The political blogosphere was both atwitter and Twitter over the firing of John Derbyshire from National Review this weekend. Not for nothing though. Derbyshire posted a column last Thursday on the Taki’s Magazine website called, “The Talk: Nonblack version.” Due to the Trayvon Martin shooting hysteria, much has been made of The Talk in the national media. The Talk, as defined by the New York Times (where I go to find out what being black in America is like) is, “the one that has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with what it means to be a black teenager in a country with a history of regarding young black men as a threat. The talk about standing up straight, dressing the part, keeping your hands in sight at all times and never, ever letting your anger get the best of you.”
That’s not bad advice for anyone, particularly when dealing with law enforcement, but that sort of talking to is totally unlike Derbyshire’s version; which consists of “guidance” to his children. A sample of such advice consists of:
(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.
If you want to read the whole thing, you can go to the website, but I think you get the idea, but the one that particularly bothered me was this:
Only one black in six is more intelligent than the average white; five whites out of six are more intelligent than the average black.
By the most standard definitions of racism, that’s racist.
On the face of it, Derbyshire was probably conflating IQ with intelligence, a mistake that is its own whole area of social commentary. Although the IQ/Intelligence topic is worth reviewing, it’s not necessary to read Derbyshire’s mean spiritedness in this piece. This wasn’t meant as a joke or parody, Derbyshire was being serious. In probably the only bit of actual reporting ever done by the website Think Progress, they actually contacted Derbyshire to check if he meant it as some kind of parody. Rather than taking the opportunity to back off of his harsh column, he double downed on it, “I’d call it social commentary.” More to the point, Derbyshire wasn’t hiding from the accusation of being a racist, he admitted it.
Given that, I would say National Review had no choice. NR editor Rich Lowery posted a comment disavowing Derbyshire’s piece Friday night and by Saturday posted another comment letting him go from the magazine staff. Lowery gave a pretty clear eyed reason:
“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.”
This wasn’t about political correctness, but about letting one writer’s racism contaminate the reputation of the National Review, and by extension, the conservative movement. I think National Review did the right thing in letting Derbyshire go. One of the ways that William F. Buckley, founder of the magazine and probably the godfather of modern American conservatism, helped make conservatism a legitimate force in American politics again was by pushing out the conspiracy nuts and other cranks that contributed nothing to the movement but bad press.
Without Buckley and his cleaning up of conservatism, there would have been no Reagan, and Obama’s current (public) views would now be considered center right.
The left had a field day with Derbyshire’s appearance at CPAC. How much more of that crap does the right need to allow? It’s not as though the right controls the message, the left does since they control the media. That’s why the left not only doesn’t need, but just doesn’t’ police their own. They are immune from the kookiness of their fringe nuts. It’s why the media will drumbeat their coverage of Republican birthers, even though birtherism originated with the pro-Hillary Democrats. Meanwhile, during the Bush administration more than half of Democrats believed Bush was complicit in the 9/11 attacks, but since they also control the media, it never taints them.
Unfair or not, it’s the way it is so it falls on the right to be diligent in making sure that we police our racists and conspiracy theorists. So Derbyshire can continue to write what he wants, where he wants, but just not under the banner of the National Review.