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]

Ricky Gervais, the best man at a wedding who shouts out “Don’t marry, mate!”

Ricky Gervais’s opening comments at the Golden Globes in Hollywood (I assume he is not doing them ever again) are rightly being lauded around the non-PC parts of the internet/media world for telling much of Hollywood how totally, eye-wateringly awful it is. Seems a tad harsh, though – he’s a bit like the guy who comes to a party, takes a lot of the decent wine, insults the guests and then leaves. Seems a tad boorish. But maybe I am being squeamish and boorishness in these times may be necessary. I get the impression that a high-water mark of PCness, or “wokeness”, to coin a term, may have been reached. Maybe even last December’s crushing of Mr Corbyn’s UK Labour Party was an indicator. (For anyone living on a remote desert island in recent years, here is a definition of “woke”.)

So what is the context here and how do we end with a situation where a movie industry reaches the point where a British entertainer hammers practitioners in this way?

One sign of what is going wrong is how famous franchises are “rebooted” – James Bond is getting older and being replaced, at least in terms of the person with the iconic 007 number, by a black woman who has his serial number (possibly); Terminator, Star Wars, Dr Who….the list of increasingly “woke” productions goes on. The accountants aren’t happy as far as viewing figures and box office takings are concerned, it seems.

Of course, as we have seen on discussions on this blog before, some business tycoons might be willing to see some of their revenues decline if it means winning a longer term war to change the “culture”, but shareholders’ patience has its limits. If Proctor and Gamble takes a hit by insulting men as toxic, well, even the most PC chief executives will be booted out eventually.

But for the penny to drop, so to speak, it appears necessary for unvarnished truths to be dished out, and quite possibly, Gervais is ultimately doing the sector a favour, even if swearing at guests is a bit, well, off.

I do think that the very fact that someone such as Ricky Gervais can stand up in front of Hollywood luvvies and more or less telll them they are a bunch of narcissistic, ignorant twats is quite something and suggests we have reached a sort of tipping point. It even got mentioned on the BBC this morning.

OK, I hear you cry, is Gervais’s intervention necessary? If “woke” films lose money and Netflix/other hoover up the market, that is capitalism in action in its most brutal and bracing way. That of course is all true. And there have been and will be films made that upset fans and conventional wisdom, whether from a traditional conservative or socially radical point of view. So long as it is a free market, that’s fine. (But when the State intrudes with subsidies, this becomes a big problem.)

But the benefit at times of having someone such as Gervais drop some bombs on an awards ceremony is that paradoxically, he highlights the place of awards events in business sectors. Industry awards ceremonies are marketing exercises, and there is, as with all types of business, a law of diminishing returns if there are lots of them: the more awards there are, the less each one matters over time. The decisions about who gets what gong and for what are subject to lots of political eye-gouging. A lot is at stake in terms of PR, contracts and connections. And in a slightly less venal way, awards are a chance for people to meet old friends, make some new contacts and have a glass or two in convivial surroundings (and there’s nothing wrong about that, by the way).

However, for all their annoying qualities and diminishing returns, awards events can also be a chance for an industry that is a bit under the cosh to put its best faces forward, to plead a case, to show it still counts. There are awards events for every sector under the sun, from architecture to IT.

Funnily enough some of the smarter Hollywood people (yes, they exist) probably know they have a problem with how the sector has been going, and Gervais touched on some of them: competition from new media; stale franchises and lack of originality, and yes, a liberal-left culture that alienates a large number of potential customers. The industry is vulnerable if actors and actresses lecture people about their carbon footprints or about sex, and then fly on private jets and hang out with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein. So awards ceremonies, even when someone like Gervais is nasty to the guests, have their uses, sometimes if only to tell a sector that it has a dose of the flu and needs to get better. They might even encourage change if the reaction is serious enough.

In my own industry of financial media, we have awards ceremonies too, and it is often quite a tricky point to know what sort of man or woman to nominate as the sort of warm-up act. A few years ago I went to a black tie gala evening run by an investment industry body. The bloke doing the warm-up gags was a hard-left socialist by the name of Frankie Boyle. It was like inviting Lenin to talk to the Institute of Directors. Boyle was disgusting and unpleasant, and people walked out. The Golden Globe audience, methinks, got off quite lightly.

Do read the Gervais speech. It is glorious.

I do think, reconsidering my article from a day ago, that Gervais was pretty out of order swearing at the crowd, and part of me wishes that he hadn’t done that, and that we could have a Hollywood that was classy and elegant. But rather as with Donald Trump, a vulgar, rough and no-nonsense person is necessary to burn down what exists before the rebuilding can take place. Or to use an expression from the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, we need creative destruction.

Five, six, seven, eight, who do we assassinate?

Please try not to get arrested, but in the shadow of the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, might it not be interesting to have a discussion about the rights and wrongs of assassination?

Most states, most of the time, follow a rough convention that important government employees – heads of state, government ministers, top brass et cetera – of State A do not assassinate their counterparts in State B, however wicked those counterparts may be. President Trump has shown himself indifferent to that convention. He could be praised for his courage (including personal courage: his own risk of being assassinated has obviously gone up) or damned for his disregard of the evil consequences that are likely to fall on others. In a world where national leaders target each other, wars are more likely.

Or are they? Did the fact that men like Soleimani could kill minor employees of other governments, not to mention civilians, without much personal risk, actually smooth the path to war? It does seem unjust that those steeped in guilt are sacrosanct while relatively innocent spear-carriers are acceptable targets.

Here is another question for us and anyone watching us to ponder. Many people have argued strongly over the last few hours that President Trump was right to break the convention of the immunity from assassination of senior state employees. But I have heard no one argue against the convention that only senior state employees can order assassinations.

ADDED LATER: In the comments “Chester Draws” made a very relevant point:

There is a convention that political leaders are not killed.

There is also a convention — literally — that embassies are not to be attacked. Iran broke that one first. And then again recently.

That fact alone, that until now the Islamic Republic of Iran got away scot-free with invading an embassy and kidnapping diplomats, made me much more willing to approve the unconventional killing of a representative of that government. Let those who boast that the rules do not apply to them learn that in that case the rules do not apply to them.

Free Carlos Ghosn

In other low probability news, Carlos Ghosn has escaped from house arrest in Japan, possibly in a cello double bass case.

Mr Ghosn strikes quite the Randian hero. Grandson of a Lebanese entrepreneur living in Brazil with a Nigerian mother, he moved to France to study and then moved his way up the ranks in Michelin tyre factories. After 3 years there he was a plant manager. After 18 years he was CEO of Michelin North America. Then he went to work at post-privatisation Renault and made it profitable. He took on roles at Nissan, too, an by 2005 he was CEO of both Renault and Nissan. In 2016 he became chairman of Mitsubishi too.

Maybe he upset someone at Nissan because they reported him to the Japanese government for under-reporting his compensation to the Japanese government. Now he is “suspected of masterminding a long-running scheme to mislead financial authorities”, the worst possible crime in the view of authorities but considered not at all immoral in these parts. He has also generally been attracting the ire of people who do not like it when other people earn a lot of money.

“In 2016, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who was at the time the finance minister, pressured Renault into reducing Mr. Ghosn’s compensation.”

I mean, what the fuck? Fuck off Macron.

“His own pay far outstripped those of his counterparts in Japan — he earned four times the pay of Toyota’s chairman in 2017 — and he was unrepentant.”

That is definitely Randian hero territory. They want you to repent. But never repent! It will not help you.

Ghosn says it was all plot and treason by Nissan executives who did not want him to integrate Nissan, Mitsubishi and Renault. One problem is that once Japanese authorities decide to prosecute, they nearly always get a conviction. Running away was probably his only option.

But it is hard to escape from the World Government. Interpol want him, Turkish authorities arrested pilots who helped him escape, and now the Lebanese authorities are hauling him in front of judges. It remains to be seen how helpful they will be. There is no extradition deal between Lebanon and Japan.

Eat, drink and be merry. Tomorrow comes the Ice.

Hat tip to Ed Driscoll of Instapundit for at least giving Britain a few hours’ notice of its icy doom.

The news was first reported by Mark Townsend and Paul Harris in the Guardian‘s Sunday sister the Observer on Sun 22 Feb 2004. Since the world did not take the preventative measures the experts warned were necessary it is clear that nothing can save us now:

Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us

· Secret report warns of rioting and nuclear war
· Britain will be ‘Siberian’ in less than 20 years
· Threat to the world is greater than terrorism

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

Looking back at Christmas Day

It’s now that time of the year between Christmas and the New Year, when we here sometimes do big postings with lots of photos. Usually, these have been retrospective looks back at the year nearly concluded. I did photo-postings like this in 2013, in 2015, and in 2017. And see also other such photo-postings here in the past, like this one in 2014, and this one way back in 2006.

We’re not the only ones doing these retro-postings about the nearly-gone year. A few days back an email incame from David Thompson, flagging up the posting he did summarising his 2019, which will already have been much read on account of Instapundit already having linked to it. And one of Thompson’s commenters mentioned a similar posting by Christopher Snowdon, mostly about politicians wanting to tell us what not to eat, drink or smoke.

So, here’s another 2019 retrospective. But it’s not a look back at the whole of 2019, merely a look back at a walk I took in London, on Christmas Day 2019. I like to photo-walk in London on Christmas Day, especially if the weather is as great as it was that Day.

I began my walk by going to Victoria Street and turning right, towards Westminster Abbey, where I did what I often do around Westminster Abbey. I photoed my fellow digital photographers, who were photoing Westminster Abbey:

The lady on the left as we look is using one of those small but dedicated digital cameras, of the sort that nobody buys now and hardly anyone even uses now, because the logical thing, unless you want something like 25x zoom like I do, or really great photos that you could blow up and hang in an art gallery, is to use a mobile phone. But she is still using her tiny camera from about a decade ago. Odd.

Next some giant purple Christmas tree balls, outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.

→ Continue reading: Looking back at Christmas Day

On the BBC, persons of no appearance attack Jews in New York

In May, I wrote: “The attacks, and the silence of progressive New York, are utterly appalling.” In ­December, it’s more than appalling. It’s complicit. (Karol Markowicz)

To say that today’s BBC broadcast reports of the latest attacks in New York pivoted swiftly to denouncing generalised “racism and homophobia” in the age of Trump might be called an exaggeration – since to pivot, one must first be pointing in a different direction. But arguably that is unfair, and the beeb’s afternoon and evening news broadcasts did indeed merely swiftly pivot to a more acceptable talking point. Certain omissions, hinted at in this post’s title, assisted that pivot.

How far the BBC is on the same complicit page as against how far they are just unwisely still treating their progressive American friends as trustworthy and sufficient sources of insight, I do not know. My impression was that the beeb covered Corbyn’s little problem in this area a bit less absurdly than what I saw today. It is easier to fool UK viewers about the US than about the UK – and some beeboids do seem to be trying.

I should note that a hint of appearance did appear on the BBC’s website. And, thanks to crime movies, most UK viewers know enough of the geography of New York to realise that Harlem is maybe not the most obvious place for a white-supremacist-style anti-semite to hide out. It will be revealing to see whether coverage becomes more informative – or not.

Another reason why the Internet is so useful

As it appears to be fashionable these days for those in some quarters to denounce modern technology such as social media (ironically, usually doing so via social media, or the internet), let’s take some time out this holiday season to shower praise onto that platform, Youtube. It it is sometimes stated that the younger generation of adults knows little about DIY around the home, lacking the upbringing or training to do anything more challenging than change a light bulb. Sometimes factors such as the decline (in relative terms) of home ownership, or the supposed waning influence of DIY enthusiast Dads and the inadequacies of those much-maligned Millennials, are mentioned. While there is some truth in that, it is also worth noting that it has never been easier to find out ways to learn how to fix problems by firing up the internet and looking for demonstrations on how to solve an issue, such as sorting out a Kindle problem (which I did the other day and trouble-shot a problem), strip wood floors and revarninsh them (same) or clean old antique furniture with boiled linseed oil (ditto). When a gizmo goes wrong, chances are that a guy (it seems to be a man thing) has done a Youtube item about it, and shared it.

Here is an example from a person under the brand name of MrFixIt DIY.

Samizdata quote of the day

Labour is to commission the mini millipede to hold an inquiry into why Labour lost the election. Which is funny really. I mean, everyone else knows exactly why they lost the election. In a recent conversation with one of their number, I was treated to ad hominem attacks for merely pointing out the obvious. They have their fingers in their ears, still believing, despite the evidence to the contrary that they won the argument, that Boris Johnson is an ignorant buffoon and that their economic polices weren’t a pile of shite.

Longrider

Let’s just accept that we live in a low-probability timeline

Continuing my series of “Newspaper headlines mentioning vaguely newsworthy persons that I thought at first sight were jokes but turned out to be literally true”,

Prominent lawyer Jolyon Maugham clubs fox to death while wearing kimono.

Well, I suppose it is traditional to kill foxes on Boxing Day.

Yesterday’s entry: The Attorney General reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”

The Attorney General reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”

Like it says on the tin, here is a video in which Geoffrey Cox reads ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.

No political point is being made. I just thought he read it rather well. If the politics gig doesn’t work out, a more respectable career awaits him as a voiceover artist.

Happy [insert festival of choice here, including but not limited to Christmas and Wednesday] to all our readers.

Do you stand with Maya?

After selling half a billion Harry Potter books, it ought not to be news that J K Rowling has found a bunch of new readers. She has, though. But not all of them are fans. In the last few days twin rivers of praise and obloquy have washed over her for this tweet:

Dress however you please.
Call yourself whatever you like.
Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you.
Live your best life in peace and security.
But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?

#IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill
12:57 PM · Dec 19, 2019

She was referring to the judgement given by the employment judge Mr J Tayler in the employment tribunal case Forstater vs CGD :

The specific belief that the Claimant holds as determined in the reasons, is not a philosophical belief protected by the Equality Act 2010.

Those of you who did not leap to read the 26-page judgement may find it hard to understand what has aroused Ms Rowling’s anger. There are slightly more digestible accounts of the case between Maya Forstater and her former employer, the Centre for Global Development, available from Izzy Lyons in the Telegraph, Gaby Hinsliff in the Guardian, Clive Coleman for the BBC, and Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine‘s blog, the Intelligencer – scroll down to see the part about the Forstater case. I got the link to the actual judgement from Mr Sullivan’s article.

So, do I stand with Maya?

Er, sort of. I’m kind of hovering sympathetically in the same general area without getting too close. The tragedy is that the debate we are getting is not once but twice removed from the debate we should be having. Should Maya Forstater be free to say what she thinks about the issue of whether transwomen are women? Yes, a thousand times yes. I would fight that battle gladly. Should the Centre for Global Development be free to impose restrictions on the speech of its employees as a condition of their employment? Yes in Libertaria, but in the real life UK… it’s complicated. Are transwomen “really” women? That question is subjective. The attempt to make it a matter of law does nothing but breed hatred. Yet at present all discussion of transgender people quickly becomes lost in an impenetrable maze of competing definitions of womanhood. The one issue that this futile discussion settles is which banner one marches under in the transgenderism wars, when there never needed to be sides at all.

The forgotten defence of the Falklands

April 2, 1982 is a date seared into my memory, for that was the day that Argentina invaded the Falklands: British sovereign territory. (Or should that be European sovereign territory? Not quite sure.) Anyway, it happened and it was humiliating and doubtless felt just as keenly in Paris as in London.

As we all know the islands were soon recaptured but I’ve always been curious as to what happened in that initial defence on April 2. All I’ve “known” is that the defenders were massively outnumbered and it was all over pretty quickly, there was no defence to the last man and only one Argentine was killed. Was it really that perfunctory?

Well, according to Ricky D. Phillips in The First Casualty it wasn’t, not by a long chalk.

According to the Royal Marine garrison they (and, ahem, “others”) put up the best defence possible, despite being outnumbered 100 to 1. In doing so the defenders managed to kill 60 Argentines, knock out one tracked vehicle and one landing craft. All that for no British casualties which is all the more remarkable when you consider that there is an awful lot of talk in the book about incoming fire being “heavy and accurate” and that the Marines’ plan started to go wrong more or less immediately.

So, why haven’t we heard this story? Why didn’t we hear it at the time? And why the continuing confusion over something as seemingly straightforward as the body count?

Phillips tries to answer this. One of the problems is the fog of war. Perhaps that should be the “smoke of war”. What colour was that smokebomb he asks? One eyewitness says white, another purple, other answers include red, yellow and green. Multiply that sort of confusion over something so simple a few times and you end up with a lot of uncertainty. And this is a small engagement involving small numbers over a short period of time.

The Argentine dictatorship had no interest in publicising a story of substantial Argentine losses – a position that persists to this day. British officialdom, on the other hand, were in no position to count although Falkland Islanders saw plenty of “Erics”, as they came to term dead Argentines.

When it comes to why it has taken so long for the story to come out Phillips theorises that the British government wanted to curry favour with world opinion. I am not sure I buy that, surely a story of stout defence would indicate to the world that you care?

Perhaps a clue lies in the reaction of a fellow Samizdatista at the time. While I was incandescent with rage, he could not believe that Britain was attempting to retake the islands. For a lot of Britons – especially those at the Foreign Office – who had gone through the loss of Empire it must have seemed like just another chapter in a familiar story. For us younger ones, if felt like there was a principle at stake and an important one at that. Mind you, as Phillips points out Argentines felt just as strongly.

I suspect that the Foreign Office was all ready to dole out a story of capitulation. It took time for Margaret Thatcher to make it clear that that wasn’t going to happen and by that time there were bigger issues than the honour of the Falklands’ defenders.

The First Casualty is not without its lighter moments. For instance, Argentine troops were bewildered when it turned out that the “liberated” Falkland Islanders didn’t speak Spanish. More amusing is the tale of a wizened old Admiral being brought in to look at the invasion plans. “Fascinating,” he said, “now where are your plans for taking London.” They thought he was mad. He thought they were mad. And, as it turned out, he was right.

Some – mainly Wikipedia editors – have questioned Phillips’s credibility. All I can say is that if it’s a pack of lies it’s a good one. There is a lot of detail, a lot of thought and a lot of doubt.