A Tangled Web

Theodore Dalrymple discovers an intricate spider web in his château’s garden in the French countryside in this week’s Takimag column.

It is curious how, in these circumstances, one anthropomorphizes even the arthropods. I saw in this little scene a poor, innocent, suffering victim and a vile, merciless, evil predator. I still have firmly in my mind’s eye the vision of the little insect’s kicking legs, in its futile efforts to save its life to which, insignificant as it was, it behaved as if it was attached. My sympathies were immediately engaged, and I even thought of trying to rescue it. It was, as it were, the underbug in the conflict.

Hypocrite Hector

In the September edition of New Criterion, the good doctor reviews two awful, anti-white books that pretend to be anti-racist while promoting racialism and collective guilt for European peoples. My sympathy goes out to Dr. Dalrymple for having had to waste his valuable time reading such nauseating, leftist, politically correct propaganda.

Perhaps the most interesting question raised by these books is why, when they are so badly written, self-indulgent, and intellectually nugatory, when they are so plainly written in the spirit of what Karl Popper called reinforced dogmatism, they should be so popular among the Western intelligentsia. Let us hope that this is not a question for an Edward Gibbon of the next millennium to answer.

The Expanding Tyranny of Cant

Our skeptical doctor reviews an insignificant and mediocre book on grandstanding by two typical American academics over at Law & Liberty.

Cant matters for a number of reasons that the authors enumerate. It destroys moderation. It is cruel and intolerant towards those who think differently. It divides people into the saved and the damned. Because it is one-sided and does not recognise the complexity of life, let alone the tragic dimension of life, it encourages bad policy in the name of some supposedly immaculate principle. People who cant are often willing to decimate a countryside because actual results as experienced by others do not interest them. What they are interested in is how they appear morally to others, and that only as a means to advancement. Cant is careerist.

Poison Pen

In last week’s Takimag column, Theodore Dalrymple writes about a vicious, 19th-century French murderess who was the subject of a recently read book from his vast library on crime.

It is a confession of essential frivolity of mind, perhaps, to admit that my favorite reading is in the annals of crime. Of course, as a former prison doctor and expert witness in murder trials, I can claim a legitimate professional interest, but to do so would not be altogether honest. Like 99 percent of people, I am prurient; indeed, the only people uninterested in crime probably suffer from autism.

Much Ado About Nothing

And we are back from vacation… The good doctor calls out the Folger Shakespeare Library and its director for pathetically pandering to the cultural Marxist SJW mob over at City Journal.

It was an institution dedicated to pure and disinterested scholarship. Now it is transforming itself into the equivalent of the Marx-Lenin Institute in Moscow, with race instead of class as the master-key to the understanding of history and the world. And just as in Marxist historiography, no one can be a disinterested searcher after truth; in the new racist historiography adopted by the Folger, no one can stand outside his race. He must view everything through its lens.

History’s Mysteries

The skeptical doctor is feeling nostalgic in this week’s Takimag column after finding a particular book in his library.

These days, melancholy and nostalgia are not much in fashion; indeed, they are seen almost as vices. But he who experiences no nostalgia must have had a wretched or a shallow life, for not to regret the passing of a happy time is to have had no happy time.

Against History-as-Nightmare

The good doctor posits convincing arguments against the fallacious worldview that the past is nothing but a nightmare of injustice in his latest Law & Liberty article.

In the third place, and most importantly, the fact of progress is much less useful to political entrepreneurs than is the narrative of history as nothing but a nightmare that continues to the present day and, as Marx put it, weighs upon the brain of the living. Only by keeping the memory of the nightmare ever-present in the minds of their sheep, thereby stoking resentment, may the political shepherds herd, and then fleece, the flock.

The Covid Occupation

In the summer edition of City Journal, the skeptical doctor recounts his life in Paris this spring during the Wuhan virus lockdown.

Incidentally, our readers are encouraged to read the interesting and thought-provoking American Mind essay The COVID Coup by Prof. Angelo Codevilla.

What most astonished me was the swiftness and completeness of the transformation of life, and the passivity with which it was accepted. Was this an instance of laudable social discipline, or a confirmation of Tocqueville’s characterization of the future citizens of democracy as a herd of sheep, which, accustomed to regulation in the smallest detail by a supposedly benevolent authority, has become incapable of independent thought and action?