Why was Jimmy Sevile so beloved by his employers at the BBC, in spite of all the evidence of his serial, sexually abusive behavior?
Eventually he was knighted, officially for charitable work but really for services to execrable taste and downward cultural drift.
Official endorsement of execrable taste was, of course, a boon to those who had to fill several channels a day for 24 hours, because stupid programmes of execrable taste are so easy to produce by comparison with those of intellectual or artistic value, which can be produced only in limited quantity.
Dalrymple at the Salisbury Review
Dalrymple’s article at Taki’s Magazine on the death of David Bowie received more comments on this blog than any other post in quite some time, so I feel a little sheepish for having missed this one at Salisbury Review, in which Dalrymple holds up the fawning coverage of Bowie as yet more evidence of the decline of serious journalism.
It is not unusual for someone of my age to lament the decline in the quality of a newspaper: but the recent decline in that of The Guardian seems to me to have been unusually precipitous. The Guardian used to be a serious organ, recognised as such even by those (such as I) who disagreed strongly with, or abominated, its general stance. But of late it has turned itself into a kind of Hello! magazine for ageing bourgeois bohemians of the transgressive persuasion, with endless articles about the stars of popular culture.
The good doctor reports on a study of (supposedly) not-so-good doctors: what are the characteristics of those most likely to face malpractice claims?
Controversy over an English boxer’s political and social opinions causes Dalrymple to comment on the absurdity of the modern ritual of dishonest apology:
…one boxer doesn’t make an academy, and it seems intrinsically absurd to look to boxers for enlightenment on social questions or political philosophy. A man who says that a woman’s best place is on her back, etc., without wishing to offend anybody, is not perhaps the most trustworthy guide to life. On the other hand, taking what such a man says seriously enough to be offended by it is also rather stupid. Demanding that he retract and apologize, as if he now truly realized that a woman’s best place is not on her back (but presumably in some other position), and then taking his retraction and apology as if they were sincerely meant, is likewise preposterous.
Dalrymple addresses one defense, such as it is, of the sham treatment:
…one may ask why there should be such oversight of products that are sometimes so dilute that the chances are they do not contain a single molecule of the allegedly therapeutic substance. What harm can be done by such substances?
There are two possible answers to this. The first is that it is in principle wrong to deceive the public about the properties of what it buys. Therapeutic claims for homoeopathic remedies are inherently bogus and therefore ought to be prohibited, for falsehood is harmful in itself. And the second reason is that people who use such supposed remedies might continue to suffer from curable diseases for which, because of their resort to homoeopathy, they do not seek proper curative treatment.
In Taki’s magazine Dalrymple picks up where he left off in his last piece – the study on bariatric surgery for children with a high BMI – and the question of responsibility:
Intellectuals, I suspect, are generally rather reluctant to blame ordinary people for their faults, weaknesses, and misdeeds. It seems somehow censorious and lacking in generosity to do so. They prefer to blame authorities, corporations, governments, abstract social forces, etc. On the other hand it is condescending to do so, for it implies that ordinary people are not like intellectuals, capable of controlling their behavior and in control of their own destiny. Personally, I believe in the happy medium: That is to say I blame everyone—except me, of course.
But despite the study’s apparent success, two reservations remain in Dalrymple’s mind:
…what kind of parents feed their children so that they attain BMIs of 88, and even if bariatric surgery is good for such monstrous obesity, could it be carried out on 4.4 million cases in the United States alone?
Personally, I’m incapable of living up to Dalrymple’s level of intellectual seriousness and total aversion to pop culture. I come fairly close, listening to pop music or watching televised fiction on only rare occasions. But I’m not quite as immune as he.
I do still like a couple of David Bowie songs and found him about as dignified and elegant as modern pop entertainers ever get (not exactly a high bar), mostly due to what seemed to be a natural outward restraint in speech and gesture. Dalrymple, on the other hand, was not a fan:
The immense coverage of David Bowie’s death in The Guardian did not entirely convince me of his genius, except for self-exhibition. There, it is true, he excelled. In his public appearance he seemed to appeal to our culture’s magpie instinct for the militantly meretricious. I listened to a little of his music on the Internet and suffice it to say that I was not transported by it.
What do you think? To what extent do you still partake of pop culture? Are there instances of it you think he might like?
Share your thoughts in the comments section, as I am genuinely curious about Dalrymple’s (other) readers.
Preliminary results are inconclusive, but there appear to be reasons for hope in the search for immunization against Ebola.
Islamism and the North Korean regime remind Dalrymple of his medical career in the slums of Birmingham:
Every day I used to go to my hospital thinking, “I’ve heard everything,” but I never had. “They can’t surprise me anymore,” I said to myself, but they could, and they did. People who in all other respects seemed deeply unimaginative managed to devise entirely new means to make their own lives and those of the people about them unutterably miserable. The Russian writer V.G. Korolenko (a watered-down Chekhov) once said that man is born for happiness as a bird for flight, which seems to me now about as true as that earthworms are made for ice hockey. I don’t believe in Freud’s death instinct exactly, but many people do seem to have a genius both for misery itself and for the creation of misery in others. Time and again I saw people with no “objective” reasons for unhappiness, but who, with a determination worthy of a better object, pursued courses of action that would obviously lead to disaster, and that they knew would lead to disaster. The fact is that disaster is dramatic and never dull, which happiness can appear to be. We can without difficulty imagine a thousand hells, but even a single heaven escapes our imagination. Seventy-two virgins would pall after a time (whether it is heaven for them also seems not to be very often discussed).