Category Archives: Essays

The Cheapest Insult

The reductio ad Hitlerum is a popular rhetorical technique for dismissing others’ arguments without much reason. In City Journal Dalrymple specifies some of the many problems stemming from its use:

The reductio ad Hitlerum is an argument from historical analogy, and analogy is, by definition, always inexact; otherwise, it would be repetition. As no less a person than Karl Marx put it, “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”—that is, it does not, and cannot, repeat itself exactly. While analogical historical reasoning cannot be altogether eliminated, therefore, it must be used with judgment, discretion, discrimination, and care. History teaches neither nothing nor everything; and it is as dangerous to use it wrongly as to disregard it altogether.

The U.K., radical Islam and the Darren Osbornes among us

Dalrymple had this piece on the Finsbury Park Mosque attack published in the New York Daily News a couple of days ago (somewhat surprising given the paper’s leftist orientation):

I am no Muslim theologian, but Islamic extremists can hardly be blamed for concluding from their religious belief that neither western societies nor western governments are legitimate. Their position is not illogical, given its premises. God, not man, is sovereign; the Koran is the word of God; therefore all that is not derivable from the Koran, or is opposed to it, is evil in the sense of being against God’s sovereignty. Only God has the right to be obeyed, and if he says kill, then kill we must.

This is not a recipe for tolerance, to put it mildly…

Flammable Arrogance

Grenfell Tower, the London skyscraper that recently burned in a fire that killed dozens of people, was a public-sector housing project managed by an essentially public-sector firm that had a history of ignoring its residents’ pleas for fire prevention. So what does Jeremy Corbin blame for the tragedy? Too little government, naturally.

Corbyn says that he is very angry at what happened, which he links to what is known as fiscal austerity—that is, when government spends only 108 percent of tax revenue, instead of the much higher percentage that he favors. He skated over the part played by the public sector in the tragedy…

Will Swiss Self-Rule Ward Off Jihad?

At the Library of Law and Liberty, Dalrymple summarizes two recent books on the presence of Islam in Switzerland: Radicalism in Swiss Mosques: Islamisation, Cultural Jihad and Endless Concessions by Mireille Vallette and Switzerland at the Moment of Brexit: Inquiry into a Strange and Truly Unique Country by Jean-Pierre Richardot.

The contrast between these works—the first evincing alarmism and the second complacency—raises questions of political philosophy about which argument could be endless…

The difference between them might be summarized this way: Monsieur Richardot rejoices more over 99 good Muslim citizens than he worries over one fundamentalist, while Madame Vallette worries more over one fundamentalist than she rejoices over 99 good Muslim citizens. Which of them is right, if an answer to such a question can be deemed correct?

Tattoo Much

After the terrorist attack at her concert in Manchester, pop singer Ariana Grande and her fellow performers have had themselves tattooed with an image of a bee, a symbol of the city. Dalrymple doesn’t see the sense of such a tribute:

In a short time… the tattooed bee will no more conjure up Manchester than a tattooed palm tree would conjure up Antarctica. It will be just another instance, though a minor one, of the inexplicable epidemic of self-abuse that has overtaken the Western world in the past two or three decades. And when Ariana and her sidekicks tire of their compassion, sympathy, etc., they can always have the tattoo removed, for the techniques of removal have improved in tandem with those of putting them on: an example, no doubt, of what the economist Joseph Schumpeter called capitalism’s creative destruction, though tattooing itself is more like an instance of its destructive creation.

Read it here

Britain’s Election Disaster

The recent British election revealed the utter incompetence of Theresa May. But worse than that…

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of the election was the recrudescence of the politics of envy and resentment. This is not to say that there are no genuine or severe problems in the country: the stagnation of productivity, the precariousness of income, the deficiencies in public services, the low cultural and educational level of much of the population, the inadequacy of the housing stock, and so forth. But the only solution ever heard to these problems, which are evident the moment you leave a prosperous area whose residents are likely to vote Conservative, is more government expenditure. Even the Conservatives went in for this, though more mildly than Labour.

Dalrymple at City Journal

A Conversation

There exists in Western society an unmoved constituency who will apparently always believe, despite evidence to the contrary,  that lack of government spending is the cause of all social problems:

The canvasser was a pleasant lady, and I stopped to discuss educational policy with her. Both main political parties think that more money should be allocated to schools. I said that I did not believe that the abysmally low level of education and culture in much of the country was caused by a lack of money. We spend, on average, $100,000 on a child’s education and yet an uncomfortably large proportion of our children leave school with reading and math skills below those stipulated for 11-year-olds. Moreover, the proportion of such people has remained more or less constant for the last 40 years, despite vastly increased expenditure. The problem, therefore, is not lack of funds, as the canvasser’s party pretended that it was, but something much deeper and harder to solve.

Read it here

Clichés and Platitudes

Listening to politicians’ declarations after the latest Muslim terrorist attack in London, Dalrymple hears the same old thing:

May said on this occasion that “enough is enough”—meaning what, exactly? That a little terrorism is acceptable, as if the perpetrators were boisterous children finally being called to order after having been given leeway by the grown-ups?

Things will have to change, she said, without specifying which things. To specify would have been to invite criticism, opposition, opprobrium—and just before an election, no less. Best keep to clichés.

Terror and the Teddy Bear Society

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal carried “Terror and the Teddy Bear Society”, Dalrymple’s op-ed on Islamic terrorism and the Western response, which he calls “creative appeasement”:

Authorities make concessions even before, one suspects, there have been any demands for them…The Birmingham airport has set aside a room for wudu, the Muslim ablutions before prayer. No other religion is catered for in this fashion (nor should they be, in my opinion), so the impression is inevitably given that Islam is in some way favored or privileged. Again, it would be difficult to find out whether they received requests or demands for such a room or merely anticipated them; in either case, weakness is advertised.

This is surely a fundamental difference between left and right in our politics, with the former believing that this advertising of weakness discourages attacks. But…

From all this the terrorists surely draw a great deal of comfort. It gives them the impression of living in a weak society that will be easy to destroy, so that their acts are not in the least nihilistic or pointless, as is often claimed. They perceive ours as a candle-and-teddy-bear society (albeit mysteriously endowed with technological prowess): We kill, you light candles. The other day I passed a teddy-bear shop, that is to say a shop that sold nothing but teddy bears. I am sure that terrorism is good for business, but the teddy bears are more reassuring for the terrorists than for those who buy them to place on the site of the latest outrage.