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Theodore Dalrymple
Murder Most Academic « Back to Story

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He didn't interview anyone. He's not a real journalist, just an op-ed writer and they are more interested in opinion than fact.
Did you interview anyone from the University of Bradford? Some of your dates are incorrect which have been since used on Wikipedia. Nobody appears gruesome all the time.
Another great essay by TD.

I recently watched a YouTube video where Sam Harris posits that freewill is a lie but we have to pretend that people have it so that we can punish bad people or some nonsense. The longer he talked the more ridiculous his idea sounded. If there is no freewill, how can we blame anyone? And if murderers cannot help it, why are liberals against executing them? Why put down a dog that attacks because it "cannot help it" but not a person who apparently has the same problem?
Dear, dear Mr. Dalrymple:

While I can deeply appreciate your aversion to grind a religious axe, may I have the temerity to observe you are yourself using the term "sin," which, if anything, is indeed a theological term.

While I may well be opening myself up for ridicule, I can assure you that satan exists, and he is playing us all for the politically correct fools that we are. May I also observe that while science has limits and God has none, it is our own rejection of Catholicism and the entrance into functional atheism by our redefining theology to fit our own lives of quiet desperation until our theological thought becomes so worldly that we fall right into satan's hands.

This may be very difficult to accept, let alone stomach, but I assure you my conversion Experience of God taking away the veil and introducing me to the demon who had been plaguing me my entire life has left me with no alternative. The Catholic Church has the answer, and if we want to see improvement in our carnal lives, rather than the relentless pursuit of sociopathic chaos you write about and we read in the headlines daily, then we have no alternative than to return to Catholicism with our whole hearts, lest something far worse occur in very short order.

God bless you.
This article and the comments prompt a few thoughts. 1) 'Renaming' and eliminating 'public disapproval' miss the fundamental societal and individual reality that morality is not simply a mater of perception, any more than insisting you can fly your private plane in reverse is merely a matter of 'choice' or 'perception': the thing will not stay up in the air; there is a 'reality' to humans as individual beings and to the societies they form - and it is that reality to which morality is attuned. 2) I don't see TD as claiming that the deliberate choice (under whatever pressure is felt) for prostitution or any other immoral act 'mitigates' one's being murdered; rather, like a post-crash investigator, TD is pointing out elements that contributed to the cause of the crash in the first place; and in large societal matters such as abandoning morality and simply 're-naming' or changing 'attitudes' then the chances of more and more 'crashes' are increased exponentially. 3) to suggest that the 'fabric of existence' somehow includes 'thought' in all its remarkable glory strikes me as utterly unjustifiable and untenable: it requires a self, thus an entity (or Entity) of some sort, to 'think' the thoughts. 4) There is 'harm' to oneself in any immoral act and no such thing as something that is 'immoral' but simultaneously 'victimless'; not only does one harm oneself by deforming the self through the commission of the act (or a habit of sequential repetitions of the act), but one contributes (through 'vibes' if you prefer) to the overall sum of immorality in the world - much as habitually bad driving habits endangers oneself and other drivers or as a pilot who chooses to try and fly the plane in reverse is not simply an isolated 'free' indvidual but rather adds to the general danger from and in the skies. 5) It is surely hugely compassionate to try to point this sort of stuff out to 'drivers' and 'pilots' in order to help reduce the incidence of such lethally inaccurate conceptions and perceptions about how 'Life' is conducted.

TD seems to be anchored in what is nowadays derisively called 'essentialism' - that there is indeed a right way and a wrong way to operate the human self and conduct a human life, based on the nature and operating parameters of the human being. With all respect to the 'plasticity' and 'malleability' of the adaptive human self, there is also the possibility of mal-adapting, and TD seems to think that maladaption in fundamentally enshrined by social and government policy, and to top that off, is insistently labelled as Good.

My own site is Chez Odysseus, where my essays go into depth on that. I have come late to TD's writing but find it hugely worthwhile.
To explain away why most prostitutes become such simply by saying,"...their behavior was always explained by decisions that they had made," leaves out the girls that are sold into prostitution and the women who are born into oppressed situations. Sure, they may have made a bad decision along the way, but for some women, the consequences of that decision has a lot more weight than someone born into the middle class. The liberal religious view that prostitutes are fully capable for turning their lives around is incorrect. These women have no support systems and are doing what their doing out of desperation.
Absent from this account is any mention of the millions of women and girls all over the world who are forced into prostitution by traffickers. This is a horrendous human rights violation and form of contemporary slavery.

Dr. Dalrymple may wish to consult the website of the Polaris Project for more information on this issue. http://www.polarisproject.org/
In this article, Mr. Dalrymple swerves away from an interesting and insightful article on a serial killer then makes a dizzying set of assumptions about the "secular liberal" and his or her attitudes towards prostitution.

As a self-described secular liberal, I'm still not sure why it's bad to use the term "sex worker" instead of prostitute. I would like to find a new term that is free of sinister and shameful connotations. So far, that term is the best bet going.

Unfortunately, any effort to legitimize prostitution is going to be hindered by pimps who want to own women, madams who benefit from the criminal nature of the endeavor, men who want to pay for ownership of prostitutes, and women who wish to punish themselves by allowing themselves to be abused mentally and physically.

All we can do create a way out--a role in society for masseuse/therapists who wish to provide sexual relief to people for a fee. In the end, we do not criminalize sexual behavior between willing participants, why criminalize a paid transaction?
There's one thing we can be sure of: Griffiths will not have secured ethical approval for participant observation (or observing participant) in his research. I agree with most of this article but the comment about criminal background checks for students was out of keeping with the fine appreciation of the absurdities around conceptualising drug use or prostitution. The fact Griffiths was a PhD student had no bearing on his murderous activity - clearly, with hindsight the University would have turned his application down (though the LSE knew about Gaddafi but it didn't stop them from accepting the blood money). As you observe, the contortions abound... but just because one or two PhD students with a bad background turn out bad it should not be used as reason to turn "similar" people away (the fault for Griffiths lies elsewhere).
Very enjoyable article.
Oh wow. Not one mention of religion and then bam! "All this demonstrates the inferiority of a liberal secular, compared with a liberal religious" -- your powers of argument truly are religious. You use a fully-fledged psychopath to illustrate the problems with secular liberalism. You should probably do some reading on logical fallacy before you hurry back to the typewriter - a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter.

Oh, and a sex worker is a person who operates within the bounds, and protection, of a legal framework. A prostitute is anyone who sells sex for money. It's really that not hard.
Like Peter Sutcliffe, you seem to be arguing that the fact these women were prostitutes somehow mitigates their murders. Moreover, having recourse to semantics is a reliable indicator of someone attempting (and in this case failing) to disguise their misanthropy. "No one, outside perhaps the Islamic Republic of Iran, would suggest that these women did deserve to die, of course" is unsettling a) because Iran has no place in the discussion at hand, unless to point up the difference between your own sophistication and that barbaric society (at any rate a low point of comparison), and b) the inclusion of that final queasy "of course" seems tacked on like a necessary-but-mercifully-brief checkpoint before getting on to the really important stuff. If nothing else, your hatred of liberal thought is out of proportion to the lip-service (pun unintended) paid to the victims. If they dress like that, they must be asking for it, right?
The best part of this article is the title: "Murder Most Academic". That is where the author really displays the festering inferiority complex that lies at the heart of all his ravings. Yep... it's those people at school again, who wouldn't respect your reactionary opinions, wouldn't let you join in their reindeer games... They're behind it all, taxing and spending, turning people into serial killers with their books and their ideals and their moral activism; compassion working corrosively at the fabric of society. But no... Now they'll have to listen to you, won't they; they won't be laughing so hard, looking down their noses, when you're looking down at them through the cross...
I think Dr. Ted would have better served his readers sticking to commentary about the statements in the article, not make sweeping statements about secular/religious liberalism. It IS possible to acknowledge personal responsibility and human fallibility without being religious, or worse yet, dumping all that under the umbrella of "sin."

The issue is that it's almost completely pointless to point out that someone who swims with sharks is partly to blame for getting eaten (pun intended). After all, it is quite possible to be a prostitute without getting shot by a crossbow and subsequently devoured by a maniac. Besides, most reasonable people can see those choices and circumstances are always more complicated than the idiotic "drugs made them do it" charge; people who make that excuse are not erring philosophically, they are merely simple. If one is going to smugly ignore circumstance, they might as well blame me for my asthma for not emancipating myself from my chain-smoking parents when I was a baby.

On the other hand, I do laugh at skiers with broken limbs. Thanks for writing, Doctor!
"It is impossible to think of human life in consistently mechanistic terms... Moral evaluations are inseparable from thought about human existence."

This isn't an argument, it just goes to first principles. Any secular liberal worth his salt could dispute that, saying that it's not mechanistic to think about people being compelled by social forces that render every choice a bad one, and that morality is relative anyway. Think more clearly about the intellectual underpinnings of secular liberalism, as they are, not as you want them to be.
@UncleSim... I do not take it as a personal attack at all. When I say I am not religious, I define it as meaning I do not belong to any organized church, do not think that the Christian bible or other book has anything to offer me, and do not believe that God lives in the sky and will torment me for eternity for my transgressions (of which there are several!).

During the past 37 years I have also gone to work daily and raised 3 boys and 3 girls, all are well functioning adults today. I have strong faith in physics, but that does not make me any more religious than expecting my bathroom light to illuminate when I throw the switch.

The 12-step program I attend suggests belief in a higher power. Some choose to call it God. I do not. But I have many higher powers such as gravity, governments, even crooks with guns. But even deeper I think the very fabric of existance itself is aware and capable of thought. Perhaps even reponsible for biology and life itself.

At best all I can really say about existence is I don't really know. All I have is an opinion and right now I have a life that I enjoy. And even without a God, I can still have gratitude for many things, yourself being one of many. On the 'net' these conversations are gender free and only our intellects meet here, never our physical forms. Thats one more really cool thing for me to be grateful for. Thanks for the post.
Thank you sir for your truly well written spot on article. I found it to be a breath of fresh air in these intellectually polluted times.
@Al S... I certainly don't mean this as any kind of personal attack, but...

You say that you are not religious at all, but that you have regularly attended a 12-step program for 37 years.

Forgive me, but that behavior seems quite 'religious' to me.
Wow, what a bunch of haters posting the first few comments.

@Nick... It would seem that at least one society's structure has (inadvertently?) been molded to cater to at least one cannibal-murderer. Of course, if you consider that tax-feeding politicians live off the wealth of the productive, often killing the children of the productive in immoral wars, its hardly surprising at all, is it?

Many readers fail to see his point that prostitution, while not necessarily a criminal act, is still not considered an act of pride by anyone, least of all a majority of those actually engaged in the practice. The author's point was that there seems to be a 'needy voice crying out for help' which only the politician, generous as he/she is with other people's money, can hear and respond to, thus justifying his/her existence in predation of the productive population, and justifying his/her collection and redistribution of the private income of productive individuals at his/her political discretion... a repulsive and predatious act they mask with faux generosity.
I'm an American that found this via aldaily: interesting story, RIDICULOUS occasion for a political rant. One cannot structure one's society around the preferences of murder-cannibals.
I started reading this article with great interest. I became increasingly annoyed with every whiny mention of the "taxpayers' expense." I stopped reading when I began to hear hints of "well, she CHOSE to be a prostitute..."

Interesting to see this kind of flippant superiority expressed toward both murderer and victims.
I am a secular liberal, I suppose (if signing up to such a simplifying label really helps debate rather than creating a ground for my pre-judgement by others!) and I've never found it hard to distinguish between a moral wrong and the agent thereof. Individual free will is an observable fact of life, both within oneself and in others. My secularism does mean, of course, that I will not accept an excuse (rarely encountered, of course, today in the West) such as "I was tempted by the devil" such as only a religious devotee could conjure. Other than that, there is little between me and someone who calls moral wrong a "sin". I acknowledge that life is not as simplistic an affair as some conservatives. For example, it is of course true that the drug addict who took heroin for the first time, and on succeeding occasions, could have exercised self-control in the light of universally available knowledge about the dire consequences of such drug use. He cannot pass the buck to social or economic forces outside his control. The effect of his consequent addiction upon him and those around him cannot be said to have been a surprise and his continuing actions should be acknowledged by all as his moral wrong. However, that is not the end of the story. He is an individual embedded within a particular society and culture at a particular moment in history and his starting position - born on a sink estate to unemployed drug addict parents or born on a country estate to loving capable and wealthy parents - was not the result of his own actions at all. We can blame his parents if they lived a life full of wrongs and damaged his chances at an early age, but it is some years in before we can start to blame him for his individual choices. And even then we can recognise that the odds may be stacked against him in a way that they never are for others; because, once of a certain level of developmental maturity, whilst he can decide from moment to moment what to do and how, morally, to act, the society in which he is inescapably embedded, through the circumstances of his upbringing, did much to form him (and not just in the sense of character but, as we know from hard science, formed, in part, the very architecture of his brain). That social formation never overwhelms or obscures his individual free will or moral responsibilty but it runs alongside it and cannot be dismissed as irrelevant or - more importantly - as irremediable. There are things that we, as members together of that same society, can do: to even out life's starting odds for all; to assist those, who start off life far lower on the ladder than others, to overcome the hurdles that others never encounter (and often blithely dismiss); to recognise the force of character required to overcome those hurdles; and (the other side of the moral coin) recognise that society's current evaluation of success in life may not always be consonant with the successful agent's virtue.
Article started fine and then went into a totally pointless ramble about why secular society is inferior to a theist. You almost had me. Overall this had the feel of a copypasta so I give it 1/10.
Hello, Dr. Pretentious.
The author's logic is highly circular if you actually look at it. He seems to argue that society should express more moral disapproval of prostitution. Setting aside for now whether it is actually morally wrong, presumably the only reason greater disapproval would he desirable is if it would reduce the prevalence of prostitution. But the author then states that prostitutes are uniformly ashamed of their work and believe that it is wrong. Clearly that is not sufficient to prevent them from doing it.

So if one actually wants to reduce prostitution, public disapproval is not an effective method. One must instead look to factors beyond personal morality, and question why people make decisions they believe to be morally wrong. This leads right back to addiction, upbringing, economic pressure, and all of the "secular liberal" issues that the author so thoroughly disapproves of.

The author is free to preach from his high horse about the sinfulness of prostitution, but I can't begin to see what he expects to accomplish.
Thank you. Utterly satisfying.
I take two exceptions to Dalrymple's article.

The first is I'm not quite sure why we went from judging the actions of a serial killer to judging the actions of prostitutes. It seems pretty safe to say that killing is harmful, prostitution practiced using safe sex techniques is not. A serial killer is immoral without question, a prostitute is immoral only if she places her client in harm's way.
The second issue to which I take exception is the statement that secular liberals see "sinners" as removed from responsibility for their "sin". The problem is that society has an inconsistent definition of "sin". Ehtical prostitution, like all activities that do not harm others, should not be a "sin", or at least should not be illegal. If a person's best talent is providing sexual services, they should be able to use that talent as any other, say a skill at carpentry, hair styling, or writing articles for magazines.
Theodore is not saying that Griffith's victims were not victims because prostitutes choose to become prostitutes.

But he is implying that prostitutes placed themselves in a situation where Griffith could murder them. Which is why he goes onto argue that liberals are crazy because they want to explain away the choice of the prostitutes to put themselves into situations where they would be murdered.

If a shelf stacker in a supermarket in a poor area gets stabbed we don’t blame him for putting himself into a situation where he might get attacked. Why are prostitutes blameworthy for putting themselves entering a hazardous profession? Why blame the victim?
A superb article, as always.
Just got to this after reading a fact-based study of the on-going long-term trend in the decline in violence. Apparently the obsessive need of people like Dalrymple to see current times as morally lacking (and thus in need of protection by...) doesn't actually transmute substance into the airy stuff of deeply biased opinion.

Signed,
Person who just watched us all go through the worst recession since 1973 while crime rates continued to go down and therefore not quite ready to concede that "moral" decay has set in.
An interesting article indeed as it touches several subjects near and dear to me, some tragic, others no less than life changing. While growing up in a traditional loving middle class family, with a sane stay-at-home mother and hard working father, both my younger brother and I independently developed a penchant for alcohol, heroin, pot, and cocaine. My mother would always find excuses for our behavior, usually Vietnam, however speaking for myself; I was often in trouble before entering the military, including high school and college. Despite my additions, I also had the ability to generate a good living. I prided myself for being the best dressed man in the drunk-tank and providing for my family. Dark polyester suits of the 70’s held up quite well to hard partying. In hindsight I had the good luck to “crash” in 1974 and ended up in a very expensive chemical dependency unit. By whatever spirit that guides my life, I have not found it necessary to drink or drug in the ensuing 37 years and regularly attend a 12 step group. I am however not religious is any sense of the word. I was not “saved”, but only recovered, and that is only for today. Being good with math and logic I have had a career in designing things electronic, mostly in aircraft of various types. Due to the Peter Principal in action, I even attained the level of base commander at an operational military installation.

While sounding grandiose, this is a prelude to a tragic encounter with the same type of person as Mr. Griffiths. This mans name was Carl Brandt, known to his coworkers as Charlie. Unlike Griffiths, Charlie was one of the most likeable souls I have ever met. After killing himself, he was linked to 27 murders. Details can be found doing a Google search. Many, but certainly not all, of Charlie’s victims were prostitutes. Usually in Miami. Charlie was very intelligent, and like myself very good at mathematics. He seemed very gentle, a moderate drinker, and never to my knowledge was he a drug user. Talking to the police during the investigation, one claimed there was heavy drinking the night of his murders and resulting suicide.

Over the years I have gotten acquainted with a number of prostitutes, many of whom were drug addicts/alcoholics. A few even continued to ply their trade after getting clean. I have often wondered about these ladies and their relationships with people like my friend Charlie. These ladies are not victims, yet some perceive themselves as such. Yet as long as they perceive themselves as victims, they are powerless to effect any change. There is good money in prostitution, thus some continue to ply the trade. Just as there is good money in drug sales, there is a downside. Both can result in a bullet (or a cross bow bolt) in the head.

From what I have observed in my own life, and that of watching the lives of others, is that once I/we return to whatever is our drug of choice, or any other mind altering substance, our personalities change greatly. Bad ideas no longer seem like bad ideas. Poor choices then result with great regularity. No amount of preaching will reach people like me. Liberals wish to help by claiming us to be victims; conservatives wish help by outlawing various substances. Both are pursuing a pipe dream. The only thing that might possibly help is just to make people like us responsible for our actions and stop trying to deflect responsibility away from us. We will either recover, or we will die. It may be sad, but it is certainly not complicated.
Canada is becoming like the UK.
Honest citizens are not allowed to defend themselves or face far more serious punishment than murders and rapists.
I believe those who released this murder (civil servants) should be criminally liable and subject to the death penalty for accessory involvement.
Civil servant ARE facilitating murder.
This is a police state.
V
Who releases a rabid dog back onto the streets?! A more fascinating study would be of the officials who release this guy back into society!!!
Allowing this murderer to complete his PhD, behind bars of course, might be a good public investment. Since so little is known about the origins and inner workings of the psychopathic personality, his wirtings might shed some light on it.
James Cartwright, as an unlicensed consumer of prose with some experience of real life, I find your comment concerning Dalrymple's "disregard for environmental factors...... nearly as horrifying as the actions of the Crossbow Cannibal" both revealing and disgusting.

For a liscenced (sic) psychologist to comment thus it is apparent you need to gain a sense of perspective, and quickly.
Ian,
I like this bloke - the writer, I mean. He used to write for the Spectator.
John
Dalrymple doesn't understand that some people are born with a tendency to addiction. To quote Dr. Nick Martin,
" I think it is helpful, considering the genetic aspects in this condition, which I think are pretty indisputable, to recognise that in fact some people will have a lot more difficulty controlling their impulses and behaviour than others. It's probably very easy for somebody who has absolutely no genetic predisposition towards this sort of behaviour to be very moralistic, but unless they've actually experienced the difficulty and pain of people who do have genetic predisposition towards addiction they really have no idea."

http://www.abc.net.au/quantum/poison/alcohol/nick.htm
Though I am myself a thoroughly scurrilous secular liberal, I can find nothing to disagree with in Mr. Dalrymple's article.

My own youth was spent in a working class neighbourhood in Australia, often in the company of drug addicts and hookers, whilst observing all manner of criminal activity.
This was a rough place. I myself was beaten black and blue by an alcoholic father; when I ran outside to friends' homes, I had access to any type of narcotic and the temptation of quick money.

But to this day, I have never so much as taken a single mouthful of alcohol, much less any other drug or engaged in any criminal activity.
I watched and learned what not to do. Many of my friends were not as fortunate, and I suspect that they failed due to self-deception and a lack of intelligence.
I never accepted for one moment that any of the darker side of life was anything other than a choice, motivated by greed or fear, and I heard the same admitted by many others on those streets all those years ago.
Just at the point where the story drifted from the most interesting question (how did the University of Bradford not notice that its doctoral student was too immersed in his subject?) and became an exercise in victim-blaming, I thought to myself "Oh, this must be by Theodore Dalrymple."

I'm a secular liberal who calls it prostitution and agrees that it's seldom if ever a wise choice, but is turning tricks worse than _killing a woman with a crossbow and then eating her_? Why are we attacking the _women's_ choices? Are we really, seriously, totally fine with the conduct of Griffiths and his thesis advisor? JUST WONDERING.
"...the article refers to them as “punters,” a term in British English with connotations of vulgarity, dishonesty, and moral turpitude."

Hmm, a rather narrow and misleadingly perjorative definition of "punters", perhaps evidencing some class bias? Punters often just means members of the middle and lower classes who are paying customers of something. I don't think moral turpitude associates with concertgoers, pub goers and the like, all whom could be labeled "punters" and rarely is that connotation of lowlife intended. Granted, there are colloquial meanings related to gambling, taking on the bookies, etc. But here, it's working for too airtight a case against the liberal media without announcing your own biases, eh mate? Especially for an American audience not mindful of the current broad meanings associated with the word.
Why is it that curmudgeonly old conservatives always look so doughy and in need of a visit to the real world? Dr. Daniels is just another in a long line of polemicists who fail to see the world as it is, insisting instead on mashing it to fit into his impossibly simple-minded black and white worldview. You'd think a man of his years would have achieved more subtlety of mind by now.
"Suitability for taking a course should only be reguarded on academic ability to complete it, not someone's background."

Not on the public's dime. Why this obviously insane man was allowed to pursue this degree--at the public's expense--is beyond me.
How wonderful it is that you can turn an article about a serial killer into a callous and bizarre assault on women. You demonstrate the makings of a remarkably versatile misogynist, unsurprisingly combined here with sentiments about these women that would make Ayn Rand proud. This is, of course, rather ironic since Ayn Rand admitted in her diaries that her Objectivism was derived from the behavior of a brutal murderer. How marvelous it must be for you to participate in a discourse that, by blaming those who are, as a class of people, largely the victims of the pitiless oligarchy, enables you to participate vicariously in the same sort of power machinations that thrilled the subject of your article.
Isn't what the victims did for a living beside the point? Why is it the victim's responsibility to prevent herself from being violently murdered by a psychopath repeatedly released from prison despite clear and obvious signs he was dangerous and intended to do exactly what he did? Why aren't we discussing the prisons that released him and the broken justice system that failed to protect these women from such an obvious threat? This article begins in that direction and then suddenly veers off into the lala land of prostitution and drugs and blame the victim. It's as if you think of this man as some kind of predatory animal -- A shark will kill because that is what a shark does, you cannot blame the shark. These silly women swam in shark infested waters, what did they expect? Their fault entirely. Never mind that the shark had been caught several times and then released back into water. What about the people who released the shark into the city's water supply and then decided to pay it's way through a PHd??? This situation is as insane as the murderer!
Suppose prostitutes didn't exist? Would Stephen Griffiths then have turned out a baker instead of a butcher? I can see it now, Mr. Griffiths planning his murders and then saying to himself, " Hmm, there are no women around stupid enough to get themselves killed by me, oh well, guess I'll bake cupcakes instead."
Wouldn't such a man just find someone else to kill? And I suppose we'd find a way to blame her as well. Maybe she shouldn't have been out so late, good girls should be in bed by 9, or maybe her skirt was too short, or maybe she didn't walk with enough confidence (too worried about being murdered), or maybe she shouldn't have been so, you know, female.
The killer is 100% responsible for having killed. The victims are not responsible for having been killed. It's outrageous that I should have to point this out in 2011.
Despite Griffiths' background he was entiled to a place on that course. Suitability for taking a course should only be reguarded on academic ability to complete it, not someone's background.

Whilst you mention the horrendously evasive criminal background checks, part of the Big brother society that Britain has become, one of the aspects of British society that you overlook is the value placed on experience above any objective approach. That presents a rather sick irony to this story.
Every body acknowledges that life is expensive, nevertheless we need money for different issues and not every one gets big sums money. Thus to receive quick business loans and consolidation loans should be good way out.
What a change from a country where they were going to hang the Artful Dodger for stealing bread . . .
tony in san diego June 03, 2011 at 9:21 AM
In trying to understand the point of this article, I was drawn to the following line:
"And since the liberal wants to be seen, particularly by his peers, as a man superior in compassion to everyone else,..."

This seems to reveal Mr. "Dalrymple's" bias. What are the implications? That the conservative wants to be seen as a man inferior in compassion? That the liberal's compassion is mere seeming, unlike the conservative's? That compassion is effete, or whatever it is that liberals are, and which conservatives are not?

From a story about the horrible cannibal, it turns into an editorial about how prostitutes have brought their troubles on themselves, and we should call a prostitute a prostitute, and not whitewash her nasty career choice.

Well, Mr. "Dalrymple" has demonstrated that he is not superior in compassion to a liberal, so I guess that is the ultimate point to be drawn from this essay.
There is much in this piece with which I agree, but the author's understanding of addiction and the physiological changes to the brain that can result and can, in turn, affect thought and behavior is woefully lacking.
An enjoyable read, although I think you need a dark sense of humour to cope with this stuff. Some comments seem to be unhappy with the range of targets, but sloppy thinking, sentimentality and liberal morality all come in for a bucketing and I thought the article held together well. Dr Daniels makes some important points about consciousness and conscious decision-making (and, I guess, about free will). Comments below are critical, noting (for example) the lack of conscious decision-making by drug addicts (although the decisions to use the drugs which you end up being addicted to must be conscious, musn't they - you don't get addicted to any drug first time).

One such commentator is a psychologist, as am I, and although Dr Daniels doesn't spell it out in this article, ideas of chemical or neurobiological determinism reducing people to helpless (and therefore, blameless) automatons are becoming increasingly common within professions like psychology and psychiatry. I regularly hear colleagues speaking of patients who have offended in terms of 'they could not have done otherwise because of how their brain is' and seeking to use this as a plea in mitigation. Good liberals (or progressives) that they are, most psychologists and psychiatrists don't extend this explanatory absolution to politicians they don't like, George W. Bush was absolutely responsible for his actions - this neurobiological determinism is selective.

I have to say that this stuff scares the hell out of me in part because it has the potential to make the punishment of crime (and behaviour change for miscreants) unworkable, and I don't think that would be a good thing. And, if this was true then that would be a good reason for locking some people up from mid-adolescence, and I don't that would lead to a very nice society either...
Darshana Jayemanne June 03, 2011 at 5:44 AM
Two headlines are the basis for a causal link between a particular British newspaper and two serial murder cases - lurid hand-waving notwithstanding.

This publication's evidentiary standards seem a bit lax.
Some of us just like Stephen Griffiths!
Brilliant as always. Mr Dalrymple is one of the most astute of todays commentators. Its a pity he is not in a position of authority where he could do more to tackle some of our self made problems.
"[E]ither we are all like this—no different from inanimate objects, which act and react mechanically... or we are not... No one could live as if it were true"

I wonder if Dr Dalrymple is correct. I'm curious what the difference is between living as if it were true and living as if it were false.

Three quick points:

-- Consciousness is neither here nor there, right? Surely the facts that one is conscious and conscious of being conscious tell neither against free will nor for it?

-- Are we in fact conscious of having free will? Dr Dalrymple takes as given that it seems to us we've got it. But is this true? What would it seem like if we didn't have it? What would be the difference in conscious experience?

-- Assume that it DOES seem to us we have free will. Well, is that incommensurable with believing that we don't? Is seeing a mirage incommensurable with believing it's a mirage?
A disappointingly scattershot article from Dalrymple. First, a driveby at the liberal education establishment for stooping to providing education to ex-convicts (but wouldn't stopping psychopaths from getting degrees in murder be an example of Nanny state-ism (which is Bad)?).
Then, a strange and I can only assume deliberate misunderstanding of a couple of articles in the Guardian (which articles he assumes encapsulate the "liberal" point of view). Being a doctor, he must surely be aware that it is generally the CONSERVATIVE opinion that drug use causes social ills and depravity (this is the view that the American government and addiction industry are continuously foisting upon their clients); the left liberal, on the other hand, will most likely put the blame on poverty, lack of education, and abusive upbringing.
After this, it is almost by-the-by that Dalrymple's disdain for the admittedly feeble technocratic euphemism "sex work" rises from his moral horror of prostitution, and he stops just short of inferring that, because the killer's victims were bad people, they therefore deserved their fate.
Stephen Kennamer June 02, 2011 at 11:34 PM
Theodore Dalrymple always manages to reduce any topic to a stark antithesis between the stupidly liberal straw man who is confected mostly out of his own fantasies but also rounded out with a few choice quotes from the media--Dalrymple is an accomplished polemicist--and the sensible conservative like himself who believes in original sin. Never mind that he is an atheist who does not believe in Calvin's malignant god--the only possible point of origin for the original sin.

So we have black and white. Humans are a bad lot generally, but proper people cultivate good habits, take responsibility, work hard, keep their nose clean, while irresponsible people are impulsive, addicted, self-pitying, and probably incorrigible, although very tough love works one time in ten. Oh, and then there are liberals, his perennial target, who wring their hands and make excuses for the depraved.

Can we ask how these types come into existence? Clearly Dalrymple thinks that prostitutes are living a degraded life with no one to blame but themselves. But can we ask why there is a black market in sex? It's pure capitalism, you know, supply and demand: men are seeking a service and are willing to pay for it. Is there anything to discuss here about the failure of monogamy, the impracticality of our ideals, the stupidity of criminalizing adult consensual behavior? No, Dalrymple has never yet thought it relevant to provide a social analysis of a social problem. All problems are issues of character. Miscreants need to behave better, that is all. They need to develop good habits, like his, and don't let him hear how a blighted childhood changes the odds--he is armed with plenty of anecdotal evidence to blow that argument out of the water. Instance: Not every beaten, starved, humiliated boy becomes a serial killer; not every sexually and emotionally abused girl becomes a prostitute. (Wonderful logic. Smoking does not cause lung cancer, because my uncle smoked and did not get lung cancer.)

Pity? Compassion? Understanding? Well, those that lack character don't deserve it, and those that have it, certainly those who are as self-satisfied as he is, don't need it. It's a viewpoint, I guess.
Ramesh Raghuvanshi June 02, 2011 at 11:27 PM
Why British government giving mild punishment to most dangerous criminal? Every time he did crime and court granted him mild punishment after realized from jail he did same type of crime.Are laws of Britain so simple that dangerous criminal can came out with minor punishment?.British government believed in soft criminal law? If it is true than England is paradise for hardcore criminal.
I agree with Susan that this is rambling and misleading. I'd also add that this secular liberal has absolutely no problem seeing evil and calling it that.

Perhaps the author should get out more.
A classic. I have nothing more to say about this text.
As usual, an illuminating article by Dr. Dalrymple on the misguided worldview of liberals exculpating "society's victims" of responsibility and attributing it all to the wrong conditioning. But I must say that I was far more curious to find out about the liberal mindset of the people at the University of Bradford with regard to this student. Even if they were entirely lacking in curiosity about his background, given his psychological profile, I would imagine someone would wonder about his stability, and therefore fitness for Ph.D. work. How did a career criminal starting at age 17 get into a Ph.D. program in the first place?
As always, Dalrymple's razor slices through the inconsequential, the irrelevant and the sentimental, leaving only the naked issue. The awesome powers of reason, logic and common sense dictate what is right with such luminous clarity that I am simply baffled to discover that time and time again man does the exact opposite. As a conservative, the fact that there are still men writing with a clear perspective and a sharp tongue is one I'll always carry with me for consolation, because unfortunately, their writings have come about two or three generations too late.

Even before the Berkely revolt of '68 it should have been clear where the postmodern cultural marxist schools of thought were taking us. A little more ideological counterbalance in those days would certainly not have cured all of the worlds' evils, but I am convinced it would have spared us the most of such suffering as Dalrymple describes.

In these days of moral relativism however, a genuine clash of ideas seems no longer possible. I have read countless leftwing and socialist publications praising Dalrymple for his masterful prose and concern with the underclass, right before dedicating entire pages to the plight of women who can't help falling into the hands of pimps and loverboys and how only extensive government programs can save them. Now that truth has been officially abolished, Dalrymple's ideas are but one selection of many ideas, each as good as the other. And so, without fear of inconsistency, any publicist can praise Dalrymple's insights for one moment and promptly ignore him in the next and carry on spouting the usual platitudes as if he had perrished in the cradle.

And so it will go on until the inevitable end. World foodprices have more than doubled and will continue to rise. Printing presses are running a race with national debt of
countries the world over, and are losing. The ensuiing hyperinflation will evaporate the savings of what's left of the industrious middle classes and with that the markets will collapse. Do not look to pictures of the 1930's to try and imagine what the greatest depression will look like. People back then were not only more selfsustaining, but also wellmannered and more good natured. When the spoiled egomaniacal hyperaggressive hordes of today discover that their entitlements can no longer be backed up by solid coin, goods or foods there will be rioting and plunder all
through the land, until the last resources are consumed and only bloody ruins remain.
The first part of the article is interesting. It then rambles into some odd areas seemingly unconnected to the rest. Certainly, the article title is misleading to say the least.
Martin Berman-Gorvine June 01, 2011 at 11:05 AM
Thought-provoking as always, but I expected more on the foolishness of the university that admitted a psychopath to its doctoral studies program. That's what the title and the first few paragraphs promised. The reflections about prostitution are properly speaking another subject.
The jumping around from the Crossbow Killer to the Guardian's attitude to drugs and prostitution is acrobatic even for Dalrumpole of the Bailey. The Guardian's stance is largely a reaction to that of the right-wing press, which tends to regard prostitute homicides as news only if there are several of them.

Most prostitutes are not global dominatrices. I don't how many you have really met, but there is a high evidence based correlation between drug addiction and prostitution. Most women do not actively choose to become prostitutes, they don't get leaflets from their school's careers teacher. Most women who are prostitutes are not plucky 'tarts with hearts' bringing their kids up well in challenging circumstances and choosing to get paid for sex. Far too many are in thrall to their pimps and addicted to drugs.
James Cartwright June 01, 2011 at 10:05 AM
As a liscenced psychologist with some experience in substance abuse treatment I find your argument concerning the moral responsibility of the victims both compelling and alarming. While it is true that social ills have come to function as tag lines and focal points for the attention of news readers, I find your disregard for environmental factors in the course of addiction and lack of sympathy nearly as horrifying as the actions of the Crossbow Cannibal. Never mind the apparent emotional disconnect from the wellbeing of others, I would assume (perhaps wrongly) that your training in medicine might include cognitive science or at the minimum the neuropsychological education necessary to understand the effects of the narcotics you have spent a lifetime prescribing. It would be wonderful to argue that our decisions occur in a vacuum according to absolute moral principles in the tradition but this is a scientific fallacy. We are physical beings whose brains operate according to chemical patterns easily distorted by powerful drugs. Responsibility is irrelevant and arguments regarding moral responsibility are only the last refuge of those too weak or cowardly to accept their responsibility to change the world. I'm sorry if this seems harsh, it's simply that anyone who has spent five minutes talking to a heroin or meth addict, for the most part, understands how deeply these drugs alter perception and higher level cognitions.
I enjoyed this article as I do all City Journal articles. Very thought provoking and interesting.
I always enjoy your articles and look forward to reading them. This one, as usual, is informative, intelligent. and perhaps because I agree so thoroughly with so much of what you say very on point. Thanks again.
I first discovered Dr. Dalrymple through his book The Wilder Shores of Marxism, written about 20 years ago under the pseudonym Anthony Daniels. Since then, I have read everything I've encountered by him. He is a must-read for me. He combines humor with deep seriousness, he doesn't flinch from the truth, and he certainly must annoy the hell out of those who worship at the altar of political correctness. Besides his social criticism, I've also enjoyed his literary pieces, including a recent piece on the writer Stefan Zweig.
Don't you love it? Murder and torture re OK if they are your academic subjects. Hitler should have taken "modern theory of ethnic population management", where I am sure he would have recieved a grant and an endowed seat.
When we draw and make merry with annals from the human bestiary such as this, are we not just examining an interesting solution. Much less the method of preventing and heading off at the pass the creation of such humans. The article appears to be very remiss on a little monster creation journey as it meanders through interesting political concepts. How about a follow up to complete the story, was he fed on the left breast when he wanted the right. That sort of Freudian angle may give more of an insight into the perils of liberal thinking, and social PC justice, that any rational layperson may take on board to perhaps digest with a Big Mac.
As lucid as they come.