Theodore Dalrymple

Global Warning | 26 April 2008

Theodore Dalrymple delivers a Global Warning

Death and taxes: these, according to Benjamin Franklin, are the two immovables of human existence. In modern life, however, there is a third: drivel, from which, try as one might, it is now impossible to escape.

I concede, of course, that it is possible that it’s my sensitivity to drivel rather than its incidence or prevalence (to borrow two terms from epidemiology) that has increased over the years. But I don’t think so: I can’t go further than a few yards from my front door without encountering some. That wasn’t true always.

Personally, I blame broadcasting. It insinuates itself everywhere almost without human agency, or none at any rate that dare acknowledge itself, and rots the brain utterly. You can never find who is responsible for the constant stream of drivel in public spaces, to which you can neither give your attention nor entirely ignore, so complaint is futile. You must accept your impotence: the medium is the message.

And when the person responsible for the presence of drivel is obvious, you dare not ask him to turn it off for fear of appearing superior and giving offence. Recently, for example, I was in a taxi from the port of Dun Laoghaire to Dublin and the radio was switched on to the state-run station. I didn’t ask the driver to switch it off. So there was a long discussion, still not over when I arrived at my destination three quarters of an hour later, as a kind of Greek chorus to my thoughts, about a forthcoming football match. There were heated disputations about whether such-and-such a player was past his best or had not yet reached his peak, and whether a manager had paid too much for him or had got a bargain; then the wisest man in Ireland on the subject of football was asked who would win the match.

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