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.