Monday, April 09, 2012
What No One Else Has the Guts to Do:
Fisking John Derbyshire's Valedictory
Did you know that 5/6ths of all Americans are smarter than the
average black American? Ellington blew the SAT. Didn't take it.
NEVER DID LIKE BRITS. You may not have heard of this. It's becoming a kind of nonstory. One crazy, evil white man who wrote something awful and was immediately fired by his longtime employer, the National Review. Proof that an immediate, harsh and unequivocal response is the best way to accomplish damage control on what could be a fatal PR hit. (NBC take note.) Here's what NR editor Rich Lowry had to say (abundantly backed up by brief responses from other NR staffers, as well as righty mouthpieces like Ace of Spades and even the surviving eidolons of Breitbart, who can refer to it only in passing).
Anyone who has read Derb in our pages knows he’s a deeply literate, funny, and incisive writer. I direct anyone who doubts his talents to his delightful first novel, “Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream,” or any one of his “Straggler” columns in the books section of NR. Derb is also maddening, outrageous, cranky, and provocative. His latest provocation, in a webzine, lurches from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible. We never would have published it, but the main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer. Derb is effectively using our name to get more oxygen for views with which we’d never associate ourselves otherwise. So there has to be a parting of the ways. Derb has long danced around the line on these issues, but this column is so outlandish it constitutes a kind of letter of resignation. It’s a free country, and Derb can write whatever he wants, wherever he wants. Just not in the pages of NR or NRO, or as someone associated with NR any longer.
The left was anxious to pounce upon it, and you can find your way to their usual obscene imprecations by googling "The Talk" John Derbyshire. Thus, there's no shortage of condemnations, sweeping dismissals, and self-righteous nastiness. What's missing is any attempt by anyone to deal with the actual content. Which is frequently a sign that the content can't be dealt with on its own terms, that it's just off-limits to discuss at all. All such shortcuts share the same haughty lorgnette's eye view of an incident that just shouldn't be spoken of in public -- like a Victorian lady with the "vapors" whose farts can't be mentioned and must be hustled into milady's parlor. Unless the content is responded to specifically, there's always the suspicion that we mostly agree on the content but wouldn't be caught dead admitting it.
In other words, if the content is truly wrong, a fisk is needed -- a point by point response to the whole offending mess. The left has never been good at fisks. Because they suck at it. I don't, however. So I will do what no one else will. Permit me to begin by quoting from the first instance in which I felt obligated to respond to John Derbyshire:
Blaming talk radio for the present misfortunes of conservatives is just plain idiotic. According to his own voluminous c.v., Derbyshire is a Brit who first lived in the United States in 1986. He cannot know what it was like growing up in this country before the Reagan administration terminated the Fairness Doctrine. The only broadcast on which you could hear conservative voices was Firing Line. And it may be news to Derb, but you didn't have to be a lowbrow to object to much of Buckley's presentation. He was so self-consciously intellectual, so enraptured by his own vocabulary and semantic complications, that even genuine intellectuals frequently felt like smacking him on the back of the head. Brilliant? Yes. Also often laughable. That conservatives in the population at large did not respond eagerly to conservatism as an elaborate gentleman's game does not make them lowbrows or deny them qualification as the middlebrows Derb claims to value.
Populism is an extremely argumentative term to throw around. By connotation at least, it usually refers to political movements which organize and manipulate the have-nots in an effort to extort benefits from the haves. It implies simplistic rabble-rousing rhetoric, phony "common man" leadership, and continual resort to the ugliness of class warfare. That's not Rush Limbaugh's shtick and it's not his audience, either. Limbaugh tapped into a huge population of "the Forgotten Man" intellectual conservatives claim to speak for, the ones who pay the bills for the social engineering delusions of liberals. But oddly enough, they're too busy living their lives and paying the bills to have much patience with the inside baseball affectations of the National Review. To them, politics is not an abstract philosophical debate that mutters on through the centuries in panelled drawing rooms and stylish cocktail parties. Someone who figures out a way to reach the people who are paying the bills is not a populist. He's an educator, a communicator, a common sense analyst, and, yes, an entertainer. He expands the political base among the competent doers on which the whole nation depends. That's a far cry from the populist bomb-throwing of a Huey Long or William Jennings Bryan....
Derbyshire can be smart, insightful, and thought-provoking. This time he is none of the above. He's being an ass.
I subsequently twitted him for his book called We Are Doomed. So it's not like he is a new planet who has just swum into my ken. What follows is my fisk. Which anyone on the right or the left could have done if they were more interested in combating error and one-sided arguments (proposed and believed in by more people than any of the star chamber judges want to acknowledge) than make themselves look virtuous on the internet stage. That's the danger. What you rule off the table is the dish that eats you for lunch later on. A lesson the left, and apparently now the right, have forgotten entirely. Don't like it? Take it on head to head. No? Pussies.
Here is the text with its hyperlinks as preserved by the Ex-Army blog, interrupted throughout by my own responses and rebuttals:
There is much talk about “the talk.”
“Sean O’Reilly was 16 when his mother gave him the talk that most black parents give their teenage sons,” Denisa R. Superville of the Hackensack (NJ) Record tells us. Meanwhile, down in Atlanta: “Her sons were 12 and 8 when Marlyn Tillman realized it was time for her to have the talk,” Gracie Bonds Staples writes in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Leonard Greene talks about the talk in the New York Post. Someone bylined as KJ Dell’Antonia talks about the talk in The New York Times. Darryl Owens talks about the talk in the Orlando Sentinel.
Yes, talk about the talk is all over.
uh, why wouldn't it be? Whatever your own grievances, there are abundant reasons why black people in the United States might want to warn their children to be careful of law enforcement in particular. There are good cops, who are fair and doing their best, and there are also bad cops. You can quibble about what makes them bad, but it's more than urban legend that middle class blacks are too often pulled over for driving while black. They also have reason for believing that many white people are not as they appear. One would hope that "the Talk" includes the instruction to be as fair as you would want them to be, but being on guard is something every parent conveys to his children.
There is a talk that nonblack Americans have with their kids, too. My own kids, now 19 and 16, have had it in bits and pieces as subtopics have arisen. If I were to assemble it into a single talk, it would look something like the following.
Oh. I see you feel the same way. Let's get to it, then.
(1) Among your fellow citizens are forty million who identify as black, and whom I shall refer to as black. The cumbersome (and MLK-noncompliant) term “African-American” seems to be in decline, thank goodness. “Colored” and “Negro” are archaisms. What you must call “the ‘N’ word” is used freely among blacks but is taboo to nonblacks.
Congratulations. For a Brit, it's pretty enlightened that you've advanced beyond the term "wogs." Or didn't the Empire ever include blacks among the wogs? Insulted? Think about it.
(2) American blacks are descended from West African populations, with some white and aboriginal-American admixture. The overall average of non-African admixture is 20-25 percent. The admixture distribution is nonlinear, though: “It seems that around 10 percent of the African American population is more than half European in ancestry.” (Same link.)
One could easily argue that this is an example of hybrid vigor. But why make a point of this? Unless you're arguing that they are in some sense mutts with no claim on any distinct heritage. Or worse, that the "smart ones" are smart because of their European blood. Which is no longer an argument about cultural factors but pure racial-type racism, slightly mitigated in cases of mixed blood. In which case you must be distinctly disappointed that Thomas Sowell and Clarence Thomas are black-type blacks, with none of the "high-yellow" features even American black people seem to aspire to. That's all bullshit. In America, heritage is more cultural than ethnic. Sure, there are still Italians who insist on their children marrying Italians and Jews who insist on their children marrying Jews. But such parents have been consistently defeated by American freedom of choice. Does it matter that American blacks may have had no choice about their European blood? No. Unlike you, apparently, practically every American is a mutt, some wild mix of nationalities so diverse almost none of us can track it all down. What matters in this is your next point.
(3) Your own ancestry is mixed north-European and northeast-Asian, but blacks will take you to be white.
Oops. Your kids are also mutts. Welcome to the United States of America. Welcome also to the one-percent rule. Historically, everyone in this country with any black blood is black. I suspect you feel the same way. But tell me this: if you're black because someone in your ancestry was, why wouldn't you brand everyone else as white? How could you not?
(4) The default principle in everyday personal encounters is, that as a fellow citizen, with the same rights and obligations as yourself, any individual black is entitled to the same courtesies you would extend to a nonblack citizen. That is basic good manners and good citizenship. In some unusual circumstances, however—e.g., paragraph (10h) below—this default principle should be overridden by considerations of personal safety.
This would be a fine sentiment if you didn't so thoroughly contradict yourself later on. As you do.
(5) As with any population of such a size, there is great variation among blacks in every human trait (except, obviously, the trait of identifying oneself as black). They come fat, thin, tall, short, dumb, smart, introverted, extroverted, honest, crooked, athletic, sedentary, fastidious, sloppy, amiable, and obnoxious. There are black geniuses and black morons. There are black saints and black psychopaths. In a population of forty million, you will find almost any human type. Only at the far, far extremes of certain traits are there absences. There are, for example, no black Fields Medal winners. While this is civilizationally consequential, it will not likely ever be important to you personally. Most people live and die without ever meeting (or wishing to meet) a Fields Medal winner.
Oh come on. Now you're just being a jerk. Are you seriously suggesting that mathematical prodigies are an example of American citizenship, virtue, and even civilization? Many are emotionally disabled freaks. Yes, Blaise Pascal recapitulated Euclidian geometry at the age of seven from the first postulate in a single afternoon, but he was confronted by that postulate, wasn't he? And Pascal never won a Fields Medal, either, did he? Besides, as you so obligingly concede, there is variety in human capability. Which means there may be more than one kind of genius too. Is there a Fields Medal that credentializes the genius of Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington?
(6) As you go through life, however, you will experience an ever larger number of encounters with black Americans. Assuming your encounters are random—for example, not restricted only to black convicted murderers or to black investment bankers—the Law of Large Numbers will inevitably kick in. You will observe that the means—the averages—of many traits are very different for black and white Americans, as has been confirmed by methodical inquiries in the human sciences.
(7) Of most importance to your personal safety are the very different means for antisocial behavior, which you will see reflected in, for instance, school disciplinary measures, political corruption, and criminal convictions.
Which is completely different from what you and your kids might be facing in London by encountering cockneys at random. I'm still holding my fire about you Europeans, with whom I have had abundant personal contact...
(8) These differences are magnified by the hostility many blacks feel toward whites. Thus, while black-on-black behavior is more antisocial in the average than is white-on-white behavior, average black-on-white behavior is a degree more antisocial yet.
Cockneys kill more cockneys than toffs. All the surveys prove it. But when they get a shot at a toff, they can be ugly indeed. Why did you ever move here, Derbyshire?
(9) A small cohort of blacks—in my experience, around five percent—is ferociously hostile to whites and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm us. A much larger cohort of blacks—around half—will go along passively if the five percent take leadership in some event. They will do this out of racial solidarity, the natural willingness of most human beings to be led, and a vague feeling that whites have it coming.
Amazing that you, a Brit, have so much difficulty recognizing class resentment and warfare when you see it. Color is a big deal in America, but actually not nearly as big a deal as accent in the U.K. I can only imagine how condescendingly an Old Etonian would regard you, for example. Just by the way you speak.
(10) Thus, while always attentive to the particular qualities of individuals, on the many occasions where you have nothing to guide you but knowledge of those mean differences, use statistical common sense:
(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.
(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.
(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).
(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.
Hell. What an ass. How about native human common sense? I happen to live in a majority black town. Something I suspect neither you nor your National Review inquisitors can say. There are no gated communities. I've been in all kinds of situations where I was outnumbered by black people. The Law of Large Numbers aside, they are people. Be polite rather than paranoid and statistical, and guess what? Nothing bad happens. I have never come even remotely close to a fistfight with a black person, let alone having a gun drawn on me. Anecodotal? No more than your 5 percent citation.
Here's the deal no Brit may ever get. In my experience blacks live by much the same rule my racially prejudiced father and grandfathers lived by. Cherish whatever prejudices you want in the general, "Large Numbers" context. But leave it at the door. Take individuals as they come and they are likely to do the same. No matter how much we officially hate each other.
(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.
Good advice. And I feel the same way about college frat boys, biker gangs, gays, and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Episcopal Church. Don't EVER get outnumbered by such folks. They may not mean you any harm, but they're sure capable of it.
(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by black politicians.
Me too. In fact, don't live in a contemporary U.S. city. They're all fucking nuts, not to mention more corrupt than you could imagine.
(10g) Before voting for a black politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a white.
Absolutely. Unless the Republican alternative is promising the most honest administration in the history of Wherever. Or a Democrat. Oops. Was that politically incorrect? Sorry. But MOVE. Immediately.
(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway.
I grant you white fear on this point. But here's an unnerving fact. When I was young and driving junkers and my car quit, which it often did, guess who always stopped to help? Black people. They always had jumper cables, they waved off money, and they never mugged me. I'm not just talking my tiny hometown here. I'm talking Philadelphia. Make of it what you will.
(10i) If accosted by a strange black in the street, smile and say something polite but keep moving.
Funny. I have much the same rule for all strangers who accost me in the street for no reason. If they want directions, I try to give them. If they want something else, I don't smile. I avoid all eye contact and move out like a snake.
(11) The mean intelligence of blacks is much lower than for whites. The least intelligent ten percent of whites have IQs below 81; forty percent of blacks have IQs that low. Only one black in six is more intelligent than the average white; five whites out of six are more intelligent than the average black. These differences show in every test of general cognitive ability that anyone, of any race or nationality, has yet been able to devise. They are reflected in countless everyday situations. “Life is an IQ test.”
I'm thinking this is the real crime Derbyshire doesn't know how to process. God, isn't he getting tiresome? Yeah, there's a sense in which life is an IQ test. But there's also a sense in which IQ tests are (too much of) life, meaning destiny. As a conservative, he must know how poorly we have served the underclass of both blacks and whites. We have a rotten public school system, populated by loser teachers who don't know their subjects but spend their academic careers learning sociology and other bullshit subjects. I'll point out that the same thing is happening in the U.K. Result? Ignorant idiots who can't read or write, know no history, and are force-fed delusions about their rights rather than their opportunities to excel by actually learning something.
(12) There is a magnifying effect here, too, caused by affirmative action. In a pure meritocracy there would be very low proportions of blacks in cognitively demanding jobs. Because of affirmative action, the proportions are higher. In government work, they are very high. Thus, in those encounters with strangers that involve cognitive engagement, ceteris paribus the black stranger will be less intelligent than the white. In such encounters, therefore—for example, at a government office—you will, on average, be dealt with more competently by a white than by a black. If that hostility-based magnifying effect (paragraph 8) is also in play, you will be dealt with more politely, too. “The DMV lady“ is a statistical truth, not a myth.
In a pure meritocracy? There is no such thing. Under the liberal delusion, government itself has become a welfare system. Should blacks see through it and resist? Yes. But in reality, it's been their chief route to the middle class, a source of income that can provide their children with opportunities to go to the best colleges and and achieve the greatest career potential. If you were a Greek in Rome, wouldn't you follow the cracks in the system to do the same thing? Of course you would. That it entails possibly fatal compromises is a risk you might be willing to take. Truth is, a solidly prosperous black middle class is now much larger than Derbyshire imagines. Too much affirmative action? Probably. But bend-over-backwards fair is the American vice. btw, the black American middle class is much much bigger than you think it is. If you don't believe me, ask your own damn kids. They'll tell you -- if they're not already burning you in effigy.
Time for my European rant. THEY [YOU] ALL HATE EACH OTHER. Swiss, Belgians, French, Germans, Scandinavians, English (who also hate the Irish, Scots, and Welsh, Indians, and of course all the others, not to mention the awfulness of Canadians and Australians), Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, and on and on,. The racial differences among them are so tiny as to be inconsequential, but they can all agree that they hate the Jews, and France and Germany and the U.K. have all demonstrated that they have no idea what to do about muslims, except leave them in language-imprisoned ghettoes, while Americans don't really fucking care. (I remember a row of muslim burkhas at a Penn-Harvard football game. They were for Penn. Ugh.) I was an American consultant in western Europe and none of them liked me. But when it came to project management, they all agreed that an American had to be in charge because they couldn't otherwise work with each other. And yet they insist that it's Americans who have a racial problem. How convenient for them.
We do. But it's nothing like theirs. The relation between blacks and whites in America is a lot like the relationship between alpha males in Corporate America. We can get along in the hallways. We may not always invite each other to dinner. Still. We can high-five each other about music and sports and food and women. We're Americans. We can make allowances. I like and respect and even love this one. No matter how I feel in the abstract. Brits don't get that. Because they're rigid pricks. Why their queen hasn't laughed out loud in 50 years.
(13) In that pool of forty million, there are nonetheless many intelligent and well-socialized blacks. (I’ll use IWSB as an ad hoc abbreviation.) You should consciously seek opportunities to make friends with IWSBs. In addition to the ordinary pleasures of friendship, you will gain an amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of prejudice.
IWSBs? Go home, honey. Back to Britain. And stay there. Wish I had a chance to talk to your kids. No way that friendships with Duane and Hushel were so calculated. If you think they have to be, you're a twit. (Unless I got my vowels mixed up.)
(14) Be aware, however, that there is an issue of supply and demand here. Demand comes from organizations and businesses keen to display racial propriety by employing IWSBs, especially in positions at the interface with the general public—corporate sales reps, TV news presenters, press officers for government agencies, etc.—with corresponding depletion in less visible positions. There is also strong private demand from middle- and upper-class whites for personal bonds with IWSBs, for reasons given in the previous paragraph and also (next paragraph) as status markers.
(15) Unfortunately the demand is greater than the supply, so IWSBs are something of a luxury good, like antique furniture or corporate jets: boasted of by upper-class whites and wealthy organizations, coveted by the less prosperous. To be an IWSB in present-day US society is a height of felicity rarely before attained by any group of human beings in history. Try to curb your envy: it will be taken as prejudice (see paragraph 13).
I grant that the piece gets worse and worse as you get into it. But a fisking was necessary. If you don't look at it point by point, people with vague objections and resentments can say you're just being a race whore. The value of sweeping it all away without addressing its specifics? Nothing.
Race resentment is legion in this country. The administration is planning to use it as a trap. Make conservatives commit themselves to ideas they don't entirely accept because they are offended by the monolithic denials.
This post is a warning. Don't fall into the trap. Don't fall into the trap. Derbyshire is not an American. He doesn't speak for us. He's an ass. As he always was. But pompous denials that don't make specific rebuttals are even worse.
Final thought. Life is not without risk. All I tell my daughter is, use your best judgment. Don't be stupid. But don't be a coward either. Cowards miss everything good in life. Cowards and snobs. Why Americans came here in the first place. Because they weren't cowards and they were tired of snobs.
Derbyshire? Consider yourself fisked.
More than anyone else would do. Consider it hands across the sea....
P.S. My apologies if there are display anomalies associated with this post. Oddly enough, the post from both the National Review and the original Derbyshire post are disappearing. I linked them as I found them, with the intent of preserving both text and hyperlinks. On one computer, they're fine. On another, they're a mess of weird characters where there should be commas, etc. Sorry. What happens when the internet is trying to undo something that happened.