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]

This might work. And then?

“NHS phone app holds key to lifting UK’s coronavirus lockdown”, the Times reports.

Ministers have ordered the creation of an NHS mobile phone app the government hopes will help end the coronavirus lockdown.

The app would allow mobile phones to trace users who have come into contact with infected people, alerting them to get tested.

This would make it possible to start lifting the most stringent social-distancing measures from late next month, ministers hope.

Senior sources say NHSX, the health service’s technology arm, has been working on the app with Google and Apple at “breakneck speed”. The system will use Bluetooth technology to alert those who download the app if they have been in close proximity with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

Combined with a vast expansion in testing, which ministers claim will hit 100,000 a day by the end of the month, the app is a central plank in the government’s push to lift the lockdown. “We believe this could be important in helping the country return to normality,” a Whitehall source said.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is considering how to incentivise people to install the app. Experts say the “track and trace” concept only works effectively if 60% of people adopt it.

One idea under consideration would mean people being told they could resume normal work and home life if they installed it on their phones.

As I said in the title, the worst of it is that this might be the way to control the epidemic, an outcome greatly to be desired. And then it might be the way to control us.

To be “well-intentioned but ill-informed” is not enough for an officer of the law

“Police under fire for telling dad he can’t play with his kids in his own front garden”, LBC reports.

I found myself with a certain sympathy for the cop lady. Daniel Connell, the man who made this recording, gave her an unnecessarily hard time by pretending to misunderstand what she meant by “special powers”. But his pretended misunderstanding of her powers was not nearly as serious as her actual misunderstanding of them. As the title of this post says, it is not asking too much that those entrusted with the police power should have some basic knowledge of what that power does and does not entitle them to demand.

South Yorkshire Police released a statement on Twitter, saying: “This encounter was well-intentioned but ill-informed and we’d like to apologise for the way it was handled.

“We’ve spoken to the officer concerned and made our approach absolutely clear.

“Again, we apologise for any inconvenience caused and will continue our work to support the NHS.”

Samizdata quote of the day

I’m amused to see we’ve now reached the “interracial marriage is bad” part of the transition of the illiberal left into 1950s conservatives.

Marcus Walker responding to this.

Samizdata quote of the day

“But if this really is the moral equivalent of war then history teaches us that wars can be won on the battlefield but lost on the home front, and just as nations have been defeated because they ran out of food or a revolution broke out, so the Government’s strategy could collapse because the millions of civilians stuck indoors lose patience.”

Tim Stanley

What’s the UK equivalent of ‘NeverTrumper’?

Did you know that Boris doesn’t know who won the battle of Stalingrad? If you did not know this, please continue not to know it, because it is not in fact true. Should you encounter a reader of The Economist, however (one of life’s occasional joys of which I am now deprived by the lockdown), you may be told that Boris’ biography of Sir Winston Churchill reveals this and other remarkable lacunae in our current PM’s historical knowledge – told in a tone of great certainty and with the firmest assurance that any milder speculations you offer (for what Boris might have said to appear to mean such things) are not possible, so established are the facts.

I have never once in my entire life given money to The Economist in exchange for the doubtful privilege of reading it (and see very much less than no reason whatever to begin now), so I encounter copies but rarely in airplane lounges and on other people’s coffee tables. I therefore cannot tell you whether Economist readers believe this because an Economist writer once told them that or implied it, or merely because reading The Economist renders one credulous of such urban legends (insofar as the habit of reading The Economist does not reveal that one already is).

So astonished was I to be assured of this claim (by the undoubtedly educated and well-read) as a matter both unsurprising and beyond all doubt, that I have now once in my entire life given money to Boris (not to some cause he also espouses) in exchange for a copy of his Churchill biography – something I deduce Economist-readers are more loath to do even than I am to buy their rag. It struck me as a more primary source for verification than tracking down whatever years-old copy of The Economist had reviewed it or made a passing reference to it, or tracing the origin of its readers’ urban legends about it.

I was not surprised to learn that Boris knows what the gardener, the hairdresser and even the teenager all know – that Stalingrad did not end well for Adolf. I was not surprised to find I was correct in my pre-purchase guess that some throwaway one-liner about how far Adolf got despite Churchill (to suggest how dangerously further he might have got without Churchill) would be the sole basis for the bizarre claim that Boris didn’t. But after reading right through the book I am very surprised to discover just how vicious and/or deranged a reviewer would have to be to pretend and/or imagine that the text even remotely suggests such a thing (and likewise for the other claims).

That, however, is secondary. In her study of anti-semitism, Hannah Arendt explains that establishing the history of how ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ was forged is secondary. The historian’s primary subject is that the forgery is being believed. That someone – maybe originally some writer for The Economist but maybe, for all I know, originally just some reader of it holding forth to other readers in an upscale SW1 pub – claimed that Boris did not know a historical fact so famous that even an update of ‘1066 and all that’ might call it ‘memorable’, is secondary. The greater strangeness is that this claim is being believed – not by Jeremy two-Es Corbyn and his Momentum followers but by at least a few highly educated people who, in the late 1980s, were voting for Thatcher’s and Reagan’s economic policies even as they virtue-signalled disdain for their populism. What goes on in otherwise-intelligent minds to let a person move from that to this? How can their sense of reality be so deficient that they can be told Boris does not even know who won Stalingrad and still hear no alarm bell, no, “Maybe I should just check whether even Boris could really not know even that”?

The Economist was founded in 1843, not so long before Mill explained that democracy works best when:

“the sovereign Many have let themselves be guided (which in their best times they have always done) by the counsels and influence of a more highly gifted and instructed One or Few.” (‘On Liberty’, John Stewart Mill, 1859)

By this definition, The Economist has always been just what it claims to be: ultra-liberal. It is said that a senior editor once gave a junior colleague terse advice on how to write his first Economist leader article:

“Pretend you are God.”

The Economist has sometimes changed its mind in fact – it was rather late to abandon its Keynsianism for monetarism in the 1980s but it did. What never changes is the unapologetic arrogant smugness of a pretence that one suspects senior editors do not always recall is pretence. The Economist’s latest editor, a woman named Beddoes, is a Keynsian who thought Obama was wonderful. She belongs irredeemably to those whom Dominic Cummings described as:

aways writing about how ‘shocking’ things are to them – things that never were as low probability events as they imagined

Brexit winning, Trump as president, Boris as PM – how shocking that the omniscience of pretend-God be challenged by such unforeseen events. Late last year, I was aware from my acquaintance how much Economist-readers loved Fintan O’Toole’s ‘explanation’ that Brexit arose from the idiocy of backward-looking British voters (Fintan O’Toole: ‘Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain’, published November 2019). Fintan laughed when Brexit-supporting reviewers warned him to worry instead about a real ugliness in his own Southern Irish electorate – until he was again shocked by an Éire election result that was (regrettably but foreseeably) never such a low-probability event as he and EU-negotiation-supporting taoiseach Varadkar imagined. (Corbyn’s success in 2017 is one on-balance-hopeful analogy to draw; there are others.)

It is said of communists that they think their party is God – a God sadly lacking the attributes of forgiveness and absolution. People who have the sense to know communism is stupid can still be very wilfully deluded about how much they themselves understand and how unshocking it should be to be proved not merely wrong but clueless.

So what is the UK equivalent of ‘NeverTrumper’? We all know what ‘Guardian-reader’ means. Is it time to be aware what ‘Economist-reader’ can mean?

Right, you heathens, us Christians are going to make you observe Lent.

True to its promise to leave no strategy untried that might help alleviate the coronavirus epidemic, Her Majesty’s Government, in accordance with the advice of the Lords Spiritual, has decreed that in penance for the sins that brought this plague upon us, all persons will now strictly observe the Lenten fast. Effective immediately, all confectionery, sweetmeats, and similar indulgent and luxurious foods will therefore be removed from sale in shops upon penalty of law. In particular the pagan custom of consumption of so-called “Easter eggs”, being a false admixture to the strictures of true religion, is henceforth prohibited.

It will be good for your souls.

OK, in case you were worried, what I just said was not true. Neither I nor the Bishops seek to use the law to deny the British public their choccy eggs. That’s the job of your local council.

Convenience stores are wrongly being told to limit the items they sell to just “essentials”, a trade body has warned.

Local newsagents, which are allowed to remain open under the Government’s guidelines, are facing interference from officials that are trying to restrict the range of goods they sell under lockdown measures.

Some shops have been told by police and local councils that Easter eggs are considered non-essential goods and must therefore be removed from shelves.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) blamed “overzealous enforcement and a misreading of the rules”.

Ridiculous as it was, with the drone-assisted “lockdown shaming” of walkers in Derbyshire, I could at least see what the police thought they were trying to achieve. But I really can see no motive other than reflex puritanism for trying to prohibit the sale of “nonessential goods”, particularly as they were on the shelves anyway. What good would it do anyone to make the shopkeepers lose a packet by being forbidden to sell stock they had purchased in happier times? This isn’t World War II. Britain’s food is not coming in by convoys subject to torpedo attack. In fact, if you can afford luxury foods, should you not buy them in preference to plainer things in order to leave more staple foods available for those who cannot afford anything else?

Nigel Farage says ‘Say No to House Arrest’ – and a perspective on Red China

A video blog from Nigel, asking questions in his usual style about the lockdown and what it is for, police behaviour, and posing some questions about the UK’s relations with China. Then a China Uncensored video giving a view on the Red China ‘cure’ for coronavirus. He also has a good word for Stephen Kinnock going to see his Dad on his Old Man’s birthday.

A British politician calling for liberty, there is one.

And from China Uncensored, (a Taiwanese-backed channel I believe), a contrast on the American media’s soft touch on China with what has been going on.

Melanie Phillips on why she left the Left – and in particular on antisemitism

Just now, a lot of people have a lot of time on their hands, and might therefore be open to the idea of watching and listening to a talking head for the best part of an hour. Accordingly, I now recommend this video interview, which I myself have just watched for the first time. Steve Edginton of the Sun newspaper asks a few short questions. Melanie Phillips supplies some much longer answers.

At the end of the interview, Phillips mentions a couple of relevant books she has written. These are her novel, The Legacy, and her memoir about how she used to work for the Guardian, Guardian Angel: My Journey from Leftism to Sanity.

A lot of us also now have more time for books. For actually reading them, I mean.

Melanie Phillips did this interview a few days ago. I wrote this Samizdata posting about Labour antisemitism in May 2018. I deduced what I did from the distant din of battles which I was not personally part of. Phillips tells the same story from direct personal experience, along with several other closely related stories.

Like I say: highly recommended.

Derbyshire police droning on

Drones are fun. I understand that. But people do need to use them responsibly.

The BBC reports: Coronavirus: Peak District drone police criticised for ‘lockdown shaming’

Derbyshire Police filmed people in pairs rambling in the Curbar Edge area of the beauty spot on Wednesday.

In pairs. Not mobs, pairs.

Officers said travelling to remote areas for exercise did not count as “essential travel” as permitted under government lockdown rules.

But travelling to remote areas and flying your drones there, that’s essential.

UK civil liberties group Big Brother Watch branded the move “sinister” and “counter-productive”.

The 90-second clip, shot by the force’s drone unit, showed people walking their dogs and taking photos.

It said “the message is still not getting through” about stopping the spread of coronavirus, despite government guidance and several police posts.

One Twitter user called it “the worst kind of nanny policing” while others pointed out that the walkers were away from crowds.

Here is the tweet in question. I am glad there was some pushback. This response from “miroirdufou” was polite but effective:

Hi. Please explain (in terms of epidemiology) exactly what harm these people are doing, taking quiet exercise away from crowds, in small numbers? And if they’re doing no harm, leave them alone?

This chicken has more freedom than anyone in Britain

A free chicken

Here is a free-range chicken in a layer flock at a site somewhere in Northamptonshire in the English Midlands. It roams free, it does not risk an unlimited fine for leaving its home without just cause, it can associate with chickens other than its flock, or any feathered or non-feathered friend. It does not have to queue to get into shops to buy basics, (nor did it ever), nor justify itself if it wishes to stroll around more than once a day. Although its parents were cooped up because of bird ‘flu a few years back, it knows only liberty. Mind you it doesn’t have the right to bear/bare arms, nor any right to free speech, nor protection against unreasonable searches or seizures. No one is going to ask it to self-incriminate, well, perhaps next week.

It is not required to keep itself 6 feet, 6 and three-quarter inches (or 2 metres) from other chickens not from its yard. It is not under sentence of death as it is not raised for meat. Welcome to the UK, where the chickens run free and there once was liberty. Do you think the concept might catch on?

Mind you, at least we are safer from the virus now, aren’t we.

Oh-oh

Gordon Brown says world leaders should create temporary global government

A little thing you can do to help businesses struggling due to the quarantine

You could pay now for a session with a business such as a hairdresser, gym or restaurant that has been forced to shut during the quarantine, the voucher to be redeemed whenever the establishment re-opens. The appointment could be for your own use, or as a gift for someone else. It might be a way that someone who has been in isolation can thank whoever did their shopping, while helping the proprietors of the business get some cash coming in when they need it most.