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Sentimentalizing Serial Murder

Anthony Daniels (“Theodore Dalrymple”) compares the attitudes of two women, born ten years apart, toward the serial murderers who killed (and in one case at least, raped and tortured) a sister of each.

Is the difference merely idiosyncratic, or is it expressive of a change in the general culture? Or perhaps, as one commenter suggests, it is a difference in “class”; hard-working vs. upper-crust, I think she means.
Also, I was struck by this remark from a commenter:

According to Jewish ethics, when it comes to sins committed against another person, only the victim has the right to forgive the sinner. Third parties, including God, do not get involved. In sins against God, God can be asked for forgiveness.

The piece is fascinating, absorbing–Dalrymple at his best.   Highly recommended.


  1. JuliaM says:

    Fascinating article!

    “She does not consider the possibility that incontinent forgiveness, deemed good in itself regardless of the act to be forgiven or the attitude of the person to be forgiven, means that no human behavior is beyond the pale, that nothing is unforgivable.”

    Oh, I rather think she does indeed consider that possibility. In fact, I suspect it’s the goal.

  2. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    When Rosemary West (sic) declines your letters, you might at least pause a moment and think “am I entirely on the right track here?”

  3. Jim says:

    “Her forgiveness rolls on undeterred like a panzer division, flattening all monstrous immorality in its path.”

    A telling line from a fascinating article.

  4. Lynne says:

    And then there’s the numerous working class, basically educated relatives of murder victims who address news cameras serving an audience far larger than Daller’s opinion pieces and books and who declare forgiveness even before the corpses are properly cold. The saints that they are.

    Cherrypicking to prove your point. Even the so called great and good do it.

    The sentimentalities that Dalrymple highlights have neither class nor intellectual borders. To suggest otherwise is either being ignorant (which he clearly isn’t) or disingenuous.

  5. RAB says:

    I don’t do forgiveness, simple as…

    It is certainly true that the culture has changed though. The watershed was the death of Diana. The massive emotional incontinence of that really shocked me.

  6. Roue le Jour says:


    My birthday is a couple of days after Diana’s death. I still remember going to a local restaurant for a nosh and a piss up to find the place deserted, the lights dimmed and dirgy music playing. “What’s up?” I reasonably asked. “Diana’s dead.” Was the reply. “Did you know her personally?” “Of course not.” “Then put some cheerful music on and bring us a beer.” Manager runs off to the loo in tears.

    What the fuck?

  7. Julie near Chicago says:

    Well…I do know some people who cried when Horowitz died…and I wasn’t exactly joystricken myself….

    Still, we have his records. :)

  8. Julie near Chicago says:

    More seriously, I’m like “Sue,” whose comment to the article included the statement that she’d never quite known what’s meant by “forgiving.”

    Me neither.

    I had finally decided that really the term is best understood as meaning “to forgo condemnation.” That is, not to damn the doer. Thus, it would have a religious sense.


    And after an hour or so of chasing etymology on the World-Wide Web (mostly Webster’s 1828 Ed.), I found myself not much enlightened–although somewhere in the chain of words, the idea of Divine forgiveness was mentioned.

    But at least now I can articulate what it seems to me to mean, and it’s this: Not to pretend that the act under consideration never happened, but to decide, and to feel on an emotional level, that its having been done makes no difference to one–and that thus, one will not feel differently toward the doer.

    Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

  9. RAB says:

    What the fuck indeed!

    I was watching a late film at my mum’s house in Cardiff when the news of her accident came in as a newsflash. Hmmm doesn’t look good I thought. Watched the end of the film and went to bed.

    When I got up the rolling news was well and truly rolling, and on all channels. Yep she was dead. Yes well, very sad and all that, but shit happens doesn’t it? To all of us, famous or not.

    But it kept on rolling all day long, and getting more and more unctuous and maudlin. The best moment for me was when one of the lightweights they employ as presenters at a weekend, was interviewing Dr David Starkey. Starkey proceeded to clog into Diana something fierce… Mad bad and dangerous to know… Like Lord Byron. And she was of course, but all that is now made invisible. Not as barking as Chuckles however, who should never have married her in the first place, but…

    Well the trainee weekend interviewer was practically cowering under the desk and making a cross with his fingers to get the evil Starkey eye off of him. And guess what folks? You won’t find that footage anywhere on the Net still.

  10. JuliaM says:

    “And guess what folks? You won’t find that footage anywhere on the Net still.”

    Pity. I’d love to watch it!

  11. JuliaM says:

    RAB, I wonder if one of the reasons for the increasing maudlin grief-whoring over such events is – partly, at least – the fact that it provides employment?

  12. RAB says:

    Julia, back in the early 70′s there were just two of them; Rozz and Dave. Dave had failed his Sociology degree and Rozz had dropped out of Psychology. So they took some “Alternative” therapy courses, usually involving Candles and smells and getting in touch with your inner self, letting it all hang out etc, and eventually set themselves up in the councelling business, advising the probation Service and fake charities etc etc. Now there are millions of the fuckers!

  13. MarbellaBoy says:

    On the theme of forgiveness, well, I have a story.

    Some time ago I had a friend and business partner of some ten years. A particular business deal had gone to shit and recriminations were flying. Now in my mind, this was just part of a continuum, you win some you lose some, trust between us was implicit and any mistakes made were understood as genuine human error with no selfish motives. One day I got a call from a mutual partner saying “I was just talking with X, he blames you for the business fail and he was at your door last night with a hatchet in his hand and he was going to kill you”.

    Luckily I wasn’t in. I immediately phoned him and he confirmed it.

    Now let’s step back for a minute here. This is someone that I had been through thick and thin with for years. We had had many more wins than losses. We had stood shoulder to shoulder together against the world on many occasions.

    Now he wanted to kill me.

    I cut him out of my life and did not see him face to face for at least 5 years. I knew at the time that he was on the Bolivian marching powder, but I did not realise to what extent. This tends to make people somewhat paranoid.

    Five years later we had some residual business that needed to be tied up so I met him again to discuss it. I had a knife in my back pocket just in case. By that time he had cleaned himself up so it all passed off without problems.

    But, getting to the point, here’s the thing. Since our first meeting I have met him dozens of times. We have never discussed that night. I understand his mindset at that time and you could say that I have forgiven him. The thing is that the previous trust is gone for good. I will never trust him again. I can however understand what he was going through at the time and discount it.

    Forgiven, not forgotten.

  14. Julie near Chicago says:

    Thanks, MB. So…forgiven (written off as anomalous act by your friend)–but not un-done. No longer unthinkable.

    And certainly not forgotten.

  15. Paul Marks says:

    Making a big song and dance of “forgiving” terrible crimes – committed by someone who has no remorse, and committed the crimes against SOMEONE ELSE.

    This makes no sense to me – this lady (and modern culture generally) is potty.

    One does not forgive crimes committed against someone else – one PUNISHES them.

    One hunts down the criminal and brings justice to them.

    To do less betrays the dead.

    If this lady was less self obsessed, she would understand that she was spitting on the memory of her own sister.

    One should not treat the memory of even someone one has never met with such disrespect. Let alone a sister.

    The evil doers (the ones who have murdered the innocent) must be hunted down and punished.

    Not “forgiven”.

  16. Paul Marks says:

    Write a long comment about how humans should control our violent instincts – to put them under the laws of justice. And have a Nazi (who names himself after a character in a children’s fantasy book) take your words out of context and twist the meaning 180 degrees.

    Grumble, grumble, grumble.

    Paul irritated.

  17. Julie near Chicago says:

    Paul, I am nearly speechless over that. I strongly suspect that such thoughts or “ideations,” maybe, better, since they tend to be accompanied by mental pictures–I strongly suspect that such have crossed even the pristine terrain of whatever passes for V-dv’s brain.

    Or perhaps he is unique in human history.

    Also apparently has never run across the concept of “figure of speech.”

    Besides which, like some others I’ve “met,” it appears he cannot read.

  18. Julie near Chicago says:

    By the way…On Topic: Perhaps we should all make it a point this weekend to see “The Sons of Katie Elder.” Shocking attitude those boys had (especially John Wayne). Shocking.

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