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]

Samizdata quote of the day – national suicide pact edition

Ending fossil-fuel consumption now would be a disaster. It would obliterate our already weak energy security, subjecting households and industry to exorbitant energy costs and unreliable supplies. Travel would be severely limited. The farming industry would be gutted by restrictions on fertiliser use and farm vehicles, threatening food security. Last year, we saw the devastating impact these kinds of green farming policies can have in Sri Lanka, where food production was devastated.

Regrettably, for all the antagonistic posturing of Tory politicians and eco-activists alike, the political class and XR already agree on many issues. Britain is already committed to Net Zero. There are legally binding targets to decarbonise the UK by 2050. And the dire impact of this policy can already be seen in the persistent threat of blackouts and the broader energy-supply crisis. A further acceleration of Net Zero, as demanded by XR, would only accelerate the damage that is already being done.

Lauren Smith

Samizdata quote of the day – pessimism edition

Surely no year could be as bad as 2020, which had seen families sundered, schools closed and businesses destroyed in a hysterical over-reaction. After all, by December 2020, the second lockdown had ended and the UK had begun its vaccine rollout. The new year, it seemed safe to assume, would see a return to normality.

Boy, did we get that wrong. On 6 January 2021, another lockdown was imposed. It lasted, in one form or another, until July – and, even then, a noisy coalition of public sector unions, BBC panic-mongers, skivers, malingerers and mask-fetishists fought to prolong it.

The original justification for the restrictions had collapsed by April 2020. Sweden, which stuck to the plan that the UK had prepared in cooler-headed times, saw its cases peak and fall in line with everyone else’s, and now turns out to have had the lowest excess death rate of any OECD state.

But, by 2021, dirigisme had taken on a force of its own, and lockdowns were a policy in search of a rationale. “Flatten the curve” became “Protect the NHS”, then “Wait for the rollout”, then “Stop new variants”, then “Yeah, but Long Covid”.

Daniel Hannan (£) on how mankind experienced 65 years of progress towards peace, democracy and the rule of law, but now a new age of illiberalism beckons

British political tweeting

Y’know, for a minute I hesitated to post this when I am feeling such sadness over Niall’s death. Then I thought, don’t be daft, woman, he’d have enjoyed it. In particular, as a lover of Scottish, English and British history and the complicated interactions between the three categories, he would have liked Gawain Towler’s comment to Lawrence Whittaker’s tweet: “Enough time to get married I guess.”

Niall Kilmartin has died

A couple of hours ago, Niall Kilmartin’s wife telephoned me with terrible news. Last night, Niall suffered a heart attack and a stroke. He was rushed to hospital but died during the night. Niall was my dear friend for more than forty years, a friend to my husband for even longer, and to my children for all their lives.

I know he valued Samizdata immensely. Read the comments that he made yesterday to my previous post. As ever they are full of wonderful scholarship and commitment to truth. I can hardly make myself believe that we will not continue the conversation in this life.

May he rest in peace.

A young Frenchwoman says “I don’t like America that much”

Allowing for the fact that she is speaking a language foreign to her, I think she has a point.

A speakeasy for archaeologists

“Stone Age Herbalist” is a pseudonym adopted out of necessity by someone who wants to practise an activity condemned by respectable society: scientific archaeology. Their piece for Unherd is called “The Rise of Archaeologists Anonymous”.

Why do these academics seek to do in secret what they used to do openly in the universities? Because academic archaeology has changed:

Historian Wolf Liebeschuetz and archaeologist Sebastian Brather, to pick on just two, have both firmly insisted that archaeology must not, and cannot, be used to trace migrations or identify different ethnic groups in prehistory. To quote from Liebeschuetz’s 2015 book, East and West in Late Antiquity: “Archaeology can trace cultural diffusion, but it cannot be used to distinguish between peoples, and should not be used to trace migration. Arguments from language and etymology are irrelevant.”

At a stroke, this line of reasoning would essentially abolish several centuries of work unravelling the thread of movements and evolution of the Indo-European peoples and languages, not to mention the post-Roman Germanic Migration Period, Anglo-Saxon invasions, Polynesian and Bantu Expansions and almost all major changes in the human record.

and

This became clearer than ever following the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, which saw archaeology departments and professional bodies across the world fall over themselves to pledge curriculum “decolonisation” and an explicit commitment to politicising the discipline. To quote from the “’The Future of Archaeology Is Antiracist’: Archaeology in the Time of Black Lives Matter”, published in American Antiquity:

“Consequently, Black archaeology has been and must remain purposeful in practice. It rejects research and practices defined in sterile, binary terms of objective-subjective positionality. Archaeology at historic Black sites must be conducted with an explicit politics… To the field of archaeology, it serves as a moral guide with the potential to elucidate historical wrongs and explore forms of contemporary redress.”

Progressivism, the shield against Covid

This tweet by “the Rabbit Hole” is possibly the most damning, and the funniest, single image of media double standards I have ever seen:

In case someone else buys Twitter and it goes away, the image shows matched pairs of headlines from Vox, the Washington Post, Forbes, ABC News, the Insider, CNN, CNBC, the New York Times, the Verge and the AP. Every one of these outlets decided to run essentially the same pair of stories a few months apart. Taking but two examples,

The Insider said “Don’t blame Black Lives Matter protests for the spike in coronavirus cases across the US” and “The Capitol insurrection seems to have caused a superspreader event among lawmakers. Some Republicans refused to mask up.”

The Verge said, “Blaming protesters for COVID-19 spread ignores the bigger threats to health” and “COVID-19 cases in the Capitol are only the tip of the iceberg.”

And so on for the rest of them.

I can remember a time when if separate reports written by many different journalists in a whole bunch of famous newspapers and TV channels all said the same thing, it made me more likely to believe them.

Happy Soviet Collapse Day!

Today is the 31st anniversary of the dissolution of the USSR, one of the most delightful events in history. Hopefully within the next 30 years Russia will be back to its 1263 borders 😀

Introducing the Samizdata Awards!

It’s that time of year. Everything slows down and between the overeating, disappointing presents and family rows we have the opportunity to take stock and reflect on the year that has (almost) been.

And that means an opportunity to give a thought to those who have done the most in the fight against evil and communism. To this end I am introducing – on no one’s authority other than my own – the Samizdata Awards.

I propose the following categories. But please feel free to propose your own. We are libertarians after all. We believe that growing the awards pie is more important than how that pie is distributed. So:

  • Second-best Man of the Year
  • Post of the Year
  • Meme of the Year
  • Comment of the Year
  • Fascist of the Year

I was going to have a “Man of the Year” but I think that one’s has been taken. “I need ammunition not a ride” may not have the poetry of “We’ll fight them on the beaches” but its galvanising effect was – and is – identical. But I am expecting some keen competition to be runner-up. My nomination is Toby Young. He does Daily Sceptic. He does the Free Speech Union. He does a podcast with James Delingpole. Indeed, he is still on speaking terms with Delingpole which shows unusual fortitude or possibly unusual greed.

Come to think of it I think “Fascist of the Year” is also spoken for. But who is the Reichsmarshall to Putin’s Führer? Nominations include Nadine Dorries, the FBI, anyone fired by Elon Musk and the University of Cambridge. But I am sure you can think of some of your own.

In the Post of the Year – and I apologize for the lack of levity – I propose this. It changed my mind on something and at my age that is a rare pleasure.

I think it only fair to point out that there will be no glitzy awards ceremony. There will be no tacky, gold-plated statuettes. There will be no expensive clothes, hairdos or coke habits. There will be very little vapidity or hypocrisy – deaths due to nuclear power little. At best we’ll have some recognition for those who’ve done some good; at worst an ever more fractious comment thread involving Paul Marks on some completely unrelated subject – probably Bitcoin.

God rest ye Merry Gentlemen

If anything, our modern puritans are worse. At least the stiff folk of the 17th century believed reducing bodily pleasure would help expand the spirit, get one closer to God. The new puritans offer no such spiritual transcendence in return for our curbing of our blowouts – only the bovine payback of a slightly smaller waistline.

We eat around 6,000 calories on Christmas Day, disgusted experts say. We can do better than that. Start with a Buck’s Fizz breakfast; don’t scrimp on the Christmas-tree chocs; make brunch a sozzled, carb-heavy mix of your first beer and some Christmas panettone; everything for dinner should be cooked in turkey fat; follow that with a 1,174-cal slice of Christmas pudding; end with more booze and a selection box you don’t pick at but consume entirely. We can beat 6,000 calories. We owe it to old England and the original spirit of Christmas.

Brendan O’Neill (£)

I’m up for embracing your admonition, Brendan, going to give it a serious try. Have a Merry Christmas all.

Arrested for her thoughts

This video of a woman called Isabel Vaughan-Spruce being arrested for praying silently in Birmingham has gone viral. The version to which I link is from the Daily Caller. I have written my own transcription of the dialogue below. It differs from the subtitles provided by the Daily Caller in minor ways, mostly related to British police and legal terminology.

*

“Um, before I ask you any questions about what’s going on today, I have to caution you, which is just your rights, which is you do not have to say anything. It may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something that you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. What are you here for today?”
“Physically, I’m just standing here.”
“OK. Why here of all places? I know you don’t live nearby.”
“But this is an abortion centre.”
“OK. That’s why you’re stood here – because you standing here is part of a protest?”
“No. I’m not protesting.”
“Are you praying?”
“I might be praying in my head, not out loud.”

“So, I’ll ask once more, will you voluntarily come with us now to the police station for me to ask you some questions about today and other days where there are allegations that you’ve broken Public Spaces Protection Orders?”
“If I’ve got a choice, then no.”
“OK, well, then you’re under arrest upon suspicion of failing to comply with the Public Spaces Protection Order, which is under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014. Now, I caution you again, you do not have to say anything. You may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something that you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand the caution?”
“I do, yes.”
“Your arrest is necessary in order for a prompt and effective investigation
into the offence. What that means is that I can ask you some questions [inaudible phrase]. I also have to protect vulnerable people, mainly service users, in the building. OK, so will you come please now to the police station. You’ll get booked in front of the custody sergeant, and then if you want a solicitor, you can have a solicitor [inaudible phrase]. OK? I don’t intend to handcuff you, but obviously my colleague will search you because we’re going to get into a police car and I need to make sure that you don’t have anything you could use to harm us or you could use to [inaudible phrase]”

*

She was then searched by a policewoman. I doubt the policeman was really that worried that Ms Vaughan-Spruce might harm him or his female colleague. To be fair to him, he was reasonably polite and even sounded a bit embarrassed. However he made it quite clear that the question he had to ask in order to decide whether to arrest her was whether she was silently praying, i.e. what was going on in her mind. He would not have had to ask if she had been praying out loud.

→ Continue reading: Arrested for her thoughts

Samizdata quote of the day – intolerance for tolerance

Like so many things on the left, they went from asking us to tolerate something to demanding we celebrate it.

Roger Williams