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]

“Who said the ‘N’ word?”

Natalie asked, “Can you guess what Lufthansa is talking about here?” For a bonus point, can you guess what word, beginning with ‘N’, the German policeman is prohibiting here?

… Jewish passengers were confronted by a layer of armed police who stood between them and the departure gate. In a scene that conceivably would have won critical praise had it been staged in a dark historical comedy, one of the distressed passengers asked plaintively, “Why do you hate us?” as the officers grimly surveyed them. Then someone else said the word “N—” … one of the offended police officers began barking in a thick German accent, “Who said the ‘N’ word? Who was it?”

[Excerpted from this article, edited to omit some letters following ‘N’ lest these offend any German police readers, or sympathisers thereof.]

One can hardly blame a German policeman for speaking “with a thick German accent”, and in Germany, it is a crime to call a police officer that word. Prudent Germans who wish to use the word without consequences are better advised to apply it to Donald Trump, or to call Israel a ‘N— state’. And prudent Jews who find themselves in Germany were reminded three years ago by the (perhaps unfortunately termed) ‘German anti-semitism commissioner’ to avoid looking Jewish – advice these “visibly Jewish” Lufthansa passengers had completely failed to heed.

I guess one take-away from this is that, next time anyone make a fuss about “the ‘N’ word”, they’ll need (and frequently deserve!) to be asked, “Which one?” Commenters are welcome to add any other take-aways that occur to them.

Samizdata quote of the night that identifies as a day

Kathleen Stock’s latest article in Unherd is titled “The emptiness of being queer” and subtitled “Sexual libertarians and rainbow bureaucrats created the perfect racket”. She should have subtitled it “Sexual libertines and rainbow bureaucrats created the perfect racket”, but given Stock’s own background and orientation, I happily overlook the minor misphrasing of her subtitle in view of the free-speech-forthrightness of her title.

Perhaps it won’t have escaped the reader thus far that there’s a biological element to all this too. The sexual libertarians are mostly men; the staff and trustees of Mermaids are nearly all female — no matter how they identify — and, in my experience, so are most other rainbow bureaucrats. Despite foundational intellectual myths, it turns out biological sex matters in the queer world too. And though they won’t like it, it’s tempting to see these two factions as part of a tediously conventional nuclear family, with rebellious jack-the-lad Dad and solicitous stay-at-home Mum, and with many confused children shunting between the two.

It was always inevitably a Stalin or a Mao who rose to rule any free-speech-hating communist party, unhindered by the purgeable presence in its early ranks of sincere types like Victor Kravchenko or Jung Chang’s father. I explained here why, similarly, groomers and pedophiles would come to control the free-speech-hating ‘identify’ movement, whatever other motives also helped start it.

However I forgot to add (as yet another example of oppressive tyrants pretending to be oppressed rebels, of those who hurt you pretending they help you) that the rainbow-bureaucrat-groomer side of that movement would aggressively self-identify as protective helpers.

Compared to that, it is indeed “no matter how they identify” otherwise.

Woke rage reveals a fact about the transition pipeline from schools to social services

Some Texan childcare social workers are so “distraught” that a new law regulates their handling of trans kids that they say they will resign! (We’ll see if woke bureaucrats’ promises to resign are worth more than woke celebrities’ promises to quit the US if Reagan/Bush/Trump became president.)

If anything could be more where all is most in their self-revealingly woke article, it is the moment (about half-way through) where a social worker tells of their horror at the thought of having to investigate a report of a parent giving their child trans drugs. Previously any such report had instantly been marked ‘priority: none’ and the agency only ever investigated (vigorously, it would appear) any report of a parent hesitating to give their school-groomed child the woke-prescribed trans drugs.

The pipeline starts at school.

– The woke-about-everything school teaches the child that their white skin condemns them to a life of inherited racial sin – but don’t tell their parents. The school then offers a way out: pupils can escape their otherwise-ineradicable guilt by adopting a marginalised sexual identity – but don’t tell their parents.

– Instead or (usually) as well, the school can affirmatively teach the kids a lot of pornography:

To girls who are pressured into regurgitating how fantastic and progressive porn culture is, the very idea of being a “woman” becomes repulsive.

In these and other ways, a child’s un-parental-informed consent to being transitioned is obtained and puberty blockers are prescribed. The day after the kept-in-ignorance parents finally discover this is happening, the school questions the child and informs the social services of the parents’ insufficiently enthusiastic response. The social workers then ‘investigate’ – and that’s where we came in at the start of this post.

There are several things wrong with this. In the rest of this post, I’ll focus on just one.

“I do not for a moment regret the act of change. I could see no other way, and it has made me happy. In this I am one of the lucky few. There are people of many kinds who have set out on the same path, and by and large they are among the unhappiest people on the face of the earth.”

The quote is from ‘Conundrum’, a book written in 1974 by Anglo-Welsh writer, Jan Morris, who from birth to mid-forties was known as James Morris (and served with the British army in Italy in WWII), before undergoing surgery. In the pages of Conundrum, “the unhappiest people on the face of the earth” are joined by

“the poor castaways of intersex, the misguided homosexuals, the transvestites, the psychotic exhibitionists, who tumble through this half-mad world like painted clowns, pitiful to others and often horrible to themselves.”

In short, the odds of becoming “one of the lucky few” were not good even in the old days.

  • Back then, Jan Morris’ books on Oxford characters and the like were popular enough. That the dust-jacket often had a summary of the author’s unusual life and circumstances didn’t seem to prevent decent sales.

  • Back then, the modern view that sexual identity was merely social was already being experimented with on children and the results lied about to preserve the narrative.

    “It was like brainwashing … I’d give just about anything to go to a hypnotist to black out my whole past. Because it’s torture. What they did to you in the body is sometimes not near as bad as what they did to you in the mind – with the psychological warfare in your head.”

    He is referring to the extraordinary medical treatment he received after suffering the complete loss of his penis to a botched circumcision when he was 8 months old. On the advice of experts at the renowned Johns Hopkins medical center, in Baltimore, a sex-change operation was performed on him, a process that involved clinical castration and other genital surgery when he was a baby, followed by a 12-year program of social, mental and hormonal conditioning to make the transformation take hold in his psyche. The case was reported as an unqualified success, and he became one of the most famous (though unnamed) patients in the annals of modern medicine.

    [The sad story told by that (long) account is in some ways typical of today: the doctor with a ‘progressive’ agenda – and compliant colleagues; the easily-published papers boasting of a success that never was; the decades it took for the facts to emerge. But in other ways the woke of today are uglier than the progressives of half-a-century ago. The link is to a page on the wayback machine. The facts came out in the late ’90s but are now being forced back in again.]

But, along with all that, back then, those who were “pitiful to others and often horrible to themselves” did not have the encouragement of hate speech laws and ‘microaggression’ theory. The doctors in my link above felt elite because the common herd did not share their ‘advanced’ opinion that sex was socially conditioned, not innate – and, back then, the common herd were not at all afraid to say so. So those who nevertheless presented themselves for the procedure were much more likely to have tried something (or everything) else first. Their chance of joining Jan’s “lucky few” was therefore far better than today, now the group is swelled by propagandised schoolkids, by asbergers assured it will solve their problems, by people kept grossly ignorant of trans-regret and by many a “misguided homosexual, transvestite and/or exhibitionist” who back then would have chosen another way to express themselves. In that group, the proportion of Jan’s “lucky few” will be few indeed – meaning, the woke will have ruined many lives for each one of them.

Abuse of power is greatest where the laws fail to anticipate it. (Montesquieu)

Just as woke-trans cancel culture makes grooming more likely by forbidding you to expect it, so being forbidden to notice the immense improbabilities of woke-trans recruitment methods makes it more likely their targets will end up among “the unhappiest people on the face of the earth”.

Woke hatred of free speech transitions its proteges into what it forbids you to say

The problem is: I was wrong. Or, to be a bit more accurate, I got things partly right. But then, for the rest, I basically just made it up. In my defence, I wasn’t alone. Everyone was (and is) making it up. That’s how the gender-studies field works. But it’s not much of a defence. I should have known better. If I were to retroactively psychoanalyze myself, I would say that, really, I did know better. And that’s why I was so angry and assertive about what I thought I knew. It was to hide the fact that, at a very basic level, I didn’t have proof for part of what I was saying. (Confessions of a Social Constructionist)

Only in the light of this agenda does it make sense that so-called ‘sex education’ should be advocated to take place throughout the school years “from kindergarten to college” when it could not possibly take that much time to teach basic biological or medical information about sex. What takes that long is a constant indoctrination in new attitudes. (Thomas Sowell, ‘The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy)

It has long been said that nothing is ever true till it’s been officially denied. Today, nothing is ever truer until saying it has been made a thought-crime. Let’s look at an example of how that happens – and I do mean how that happens; what the cause and effect chain is. Before I am ready to explain in my own words, however, this post will take a longish trip though the words and experiences (including some genuine ‘lived experiences’) of others.

A very able friend of mine spent her working life teaching – latterly as headmistress of sizeable schools, some prestigious, others she intentionally chose to be very challenging – before retiring just a little before 2015’s trans-wokery kicked off. Speaking of several decades of secondary school intakes (some two hundred pupils annually), she said (the following summarises a much longer conversation):

In many years, there was a pupil in the 11-year-old intake who was not comfortable with their gender identity. In many years there were none. We never had a year with two. But in many years, there was one.

My policy was to be sympathetic and observant, to avoid making a big thing of it, and to help the pupil be aware that, over the next few years, more bits of their adolescent/adult nature would wake up – including more bits of their sexual nature; that they were going to learn more about themselves, not just about what we taught them, while they were with us.

Invariably, by age 16, these pupils were OK with their gender identity. Some (far from all) were gay. None still thought they were not their biological sex.

Of course, with a much larger sample size, or just the random chance of a different sample, I could be saying ‘almost invariably’ here, but my experience was that not one who thought their gender and body mismatched at age 11 still thought so at age 16.

Since 2015, many schools have been following an exactly opposite policy. Instead of sympathy and support, there is flattery and affirmation. Making a big thing of it is now demanded, not avoided. And you risk cancel culture, or even legal trouble, if you advise an 11-year-old trans-thinking pupil to expect their sexual nature and self-understanding of it to grow (let alone, to wake up) in the next 5 years.

With that for starters, let’s tour some related issues.

The wisdom of a policy depends on what you think the underlying probabilities are. Older readers may recall the Cleveland child-abuse diagnosis scandal back in the mid-1980s. An NHS paediatrician in Cleveland believed the feminist narrative – that patriarchal parents perpetrate lots of child-abuse. Her job was to examine infants of local families referred for the usual childhood diseases. Someone published a very preliminary paper speculating that certain genital signs were consistent with child abuse. She began examining every infant who appeared in her clinic for those signs – and reporting more and more of them as abused. Soon she was reporting every single infant she saw. At first, every case was investigated, every family ripped apart, but after she had reported a total of more than a hundred in the space of a few months, push-back called a halt – and then her left-wing defenders pushed-back against the push back (there were feminist ‘New Statesman’ articles decrying the ‘prejudice’ against her, etc.). In the end, most people in Britain assumed she’d gone nuts (those who did not say her examining of infants and victimising of their parents was itself abuse) but her defenders’ commitment to the narrative warred against that idea. If you refuse to question what the narrative says patriarchal parents do, then you train yourself never to see her rate of detecting child-abuse as absurd. What you think reasonable – and what you think absurd – depends on what you already believe. I did not think her or her supporters honestly mistaken, but I could see their errors were layered (layered in their minds, layered in how they were acquired over years), older absurdities protecting newer ones from looking crazy.

Next, let’s compare the experiences of Heather Barwick (Dear gay community, your kids are hurting) with those of Moira Greyland (The Story of Moira Greyland).

Heather (the original Heather of ‘Heather Has Two Mommies’) describes a caring childhood in which her ‘two mommies’ did not intentionally harm her. When she talked to them years later “but it seems like you’re not listening”, when she uses the analogy of a child whose parents would listen and understand if their child said (for example), “I love you – but your divorce hurt me terribly”, Heather is talking about being hurt by an ideology – ‘abused by it’ one could say, but she is emphatically not talking about abuse in the sense that word ordinarily conjures up.

By contrast, abusively is exactly how Moira Greyland was raised by her parents and their community of “aggressive gay pagans”. She was certainly abused by their ideology – that of the Californian society in which they moved easily, without question – but that takes second place to the fact that her well-connected gay father violated her at age five, at the request of her famous-author mother, who was determined to raise a lesbian child. (Moira describes the mother as significantly the more vile of the two! I’m glad I never took to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s books; it would be distressing in retrospect to have liked them.) Moira knows from her younger self how useful to perpetrators the ideology can be in the minds of its victims. As she grew up, she went through a phase when she utterly refused to see what was done to her as abuse, but was rendered furious by evidence of abuse to other children.*

As Moira grew older still, yet more aware of how her whole circle exploited their ‘anti-prejudice’ ideology to have fun with exploitably-vulnerable youngsters, her opinions evolved further.

What sets gay culture apart from straight culture is the belief that early sex is good and beneficial

Inside the circle Moira grew up in, they knew very well why they wanted this. “Don’t think they don’t know”, she warns (that statistically few children will grow up to lead an alternative lifestyle if left alone in their early teens**). “Don’t think for a second that they DON’T know”, she says, the value to them of

“providing a boy with sexual experiences BEFORE he can be ‘ruined’ by attraction to a girl.”

And she goes on to explain why she says, “Don’t think they don’t know how to”.

Moira also knows how useful to perpetrators the ideology can be in the minds of witnesses and those they talk to, not just victims – and she is not alone in having experienced how the ideology can be used to make a suspicion rebound on any who dare raise it. Patrick Courrielche’s wife was just one of a group of Hollywood wives who, comparing things their kids had said about sleepovers at a certain house, suddeny realised there was a pattern (a pattern, the Courrielches later discovered, that had also been noticed several years earlier by a quite separate group of Hollywood parents). “The impromptu story swap lit off a firestorm.” – at first.

But Mr. and Mrs. Creepy knew something my wife and I didn’t understand at the time – in Hollywood, there’s something more toxic than spooning in bed with other people’s kids. … Word was getting back to us that The Creepies, in a seeming attempt at deflection, were telling anyone that would listen that my wife and I were right wingers – unrelated intel anywhere but in La La Land. Within a matter of weeks, the spotlight had shifted from their creepy behavior to our politics. The turn was startling.

Moira, raised in this ideology, now rejects it wholly. Where Heather only regrets the ideology-caused harm of kindly carers, Moira now regards abuse as that lifestyle’s statistical norm.

So, with these detours done, with these contrasting examples and ideas in mind, what do I think? Here is one last distantly-relevant detour to frame the analysis. An investigator of fraud and theft at UK firms long ago told me:

We go into any case assuming that 30% of the employees are pure as the driven snow, 10% will steal if it is safe to do so, and the firm’s health depends on the other 60%. If the culture acts against crime and rewards honesty then the 60% rally to the 30%, the 10% know and experience being under the eyes of the other 90%, and thefts are rare. But if the culture signals that no-one cares, that it’s a mug’s game to be honest, and you can safely be light-fingered, then slowly, one by one, the 60% rally to the 10%, the 30% (those who don’t leave – or get punished for rocking the boat) learn to look away, and theft becomes the culture, restrained – but only occasionally and inadequately – by the need not to kill the goose. It takes time to reach 70% – but once you do, the journey back takes longer and is a lot harder.

Most people think sex crimes worse than thefts – but also find sexual desires stronger than financial ones. Just for this discussion, I’ll sometimes reuse these 90:10 / 30:70 percentages merely as labels, deferring the question of what the real equivalent percentages may be. As for the 30%, the 10% and the 60% between, let’s call them the uncorrupt, the corrupt and the corruptible.

It sounds like Heather was raised in a 90:10 society. “I know you have been hated”, she says of her carers, in assessing some of their temptations to “not listen”. It sounds like Moira was raised in a 30:70 society. “It looks like he’ll skate on all this”, she says of one member caught in peculiarly egregious activities, since they’ve been creating, promoting, defending and de-stigmatising this narrative for quite a long time. As it went from being twitter-risky, to being career-limiting for teachers and punishable for pupils, then career-ending for some dissenters and physically dangerous for others (even an L or a G or a driven-to-suicide-for-being-off-message T), then a hate-speech crime to question everyone’s right and duty to recruit the underage to the cause (and a hate crime accusation for heterosexual men or lesbian women to refuse sex to an M-to-F trans), it becomes safer to go further – and so the 10% gain adherents.

And that (finally! 🙂 ) leads into my thought for this post: the question “How apt is a given lifestyle to lead to pedophilia” has a non-binary answer.

People did not just fear to discuss whether islamicism could have any statistical relationship to grooming in Rotherham; they felt obliged to deny it and hide it. That fact, that cancelling and criminalising of free speech, explains much of how it was that a larger gang had victimised some 1400 girls, not a smaller gang some 14 or so, before people dared to say it was happening. Making it an islamophobic thought-crime to notice didn’t just delay discovering the crimes that an existing gang were committing anyway. It helped the gang grow and persist – helped more of the corruptible rally to the corrupt. It helped the crime rate grow – taught more of the law-abiding to look away. It made the very thing that it forbade you to say more statistically true – because it forbade you to say it. It ensured that Lord Ahmed of Rotherham (who was finally convicted last month of pedophile assaults on two boys and a girl) would be more representative.

It’s a pattern as old as the Bible. When the elders desired Susannah, each felt timid to be merely a peeping Tom at first, when alone, but they were bold to form a rape gang once they thought they could control the public discourse – till Daniel picked holes in their story. And it’s as new as CNN, who also thought they could control the public discourse – till Elon Musk said he was not perverted enough to appear on CNN.

This history echoes through today’s trans-genderism. Activists spend Scottish taxpayers’ money campaigning to lower the age of consent to 10. Across the pond, the modern age of Dem-endorsed sexual-identity consent is lower – try preschool. And over here (as over there), don’t tell the parents, let alone ask their consent – silence will help Scottish children “thrive”. The jargon-laden public-domain justifications of this may seem to make little sense, but they do teach a lesson – that swift promotion comes to a woman with a wholly faked identity, married to a child-molester, whereas dismissal awaits those off-message.

To dissenters, the lesson is “be afraid” – dissenting has risks, sufficient risks that nowadays, it doesn’t take a village to raise a child; only a child is unafraid to tell the virtual village that the self-identified Empress has no ideological clothes. But to the already-corrupt 10%, and the corruptible 60%, the lesson is “don’t be afraid” – the ruling ideology has your back. Why be a self-denying chump when it makes a pedophile safer to self-identify as trans – when a powerful ideology not only has your back but not-so-secretly thinks that “early sex is good and beneficial”.

Pedophilia does not need this kind of help to occur.

“Both Nicky and her brother Kevin later identified as gay” [the writer grants that, of course, they might have been so anyway]. “They were both troubled, and Kevin committed suicide. Maybe it was an identity crisis, or maybe it was that they were being fucked when they were children.”

But it is easy to foresee that, when the latter speculation is cancel-cultured, the crime will become commoner.

Unfortunately, foreseeing consequences is something the politically-correct have been bad at for a long time. Communism in Russia and China caused bad economic consequences, which caused the communists to punish those who complained about them, which meant few dared, which meant the unaddressed problems got worse, which meant temptations to grumble became stronger, so the communists imposed harsher punishments, so people grumbled about the punishments, and so on and on. The punishment of those who grumbled about the punishments is all most of us remember about Stalin and Mao; not many remember the earlier victims who grumbled about the famine that socialism caused.

Nowadays we have the word ‘transphobia’. Roughly half – that’s an official (FOIA-confirmed) half – of Scotland’s convicted, imprisoned trans are sexual offenders. That’s not 70% – but it’s a lot more than 10%, let alone than before legal changes made it not just ‘offensive’ but an actual offence to doubt an offender’s self-identity. Do locked-up rapists identify as trans because they feel like women? Or because they feel like raping women (both inmates and warders)? Do others identify as trans because they feel like women? Or because they feel like serving their sentences in the company of women? Political correctness requires you believe the first explanation. Political correctness requires you believe it is transphobic to consider the second explanation. And in Scotland, so do the official rules and the officials’ attitudes demand it even more stringently than similar officials in Rotherham demanded you avoid islamophobia. Down south in England, one might wonder (though AFAICS officially no-one does) if the headline “84% increase in female-perpetrated child sexual abuse” is related to over a third of them having only recently reclassified themselves as members of the fair sex.

Like the Cleveland doctor and her allies, if someone believes sex is just social construct, and destroying patriarchal indoctrination is merely exposing a long-existent reality, then it affects their understanding. Even if they let themselves notice people who identify as trans and thereby get a pension, a sports trophy or the darker advantages I mention above, they will assume such cases are unrepresentative, exceptions that prove their rule. But if you think the real incidence of a true trans state is very low – if, for example, you want evidence before thinking that the brain’s chance of diverging from its body’s sex is so very different from the observable chance of any other one organ in an otherwise normal-appearing body – then you’ll think the few real trans likely to be overwhelmed (in numbers and in the public eye) by people the woke indoctrinate into it and people who see the opportunities created by woke control of speech.

Remember the two quotes that head this post. Hating free speech may seem secondary to the woke, just a necessary means to enforce the dogma until its truth is grasped by the ignorant masses. But hating free speech will always become primary. Hating free speech determines who joins the movement and who leaves it. Hating free speech will determine the statistical make-up of the self-identified trans. Where this came from can be debated. Where it’s going can be deduced.

___

* When I first read of ‘dangerous faggot’ Milo Yiannopoulos a few years back, I saw an analogy with his state then. Milo had exposed three pedophiles, but gave an interview in which he nevertheless refused to regard the older man who initiated his own underage gay experiences as an abuser.

** Moira (unlike me) avoids weakening her writing style with the statistical qualifications I occasionally put in my summary of her post. As regards the inner thoughts of her own vile relatives and their circle, I suspect she is 100% right to do so – that is, she is right to describe them without qualification in the sense that they don’t care. And it would be the height of impertinence for the woke to complain that she applies this style more generally, given how they write. But Niall pedant Kilmartin inserted a couple for the benefit of Samizdata’s readers.

Merrick Garland and the Babski Bunty

‘Babski Bunty’ translates as ‘Women’s Rebellions’ – but don’t expect to find too many accounts of them in radical feminist writings. The history of an actual rebellion movement against men with guns (and considerable will to use them), by women inspired by a traditional female motive and using a female-adapted method, is not what the politically correct want US children taught – not least because the men those women resisted served the original PC movement. (The phrase ‘Political Correctness’ first arose in 1930s western intellectuals’ whitewashing of communist atrocities.)

In 1929, a complex mixture of rage, fear and folly launched the communist party on its collectivisation of Russian agriculture. They’d long planned to do it. Now they would do it quickly and completely – so they thought. The urban intellectuals who planned it knew almost nothing of how Russia’s men farmed their land – but they knew absolutely nothing of the women’s role. So they planned to take control of the grain from the fields, putting the farmers’ claim firmly second in line after the state’s – but as for the trivial additional issue of the dairy products from the cow (or there might be a couple) in the byre by the house, it never even occurred to them that there was anyone to be put second. The grain would feed the state, with the farmers getting what was left over. The dairy products would earn export capital (insofar as dairy was not ‘rationalised’ out of existence in farms whose function was ‘obviously’ arable).

In traditional Ukrainian and Russian arable agriculture, the fields were the men’s business (women helped at harvest). Any supplementing animals living by the house were their wives’ business – wives who particularly relied on the milk, butter and cheese to nourish their growing children. As the party activists were launched on their hasty campaign with its ever-increasing collectivisation targets, what had been invisible to planners in Moscow swiftly became horrifyingly visible to mothers on the farm. What enraged the men, as they saw their whole way of life replaced with one they found vastly inferior, was to their wives an immediate and direct threat not merely to their role but also to their offspring. Thus it was that the astonished and largely uncomprehending activists found themselves facing especially uncooperative peasant women.

Thousands of women were shot, or sent to the gulag from which very very few emerged alive 25 years later, but as what the activists came to call “women’s rebellions” spread from their Ukrainian origins into the Don, the Kuban and Russia proper, the scale left the communist authorities somewhat at a loss. All resistance was labelled ‘terrorism’, of course, but a few of the more perceptive activists came to understand the tactics the women were using. Women jeered and jostled the village’s activists while others undid the collectivisation structure by breaking into stores, retrieving farm tools that had been seized, etc. The men’s role was to stand back, coming to the women’s defence if and only if the activists violently attacked them but otherwise not getting overtly involved.

This tactic aimed at avoiding intervention of armed forces, and it was successful.

(It was often successful, not always.) An activist’s male pride was frequently reluctant to beg that a sizable secret police or army formation be swiftly dispatched to save him – from a crowd of loud-mouthed women. It could be hard to make these (genuinely!) mostly peaceful protests sound urgent enough to an official at the end of a phone line. The in-parallel ‘terrorist’ offences against ‘the property of the socialist state’ (i.e. people reclaiming their property that the activists had ‘collectivised’ the week before) were harder to reverse than the initial unwarned seizure had been (especially if a crowd of women was crowding round the activists who were searching for it). Thus, a non-trivial proportion of many a collectivised farm’s economy was in effect privatised again.

Thanks to a lot of brave resistance from both sexes (the women’s rebellions being a significant part), Stalin found it necessary to publish his ‘Dizzy with Success’ Pravda article at the end of March 1930, explaining (in the usual utterly-deceitful soviet style) that some activists had been ‘too eager’ and the collectivisation drive was being paused. Some activists tried hard to prevent the peasants learning of it while others wrote enraged letters to Stalin, correctly pointing out that they’d done what he’d told them to, and foolishly not realising that the methods communists eagerly applied to peasants could also be applied to communists themselves. (Some of these letters got published – 40 years later.) Women’s rebellions played an even larger role in forcing bitterly-resisting activists to let the peasants act on Stalin’s temporarily-gentler public line.

That was then, this is now. In the US, woke teacher activists are more eager to repeat this history than to teach it. Merrick Garland (Biden’s attorney general) also seems more interested in imitating it than in learning from it. Indeed, I’m not at all sure either the teacher-activists or Merrick even know it.

So now, as then, there is a need for tactics to resist the onrushing politically-correct programme. Today’s US differs a lot from communist Russia of nearly a century ago (thank God!). But I offer US citizens this distant analogy for whatever ideas it might inspire in its unduped women and in men willing to defend them.

There is a darker analogy. Stalin threw his ‘Dizzy with Success’ activists under the bus because he had belatedly realised that a much more carefully prepared attack was needed. In 1932-34, by killing enough Ukrainians to meet the UN definition of genocide (and lots of Russians and others), the communists succeeded in imposing the collective farm system. The crop shrank markedly, but Stalin saw this as an acceptable price to pay for the state’s having control of it. The quantity and quality of education is not as tangible as the size of a grain harvest – but even if it were, I don’t think the wokesters shrinking it would care. Last time, this tactic brought only a pause, not victory. A pause would be better than nothing, but Churchill warned people rejoicing over Dunkirk that wars are not won just by making your enemies pause in their advance.

Laughing apart

Ten men acting together can make a hundred thousand tremble apart.

Three weeks ago Saturday, the FBI were out in undercover force at the ‘JusticeForJan6th’ rally – and looking lonely, since everyone from Trump to the proud boys had worked out it was a false flag operation. But precisely because the ‘demonstrators’ physically present were so overwhelmingly and obviously fake, the large virtual attendance in cyberspace was much entertained, with more mirth being had at the expense of some (overt) police who were a bit slow to realise that the guy they were arresting was yet another under(not-very-much)cover Fed.

None of which alters the fact that that the right “peaceably to assemble” for political protest is bifurcating. One side knows it need only be ‘mostly peaceful’ while the other knows that assembling at all can bring speedy arrest followed by long-delayed trial.

Ten oh-so-obvious undercover FBI agents are good for a laugh, but they still made those who mocked them laugh apart. Chanting “F*** Joe Biden” (“Let’s Go Brandon” 🙂 ) in a sports stadium is one way to laugh together, but it reminds me of the chariot racing clubs in the Roman and Byzantine empires – those ancient ‘blues’ and ‘greens’ chariot fans acquired strong political overtones because assembling for an overtly political purpose was forbidden.

Time for a name change?

Although much of the focus in the UK political reporting is on Boris Johnson’s government (the UK has gone into “Tier 5”, which is basically a lockdown in plain language), it is worth remembering that throughout the COVID-19 affair, the leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, and leader of the Labour Party, has called frequently for longer, earlier and more severe controls on the public, salved in his mind by calls also for even more gigantic amounts of debt (inoculated, he hopes, by central bank fairy dust). An example of such a call is here.

Sir Keir (he was named after Keir Hardie, first leader of the Labour Party) knows that he will not be held accountable by most voters for any of his calls, or maybe hopes that is the case and that when the next general election is called, this shitshow will be a memory, and his demands for lockdowns will not be held against him. Such are the dangers of our lockdown consensus among large swathes of chattering class opinion.

Even so, I think commentators who want to wind Sir Keir and his colleagues up, and scold and irritate their supporters, should start to refer to the Labour Party as the Lockdown Party on every occasion. It may be rude, even thought a bit juvenile. But we are past the time for being sweetly reasonable towards those who quite clearly want to use these powers and would do so again, possibly on even weaker pretexts than now. If Sir Keir has referred to the civil liberties issues of lockdowns, as Lord Sumption has done, I have missed it. And remember, Sir Keir is a lawyer by profession. One might think that some concern about the civil liberty aspects of lockdowns might be a matter he might address.

As for the Liberal Democrats, they might as well belong in a museum.

Anyway, back to the Labour Party. I think Lockdown Party sounds much better. This will be a more accurate reflection of its values. The party is not really interested in work any more – groups such as the teaching unions seem to positively recoil from it – and many of its members no doubt hope that in world of universal basic income, paid out of the profits of Big Techs in some sort of Brave New World, human labour will be irrelevant.

Let’s make the change, today!

I wonder how long this Chinese tycoon will be seen in public?

Jack Ma, founder of Chinese e-commerce colossus Alibaba, might want to watch his back. An affiliate business of Alibaba, called Ant Financial, was due to float on the stock market last week but the IPO was suddenly pulled, leaving investment bankers who had underwritten the deal fuming. It also makes me wonder whether China’s President, Xi, is getting resentful about the power of the house that Jack built, so to speak.

Wall Street Journal has this story (item is paywalled, so here are four paragraphs):

Chinese President Xi Jinping personally made the decision to halt the initial public offering of Ant Group, which would have been the world’s biggest, after controlling shareholder Jack Ma infuriated government leaders, according to Chinese officials with knowledge of the matter.

The rebuke was the culmination of years of tense relations between China’s most celebrated entrepreneur and a government uneasy about his influence and the rapid growth of the digital-payments behemoth he controlled.

Mr. Xi, for his part, has displayed a diminishing tolerance for big private businesses that have amassed capital and influence—and are perceived to have challenged both his rule and the stability craved by factions in the country’s newly assertive Communist Party.

In a speech on Oct. 24, days before the financial-technology giant was set to go public, Mr. Ma cited Mr. Xi’s words in what top government officials saw as an effort to burnish his own image and tarnish that of regulators, these people said.

I would not be in the least surprised to see Jack Ma either end up as an exile in the West, or disappear.

As a media figure who works in the wealth management market, I often read reports about how China is kicking the West’s arse in generating gazillions of new billionaires. About how the country is overtaking the West, blah, blah. If that is the case, it is interesting that Chinese people try to get out, given half a chance, or suffer a worse fate. It is hard to see how a country that operates like this can really prosper in the long term, however mighty it looks now. People who fear that success makes them a target are not going to bother.

Samizdata comedy quote of the day

Clever Churchgoers Avoid Arrest By Disguising Themselves As Rioters

LOS ANGELES, CA—Religious people in Southern California have found a bold, creative solution for in-person meetings in spite of the continuing lockdown. This past weekend, several area churches attended church services disguised as righteously indignant rioters.

“We already have the righteous indignation thing down,” said one church elder. “Now, we’ve simply added black balaclavas, hoodies, Guy Fawkes masks, and baseball bats! We found that when we do this, we can meet in large groups without much interference from the local authorities. It’s been a delightful experience.”

It’s satire 🙂 – I think? 🙁

I feel like commenting that comment is needless – but don’t let that restrain you.

The Plague

“Are you able to condemn absolutely?”

“No – but surely that is not necessary?”

“It is not – though the situation is very bad. But testimony without reservation is the only testimony I will give – so I will give no testimony in support of your testimony.”

Ostensibly, these two characters at the start of Albert Camus’ The Plague are talking about the health situation of Algerian natives under French colonial rule. But The Plague is not actually about an outbreak of the black death in Oran. It is about France under Nazi occupation, recast as a description of French behaviour in an epidemic. The plague represents the Nazis: deadly, relentless, reigning in terror for a time and then gone. The book’s interest is in how people act when a thing like that sweeps over them; about the scum it brings to the top; about who decides to resist and when and why; about Vichy and freedom and the human heart.

By setting the book in Oran, Camus gave himself an advantage: he could describe the city he grew up in very well (and the ostensible event – an outbreak of plague – was more likely). But he also gave himself a problem. France was under the Nazis but Oran was under the French colonial authorities. The French readers of Camus’ book are like the French readers of the newspaper whose journalist “cannot condemn absolutely”. So Camus explains – very exactly, in terms of his analogy – that he will say nothing, and from that point on, the book focusses only on how the ethnically-French inhabitants of Oran behave.

I have been a little surprised never to see mention of The Plague in my recent web browsing. (Only a little surprised – the amount that is on the web and not noticed by me is vast.) That an epidemic can be like an invasion, empowering Vichy-like petty tyrants and harming freedom, would seem topical at this time. I’m no great fan of Camus (though, like anyone honest, I greatly prefer him to Sartre and suchlike) and it is from old memory that I provide the quote heading the post. But some people think highly of him, and I’ll grant that, even in translation, a certain quality of the prose shines through. The left did not welcome his post-WWII advice that what they needed most was “pitiless criticism”, but they never managed to push him all the way down the memory hole.

In the UK and the US, I’ve seen criticism of the lockdown that I thought very fair – and other criticism I thought OTT, as if it were rational to think Boris and Trump really loved lockdowns and wanted them to last forever. The cruel absurdity I see in France seems to belong in the pages of The Plague.

L’absurdité cruelle

Not long ago, I posted that events in the UK distantly echoed

“the cruel absurdity of the Roman princes, unable to protect their subjects against the public enemy, unwilling to trust them with arms for their own defence” (‘The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’, Edward Gibbon)

But events in France offer more than an echo.

France’s general population remains under extremely strict lockdown; the police have been ordered to enforce the rules ruthlessly. Permits to leave one’s home were limited to 60 minutes, once a day, and no farther than half a mile. … more than 915,000 citations have been handed out; 15.5 million persons have been stopped and checked …

People living in no-go zones [zones-urbaines-sensibles “sensitive urban zones”] are treated differently. Police officers have been told by the government not to stop them at all and to avoid as much as possible going near where they live.

(Excerpted from France’s No-Go Zones: The Riots Return. Read the whole thing.)

The ‘zones sensibles’ of Gothic immigrants in the dying western Roman empire were not ‘urbaines’ but they enjoyed the same cruel absurdity of being exempt from the harsh laws Rome enforced on the areas it still effectively controlled. They showed the same pattern of growth too. In 2005 there were less than 100 zones urbaines sensibles; today, France has more than 750 zones where the absence of lockdown casts the growing reality into stark relief.

The evolution of ruling attitudes makes another parallel.

In 2005, the police tried to quell the riots, unsuccessfully. For three weeks, the country seemed on the verge of a civil war. Today, because members of the government seem to believe that if riots occur, a civil war really could happen, the police are asked not to intervene and to stand aside until the destruction stops.

In ancient times, a similar period takes us from the Battle of Adrianople (378 AD) when the empire tried and failed to quell ‘rioting’ Gothic immigrants, to that of Frigidius (394) where the emperor used a Gothic army to defeat his internal rivals. The Goths lost heavily in that battle, which probably did not bother the emperor – but also did not slow much the speed with which they rotted the empire. I doubt Macron will lose sleep if the ‘zones urbaines sensibles’ lose people to the virus through ignoring his lockdown – which they won’t much, certainly not enough to slow their rate of growth much.

A similar number of years then takes us from Frigidius to the fall of Rome in 410. One day soon, France may do something sensible about the ‘zones urbaines sensibles’. Or, one day, France may do something horrible because for too long political correctness forbade her doing something sensible. Or Paris may ‘fall’ – may become one big zone urbaine sensible.

Meanwhile, I find it a disturbing symptom that the French government seems so acclimatised to the cruel absurdity of enforcing laws that take liberty from natives who obey you, while allowing exemptions that give liberties to immigrants who don’t. I can dislike a law yet dislike its arbitrary enforcement more. I do not care for this ‘lockdown pour nous, mais non pour vous’. Between 2005 and 2020, a kind of degeneration has taken place.

Our astonishing controls

Who would have thought that Sweden would end up being the last place in Europe where you could go for a beer?

writes an understandably surprised Swede (No lockdown please, we’re Swedish). In Sweden, the state tells people

how many slices of bread to eat per day … We still close liquor stores at 3 p.m. on a Saturday. The general idea is that if people were given the freedom and responsibility to figure out these things on their own, anarchy might follow.

And I can’t work out whether to call it ‘hardly less surprising’ or ‘barely more surprising’ that, at the other end of Europe, Portugal is (for now) following the same path. Instapunditer Sarah Hoyt was born and raised in Portugal but left because it lacked things like the first amendment, the second amendment and a lively SF culture.

The cynic in me is happy to suggest some less-than-libertarian explanations.

– Sarah Hoyt quotes the Portuguese Prime Minister explaining they avoided lockdown because the Portuguese are “more organized than other Europeans” – then adds

I have no idea what he’s smoking, or where he found it, but that’s potent stuff.

– Sweden has an unusually docile native population, an unusually different immigrant population and a political class that calls it bigotry for visible police actions to betray statistical differences between the two. Trying to enforce a lockdown is sure to offend many politically-correct regulations. Further, a society whose police seem already unable to control immigrant predilection for grenades and automatic weapons lacks the reserve of unused power needed to enforce a lockdown.

However the same attitudes that give me those thoughts also tell me that Swedish politicians will not only not speak them, even behind closed doors, they will have a hard time thinking them – which challenges my cynical explanation. Ordering the police and media not to mention the colour of suspects they seek lest the public see trends, yet thinking that

in a liberal democracy you have to convince and not command people

not to go to the pub, may seem absurd to logical libertarian and logical statist alike – but freedom owes much to the fact that humans are not logical. That Portugal may be too ill-organised to enforce statist solutions is another common way in which liberty survives its enemies, but at the moment it is not that they are trying and failing – they are actually not trying.

Thus we have our experimental controls – our null-hypothesis case studies. We’re doing a huge experiment to see how well locking down a nation can address a pandemic – an experiment whose costs’ ability to rise exponentially over time matches that of any disease graph. I don’t know how good or bad it will be for the Swedes and Portuguese, but it will be very good for the after-action report on this if a couple of moderately comparable nations stick with seeing what happens when you don’t lock everyone up.