The Princess Di Effect

Theodore Dalrymple describes it:

A young British woman called Grace Millane was making her way round the world after graduation from university when she was murdered in New Zealand….

All over New Zealand … there has been an outpouring of emotion, or at any rate of public displays of emotion—there being no point in having an emotion unless you can show it in public. The candles have come out en masse, as it were, and have been lit in prominent places at what are called vigils. People at these vigils—mainly women, to judge from the photograph—stand around and look mournful, and I daresay they hug one another….

… It all seems very peculiar to me, this outpouring of kitschy emotion.

It is not confined to New Zealand, of course. Perhaps the greatest exhibition of it was after the death of Princess Diana; but these days, we have come to expect the lighting of candles whenever anybody loses his life in an unusual or spectacular way. No sooner had three people been murdered by a Muslim terrorist in Strasbourg, for example, then out came the candles, as if they had been held in waiting precisely for such an event as this.

I admit to a deep vein of dark humor. I scorned the Princess Di cult when she was alive. Upon learning of her death, I immediately formulated a ghoulish pun: Princess die.

This isn’t to minimize or dismiss the pain of anyone’s brutal death or the true emotional suffering of those near and dear to that person. But I do wonder about the emotional state of those persons who, as Dalrymple puts it, “have vigil candles at the ready at home, and joss sticks, just waiting for the occasion to demonstrate to the world the depth of their feeling and their inner goodness”.

It is of a piece with many things, including these examples of leftist hypocrisy:

  • fawning over “undocumented migrants” and homeless persons whom one wouldn’t invite into one’s home
  • lamenting “climate change” from the comfort of one’s McMansion with a 3-car garage containing at least two monstrous SUVs
  • insisting that taxes are “too low” while taking advantage of every tax break in the book
  • supporting confiscatory gun-control measures while enjoying the security of a gated manse and armed bodyguards
  • advocating “free speech” as long as it’s speech of which the advocate approves
  • insisting that coerced charity, open borders, etc., etc., accord with the teachings of Christ, especially when Christ is otherwise meaningless to the advocate of such measures

All such hypocrisy — which places burdens on others that are trifles, at most, to the hypocrite — is of relatively recent vintage. It is due, in large part, to the success of capitalism (another target of leftist hypcrites), which has shielded limousine liberals, armchair anarchists, and salon socialists from the consequences of their own stated beliefs.

Granted, there is probably little overlap between the practitioners of leftist hypocrisy and the practitioners of public grief. But both practices spring from the same urge to stroke one’s ego by virtue-signaling. As vulgar as it may be, lighting a candle at the drop of a body (pardon my dark humor) is far preferable to the social and economic damage wrought by leftist schemes.

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