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Populism is just resistance

The US economy is having a Wile E Coyote moment | Financial Times

 

 

I am mystified by the the word “populism”. What is the opposite of populism? Elitism? Does the term ‘populism’ have any use other than as an insult? What is the matter with pursuing policies that have the support of most of the people? Does a carbon tax become a populist measure if it is opposed by most people, but remains a sensible proposal if supported by centrist parties or the elites?

The term is like smoke. It has no substance. We may feel we know what it means, but it means anything the Left says it means. Mostly it means people or policies they don’t like.

A constitutionally elected Prime Minister like the Hungarian Viktor Orban is described as an ‘authoritarian’, yet he holds a majority in the Hungarian Parliament, and would be out of power if he lost a majority in the house.  A ruthless dictator like Putin is described as an ‘authoritarian’, yet he hardly refers to or depends on the Russian Duma at all. A Prime Minister of Canada holds a majority in the House of Commons thanks to an parliamentary coalition with the fourth largest party.  He seeks to pass legislation crushing the possibility of free expression on the Internet, through a revised Broadcasting Act that makes most Internet expression into a state-licensed activity, and by an on-line harms bill, which says that only certain groups can be offended, and further seeks to control the press by a scheme of compulsory compensation from the large platforms to Canadian newspapers on conditions approved by the CRTC. Does Trudeau escape being labelled an authoritarian because he leaves speech control to regulatory agencies? Or because he effectively emotes a false compassion? It is a mystery.

 

Simon Jenkyns writes in the Guardian that

The message is that party is being supplanted by personality and identity. As relative prosperity rises, voters are taking recourse in prejudice and emotional security. They can distrust outsiders. They can hate globalists, parliamentarians, bureaucrats and liberals, however defined. They want to feel control over their own lives…This populism has torn the left-right spectrum apart.

It is not Simon Jenkyns’ finest article; but he is trying to warn the Left of the seriousness of the opposition to elite consensus politics. What Jenkyns and other self-styled progressives are trying to warn about is that issues are going to be contested in the next few years as they have not been since the 1970s or perhaps since the 1930s. Inflation, the COVID shut down, the lies about vaccines (safe! effective! mandatory!), global warming catastrophism (carbon neutral policies, taxes,  subsidizing electric cars, messing with people’s access to heating fuels), gender policy, LGBTQQ+ and its attendant speech controls: the vast panoply of governmental management of the economy, nudging of behaviour and thought control is shortly to be contested. The political elites have engaged in grotesque over-reach and, like Wile E. Coyote treading air over the desert floor, they are showing signs they know they may have gone too far.

 

 

 

 

40% of science writing is junk: the replication crisis

An article by Peter Shawn Taylor in the C2C Journal covers the replication crisis in science. The result is in the title above: 39, not forty, percent of what is touted to be science is not reproducible. “Study shows”. That means that important assertions of science in every field, particularly politically important fields, such as climate change, or classes of inquiry, such as systemic racism, are false.

As regards social psychology (viz the Staley Milgram experiments in inducing people to administer shocks to others), the man who studied the field, Augustine Brannigan wrote:

 

“They are all very entertaining studies, and they ask some really interesting questions,” admits Brannigan. These dramatic “high-impact” experiments are also hugely influential, occupying large sections of undergraduate textbooks and representing the very foundations of the field. “But as science, they’re terrible,” Brannigan says. “Much of what passes for science in social psychology is just morality in an experimental idiom.” Asked what such a revelation might mean for the future of the discipline, he retorts, “If the entire field were to disappear overnight, I don’t think the world would be any worse for it.”

Taylor concludes:

If there’s an overarching message arising from the replication crisis beyond the fate of social psychology, it’s that relentlessly questioning all scientific work is the most effective cure for bad science. This includes scrutinizing new and flashy claims as soon as they are unveiled as well as re-evaluating long-accepted ideas that have already gained status as scientific certainty. Along with renewed emphasis on tough and unsentimental scientific replication must also come more rigorous fact-checking by scientific journals and a less chummy attitude towards the peer review process, with more emphasis on “review” and less on “peer.”

Why you don’t get to vote on the woke revolution

From Zero Hedge:

In fairness, broad swaths of the culture always operate and evolve outside of politics. The world of ideas and entertainment – the books we read, movies we watch, groups we join – must never be subject to electoral will. But the woke revolution feels different. First, it is an explicitly political ideology that is, at bottom, about power. Second, it is remarkably ambitious: It seeks a wholesale transformation of America’s past, present and future. Third, while some of its ideas resonate with plenty of people, it is a top-down movement that seeks to impose aien ways of thinking and being on everyone – hence the rise of cancel culture and other illiberal mechanisms to silence and punish those who fail to conform.

One of the great paradoxes of the social justice movement is that even as it claims to fight inequality, it is itself a reflection of the growing inequality in America: both of wealth and culture. Like most revolutions, it is not led by the downtrodden but by the elites. It is not the person of color on the streets but the swells at the top (most of them white) who are imposing the new order.

Although it might seem that the woke revolution erupted in 2020 with George Floyd’s murder, or with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement following Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, its intellectual framework – which includes critical race theory, postmodernism, anti-colonialism, black power and queer/gender studies – emerged at America’s universities in the 1960s and 1970s. Heavily influenced by Marxism, leftist scholars suffered a crisis of confidence after communism was discredited 30 years ago as the Soviet Union collapsed. In response, activist academics essentially repackaged their old ideas. They still saw politics as a zero-sum battle between oppressors and the oppressed, with themselves in the moral vanguard, but they replaced the concept of class with new identity markers: racial and sexual identity. The struggle was no longer between capitalists and the proletariat, but privileged “cisgendered heteronormative” whites versus the rest of humanity.

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Communism is alive and well, it has just dropped the nonsense of Marxism which was its only link to reality, however wrong it was. – Dalwhinnie

The Internet is broadcasting, therefore let us regulate!

The new Broadcasting Act, Bill C10, may be stymied in the Senate of Canada, but the actual content of its policy objectives has just been released. Heritage Canada has published “Guiding Principles on Diversity of Content online”. The Guiding Principles have several advantages over the policy objectives of section 3 of the Broadcasting Act. They are not legislated, they can be revised and adapted according to the how the technologies or the societies that adopt them evolve, and they have no legally binding force. They have only the force of the large platforms to back them, if they sign on to the Guiding Principles.

It was Tim Wu in The Master Switch who pointed out that the structure of an industry mattered a lot more than any other factor in determining whether there could be censorship. Vertical integration of the movie-making business with distribution and movie theaters meant that the censors could govern the industry through the code of conduct, one that lasted from Mae West in the 1930s to Easy Rider in the 1960s.

The basic idea of the Guiding Principles is the achievement of diversity, equity and inclusion. It is a set of principles that its signatories are expected to work towards. The most important signatories will be the Internet platforms, because without their compliance, the Principles will be mere hot air.

The private sector companies to which the guiding principles are to apply particularly include “services operating online, whose primary purpose is to broadcast or distribute content or share user-generated content online.” Governments, media sector representatives, regulators and civil society organizations are likewise to be included as signatories.

The goal is to promote diversity on-line, understood as

  • Creation access and discoverability of diverse content online
  • Fair remuneration and economic viability of content creators
  • Promotion of diverse, pluralistic sources of news and information as well as resilience against disinformation and misinformation
  • Transparency of the impacts if algorithmic treatments of online content.

 

Signatories are to agree to implement these goals within the scope of their responsibilities and to develop specific commitments by December 2022 at the latest, to show concrete actions they will take to implement these guiding objectives”.

There follow a number of principles which assume, as a matter of fact, that

  1. There are “equity deserving groups” whose access is limited
  2. Hate, racial prejudice, disinformation and misinformation “can disproportionately affect indigenous people and equity deserving groups”.
  3. “Equity deserving individuals and groups” are defined as those facing significant barriers to participation in different facets of society, a marginalization that could be created by attitudinal, historic, social, economic, legal and environmental obstacles.

Having seen the cartoons of the kids of various heights standing on boxes of various heights to see the baseball game over a wooden fence, “equity” may reasonably be interpreted to mean active measures to overcome the consequences of inequalities, natural or artificial. The term ‘equity’ involves, in modern parlance, an ongoing governmental interference to achieve goals that might not otherwise be achieved in the absence of governmental actions.

The Principles are organized around themes:

  • Creation access and discoverability of content
  • Fair remuneration and economic viability of content creators
  • Promotion of diverse, pluralistic sources of news and information as well as resilience against disinformation and misinformation
  • Transparency of the impacts of algorithmic treatments of online content.

 

The last-mentioned goal says that “content recommendation algorithms and their developers should minimize potential systemic biases and discrimination in outcome, related to such things as race, sexual orientation, gender identity and ability.”

Content recommendation algorithms now seek to interest me in what is related to what I have previously expressed an interest in. If I have expressed interest in videos of Andrew Camarata fixing bulldozers, the algorithm is likely to recommend other machine-oriented males fixing tractors, chainsaws, and building log cabins. Inevitably the algorithms will direct me to things of interest to males, such as myself. I imagine the same happens with videos on golf, tastes in music, physics, flower gardens, or cooking, Japanese art or any taste whatever. How then, it may be asked, will an algorithm correct for systemic bias in male oriented videos if I am a male, and female oriented videos if I were female?

The Guiding Principles do not say, but they expect content recommendation systems to “respect freedom of expression in a way that allows for safe and diverse content.” In other words, safety and diversity, as defined by governments or the platforms, are to constrain freedom of expression.

The Guiding Principles are a kind of Broadcasting Act for the Internet, or a set of objectives that the platforms are expected to implement  By this I mean that the system it envisages is systemic, organized, comprehensive, global (as far as Canadians will see) and subject to government regulation, and that in Annex A to this document, the signatories are expected to develop by December 2022 at the latest “concrete actions they will take to complement the guiding principles.  These specific commitments will remain evergreen and continue to evolve”.

The great advantages for the government, in its efforts to regulate the Internet, are that the Principles utterly bypass legislation, need no Parliamentary approval, require the cooperation of the platforms but not of society, and subject large areas of private tastes to algorithmic manipulation.

The Guiding Principles are creepily totalitarian, and yet one imagines the authors of this document think of themselves as being great public benefactors. In order to explain what I mean, I ask you, as a thought experiment, to replace the content of the particular goals to be achieved by the guiding principles. Look at the whole thing, and ask yourself what the document, conceived as a whole, says. It says in short, that speech carried across the Internet is to serve particular purposes. All speech, everywhere, that is carried on the Internet.

Agreement or disagreement with the guiding principles as they are stated is less important than the whole purpose of the document. Take out the language about diversity, equity and inclusion (the new modern woke credo) and replace it, in this thought experiment, with any other set of goals to be achieved. These goals could be anything: the divinity of Christ, the supremacy of the Aryan race, the sanctity of the Roman Church, the triumph of scientific socialism, the grandeur of the Aztec Sky God Huitchilopotchtli, the preservation of the British Empire, or the values of the Enlightenment. So let [x] stand for the content of the Guiding Principles. Forget whether you agree with them or not. Just think of the Guiding Principles as a block of ideas that can be lifted out and replaced with some other set of desiderata. In effect, by calling the Principles an evergreen document, Heritage Canada virtually guarantees that they will be revised in time.

Then perhaps it becomes clearer that my point is not the DEI principles, though they are creepy enough. It is the idea that everything on-line should be aimed at any guiding principle at all.

Would you think it normal that the publishing industry in Canada be enjoined to publish books that exclusively promote a certain political agenda?

Would you think it right that speech across various telephone and voice applications be organized to conduce to the achievement of diversity, equity and inclusion?

To make the point even clearer, I recall the story of a Canadian diplomat who served in the Soviet Union, as it then was, in the Brezhnev era. I asked whether there was freedom of speech in the Soviet Union. He said ‘yes there was, absolute freedom of speech’. I was startled.

-What do you mean absolute freedom of speech?!!

– If you are out on the ice fishing in winter, and in your shelter, and out of range of prying microphones, and talking with people whom you have known all your life or from high school, and you have developed trust over decades, you can talk about anything. And they do. They talk about stuff no one talks about here, like whether Hitler was right to invade Stalin’s USSR, or whether Communism is a pile of crap, or whether the USA is actually imperialist. There is complete freedom of discussion. You just have to be careful with whom and where you share your ideas.

People need to look at the Guiding Principles from this perspective. Canada will have complete freedom of speech. Just not the kind we have been used to. Thank you, Peter Grant.

 

Machinery of Government/broadcasting revolution/future of the Labour party

At the beginning of my career I worked in a section of the Privy Council Office called “machinery of government.” Its religion was “ministerial responsibility”, whereby the Minister was responsible to parliament for the actions of his or her department. In many cases the civil servants escape effective control because they move from job to job faster than their mistakes or errors can be discovered.

What you see below is an interview with a former British Member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell. I wish we had MPs of this quality. In terms of perspicacity, range of thought, eloquence and experience, Carswell is head and shoulders better than almost every Canadian MP. He is one of the few people in parliament to have thought deeply about how government actually works.

He speaks of the Prime Minister sending “charter letters” to Ministers telling them of their mandates – we have this in Canada. But what he adds to this idea is vital. He says the letter should also mandate the civil servants who are expected to stay in the job to assist the Minister for as long as the Minister is in office, so that they cannot transfer out while they are supposed to be getting their job done.

  • The future of the Labour Party – at 27 minutes
  • Boris Johnson and the current government at 28 minutes
  • Problems with the mandarinate and the “quangocracy” at 30 minutes.
  • The broadcasting/digital media revolution at 44 minutes

How I wish we had people of his quality in Canadian politics!