National Review’s firing of John Derbyshire as the result of his publishing some uncomplimentary opinions about African Americans in a totally different venue struck several conservative commentators, including yours truly, as a cowardly and conformist expression of eyes-on-the-main-chance, professional “realism.”
NR’s Rich Lowry did not actually bow to what David Weigel described as a “micro-movement building [on the left -JDZ] to shame National Review into firing Derbyshire.” He threw Derbyshire directly under the political correctness bus before the left had really begun to howl for blood.
Those of us on the sidelines shrugged, and grimaced a little with distaste, over one more disagreeable example of life in today’s United States in the Second Era of Reconstruction and We-Know-Better social engineering and thought control, but it wasn’t until Gawker published an interview on Monday with John Derbyshire, which incidentally revealed that he is suffering from Leukemia and undergoing Chemotherapy, that the full dimensions of National Review’s actions came into focus.
NR did not just dismiss one of its eccentric and quarrelsome loose cannon contributors for injudicious commentary. NR instantly made a cover-its-own-ass at any cost decision, and facing a minor PC controversy in the middle of a period of time in which racial politics and controversies are actively raging, ruthlessly turned on one of its own they obviously knew was gravely ill.
I’d say that kind of behavior reflects a much more serious discredit on National Review than offenses against the community of fashion’s code of speech propriety ever could.
About the only positive thing I can find to say for NR is, at least they let Mark Steyn criticize NR’s actions on their own web-site.
The Left is pretty clear about its objectives on everything from climate change to immigration to gay marriage: Rather than win the debate, they’d just as soon shut it down. They’ve had great success in shrinking the bounds of public discourse, and rendering whole areas of public policy all but undiscussable. In such a climate, my default position is that I’d rather put up with whatever racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic/whateverphobic excess everybody’s got the vapors about this week than accept ever tighter constraints on “acceptable” opinion. ...
The net result of Derb’s summary execution by NR will be further to shrivel the parameters, and confine debate in this area to ever more unreal fatuities. He knew that mentioning the Great Unmentionables would sooner or later do him in, and, in an age when shrieking “That’s totally racist!” is totally gay, he at least has the rare satisfaction of having earned his colors. Yet what are we to make of wee, inoffensive Dave Weigel over at Slate? The water still churning with blood, the sharks are circling poor old Dave for the sin of insufficiently denouncing the racist Derbyshire. Weigel must go for not enthusiastically bellowing, “Derbyshire must go!” Come to think of it, I should probably go for querying whether Weigel should go.
NR shouldn’t be rewarding those who want to play this game. The more sacrifices you offer up, the more ravenously the volcano belches.
PS If Derb’s piece is sufficiently beyond the pale that its author must be terminated immediately, why is its publisher — our old friend Taki — proudly listed on the NR masthead?
I did not mean to specifically subscribe to Derbyshire’s estimate of the precise percentage of the African-American community constituting its dangerously Xenophobic portion or to his specific figures pertaining to intelligence found in sample populations, but I certainly did take the view that Derbyshire was basically saying aloud what everybody knows and what everybody considers forbidden to say out loud.
NR’s editor Rich Lowry hastily lifted the ancient conservative journal’s petticoats high in the air, emitted a shrill scream, and leaped high upon a chair upon being confronted with a piece of commentary published in a different venue by an NR contributor containing such sentiments. Like Stella Gibbons’ Aunt Ada Doom, in Cold Comfort Farm, Editor Lowry seems liable to be scarred and traumatized for life as the result of encountering “something nasty,” not in the woodshed, but rather in Taki Theodoracopoulas’s webzine.
Derbyshire’s comments, warning non-African Americans to be careful of African American neighborhoods and groups, Lowry opined, were not only “nasty.” They were indefensible and outlandish.
Lowry, of course, did not explain that he was firing Derbyshire for violating the speech taboos defined by political correctness. That wouldn’t look well. No, no, he was firing Derbyshire for exploiting his association with National Review. No one, Lowry implies, would think of bothering to read Derbyshire published in Takimag, were he not a grand and magnificent member of the NR writing stable. The bounder, Lowery explained, was using NR’s brand “to get more oxygen for views with which we’d never associate ourselves. ... So there has to be a parting of the ways.”
It’s important to clarify these things. If NR failed to fire Derbyshire, it’s perfectly obvious, isn’t it? that all of NR’s readers would naturally assume that all NR writers and editors and all the features, editorials, and reviews published in NR, past, present, and future implicitly endorsed everything John Derbyshire did, wrote, thought, or said otherwise. That’s how journal publication works.
The fact that during the very same Easter weekend news reports appeared featuring excerpts of videos being distributed on the Net showing a crowd of Baltimore African Americans beating, robbing, and gleefully stripping naked a drunken white tourist on St. Patrick’s Day inevitably further underlined the outlandishness and indefensibility of Derbyshire’s observations.
The great American racial comedy proceeds ad infinitum, with Derbyshire’s martyrdom at conservative hands representing a particularly funny interlude between weeks of agitation over Trayvon Martin and the latest racial outrage on the streets of Baltimore.
Of course, this is a tempest in an inkpot. The emolument for contributions to journals of opinion, even NR, is undoubtedly nothing terribly large, and writing for Takimag probably does not pay much less than writing for NR.
But all this does demonstrate, once again, just how thoroughly the culture of Puritan hypocrisy and cant continues to dominate American intellectual life.
What really happened here is that another of those unruly expatriate Brits came up against the (from his point of view) silly and bizarre cultural taboos enforced on this side of the Atlantic. In Europe generally, and in Britain in particular, franker speech, and bolder humor, on racial matters typically prevails. The Brits and Europeans have, in this area, at least, freer speech than do we.
Derbyshire really ought to have been awarded special clemency, on the basis of the Americans With Disabilities Act, since in his capacity as a heterosexual Briton he cannot possibly be expected to understand, or enter into, our domestic American racial hypocrisies and neuroses.
NYM is not quite alone in defending Derbyshire, the Village Voice lists other offenders.
Chris Buckley snidely takes his leave of National Review (and the Conservative Movement), indignantly remarking on the narrowness and intolerance of a Conservatism which prefers moose-hunters to Harvard men, and which has a problem with supporting an ultra-liberal democrat with a closet-full of unsavory radical connections for the White House on the same kind of class consciousness basis that led Dean Acheson to refuse to “turn (his) back on Alger Hiss.”
Within hours of my endorsement appearing in The Daily Beast it became clear that National Review had a serious problem on its hands. So the next morning, I thought the only decent thing to do would be to offer to resign my column there. This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler. I retain the fondest feelings for the magazine that my father founded, but I will admit to a certain sadness that an act of publishing a reasoned argument for the opposition should result in acrimony and disavowal.
My father in his day endorsed a number of liberal Democrats for high office, including Allard K. Lowenstein and Joe Lieberman. One of his closest friends on earth was John Kenneth Galbraith. ...
My point, simply, is that William F. Buckley held to rigorous standards, and if those were met by members of the other side rather than by his own camp, he said as much. My father was also unpredictable, which tends to keep things fresh and lively and on-their-feet. ... Finally, and hardly least, he was fun. God, he was fun. He liked to mix it up.
So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.
While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of “conservative” government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.
So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me.
Supporting Allard Lowenstein against Nassau County Republican John Wydler, Chris is right, was an irresponsible, un-conservative abberation in which Bill Buckley obviously allowed personal friendship to outweigh principle. His support of Joe Lieberman against the egregious Republican-in-Name-Only Lowell Weicker was, on the other hand, an impeccably sound conservative decision. And Buckley père may have liked John Kenneth Galbraith as a skiing or drinking buddy, but he certainly never endorsed Galbraith’s fallacious economic opinions and pernicious political positions.
Chris shouldn’t be surprised that an October Dolchstoß (“backstab”) in favor of the most radical and exotic democrat ever to threaten the freedom of the American Republic would not cause the gang at the Conservative Movement’s favorite bar to offer to buy him any drinks.
Rich Lowry describes Chris’s resignation offer rather differently, quoting him as promising that were his offer to depart to be accepted, there “would be no hard feelings, only warmest regards and understanding.” Chris’s second Daily Beast column features plenty of hard feelings.
Too bad for us that we’re so narrow-minded that we actually allow mere political ideology to stand in the way of Ivy League Establishment solidarity, Marxists included, against those uncouth Alaskan gentiles.
Over at National Review’s The Corner, those jolly little tricoteuses Andrew McCarthy and John Derbyshire were having a pleasant time chatting yesterday as Scooter Libby’s tumbril rolled by.
McCarthy was conflicted because he has friends on both sides (!), and besides he just wasn’t sure that Libby wasn’t really guilty after all. After all, the prosecutor, the New York Times, many of his friends, and a DC jury all said so.
Witnesses have varying recollections, and juries sort it out. The evidence that Libby lied, rather than that he was confused, was compelling.
And class-warrior John Derbyshire just couldn’t see getting bent out of shape over the fate of somebody like Libby.
..compare the likely plights of Libby and the two Border Agents.
When state power rolls over little people like Compean and Ramos, my sympathies are stirred. Libby’s not a little person. He’s rich and terrifically well-connected. He’s not going to get beaten up in jail (as Ramos has been). He’ll have plenty of lucrative work opportunities after release. He will… be all right.
I wish the world were free of wrongs, but it isn’t, and never will be. In the scale of wrongs, and consequent suffering, that I read about every day, this one doesn’t seem worth bothering with.
Meanwhile Susan Estrich, speaking from the left, no less, took a considerably more intellectually and morally responsive position.
I suppose I should be pleased about the tough sentence handed down by Judge Reggie Walton, sentencing the vice president’s former Chief of Staff Scooter Libby to serve 30 months in prison. After all, he’s a Republican, and I’m a Democrat; I’m an opponent of the war, and he worked for one of its architects. I’m certainly no fan of his boss, Dick Cheney, one of the toughest hardball players to occupy the office of vice president. Former Ambassador Joe Wilson was practically gloating this morning when asked to comment on the sentence, declaring it a victory for the rule of law.
Having taught law for more years than I want to count anymore, and criminal law in particular, I know all the arguments about how the rule of law depends on everyone telling the truth, cooperating with criminal investigations, not trying to protect their bosses or those around them. I understand that people in high places have as much responsibility, or more, than the rest of us to follow the law and give their evidence, and that when they don’t, their years of public service are no excuse.
Being chief of staff for the vice president is a bruising job, but also an exciting one. If Scooter Libby hadn’t messed up, he’d be sitting pretty in a high-priced law firm right now, making a fortune not because his legal skills were better than anyone else’s, but because his contacts and connections were. So with the good goes the bad; with the visibility goes the scrutiny; with the fame comes the price. Valerie Plame’s career has been ruined. Why shouldn’t his be?
The only problem here is that there was no underlying crime. The answer to the question Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was initially appointed to investigate — had anyone violated the law in disclosing Ms. Plame’s name in their effort to discredit her husband’s criticism of the administration’s war policy — was no. No one violated what we used to call the “Agents Law.” Dick Armitage, the guy who admits he gave out her name in the first place, isn’t facing time; nor are Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, or any of the reporters or news organizations who didn’t hesitate to disclose her identity.
Libby is in trouble not for what he did, but because he wasn’t as careful as the others during his interviews and grand jury testimony.
If he’d just said, “I don’t recall” a hundred times, or even invoked the Fifth (whether properly or not, following the Monica Goodling approach), he wouldn’t be bankrupt, ruined, disgraced and heading to prison.
There is something troubling about prosecutors using perjury and obstruction of justice to turn into criminals people who haven’t committed any other crime. Instead of using the grand jury as a tool for investigating other criminal activity, it becomes the forum for creating criminal conduct. The role of the FBI and federal prosecutors becomes one of creating criminals instead of catching them. Technically, I know, it’s not entrapment, but it’s still different than the usual business of tracking down those who have violated the law and punishing them for their bad acts. The investigation doesn’t solve the crime; it creates it.
This time it was a pro-war Republican caught in the snare, which is why many liberals are cheering. But what goes around comes around, and I wonder if my friends would feel the same way if this technique were used to indict, convict and imprison one of our friends.
Not a good day for the NR punditocracy.
Hat tip to David L. Larkin.
As the anti-war left’s victory, and America’s defeat, seems increasingly inevitable, there has been an unseemly scurry on the part of leading elements of the neocon, and even conservative, punditocracy in the direction of seats on the apparently winning side, the side of Defeatism.
Nobody wants to be found rooting for the losing side anymore. It hurts one’s own image in the community of fashion to be found in association with failure.
National Review’s Rich Lowry yesterday joined the stampede, and tells us we should have been listening to the New York Times all along.
The conservative campaign against the mainstream media has scored notable successes. It exposed Dan Rather’s forged National Guard memo and jumped all over Newsweek’s absurd report of a Koran-flushing incident at Guantanamo Bay. The mainstream media is biased, arrogant, prone to stultifying group-think and much more fallible than its exalted self-image allows it to admit. It also, however, can be right, and this is most confounding to conservatives.
In Iraq, the media’s biases happen to fit the circumstances. Being primed to consider any military conflict a quagmire and another Vietnam is a drawback when covering a successful U.S. military intervention, but not necessarily in Iraq. Most of the pessimistic warnings from the mainstream media have turned out to be right — that the initial invasion would be the easy part, that seeming turning points (the capture of Saddam, the elections, the killing of Zarqawi) were illusory, that the country was dissolving into a civil war…
In their distrust of the mainstream media, their defensiveness over President Bush and the war, and their understandable urge to buck up the nation’s will, many conservatives lost touch with reality on Iraq. They thought that they were contributing to our success, but they were only helping to forestall a cold look at conditions there and the change in strategy and tactics that would be dictated by it.
You wouldn’t find members of today’s chattering classes, left or right typically, remaining to die in the last ditch in any of history’s famous last stands, would you?
One can only too readily picture:
Unilateral Spartan Intervention at Thermopylae a Diplomatic and Strategic Gaffe
as the column title for an editiorial written by young Thersites, editor of the Hellenic Review.