… And Its Discontents
Who, really, can be surprised by National Review Editor Rich Lowry’s firing of John Derbyshire this weekend for the sin of practicing anthropology without a license? Who can be surprised, as well, by the reaction of the “Conservative Movement,” whose partisans, seemingly without exception, took the opportunity to dance on The Derb’s grave? The real shock is that John lasted as long as he did.
Perhaps his secret was that he would always lace race realism with irony and humor, lighting the mood while stalking the big taboos. Take, for instance, this passages from the Derb Canon, one of my favorites:
In September 2006, political scientist Robert Putnam was awarded the Johan Skytte Prize, one of the most prestigious in his field. The prize is awarded in Uppsala, Sweden, by a Scandinavian scholarly association. (Skytte was a seventeenth-century Swedish grandee.)
As usual with such events in the academic world, Putnum presented a research paper to commemorate the event. The paper is titled “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century.” [ . . . ]
The paper has a very curious structure. After a brief introduction (two pages), there are three main sections, headed as follows:
- The Prospects and Benefits of Immigration and Ethnic Diversity (three pages)
- Immigration and Diversity Foster Social Isolation (nineteen pages)
- Becoming Comffortable with Diveristy (seven pages)
I’ve had some mild amusement here at my desk trying to think up imaginary research papers similarly structured. One for publication in a health journal, perhaps, with three sections titled
- Health benefits of drinking green tea
- Green tea causes intestinal cancer
- Making the switch to green tea
Derbyshire’s offending article at Takimag, “The Talk: Non-Black Version,” was, no doubt, a little too frank. People recognized exactly what Derbyshire has in mind—not only regarding the natural behavior of Black people but the lie of “equality” at the heart of contemporary “Conservatism.”
But it’s worth dwelling on this question “What took NR so long?” A plausible answer is offered by The Atlantic’s Elspeth Reeve:
The truth about intellectual magazines is that not all of their readers are as enlightened and forward-thinking and clear-eyed as the people who produce them imagine themselves to be. So the trick to pull off is how to give what those less enlightened readers want — and thereby secure their money either through subscriptions or contributions — while still maintaining an air of respectability. Think of how your PBS station always trots out the stars-of-the-1970s concerts and River Dance whenever pledge drive comes around. That’s where Derbyshire comes in.
You’re probably familiar with the phrase, “No offense, but…” which always precedes something offensive wrapped in an “I’m just telling it like it is” attitude. In certain parts of the country, there’s a similar use of the phrase, “I’m not racist, but…” which always signifies that the speaker is about to say something racist. Derbyshire’s specialty is the fancy-pants version of “I’m not racist, but…”
Reeve, of course, always wanted Derb to be fired. He’d much prefer conservatives who are “enlightened and forward-thinking” (that is, neutered)—people like Rich Lowry, who agree with liberals on the essentials and only want to argue about the means.
In this way, Reeve hints at a basic asymmetry between the American Left and Right—with both, the constituents are to the right of the leadership.
The Left gains support from the public by appearing normal: they care about the trees and the children and are trying to create jobs with benefits and pensions. The actual leaders are far more radical—and far more dedicated to dispossessing and replacing the middle-of-the-road White people who support them.
With the Right, on the other hand, the conservative base is, in its guts, “racist”: such people grasp what is really happening to their country. They have sour memories of their (re-)educated children scoffing at the “talks,” quite similar to Derb’s, that they’ve given to them about Black people over the years. They’ve spent a great deal of their income isolating themselves and their families from “Diversity.”
In other words, the conservative base supports its “enlightened and forward-thinking” leaders despite what they say and do (and how they look). The base supports its leaders because it views them, rightly or wrongly—for the most part, quite wrongly—as on the side of the “home team.”
The Derb might have offended some NR readers with his scientific worldview, but it was always clear to them that he was in their corner.
Those who truly walk a tightrope, or who “dance around these issues” (in Rich Lowry’s words), are not the John Derbyshires of the movement (if any still remain) but the Rich Lowrys. It is they who must ensure that White anxiety, anger, and hope is safely and effectively channelled into the quarantine of the Republican Party and “Conservative Movement.”
John Derbyshire got off script.
Over the past 24-to-48 hours, NR writers, and especially those at more popular websites like Breitbart and the Daily Caller, have been falling over themselves denouncing Derb and claiming that they lack all sympathy for his plight. For the past few weeks, however, these same sites have been dedicated to documenting, meticulously, exactly what Derbyshire was warning about.
Ever since President Obama symbolically adopted Trayvon Martin, the Daily Caller has been posting stories on the not-so-innocent life of the murder victim, revealing his “No Limit Nigga” Twitter account, the thuggish photos, and not-so-flattering aspects of his record.
Of course, much of this is legitimate investigation into a national story. But in a very real sense, sites like the Daily Caller are doing exactly what the Left says they are doing—race-baiting. They’re pushing buttons, dropping hints, “Trayvon’s really a nigga,” wink-wink . . . (Much of this is related to what Colin Liddel termed “sub-racism.”)
Glenn Beck and the late Andrew Breitbart are (and were) Grand Masters of the race-baiting game. Breitbart rose to national awareness publishing videos of James O’Keefe, dressed as a ‘70s Black pimp, entering a Black-run ACORN office in search of government funding for his “ho.” Breitbart later warned conservatives of the dangers of Black Nationalists in the Department of Agriculture. His posthumous coup (which ultimately fell flat) was to hint that the President himself isn’t what he seems . . . . He’s no liberal backed by Wall Street, no; he’s a closet Black Nationalist!
Analogously, Glenn Beck’s upward trajectory began when he announced, on Fox and Friends, that Barack Obama “has a deep seated hatred of White people or the White culture.” The Blaze and Breitbart (Beck’s and Breitbart’s answers to the Huffington Post) have filled their webpages with salacious stories of various flash-mob attacks and general Black misbehavior. As I write (Sunday, April 8), the top story on The Blaze is about the New Black Panther Party’s call for a “race war.” On the same night that Breitbart declared John Derbyshire to be a non-person for talking about the dangers of Blacks, its best-read story was one on a unsuspecting White Man who ventured into Black Baltimore and was attacked and stripped of all clothes and possession by a feral gang.
When Andrew Breitbart explicitly talked about his political philosophy, one got the impression that it was some kind of universalistic libertarianism; Beck outdid him in genuflecting to the myth of Martin Luther King. But what they sold to their readers is quite different. It was never about race, but about “principles” and “fair play.” R i i i g h t . . .
Owing to the decline of the “Gate Keeper” media, at no point in the past half-century has implicit racism been more intense. And at at no point have explicit racists, like Derb, been more furiously denounced. The new wave of conservatives, represented by Breitbart and Beck, have peddled implicit racism; they’ve made a great deal of money off implicit racism. But the trick only works if they shun and condemn anything approaching actual White Nationalism.
With race-baiting, racism remains just that—bait. The ultimate object is for Whites to continue voting Republican, and to view this as resolving their fears and anxieties and fulfilling their hopes. The moment racism ceases to be a short-circuit in the minds of the American Majority, it must be censored furiously.
Derbyshire’s real crime was that he refused to race-bait. He instead told the truth.
Though I rooted on Republicans in Middle and High School, I never in my adult life was I part of the “Movement,” whose foreign policy and basic worldview—defined by George W. Bush, neocons, and various FOX celebrities—repulsed me. After meeting the persons who populate official “Conservatism” in the Beltway, I recognized that my instincts had been sound.
Since I’ve always been on the “alt” side of the Right, I’ve befriended many for whom the NR and movement “purges” have taken on a kind mythical status. (Paul Gottfried, for one, has allowed his (justified) hatred of neocons to color almost everything he writes and says publicly.) I, on the other hand, never understood why intelligent people would be complaining about being pushed out into cleaner air. (Needless to say, making a living has much to do with it, and the various Movement purges have hit many good people where it hurts.)
It is, of course, NR’s prerogative whom it hires and fires, and it doesn’t ultimately surprise me that the magazine has, over the decades, attacked Ayn Rand and Pat Buchanan and “purged” from its ranks of contributors Revilo Oliver, Murray Rothbard, and Sam Francis. All of these were too radical and interesting, in their own ways, to support NR’s quest for “respectability.”
That said, it’s hard to mistake the trajectory of official “Conservatism” as anything other than a gradual degeneration and dumbing-down. NR has gone from James Burnham and Russell Kirk to Kathryn Jean Lopez and various man-children spouting human-rights doctrines. A part of me, a demonic part of me, is thus quite happy that The Derb was next on the list. It makes the mainstream Right much stupider . . . more defined by the Goldbergs, Ponnurus, Lowrys, and Lopezes of the world . . . and more obviously a racket and dead-end.
The conservative movement deserves to die. And it must be fully de-legitimized before we can build something new in its place. The firing of John Derbyshire brought us a step closer.