David Calling

Surrendering to Barbarism

Readers of National Review need no introduction to Theodore Dalrymple. Under that byline, or his real name of Anthony Daniels, he is a frequent contributor. There’s no one quite like him. He’s been a doctor and worked in prisons, really coming to grips with the lower depths. Although he reports terrible things, and sometimes has a little gleam of I-told-you-so when reporting something even more terrible than what’s gone before, he refuses to abandon his humane instincts and a belief that it’s worth fighting for civilization even if the cause looks lost.
His very latest book, just published by Encounter Books, has the title The New Vichy Syndrome, and the even more challenging subtitle, Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism. In the wartime years of Vichy, intellectuals simply surrendered because that was the comfortable thing to do. Now they’re at it again. Europe is in a bad way, with falling birth rates everywhere, and native populations being replaced by immigrants who are mainly Muslim and often unable or unwilling to integrate. Nobody has the courage to take a position about this, or indeed anything else. Morality is thought to be relative, so people must do as they like and feel free in this respect. In the absence of any such things as right and wrong, of course barbarism must gain the upper hand. Wonderful lengthy footnotes are evidence of Dalrymple’s intellectual energy. Here’s one: The present Archbishop of Canterbury recommends sharia law for Britain, and by so doing he “mistakes cowardice for bravery, surrender for victory, and platitudes for insight . . . far more of a danger to British society than Islamic fundamentalism on its own could ever be.”
By coincidence, a fine example of intellectual nonsense comes right now from Paris. Bernard-Henry Lévy is perhaps the foremost public intellectual in that city, with an opinion about everything and eager to sound off all day long. He’s not really a bad fellow the way Sartre or other French intellectuals were, just totally and unforgettably pleased with himself. In a recent television show with discussion of the Enlightenment philosopher Kant, he thought to win the argument by quoting one Botul, who had a theory known as Botulism — you’d have thought that word might have given pause for thought, since botulism is a specially nasty form of food poisoning. Anyhow it turned out that some clever journalist had written articles inventing Botul simply as a spoof, and Lévy had fallen for it. Aren’t the fatuous credulity and the bogus authority bang up to date? It’s not a surrender to barbarism, of course, but it does tend to prove Dalrymple’s point that European intellectuals are worse than useless.

David Pryce-Jones — David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

Most Popular

PC Culture

America Is Intolerably Intolerant

When you think of the sheer vindictiveness of what happened to Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, it takes your breath away. On the very night of his greatest career triumph, a reporter dug up his old tweets (composed when he was a young teenager), reported on the most offensive insults, and immediately and ... Read More
Film & TV

The Mob Gets Kevin Hart

This week, shortly after being tapped to host the Oscars, Hollywood star Kevin Hart found himself on the wrong side of the woke social-justice warriors. His great sin: Years ago, he tweeted jokes referencing homosexuality. More egregiously, in 2010, he did a comedy bit in which he discussed not wanting his son, ... Read More
Politics & Policy

How Democrats Can Blow It in 2020

Donald Trump probably can’t win the 2020 presidential election, but the Democrats can lose it. What I mean is that in a contest between Trump and a generic Democrat, Trump would almost surely lose if the current political climate holds through 2020. According to a Fox News poll this week, 38 percent of ... Read More
Film & TV

Clint Eastwood’s Unforgettable Curtain Call

At 88, Clint Eastwood seldom appears on screen anymore and last acted in a movie in 2012’s mediocre Trouble with the Curve. So the final images of The Mule may be the last we see of him at the movies. If so, what an exit: understated perfection, with a playful hint of subverting his screen image. The Mule is ... Read More