MURDER MOST ACADEMIC is the title of his latest contribution to the City Journal, wherein he begins by telling the sordid mess of one Stephen Griffiths
Sometimes reality is far in advance of satire when it comes to absurdity. The results, however, are not always funny. If a satirist had come up with the idea of a violent criminal who had spent time in an asylum being admitted by a university to its doctoral program in “homicide studies,” thereafter turning into a serial killer, that satirist would have been denounced for poor taste. But this is precisely what a British university did recently. A man with a long history of criminal violence became a serial killer while working on a Ph.D. thesis at the University of Bradford, the subject of his thesis being the methods of homicide used in the city during the nineteenth century. He himself used methods more reminiscent of the fourteenth.
Stephen Griffiths is 40. He has never worked and has always lived at taxpayers’ expense. At 17, he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for cutting the throat (not fatally) of a supermarket security guard who tried to arrest him for shoplifting. In prison, doctors reported, Griffiths had a “preoccupation with murder—particularly multiple murder.” They diagnosed him as a violent psychopath; that is, he had an intractable personality development that made him likely to commit new violent offenses.
The doctors were right. Shortly after his release from prison, Griffiths committed more violent acts, including holding a knife to a woman’s throat, and wound up imprisoned once more. He was then sent from prison to Rampton, a high-security mental hospital; but again, the doctors diagnosed him as a psychopath for whom they could do nothing, and after two months they returned him to prison, from which he was soon—much too soon, as it turned out—released.
You thought this only happened in California and that Clint Eastwood AKA Callahan would take care of trash like Griffiths?
Read on to discover just how far down the ladder of evolution the bureaucratic hangers-on have clambered. But Dalrymple hits full stride in describing how the Guardian represents all that is wrong with libtard punters.
One problem of liberal social thought is that it consigns a larger and larger proportion of the human race to the category of people driven into trouble. But there are other difficulties, too. Precisely because it is impossible to think of human life in consistently mechanistic terms, the liberal is soon led into contradictions. Moral evaluations are inseparable from thought about human existence, even if the metaphysical foundations of such judgments remain contentious; so it is not surprising that the article about Griffiths’s victims fairly oozes with morality, albeit of a saccharine and self-regarding kind, while at the same time pretending to avoid judgment.
For example, it refuses to use the word “prostitute,” replacing it with “sex worker” and “street worker.” The reason is clear enough: “prostitute” has negative moral connotations. The word “prostitution” suffers the same fate: it becomes “sex work.” This seems to have the corollary that both the work and the worker are perfectly respectable, the work having a social status, perhaps, somewhere between supermarket-shelf-stacking and neurosurgery. But if sex work is work like any other, are those who patronize sex workers “customers” or “clients” who ought to have the same protections that other consumers enjoy (such as “money back if not satisfied”)? Alas for them, no; the article refers to them as “punters,” a term in British English with connotations of vulgarity, dishonesty, and moral turpitude. But can a service be respectable whose clientele are scoundrels merely by the fact of availing themselves of it?
One of the three victims was 43-year-old Susan Rushworth. Her “marriage had imploded as a result of domestic violence and she became addicted to heroin,” the article said. “Her 21-year-old daughter began working the streets at 18 due to her crack cocaine and heroin addictions. . . . They eventually worked together, looking for punters.” The article ended with the moral reflections of a friend of another victim—reflections that, given their position in the article and the complete absence of irony in it heretofore, one may assume that the newspaper more or less endorses: “These women don’t deserve to die. They’re all somebody’s daughter, yet they’re described as prostitutes and it makes it so sleazy.”
No one, outside perhaps the Islamic Republic of Iran, would suggest that these women did deserve to die, of course. The friend’s statement also seems, astonishingly, to imply that it would be all right—that is, not “sleazy”—for women to sell sex to strangers on the streets of Bradford to pay for heroin, provided they were not called “prostitutes.” It is the naming that is the shaming. Change the name, and you change the thing, or at any rate the moral significance of the thing. Language is a powerful instrument, but not as powerful as that.
What lies behind these mental contortions? It is a form of sentimentality, a mask for a deeper indifference, according to which people who suffer or have led unhappy lives must be transformed into blameless victims so that we can pity them. It is as if, were they to have contributed in any way to their own situation, all sympathy for them would have to be withdrawn or abandoned. And since the liberal wants to be seen, particularly by his peers, as a man superior in compassion to everyone else, he uses all his powers of rationalization, generally increased by many years of education, to establish that such and such a group of people is without blame and thus suitably—indeed, necessarily—an object of his moral generosity. If, in the process, he comes to conclusions repugnant to common sense, so much the worse for common sense.
I'm sure the Islamic Republic of Iran would have a fulminating ayatollah sentencing mere et fille Rushworth to the nearest cherry-picker for instant hanging in public, so the writhng hookers' bodies would serve as a warning to young men itching to slake their lust on....ooops, sorta goin' Stephen Griffiths of a sudden. Dalrymple uses his medical history to sanitize the situation with a dose of reality:
For myself, I never had much difficulty in recognizing bad behavior for what it was without withdrawing my sympathy from the person who, I thought, had behaved badly. During my medical career, I had many prostitutes among my patients (incidentally, they never described themselves as anything but prostitutes, though they would sometimes say that they were “on the game”). It never occurred to me that they did not lead sordid lives, even those of the professional elite. One, for example, was a dominatrix with a website who, when not flying around the world humiliating judges and captains of industry for large sums of money, lived in a prosperous middle-class neighborhood. She did not tell her neighbors what she did for a living, and not only because she feared disapproval. She was not proud of it, even though we could laugh about it together.
In fact, I found prostitutes far more intellectually honest than the writers of such articles as the one I have quoted. I recall a former prostitute who during her period of prostitution had struggled to raise her daughter well. She had succeeded, and her daughter now had a good job and a steady boyfriend. I could not help but recognize her struggle as heroic, even if she had created the need for such heroism in the first place. Neither she nor any other prostitute whom I met claimed to have been driven onto the streets by anything other than their own mistakes and cupidity. It is true that the cupidity of prostitutes was sometimes occasioned by a desire for drugs, but they did not attribute that desire for drugs to anything other than their desire for immediate gratification. As far as they were concerned, their behavior was always explained by decisions that they had made.
The secular liberal, however, would like to convert them—religiously, as it were—to his own view of the matter: to convince them that it is (for example) the hopelessness of their addiction that accounts for their choices. Only in that way can the desire of the secular liberal for a providential role in the world be justified, though of course never fulfilled, which is just as well: for its fulfillment would destroy its justification.
I'm sure that any common sense person with the slightest amount of intelligence [phronesis] understands better than the self-appointed tribunes at the Guardian, the name itself makes one gag at its pretensions, concerning adult behavior. The sleaziest prostitute knows right and wrong much better than the Pinch Sulzbergers and Kellers infesting British journalism at the Guardian.