John Zmirak’s hopeless confusions on race

The other day I pointed out how intellectually sloppy and irresponsible it was of John Zmirak, in a blog entry at Taki’s Top Drawer, to fall all over himself praising Peter Brimelow, the author of Alien Nation and editor of Vdare, and then in the same entry to express total and unqualified contempt for “racialists.” I said this because Brimelow, with his passionate concern about preserving America as a white majority country (remember that the most spectacular feature of Alien Nation was the dramatic charts showing the browning of the American population, and that Brimelow repeatedly stated that he wanted to preserve an America where his blond haired, blue-eyed son would not be out of place), is by definition a racialist, that is, a person who thinks that race matters. Not that it’s the only thing that matters, but that it matters. I said Zmirak needed to make distinctions between, on one hand, reductive and hate-filled racialists (and several of them post at his blog entry today, including the pro-Nazi Alex Linder), and, on the other hand, moderate racialists such as Brimelow.

Zmirak now replies to my and others’ criticisms (he doesn’t mention me by name but links my earlier post) by drawing the line as follows. It’s morally permissible, says Zmirak, to care about the continuity of one’s country and culture and to seek to resist or slow down their too-rapid transformation by large-scale immigration. But it’s wrong, totally impermissible, to say that race has anything to do with the national identity and culture that one is defending. Thus, after mentioning, and seeming to approve, the people who have legitimate concerns about preserving the cultural identity of their country, Zmirak continues:

But there’s a movement out there to try to radicalize these folks, indeed to make them “volkisch.” To get them to adopt the term “racialist” to describe their perfectly ordinary human craving for continuity. [LA notes: This is obviously a reference to me.] To take up, in other words, a banner that has been dragged through the darkest muck of human misery, through the ashes of death camps in Poland, and the killing fields of Rwanda. And in adopting such a term, they wouldn’t just be picking up unwieldy political baggage, … they’d also be elevating the issue of race to a centrality it doesn’t deserve, turning one locus of loyalty—out of many which ought to compete in the human soul—into a fetish. In other words, they would be making themselves into ideologues, sinking to the level of the Nation of Islam, the historic White League, and La Raza.

Since Zmirak is in fact replying to me, and since I myself defined moderate racialism as precisely the view he claims to support, in which race is one of many loci of loyalty in the human soul, and since I said that Zmirak needed to distinguish between moderate racialism and ideological racialism, why doesn’t he acknowledge my articulation of moderate racialism and deal with it?

Further, while he concedes, in passing, and in indirect language, the legitimacy of race as one loyalty among others, his actual condemnation of anything to do explicitly with race would still have the result of making any honest discussion to race impossible, since any such discussion would, in his words, “be elevating the issue of race to a centrality it doesn’t deserve.” How can we discuss any issue without making it “central”—at least during the time that we’re discussing it?

For example, many of the people who seek to transform America through open borders have a racial agenda, to topple white America. How can that agenda be discussed and opposed unless we talk frankly about its aims, and unless we defend the actual group that is being targeted, namely white America? But that would mean, at least during the course of such a discussion, making race central, which Zmirak forbids.

Finally, Zmirak’s condemnation of any explicit and focused concern with race still leaves him open to the charge of gross hypocrisy when it comes to his praise for Peter Brimelow. One of the commenters to his latest post has turned up this statement of Brimelow’s, from a review of a collection of articles by the late Samuel Francis.

Brimelow wrote:

The poet Robert Burns coined the expression “gentleman and scholar:” Sam Francis was also a journalist. Nothing engaged his analytical and expository talents more than the science and politics of race. No subject was more vital in his lifetime, nor more taboo. This book is a well-organized and illuminatingly-annotated selection of Francis’s thinking on race. It is valuable today; it may well prove seminal in the future.

Sam Francis cared about race. He thought race mattered (a) in the sense that different races have different civilizational abilities, (b) in the sense that the white race was indispensable to the creation of the West, and (c) in the sense that he wanted to preserve whites as the majority people of the West and America. And Brimelow praises highly Francis’s concerns about race. So by Zmirak’s own criterion, Zmirak should condemn Peter Brimelow. Instead, here is the sycophantic way he wrote about Brimelow in his earlier post:

So there we were, at the storied Elaine’s restaurant, Taki, R. Emmet Tyrell, Lewis Lapham, and several other luminaries… but I couldn’t help feeling (sorry, Taki) that the most important man at the table was Peter Brimelow—the courageous journalist, formerly of Forbes and National Review, author of the prophetic immigration book Alien Nation…. Peter Brimelow was there with his lovely, relatively recent bride Lydia, and we didn’t get much chance to talk. I fairly basked in the reflected glow of their marital bliss, and reminded myself to visit them in Connecticut. But now I’m writing to encourage you to visit Peter online, at his fascinating, edgy Web site VDare. While it runs a wide variety of thinkers—some of whom I really can’t endorse—the site is mostly persuasive, and always brave.

So Zmirak is at best an incoherent thinker, at worst a rank opportunist. When he feels it serves his interests to flatter extravagantly a well-known racial rightist like Brimelow, he does so. And when he feels it serves his interests to consign all racial rightists to the outer darkness (except, of course, for Peter Brimelow), he does so.

- end of initial entry -

Sage McLaughlin writes:

Zmirak’s objections are of a piece with those liberals who say that, of course, they don’t want to banish religion or constrain people from allowing religion to inform their politics—they just don’t want anyone, ever, in any public way, affirming the importance of religion and allowing it to become an explicit issue. [LA replies: Exactly correct. You’ve captured the essence of what Zmirak is doing, which I was trying to get at but didn’t quite get there.] Folks like Zmirak want it both ways—race can be a very important issue, sure, but only in private. But how, then, are we to treat this crucially important issue as important, if we can’t allow it to inform our policy debate? This two-step cannot work, of course, since issues connected to race have profound social consequences. To treat race as important implies giving it at least some explicit public consideration. They end up making the claim, in the end, that many of the things that matter the very most for man and society cannot be decided by a self-governing people. This nonsense of saying that race is important but must not form the basis of any actual policy is just mealy mouthed double-talk.

Any reasonable person will agree that you don’t give something a centrality it doesn’t deserve. What I’d like to hear from Zmirak is how much centrality he thinks race and ethnicity deserve—what is the right amount? How does his professed belief in the importance of race issues translate into a practical discussion of them? Deploying German trigger words like “volkisch” doesn’t suffice to answer the question—we all agree that society doesn’t need to organize itself completely around a theory of racial triumph and conquest. But that sets rather an extreme and unhelpful standard.

Dan R. writes:

Zmirak is one of that band of brave conservatives who begin to wet their pants once race is brought into the picture, a reflection of how liberal views on race are so deeply imbedded in the culture. It’s pathetic, but he’s far from being alone in this regard.

Gintas writes:

Are you going to post over there? I don’t blame you if you don’t, Stormfront has sent a shock troop detachment to drown out civilized discussion.

I can’t stand it when web site operators simply will not maintain a civilized discussion.

It appears to me that moderate racialists are very few and far between. But Zmirak should be able to recognize ones like Brimelow and you.

LA replies:

Yes, Zmirak condemns Nazi-type racialists to the outer darkness, except at his own blog, where he allows them free rein, assuring that most non-insane people will not want to post there, and also allowing the impression to be created that the Nazi types represent all racial thinking.

Ben W. writes:

Question is what would people like Zmirak, who eschew any mention of race, do with a country such as Israel?

If Israel allows an unlimited and unrestricted influx of non-Jews, that spells the end of Israel. Race is a consideration.

LA replies:

Jews of today, meaning the post World War II period, are extremely insistent on the idea that Jewishness is defined solely by religion and has nothing to do with ethnicity or race. Yet in the real world, Jewish religion and Jewish ethnicity or race are deeply connected, since ethnicity means a group sharing a common culture, and therefore a common history, and therefore common genetic ancestry. So by restricting immigration to Jews, Israel does in fact restrict its immigration racially, though without formally doing so.

Mark A. writes:

Zmirak, like most contemporary conservatives still under the influence of liberalism, confuses discrimination and exclusion with extermination. The essence of good taste is to have “discriminating taste.” We value certain things more than other things. A five-star restaurant will discriminate and will exclude a bum from entering its restaurant and urinating on the Persian rug. This does not mean that the restaurant is denying the bum of his humanity and calling the SS to have him deported to Auschwitz.

Zmirak’s association of a discriminatory immigration policy with a Nazi policy of extermination and denial of humanity is intellectually stupid and lazy.

Terry Morris writes:

Isn’t Zmirak merely serving to add weight to radical racialists, and to the theory of reductive racialism? If he doesn’t want race to occupy a centrality in the debate it doesn’t deserve, why does he completely and utterly alienate moderate racialists, or those who have the “perfectly ordinary craving for [racial] continuity”?

And isn’t he, by his own radical anti-racialism, elevating race to a centrality it doesn’t deserve?

Thucydides writes:

It is the liberal view that questions about the human good are systematically incapable of being settled; therefore all ideas about the good are reduced to the banality of individual “lifestyle” choices. They can be believed and discussed in private, but must not be allowed to enter the public square. This is the extent of liberal “toleration,” and it has the effect of disestablishing the values of our culture. In public discussion, a scrupulous “neutrality” is required between all points of view. In keeping with runaway egalitarianism, no judgments are allowed as to whether some point of view might be superior to another. The hubristic project is no less than that of abolishing the whole notion of desert, although no society has ever existed without a system of justice based on desert.

Questions of race are especially sensitive, since they draw into question the core liberal commitment to human universalism, which derives from our religious heritage, a point liberals seem oblivious to. Universalism has not been without its benefits (an end to the near universal practice of slavery, and more freedom for women), but it has been pushed to absurd extremes. Human beings are not blank ciphers: their ethnic and historical particularities are not mere epiphenomena that will fade away as we approach the dream of a universal rational civilization. Instead, they are constitutive of identity, and there is only one particular cultural identity in history—that of the West—that has allowed the existence of liberal practices.

The thought is that liberal “toleration” will somehow allow us to live in peace in conditions of great cultural diversity aggravated by heavy immigration. But those diverse identity groups arriving in our country will have no interest in following this liberal formulation.

The problem that liberals utterly fail to address is how our liberal values will be maintained across generations. The positions of liberalism are in our present circumstances a formula for cultural suicide that will destroy liberalism itself.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 28, 2008 10:59 AM | Send

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