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]

Samizdata quote of the day – rationing is good for you, donchaknow?

Not surprisingly, take-up of smart meters has been far slower than governments have hoped. Nobody wants a device in their home whose only function will be to enable an energy company to charge them five quid for a shower before work. Yet to avoid public pushback, ministers since Miliband have falsely claimed that smart meters will help households ‘reduce bills’ and put the onus on energy retailers to implement the rollout – if they don’t show sufficient effort in enforcement of the Government’s policy, they can then be fined. Thus, the public standing of energy companies has diminished over the duration, fuelling a growing antagonism between customers and retailers, as smart meters and other policies, such as the destruction of coal-fired power stations, have caused power prices to triple since the early 2000s. Energy companies take much of the blame for Westminster’s policy failures.

Don’t misunderstand the point. This is not a defence of energy companies. Of course, companies like National Grid have their greedy eyes on the opportunities created for them by green dirigisme. But only a fool would expect them not to. And one thing that there is no scarcity of is fools in SW1A. Energy companies have been relatively candid, if one cares to look, whereas Energy and Environment Ministers, from Gummer, Yeo, and Huhne, to more ideological zombies such as Miliband and Davey, have promised that climate targets can be hit with no downsides. But whereas the targets are binding in law, the upsides they promise are not. Anyway, rationing is good for you, donchaknow?

– Ben Pile

What would Hitler do?

Once upon a time we had God. God was someone to emulate; someone whose rules one should attempt to live by. Nowadays, in our secular age, we have anti-God a.k.a. Hitler. Hitler is all bad and we should do the precise opposite of what he said and did.

But is that the case? How bad would things be if Hitler were in charge?

It would not be great for freedom of speech. But then right now is not great for freedom of speech. It would not be great for Jews. But then right now is not great for Jews. And they do, at least, have somewhere to go nowadays.

He might want to start a world war. But he would be frustrated because we are already in a world war. But I think we can be pretty sure he would prosecute that war with rather more vigour than our current masters can muster.

Economically speaking, he would be a disaster. He is, after all, a socialist. He would do nothing about the debt, he would reduce trade and be constantly trying to pick winners. So not much change there. A lot would depend on how enthusiastically he embraced Net Zero. Nazis were appalling environmentalists. I suspect, however, that so long as there was a war to fight that would take priority.

I think we can be pretty sure that the small boats crisis would come to an end. The Volksmarine machine-gunning anyone in a small boat would be likely to put a damper on the people-smugglng trade. Similarly, I don’t think he’d have much time for illegal migration. Or legal migration for that matter. Quite the opposite. Fewer people around would mean lower house prices. So, that’s a Hitler win. Unfortunately, Hitler’s socialist economics would mean shortages of all sorts of things. So, you’d have a house but it wouldn’t have any windows.

He might initially have some trouble with activist judges. But given that he will have a majority in Parliament – Nazis are quite good at arranging that sort of thing – and given that via the Bill of Attainder, Parliament can execute anyone they don’t like without giving reasons, I don’t think the judges would prove much of an obstacle.

I don’t think he would have much time for DEI (or DIE as think we ought to start calling it) or the whole equality agenda. At very least that’s good news for the Garrick Club, if it can retain any degree of independence. OK, so the members would have to sing the Horst Wessel Lied every evening but who doesn’t like a good sing song every now and then? Especially, if it’s being led by prominent celebrities.

On that point, it would certainly be amusing to watch as the gobshites at the BBC and elsewhere in the establishment, heaped praise on the new government, claiming that it was their idea all along in their vain attempts to secure a party membership.

Communist indoctrination in universities would come to an end. To be sure it would be replaced by a different form of indoctrination but at least white men would not be being taught to hate themselves.

I don’t think he’d have a lot of time for Islamic terrorism or Islam in general. I think he’d put likely trouble-makers in concentration camps. Most would fall foul of his racial policies.

Art and aesthetics generally would be better. Who wouldn’t enjoy the sight of the Angel of the North being melted down to make 155mm shells? The remake of Love Thy Neighbour would be compulsory viewing. Literally.

The key thing is that by shifting the Overton Window, Hitler would be able to cut the Gordian Knot that makes doing anything at the moment almost impossible. It is amazing what you can achieve when you are prepared to lock up your opponents.

At this point, I should point out that a Hitler government may well turn out to be sub-optimal. But given the path towards an Islamo-communist tyranny we are currently on one would have to say it could be worse.

Samizdata quote of the day – the WHO’s plan for public-health tyranny

Particularly troubling are the provisions that commit WHO member states to developing behavioural-science measures (a euphemism for ‘nudge’ tactics and propaganda) and countering ‘misinformation and disinformation’ (meaning increased censorship). Given the extent of state-led propaganda and censorship during the last pandemic, would it not be more appropriate to strengthen protections for scientific debate and free speech instead?

Molly Kingsley

Another reminder of how evil Iran’s regime is

For some reason, this story about Iran and its intention to execute a rap artist has gone “under the radar” of a lot of the news channels, and I only came across it when listening to a podcast from Yaron Brook.

Reuters: Iran’s judiciary confirmed the death sentence of well-known Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi but added that he is entitled to a sentence reduction, state media reported on Thursday. Salehi’s lawyer Amir Raisian told Sharq newspaper on Wednesday that an Iranian Revolutionary Court had sentenced his client to death for charges linked to Iran’s 2022-2023 unrest. Salehi was arrested in October 2022 after making public statements in support of the nationwide protests, sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman arrested over wearing an “improper” hijab.

None of the shitheads behaving so badly on the campuses of US universities, or in the streets of other Western capitals, have, I suspect, any regard to the plight of this young person. I haven’t picked up on a lot of condemnation from major Western governments, either. Maybe what we are seeing here is the “soft bigotry of low expectations”: we expect Israel to strictly observe certain “laws of war” in self defence, for example, but the supposition seems to be that Iran, a theocratic hellhole, cannot be expected to behave with regard to respect for individual rights, so being angry is a waste of time.

“At about midnight, I got a knock on the door”

This is not a quote about life under a Communist or Fascist regime. It is about life in Exeter University in 2018.

I heard about this story from an article by Sanchez Manning in the Mail on Sunday:

A philosophy student overheard through the wall of his room saying ‘veganism is wrong’ and ‘gender fluidity is stupid’ was threatened with expulsion by his university, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Robert Ivinson said he was disciplined after a student next door in halls of residence at Exeter University heard the comments then complained he had been offensive and ‘transphobic’.

Mr Ivinson, who expressed the views in a phone call to a friend, was hauled before university officials and put on a ‘behavioural contract’ for the rest of his studies.

This video made by the Committee for Academic Freedom shows Robert Ivinson giving his own account of what happened.

Mr Ivinson acknowledges that a legitimate part of the complaint against him was that he was speaking too loudly in the phone call in question so that noise was coming through the wall. However he says that the university hearing refused to separate the issues of him making too much noise and what he said in a private conversation being deemed offensive.

Though Mr Ivinson appears perfectly reasonable, indeed likeable, in his video, I would like to believe that there is something missing from his account – because I do not want to believe that a British university can have fallen so far from what a university is meant to be. The Mail on Sunday article says “Exeter University was approached for comment but did not respond.” I shall be most interested to see what the University’s response turns out to be.

Samizdata quote of the day – we are inching towards totalitarianism

Somehow we have arrived at a place that the West never expected to inhabit. A generation after the collapse of the most powerful totalitarian regime in modern history, the “free world” has apparently lost its grip on the relationship between moral values and political decisions which was once its greatest strength.

The idea had seemed to win out against all the odds: that a government could uphold fundamental first principles of justice, liberty and the authority of the law while still responding realistically to changes in popular opinion and social conditions. This was a truly miraculous understanding of the relationship between morality and politics and, difficult as it might have been to manage, it seemed to deliver the life most people wanted.

It’s hard to believe but we might be witnessing the end of it.

Janet Daly (£)

Free speech in the UK – a proposal from the Adam Smith Institute

Adam Smith, the Scottish intellectual figure most famous for his Wealth of Nations (1776) book, would, I like to think, have been deeply unamused by the abominations coming from the Scottish Parliament in recent times. The Adam Smith Institute, the UK think tank bearing the great doctor’s name, writes the following article. I pray the indulgence of the reader, and ASI, in quoting the article in full. I hope that this appalling Scottish piece of legislation fails, that those who seek to enforce it are humiliated and mocked.

Three and a half years ago, the ASI published a position paper and draft law proposing a “UK Free Speech Act” which would, if enacted, forever remove the regulation of nonviolent political discussion from the remit of law enforcement in the United Kingdom.

The censorship provisions of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 (the “Hate Crime Act”), entering into force this week, are deeply offensive to freedom of expression, and the only way to stop them is to implicitly repeal these new rules with UK-wide protection for freedom of speech.

The Hate Crime Act contains three provisions in particular – “aggravation of offences by prejudice,” “racially aggravated harassment” and “stirring up hatred” – which are, at least as-described, descriptions of the sort of speech that most members of polite society would rightly oppose as a personal, moral matter.

However, if we look at the substance of the language employed by the new laws and its derivation from similar, viewpoint-neutral English rules – in the case of the stirring-up offence and the “racially aggravated harassment” offences, the “alarm or distress” language from the English Public Order Act 1986, and in the case of the stirring-up offence only, the historic “threatening, abusive, or insulting” language from that same law – we know that these rules have proven capable of extremely overbroad application in England, and these new rules will prove just as terrible, if not more so, if allowed to stand in Scotland.

The position, outlined in a 2020 paper for the ASI, and the applicable English legal rules, remains entirely unchanged. It suffices for present purposes to note that existing English laws, which are nowhere near as intrusive as the new Scottish ones, have already been used in England to, variously:

· threaten a schoolboy with prosecution for nonviolently holding up a sign calling the Church of Scientology a dangerous cult;

· arrest republican protestors in the vicinity of King Charles’ coronation for nonviolent picketing;

· convict a protestor for nonviolently saying David Cameron had “blood on his hands” for cutting disability benefit at an event where the then-PM was speaking;

· convict protestors against the war in Iraq for nonviolently expressing their points of view in front of soldiers of the British Army returning home from that war;

· arrest students for nonviolently saying “woof” to a dog;

· arrest a woman for nonviolently praying silently; and

· arrest a preacher for nonviolently reading from the Bible, in public, verbatim.

The existing rules should have been repealed years ago, but few UK lawyers, being unaccustomed to an American perspective on free speech jurisprudence and thus unable to see that the frog was starting to boil, seemed to notice very much as the English judiciary lost its way after issuing its landmark, pro-free speech decision of Redmond-Bate [1999] EWHC Admin 733. In a few short years, the English courts went from protecting controversial speech to routinely acquiescing to the criminalization of what, pre-1999 at least, would have been entirely lawful, if somewhat controversial, expression (see: Norwood v DPP [2003] EWHC 1564, Manchester Crown Court ex parte McCann [2002] UKHL 39 and Abdul v. DPP [2011] EWHC 247).

The provisions of Article 10 of the European Convention concerning freedom of expression, enshrined in domestic law by the UK Human Rights Act, are little better than window-dressing. They have been of no assistance whatsoever in protecting English speakers of controversial ideas since that law’s enactment; indeed, the Human Rights Act may have harmed the cause of free speech in the country by formalising the broad derogations from that right permitted under Article 10(2) which have been abused, time and again, to stifle discourse.

Put another way, our experience with the English rules, in particular the Public Order Act 1986 but also the Malicious Communications Act 1988, and Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, is that their application, especially in the last 25 years, has been subjective, unpredictable, inconsistent, politically-motivated, sometimes capricious, and thoroughly chilling to speech.

The Scottish law turbocharges all of these problems by abandoning viewpoint-neutrality and expressly targeting “culture war” issues around questions of identity within the four corners of the statute. This is particularly the case when we look at the “aggravation of offences by prejudice” law, which states that age, disability, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, and transgender identity are all to be considered when sentencing people in Scotland for criminal offences.

The problem with this, of course, is that merely talking about these issues and causing offence is already capable of constituting a crime under the Public Order Act 1986, both in England and in Scotland, and the Public Order Act was being abused in both England and Scotland to suppress speech even before the Hate Crime Act entered into force.

Only last month transgender activists sought to have J.K. Rowling arrested there after English prosecutors declined to prosecute her for prior “gender critical” remarks. The Hate Crime Act now requires Scottish judges to take into account Rowling’s motivations when judging her speech, which we think would be fairly described as emanating from the identitarian, and therefore definitionally “prejudicial,” ideology known as second-wave feminism, and would require, in a Public Order Act 1986 prosecution for those feminist remarks, for a Scottish judge to consider a sentencing enhancement.

It makes no sense to criminalise these conversations. Indeed it makes sense to expressly legalise them, given that national politics seems, increasingly, to cluster around identity issues and, in a democratic society, require their open discussion in order for these disputes around the proper ordering of society to be satisfactorily resolved.

On the gender theory question, in particular, the debate seems to be between, on one side, critical theory-informed intersectional activists who seek to view all power relationships through the lens of what they call immutable characteristics, and on the other, we see a coalition of classical liberals and religiously-minded traditionalists from the usual suspects like the Catholic Church but also newly aggrieved groups such as traditionalist Muslim parents of schoolchildren. As the fact that the Prime Minister himself felt the need to chime in on these matters this week plainly evidences, identity issues, whether we like it or not, now sit squarely at the centre of contemporary UK political discourse.

We take no view on the merits of either “side” here, because taking a viewpoint does not matter and, in any case, is inadvisable, to the extent anyone here at the Institute plans on ever setting foot in Scotland again. This is because it is now quite unsafe, legally speaking, to take a vigorously-defended public position on these questions in Scotland from any perspective, as long as there is a hearer who is offended enough to file a police report against the hearer’s perceived political enemies, or calculating enough to pretend to be so offended.

To see how the Hate Crime Act potentially cuts in all directions, we need look no further than criminal complaints which have already been made under the new law. See, for example, the fact that Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf, the law’s primary advocate and promoter, was immediately reported by the Indian Council of Scotland to the police for thoughtcrime contained in a speech he himself delivered in Scottish Parliament in 2023 as soon as the Hate Crime Act entered into force. Under the new regime, even the First Minister will need to take care not to express those same thoughts in the same manner again.

There are not many reasonable people who wish to live in a country where the first response to any political disagreement is to call for a speaker’s arrest. Nonviolent speech should never warrant a violent response. Yet, as was proven on day 1 of this new law, we already see that the Scottish law will be used, and is being used, to call down state-sanctioned violence, namely arrests and imprisonment, to suppress broad swathes of viewpoints from all political quarters.

To the few back-benchers who are engaged by this pertinent issue: This is the hill to die on. Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, has said he opposes the Scottish law.

Push the Prime Minister to back up that opposition with decisive action. Permanently abolish political censorship enforced at gunpoint. Enact the UK Free Speech Act.

So there you have it from the ASI. I endorse every word.

Samizdata quote of the day – Scotland & ‘Hate’: it’s actually worse than you think

So too there is nothing in the New Testament that makes behaviour worse if it is directed against black people or gay people. Rather what is radically new about Christianity is that it treats all people as being essentially the same.

I can find nothing in Plato or Aristotle that says that a deed is worse if it is done against this type of person or that type of person, nor do I find this sort of idea in Augustine, Aquinas, Kant or Mill.

Ever single system of religious, moral or legal thinking that I can think of treats humanity as being morally equal. From this we get “all men are created equal” in the United States Declaration of Independence, which is one of the cornerstones of western thought.

So not only has the Scottish government destroyed the objectivity of the law, so too it has destroyed the idea that we are all equal before the law.

Effie Deans

Climate: the Movie – now shadow banned by YouTube, so…

… here it is on BitChute, just in case they take the final step and delete it 😉

Samizdata quote of the day – R.I.P. The Scottish Enlightenment 1697-2024

As a Scot who grew up in the 1970s in the drawing rooms of Edinburgh’s New Town, the architectural manifestation of the Scottish Enlightenment, I am truly appalled that the legacy of Aikenhead and the Scottish Enlightenment – a historical event far more relevant to the modern world than the War of Independence of the early 14th century that so enthrals the SNP and its activists, an event which put Scotland on the map of the world and one of which the nation can be rightly proud – has been trashed by the Scottish Parliament and the Yousaf Government. From April 1st 2024, saying the wrong thing at your own dinner table, let alone in a drunken pub rant like young Thomas did, will once again land you in significant trouble with the law, 327 years, eight months and 24 days after Thomas died.

Mr. Yousaf, his ministers and those who drafted and will enforce this law would do well to remember how history judged those who hanged Thomas Aikenhead on that bleak winter morning on the road to Leith. In doing so they should recall that this gross act of overreach and tyranny was the high tide of the power of the Kirk, power which was swept aside by the forces unleashed when the people said ‘enough’.

C.J. Strachan

“Canada’s descent into tyranny is almost complete”

“Canada’s descent into tyranny is almost complete”, writes David Collins in the Telegraph.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is threatening his most tyrannical attack on freedom yet through his government’s proposed Online Harms Act (currently Bill C-63). Brought to you by the same farcically-named “Liberal” party who froze the bank accounts of the truckers who protested vaccine-mandates, the OHA is the government’s overzealous attempt to promote online safety.

The proposed legislation supposedly achieves this by requiring operators of social media services to adequately mitigate the risk that their users will be exposed to harmful content through measures such as publishing standards of online conduct, providing blocking tools and ways to flag and label harmful content. The OHA would create a Digital Safety Commission to administer and enforce its rules along with a Digital Safety Office to support social media users and advocate for online safety. These agencies can investigate complaints, summon people to testify in hearings and to produce records. Costs of all this will be paid by unspecified charges on social media platforms, presumably contemplating Canada’s planned Digital Services Tax on big tech platforms.

Most controversially, the OHA’s provisions on posting hateful content would require amendments to Canada’s Criminal Code as well as its Human Rights Act. While the victims of online “hate” may be comforted by tough new penalties, the changes are radical, particularly a new hate crime offence which can lead to life imprisonment. Worryingly, the criminal provisions of the OHA would give judges the ability to put people under house arrest because they might commit a hate crime in the future. The potential criminal could also be made to wear an electronic tag if the Attorney General requests it.

Emphasis added. The phrase “Canada’s descent into tyranny” comes across as hyperbole until you get to the bit about putting people under house arrest because they might commit a crime in future.

Sadly, this was not a namecheck

Matt Taibbi: “America enters the samizdat era”

It is a sobering description of how the world went from this:

Ten years ago PBS did a feature that quoted a Russian radio personality calling Samizdat the “precursor to the Internet.” Sadly this is no longer accurate. Even a decade ago Internet platforms were mechanical wonders brimming with anarchic energy whose ability to transport ideas to millions virally and across borders made episodes like the Arab Spring possible. Governments rightly trembled before the destabilizing potential of tools like Twitter, whose founders as recently as 2012 defiantly insisted they would remain “neutral” on content control, seeing themselves as the “free speech wing of the free speech party.”

to this:

The Internet, in other words, was being transformed from a system for exchanging forbidden or dissenting ideas, like Samizdat, to a system for imposing top-down control over information and narrative, a GozIzdat. Worse, while the Soviets had to rely on primitive surveillance technologies, like the mandatory registration of typewriters, the Internet offered breathtaking new surveillance capability, allowing authorities to detect thoughtcrime by algorithm and instantaneously disenfranchise those on the wrong side of the information paradigm, stripping them of the ability to raise money or conduct business or communicate at all.

(Hat tip: Instapundit. Like us at Samizdata, Glenn Reynolds has watched this change happen over the time he has been blogging.)