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]

Free speech on Twitter: my hopes, their fears (Samizdata quotes of today’s Guardian and yesterday’s Independent)

Today’s Guardian warns:

Twitter’s mass layoffs, days before US midterms, could be a misinformation disaster

Internal chaos at the company – and the decimation of its staff – has created ideal conditions for falsehoods and hateful content.

The mass layoffs at Twitter, that diminished several teams, including staff on the company’s safety and misinformation teams, could spell disaster during the US midterms elections next week, experts have warned.

What would the woke do without experts – for example Paul Barrett, described as “an expert in disinformation and fake news at New York University”. I’m sure he’s very committed to it, but as to being expert at it – well, judge for yourselves. The Guardian quotes Paul as saying Twitter’s “chaos”, and:

“lack of staff and resources dedicated to counteracting misinformation, has created ideal conditions for election misinformation to thrive … Twitter is in the midst of a category 5 hurricane, and that is not a good environment for fostering vigilance when dealing with inevitable attempts to spread falsehoods and hateful content.”

Yesterday’s Independent shared Paul’s concern. The headline

Man arrested on suspicion of tampering with voting machine

did not prepare me for reading that their concern about this Colorado man was not that he might have affected the June primary but that

it heightened concerns among election officials and security experts that conspiracy theories related to the 2020 presidential election could inspire some voters to meddle with – or even to sabotage – election equipment

Oh, those wicked election deniers! If only they had not raised the idea that such things had already happened, that registered Democrat would never have thought of inserting a thumb drive into a voting machine.

Despite this ingenious framing, I suspect what these ‘experts’ find really hateful is that the ‘information’ they’ve been supplying for two years seems to be missing its target anyway. A recent poll says that 40% agree, and only 36% disagree, that the 2020 presidential election was stolen – and of the 36%, one in three find it “understandable” that others might believe it was, which was not at all the idea meant to be conveyed by always putting ‘baseless’ before ‘claims of election fraud’. (And when the Rasmussen poll a month ago had the don’t-knows choose which side they thought more likely, they did not at all split the way the experts thought they should.) So if that happened despite all those safety and misinformation staffers banning tweets and accounts here, there and everywhere, how safe will the narrative be (I can understand the experts worrying) if Twitter lets reports of vote fraud be seen and assessed by the community, not just the experts?

So much for their fears, now a word about mine. The worst thing about vote fraud is not that it is lied about but that it happens. How much vote fraud will there be in the mid-terms? (Given the conveniently long lead-in times, how much has there already been?) My expectation is: a lot. My hope is: not enough. Hope is not a strategy. This article on the election integrity movement (h/t instapundit) notes some successes but concedes other failures:

Even with the recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court victory, that state remains essentially lawless when it comes to election integrity.

– and IIUC, the counting of post-dated or undated ballots in Pennsylvania only got prevented because a judge recently died, leading to an even-numbers stand-off in a key case.

But I can see it will be inconvenient to the lawless if Twitter hasn’t the censors or the will to bring a halt to users showing poll-watching being prevented. No wonder the Guardian and the Independent are upset.

Thou shalt not blaspheme against the True Faith

Someone posted this on Twitter…

And Twitter suspended their account. Thou shalt not blaspheme against the True Faith.

“The media could not be played”, and that frightens me even more

The video embedded in this tweet from Laurence Fox apparently shows someone being arrested for tweeting. I cannot see the video, but the top comment says,

“Chap shares a post by @LozzaFox and the police arrest the chap, even though Laurence is actually stood there 👀

This is disgraceful. People upset by hurty words need to turn the Internet off and remember the old children’s rhyme – Sticks and Stones.”

Apparently the arrest had something to do with that meme that shows four LGBTQ+ Progress Pride flags (my goodness, “Newsround” has changed a lot since John Craven presented it) arranged so that the triangular inserts form a swastika. Fox’s Wikipedia entry says, “In June 2022 Fox tweeted an image of a swastika made from the LGBTQ+ Progress Pride flag with the caption ‘You can openly call the [Union Jack] a symbol of fa[s]cism and totalitarianism on Twatter. You cannot criticise the holy flags’. This led to him being temporarily suspended from Twitter for a day.”

This tweet from Richard Taylor of GB News may show the same video.

As you can probably tell, I am not at all sure what is going on. Is my inability to play the video censorship by Twitter, or just my old computer not being up to the job? Some accounts seem to imply that that the threatened arrest was not carried through, although that reassures me very little. As we have all seen, making the process the punishment has been a very successful way for the police to chill free speech while avoiding having to defend their actions in court.

This is the age of the fact checker

Politico on Twitter said,

Clarence Thomas claimed in a dissenting opinion that Covid vaccines are derived from the cells of “aborted children.”

No Covid vaccines in the U.S. contain the cells of aborted fetuses.

2,061 Retweets. 1,537 Quote Tweets. 5,676 Likes. Dozens of sneering replies.

And two egregious falsehoods in one tweet.

As Egon Alter (@AlterEgon75) put it in their reply,

This is a gross mischaracterization of Thomas’ words.

HE is not making the claim, the plaintiffs in the case are.

And he said they object because aborted fetus cells were used in the development of the vaccine, which your reporting verifies, not that the vaccine contains them.

UPDATE:

You can see a screenshot of Justice Thomas’s exact words in this tweet from AGHamilton29. Thomas said,

They object on religious grounds to all available COVID-19 vaccines because they were developed using cell lines derived from aborted children.

Firstly, note that he is paraphrasing the opinion of the petitioners, not giving his own opinion. Secondly, note that the petitioners themselves did not claim that the vaccines were made from aborted foetuses, they claim that foetal cells were used in the development process, which they were. As one would expect from a judge, Thomas has noted this crucial distinction.

Again via the estimable AGHamilton29, I see that it was not just Politico spreading this false story.

Axios: Clarence Thomas suggests COVID vaccines are made with “aborted children”

NBC News: Justice Thomas cites debunked claim that Covid vaccines are made with cells from ‘aborted children’

Of course, once the fake news seed is sown, it sprouts up everywhere.

The Daily Mail: Clarence Thomas cites debunked claim that Covid vaccines are created with cells of ‘aborted children’ in dissent on SCOTUS decision upholding New York state’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers

The Independent: Clarence Thomas wrongly suggests ‘aborted children’ cells are used in Covid vaccines

SECOND UPDATE: The Politico tweet has now been disappeared, and the story to which it linked corrected. It is now mostly accurate and completely pointless, a breathless account of a Supreme Court judge doing a normal part of his job.

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.

A timely warning from Daniel Hannan

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

A shockingly misinformed tweet by Tim Worstall

Someone called sarahknapton tweeted, “I know lateral flow is important etc but all these millions of bits of plastic ending up in landfill every day makes me feel a bit ill.”

Mr Worstall replied, “Umm, why? Lots of bits of plastic in landfill is where those lots of bits of plastic are safe. Dig up the oil, use the products made from it, stick the used plastic back in the ground – the cycle of non-life perhaps. Maybe we should get a warthog to sing about it for the kiddies?”

IT ISN’T THE WARTHOG WHO SINGS “CIRCLE OF LIFE”, YOU HEATHEN.

I love that song, despite the fridge horror of all those sentient animals submitting to being eaten. A happy new year to all our readers. May we find that place on the path unwinding that does not involve eating others or being eaten ourselves.

Free market squirrel

Buitengebieden tweets, “This squirrel always brings dried seed to trade for some nuts..”

I have put this under the category of “Twitter nonsense” because we have no category for “Twitter video that is so adorable that gratitude for it almost makes me hope that Jack Dorsey succeeds in his attempt to escape the righteous vengeance of the populace.”

Azeem Rafiq’s own racist tweets do not excuse the racism he suffered but the double standards are astonishing

On 16th November the UK press featured dozens of stories about the former cricket player Azeem Rafiq’s testimony to a Parliamentary committee about his experiences of racism, particularly when playing for Yorkshire. A typical story was this one from BBC Sport, “Azeem Rafiq: Yorkshire cricket racism scandal – how we got here”

Surprisingly, that BBC report did not include what surely must be the most serious of the allegations Mr Rafiq made, that when he was fifteen and playing cricket at club level for Barnsley, he was pinned down by other players and had red wine poured down his throat. (He is a Muslim.) To hold someone down and force them to do something that they consider religiously forbidden, and in many cases something that also disgusts them, is an assault on their bodily integrity that ought to horrify anyone.

However it was widely covered elsewhere, as was every word of Mr Rafiq’s testimony to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing.

This Google search for mentions of “Azeem Rafiq” between 16th and 17th November shows how seriously his allegations were taken. “Azeem Rafiq’s testimony exposes how power works in cricket – and in Britain”, said the Guardian. Azeem Rafiq: ‘A trailblazer who has created a watershed moment’, said the BBC. Azeem Rafiq: Sport England could cut cricket funding after ‘wake-up call’, said the Times.

Though I do not believe that the government should fund sport at all, and I would prefer it if the horribly-named Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport did not exist, given that it does exist and does fund cricket I broadly agree: government money should not go to bodies that tolerate racism.

Well, that was the situation on the 17th. On the 18th it all fell apart.

Azeem Rafiq apologises for historical anti-Semitic Facebook messages said the BBC. The Times reported:

The Times has seen an exchange of messages that appear to have been sent ten years ago between Rafiq and the former Warwickshire and Leicestershire player Ateeq Javid. Sources believe they are discussing another Asian cricketer, at the time playing for Derbyshire, whom they seem to accuse of being reluctant to spend money on a meal out because “he is a jew”. Rafiq jokes that he will “probs go after my 2nds again ha . . . Only jews do tht sort of shit”.

Mr Rafiq was quick to apologise. The same Times article said,

Rafiq said: “I was sent an image of this exchange from early 2011 today. I have gone back to check my account and it is me. I have absolutely no excuses. I am ashamed of this exchange and have now deleted it so as not to cause further offence. I was 19 at the time and I hope and believe I am a different person today. I am incredibly angry at myself and I apologise to the Jewish community and everyone who is rightly offended.”

In most respects I think we should accept that apology. The business of excavating tweets made by sportsmen years ago has reached absurd lengths – the footballer Marc Bola was charged with “aggravated misconduct” by the Football Association for a tweet he made when he was fourteen.

But the double standards rankle. Mr Rafiq said, “I have gone back to check my account and it is me.” In other words, he had no memory of making that racist tweet in 2011. But if Mr Rafiq cannot remember what he himself tweeted in 2011 then should we not at least allow for the possibility of error in his memory of the racist remark that he says he remembers the former England captain Michael Vaughan making in 2009? Or if it turns out Mr Vaughan did make that remark (Vaughan denies it), should we not grant that Michael Vaughan might well be “a different person” after twelve years, just as Azeem Rafiq says that he is after ten?

More generally, the revelation that Mr Rafiq was exchanging racist banter with Ateeq Javid did not call forth anguished calls for reform from MPs and newspaper columnists. Apparently it did not reveal anything in particular about how power works in cricket, or in Britain. It was not a watershed moment, it was not a wake up call, and cricket’s government funding is not imperilled.

I am going to end by repeating what I said in the title of this post: Azeem Rafiq’s own racist tweets do not excuse the racism he suffered, particularly not the physical assault. But I agree with what Andrew Hills said in the most-recommended comment to that Times article:

I think it is important this has come out; wokeness creates the lie that there is the pure “righteous” group over here and the racists and the homophobes over there. Let’s punish them whilst we glory in our own greatness. The reality is that we are all screw ups, and we should be working together as a bunch of messed up people to make a better society for all.

Charged with ‘aggravated misconduct’. For a tweet he made when he was 14.

Here is an extract from the report in today’s Times:

The Middlesbrough defender Marc Bola has been charged by the FA [Football Association] with aggravated misconduct for comments he made on social media when he was 14, nine years ago.

The FA has alleged that Bola, now 23, who signed for Middlesbrough from Blackpool in 2019, posted a ‘reference to sexual orientation.’ He is facing a written warning, an education course or a potential three-game ban for the post from 2012.

An FA statement read: “Middlesbrough FC’s Marc Bola has been charged with misconduct for a breach of FA Rule E3 in relation to a social media post on April 14, 2012.

If, rather than mouthing off on Twitter, the fourteen year old Bola had had the forethought to instead commit a violent crime meriting up four years imprisonment, the sentence would have been considered “spent” by now under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

Samizdata quote of the day

The Taliban is getting its message out on social media, too, giving live updates on its seizure of power. A man claiming to be an official representative has had an active account on Twitter since 2017 and has over 280,000 followers. He has had a lot to tweet about in recent days.

This might seem unusual, considering how censorious Twitter usually is. It has punished people for stepping out of line on numerous issues from transgenderism to Covid-19. Most infamously, it banned the sitting US president, Donald Trump, earlier this year. Even more extraordinarily, the ban largely related to Trump’s behaviour off the platform. Many months on, as the Taliban tweets freely about its progress, Trump is still banned.

Paddy Hannam

“We need information crimes”

Until Brexit, “Green Molly” a.k.a. Molly Scott Cato was a Green Party MEP. She is currently the Green Party External Communications Coordinator and Speaker on Economy and Finance.

On July 29th she tweeted,

UK Covid patients tell of regrets over refusing jab

These stories make me terribly sad

She was referring to this Guardian article. Thus far, I agreed with her. The Guardian article by Sarah Marsh is unashamedly emotional, but it derives its power to convince by letting named ordinary people speak for themselves. However Ms Scott Cato thinks that humans speaking to other humans about their own brush with death or the deaths of their relatives is not a good enough persuasive strategy. She continued,

But they also make me angry with people who spread lies on social media

In the information age it seems to me we need information crimes

And punishments to match

In a sense Ms Scott Cato is right. She does need information crimes. Her party and the worldwide Green movement (of which parties with “Green” in their name are a minor part) have a vision for humanity that goes far beyond trees and whales, and they know they will not get the public to comply if gadflies and malcontents are allowed to bring up information that contradicts the official line. In particular they need information that shows how many of their previous predictions never came to pass to be criminalised.

Related:

“George Monbiot comes out in favour of censorship”, a post I made in January about Mr Monbiot’s article “Covid lies cost lives – we have a duty to clamp down on them”.

And found via Instapundit today, “‘Health misinformation’ should be a federal crime, First Amendment law professor says”.