Category Archives: contrition

The pleasures of denunciation

Young people, Dalrymple writes, are creating

a totalitarian environment in which they denounce one another.

Thus

the social media that were going to set opinion free and give voice to everyone end by stifling expression and creating fear.

The world is full of people like Madame Defarge. Denunciation, Dalrymple notes,

combines the delights of self-righteousness with those of revenge and the contemplation of the discomfort or worse of other people. It requires no courage and is within the capacity of all. In Nazi Germany and occupied France people wrote denunciations of their neighbours and others by the millions, often for the sheer pleasure of doing so and usually in the hope that they would have serious consequences for the persons denounced.

The day cannot be far off

when people will viscerally understand the danger to themselves of saying certain things on social media and will censor themselves automatically. If this continues long enough, certain things will not only become unsayable but unthinkable, for habit eventually is transformed into character. This is the point of political correctness: it aims at the most radical of dictatorships, that which requires the enforcement of no police because everyone is incapable of breaking the rules.

Meanwhile the appetite for public expressions of contrition is insatiable. Dalrymple points out that

it is not contrition that is wanted, but the humiliation inflicted on those who are forced to express it. The enjoyment is in the spectacle of the squirming of the wrongdoer.

The logic of the combination of social media and a taste for burning witches at the stake

will reduce us to a strange state of malice and blandness. The ambitious will refrain from saying anything that could offend anyone; the bland will lead the bland. Any deviation from current orthodoxy will be punished with vengeful vituperation or worse.

The orthodoxy to be adhered to

will change — as the enemy changed during the two-minute hate sessions in Nineteen Eighty-Four — as a test of the obedience and loyalty of the population. The politically correct will find new orthodoxies to enforce, new locutions to prescribe or proscribe, to keep decent society in a state of subliminal fear.

The demand to be lied to

img_2970The demand, writes Dalrymple,

for public expressions of contrition is the demand to be lied to, and it rewards thespian skill more than moral regeneration.

Often such expressions are

laughable, though no one laughs. How seriously is one supposed to take (as I have heard recounted to me) the alleged realisation that smashing a baby’s head against the wall and trying to stuff its body down the lavatory is wrong?

Even if such a realisation were

as genuine as Buddha’s enlightenment under the sacred Bo Tree, of what importance would it be, what would it count for? Is everything made right by a little light contrition afterwards?

Brezhnevian psychoanalytic xyloglottism

Much psychoanalytical writing, writes Dalrymple, has 'all the stylistic flair and intellectual excitement of a speech by Leonid Brezhnev'. Such langue de bois can  be read or heard only 'as an act of religious devotion, or even of contrition'.

Much psychoanalytical writing, writes Dalrymple, has ‘all the stylistic flair and intellectual excitement of a speech by Leonid Brezhnev’. Such langue de bois can be read or heard only ‘as an act of religious devotion, or even of contrition‘.