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]

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

Samizdata quote of the day

As I set out in my book A State of Fear: How the UK government weaponised fear during the Covid-19 pandemic masks are a nudge, even described as a ‘signal’ by David Halpern, the director of the UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team. Similarly, Professor Neil Ferguson said that masks remind us ‘we’re not completely out of the woods yet’. They serve as a visible public reminder of the pandemic, turning us back into walking billboards pronouncing danger. My source concurred: ‘Masks are a behavioural psychology policy. We need to stop pretending that it’s about public health. Nudge is a big thing in government.’

Laura Dodsworth

They used to feel the need of adjectives

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has a dire warning for us.

Freedom? Far-right, man!

There was a time when it was “bourgeois freedom” or “freedom to starve” or something. There was a time when they felt the need of some fig-leaf to cover their real meaning – to the masses, and (sometimes, I think) even to themselves. But now, their ‘experts’ proclaim their core belief: “Freedom? Far-right, man!”

I think we should spread this warning far and wide. 🙂

Does aid to evil regimes cement them in power? Should we do it anyway?

When I was young I read many earnest articles saying that international aid should be directed towards eradicating the long term causes of famine and poverty rather than short term fixes for specific disasters. Back then I was convinced by such arguments, but later I reversed my opinion. Give generously in emergencies, yes, but most government-to-government foreign aid was well described by development economist Peter Bauer: “Aid is a phenomenon whereby poor people in rich countries are taxed to support the lifestyles of rich people in poor countries”. The money from the sky is not merely wasted but counterproductive:

Governments embarked on fanciful schemes. Private investors, lacking confidence in public policies or in the steadfastness of leaders, held back. Powerful rulers acted arbitrarily. Corruption became endemic. Development faltered, and poverty endured.

Yet it remains true that when catastrophe strikes it is often only governments who have the power – the credit, the personnel, the ships and aircraft – to render aid quickly. In most such cases I unhesitatingly say, do it. Yeah, it might be nicer if we were not forced to pay taxes for any cause at all but when people are dying by the thousands don’t wait for Libertopia to evolve before helping them.

However it is at least arguable that one situation where even emergency aid can end up doing net harm is when the regime in charge of the country stricken by famine or disaster is so bad that perpetuating it (as the aid will undoubtedly do) is an even worse catastrophe.

Is Afghanistan such a case? This Guardian article does a fair job of presenting both sides of the dilemma, albeit from a starting point far more in favour of international aid than mine.

What is it with Chicoms and killing people’s pets?

“Heartbreak as Hong Kong pet owners give up hamsters for Covid cull”, reports France-24:

Time was running out for Pudding.

The hamster, a new addition to the Hau family, was to be given up to Hong Kong authorities for culling after rodents in a pet shop tested positive for coronavirus — leaving Pudding’s 10-year-old owner wailing in grief.

“I don’t want to, I don’t want to,” the boy cried, his head buried in his hands as he crouched next to Pudding’s pink cage, according to a video shown to AFP by his father.

But the older Hau, who would only provide his last name, said he was worried about his elderly family members who live in the same household.

“I have no choice — the government made it sound so serious,” he told AFP, shortly before entering a government-run animal management centre to submit Pudding.

I am not certain, but I think the video of the little boy crying next to his hamster’s pink cage might be this one, which is being widely shared online.

Given that I am not a vegetarian, I suppose I cannot make too much of a fuss about animals being killed, but I had a hamster once of which I was fond. That little boy will remember his pet being taken away for the rest of his life. I could understand if there were any serious evidence that the cull would achieve anything for humans. None has been provided. Evidence is not really the point here: The People’s Republic of China has a Zero Covid policy. Nothing is to be allowed to stand in the way of progress towards this perfect state. In fact, now that the PRC has dropped the pretence of “One country, two systems” with regard to Hong Kong, it might even be desirable from China’s point of view that the people of Hong Kong should be made aware of what their new masters think of such Western-influenced bourgeois sentimentality. Let the children weep and know themselves powerless.

Of course Communist China has form on this. During the Cultural Revolution,

Even China’s feline population suffered as Red Guards tried to eliminate what they claimed was a symbol of “bourgeois decadence”. “Walking through the streets of the capital at the end of August [1966], people saw dead cats lying by the roadside with their front paws tied together,” writes Dikötter.

Nor was that the first of Mao’s grand animal-killing schemes. In the disastrous Four Pests campaign of 1958-62 he sought to kill all the sparrows in China.

Sparrows were suspected of consuming approximately four pounds of grain per sparrow per year. Sparrow nests were destroyed, eggs were broken, and chicks were killed. Millions of people organized into groups, and hit noisy pots and pans to prevent sparrows from resting in their nests, with the goal of causing them to drop dead from exhaustion.In addition to these tactics, citizens also simply shot the birds down from the sky. The campaign depleted the sparrow population, pushing it to near extinction.

The result was predictable: with the sparrows who ate the insects gone, the numbers of insects exploded. It was a contributing factor to the Great Chinese Famine. Warnings from ornithologists (or anyone else) that this might happen counted for little against a government that had mobilised the people to march towards a public health goal that could be defined in one sentence.