I’ve lost some of my best friends to a high that has destroyed the Left. Take Peter, an ex housemate of mine, who was once an active socialist with Militant Tendency. OK, he never actually did anything to help the workers he admired so much, but he did attend meetings and sell newspapers outside train stations. It got him out of the house and gave him a sense of pride. I like to think he would have eventually progressed to chipping in for the bills and buying a round in the pub (at Xmas). Who knows, he might have even done some community work.
But one day he just disappeared. When I eventually tracked him down, I almost wished I hadn’t got so upset about the unpaid bills. Gone was the donkey jacket, and his copy of Militant was nowhere to be seen. The human shell that stood before me, in the offices of a financial services company, had the prison pallor and vacant eyes of a man who’d given up on an active social life. Instead, he’d sit staring at a glowing screen all day, hoping for a quick fix. Like millions of self proclaimed ‘committed socialists’, Peter had become addicted to the most potent drug on the Internet.
Dudgeon – also known by street names like ‘huff’, Huffington, dudge, beggars belief and ‘umbrage’ – creates delusions in its users. Many are convinced they automatically inherit the earth simply by typing ‘socialist’ into their Twitter profile. They imagine themselves to be without sin and capable of casting the first, last and middle barrages of stones. In a classic behavioural symptom, they often seek each other out online and petition for people to be stripped of their livelihood. Even if they themselves lied about their qualifications for a university lecturing post, they will happily trump up charges of everyday sexism if it means they can get a Nobel Prize winner sacked.
Dudge works by shutting down the brain’s rational response mechanisms and delivering a pure shot of impotent rage to the user’s body. After the initial high wears off, users then experience a second wave of agony, as they realise they’ve become habitual readers of The Daily Mail and Katy Hopkins’s Sun column.
Indignation competes with guilt and self-loathing for supporting the newspapers they supposedly despise, while ignoring those appeals for volunteers in The Guardian.
Pretty soon, they become obsessed with their nemesis, to the point they totally abandon any acts that might demonstrate their own citizenship. They become convinced they can signal their virtues – “I tweet because I care” – rather than actually proving them. It’s a condition that’s been dubbed Rufus Hound Syndrome.
Users – or ‘readers’ as they are known by dealers – admit that it can be difficult to kick the habit. Dudgeon is a gateway drug, that leads to harder and more dangerous emotional fixes, such as spite and prejudice. These – when mixed together and gently warmed over a glowing screen, create a deadly cocktail which is better known by its street name, Zero Tolerance.
Take Penny, a left wing blogger. Penny cannot keep away from The Daily Mail, a newspaper that – according to sales figures – is only read by around 3 per cent of the population. But hatred of this minority readership has become an obsession. Every time she promised herself this was her last visit to the sidebar of shame, she knew she’d be back for one last hit. This general obsession with hating a minority has been noted by the public, who now automatically give all members of the left wing community a wide steer, just in case.
Some doctors encourage afflicted lefties to try moving onto Daily Mail substitutes such as The Daily Express or the Nick Ferrari show on LBC Radio, but a significant proportion fail ever to get themselves clean. Gradually the body develops a tolerance for the substance, until finally, at some point in middle age, the addict wakes up one day to find they agree with pretty much everything Peter Hitchens has ever written.
Many will ignore their friends and family and travel miles in order to get offended by something they could reasonably avoid. The mass addiction to onlining Dudge has devastated many of the left wing communities of Westminster Village. The problem is so bad that many fear that the Labour Party has imploded. Without a serious opposition, David Cameron – who doesn’t seem to stand for anything and never has – could run riot. And that would be very dangerous indeed.