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]

“Does Britain have free speech?”

The title is quoted from a Quillette article (h/t instapundit) inspired by the following letter to author James Flynn from Tony Roche, publishing director of Emerald, explaining their decision to drop his book:

“I am contacting you in regard to your manuscript ‘In Defense of Free Speech: The University as Censor’. Emerald believes that its publication, in particular in the United Kingdom, would raise serious concerns. … the work could be seen to incite racial hatred and stir up religious hatred under United Kingdom law. Clearly you have no intention of promoting racism but intent can be irrelevant. …”

In the 1930s, J.R.R.Tolkien’s publisher contacted him regarding publishing ‘The Hobbit’ in Germany. To do so, they were legally obliged to provide an assurance that Tolkien had no Jewish ancestry. Tolkien gave them two courteous letters, saying he would rather they sent the first but he acknowledged it was up to them. The first politely withheld the information. The second expressed Tolkien’s “regret” that he had “no ancestors of the gifted Jewish race”, adding that his pride in his German ancestry would be sensibly diminished if enquiries of this kind pointed to Germany’s future. (Alas, back then, all too clearly they did.) Because it is this second letter that was found in the publisher’s files, it is thought they acted on Tolkien’s request to send the first.

My pride in being British will be sensibly diminished if Emerald’s letter points to our future. My Brexit enthusiasm owes much to my knowledge that one side would let Britain become a place where Emerald could feel less concerned, while the other are determined to give them cause to feel yet more.

Emerald Publishing was founded in 1967 “to champion new ideas”, according to its website. I guess you could say free speech is an old idea and banning it is the new idea – though also a very old one. Or maybe ‘champion’ doesn’t mean what I thought it did. Such pride as I ever felt in British publishers was sensibly diminished as I read that letter – and it did not cheer me to think that while the decision may reflect some cowardice or even complicity in Emerald, shocked to find an un-PC book had somehow crept into their planned list, the letter may also be factual and more honest than the activists who would prosecute.

As annoying?

We’re confident that North Carolina’s politics will annoy us from the right as much as California’s does from the left, but we’re equally confident that center-right North Carolinians won’t try to personally and professionally ruin us for daring to disagree with them.

The quote is from a comment to this article (that I found from instapundit). The commenters – Californians who have decided to vote with their feet – complain they’ve seen one too many

smart, talented colleagues fired, and their reputations blackened, because they had the temerity to utter a heterodox opinion, or made it known that they voted for a Republican, or were insufficiently enthusiastic about adopting the latest politically-correct newspeak.

They expect to be as annoyed by NC’s right-wing politics as by CA’s left-wing politics. It may be just their way of expressing it. And I suppose it will be a culture shock (understandable they’ve not moved to Texas, or Alabama – or Samizdata 🙂 ). But I have a hard time imagining being as annoyed by politics that will allow me to dissent as by politics that will punish any hint of dissent.

But maybe that’s just my typical right-wing focus on the honesty of the process rather than the nobility of the goal.

Elections have consequences – and so does arranging that they don’t

There’s a Snoopy cartoon that starts with Linus telling Violet he is running away from home. “I know a joke about running away from home”, says Violet. “A boy at a street crossing tells a friend he is running away from home. ‘Then why are you waiting here?’, she asks. ‘I’m not allowed to cross the street without permission.’, he explains.”

“That’s a riot”, replies Linus sourly, gazing down at the kerbstone on which he is standing.

Winning a referendum, electing a president – with hindsight, we can see these were not so much victories as winning the right to fight. They did not force the deep state to obey – they forced the deep state to fight. While some crudely expressed their entitlement (“The Electoral College should ignore the outcome” or “Just declare him insane”, and “Hold another referendum” or “It was only advisory”), more professional liars began a longer-term strategy to undo what was voted.

Two years later, we have reached stage two: as with Harvey Weinstein, everybody knows – and everybody knows the insiders always knew. In the US, there was no collusion, just a lot of cheating to pretend there was. In the UK, May and collaborators lied (quite a lot) to get the power to tell us we can run away from the EU just as soon as the EU gives us permission. In the US, the media’s collusion story is over. In the UK, all the papers are talking about who will succeed May. And all that means is, the deep state can be made to stand and fight.

– If you can frame a president, and the only price you pay for failing is that you didn’t succeed, then (to paraphrase the Brighton bomb terrorists) Trump has to be lucky every time; the deep state only has to be lucky once.

– If no vote is so solemn, so pledged to be decisive before and after by government and opposition, that its decision can’t be delayed forever, then votes don’t control what the deep state can do; the deep state controls what votes can do.

It’s been quite an education, watching it unfold. But they’ve had to be just a bit obvious to get here – so now they can be made to stand and fight.

“The night before the Nazi-Soviet pact was announced, I dreamed that the war had started. It was one of those dreams which … reveal to you the real state of your feelings. It taught me .. that I should be simply relieved when the long-dreaded war started.” (George Orwell, ‘My Country, Right or Left’)

In Britain, it begins with a fight for the soul of the Tory party. Some of us used to point out that our hate speech laws were not imposed on us by the EU against our rulers’ will – that May loves them, that Corbyn adores them, that Brexit was only ever going to be the start. Now we have been taught the worthlessness of establishment promises. We know there is no Brexit without a leader who wants it – and deselecting MPs who don’t. The struggle we hoped to start sometime has become the unavoidable fight of today – and we have some very angry allies.

In the US, it begins with a fight for consequences. The usual suspects intend to show that fitting up Trump has no consequences, but being un-PC has grave consequences. Trump can drain the swamp now or drown in it next time – and he has quite a lot of evidence.

The deep state, the establishment, the ‘experts’, the people who know best – they will fight. It’s our achievement (helped by their errors) that they will have to. I don’t know who will win, on either side of the pond, but

“for myself, I am an optimist; there does not seem much point in being anything else.” (Sir Winston Churchill)

What I do think is that politics tomorrow will not be like politics yesterday – that in a deep sense, what the deep state has done has already had consequences.

Googling ‘Welsh evil’ (or ‘BBC stupid’)

They were thrown into ecstasies of suspicion by finding we possessed a French translation of Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’. If that had been the only book they found, our doom would have been sealed. It is obvious that a person who reads ‘Mein Kampf’ must be a fascist. The next moment, however, they came across a copy of Stalin’s pamphlet ‘Ways of Liquidating Trotskyists and other Double Dealers’, which reassured them somewhat. (George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia)

The BBC has learned from Google that Welsh IP addresses are 7.2% more likely (than other UK ones) to be the origin of searches concerning Jews in conjunction with certain negative terms. Since it lists these terms, the BBC story is now a high-ranked result found by such searches – or so I assume (I have not checked, lest Google record my IP address and the BBC report that Scotland has overtaken Wales). It is suggested that Google discourage these wicked Welsh googlers by not letting these combinations auto-complete.

I see no suggestion in the story that anyone contributing to it has even risen to the level of the communist secret police by e.g. correlating these queries with others from the same IP address like ‘racism evil’. (If any of the offending IP addresses also searched for ‘islamic terrorism evil’, I assume the BBC would only be the more shocked and disgusted.)

On the rare occasions when I’ve tried to imitate a Welsh accent, I often sound like I’m trying to imitate the accent of a Pakistani speaking English. I’ve been told the two accents sound similar because a high proportion of the governesses who tutored children of natives from the Indian subcontinent in the days of the Raj were Welsh. (I have no idea why that should be so or whether it is true.) If the BBC harbours the least suspicion that some of the searchers are studying anti-semitism with a view to opposing it, or that the accent of others might indeed sound Pakistani, it does not mention it.

German border controls – things ain’t what they used to be…the ‘Dodendraad’

Recent events in Germany may have led some to ask if Germany still controls its borders. Well of course the German Federation does, it had an entire Border Police Force, the Bundesgrenzschutz to do that, and it has quietly been building a Federal Police Force by merging the Railway Police with the Border Police. However, the German Federal State does not seem to regard border control as that much of a priority.

It wasn’t always thus for German governments, we all know about the Berlin Wall, or the ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart‘, an example of German bureaucracy showing some resolve as to who crosses its borders. The Wall was of course, the weak point in the East German border, although technically it did not divide the Germanies, but the Allied Occupation Zones from the Soviet Zone and from the DDR, and for most of the time, there was no point fleeing to comradely Poland or brotherly Czechoslovakia, but that changed in the late 1980s. At the Berlin Wall, some 138 deaths have been recorded, there may have been many more.

But there was a more deadly border defence put in place by a German state, Imperial Germany, it was called the Dodendraad, a lethal electric fence, the implementation of which left, by one estimate, around 850 people killed, other reports say around 2,000 – 3,000 people were killed, including shootings etc. at the fence. You may well say ‘It doesn’t quite sound German‘, and you would be right. It wasn’t even ‘protecting’ Germany’s border, but someone else’s. The Dodendraad (Wire of Death) was put along the frontier between occupied Belgium and the Netherlands in the First World War, as a means of controlling movement over the frontier. A frontier that had two peoples with effectively one language joined by trade and family, and separated by murderous force. The Wire did not cover all of the Belgian/Dutch border, as the Kaiser did not violate Dutch neutrality by seeking to place it around Baarle-Hertog’s many borders with Baarle-Nassau.

The task facing the Imperial Army was demanding, there were no Belgian power stations to power the 2,000 Volt wires along the over 200 miles of the fence, as Belgium (we are told) had no power grid at that time.

Around the clock there was a guard every fifty up to one hundred and fifty metres. At nighttime the number of border guards was doubled, there were also more patrols. German soldiers were ordered to fire immediately after every unanswered warming. Yet they were not allowed to fire in the direction of The Netherlands. The soldiers walked from one switching cottage to the next one, returning when they met with a colleague halfways.

For the poor border Belgians, life was grim:

Placing the wire of death made it impossible to enter The Netherlands. Border traffic was reduced. For inhabitants of the border region this was a painful ordeal as their friends and relatives very often lived in both countries. All traffic to The Netherlands was forbidden or required a strict German control. Whether one could visit a relative or a friend on the other side of the border, depended on the arbitrary decision of the local commander who might – or might not – grant a written (and paid for) permit to leave the country for just a few hours or days. Belgians had to leave the country through a specific gate and had to enter again through the same gate, subject to scrutinous control and registration. If one failed to return in time from a visit to e.g. a sick relative, one simply risked having family members imprisoned or you were forced to pay a heavy fine.

So even before the Germans sent Lenin to Russia to found and then electrify the Soviet Union, they had built a model death strip that many a socialist thinking about the good old days of East Germany could have been proud of.

A new kind of freedom

As the report stage of the Identity Cards Bill approaches in the Lords, a reminder of one highlight from the first day of the committee stage Hansard, 15 Nov 2005, Col.1012:

Lord Gould of Brookwood: Both the previous speakers—the latter with great emotion—were arguing for freedom. We have to ask what greater freedom is there than the freedom to place a vote for a political party in a ballot box upon the basis of a mandate and a manifesto. That is the crux of it: the people have supported this measure. That is what the noble Earl’s father fought for. But that is too trivial an answer. I know that. The fundamental argument is that the truth is that people believe that these identity cards will affirm their identity. The noble Lord opposite said that he likes to be in this House and how he is recognised in this House because it is a community that recognises him. That is how the people of this nation feel. They feel that they are part of communities, and they want recognition. For them, recognition comes in the form of this identity card. Noble Lords may think that that is strange, but it is what they feel. This is their kind of freedom. They want their good, hard work and determination to be recognised, rewarded and respected. That is what this does.

Of course it is right and honourable for noble Lords to have their views, but I say there is another view, and it is the view of the majority of this country. They want to have the respect, recognition and freedom that this card will give them. Times have changed. Politics have changed. What would not work 50 years ago, works now. It is not just me. I have the words of the leader of your party:

“I have listened to the police and security service chiefs. They have told me that ID cards can and will help their efforts to protect the lives of British citizens against terrorist acts. How can I disregard that?”.

This is not some silly idea of the phoney left. It is a mainstream idea of modern times. It is a new kind of identity and a new kind of freedom. I respect the noble Lords’ views, but it would help if they respected the fact that the Bill and the identity cards represent the future: a new kind of freedom and a new kind of identity.

This is the sort of rhetoric that makes my blood run cold. Here’s a prefiguring example:

In our state the individual is not deprived of freedom. In fact, he has greater liberty than an isolated man, because the state protects him and he is part of the State. Isolated man is without defence.

– Benito Mussolini.

Terry Eagleton (from a review of Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism in the New Statesman) elucidates the connection:

Conservatives disdain the popular masses, while fascists mobilise and manipulate them. Some conservatives believe in ideas, but fascists have a marked preference for myths. If they think at all, they think through their blood, not their brain. Fascists regard themselves as a youthful, revolutionary avant-garde out to erase the botched past and create an unimaginably new future.

All supporters of the old-fashioned conception of individual liberty, whether they think of themselves as left or right, conservative or progressive, must do what can be done. Resist. We should not expect any quarter for outdated ideas under a new kind of freedom.

[cross-posted to Samizdata]

Literalmindedness and the redefinition of thought

Compare this:

By 2050 earlier, probably — all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron — they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like “freedom is slavery” when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.

Syme {no relation} in 1984

with this:

People’s names are already on a large number of databases.
Most of us have dozens of cards in our wallets with our identities on. We
already have a Big Brother society. ID cards mean identity fraud can be dealt with and stopped. ID cards are a means of controlling the Big Brother society rather than creating it. Big Brother society is already here.

Charles Clarke, quoted in the Eastern Daily Press today.

Controlling the Big Brother society might sound like preventing it, restraining it. But your expectations deceive you. Forget literary allusion. “Big Brother society” means whatever the establishment defines it to mean.

Now consider only the words, how they literally fit together. Big Brother society = our society. ID cards are a means of controlling society.

Travelling with the Big Brother

The land of the free is imposing privacy-busting requirementson its visitors.

At America’s insistence, passports are about to get their biggest overhaul since they were introduced. They are to be fitted with computer chips that have been loaded with digital photographs of the bearer (so that the process of comparing the face on the passport with the face on the person can be automated), digitised fingerprints and even scans of the bearer’s irises, which are as unique to people as their fingerprints.

There are so many concerns that one does not know where to start:

For one thing, the data on these chips will be readable remotely, without the bearer knowing. And—again at America’s insistence—those data will not be encrypted, so anybody with a suitable reader, be they official, commercial, criminal or terrorist, will be able to check a passport holder’s details.

So we have unencrypted details about an individual, recorded in by an unreliable manner (biometrics). That’s what I call the worst of both worlds…

A second difficulty is the reliability of biometric technology. Facial-recognition systems work only if the photograph is taken with proper lighting and an especially bland expression on the face. Even then, the error rate for facial-recognition software has proved to be as high as 10% in tests. If that were translated into reality, one person in ten would need to be pulled aside for extra screening. Fingerprint and iris-recognition technology have significant error rates, too. So, despite the belief that biometrics will make crossing a border more efficient and secure, it could well have the opposite effect, as false alarms become the norm.

And far more unpleasant as you already be ‘guilty’ of not having your non-papers in order.

The scariest problem of all is the remote-readability of the chip, which combined with unencrypted data on it, make is designed for clandestine remote reading. Deliberately.

The ICAO specification refers quite openly to the idea of a “walk-through” inspection with the person concerned “possibly being unaware of the operation”.

Privacy and liberty implications of this are enourmous… and it gets worse. Identity theft will become a matter of setting up such clandestine remote readings. Terrorists will be able to know the nationality of those they attack.

Even the authorities realised that this would be double-plus-ungood and are looking for ways to ‘protect’ the chip either by blocking radio waves with a Faraday cage or an electronic lock. As a result, some countries may need special equipment or software to read an EU passport, which undermines the ideal of a global, interoperable standard. And so we come the full joyous circle of government ‘compentence’…

Cross-posted from Samizdata.net

Coming to a bin near you, the spy that tells how much rubbish you create

The Guardian reports:

Residents of Croydon, south London, have been told that the microchips being inserted into their new wheely bins may well be adapted so that the council can judge whether they are producing too much rubbish.

If the technology suggests that they are, errant residents may be visited by officials bearing advice on how they might “manage their rubbish more effectively”.

In the shorter term the microchips will be used to tell council officers how many of the borough’s 100,000 bins the refuse collectors have emptied and how many have been missed.

Andrew Pelling, the Conservative who represents the area on the London assembly has tagged the microchips the “spy in your bin”:

The Stasi or the KGB could never have dreamed of getting a spying device in every household.

If, for example, computer hackers broke in to the system, they could see sudden reductions in waste in specific households, suggesting the owners were on holiday and the house vacant.

But a spokesman for Croydon council said the fears were unjustified.

What we don’t want is people putting into their wheely bins tins and glass and paper and textiles, all of which could go into recycling bins. It is the way forward for waste management. We are not the only council thinking about it.

So, the council, does not want people to do something that it has imposed on them, such as recycling. Well, some people do not feel like doing it and they should have the choice. Just because the council/government/anybody considers that x is good, they have no right to impose that on others. This is social totalitarianism and the sad thing is that so few see it for what it is.

Quote of the day

Sensible blog Spyblog, does an excellent job of pointing out how the state likes to keep an eye on us via CCTV systems, ID cards and by collecting our DNA. As a servant of the state it worries me, and if it worries me then it really ought to worry you.
Dave of The Policeman’s blog

An urgent call to action!

logo_www.no2id.net_strap400.gif

The No2ID campaign has established an e-petition aimed at 10 Downing Street demanding the end to plans for imposing mandatory ID cards and pervasive state databases recording a vast range of what you do in your life.

The No2ID campaigners have taken the line of principled objection, given that the government seem to have decided that there is no longer any room for public debate and refuses to engage with serious – and growing – civil liberty and privacy concerns with the scheme. The Home Office have not met once with civil liberties organisations yet say their concerns have been addressed whilst at the same time avoiding public meetings but at the same time having private briefing with technology partners for introducing the schemes.

Take a stand and make your voice heard while you still can at www.no2id-petition.net. Time is fast running out.

The state is not your friend.

All That Secrecy Is Expensive

During the 2003 fiscal year, the federal government spent more than $6.5 billion securing classified information, according to a new “Secrecy Report Card” from OpenTheGovernment.org, a coalition of government watchdog and civil liberties groups. That’s an increase of more than $800 million from the previous year, according to the group, and a nearly $2 billion jump since 2001. But it’s only a best guess, really; the report card’s accounting doesn’t include a penny from the Central Intelligence Agency, which keeps even its overall budget classified.

The big problem with having too many secrets isn’t that it’s a waste of money; it’s that it jeopardizes security, according to William Leonard. He’s the director of the ISOO, and, essentially, the man in charge of the government’s classification policies.

By keeping knowledgeable parties from sharing what they know, “secrecy guarantees a less-than-optimal outcome,” Leonard told Wired News. “In analyzing intelligence, in developing military plans, there’s a price that gets paid.”

That’s a view echoed by both the 9/11 Commission, in its final report (PDF), and several of the Defense Department’s top current and former spies.