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]

The gaze of strangers

I have a dilemma. I want to write a post about how creepy it is to take a photo of a stranger and put it on social media with a deniably mocking comment. The easiest way to illustrate this would be to post the tweet that caused me to write the post. But if I do that, I am guilty of the same behaviour. Then again, to have any hope of turning public opinion against this trend, people like me who object to it have to demonstrate that it actually happens.

I will compromise by linking to this tweet but not in a way that makes a picture of it show up on the page. The tweet’s already viral; any extra clicks I send its way will make little difference. The tweet says,

SHABS
@JoeShabadu

this guy reading the wetherspoons menu for 15mins on the train yesterday

The accompanying photo taken from a few feet away shows a unremarkable-looking old man. Like it says, he is sitting on a train, minding his own business and reading a Wetherspoons menu.

The picture itself doesn’t make him look stupid or anything. The thing that makes me begin to dislike Joe Shabadu, whoever they are, is that caption about the old guy reading the menu for fifteen minutes.

It being a Wetherspoons menu is relevant. For the benefit of readers overseas, Wetherspoons is a chain of pubs operating in the UK and Ireland. As Wikipedia says, “Wetherspoon targets a mass-market offering of low-price food and drink.” Though I have always found them to be pretty good for the price, your local “Spoons” is not where the cognoscenti go. Some people boycott Wetherspoons because the chain’s founder, Tim Martin, was loud in his support for Brexit.

So we have it pointed out to the world that this old chap was reading a pub menu for fifteen minutes, and the pub concerned was one associated with the proletariat. I think the tweet was meant to make us laugh at the old man for being a bad reader, or for going to Wetherspoons, or both. The person who wrote the tweet tries to claim otherwise, but I was not convinced.

The general tone of the replies was heartening. A typical one was, “Let the man be. Why take a photo and post it? Doing no harm.” Another said, “Maybe he struggles to read and doesn’t want to be embarrassed when he gets there? Shame on you.” Other replies were more light-hearted. Someone speculated that he could be one of those “mystery shoppers” paid to sample the pub’s fare anonymously before reporting back to the management. I related to this one: “You’re acting like you don’t read shampoo instructions when you run out of battery on the toilet.” When I used to commute on the Victoria Line I always had a book or a newspaper with me. Mostly this was because I find it hard to go an hour without reading. Partly it was so that I could escape in spirit when a stranger’s gaze rested on me for too long.

Ed Balls

Hold fast to the old ways.

Oxford Anti-Fascists, sticking it to the Man by stopping demonstrations about traffic filters

Fight the Power, Oxford Antifa! “On Saturday 18 February, fascists and climate deniers are planning a “community day” in Oxford to exploit concerns and tensions around traffic filters. We won’t allow it!”

Hat tip to Andy Ngô.

I have not looked that hard into this “15-minute” city business. This article by Henry Grabar on Slate dismisses opposition to it as a ludicrous conspiracy theory. Well, the first few paragraphs do. However nine paragraphs down he is not sounding so sure:

In Oxford, however, the urbanists’ ambitions are more serious. Next year, the city plans to implement a souped-up toll network on major roads. But it’s not to get cars out of the city core, which has had a hefty congestion charge since February. Instead, the city’s six new “traffic filters” will limit daytime car travel between Oxford’s neighborhoods, which stretch from the medieval center to its ring road like slices of a pizza. There are the usual exceptions for buses, taxis, emergency services, people with disabilities, freight, and so forth, but other drivers will face camera-generated 70-pound fines for motoring across town on local streets. The intention is to unstick the jams that slow the city’s major streets to 5 mph in the mornings by diverting traffic to the ring road and encouraging residents to use alternative transportation.

The result, they hope, will be faster traffic, a functional bus network, and cleaner air. The goal is to reduce car trips in Oxford by 25 percent; grow bike trips by 40 percent, and cut road fatalities in half by 2030. Planners project traffic downtown could fall by more than 50 percent.

Oxfordians will not, in fact, be banned from visiting their mothers, as the conservative provocateur Katie Hopkins suggested last month. You can take the bus or ride a bike. You can drive all you want for free, so long as you use the city’s ring road to cross town. You can also drive through the traffic filters after 7 pm. And locals are entitled to 100 free driving days per year. (This last part, I have to confess, seems like it might be both messy and annoying.)

Still, these “traffic filters” are pretty bold as anti-car measures go, and the controversy has not been confined to red pill anti-vax forums.

Despite Oxford Antifa not giving their permission, the demonstration did take place. Dave Vetter, an Oxford-based climate journalist, was there, and took a lot of pictures and videos. He called the demo “an intoxicating mix of far-right conspiracy slogans, antisemitism and really terrible hip-hop.” I’ll believe him when he says he talked to one person who said Ashkenazi Jews were “not like us”; all demos attract a certain proportion of lunatics. But one would think that if antisemitism really were a big part of the Oxford crowd’s motivation, he would have had no trouble finding loads of placards proclaiming it to photograph.

Nicole Hannah-Jones gives her opinion on Thomas Sowell’s expertise and hears some opinions in return

The ratio Nikole Hannah-Jones got for this tweet is a sight to behold:

I’ve tagged it “self-ownership” because it’s a self-own. Sue me.

For those that don’t know, Nikole Hannah-Jones (who gets to appropriate the historic name of Ida B. Wells, a pioneer of the civil rights movement, as her Twitter handle) is the developer of the New York Times’s 1619 Project, though presumably not the author of all the edits the NYT had to stealthily make to it later. She is also someone who has stated that “All journalism is activism”. Thomas Sowell is the author of…

1971. Economics: Analysis and Issues. Scott Foresman & Co.
1972. Black Education: Myths and Tragedies. David McKay Co. . ISBN 0-679-30015-5 .
1972. Say’s Law: An Historical Analysis. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-04166-7.
1974. Classical Economics Reconsidered. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-00358-0.
1975. Race and Economics. David McKay Co. ISBN 978-0-679-30262-9.
1980. Knowledge and Decisions. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-03736-0.
1981. Ethnic America: A History . Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-02074-7 .
Chapter 1, “The American Mosaic .”
1981. Markets and Minorities. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-04399-2 .
1981. Pink and Brown People: and Other Controversial Essays . Hoover Press . ISBN 0-8179-7532-2.
1983. The Economics and Politics of Race. William Morrow. ISBN 0-688-01891-2.
1984. Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality? William Morrow. ISBN 0-688-03113-7.
1985. Marxism: Philosophy and Economics. Quill. ISBN 0-688-06426-4.
1986. Education: Assumptions Versus History. Hoover Press. ISBN 0-8179-8112-8.
1987. A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles . William Morrow. ISBN 0-688-06912-6 .
1987. Compassion Versus Guilt and Other Essays. William Morrow. ISBN 0-688-07114-7.
1990. Preferential Policies: An International Perspective. ISBN 0-688-08599-7
1993. Inside American Education. New York: The Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-5408-2.
1993. Is Reality Optional?: and Other Essays. Hoover. ISBN 978-0-8179-9262-0.
1995. Race and Culture: A World View. ISBN 0-465-06796-4.
1995. The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation As a Basis for Social Policy. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-08995-X.
1996. Migrations and Cultures: A World View. ISBN 0-465-04589-8. OCLC 41748039.
1998. Conquests and Cultures: An International History. ISBN 0-465-01400-3.
1998. Late-Talking Children. ISBN 0-465-03835-2.
1999. The Quest for Cosmic Justice . ISBN 0-684-86463-0.
2000. A Personal Odyssey. ISBN 0-684-86465-7.
2000. Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy (1st ed.) . Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-08145-2.
2002. Controversial Essays. Hoover. ISBN 0-8179-2992-4.
2002. The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late. ISBN 0-465-08141-X.
2003. Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One. ISBN 0-465-08143-6.
2004. Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press . ISBN 978-0-300-10775-3 .
2004. Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy (revised and expanded ed.). New York: Basic Books.
2005. Black Rednecks and White Liberals. San Francisco: Encounter Books. ISBN 978-1-59403-086-4.
2006. Ever Wonder Why?: and Other Controversial Essays . Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press. ISBN 978-0-8179-4752-1. OCLC 253604328. ASIN 0817947523 .
2006. On Classical Economics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12606-8.[118]
2007. A Man of Letters. San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books. ISBN 978-1-59403-196-0.
2007. Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy (3rd ed.). Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books. ISBN 978-0-465-00260-3. OCLC 76897806.
2008. Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One (2nd ed.). Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-00345-7 . OCLC 260206351 .
2008. Economic Facts and Fallacies . Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-00349-5. OCLC 1033591370. ASIN 0465003494.
2009. The Housing Boom and Bust. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-01880-2.
Chapter 5, “The Past and the Future.”
2010. Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy (4th ed.). Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books. ISBN 978-0-465-02252-6.
2010. Dismantling America: and Other Controversial Essays. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-02251-9 . OCLC 688505777 .
2010. Intellectuals and Society . Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-01948-9 . Lay summary .
2011. The Thomas Sowell Reader. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-02250-2.
2011. Economic Facts and Fallacies, 2nd edition. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0465022038
2013. Intellectuals and Race. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-05872-3.
2014. Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy (5th ed.). New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-06073-3.
2015. Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective.[119]
2016. Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective (2nd ed.). ISBN 978-0-465-09676-3.
2018. Discrimination and Disparities. ISBN 978-1-541-64560-8.
2019. Discrimination and Disparities (revised, enlarged ed.) ISBN 978-1-541-64563-9.
2020. Charter Schools and Their Enemies. ISBN 978-1-541-67513-1.

This brings a whole new meaning to “brigading” on social media

What is the 77th Brigade for? According to its own website, the mission of this unit of the British Army is to CHALLENGE THE DIFFICULTIES OF MODERN WARFARE. Despite the capital letters I do not feel hugely better informed. It continues,

We are a combined Regular and Army Reserve unit. Our aim is to challenge the difficulties of modern warfare using non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of the opposing forces and adversaries.

Um, okay. I would not want the difficulties of modern warfare to go unchallenged. I would even be up for them challenging the easy bits of modern warfare while they’re at it. However, before I give my wholehearted support to “adapting behaviours of the opposing forces” I would like to know what adapting-without-a-to means in normal English. Is it us changing them or them changing us? The question is pertinent because according to a whistleblower who contacted the civil liberties organisation Big Brother Watch, the last part of the line about the target of the British Army’s behavioural adaptation squad being “opposing forces and adversaries” seems to have been quietly dropped.

This link allows you to download a Big Brother Watch report called Ministry of Truth: the secretive government units spying on your speech.

The key findings are:

  • Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Conservative MPs David Davis and Chris Green, high profile academics from the University of Oxford and University College London, and journalists including Peter Hitchens and Julia Hartley-Brewer, all had comments critical of the government analysed by anti-misinformation units.
  • Targeted speech included public criticism of the government’s pandemic response – particularly lockdown modelling and vaccine passports – as well as journalists’ criticism of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and MPs’ criticism of NATO
  • Soldiers from the Army’s 77th Brigade, tasked with “non-lethal psychological warfare”, collected tweets from British citizens posting about Covid-19 and passed them to central government – despite claiming operations were directed strictly overseas
  • A counter-misinformation unit pressured the Dept. of Health to attack newspapers for publishing articles analysing Covid-19 modelling that it feared would undermine compliance with pandemic restrictions.
  • MPs and journalists were featured in “vaccine hesitancy reports” for opposing vaccine passports
  • Contractors paid over £1m to trawl social media for perceived terms of service violations on selected topics and pass them to government officials
  • Counter-disinformation units use special relationships with social media companies to recommend content be removed
  • Front organisations aimed at minority communities were set up to spread government propaganda in the UK
  • BBW have provided a jolly little template that allows you exercise your legal right to find out if you personally were having your social media posts monitored. However that does seem to involve giving the government the real name behind your twitter handle, which in the circumstances…

    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.