How to read a society

The original source of this quote from Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels) appears to date to a 2005 Frontpage article or interview that is no longer accessible online:

Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

Looking around for the source of the quote, I came upon Dalrymple’s 2000 City Journal essay “How to read a society.” The essay is collected in Dalrymple’s Our Culture, What’s Left of It, published by Ivan Dee in 2005 and still in print. The essay takes an extended look at the Marquis de Custine’s Russia in 1839 (also still in print in various forms and editions). In this essay Dalrymple observes:

If Custine were among us now, he would recognize the evil of political correctness at once, because of the violence that it does to people’s souls by forcing them to say or imply what they do not believe but must not question. Custine would demonstrate to us that, without an external despot to explain our pusillanimity, we have willingly adopted the mental habits of people who live under a totalitarian dictatorship.

The situation described by Dalrymple in his 2000 City Journal essay has deteriorated considerably in the 20 years since he wrote it. Now the phenomenon of political correctness has been absorbed, enhanced, and spread in the tyrannical cancel culture that permeates our institutions with a ruthlessness beyond the powers of the Tsars of old. Leaving no crack or crevice of our public life unfilled, it has metastasized with the speed and lethality of a virulent cancer.

Presenting as case studies in my inbox this morning are Douglas Murray’s June Spectator USA column “The new inequality” and Alana Mastrangelo’s Breitbart story on the prospective rule to be adopted next week by the House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the 117th Congress. With Mastrangelo’s story in mind I would like to repurpose the Barbarians’ classic number as the question that must not be asked under the Pelosi regime (video below).

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