March of the moral thugs

Dalrymple writes that the demonstrations In London after George Floyd’s death

reinforced and propagated an obsessive interpretation of the world through the lens of race.

They illustrated two contemporary cultural traits:

  • The importance ascribed to opinion as an exclusive component of virtue. Holding the right opinions has never been as important if you want a reputation as a good person. The pressure to conform to the latest orthodoxy has increased, is increasing, and ought to be reduced. Good conduct, which requires effort, restraint, even self-sacrifice, has correspondingly become less important in earning a reputation for goodness. Holding a placard, chanting a slogan, expressing an opinion, is enough.
  • Vehemence as the marker of sincerity. Vehemence is mistaken for strength of feeling. In communist countries, it was dangerous to be the first to stop applauding the dictator’s speech and safer to exhibit enthusiasm to the maximum. And in a culture such as ours, which values the kind of emotional openness that is indistinguishable from psychobabble, vehemence is to be expected. The more you feel, as measured by the vehemence with which you express it, the better person you are, and the safer from criticism.

We have, says Dalrymple, entered an era of

moral thuggery. Substantial numbers of people, in the name of their moral outrage and sense of righteousness, would like to impose a régime in which people fear the midnight knock on the door.

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