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]

“Little by little the truth of lockdown is being admitted”

A retired and now ennobled supreme court judge writes in the Times that the decisions of the government during a crisis were wise and good and that if, perchance, any slight errors were made, fear not, lessons will be learned.

Bzzt. Click. System error. Commence program reset.

A retired and now ennobled supreme court judge – Lord Sumption – writes in the Times that “Little by little the truth of lockdown is being admitted: it was a disaster”.

In a remarkably candid interview with The Spectator, Rishi Sunak has blown the gaff on the sheer superficiality of the decision-making process of which he was himself part. The fundamental rule of good government is not to make radical decisions without understanding the likely consequences. It seems obvious. Yet it is at that most basic level that the Johnson government failed. The tragedy is that this is only now being acknowledged.

Sunak makes three main points. First, the scientific advice was more equivocal and inconsistent than the government let on. Some of it was based on questionable premises that were never properly scrutinised. Some of it fell apart as soon it was challenged from outside the groupthink of the Sage advisory body. Second, to build support, the government stoked fear, embarking on a manipulative advertising campaign and endorsing extravagant graphics pointing to an uncontrolled rise in mortality if we were not locked down. Third, the government not only ignored the catastrophic collateral damage done by the lockdown but actively discouraged discussion of it, both in government and in its public messaging.

Lockdown was a policy conceived in the early days by China and the World Health Organisation as a way of suppressing the virus altogether (so-called zero Covid). The WHO quickly abandoned this unrealistic ambition. But European countries, except Sweden, eagerly embraced lockdown, ripping up a decade of pandemic planning that had been based on concentrating help on vulnerable groups and avoiding coercion.

At first Britain stood up against the stampede. Then Professor Neil Ferguson’s team at Imperial College London published its notorious “Report 9”. Sunak confirms that this was what panicked ministers into a measure that the scientists had previously rejected. If No 10 had studied the assumptions underlying it, it might have been less impressed. Report 9 assumed that in the absence of a lockdown people would do nothing whatever to protect themselves. This was contrary to all experience of human behaviour as well as to data available at the time, which showed that people were voluntarily reducing contacts well before the lockdown was announced.

I find myself in the odd position of being slightly more in sympathy with the government than is a former supreme court judge. Frightened men make mistakes. I also find myself slightly more in sympathy with Rishi Sunak than I was yesterday. However, I have to ask why he did not voice his doubts at the time.

Ve’re askink ze qvestions!”

Last Wednesday, Jodi Shaw received a Hero of Intellectual Freedom Award – and got to rap on-stage in NYC, four years after Smith College told her she couldn’t because rapping while white was racist.

The freedom to rap while white is a form of free speech it has never occurred to me to pursue, but something Jodi said struck me.

“These terms are never defined … It’s just ‘social justice’.”

“And you’re afraid to ask,” she added, because “that might put a spotlight on you,” and people will think you are racist … According to Shaw, there was an “ever-present terror” at Smith “that any unverified student allegation of racism, or any other ‘-ism,’ has the power to crush our reputations, ruin our livelihood, and even endanger the physical safety of ourselves or our family members.”

It’s not the first time a movement has refused to define its central idea.

Himmler vehemently directed “not to issue any decree concerning the definition of the term ‘Jew’ … with all these foolish commitments we will only be tying our hands.” (The quote is from Himmler’s letter to Berger, July 28th 1942, Nuremberg Document No. 626.)

Identify a respected institution. Kill it. Gut it. Wear its carcass as a skin suit, while demanding respect. I’ve seen that spot-on description of how the woke operate applied so many times – to institutions. But it’s just as true of ideas. Totalitarians always gut the ideas they proclaim of all actual meaning. The woke wear the murdered carcass of words like racism (structural racism) or justice (social justice) as a skin suit, while demanding respect.

Really jump in

“Top Biden aide prods big tech to crack down on climate change misinformation”, Axios reports.

Gina McCarthy, President Biden’s top domestic climate adviser, said tech companies should do more to prevent the spread of inaccurate information about climate change and clean energy.

Driving the news: “The tech companies have to stop allowing specific individuals over and over again to spread disinformation,” she told Axios’ Alexi McCammond at a virtual event that aired Thursday.

“We need the tech companies to really jump in,” McCarthy said.

Who is “we”?

And what the [fossil fuel] industry is now doing is seeding, basically, doubt about the costs associated with that and whether they work or not.”

Expressing doubt about the cost of a proposed government measure, and whether it will actually work as promised? How dare they! Such dangerous speculation cannot be allowed.

Hat tip: Iain Murray.

In order to save freedom of expression it became necessary to destroy it

“Protect women from chilling effect of misogyny, Ofcom urges tech firms”, the Times reports:

Ofcom has told social media companies to stamp out misogyny, arguing that it is having a “chilling effect” on women’s freedom of expression online.

Emphasis added.

The media regulator, which is preparing to police tech firms under powers granted by the Online Safety Bill, said that companies have a duty to protect women from harmful content.

Ofcom spoke to 6,000 people for its Online Nation study, and found that over the past month women were more likely than men to have seen content that “objectifies, demeans or otherwise negatively portrays” their gender.

Of the women surveyed, 43 per cent said they were likely to be distressed by harmful content, compared with 33 per cent of men. Some 60 per cent of women highlighted trolling as being particularly concerning, whereas only 25 per cent of men were anxious about online abuse.

Ofcom said that women spent more time online than men, but felt less able to express an opinion or be themselves on social media platforms.

Sci-Fi dystopia or real world?

A drone appears when people start singing from balconies in protest at the lack of supplies after being forcibly locked in their homes.

“Please comply with covid restrictions. Control your soul’s desire for freedom. Do not open the window or sing.”

And for extra added dystopian flavour…

This was never about NATO or Russia’s ‘legitimate security concerns’

Translation via Tadeusz Giczan.

Yesterday, RIA Novosti published a lengthy piece titled “What Russia should do with Ukraine”, which explains in detail what Russia understands by ‘denazification’.

The special operation revealed that not only the political leadership in Ukraine is Nazi, but also the majority of the population. All Ukrainians who have taken up arms must be eliminated – because they are responsible for the genocide of the Russian people.

Ukrainians disguise their Nazism by calling it a “desire for independence” and a “European way of development”. Ukraine doesn’t have a Nazi party, a Führer or racial laws, but because of its flexibility, Ukrainian Nazism is far more dangerous to the world than Hitler’s Nazism.

Denazification means de-Ukrainianisation. Ukrainians are an artificial anti-Russian construct. They should no longer have a national identity. Denazification of Ukraine also means its inevitable de-Europeanisation.

Ukraine’s political elite must be eliminated as it cannot be re-educated. Ordinary Ukrainians must experience all the horrors of war and absorb the experience as a historical lesson and atonement for their guilt.

The liberated and denazified territory of the Ukrainian state should no longer be called Ukraine. Denazification should last at least one generation – 25 years.

Samizdata quote of the day

Dominic Cummings was completely right in his belief that ‘Generally, the better educated are more prone to irrational political opinions and political hysteria than the worse educated’. The history of communism is the most obvious example, Bolshevism being a student cult that was passionately believed in by some very intelligent, brilliant people long after it was exposed as a disaster.

Ed West

The rot goes deep

I was going to say the rot goes deep in Scottish politics, but it ain’t just Scotland.

It started with a minor story about a senior member of the Scottish National Party getting into hot water. Until this story broke Dr Tim Rideout was the SNP’s currency guy. Quoting the Times:

“Nicola Sturgeon ‘will root out racism’ in SNP after adviser Tim Rideout suspended”

Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to “root out and condemn toxic racist political discourse” in the SNP after a senior party member said that Priti Patel should be “sent back to Uganda”.

Tim Rideout, a member of the nationalists’ policy development committee, was suspended from the party after the controversial social media posts about the home secretary came to light.

Pam Gosal, the Conservative MSP and the first Indian Sikh member at Holyrood, urged the first minister to condemn the “appalling racist comment”.

Pam Gosal was right. It was a nasty bit of snide directed at the Home Secretary solely because of her ancestry. I already knew Rideout was a twit on financial matters – here he is speaking at some sort of Modern Monetary Theory conference – but I had thought better of him than that.

A Conservative MSP angrily saying that a Scottish National Party official has said something appalling, when he has, is normal politics. What shook me, because not that long ago it was not normal politics, was the remark from the (Labour) Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Ian Murray:

Ian Murray, the shadow Scottish secretary, has called for police to take action against Rideout. He added: “These are truly horrendous and outright racist remarks from a key advisor to Nicola Sturgeon.

Once laws against “hate” unaccompanied by any clear crime are passed, as the SNP has done in Scotland, it does not take long for the policing of political speech to become literal.

Weakness and lies beget horrors of every kind

Anyone who cares about our liberty and security (the two are deeply entwined) needs to work tirelessly to ensure the future does not belong to tyrants, be they tyrants in Russia, China, or much closer to home. Even the smallest of daily acts of defiance can add to a countervailing pressure; every little decision you make, what you say, who you spend your money with, needs to be done thoughtfully and above all bravely.

At a time when it would be nice to have at least a measure of trust in our own institutions, the last two years have made that completely impossible. Putin and his ilk are predators who sense weakness, and culturally we have been greatly weakened by enemies within our own institutions public and private.

Come to think of it, comrades, I do want Jones back

George Orwell, Animal Farm:

“Surely, comrades, you do not want Jones back?”

Once again this argument was unanswerable. Certainly the animals did not want Jones back; if the holding of debates on Sunday mornings was liable to bring him back, then the debates must stop. Boxer, who had now had time to think things over, voiced the general feeling by saying: “If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right.” And from then on he adopted the maxim, “Napoleon is always right,” in addition to his private motto of “I will work harder.”

(Credit to, um, www.marxists.org actually, for providing the link.)

The Times yesterday, “Donald Trump praises Vladimir Putin’s ‘genius’ move on Ukraine”. The headline worked; there are more than a thousand outraged comments about how Trump is “supporting Putin”. I knew before I read the first line that the point he was actually making would be something along the lines of this:

He claimed that Putin, 69, would not have dared invade had he still been in the White House, rather than Biden. “This never would have happened with us,” he said, dismissing Biden as a “man that has no concept of what he’s doing”.

He told the radio show: “Had I been in office — not even thinkable. This would never have happened. But you know what the response was from Biden? There was no response. They didn’t have one for that. No, it’s very sad.”

The BBC, this morning:

BBC LIVE: Russia launches invasion of Ukraine

“Legal but harmful”

“The draft Online Safety Bill delivers the government’s manifesto commitment to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online while defending free expression”, says the gov.uk website. It would be nice to think that meant that the Bill would make the UK the safest place in the world in which to defend free expression online.

The text of the draft Bill soon dispels that illusion. Today’s Times editorial says,

In the attempt to tackle pornography, criminality, the promotion of suicide and other obvious obscenities rampant on social media, the bill invents a new category titled “legal but harmful”. The implications, which even a former journalist such as the prime minister appears not to have seen, are worrying.

It is sweet to believe the best of people, but that “appears not to have seen” is either sweet enough to choke on, or sarcasm.

Could they give the censors in Silicon Valley power to remove anything that might land them with a massive fine? That would enshrine the pernicious doctrine of no-platforming into law.

Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, has expressed alarm at what he fears the wording could do to his publication. Any digital publisher who crossed the line might find an article on vaccine safety or on eugenics, or indeed any topic deemed controversial, removed without warning, without trace and without recourse to challenge or explanation. The decision would not be taken by human beings, but by bots using algorithms to pick up words or phrases that fell into a pre-programmed red list.

The editorial continues,

The bill specifically excludes from the category [of “legal but harmful”] existing media outlets. If Facebook or another platform took down an article from a British newspaper without explanation, Ofcom, the media regulator, could penalise the platform.

That’s us bloggers dealt with then. Notice how the article frames the threat to free expression almost entirely in terms of its effect on newspapers. Still, in the current climate I am grateful that the Times has come out against the Bill. If self-interest is what it takes to wake them, then good for self-interest.

However, social media giants operate on a global scale. In any market such as Britain, where they have a huge following and earn billions, they will not risk a fine of 10 per cent of their annual turnover. They will simply remove anything deemed “harmful”, or, to counter the bill, downgrade its visibility or add a warning label. Given that America’s litigious culture will influence those deciding what constitutes harm, this could include political assertions, opinions or anything the liberal left could insist constitutes “fake news”. If Donald Trump can be banned, so can others.

Samizdata quote of the day

The message was simple: Question the COVID narrative, and there will be consequences.

But there were still many brave enough to buck the mob mentality. And as time has gone on and scientific data on COVID and pandemic restrictions have become more accurate, it has become clear that the dissenters were right. Lockdowns didn’t save lives; in fact, they likely cost more lives than they saved. Masks, specifically the cloth masks experts pushed on the public, are ineffective at stopping the spread of the virus and are harmful to children’s development. Hydroxychloroquine might actually help COVID patients in some cases. The list goes on.

Unfortunately, nonconformists have had to pay an enormous price for being right.

Kaylee McGhee White