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]

Never apologise. Explain without apology.

“In politics apologies just make things worse”, writes Daniel Finkelstein in the Times. The subtitle to his piece is “Boris Johnson should be sorry about the Owen Paterson affair but actually saying so would do him more harm than good”, and that sums up the article: the rather bleak observation that in politics apologies do not pay. Finkelstein stresses that he is not saying they shouldn’t work, just that they usually don’t. To illustrate this he cites an experiment carried out by Cass Sunstein:

In Cass Sunstein’s recent book This Is Not Normal he describes two pieces of work that seek to measure the impact an apology has on people’s opinion of the person doing the apologising.

The first uses two real events. In a survey respondents were told about an occasion when the senator Rand Paul seemed to suggest that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was wrong to forbid private discrimination on the basis of race. They were also told of the difficulty Lawrence Summers got himself into as president of Harvard University. Summers had talked about genetic differences between men and women that might influence their scientific interest and ability.

Different versions of each of these stories were tested. Some respondents were told that Paul or Summers had apologised and tried to make amends; some were told they had toughed it out. Would you vote for senator Paul? Should Summers face negative consequences?

For Paul, an apology made no difference. For Summers the apology produced a serious negative reaction. And indeed in real life Paul avoided an explicit apology and remained a senator while Summers repeatedly apologised yet had to resign.

That was Finkelstein quoting Sunstein. This is me: neither Rand Paul nor Larry Summers should have apologised. The inefficacy of apology as a tactic had very little to do with it. They should not have cringed, they should have roared.

Senator Paul was right to say what he did. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was wrong to forbid private discrimination on the basis of race. The various US Civil Rights Acts were utterly right to sweep away the state-mandated apartheid of the Old South, and to dismantle the system of legal dirty tricks designed to make it almost impossible for black Americans to actually exercise their theoretical right to vote. But they should have left individuals alone. There would now be less racism, not more, if the US government had stuck to its job of enforcing the equal application of the laws and had kept out of men’s souls. Instead for my entire lifetime it has been trying to help the poor, poor blacks and reform the wicked, wicked whites. The keenest supporters of that policy proclaim its utter failure: they tell us that fifty-seven years after the Act white supremacy is embedded in every American institution. So let’s take them at their word, cease pursuing this obviously futile strategy, and try something else.

Lawrence Summers was also right to say what he did, which was that people should be unafraid to honestly consider all hypotheses as to why there are fewer women in science and engineering, including the one that men just tend to be better at science and engineering. He was right to say that no hypothesis should be off the table, and even if he had been wrong about that particular hypothesis (speaking as a woman who was once in that world, I don’t think he was wrong), he was right to raise the question. Harvard’s decline from a place of free scientific enquiry to a training ground for little Lysenkos became almost inevitable from the moment it forced out its last independent president. Not that the other American universities or the British ones are much better. They are all full of people each competing to apologise the most fervently for their own institution’s sinful existence. I begin to think that, here, too, the best thing might be to take them at their word.

Why the tabloids are the choice of adults

The Daily Mail reports, EXCLUSIVE: Suicide bomber who died when his device blew up outside Liverpool hospital was pizza chef, 32, who fled Middle East and converted to Christianity at cathedral ‘he wanted to attack’ and was once arrested for carrying a knife

I was much taken by this comment from someone called “SorcerousSinner” on the normally left wing subreddit /r/ukpolitics:

The Daily Mail is the best news source for stuff like this because they have the least restraint and just publish all the info, and rumours. Footage of the killings. Fake news. Everything.

Broadsheet journalists are always concerned with carefully steering us, the dumb rabble, towards what they believe we should believe

So, the mail is the choice of adults who think they can handle the responsibility of getting all the info, possibly fake info.

One of those reviews that makes you buy the book then and there

Mark Honigsbaum reviews Viral by Alina Chan and Matt Ridley in the Guardian:

The tragedy is that in their desire to make a plausible case for a lab accident, Chan and Ridley neglect the far more urgent and compelling story of how the trade in wild animals, coupled with global heating and the destruction of natural habitats, makes the emergence of pandemic viruses increasingly likely. That is the more probable origin story and the scenario that should really concern us.

Edit: The Guardian is not allowing comments to Mr Honigsbaum’s review. But his tweet about it is open to comments and is receiving them.

Halleluyah! Antiviral drugs are coming (and remember, Don’t mention Ivermectin!)

Now the UK has approved an anti-viral drug, early treatment is on the official agenda (on this side of the pond at least). Also on this side of the pond is a Dr John Campbell, whose amiable video manner (like his bedside manner, I expect) avoids overawing his audience with the impression that he already knows everything, so need never be told anything. It’s a manner he seems to think some ‘fact-checkers’ could use. ‘Alternative Facts’ is the title of his video response to Facebook’s putting a…

Missing Context

Independent fact-checkers say this could mislead people.

…warning on the video he made last week about similarities between the pharmacodynamic mechanism of Ivermectin and that of the new Pfizer antiviral.

He learned of the ‘misleading’ fact-check (the misleading ‘fact-check’) from some followers who tried to share his earlier video on Facebook. After reviewing how, uh, ‘well’ qualified the fact-checkers were, he follows Natalie’s wise advice to brief his side properly, giving the fact-checkers a tick or half-mark wherever he can, before moving good-humouredly to reasons why it was nevertheless a bit arrogant of them to call it a fact-check.

To see the video, click this link and then the ‘Alternative Facts’ icon (second along in the list as of today). You can turn on auto-generated subtitles if you prefer reading to hearing, but if you like mild dry English humour you may be happy enough to listen to him.

“Wrong, wrong, wrong” is putting it kindly

When All The Media Narratives Collapse – Andrew Sullivan, writing on Substack:

Think of the other narratives the MSM pushed in recent years that have collapsed. They viciously defamed the Covington boys. They authoritatively told us that bounties had been placed on US soldiers in Afghanistan by Putin — and Trump’s denials only made them more certain. They told us that the lab-leak theory of Covid was a conspiracy theory with no evidence behind it at all. (The NYT actually had the story of the leak theory, by Donald McNeil, killed it, and then fired McNeil, their best Covid reporter, after some schoolgirls complained he wasn’t woke.) Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The MSM took the ludicrous story of Jussie Smollett seriously because it fit their nutty “white supremacy” narrative. They told us that a woman was brutally gang-raped at UVA (invented), that the Pulse mass shooting was driven by homophobia (untrue) and that the Atlanta spa shooter was motivated by anti-Asian bias (no known evidence for that at all). For good measure, they followed up with story after story about white supremacists targeting Asian-Americans, in a new wave of “hate,” even as the assaults were disproportionately by African Americans and the mentally ill.

As Greenwald noted, the NYT “published an emotionally gut-wrenching but complete fiction that never had any evidence — that Officer Sicknick’s skull was savagely bashed in with a fire extinguisher by a pro-Trump mob until he died.” The media told us that an alleged transgender exposure in the Wi Spa in Los Angeles was an anti-trans hoax (also untrue). They told us that the emails recovered on Hunter Biden’s laptop were Russian disinformation.

Brian and I chat for the last time

As promised.

By the way, I found this rather good obituary of Brian by Sean Gabb at The Critic.

Update. The post was initially put up with the wrong link (hence Paul’s comment). It has now been corrected.

Spartacus writes to the Times

Sir,

The historian Andrew Graham-Dixon has just been blacklisted by Keir Bradwell, president of the Cambridge Union, for doing a Hitler impression, which is something that almost all of us have done occasionally over the past 80 years. I have written to Mr Bradwell to ask him to put me on his blacklist, and I wish to use the letters page of The Times to urge all historians, writers, artists, scientists and public intellectuals to write to any student union, academic or public institution that practises cancel culture, demanding to be put on their blacklist. I also call on them to boycott these institutions absolutely.

Louis de Bernières
Denton, Norfolk

Mr de Bernières is the author of the historical novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

I am not sure if this is in response to the call from Mr de Bernières or not, but John Cleese, having done a famous Hitler impression himself in a 1975 episode of Fawlty Towers, has blacklisted himself from the Cambridge Union “before someone else does”.

Samizdata quote of the day

Resisting tyranny depends on the courage to not conform.

Barry Brownstein

It pays to brief your own side properly

Some time in the early 1990s I was a witness to a brief exchange in the House of Commons that went unnoticed at the time but would go on to change the world.*

The scene was an ill-attended debate on Legal Aid Fees – the fees paid to lawyers by the state for representing those of slender means, as the White Paper setting up the Legal Aid scheme in 1949 put it. At the time, I was a very junior civil servant, sent to sit in the Visitors’ Gallery as a minor jolly and to give me some idea of how Parliamentary Questions played out in real life.

Speaking for the Lord Chancellor’s Department – none of yer new-fangled “Ministry of Justice” rubbish then – was a Tory MP I will call My Guy. It was him I sometimes got to write whole paragraphs of briefing papers for. Speaking for the Opposition was a Labour bloke whom I will call Labour Bloke. Up pops Labour Bloke, newly briefed by the Law Society (the “professional association” for UK lawyers, like a trade union but less honest) on how the wicked Tories were driving legal folk to penury and leaving the poor without representation as a result. “What is the Minister going to do,” he said, or words to that effect, “about the savage and unjustified cuts to Legal Aid fees?”

My Guy – a lawyer himself but now poacher turned gamekeeper – smiles and says, “There have been no cuts to Legal Aid Fees”. Labour Bloke visibly checks the papers in his hand but restrains himself from saying the words “But it says here”. He did manage to stammer out something, to which My Guy, who was a bit of a snot but in the right here and knew it, merely responded with the same words again: “There have been no cuts to Legal Aid Fees”.

There followed some bandying of figures, but Labour Bloke never recovered his momentum. The reason the poor chap had been so sure there had been cuts was that the Law Society had made the mistake of feeding him the same guff they put out to the Guardian, which was cleverly worded to make the fact that fees had gone up by less than inflation sound like they had been cut. I could tell Labour had taken their line straight from the Law Society by the familiarity of the words and figures used. I remember thinking how foolish Labour had been to rely so much on one source, and even more strongly, how damning it was that a bunch of barristers [Edit: solicitors, not barristers, according to commenter “llamas”], professional arguers by all that’s holy, had failed to appreciate the folly in both law and politics of not telling their own advocate the whole story.

I was reminded of that exchange by seeing two things on the internet about the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, which, please bear in mind, is not over.

One was this Guardian article, “Jury watches drone footage of Kyle Rittenhouse shooting man dead.” I do not say it contains any lies, but if that were your only source you would never know, you would never guess, you would never imagine, the existence of this video clip.

Imagine, dear reader, that you are a committed progressive. Imagine that you go online to argue against Rittenhouse, armed, if you will forgive the phrase, only with that Guardian article. How would it go? The mainstream media has passed a milestone in its decline to irrelevance when someone who wants to successfully argue for the same things the MSM argues for must use other sources besides the MSM.

*OK, the change concerned was that a quarter of a century later it would inspire me to write this Samizdata post, but that is undeniably part of the world and the world will have changed from not including my musings to including them once I press “Publish”, which I am doing now.

Samizdata quote of the day

The fact that Chinese state media so widely shared a particularly credulous New Yorker article by Peter Hessler about China’s coronavirus response did not escape China expert Geremie Barmé, who cautioned its author that it reminded him of “another American journalist, a man who reported from another authoritarian country nearly a century ago … Walter Duranty …”

Michael Senger

Charged with sedition – for cheering the wrong side at cricket

Back in 1990 the Conservative MP Norman Tebbit got a lot of stick for his “cricket test”. Amateur. They play that game more seriously in India. The Hindustan Times reports,

‘Those celebrating Pak’s victory will face sedition case’: Yogi Adityanath

Chief minister [of the state of Uttar Pradesh] Yogi Adityanath on Thursday said that the sedition charges will be invoked against those celebrating Pakistan’s victory against India in the recent T20 World Cup match.

“Those celebrating Pakistan’s victory will face sedition,” a tweet posted on the official handle of Adityanath’s office said.

The Pakistan cricket team on Sunday defeated the Indian side by 10 wickets in a Super 12 game in Dubai for their first win in 13 attempts over their arch-rivals in a World Cup match.

A senior police official said a total of five cases were registered against seven people in Agra, Bareilly, Budaun and Sitapur for allegedly using indecent words against the Indian cricket team and celebrating Pakistan’s vicory. He said one case each was lodged in Agra, Budaun and Sitapur while two cases were registered in Bareilly’s Izzatnagar police station.

The three Kashmiri students were produced in the court of the special chief judicial magistrate on Thursday. The court sent them to 14 days’ judicial custody. “During the course of the investigation, section 124-A (sedition) was added against these three Kashmiri students,” said PK Singh, the inspector in charge of Jagdishpura police station.

The report continues,

In Budaun, the FIR was lodged under IPC section 124 A for sedition and section 66 of the IT Act against one person at the Faizganj Behta police station.

“Sedition charges should not be invoked in case of cheering in sports. No violence happened in these cases. England had been our bigger and worst enemy ever. But many times people in India do laud England’s team or players.”, said a Samajwadi Party leader on condition of anonymity

The (wisely) anonymous speaker may have been prompted to mention India’s relatively friendly cricketing relations with England by the fact that, as the article says, most of the accused were charged under the notorious Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. In 1922, Gandhi was imprisoned by the British under Section 124A and referred to it as the “prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”. Ninety-nine years have gone by, seventy-four of them with India as an independent nation, and the prince remains in power.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Two months ago an education activist told a small group in Virginia that people don’t yet understand that Americans’ relationship with public schools changed during the pandemic. For the first time ever, on Zoom, parents overheard what is being taught, how, and what’s not taught, and they didn’t like what they heard. The schools had been affected by, maybe captured by, woke cultural assumptions that had filtered down from higher-ed institutions and the education establishment. The parents were home in the pandemic and not distracted. They didn’t want their children taught harmful nonsense, especially at the expense of the basics.”

Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal (paywall), pondering the losses by the Democrats in the recent Virginia elections. A state that was going “blue”, has gone “red”, and the promotion of Critical Race Theory in public, state schools is a part of why.

Maybe the pushback is also a victory for a new breed of scholars and writers who are starting to seriously hammer CRT and parts of the “woke” movement, such as Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay and John McWhorter, or in the UK, the likes of Douglas Murray. This episode also highlights why much of the Left loathes school choice.