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]

Government response to Covid-19 explained in a single video

Addendum: Suitable narrative courtesy of “Bell Curve”:

Government: We must lockdown due to this terrible disease!

Data literate people: Hey, good news, this is a nasty disease if you fit certain profiles but for most people, this is not that big a deal.

Government: We must lockdown again due to this terrible disease!

Data literate people: Guys! Please! Listen, not only is this not that big a deal, we now know early treatment means this is REALLY not a big deal.

Government: We must lockdown yet again due to this terrible disease!

Data literate people: Oh for fuck sake…

Walter Williams and Western Civ

thou was the meekest man and the gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies. And thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.

(Sir Ector, speaking at the death of Sir Lancelot, on the last page of the Morte d’Arthur.)

Holding a black belt in karate, Walter was a tough customer. One night three men jumped him — and two of those men ended up in a hospital.

The other side of Walter came out in relation to his wife, Connie. She helped put him through graduate school — and after he received his Ph.D., she never had to work again, not even to fix his breakfast.

Thomas Sowell’s obituary of Walter Williams, who died on December 2nd.

I tagged this ‘sui generis’, because Sowell also wrote:

Walter Williams was unique. I have heard of no one else being described as being “like Walter Williams.”

Screaming at the sky versus sitting by the sickbed

Four years ago, rage at the election of Trump expressed itself in a lot of what looked like performance art: screaming at the sky, ‘the literal shakening’ and so on. The usual celebrities as usual did not keep their promises to leave the USA if it happened – but I know from personal contacts that not all of it was cost-free to its enactors. One west-coast guy decided he had to abandon a trip abroad “because Trump may not let me back in!” This guy was a US citizen. He was not even a muslim. In fact, he was the kind of guy some muslims throw off tall buildings. But he seemed genuinely to think the risk that Trump would (and could) not let people like him back into the country exceeded the risk of his meeting one of that sect of muslims (or similar) while out of it. Much calming talk was needed to persuade him that just maybe he could risk leaving his country and returning after the inauguration as arranged, rather than endure the non-zero inconvenience of staying put. If this was performance art, it at least presented as willing to pay a small personal price.

Today, people like Sarah Hoyt feel worried about the state of US democracy. As a poll watcher in Colorado in years past, she witnessed Democrat fraud and GOP spinelessness at close quarters. Born in Portugal, she knows another political culture as well as America’s, so she has a keener sense of what could be lost. She likens her feelings to sitting by a sickbed – something she has also experienced. Sometimes you are in the hospital room with the one you love – for whom you can do almost nothing. Sometimes you can’t be with them but must sit in the waiting room – and must force yourself to plan, to think, to use the time. Sometimes you are back home where there are things you must do, other people you must care for – or at work from which you must keep earning. There is no scope for the indulgence of screaming at the sky. You have to manage your feelings as best you can.

Another way of not letting yourself fret at moments when you have nothing relevant to contribute is to let your mind step back and reflect on – for example – what these different reactions say about the rival movements they represent. At the 10,000 foot level, there are some very broad psychological similarities between the state of some people in 2016 and others today. In 2016, many hoped that faithless electors, the emoluments clause, the clause about removing an insane president, Jill Stein’s recount or finding proof that Russians hacked the voting machines would make Trump vanish like a bad dream. Today, many hope that fraud of a more domestic and familiar kind, unusual mostly only for its scale, can be demonstrated. I think they do so with better cause, of course, but that is only secondarily related to the difference in how they manage stress. I think the decision to manage stress with (relatively) more self-discipline or more self-indulgence is the more basic fact – related to who adopted which politics in the first place.

If this is how the Democrats campaign, maybe the Republicans will win after all

With great glee, the Huffington Post reports,

Multiple Right-Wing Figures Pranked Into Thanking The Devil For Supporting Trump

Several prominent pro-Trump voices have been pranked into thanking “Iblis” — a figure in the Quran typically synonymous with Satan — for supporting the president.

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Fox News host Tomi Lahren, former Trump aide and right-wing radio host Sebastian Gorka and controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio were among those who fell for the prank, engineered by Ali-Asghar Abedi, a comedy writer and contributor for various media outlets, including PBS, The New York Times and The Independent.

The videos — which were combined into a supercut that features the pundits and politicians thanking “Iblis” for his passionate support of the president and reminding him to make American great again — were filmed via Cameo, an app where celebrities can be paid to record personalized messages for a fee.

The great joke is meant to be that these minor celebrities recorded a supportive message for someone with a name they were told was of Arab origin. I fail to see why that should reflect badly on either their honour or their intelligence. Evidently, despite being Trump supporters, they were not consumed by hatred for Arabs. The other charge against them is that they failed to spot that “Iblis” means “Satan”. Mr Abedi thinks that reveals dire ignorance. He writes,

“They’re grifters who are stunningly ignorant and have no curiosity,” Abed said. “I left clues for them. I told them that Iblis was Arab American. If they had a sense of the world beyond MAGA, they’d research what Iblis means in an Arab context. I guess they’re true adherents to capitalism, placing money ahead of their own dignity.”

Abedi did point out that he was “a bit crafty” in the spelling of “Iblis.”

“I spelled it ‘Ebliz’ and laid out the pronunciation as ‘ibb-lease.’ But [I] figured mentioning that Iblis is Arab should have been a cue to vet the request with someone who knows Arabic.”

So upon hearing a name from another culture the rule is now that one should hasten to check that it does not mean “devil”? And it is not enough to check the name for non-fiendishness in the spelling as given; variant spellings must be checked as well. How quickly customs change. Only a few years ago this Guardian writer was denouncing harassed servers in Starbucks for querying the spelling of her unusual name or writing it down wrong on coffee cups.

The video featured by the Huffington Post is very popular. As I write this it has had just short of six hundred thousand views. As someone who would like Trump to win (or more to the point someone who would like the censors of Twitter, Facebook and the media to lose), but is pessimistic, I feel hope stir.

Three days before an election and this is how Democrats campaign? Laughing to each other (but in a public forum) about how trustingly friendly to people of other cultures those Republicans were? Whose vote do you think will be changed to Democrat by the revelation that there are Republicans out there who do not know the equivalent of “Beelzebub” in every language on Earth? Meanwhile Republicans are talking to people who don’t usually vote Republican.

Douglas Murray gives his thoughts on looting

I LOL’ed but he is not wrong.

Make companies product-focused again

Coinbase Inc Chief Executive Officer Brian Armstrong has offered a severance package to employees unwilling to cope with the cryptocurrency exchange’s new policy of not entertaining discussions on societal and political issues.

Armstrong’s email, which a source said was sent on Tuesday, follows an earlier blog post published on Sunday, where he said the company would not engage in issues unrelated to its core mission.

The firm would not advocate for any political causes unrelated to its mission, he said.

In the email to employees, the CEO detailed packages which include four months’ severance pay for those who have been at the exchange for less than three years, with long-term employees receiving six months severance pay.

Reuters

Bravo!

I would love to see every company do this. When I go to a coffee shop or a bank, I am not interesting in their views about politics or social issues, indeed, I actively do not want to know. I just want a fucking coffee or to arrange something financial (hopefully not confusing the two). If they want to tell me about how yummy their products are because their beans are lovingly rubbed with civet poo, or how well they are looking after their depositors’ money, that is fine.

But pretty much anything else… please just STFU unless it is directly related to the business. I get that certain ‘life style’ brands might want their logo in a Formula One car or on Eddie Izzard’s frock. But I am not interested in how inclusive the local bookstore is, nor do I want to hear that an auto-parts shop is proud of the blasted NHS.

I do not even want any companies declaiming how much they support causes I like, let alone ones that I either oppose or which just make me roll my eyes at the sheer presumption of their marketing department. For me, this is negative marketing. I already avoid certain shops and restaurants that prominently display their ‘social awareness’ to me: they are actually doing the opposite, emphasising that I am not their target market. So I take them at their word and if I can easily get what they sell elsewhere from someone who doesn’t, that is what I always do.

Make companies product-focused again.

Supporters are expected to place their absolute trust in BLM’s utter dishonesty

In the memory-hole world of PC, I’m never sure who should be the more annoyed when a loudly-proclaimed policy is silently discarded – those who spent time and effort refuting it or those who spent time and effort defending it. 🙂 (Of course when, as in this recent thread, the time and effort is mere comment writing, neither side has overmuch to moan about.)

BLM have stealth-edited their website to remove the “what we believe” page. No more will BLM “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure” or “foster a queer-affirming network” or “free ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking”. Just a little spat within the intersectional hierarchy, I guess. 🙂

Actually, I guess supporters are expected to place their absolute trust in the movement’s utter dishonesty, and assume (despite some earlier evidence) that this is all just pre-election PR (I’m sure some will). Just as

No properly-indoctrinated communist felt the party was ‘lying’ in thus proclaiming one set of policies in public and its exact opposite in private.

so no properly-indoctrinated woke person will think the marxists who run BLM were or are ‘lying’ either when they put this page up or when they took it down.

Don’t worry, their programming does not allow them to harm humans

Pelosi glitches out, randomly says “Good morning, Sunday morning” in middle of interview

‘It’s estimated that 200 million people have died — probably by the time I finish this talk,’ said Biden.

“I know that I will not be able to avoid destroying humankind.”

That was a line from a Guardian op-ed written entirely by a robot. The machine was instructed to focus on why humans have nothing to fear from AI. I do not find this reassuring.

The sad story of Scots Wikipedia

Hats off to the Guardian for the pun in this headline:

Shock an aw: US teenager wrote huge slice of Scots Wikipedia

Nineteen-year-old says he is ‘devastated’ after being accused of cultural vandalism

The Scots Wikipedia entry on the Canada goose – or “Canadae guiss” – was at first honest about its provenance. A tag warned: “The ‘Scots’ that wis uised in this airticle wis written bi a body that’s mither tongue isna Scots. Please impruive this airticle gin ye can.”

But, as the author grew in confidence, so he removed the caveat, and continued on his Scots-writing spree.

Now an American teenager – who does not speak Scots, the language of Robert Burns – has been revealed as responsible for almost half of the entries on the Scots language version of Wikipedia.

If you are wondering how a nineteen year old managed to be responsible for creating or editing tens of thousands of articles, the answer is simple:

He wrote: “I was only a 12-year-old kid when I started, and sometimes when you start something young, you can’t see that the habit you’ve developed is unhealthy and unhelpful as you get older.”

Naming no names except my own, that sounds like a few of us here. Ten edits a day, most days, for two and a half thousand days. The work of half his life. The thing that made him special. And now they revile him for it. Believe me, I am not laughing when I call this a sad story.

Believe me, too, when I say I do not want to mock Scots. The Samizdata “Languages” category includes many other posts by me about endangered tongues. I want them to survive and grow. A world where everyone spoke only one language would be a grey place, and one more likely to fall to tyranny. For many a soul living under oppression their knowledge of something other than the majority language has been the one window to freer times or places that the censors could not brick up. Less portentously, I like the vigorous style of Scots. The fact that it is mostly mutually intelligible with English English has been the source of endless arguments about whether it is a dialect of English or a language in its own right. It is a pity that this question has been politicised. My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that although Scots was a separate language in the Middle Ages, enough linguistic convergence has occurred to say that nowadays it is a dialect of English. There is nothing wrong with that. It would be equally valid to say Standard English and Scots are both dialects on the continuum of English (and that the group as a whole is called “English” is just a matter of historically familiar terminology, not an attribution of superiority. Brits should remember that if numbers of speakers were the criterion that decided the name of this language we would be speaking American.)

It is a sad reflection on the state of Scots that nobody stopped “AmaryllisGardner” for five seven years. Scarcely anyone seems to have questioned him. I cannot help thinking this fiasco would never have happened if linguists and the penumbra of people who are “into” languages had not been so down on prescriptivism. After all, if there truly is no correct or incorrect way to use language, our laddie’s version of Scots has as much claim to be right as the one they speak in Glasgow.

I am an anti-prescriptivist myself when it comes to daily life. It is wrong to sneer at anyone for their local mode of speech, and still worse to beat it out of them as was common in the past. The variety of any language that has become the standard did not do so because of any intrinsic superiority; it was mere chance. Nonetheless a command of standard English can unlock doors across the world for children in Barlanark, as it does for children in Brixton or Beijing. Fortunately children are good at picking up more than one language and code-switching between them.

Meanwhile, in debate I will continue to extol both languages and Wikipedia as splendid examples of spontaneous order. They still are. Most of the time.

Too late now

Labour launches new campaign with “24 hours to save British jobs” warning, reported the website Labour List the day before yesterday.

The political purity spiral as experienced by the Instagram knitting community

I cannot knit and I am not on Instagram, but as someone who sews and is into politics, I cannot think how I came to miss this article from Gavin Haynes when it came out in January of this year. After seeing it recommended on the UK Politics subreddit, I hastened to post it here:

How knitters got knotted in a purity spiral

Mr Haynes discusses purity spirals throughout history, then narrows his focus to a couple of examples from 2018/19:

Our documentary analysed just two latter-day purity spirals — Instagram knitting culture and young adult novels. Both seemed perfectly-sized to be taken over — they were spaces big enough to have their own star system, yet small enough for the writ of a dominant group to hold.

In each, a vast tapestry of what were effectively small businesses competed for attention online by fluidly mixing personal and professional brand. On social media, opinion, diary and sales often existed within the same posts. Each individual small business was uniquely vulnerable to being un-personed, ‘cancelled’. But, simultaneously, each could benefit enormously from taking on the status of thought leader — from becoming a node that directed moral traffic.

To take the example of Instagram knitting: the unravelling began with a man called Nathan Taylor. Gay, living with HIV, nice as pie, Taylor started a hashtag aimed at promoting diversity in knitting, Diversknitty, to get people from different backgrounds to talk. And he did: the hashtag was a runaway hit, spawning over 17,000 posts.

But over the following months, the conversation took on a more strident tone. The list of things considered problematic grew. The definition of racism began to take on the terms mandated by intersectional social justice ideology.

The drama played out in the time-honoured way:

Finally, just as the guillotine had eventually come for Robespierre, Nathan Taylor, who had founded the #Diversknitty movement, found himself at its sharp end.

When Taylor tried to inject positivity back into Diversknitty, his moral authority burnt up inside minutes. A poem he’d written asking knitters to cool it (“With genuine SOLEM-KNITTY/I beg you, stop the enmity”) was in turn interpreted as a blatant act of white supremacy. When the mob finally came for him, he had a nervous breakdown. Yet even here, he was accused of malingering, his suicidal hospitalisation described online as a ‘white centring’ event.

Gavin Haynes also made a half hour Radio Four documentary telling the same story. (A BBC iPlayer sign-in is required to listen.) I am about to listen to it now.