Sense and Sentimentality

Dalrymple recently participated in a panel discussion on crime, in which a female former prisoner described herself as a pure victim of chance. Notably, he responded not at all during the discussion, but afterward in New English Review:

This is the kind of emotional pabulum which it is very difficult to answer in public. The woman, who went round the country giving this speech, was clearly a reformed character and so her belief that she was not a bad person, in the sense of being irredeemably the Devil’s spawn, was perfectly true. To have pointed out the contradictions in her story would therefore have seemed like an attack on her person rather than on her argument and would have been a rhetorical mistake as far as gaining the sympathy of the audience was concerned. In any case I am not a ruthless person and would not have wanted to humiliate a person who, whatever the falsity of her argument, was almost certainly somewhat fragile but who had nevertheless made a creditable transition. It is much easier for me to write about her in anonymity than to have confronted her directly; but my scruple about confronting her directly, which I am sure I share with many others who appear in public with her, meant that she could continue unopposed to spread her fundamentally dishonest or at least sentimental gospel around the country. And what is unopposed unfortunately tends to go by default. Silence is taken for acceptance or agreement.

Let us examine the ways in which what she said was evasive…

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