Category Archives: internet

A good tool but a bad master

Dalrymple notes that information (whether true or false) without perspective may be a higher form of ignorance — and a more dangerous form, insofar as it disguises itself as knowledge.

Ik wil alleen duidelijk maken dat informatie (of die nu juist of onjuist is) op zichzelf, als perspectief ontbreekt, een hogere vorm van onwetendheid kan zijn, en een gevaarlijker vorm in zoverre ze zich vermomt als kennis; en dat daarom een enorm magazijn van kennis op zichzelf niemand daadwerkelijk iets zal bijbrengen, hoe toegankelijk dat magazijn ook is voor mensen.

However long you browse the internet, it is no substitute for slow cultivation of judgment and a critical spirit, or for the development of a mature perspective.

Hoe lang je ook surft op internet, het kan geen vervanging zijn voor het langzame aankweken van beoordelingsvermogen en een kritische geest, of voor het ontwikkelen van een volwassen perspectief. Overmatig vertrouwen op gemakkelijk toegankelijke bronnen zou kunnen leiden tot een permanent oppervlakkige kijk op de dingen.

Decay of the second-hand bookshop

screen-shot-2016-11-05-at-15-12-34Dalrymple writes that he has been

obsessed by books all my life,

and today he feels

the melancholy that I suppose old artisans must once have felt when their trade became industrialised. All these years I have been on the wrong, or at least losing, side of history.

In England, he points out, second-hand bookshops have been killed by

  • the internet
  • the odious soi-disant charity Oxfam
  • the loss of interest in browsing other than on a computer

Moral delicacy on Facebook

All we want is attention

All we want is attention

The internet and Facebook, Dalrymple notes,

are certainly bringing into prominence the intrinsic decency and sense of fair play of the English,

as well as their

refined use of language.

He cites the Facebook contributions that greeted the reduction of the sentence given to Lee Kilburn. Mr Kilburn, Dalrymple explains,

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.58.04is a 42-year-old man of previously good character who was driven to distraction by children who constantly knocked on his door and ran away. His wife had just been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Mr Kilburn chased one of the children who had knocked on his door, and there are two versions of what happened: he says he ran after her, grabbed her and she fell, he fell on top of her and she broke her nose on the ground; she says he punched her and broke his nose.

Mr Kilburn admitted that he had lost his temper and was in the wrong, but denied that he had intended to injure the girl. The judges agreed that there were mitigating circumstances, freed him from jail and suspended his sentence. One response on Facebook to the judicial decision read as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 11.59.15I’d go inside [i.e. be admitted to prison] just to wrap a quilt round his neck and stab the **** in his skull until his head is drained, no remorse, no mercy, dead! His cell would be covered in red.

Dalrymple comments:

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 12.00.42The moral delicacy of the man who wrote this is evident from his refusal to spell out the four-letter word he wanted to use to describe Mr Kilburn. The line has to be drawn somewhere.

He asks:

Did people have sentiments such as the above before Facebook enabled them to be expressed anonymously in public, or did the possibility of expressing them in public anonymously call them forth?

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 12.02.49

Rottrollen (detail), 1917. John Bauer. Pen and wash


Web of the Cultural Revolution

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 08.45.15

(by Rowlandson)

The spider needs its prey to live

Dalrymple writes:

When a Nobel prize winner can be hounded from his university chair by the harridans of the internet (or any other self-constituted group of fanatics), the outlook for freedom of speech is not good. The West, having undergone its own Cultural Revolution, has taken up the baton of Maoist self-criticism.

What was Professor Sir Timothy Hunt’s wrongdoing? During a speech at a luncheon for women scientists, he remarked lightly, ironically,



Let me tell you about my trouble with girls…things happen when they are in the lab…You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry.

Hunted down

Such is the modern thirst, writes Dalrymple,

for moral or political outrage, which is the tool of the mediocre to bring about their revenge upon the gifted, that words are now taken in the most literal sense and given thereby the worst possible interpretation. The mediocre wait to take offence as a spider awaits its prey in a web; the spider needs its prey to live, the mediocre their offendedness to feel a sense of purpose to their lives.

Struggle session

Struggle session

Red guards of the internet

Professor Hunt was forced to resign

by what in effect was a witch hunt, or a lynch mob.

Dalrymple points out that

science doesn’t need women, it needs scientists, just as art needs artists and literature needs writers; whether they are men or women is irrelevant. There is no female science any more than there was Jewish or bourgeois science, of late unhappy memory.

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 08.52.07Heresy

It is not truth

that is the aim, but power. That is the purpose of propaganda in totalitarian regimes: to force starving people to acquiesce to the proposition that they have never eaten so well.

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 08.53.27It is

a totalitarian demand that a cell biologist, in order to be able to work at all, should subscribe to the current political orthodoxy, whether it be right or wrong. It is constitutive of these times in which diversity is claimed as the highest good that there should exist a demand that everyone should think alike or at least not utter heresies in public.


The aim, says Dalrymple, is that of Newspeak in Nineteen Eighty-Four:

that certain things should not only be unsayable but unthinkable.

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 08.49.25


‘The circulations of the newspapers for which I have written have halved’

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 01.24.27I attribute no causative relationship.

Do newspapers deserve to survive? Dalrymple says:

They have become ever less repository of fact and ever more sounding boards of opinion. It is not the facts that they offer, but knowledge of what you think you ought to think about those facts. Reading a newspaper nowadays is increasingly like attending a church in which the doctrine is read out to the faithful.

The editor of the Manchester Guardian is supposed to have said that comment is free but facts are sacred. I think for most people it is the other way round. Perhaps it was always so.

Grand magnifier of intemperance and instrument of cowardly revenge

Dalrymple on the internet.

Madness and malevolence on the internet

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 01.57.36James Lasdun, a novelist and poet, became the victim, Dalrymple writes, of calumnies and of

e-mails to his employers accusing him of things that were both inherently unlikely and difficult to disprove. Lasdun stood accused of ‘crimes’ which always besmirch in the modern world: racism, sexism, harassment, etc.

Give Me Everything You Have, Lasdun’s memoir, describes, says Dalrymple

a modern vice as well as an ancient virtue, or at least a modern way of putting a vice into action: persecution by internet being a dark side of the information age. Each of us is but the press of the send button away from vicious denunciation, character assassination and the destruction of our reputation.

Elegy for the second-hand bookshop

Screen Shot 2015-04-18 at 10.14.48There is little that is truly charitable about the ‘charity’ shops that are driving out venerable old businesses on Britain’s high streets. The ‘charity’ shops, which, it is often not appreciated, benefit from large subventions from the British state, have been highly destructive both of enterprise and of culture.

Much of the income the ‘charity’ shops generate is funnelled circuitously but pretty consistently into the Swiss bank accounts of dictators and their henchmen around the world. Any cash left over tends to go on business-class air travel and plush hotel accommodation for priggish, overwhelmingly white, upper-middle-class Western European, North American and Australasian ‘aid workers’ and to anyone who has managed to clamber onto the UN gravy train. These aid-and-development racketeers, as they have been called, are really seeking paid-for outdoor relief; in an earlier age they might have been disporting themselves on the Northwest Frontier. They relish the chance to drive Toyota Land Cruisers at high speed through picturesquely poor countries. How convenient that all their fondest whims can be indulged courtesy of the humble bookbuyer! These young princes of poverty profess to care for the underprivileged and the wretched of the earth, but they make sure they lavishly reward themselves in salaries and perks.

The ‘charity’ shops receive their books free of charge, so there is a grotesquely unfair playing field. The shops, staffed by unpaid Mrs Jellyby amateurs (who have no idea of a book’s true monetary value and often overcharge), have done a great deal to kill off the country’s second-hand bookshops, a once-magnificent resource. The second-hand book dealers were never a very attractive group of people, in fact many were somewhat brusque and not over-fastidious in matters of personal hygiene, but they were professionals. Now amateurism has supervened. The internet has played the major part in the destruction of the second-hand bookshop, to be sure, but the internet has at least given something with one hand as it takes away with the other. The decay of the second-hand bookshop is one of the saddest things about modern Britain. Dalrymple writes:

How many hours, among the happiest of my life, have I spent in [these] dusty, damp or dismal purlieus? Second-hand bookshops are closing daily, driven out of business by a general decline in reading, the internet, and the charity shop. Booksellers tell me that 90% of their overheads arise from their shops, and 90% of their sales from the internet. Second-hand bookshops make less and less economic sense.

Browsing among the shelves

is rewarding in a way that the internet can never be. Serendipity is the greatest pleasure of browsing — the joy of finding something that one did not know existed.