them and said,

“Oh dear. Thoughts are with the haters at this difficult time.”

In the last few months the BBC has turned a corner, the one leading to a blind alley in a bad part of town. The strategy of appointing a former Conservative politician as Director-General might have worked ten years ago but comes too late now. The almighty row about the last night of the Proms finally convinced many of those older viewers and listeners who were once its core audience that the state broadcaster does not like them very much. The Beeb’s protestations that its proposal to omit the words of Land of Hope and Glory and Rule, Britannia was because of Covid-19 rather than BLM were not believed. Partly this disbelief was because – until it became clear how big the row was going to be – the BBC itself had given its usual sympathetic coverage to those saying patriotic anthems should be dropped from the Proms because “How are we going to break down the institutional system, if we hang on to these [songs]?”. Partly it was because this was the last straw, not the first. There had been many straws like this:

…during a debate about “white women’s privilege” on No Country for Young Women, a podcast devoted to racial issues, hosted by Monty Onanuga and Sadia Azmat.

Amelia Dimoldenberg, a YouTuber who appeared on the episode, urged white women to “educate yourself, read some books, so you are aware of the histories of white people and race”. She added: “Don’t be so loud. Stop shouting and stop attacking black voices — instead you should be uplifting them.”

The advice was echoed by her fellow guest Charlotte Lydia Riley, a historian at Southampton University, who said that white women should “try not to be defensive about your whiteness”. She added: “A lot of the time when women are Karens it’s because they are completely unwilling to accept that their whiteness is a privilege . . . They feel like they don’t want to interrogate how their behaviour might be racist.”

The guests, both white, suggested that white women should stop expressing opinions. “Get out the way, basically,” said Dr Riley, to which Ms Dimoldenberg agreed: “Yeah, basically leave.”

A lot of white women were moved to comment on that Times article. They expressed complete willingness to “basically leave” the BBC, as soon as the law allowed them to do so. Middle-aged, middle-class Times readers would once have been the most eloquent defenders of the BBC and what a previous Director-General delicately called its “unique method of funding”, a euphemism for force.

Who else among former loyalists has the British Broadcasting Corporation annoyed recently? The old. Personally I thought Tony Blair’s decision in 2000 to issue free TV licences to those over the age of 75 was sentimental nonsense, but as with all subsidies, cancelling them makes people angry. Who’s left? Surely that would be fans of Match of the Day, the longest-running football television programme in the world?

Maybe, maybe not. Match of the Day‘s lead presenter is the aforementioned Gary Lineker who is so famous that I know who he is. Until his recent £400,000 pay cut, agreed to help out his employer in hard times and, er, increase gender balance among BBC salaries, Gary Lineker was earning £1.75 million per annum. To have presented Match of the Day for as long as he has at the salary he commands (“commands” as in someone at the command economy of the BBC commands that he shall have that amount), Mr Lineker must be doing something right. But he is not doing Twitter right if he thinks reminding people that he is now down to a measly £1.35 million will go down well with the average football fan, especially since he had agreed as a condition of the deal that he he would tweet more carefully.

Someone called Michael Rafferty replied,

Let’s not be smug Gary iv not worked since Christmas due to this pandemic… It’s comments like that put me off people like yourself …

jim ferguson says,

I dont hate you Gary but as an ex serviceman on a lowly pension after serving my country putting my life on the line 23 years and then having to pay to keep you in that style you turn your nose up at us feel its unfair when i dont want to or should be forced too pay for it

LSW1 says,

Shouldn’t you be on your way out so they can replace you with someone younger and more diverse?

Jurgen Klopp gives a much admired answer to a question he was not asked

The English Football Premier League is one of the world’s great sporting tournaments, and as the current season now nears its end, Liverpool have a huge lead of over twenty points over their nearest rival club. This is, despite a recent stumble in Liverpool’s form, an amazing achievement. (Our own Patrick Crozier, a Watford supporter, might enjoy commenting on that stumble.) This all comes after Liverpool, last season, won the European Championship. All football fans, whether paid or unpaid, are now inclined to regard everything that Liverpool’s hugely engaging and obviously very smart manager Jurgen Klopp says or does as evidence of his all-round human wonderfulness.

Personally, I greatly prefer following football on television and on the internet to actually going to games, which are too noisy, expensive and time-consuming for my tastes and for my fading eyesight. I prefer classical concerts at the Wigmore Hall. (I recently attended this concert there. Stu – I’m now deploying a verbal device that Americans often like to use when they really want to ram their point home, often by swearing at this point – pendous.) Nevertheless, from a virtual distance, I too am a football fan, and so I share the general admiration for Jurgen Klopp.

The above explains why Klopp is getting so much admiring attention for what he recently said about the coronavirus. Klopp was, MarketWatch reports:

… responding to a reporter who asked if the famed Liverpool coach is concerned about the spread of the coronavirus.

Here is how Klopp responded to this question:

“What I don’t like in life is that a very serious thing, a football manager’s opinion is important,” Klopp explained. “We have to speak about things in the right manner, not people with no knowledge, like me, talking about something. People with knowledge will talk about it and tell people to do this, do that, and everything will be fine, or not. Not football managers, I don’t understand that.”

Cue an orgy of admiration for what a stellar human being Klopp is, for saying something so very, very wise. What a guy!

But, perhaps because I only admire people like Klopp from a virtual distance, I am able to dissent. I think that this was an excellent answer by Klopp, to a question that he wasn’t actually asked. He wasn’t asked what he thinks will be the future progress of the coronavirus. He was merely being asked whether he was worried about it. Any conscientious football club manager must now be anxious about how the coronavirus might affect his club in the weeks and months to come, and to be listening out carefully to learn what derangements look like being imposed upon the world and the country in general, and upon professional football in particular. Klopp doesn’t have to be an expert on infectious diseases to be worried about the spread of one of these devilish things while it is still spreading and still killing people, and more to the point while it is causing sporting authorities to ponder doing things like cancelling all heavily-attended sports events for the duration of the coronavirus problem. He just has to be a semi-intelligent person who is keeping half an eye on the news.

To the actual question that Klopp was asked, a simple Yes would have sufficed. Yes, he is worried, as are most other people, and worried precisely because he, Jurgen Klopp, does indeed not know what the coronavirus will do next. He might then have added a few words to the effect that he was already thinking about how future games might be affected, and about what he would be telling his players if cancellations and general disruption of sport in the UK, along the lines of what is already happening in Italy, do shortly ensue.

The comments Klopp made on the habit of regarding people who are celebrated in one field as experts in other fields are very sensible, or would have been had that been what he had been asked about. But I also dissent somewhat from that. Not in the sense that I regard successful football managers as experts on all other things. It’s more that I reckon you can also overdo the reverence for the pronouncements of “experts“. Experts can often be very right, but they are often wrong. The rest of us ought at least to be willing to question the supposed experts, and then ask ourselves if their answers make as much sense as they are claiming.

Let’s just accept that we live in a low-probability timeline

Continuing my series of “Newspaper headlines mentioning vaguely newsworthy persons that I thought at first sight were jokes but turned out to be literally true”,

Prominent lawyer Jolyon Maugham clubs fox to death while wearing kimono.

Well, I suppose it is traditional to kill foxes on Boxing Day.

Yesterday’s entry: The Attorney General reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”

Democratic workers’ control of football!

Labour promise football fans a say over their club’s choice of manager

“Labour will put fans at the heart of football by giving them a far greater say over the way their clubs are run,” she said. “We will provide them a say over who their manager is, allow safe standing, and make sure all stadiums are fully ­accessible.”

This enhanced fan ­influence, which is likely to be ­resisted by most clubs and leagues, relates to legislation should Labour win next week’s general election that would allow accredited football supporters’ trusts to purchase shares and change at least two directors if the club changes owner.​

*

The organs of Workers’ Control have the right to supervise production, fix the minimum of output, and determine the cost of production.

Romantic sporting essentialism

So South Africa won the rugby. I didn’t watch it myself. Like many (though certainly not all) of those who congregate here I am more into reading a pleasantly dotty analysis of Rugby As A Class Phenomenon in the pages of the Guardian than watching however-many-it-is blokes run about a muddy field with a ball that isn’t even. No offence to those whose preferences run the other way, or to those who enjoy both – the denunciation of daft Guardian articles just happens to my way of directing my aggressive instincts into harmless channels. Here is said article:

“Rugby league is a rebel sport – its northern strongholds will never turn Conservative” writes Tony Collins, who is emeritus professor of history at De Montfort University.

In fact his account of the origin of the class divide between Rugby Union and Rugby League is fascinating. People like me who make jokingly derogatory remarks about sports because they were crap at them at school need to learn more about sports history.

But Professor Collins knowing a lot about the history of Rugby League in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries doesn’t necessarily mean he knows all about its fans in the twenty-first. And his apparent belief that Rugby League casts a permanent Protection Against Toryism spell is ludicrous:

The attitudes that gave birth to rugby league remain strong. Hostility to the establishment and suspicion of the ruling elite, whether in Westminster or in business, has not diminished. Indeed, the strong Brexit vote in rugby league-playing regions can be seen as a protest vote against a two-party parliamentary system that has continually let down the “post-industrial” north.

Or, allow me a little blue sky thinking for a moment, it could be seen as wanting Brexit.

Unlike Essex Man or Worcester Woman, Workington Man (Johnson’s consultants appear to be ignorant of the fact that women are also rugby league fans and players)

Cheap shot, Professor. As you as a historian of the sport know perfectly well, the overwhelming majority of Rugby League players and fans have been male.

has none of the advantages of living in the economic bubble of the south of England. While dissatisfaction with Labour also runs deep, it is unlikely that traditional rugby league areas in the north of England will fall to the Tories.

Although the Brexit party has picked up votes in these areas, Nigel Farage’s Dulwich College accent and golf club-bore demeanour is too great a barrier for him to make any significant breakthrough in areas where stubborn resistance to self-appointed authority is deeply ingrained.

While no one knows what the future may bring, the best means we have for estimating the likelihood of a region “falling” to the Tories is an opinion poll. By a happy non-coincidence an opinion poll to canvass the views of “Workington Man” (and Workington Woman too before anyone gets uptight) has just been carried out. Not a poll of Workington Man the archetype, a poll of actual human beings living in Workington. Here is my post about it over at The Great Realignment site: Workington Agonistes. If you want a TL;DR, the result was that by 45% to 34% Workington would fall to the Tories. Yet worse, 13% of Workingtonites would fall to the golfing side of the force and vote for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. That is not a high percentage but it is almost triple what the Lib Dems get. So much for Brexit being a protest vote against a two-party parliamentary system.

As one contemporary writer remarked about the 1895 split, northern rugby and its communities had rejected the “thraldom of the southern gentry”. There’s no reason to suspect that things will change in 2019. As Onward’s misunderstanding of rugby league traditions demonstrates, Britain remains two nations separated by huge class and cultural divisions. And few things illustrate that chasm better than rugby.

The “Onward” think tank may be misunderstanding rugby league traditions, but what evidence we have suggests that Professor Collins may be misunderstanding who plays the role of bubble-dwelling gentry here.

I seek a software or sporting metaphor to explain why a second referendum would be wrong

When discussing Brexit I am often asked, not always disingenuously, “What is so wrong with having another referendum? Is not another vote more democratic by definition? Now that we know more, isn’t a good idea to check if people really do want to leave the European Union?”

I have been trying to think of a metaphor to explain what my objection to a second referendum is. The non-metaphorical explanation is that the government solemnly promised in the pamphlet sent to every household that whatever people voted for in the referendum of 23rd June 2016, “the government will implement what you decide”. A so-called democracy that will not allow certain results is a sham democracy.

(“Buuut,” comes the cry, “we aren’t disallowing any results. We’re just checking.”)

It was the European Union’s habit of ignoring or repeating referendums that gave the “wrong answer” which more than anything else turned me against it. I can truly say that even when it was in its infancy I foresaw that the trick of making a few cosmetic changes then running the referendum again would work devilishly well because it is difficult to describe in one sentence what is wrong with it. One can point out that it only ever seems to work one way: results of which the EU approves never seem to need to be confirmed. But to do that requires that you recite a whole chunk of history about Denmark and Ireland and the difference (clue: there wasn’t one) between the European Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty. If your interlocutor is young, as a lot of Europhiles are, then this is a lot to take in and a lot to take on trust.

I wish there were a quick, engaging story I could tell to show what I mean. Two possible types of anecdote occur to me, one from the world of sport and one from the world of computers. Being ignorant of both fields, I would like to ask readers if they know of anecdotes or examples from sporting history or computery stuff which would fit the bill.

Computers first: it infuriates me when the efforts of Microsoft or Samsung to get me to adopt their proprietary software seem almost to amount to harassment. I have a Samsung phone. One day this crappy thing called “Samsung internet” appeared on the front screen or whatever it’s called. I don’t recall that I ever asked for it but I cannot make it go away. To be honest I probably did ask for it in the sense that I once, once, failed to reject it on some occasion when some damn prompt asking me to take it popped up and I had to get rid of the pop-up quickly in order to get on with whatever I wanted to do.

That anecdote is probably wrong in its terminology. I may have been overly harsh to Samsung or its internet. The point is that this type of situation, where the user has to keep rejecting something that the software company is pushing, and if they slip up just once they are deemed to have accepted it, is widely recognized to be a right pain. Can anyone give me the words to make this a metaphor for why “neverendums” are a bad thing?

Or what about an example from the history of sport? Little though I know about sports, even I can see that there can be few things more frustrating for an athlete than to run the race of your life – and then have it announced that, “Oh, sorry, old chap, that was a false start. We’ll have to run it again.” This would be even worse if it were suspected that the sporting authorities had applied the rules in a partial manner. For instance there may have been times when white athletics officials were more prone to declare that a re-run was necessary if a black athlete won than if a white athlete did.

I may have described a similar situation regarding football in an earlier post I cannot find now.

Has this scenario actually happened? Dates, names and places please!

And if you know as little as I do of those two fields, how do you make the argument against a second referendum?

Or, if you prefer, what stories, anecdotes or metaphors do you use to argue in favour of a second referendum?

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.

Hobbs mania: How a cartoon depiction of Mohammad provoked Muslim outrage – in 1925

I have begun reading Leo McKinstry’s book about Sir Jack Hobbs, whom he describes in his book’s subtitle as “England’s Greatest Cricketer”. So, greater than W.G. Grace then? That’s what McKinstry says, and he emphasises this by telling, at the beginning of his book, on pages 5 and 6 of the Introduction, about how Hobbs surpassed Grace’s record for the number of centuries scored by a batsman in top class cricket (“first class” cricket as we cricket people call it), and of what a sensation this caused in England. This happened several decades before cricket was toppled by soccer as England’s greatest sporting obsession.

Hobbs began the 1925 county cricket season scoring heavily, and the centuries piled up, a century being a personal score of a hundred or more runs by the one batsman. But as Hobbs neared Grace’s record of 126 centuries, and as press and public interest grew, the nerves cut in and started affecting the performances of the usually nerveless Hobbs. The centuries slowed to a trickle. Once, when he got out for 54 (which would normally be rated a decent score), Hobbs walked back to his home pavilion at Surrey’s Oval cricket ground in complete silence, so deep was the gloom and disappointment of the spectators.

But, Hobbs having got stuck within one century of the Grace record, Hobbs’s team, Surrey, were playing Somerset at Taunton. On the first day of that game, August 15th 1925, Somerset were dismissed cheaply and Hobbs reached 91 not out, just a handful of runs short of reaching the record. And the next morning, he inched his way to century number 126. Equality with Grace was apparently what mattered, rather than doing one better, and with the pressure off, Hobbs’s first class century number 127 followed in the second Surrey innings of that same game.

Cue the celebrations:

Across the nation, Hobbs was acclaimed as the greatest sportsman of his age. ‘Jack Hobbs has taken the sporting world by storm. In two days and the same match he has equalled and surpassed the greatest feat ever performed in the annals of cricket; declared the Daily Mirror. Even King George V, a monarch notorious for his gruff reticence, sent a fulsome message of congratulations from Balmoral via his secretary Lord Stamfordham, expressing ‘much pleasure’ at Hobbs’s ‘remarkable success, whereby you have established a new and greater record in the history of our National Game’. Nor could the non-cricket world ignore the event. ‘Britain welcomes a new cricket hero; the New York Times told its readers, explaining that, ‘England has been in something akin to ferment this summer.’ …

But then comes this:

… A ferment of a different sort arose in Britain’s Indian Empire in the wake of Hobbs’s triumph. On the day that Hobbs beat Grace’s record, the Star published a cartoon by the brilliant New Zealand-born illustrator David Low, later to be renowned for his savage depictions of the European dictators of the 1930s. This 1925 cartoon, which perfectly captured the Hobbs mania that had gripped Britain, showed the Surrey player, bat in hand, towering over a series of other historical figures, including Columbus, Lloyd George, Caesar and Charlie Chaplin. Fatefully, Low also inserted in the line-up the Prophet Muhammad, standing on a pedestal and gazing up at Hobbs. When the image appeared in the Indian papers, it caused fury in the Muslim population, not just because Islam regards any portrayal of the Prophet as sacrilegious, but also because Muhammad was placed in a position of inferiority to a mere cricketer. According to the Calcutta correspondent of the Morning Post, the Hobbs cartoon ‘convulsed many Muslims in speechless rage. Meetings were held and resolutions were passed.’ So serious was the problem that the Indian Viceroy, the Marquess of Reading, wrote to the Cabinet in London to convey the feelings of Muslim outrage.

I note with approval that the internet allows us to see what all this fury was about:

Google quickly showed me this cartoon reproduction, which is apparently to be found at the Mohammed Image Archive. There are many other depictions of Mohammed (that being the third version in this posting alone of how this personage is spelt) on view at the other end of that link, but I could not find the above cartoon, although presumably it is there somewhere.

Nor have I been able to determine whether Indian Muslims issued any death threats, against David Low or against anyone connected to or working for The Star. From the reference to “meetings and resolutions” I get the impression: not, or the death threats would have got a mention also. But I would love to know.

Discussion point: what to do about drones being used to disrupt air travel?

According to the BBC, ‘persons of interest’ have been identified as responsible for flying the drone or drones that shut down Gatwick airport. As it gradually became clear that this was going on too long to be the work of careless hobbyists or malicious pranksters, the profile of the crime (it disrupted air travel but did not kill anyone) made me think that “climate justice” activists might be responsible. The BBC article says that is indeed one of the lines of enquiry being pursued. Still, let us be no more hasty to jump to conclusions or to blame every environmentalist in existence for the possible crimes of one of their number than we would like them to be next time someone loosely describable as “on our side” commits a crime.

The more urgent problem is that now whoever it was has demonstrated the method, anyone can copy it.

Technically and legally what can be done to stop a repetition? What should be done? What should not be? If you are one of those who have enjoyed flying drones in a responsible manner, or who is developing ways to use drones for emergency or commercial use, start work on your arguments now, because, trust me, the calls to BAN ALL DRONES NOW are going to be loud.