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A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson.

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NEW BOOK FROM THEODORE DALRYMPLE:
The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism.
It’s Only Anti-Social
In Britain, the seriousness of an offense depends on who the victim is.
1 October 2009

A single case sometimes shines a lurid light on an entire country, and the case of Fiona Pilkington does just that for contemporary Britain—both its population and its officialdom. A coroner’s inquest was recently held in the case, two years after the events in question.

On October 23, 2007, Pilkington, a single mother of low intelligence, used gasoline to set fire to her car, with herself and her 18-year-old, severely handicapped daughter inside. They both died in the conflagration.

The reason that she killed herself and her daughter was that local youths had abused them for years. They taunted her and her daughter for hours on end, standing and shouting outside their home, pelting it with bottles and stones, and repeatedly intruding into the garden. Pilkington, who was inoffensive, shy, and retiring, called the police a total of 33 times, but they did absolutely nothing, though they knew what was going on. The local chief of police issued an apology at the inquiry into the affair. If he had meant it, of course, he would have immediately resigned his post.

The deep spiritual sickness of contemporary Britain is evident in the following comment on the inquiry in the liberal newspaper, The Guardian: “Although much of the abuse centred on the taunts about the children’s disabilities, police failed to recognise it as a hate crime rather than simple antisocial behaviour, which would have made it a far higher priority.”

In other words, the seriousness of an offense committed in Britain now depends upon who the victim is. If a person is not of an identifiably protected group, he or she is not entitled to police intervention against abusive stone- and bottle-throwing youths. He is not entitled to protection at all.

The Guardian’s article appears to accept that such behavior, so long as it targets a member of an unprotected group, is merely undesirable—“anti-social” rather than obviously criminal. The rule of law is fast evaporating in Britain; we are coming to live in a land of men, not of laws.

Theodore Dalrymple, a physician, is a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His most recent book is Not with a Bang but a Whimper.

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