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NEW BOOK FROM THEODORE DALRYMPLE:
The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism.

Soundings

Theodore Dalrymple
A Coda
In England these days, right is wrong, and wrong is right.
Summer 2000

I told the story of a young Indian college student of good character who was working in his parents' shop when set upon violently by three youths to whom he had refused to sell beer, suspecting that they were underage (see "Policemen in Wonderland," Spring 2000). In the melee, one of the youths seriously injured his arm when he thrust it through the shop window.

The police charged the ruffians, all with long criminal records, with assault. The three then preposterously alleged that the young Indian had attacked them. The police and the prosecutor's office, wanting to appear evenhanded in the eyes of liberals, took the allegation seriously, and charged the young Indian, hitherto of unblemished record, with assault. The prospect of a trial had a profound effect on him, and he tried to kill himself.

The wretched story has a denouement. The prosecution agreed to drop the charges against the young Indian (on the grounds of his mental ill health!) as long as he agreed to drop the charges against his attackers. Relieved at the prospect of putting an end to the whole sad affair, he agreed to this completely unjust proposal. And so the three youths escaped scot-free, with their fully justified contempt for the law further enhanced.

But even in modern England, there is an infraction too far: the three young men now sit in detention, having recently stabbed someone nearly to death in a brawl outside a local nightclub. The authorities' failure to make a proper (and in this case easy) distinction between innocence and guilt, victim and perpetrator, resulted in a decent young man nearly ending his life and in someone else nearly dying from stab wounds. Small wonder that Britain is today the most crime-ridden society in the Western world: for who could either fear or respect a criminal justice system such as this?

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