Category Archives: social media

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.

Dalrymple spurns the idiot’s lantern

The doctor-writer has not voluntarily so much as glanced at any kind of televisual apparatus since 1968

Dalrymple explains that he has not watched television

for half a century.

Furthermore, he subscribes to no ‘social media’, as the young call it.

People

who are world-famous, and who are so instantly recognisable that they are known on my e-mail server’s home page by their first name alone, or even by a diminutive of their first name,

are completely unknown to Dalrymple. He just doesn’t care

if they divorce one another or check into a rehabilitation clinic to cure them of their promiscuity.

An incompletely washed slob

Why does Zuckerberg dress in the way he does? Perhaps, Dalrymple suggests, he rather fears to appear very different from the masses, in case they get the idea that his product is but a cynical ploy to exploit them.

The folly of underestimating Corbyn

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-18-40-46It would be a mistake, writes Dalrymple, to conclude that Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK socialists, is unelectable. Talk of the demise of his Labour party

is premature: we heard it when Mrs Thatcher won her third election, and we heard of the death of the Tory party after Mr Blair’s third election victory.

Dalrymple points out that when things go badly,

people seek an alternative, even if by rational calculations the alternative is worse than the status quo.

If there were

a serious economic downturn or some other hardship that occurred under the present dispensation, people soon would look for another.

It is true that as things stand,

Mrs May would win hands down if there were an election tomorrow. But a day – an hour in the age of the social media – is a long time in politics.

Anti-social media

In restaurants, writes Dalrymple,

you often see people, even lovers, attending to their screens rather than to the person opposite or next to them. As the grass is always greener on the other side, so is the conversation more interesting on the screen than at the table. Perhaps we prefer virtual people to real people.