The Sins of the News of the World

At the Social Affairs Unit, Dalrymple points out an overlooked fact about the British media’s cell phone hacking scandal: that the journalistic goldmine of valuable information sought therein consisted of….celebrity gossip:
Indeed, it takes something of an effort in Britain to avoid this drivel, for it has invaded, and in some cases almost taken over, our supposedly more serious newspapers. In rather more cultivated times, this cynically-produced drivel might have been designated prolefeed, but now in Britain intelligent and educated people demonstrate their sympathy for the unintelligent and uneducated by sharing their tastes. There is no form of empathy that appears more sincere than imitation.
In Britain we have completely lost sight of the proper place of vulgarity in the moral and cultural economy. We have made it king when it should be court jester. It is funny and valuable only when it mocks pretensions to gentility and recalls cultivated people to the limitations of their earthbound condition. Without a contrast with something else, something that is not itself vulgar, it becomes merely unpleasant, crude and stupid. In these circumstances it exerts a corrosive effect on minds and manners because, while it takes no effort at all to be vulgar and unrefined where vulgarity and lack of refinement are almost universal, it takes effort to be urbane and refined.

34 thoughts on “The Sins of the News of the World

  1. Gavin

    A great article again from TD here. I love the way he speaks directly against political correctness, which nefariously instructs that Britain is the same as it ever was and that those who object to vulgarity are themselves at fault.

    He doesn’t care about this, and rightly so. He describes Britain entirely accurately and holds fast to his values. It is only people who have the confidence to do this who will save Britain, if it can now be saved at all.

    The fact is that vulgarity is prevalent in London now to such a degree that one cannot be among the general public for more than a matter of minutes before the F word is heard being used for no particular reason, and every minor outing results in an affront of one kind or another. Yesterday, for example, I witnessed a lady typing on her laptop computer being interrupted by a “man-boy”/”kidult” who declared loudly “You’re looking at porn!” (without even seeing her screen) and then walked off laughing at his own witticism. Not very serious compared with the stabbings and shootings, but for American readers certainly indicative that “British reserve” is now virtually non-existent (and where it is found is often considered worthy of ridicule rather than respect).

    As for David Cameron, it’s hard to regard him as a conservative since his proposed solution for Britain’s societal problems is a “more muscular liberalism”. He seems to try to be all things to all people rather than doing what is right. I think we remember another leader not so long ago who did that and who ended up the least popular Prime Minister ever..

  2. Louise

    The most vulgar bunch of people I have encountered consisted of medical students from Dr Dalrymple’s alma mater. But they only behaved badly because the untermenschen somehow hypnotised them into doing so.

    Btw,Re the f word, I regard the word ‘slut’ as equally unpleasant and vulgar but your messiah – Dr Dalrymple seems rather fond of it.

    ‘it is only wrong if I say it is.’

  3. Jackson

    And “slutishness” I presume. Well, you may have a point. It’s interesting, I usually put the writing of TD between myself and people, it’s one of my main ways of getting the measure of them.
    Perhaps he is sometimes unnecessarily provocative, maybe often so.

    It’s telling how people concentrate with an intensity on anything that might slander TD to the exclusion of extemely important insights.

    In my teens and esp twenties, I was often very ‘depressed’ (unhappy); I did see a psychiatrist, I was not impressed, he offered me some medication but I wasn’t interested. I was in some ways responsible for my condition; but mainly, rightly or wrongly, I blamed society; discovering the writing of Dalrymple has been like bias confirmation I suppose.

    Obviously I think it’s dispicable that people should be more angry with TD than with the perpetrators of the wickedness that he writes about.

  4. Jackson

    “And what it thought would interest its potential readers is vulgar and salacious tittle-tattle about celebrities, whose very celebrity itself was often a manifestation of a debased culture, whose main feature is the willing, indeed highly determined, suspension of intelligence.”

    When I see the magazines and newspapers in the supermarket it seems surreal… jaw-dropping.
    Simplistic and prone to error perhaps, but the main criteria by which I judge people (other than obvious psychopathology, I suppose) is their attitude toward sex, caveat libido.

    Allegedly, by his own admission, Clegg was promiscuous. Yes, people should be able to put such things behind them and move on, in the political liberal
    sense, Clegg has not moved on, and people wonder why he has betrayed them… he was a bit, maybe quite a lot, of an ‘Alfie’, what did they expect.

    Tenuously related
    When Will’s Met Kate (alternative version)

    Roughly – St Andrew’s – day after fashion show.

    Will – (to Kate) Why didn’t you model in the show, you’re bea… I can’t believe you wouldn’t enter, why?

    Kate – (disapproving looks) It’s not my thing.

    Will – but you like fashion, that’s obvious by the way you dress…

    Kate – Oh come on, I think there’s a pretty big difference… look, you must know something about the sheer scale of the cosmetics industry, girls killing themselves to look good… sexy! Pornography on the internet – what does that say about society’s priorities? Yeah, I like nice clothes, but I’ve been brought up to believe a certain amount of old fashioned modesty is very important… I think modelling is mainly vanity and narcissistic.

    Will – (his thoughts) This girl… lady, is too good to be true!

  5. Jay C

    Louise- I think the “f-word” has always been considered coarser than any of the words denouncing a woman’s lack of continence. This is because the f-word is a vulgar way of describing what should be a beautiful and intimate act, while easily-available women and seductresses are the very ones cheapening it; so a conservative may well find it justified to insult them.
    And Dalrymple does not use it frequently- he is more likely to talk of “promiscuity” or “slatterns” or “beastliness” in respect of unrestrained sexual behaviour and the women who choose to engage in it.

  6. Flossie

    The “f-word” should be saved for very special occasions. And when Our Theodore uses words like “slattern” and “sluttish,” he’s just hearkening back to the Victorian times he finds so fascinating.

  7. Clinton

    Yes Louise, I think Jackson and almost everyone here knows that Dalrymple was a psychiatrist. I’m not sure why you think otherwise regarding Jackson.

    I think few people would regard the f-word as equally offensive as slut. You may not like the latter word, but doesn’t there need to be some term to condemn excessive promiscuity?

  8. Clinton

    Jackson, just a couple of hours ago I was in the supermarket checkout line marveling at the celebrity magazines’ front-page stories. “Chloe” and “Lamar” are having a rough time! “Brad” and “Sara” overcame their challenges!

    Apparently, I am expected to recognize these non-entities by their first names, and care about their kaleidoscopic relationships.

  9. Louise

    I was responding to the following:

    “In my teens and esp twenties, I was often very ‘depressed’ (unhappy); I did see a psychiatrist, I was not impressed, he offered me some medication but I wasn’t interested. I was in some ways responsible for my condition; but mainly, rightly or wrongly, I blamed society; discovering the writing of Dalrymple has been like bias confirmation I suppose.”

    It seems odd to me that a fellow should express such extreme admiration for another and then proceed to malign his medical specialism.

    Unless, of course, he has access to information that I don’t and the good doctor was, throughout his career, acting as an agent provocateur for the anti-psychiatry movement. Which, as the Americans would probably say is ‘like so totally cool!’

    “I think few people would regard the f-word as equally offensive as slut. You may not like the latter word, but doesn’t there need to be some term to condemn excessive promiscuity?”

    Isn’t promiscuity excessive by its very nature?  And if one cannot find an alternative word then one should ‘get thee to a thesaurus’.

  10. Clinton

    Though a psychiatrist, Dalrymple is critical of much psychiatric practice, saying “the patient pretends to be ill, and the doctor pretends to treat him.” (Even were this not true, it would still be possible, of course, for Jackson to know that Dalrymple is a psychiatrist, be unimpressed by psychiatry, but still admire his writing.)

    Thank you for agreeing with me about the excess of promiscuity. Of course there are other words to describe it, and Dalrymple has used them as well.

  11. Louise

    A medical specialism that offers its practitioners financial remuneration for ‘the patient pretending to be ill and the doctor pretending to treat them’?

    What quackery is that?

    Oh, and I was highlighting a tautology.

  12. Clinton

    Happy to see you accept the point Jackson and Dalrymple make. Progress in bridging our differences!

    And what you were really doing is continuing your search for something to argue about. Which is OK, a good argument can be fun.

    I assume you are an Englishwoman offended by our echoing of Dalrymple’s criticism of English society?

  13. Gavin

    Louise, trivial pedantry is rarely admired. Jackson’s second paragraph is highly relevant here: “It’s telling how people concentrate with an intensity on anything that might slander TD to the exclusion of extemely important insight”.

  14. Gavin

    Many thousands of people find themselves living among the akrasia (to use Aristotle’s term) that Dalrymple describes. It is a blight on their lives. The worst thing such people can hear is a denial that such problems even exist (usually from those who have no familiarity with them – as Galsworthy said “Idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem”). This somewhat adds insult to injury.

    By the same token, a very good thing to hear is that people see the same things, even if they’re bleak – it cheers you up! I have heard the same thing said about music (that listening to sad music while we’re sad makes us happy, while happy music seems like a different language). This is just one of the qualities to be found in Dalrymple’s fine writing (which is often genuinely humorous too).

  15. Gavin

    Clint, you’ve got to get with the portmanteaus – a few being “Bradgelina”, “Bennifer” and “Robsten” 😉

  16. Jay C

    Akolasia is another one. Most of the people he describes as vulgar and lacking sophrosyne probably don’t even know the difference between licentiousness and incontinence though…

    True enough also that most liberals live in academic ivory towers: one Dalrymple piece on prostitution in the New Criterion mentioned how he may have taken Maupassant’s broadly romantic view of it had he not dealt with the reality of wrinkled, moribund, palfium-addicted specimens in his professional life

  17. Louise

    “had he not dealt with the reality of wrinkled, moribund, palfium-addicted specimens in his professional life”

    AKA the mentally ill. Oh dear.

  18. Jackson

    Oh dear… I checked, what seemed like some time, after having posted my comments and breathed a slight sigh relief when I saw they hadn’t been posted; I go on my digressions and often have difficulty expressing myself.

    If it wasn’t obvious when I said ‘bias confirmation’ I wasn’t talking about the the practice of psychiatry, I was talking about society.

    The psychiatrist I saw (once, prior to that I’d had weekly meetings with a mental health nurse) was perhaps having a bad… errm career, this was in Britain afterall.

    Now, call me a coward… but I refuse to see what the response, if any, to my ‘Wills met Kate’ thing…
    I was actually rather moved by the coverage of the wedding. They, what little I know about them, seem to be as about as nice a couple as I suppose you could reasonably expect.

    But I say too much already, again.

  19. Jay C

    The majority of prostitutes are not mentally ill and never claim to be. In the TD article I refer to they were in prison, not hospital, and were mainly incarcerated for persistent acquisitive crime. And even if prostitution is the desperate resort of those who are too damaged to work in a job requiring compliance with societal norms, that would only confirm TD’s point that a romantic view of it and other forms of social pathology is very much mistaken.
    I describe them as wrinkled and moribund because this is what they are- as a result of the toxins they fill their bodies with. It is not an apposite description of an average schizophrenic. You don’t even need to work with prostitutes to see how “glamorous” it really is; in broad daylight two weeks ago in a large English city, a woman was expostulating loudly while she clasped her can of super strong lager, clad only in a red negligee.

    I am aware of the complex linkages between drug addiction, mental illness, childhood abuse and domestic violence; the same poor individuals have been victims of all four, starting when they leave home early to escape an abusive parent- or, in cases where social services have intervened, the care home full of unruly adolescents with similar problems. They are then easy prey for exploitative and violent men, and often become dependent upon the drugs or alcohol they use to block past memories with deleterious effects on their mental wellbeing; this complicates the resentment, anger and difficulties with social interaction that their upbringings have already instilled.

  20. Jackson

    Yeah Clinton, you’re so ignorant! Beyonce has atleast two identities, by the way… Sasha Fierce being the other; I think Beyonce is the ‘Real Me’ of the two.

    “Violent criminals often use an expression auxiliary to “My head went” when explaining their deeds: “It wasn’t me.” Here is the psychobabble of the slums, the doctrine of the “Real Me” as refracted through the lens of urban degradation. The Real Me has nothing to do with the phenomenal me, the me that snatches old ladies’ bags, breaks into other people’s houses, beats up my wife and children, or repeatedly drinks too much and gets involved in brawls. No, the Real Me is an immaculate conception, untouched by human conduct: it is that unassailable core of virtue that enables me to retain my self-respect whatever I do.”

    TD The Knife Went In

  21. Clinton

    Jackson, I apologize if we missed one of your comments. We have been getting a lot of spam lately, and sometimes the real comments get lost amongst the offers for Viagra and weight loss pills. Your comments are welcome and always worth reading.

  22. Gavin

    I hate to be politically incorrect, but let’s not forget the so-called “high class” call girls who in are fact greedy women who make an absolute fortune from renting out their bodies to lonely men in order that they may fund lavish lifestyles. It may be an awkward fact for feminists but it’s true nonetheless that not all prostitutes are pimped out by dodgy men; some go into prostitution as a career move and defend it to the hilt. They make in excess of £300 per hour. Who’s being exploited here? Seems to me the men, if anyone. And before it is suggested, no I have never visited one.

  23. Jay C

    Yes, these are a small constituency among what the academy now call sex workers. For every respectueuse or demi-mondaine, there are probably at least a hundred peripateticiennes; most of these fit the set of circumstances I describe. Dalrymple’s point in his essay was that literature (before the degradation of the late 20th century) put forward this “high class” prostitution as representative of most human experience, and thus suggested that selling one’s body is not a disgusting or degrading activity.

    The worst exploiters then would be the dominatrices (is that plural correct? It’s a relatively new word, so should we follow the Latin or English protocol?) They cajole some very respectable and highly paid men into satisfying them (I won’t describe exactly how) , submitting to their “punishment” and “confessing” sexual misdemeanours in extenso. JS Mill may have known a few…

  24. Jackson

    Oh, no need to apologise, I’m all over the place, I don’t expect people to keep track… ‘welcome, and always worth reading’ Oh dear, you may regret that.

  25. Louise

    I do not seek to be ‘admired’.

    As for ‘slander’, unless you are in Scotland, you probably mean libel. I said nothing that was untrue and I cannot be held accountable for the actions of others.


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