Why should anyone take any notice of what such people say?

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-21-55-48The question of intellectual and moral authority, writes Dalrymple,

is an important one. I mean the authority that derives from thought or knowledge that is out of the ordinary.

Dalrymple supposes that

all ages have had their charlatans, and in no age has credence been placed in what someone says precisely in proportion to his real authority to say it. Is there anyone who has never been taken in by false credentials or by a bogus air of competence and knowledge? As a doctor I have often exuded a confidence to my patients that I by no means felt. Having been seriously ill myself, however, I know only too well that the last thing a patient wants is a Dr Hamlet, scrupulously doubting the veracity of his own opinion.

The attention given to the opinions of people from the world of entertainment—essentially actors and pop stars—irritates Dalrymple.

Actors strike me as unlikely gurus because those who spend their lives imitating others are unlikely to have firm principles or even personalities of their own. In practice, moreover, the opinions of actors and pop stars are drearily uniform: when it comes to bad things that might cause suffering, they are always against them.

He cannot imagine

why anyone should take any notice of what such people say—except, of course, that being kept constantly entertained is the main purpose of many people’s lives, and they naturally assume that those who entertain them are therefore of immense importance and authority. At any rate, this must be the premise on which the news media report that rock guitarist A wants to save the whales, and actor B is worried about the fate of children in Burkina Faso (formerly the Upper Volta).

Such people

have as much right to their opinions as anyone else, but the deference given them by the publicity they receive is rather odd. It is a bit like the publicity given more than a century ago to the testimonials of aristocrats about the value of patent medicines, as if a hereditary title conferred special insight into the pharmacology of bowel movements.

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