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]

Manufacturing the grass roots…

“And the propaganda continues. Implausible figures and bogus narratives actively staged by human bots. Who is behind for this? The same happened with CCP promotion of lockdown.”

Nick Hudson

This has been a recurring theme over the last last few years but has gone into overdrive as of late.

Readers’ poll: what on earth did Boris mean?

Sky News on Twitter: “Boris Johnson has suggested the world’s leading nations should support a more ‘gender-neutral and feminine’ way of post-COVID economic recovery.”

“Gender neutral and feminine”? Click on the words below* that in your opinion best match what was going through Boris’s tousled head as he said these words.

(a) Pay up, Matt, I did it.

(b) Hey, if Joe can get away with “Those RFA pilots”, I can get away with this.

(c) You’re looking awfully pretty today, Carrie.

(d) You’re looking awfully pretty today, Ursula.

*Nothing will happen when you click. But you will feel better for having expressed yourself.

A dastardly personal attack

I thought it was a photoshop prank when I first read Matt Walsh’s tweet, but this does appear to be a genuine Independent headline: “Rightwing blogger launches gofundme for AOC’s Puerto Rico grandmother in latest personal attack”

In an attempt to shame Ms Ocasio-Cortez, Mr Walsh then started a gofundme to raise money for the congresswoman’s grandmother’s home repairs, paying just under $500 into the fundraiser himself.

Ben Shaprio, another conservative commenter who regularly attacks the congresswoman, also donated $499 and called on other conservative media personalities to do the same.

The fundraiser’s goal of just under $50,000 was met and exceeded by Friday afternoon, currently sitting at just under $60,000.

“Hi @AOC, we are raising money to help your abuela. It’s been inspiring to see the response so far. Can you send me a DM so that I can get the necessary information to ensure that this money makes it to your grandmother? Thank you!” he wrote on Twitter.

So long as the money is transferred as promised, and is transferred without strings attached so that Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s grandmother can turn right round and give it to her granddaughter’s re-election campaign if she wants to, I felt that the Independent‘s description of this as an “attack” was… incomplete.

Just as a discussion point for the libertarian argufiers out there: in what circumstances would giving someone money, or giving their relatives money, actually violate the non-aggression principle?

Ribbons tied in a bow

Eight days ago I posted about Marion Millar of Airdrie, Scotland, who was summoned to a police station for a compulsory interview over allegations that she had posted homophobic and transphobic tweets.

She has now been charged.

“Activist Marion Millar charged with sending homophobic and transphobic tweets”, reports the Times.

Marion Millar, 50, from Airdrie, was charged under the Malicious Communications Act for tweets published in 2019 and 2020. If convicted she faces up to two years in prison.

The messages investigated by officers are understood to include a retweeted photograph of a bow of ribbons in the green, white and purple colours of the Suffragettes, tied around a tree outside the Glasgow studio where a BBC soap opera is shot.

It is one at least six tweets reported to Police Scotland. The nature of the others is unclear. Millar, who owns an accountancy business, was bailed to appear at Glasgow sheriff court on July 20.

Her supporters said that the prosecution was an attack on the rights of women to express themselves.

Added later: The Times has turned off the comments to its account of the Marion Millar case, presumably for fear of committing contempt of court, so the readers have taken to making veiled allusions to it when commenting on other stories in the paper’s Scotland section.

A couple of the Scottish papers have also reported on the case:

Feminist campaigner charged with ‘hate crime’ – Tom Gordon in the Herald.

Woman charged with malicious communication over ‘transphobic’ tweet – Gina Davidson in the Scotsman.

The point is that anyone can do this to anyone

Don’t like what someone says on social media? Don’t worry, with just one phone call you can arrange for whoever said it to have to tell their autistic kids that mummy has to go away and doesn’t know when she’ll be allowed to come back.

“I can’t sleep, says accountant Marion Millar in trans tweet row”, reports the Times.

Marion Millar, an accountant from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, was told to report to a police station over allegations that she had posted “homophobic and transphobic” tweets.

Her account of her ordeal has been viewed by millions of people on social media. Millar, who works for For Women Scotland (FWS), a feminist group, wrote: “On April 28 I received a call from a PC Laura Daley from Police Scotland requesting I attend an interview under the malicious communications act. She told me I had to attend East Kilbride police station so I could be then transported to Cathcart station in a police car because I would have to go to a station where there are holding cells.”

Millar was told that social workers would be sent to look after her young twin boys, who are autistic, while she was questioned.

“This nonsense has been hanging over my head for a month,” she said. “I still don’t know what the offending tweet is. Anyone who knows me knows I am not homophobic or transphobic. ”

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “We received two complaints regarding comments made on social media, enquiries into this are ongoing.”

To comply with human rights legislation interviews have to take place at a station with custody suites, which East Kilbride does not have.

I cannot but admire the elegance of using the supposed protections offered by human rights legislation into a vehicle for twisting the knife a little more. Shame if you aren’t allowed to return home, love. But don’t worry, we have a nice custody suite.

Some of you might think this is an example of what a oppressive place Scotland is becoming now that the Hate Crime (Scotland) Bill has been passed. If so, you are wrong. It is an example of what an oppressive place Scotland already is under existing law. Ms Millar was summoned for offences under the Malicious Communications Act. And before English, Welsh or Northern Irish readers feel superior, let me say that as far as I know that same 1988 Act applies to the whole of the UK. As I said in a post from 2012 called “The kraken wakes”, despite its obvious potential for oppression, for the first twenty years or so of its existence the Malicious Communications Act 1988 did not seem to do much harm … but you are not safe just because a monster sleeps.

The Streisand-Challenor effect

On the evening of the 22nd March, visitors to the main UK politics subreddit, /r/ukpolitics found a mysterious message saying that the subreddit, which has nearly 400,000 members, had been set to “private” by its own volunteer moderators.

It was the beginning of a cascade. The lights are going off all over Reddit! Subreddit after subreddit was set to private in sympathy with /r/ukpolitics. Most of them dealt with topics unrelated to politics. At its peak the wave of protest closures affected subreddits collectively having tens of millions of members all over the world.

To understand why this protest against Reddit by its own users gained such traction, we need to go back to the 8th of March when the Spectator published an article by its unlikeliest new writer, the radical left wing “gender critical” feminist Julie Bindel, called “The Green party’s woman problem”. It contained the lines,

The formidable feminist author and journalist Bea Campbell, a former Green party candidate, resigned from the party last year after being disciplined, in part for refusing to keep quiet about the shocking and disturbing Aimee Challenor case.

That brief reference to “the Aimee Challenor case” was to have dramatic consequences. A hyperlink on the word “case” linked in turn to this Independent article dated 13 January 2019:

Aimee Challenor: Green star failed to properly alert party of father’s child rape charges Independent investigation found transgender activist only alerted two colleagues in ‘informal’ Facebook message

Having parted ways with the Greens, Aimee Challenor joined the Liberal Democrats. Once again her association with the party ended as a result of child safeguarding issues related to someone with whom she lived. This time it was her fiancé Nathaniel Knight. He claims his twitter account was hacked.

A point to note: these events were widely reported. Given a prompt about a person who had left both the Greens and the Lib Dems under a cloud, anyone who follows UK political news would probably be able to dig up her name in half a dozen keystrokes.

Getting back to the main story, at about quarter to eleven on the morning of the 23rd, the ukpolitics subreddit reappeared. It now carried the following announcement:

→ Continue reading: The Streisand-Challenor effect

Banned from Twitter

I just got banned from Twitter, which I do find hilarious to be honest, given the things they tolerate. Have no intention of pressing that ‘remove’ button. Wotevah…

On Gab.com from now on, was moving away from Twitter anyway as more and more of the interesting people have been banned.

I foresee a steady division process in which Twitter only tolerates what Kristian Niemietz describes as “high status opinions”, with platforms like Gab, Minds and Parler etc. becoming the home for contrary views. In short, social media will be more of an echo chamber, much like it was during the ‘golden age of blogging’ 2001-2009, when you knew exactly what to expect from a given site (such as this one for example). I always saw the whole point of platforms like Twitter as being where things get mixed up and people spar across the divide. But that will increasingly not be the case, so not sure what Twitter et al are really for.

News management means never having to say you’re sorry

What the BBC story looked like 41 minutes after it was published:

The hashtag #FireGinaCarano trended on Twitter for hours following an anti-Semitic story the actress shared on her Instagram.

The link to the Wayback Machine does not seem to be working at the moment, so until it comes back online you will just have to trust me when I say that was the wording that caused me to notice the story a few days ago, though I was too busy to do anything about it at the time. I have only watched a few episodes of The Mandalorian and could not have named Gina Carano. But I knew from the mealy-mouthed paraphrase that was all the BBC gave us of her exact words that something was up.

What the BBC story looks like now:

The hashtag #FireGinaCarano trended on Twitter for hours following a story shared on her Instagram, that some branded anti-Semitic.

Well they corrected it, didn’t they? What’s the problem?

The second part of the problem is that the correction is scarcely less slanderous than the original and is more cowardly. All the “correction” does is allow the BBC to make the accusation of anti-semitism via un-named proxies rather than in its own voice.

The first part of the problem is how did the BBC writer ever come to think Carano’s words were anti-semitic at all? Here is what she actually said, reported by The Scotsman, which unlike the BBC provided a screenshot of Carano’s own words:

“Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors…. even by children.
🙁

“Because history is edited, most people today don´t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews.

“How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?”

Overblown, yes, melodramatic yes, self-indulgent in the comparison of current political spats to the Holocaust, yes, and someone needs to tell her that when discussing mass murder sad-face emojis are not helpful – but nothing in what she said was hostile to Jews. I can answer my own question of how the BBC’s un-named reporter came to announce as fact that those words were anti-semitic. It is because BBC journalists have got out of the habit of reading the tweets and Instagram posts that prompt so much of their reporting nowadays. Oh, they scan them to check that the link isn’t dead and does not refer to some completely unrelated person in Iowa, but the idea of reading, of mentally processing the words and weighing what the author meant, is beyond their pay grade.

I do not complain about the fact that most BBC stories are repackagings of stories that were first reported somewhere else: that is inevitable. My complaint is that the BBC increasingly no longer bothers to undo the package and take a look at what lies inside. The only check the BBC really does take care over is the postmark: does this come to us from a reputable source, such as the New York Times or angry people on Instagram.

I mention the New York Times with due reverence. While the BBC was an early adopter of the technique of placing the correction to what was a front page story on page 28B, the NYT was the true pioneer.

As Roger Kimball writes,

And the New York Times, true to form, has been a veritable fount of misinformation—an ironical contingency since the paper has recently called for a “reality czar” to combat “misinformation,” i.e., ideas with which they disagree. Take its account of what happened to Officer Brian Sicknick, who died on January 8, two days after the Capitol mélee. That same day, our former paper of record reported that Sicknick died after “[P]ro-Trump rioters attacked that citadel of democracy[!], overpowered Mr. Sicknick, 42, and struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher. . .”

Click the link. You’ll see that an announcement that the column, though originally published January 8, had been updated February 12. Now that sentence is missing, though they don’t say so, and Sicknick died of—well something else.

Kimball goes on to say, “The Times wasn’t alone” and to link to this link-filled column by Julie Kelly that gives chapter and verse of how the New York Times spread the meme that Brian Sicknick was definitely and deliberately bludgeoned to death far and wide.

The mechanism the NYT used is the same as the BBC used in the Gina Carano story. They say something false. Could be deliberate, could just be believing what they want to believe, could be honest error. But anyway, after a few days have gone by someone in the editorial room gets like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden after their scrumping session: And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. So the reporters sew a few leaves – The New York Times Retracts the Sicknick Story – and resignedly wear the aprons around the office a few times while hoping that everyone will think that hand-crafted leafwear is a fashion choice.

Of course anyone who was paying attention has known for at least a month that we do not know exactly how Officer Sicknick died. That is exactly why Niall Kilmartin wrote the following almost prophetic post for Samizdata exactly a month ago: “All who died on the 6th supported Trump. What else do we truly know?”.

Alas, the caveat “anyone who was paying attention” excludes 80% of modern journalists.

I do not usually recommend that you read the publications of the Socialist Workers Party

The Socialist Workers Party (Glad you asked, comrade: apostrophes are a bourgeois affectation!) are a bunch of Trotskyist goblins with admittedly good organisational skills. Back in 2011, I reminisced about how you could turn up at any demonstration for any left wing cause in Britain over the last forty years and find that their lank-haired activists had been there handing out posters since 4 a.m.:

Three quarters of the posters, and almost all of the printed ones, were produced by the Socialist Workers Party. Busy little bees, they were. They still are: it is an astonishing fact that this tiny and fissiparous Trotskyist sect has twice dominated massive popular protest movements in my lifetime; the Anti-Nazi League / Rock against Racism movement of the 80s and the Stop The War Coalition of 2001-2008. Sorry, 2001-present, only they stop wars much more quietly now that Mr Obama is president. They were also big in CND.

Their literary output is not usually enticing. But I would recommend you read this press release of theirs while you still can.

Press release: Facebook shuts down major left wing group in Britain

January 22, 2021

Press release: Facebook shuts down major left wing group in Britain

For immediate release.

Facebook has shut down the accounts of one of the biggest left wing organisations in Britain, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) (1). The Socialist Workers Party Facebook page – as well as account of local pages – have been removed from Facebook with no explanation given. Those targeted say it amounts to a silencing of political activists.

Facebook took the action on Friday, shutting down the Socialist Workers Party page and removing dozens of leading SWP activists from the platform.

The SWP Facebook page regularly posts in support of Palestine, Black Lives Matter and against Boris Johnson’s Covid policies. It also hosts dozens of online events every week that activists across the country take part in.

The SWP say they have been silenced for speaking out on these issues and that the action taken by Facebook amounts to an attack on political activists to organise. They are demanding to be reinstated immediately.

Bye, bye Swappers. You were a presence in British politics for nearly half a century, British as damson jam from Jeremy Corbyn’s allotment. And now you are gone from one platform, just like that, and soon you will be gone from the others.

Incidentally, that nine year old post of mine contained a link to this Guardian story that I expect has had more clicks in the last two weeks than in the nine years before that:

Student protester jailed for throwing fire extinguisher:

A student who admitted throwing a fire extinguisher from the roof of a central London building during the student fees protests has been jailed.

Edward Woollard, 18, from Hampshire, was among protesters who broke into the Tory party headquarters and emerged on the roof on 10 November.

He was jailed for two years and eight months after admitting at an earlier hearing to committing violent disorder.

Police said his actions “could have resulted in catastrophic injury”.

And so it could. Mere chance that it didn’t.

The student, who hoped to be the first member of his family to go on to higher education, was filmed throwing an empty metal fire extinguisher from the seventh-floor of 30 Millbank as hundreds of people gathered in a courtyard below.

The canister narrowly missed a line of police officers attempting to protect the looted and vandalised building from further damage on a day when 66 people were arrested.

Yet John McDonnell MP, later to become Shadow Chancellor, thought Woollard was hard done by.

  • Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has faced criticism for allegedly supporting student Edward Woollard, who was jailed for throwing a fire extinguisher off a roof during student riots
  • Uncovered: John McDonnell Praises 2010 Riots

    Look at Niall Kilmartin’s post of January 15th. That and other accounts of the death of Officer Brian Sicknick from injuries sustained at the riot at the US capitol provide an interesting comparison.

  • REVEALED!

    Revealed: Tory MPs and commentators who joined banned app Parler

    Why do Americans think the media might be hiding things from them? Let’s try asking Tony Bobulinski on Twitter.

    “Why does the US fall for conspiracy theories?” asks Daniel Finkelstein in the Times.

    QAnon, the online conspiracy theory to which many Trump supporters subscribe, is like fan fiction, with endless riffs on Trump and increasingly bizarre plots about the skulduggery of his enemies. The contributors to this script have the pleasure of being the heroes of it, setting out to cleanse the nation. Like Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity, they have woken and are gradually peeling away layers of deception. The deep state behaves as it does in every film but will prove no match for the hero.

    The deep state behaves as it does in every film – As an aside, that, the endless stream of conspiracy thrillers put out by Hollywood, will do as Explanation No.1. The scriptwriters of these movies were unable to conceive of the cabal of senior people in the US government, the CIA, the FBI, and the military as anything other than right wing, but the imagination of the American people is not so limited.

    A personal best: I have digressed even before I began. The main point of this post is… ah, **** it, I already said it:

    By censoring the Hunter Biden story the MSM has destroyed its ability to convince Americans there was no vote fraud.

    By censoring the Hunter Biden story the MSM has also hampered its ability to convince Americans there is no “cabal of Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires” which “runs the world while engaging in pedophilia, human trafficking and the harvesting of a supposedly life-extending chemical from the blood of abused children.”

    It has also hampered its ability to convince Americans, and not only them, that they should be vaccinated against coronavirus. Hitherto the English-speaking countries plus the Nordics have been somewhat less prone to vaccine conspiracy theories than people in most of Western or Eastern Europe. I expect that to change, and that change will kill people. That is what happens when the boy cries wolf too many times.

    Lord Finkelstein (Note for foreign readers: I make no political point; he is a life peer) continues movingly:

    The second thing this analysis provides is a warning. Next week Granta will publish a book called The Fatherland and the Jews. It consists of two pamphlets published in Germany by my grandfather Alfred Wiener in 1919 and 1924. He alerts his readers to the danger posed by conspiracy theories, giving as an example the falsehood that the Kaiser had been a Jew because a (non-existent) affair between Queen Victoria and a doctor called Wolf allowed Jewish blood to enter the royal family. One day, he believed, such theories would lead to violence.

    In the same way, the blurring between fiction and reality is a terrible danger to Americans. As the Holocaust historian Timothy Snyder puts it, “post-truth is pre-fascism”. For years the mob shared conspiracy stories with each other and then, no longer able to distinguish between fantasy and reality, they used guns and violent incursion to provide their own denouement to the plot.

    Yes, false conspiracy theories are dangerous. One of the best defences a polity has against them is a reasonable level of trust in the authorities and the media. In the long run the only way to gain this trust is to be worthy of it, i.e. not to lie and not to hide the truth. By their promiscuous propagation of any story, however baseless, that might harm the Republicans and their enthusiastic censorship of any story, however credible, that might make the Democrats look bad, the American Woke Media, old and new, have lost this trust. As a result reality ensues, to quote TV Tropes. Or if you prefer the same truth in an older format, take your quote from William Caxton’s summary at the end of his retelling of the fable of the boy who cried wolf, “men bileve not lyghtly hym whiche is knowen for a lyer”.

    Enraged is not a good way to end the year

    So I will post this without comment:

    The New York Times Helped a Vindictive Teen Destroy a Classmate Who Uttered a Racial Slur When She Was 15

    May better times lie ahead for all reading this. It is a relief that Brexit is done. Boris’s deal is far from ideal, but there were times during the last four years when I would have counted us lucky to get the referendum vote honoured at all.

    Happy New Year!