Category Archives: journalism

Kung Fu flu kick-starts a thousand PhD theses

Bonking boffin: the discredited and disgraced epidemiologist Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, London. He touted his alleged expertise on the Wuhan flu but his real interest lay in the legover arena

The theses about the epidemic will settle nothing once and for all, Dalrymple observes. There will always be a need for further research. Science, he points out,

is not a body of doctrine, an orthodoxy from which dissent is heresy. Its truths are multiform, contradictory, and provisional.

If politicians merely followed the science,

they would zigzag or careen like a drunken sailor; they would be at the mercy of the last qualified person to whom they spoke.

Politicians,

despised as they are (they are lower in public esteem even than journalists), are expected to deliver us from death, and if death supervenes it is they who are to blame. We hate them, but we run to them.

It is hard to feel sorry for politicians, says Dalrymple, for

they have chosen their career and (especially in modern conditions) have generally pursued power to the exclusion of all other possible goals, which is not admirable. As often as not, they have not much cultural or psychological hinterland, for they have no time or energy for it, which is why they are mostly not very interesting people. The trouble is that they are important (though perhaps not as important as they think they are), and for the rest of us to have to think about people who are important but not interesting is a kind of torture.

He notes that the problem for politicians in the time of the Chinese virus is that

they are faced with a population of experts. In only a few weeks, millions have become epidemiologists of the first rank, even those who in December would have been hard put to define what epidemiology was — if they had heard of it.

Bruce Lee

Uriah Heep meets Ayn Rand

The triumph of self-esteem over self-respect

Dalrymple writes that one of the worst and most unpleasant of human qualities is self-esteem.

He comes across, in a British newspaper (legacy-media journalism in the West has suffered a precipitous decline in quality in the last three decades), some unctuous drivel about ‘kindfulness‘. He likens such bunk to an overdose of the disgusting sweetened drink known as cherry cola. It nauseates him with its invitation to preen and to tell oneself that one is, despite everything, a good person.

The tabloids’ attitude to vulgarity

It is, writes Dalrymple,

ambiguous, to put it mildly. They excoriate what they assiduously promote, thus simultaneously profiting from vice and the condemnation of vice.

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Dead-tree legacy media

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The Paris newspaper Libération: aimed at ageing bourgeois bohemians of left-wing persuasion, many of them with ponytails

Dalrymple knows no young person who reads a newspaper. And those few newspapers which survive, thanks to (rapidly dwindling) sales to older readers,

more and more resemble magazines.

He notes that with modern technology, newspapers

can hardly any longer be the first to break news.

As their circulations slump and journalists are sacked in large numbers, newspapers

cannot do much investigative journalism, either.

All that is left to newspapers, Dalrymple points out, is

  • gossip about celebrities
  • explanations of the obvious
  • speculation about the future based on what has happened in the recent past
  • drivel about sport
  • articles catering to modern man’s fathomless narcissism

Darling, your meal replacement product is on the table

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 07.34.34In his Find Out What the Children are Doing and Tell Them to Stop It and Other Essays (2015), Dalrymple points out, among other things, that doctors don’t have all the answers. He says in the foreword:

I still have faith in the enterprise of medicine and when I have been seriously ill have had no cause to regret my faith. But progress is rather less straightforward than I had imagined before I started to write these pieces.

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The idiocies of journalism

G.E.R. Gedye

G.E.R. Gedye

Don’t worry, Tony Barber, all will be forgotten. And rapidly. Journalistic Barber-isms and fatuities receive, writes Dalrymple,

a swift and decent burial, never to be disinterred: nothing ever comes back to haunt a journalist and oblivion overcomes all. That is why journalists can afford to be fearlessly outspoken; no one will ever remember, except in the vaguest term, what they wrote. Fairness, accuracy, consistency: these are qualities with which the journalist can easily, and in some publications must, dispense.

Private Eye No. 1384, 23 Jan - 5 Feb 2015

Private Eye No. 1384, 23 Jan – 5 Feb 2015

The uselessness of foreign correspondents

Ordure: the scribblings of foreign correspondents Reports excreted by journalists sent to places they know nothing about are best left well alone

One native plumber, writes Dalrymple,

is worth a thousand foreign correspondents when it comes to understanding a country.

The days of Waugh’s Scoop, he says,

are by no means over. The bar at the one luxury hotel in town is often where the report of the history of an undeveloped country’s crisis is made. Correspondents are more interested in what other correspondents are going to write than in what is happening on their temporary doorstep. Lies repeated become truths, and truths ignored cease ever to have existed.

He explains the ease with which

an entire Press corps can accept the most obvious untruth, usually convenient to some interested party, without any external compulsion.