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]

G K Chesterton described how I view the 2024 election in 1908

“They said that I should lose my ideals and begin to believe in the methods of practical politicians. Now, I have not lost my ideals in the least; my faith in fundamentals is exactly what it always was. What I have lost is my old childlike faith in practical politics. I am still as much concerned as ever about the Battle of Armageddon; but I am not so much concerned about the General Election. As a babe I leapt up on my mother’s knee at the mere mention of it. No; the vision is always solid and reliable. The vision is always a fact. It is the reality that is often a fraud. As much as I ever did, more than I ever did, I believe in Liberalism. But there was a rosy time of innocence when I believed in Liberals.”

– G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Warhammer edition)

“When even Warhammer nerds leave the battlefield, isn’t it time the anti-woke mob laid down their arms?”, writes Jasper Jackson in the Guardian Observer. Mr Jackson starts by introducing himself as a Warhammer player. I shall likewise declare my interest by introducing myself as a former payer of mighty sums to buy Warhammer kits for a member of my family. I was aware enough of the game to smugly chide the Observer sub-editors for failing to distinguish between Warhammer 40K and proper Warhammer. (I was promptly de-smugged by the discovery that someone has gone and changed the Eldar into Aeldari without telling me. What brought that on, then, an attack of elite T’au copyright lawyers?)

I digress. Mr Jackson continues,

But in recent weeks the sprawling Warhammer fandom has been enveloped in a dramatic controversy – or at least you would think so, from some news headlines.

“It’s Wokehammer! Games Workshop engulfed in gender row with fans after it said Warhammer squadron that was previously thought of as men-only has ‘always had females’,” screamed one MailOnline headline. What had prompted these claims of outrage was Games Workshop introducing a new female character into one of its science fantasy games, Warhammer 40,000. The character in question was part of a group of genetically engineered warriors called Custodes, which had, so far, not had any women models in it – but, according to Games Workshop, had always been included in the weighty narrative “lore” of the game.

The Mail had seen a number of tweets complaining about it, such as one from a games designer saying that Games Workshop was “‘gender flipping’ characters for ‘woke points’”. This was portrayed as a widespread backlash from fans. But, as a fan who frequently browses message boards for tips on playing and painting, or to look at interesting bits of background dug up by people who have bothered to read the many books published about the various Warhammer universes, my experience has been quite different.

If you actually look at the online spaces where fans of the games discuss the hobby they love, most don’t seem very bothered.

I commend the Mr Jasper’s eschewal of sensationalism. But as a pitch for an Observer piece, “most don’t seem very bothered” has its limitations. Eight paragraphs to learn that Reddit slumbers. What, I started to wonder, is this article for? In the ninth paragraph, I found out:

But where once those getting angry about changes bringing greater inclusivity might have been the overwhelming majority, this time they seem at best a vocal minority. That this is the mood on Reddit is even more surprising, given that the social network was once one of the primary breeding grounds for Gamergate, the toxic online movement of 2014-15 that spewed hate towards women with the temerity to create, play, enjoy and critique video games.

Despite not being a Warhammerer myself, I do have an alternative hypothesis to offer Mr Jackson as to why Gamergate exploded and Custogate fizzled: it is that people react differently to things that are different.

BONUS OVERNIGHT MUSINGS: The reason why the Warhammer community finds the retconning of the Custodes order to include females to be, at most1, slightly annoying in a “Put a chick in it and make her gay” kind of way, is that “Custodian Calladyce Taurovalia Kesh” is just one new character in a sprawling fictional ‘verse. Warhammer clearly were jumping on a bandwagon in the Orwellian way that they intoned “Since the first of the Ten Thousand were created there have always been female Custodians” despite never having previously mentioned this in the 37 years since the game was released. In addition, as someone quoted in the Daily Mail article suggested, the Sisters of Battle have a right to feel slighted2, especially given their feminist origin story: the order was created to circumvent a rule that the Ecclesiarchy was not permitted to maintain any “men under arms”. But in the end, allowing for the two nitpicks I mentioned, Warhammer’s adverts offering the Calladyce product line for sale would get four stars on eBay for the honesty of their product description.

In contrast, the whole point about Gamergate was industry-wide dishonesty in product descriptions. Jasper Jackson, who seems a nice Guardian-reading boy, thinks Gamergate was about male gamers hating female gamers, and also thinks, not entirely logically, that male gamers who hate female gamers would also hate female fictional characters appearing in their games. With those assumptions it would make sense to be pleasantly surprised that the number of woman-hating male gamers had gone down since 2014-15. The problem with that line of thought is that conclusions drawn from wrong assumptions are worthless. This summary of Gamergate given by commenter “bobby b” in 2017 was rightly praised as being far more accurate than anything you’ll find on Wikipedia:

I still get a chuckle out of how it all started – one guy who, discovering that his game-designer girlfriend was spreading her charms widely, wrote a long blog post about it, letting out the secret that her paramours were writers in the game-critique industry who were giving games high ratings for factors unrelated to the actual games (wink wink).

And then he got piled on by people defending her right to lie to him and sleep around because she was a poor repressed woman, and then they got piled on by guys saying, no, she’s a whore and so are these game critics, and then the SJW types decided all gamer-guys were nerdy neanderthals who hated women, and the fun began.

1 Or not annoying at all. In the comments below, “Agammamon” puts forth a satisfying in-universe justification for the existence of female Custodes.

2It is not wise to slight a member of the Adepta Sororitas.

I knew who Dominic Frisby was before I knew who Elon Musk was

I only really cemented in my head which of those Billionaires Having Something To Do With the Internet Elon Musk was in February 2018, when he sent his Tesla Roadster into space. I loved him for that, but fell out of love a few months later over Musk’s behaviour towards Vernon Unsworth. Since then, my regard for Mr Musk has crept up again. It’s nice having freedom of speech on the internet back. I now – and I do know how sad this is – follow him on Xitter or whatever it’s called these days.

In contrast, I have been reading about Dominic Frisby on Samizdata as an financial writer, economist, film-maker, singer and comedian since early 2014.

Elon Musk has finally caught up with us.

Hugone awry

I felt old reading this article by Adam Morgan of Esquire magazine. For a while some thirty years ago, the terms “Worldcon” and “Hugo” were part of my daily life. What happened to them?

Inside the Censorship Scandal That Rocked Sci-Fi and Fantasy’s Biggest Awards

That evening in Chengdu, in a massive auditorium shaped like the belly of a whale, Dave McCarty—a middle-aged software engineer for an Illinois trucking company and lifelong sci-fi fan who was chosen by the convention’s leaders to oversee last year’s Hugo Awards—walked onstage to thundering applause. Within the WorldCon community, he’s nicknamed the “Hugo Pope” for serving on so many awards committees over the years.

“With the help of fans from all over the world, including many fans here in China participating for the very first time, we identified a ballot of 114 deserving finalists,” McCarty said behind a podium, wearing a black tux over a white waistcoat and bow tie. “We then asked the community to rank those choices as they saw fit.”

But that’s not what happened. Something had gone horribly wrong.

Three months later, the truth came out when McCarty shared the Hugo nominating statistics on Facebook: Someone had stolen nominations from The Sandman legend Neil Gaiman, Babel author R. F. Kuang, Iron Widow novelist Xiran Jay Zhao, and fan writer Paul Weimer. All four of them earned enough votes to be finalists—and therefore eventually winners—but for unknown reasons, someone had secretly marked their works as “ineligible” after the first rounds of voting.

Among sci-fi and fantasy fans, the uproar was immediate and intense. Had government officials in the host country censored the finalists? Did the awards committee make a colossal mistake when tallying the votes, then try to cover it up? Or did something even stranger occur?

Maybe you will remember for the rest of your life where you were when you first read this post

Or maybe you, and I, will eventually wince, sigh, and add one more entry to the list that contains the Fleishman-Pons announcement of cold fusion in 1989 and the 2011 OPERA faster-than-light neutrino anomaly.

I followed a link in this tweet by Matt Ridley, and found this article by Sean Thomas in the Spectator:

“Have we just discovered aliens?”

It seems to be serious.

I wish this Quote of the Day were less appropriate to the year just gone

“I stayed up last night… Not so much to welcome the new year, but to make sure the old one leaves…”

Ben David, in the comments to the previous post.

Still, hope springs eternal in the human breast. 2024, here we come.

Non-sarcastically, why am I so sure that this image is generated by AI?

This post is reposted from a source I do not trust (Double Down News) by a person I do not trust (Dr Susan Michie, adviser to the SAGE committee and literal communist) on a topic (the Israel-Hamas war) where AI-generated fakery is rampant. Remember the six-fingered Palestinian child?

Closer examination give yet more causes for doubt – the bizarrely elongated finger on the left hand of the soldier second from the left, the way that, perhaps in compensation, the right hand of the rightmost man seems to have no fingers at all. There is something wrong about the bipod of his rifle, too. The angle of the windows on the left of the picture looks off. The flame coming out of the window is too neatly defined.

But what interests me is that I thought “AI-generated” before I looked closely enough to see any of that. Possibly the thing that tipped me off, if I am right at all, was that all the elements of the alleged photograph looked exposed to the same degree, when one would think that the glow of the flames would dominate. Even that form of words, which I got from my husband, is more explanatory than whatever it was that screamed “fake” to me.

That said, this image is a great deal more realistic than those of only a few months ago. My spidey-sense for fake pictures will not last much longer.

What good things have happened this year?

I’ll start.

Javier Milei.

Lots of space launches.


Help me make an inspirational poster

Taking a Christmas break from my customary snarkiness, I mean this without irony. I would like to make one of those motivational posters with an inspirational quotation or slogan on it. The slogan would express an idea that I already believe strongly, only I have not yet found the best way to express it.

The starting point is a slogan that has many variants, but the version I saw first and like best is:

“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was always yours. If it does not, it never was.”

Knowing my audience, I shall link to the demotivational version as well. It’s a quote from B.J. Novak, who was probably a ray of sunshine until he played the temp in the American version of The Office.

So, the slogan for which I reach is similar to that one (the motivational version, not Novak’s), but is about acceptance rather than love. Something like:

“If you seek acceptance, don’t demand it, ask for it. If the other person says yes, you know you are truly and freely accepted. If they say no,

Then what? I don’t know what to say. I’m not sure if it’s even a good idea to mention the consequences of the other person saying “no”. I suppose I could say “better to be aware they do not accept you than to be deceived by them feigning acceptance out of fear, which will probably lead to them stabbing you in the back whenever they get the chance”, but that one’s a bit of a downer to put on a poster. The point I really want to make is that true acceptance cannot be had if the person being asked to do the accepting does not have the option to say “no”.

The reason I seek a more pithy way to express this sentiment than anything I have come up so far is that, as I said a few years back in a post called “To knock on the door is better than booting it in”, “Like some warrior cultures of old, the grievance culture holds getting what you want by asking or peaceably trading to be fit only for slaves. The superior person does not ask for what they want; they demand it.” This attitude is culturally dominant in both senses.

I can see why this disastrous misapprehension arose. There are circumstances where the only moral course is to demand one’s just rights as rights, with not the slightest hint of pleading. But there can be no right to be accepted, just as there can be no right to be loved.

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.

Lin Biao welcomes Prigozhin to the club

From the Wikipedia entry for Lin Biao:

Lin became instrumental in creating the foundations for Mao Zedong’s cult of personality in the early 1960s, and was rewarded for his service in the Cultural Revolution by being named Mao’s designated successor as the sole Vice Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, from 1966 until his death.

Lin died on 13 September 1971, when a Hawker Siddeley Trident he was aboard crashed in Öndörkhaan in Mongolia. The exact events of this “Lin Biao incident” have been a source of speculation ever since. The Chinese government’s official explanation is that Lin and his family attempted to flee following a botched coup against Mao.

Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin presumed dead after Russia plane crash – BBC

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was on the passenger list of a jet which crashed killing all on board, Russia’s civil aviation authority has said.

Earlier, Wagner-linked Telegram channel Grey Zone reported that the private plane, which belonged to the 62-year-old, was shot down by air defences.

Grey Zone posted later on Wednesday that Prigozhin died “as a result of actions of traitors of Russia”.

Prigozhin led a failed mutiny against the Russian armed forces in June.

The gaze of strangers

I have a dilemma. I want to write a post about how creepy it is to take a photo of a stranger and put it on social media with a deniably mocking comment. The easiest way to illustrate this would be to post the tweet that caused me to write the post. But if I do that, I am guilty of the same behaviour. Then again, to have any hope of turning public opinion against this trend, people like me who object to it have to demonstrate that it actually happens.

I will compromise by linking to this tweet but not in a way that makes a picture of it show up on the page. The tweet’s already viral; any extra clicks I send its way will make little difference. The tweet says,


this guy reading the wetherspoons menu for 15mins on the train yesterday

The accompanying photo taken from a few feet away shows a unremarkable-looking old man. Like it says, he is sitting on a train, minding his own business and reading a Wetherspoons menu.

The picture itself doesn’t make him look stupid or anything. The thing that makes me begin to dislike Joe Shabadu, whoever they are, is that caption about the old guy reading the menu for fifteen minutes.

It being a Wetherspoons menu is relevant. For the benefit of readers overseas, Wetherspoons is a chain of pubs operating in the UK and Ireland. As Wikipedia says, “Wetherspoon targets a mass-market offering of low-price food and drink.” Though I have always found them to be pretty good for the price, your local “Spoons” is not where the cognoscenti go. Some people boycott Wetherspoons because the chain’s founder, Tim Martin, was loud in his support for Brexit.

So we have it pointed out to the world that this old chap was reading a pub menu for fifteen minutes, and the pub concerned was one associated with the proletariat. I think the tweet was meant to make us laugh at the old man for being a bad reader, or for going to Wetherspoons, or both. The person who wrote the tweet tries to claim otherwise, but I was not convinced.

The general tone of the replies was heartening. A typical one was, “Let the man be. Why take a photo and post it? Doing no harm.” Another said, “Maybe he struggles to read and doesn’t want to be embarrassed when he gets there? Shame on you.” Other replies were more light-hearted. Someone speculated that he could be one of those “mystery shoppers” paid to sample the pub’s fare anonymously before reporting back to the management. I related to this one: “You’re acting like you don’t read shampoo instructions when you run out of battery on the toilet.” When I used to commute on the Victoria Line I always had a book or a newspaper with me. Mostly this was because I find it hard to go an hour without reading. Partly it was so that I could escape in spirit when a stranger’s gaze rested on me for too long.