What the conservative movement’s response to Derbyshire’s article tells us about conservatism

Here is the totality of the Breitbart.com article about John Derbyshire’s firing:

“Indefensible” is an apt description of Derbyshire’s controversial race column which has been getting pilloried in online circles left and right for the last day and a half.

It appears that no one in the conservative establishment has anything to say about the Derbyshire article except to emit adjectives. And that goes for the contemptible empty suit Rich Lowry. Of course Lowry has the right to dismiss Derbyshire from National Review if he feels his views are too far out of sync with those of the magazine. The problem is that Lowry didn’t say why the article was unacceptable. He obviously felt he didn’t have to. In the manner of the politically correct everywhere, Lowry simply “knows” when something is un-PC, and “knows” that his audience “knows,” and nothing more needs to be said.

Steve Sailer, who you would think would have had a lot to say about it, had an extremely short blog post on the Derbyshire affair. But it contained a line that perfectly sums up the responses, including Lowry’s, to Derbyshire’s article: “point and splutter.”

However, as commenters suggest in the previous entry, the issue here is not NR. No one expects anything from that magazine anyway. (And, frankly, who gives a hang whether John Derbyshire writes for NR?) The issue is the state of the conservative movement. Faced with an article which contains truthful and highly pertinent statements about the dangers posed to non-blacks, mainly whites, by black violence, and which discusses frankly and thoughtfully what non-black parents should tell their children in order to help protect them from such violence, the mainstream conservatives had nothing to say about it, except that it was a “rant,” a “screed,” a “provocation,” “indefensible,” “racist,” etc. In the entire conservative movement, not a single brain cell was engaged. The only thing these “conservatives” could see was that Derbyshire was saying negative things about blacks, and that was enough to turn them off on him instantly and completely.

Evidently these conservatives have no awareness of the ongoing phenomena of black flash mobs, black racial mobbing of whites on streets, wildings, murders, etc. They have not been following that development in our society at all. Or, if they are aware of it, they rationalize it the way liberals do: “Crime overall is declining, so to make a big deal about black-on-white violence is suspect and probably racist.” Or, “We are a country of 300 million people, naturally there will be some black on white crime.”

None of them is intellectually engaged in the particular nature of these savage and racially motivated black on white crimes that are continually going on in this country.

Does the above necessarily mean that Derbyshire’s article is correct in all particulars? No. Thoughtful people have indicated to me that they feel some of his generalizations go too far, and that that is what got him in trouble. But the mainstream conservatives responding to the article offer no such reasoning. They don’t say, for example, “Here is an article raising concerns about black violence that are never discussed in mainstream media, but it goes too far with respect to points X and Y and this makes the article unacceptable.” No, There is no such thought process at all. There is only instant, mindless, kneejerk condemnation. Not a single mainstream critic of Derbyshire has made a rational argument showing how the article is objectionable.

- end of initial entry -

James P. writes:

You wrote:

“The issue is the state of the conservative movement.”

That is exactly right. The so-called conservative movement threw one of its own out of the sled the instant the liberal wolves howled. In doing so, the “conservative movement” revealed that it is neither conservative nor a movement. If one can be fired from a conservative magazine for expressing conservative opinions that are largely if not completely true, then what hope do the rest of us have for free speech? If National Review will only defend the right of conservatives to say liberal-approved things, then National Review is utterly useless as a defender of free speech.

LA replies:

I don’t think the issue is free speech. A magazine may hire or fire whom it will. The issue is NR’s and the conservative movement’s instant, mindless rejection of an important argument, their complete and unquestioning fealty to liberal dogma on race.

James P. replies:
You wrote,

“I don’t think the issue is free speech. A magazine may hire or fire whom it will.”

The issue is free speech for the rest of us—those of us who do not work for conservative magazines. If a conservative writer is fired from a conservative magazine for saying conservative things, then those of us who do not work for conservative institutions have even less scope to express our opinions without fear of penalty. Let’s say I say something conservative, and the government does not punish me, but nevertheless I get fired from my job. In that case, free speech is dead, despite the fact that the government had nothing to do with it and my employer hired or fired “as they will.”

I am not sure how much criticism NR actually endured before they fired Derbyshire. The most terrifying aspect of it is that National Review’s decision was probably an example of self-policing. [LA replies: I agree. I don’t think the firing was primarily driven by what liberals were saying. I think NR’s editors were simply reacting according to the “Yecch” factor: “This guy talks about black-on-white violence. Yecch! People like us don’t talk about black-on-white violence. Only sweaty extremist types do that. He’s not one of us.”] Did the so-called conservative movement expel someone for heresy against liberal dogma before the conservative movement took any real heat from the left?

Vinteuil writes:

One small quibble, with your title. I don’t think that the “conservative movement’s” response here tells us anything whatsoever about “conservatism,” tout court. But it does tell us everything we need to know about the “conservative movement,” a.k.a. the “conservative establishment.”

And that’s what you get exactly right. Your first and last sentences sum it up nicely: “[N]o one in the conservative establishment has anything to say about the Derbyshire article except to emit adjectives… Not a single mainstream critic of Derbyshire has made a rational argument showing how the article is objectionable.”

But is this any surprise? They don’t make “a rational argument showing how the article is objectionable” because, apart from the odd jot and tittle here and there, they all believe he’s right—as ought to be obvious from the way they live their lives. I spent a couple of years living in D.C., and met my fair share of Beltway “conservatives,” and, believe me—they would sooner eat their own heads than violate any of Derbyshire’s rules, in real life.

I mean, can you picture Ramesh Ponnuru moving to inner-city Detroit? Or Jonah Goldberg taking his daughter and his dog to the Washington Zoo on African-American Family Day? Or Rich Lowry ever doing anything that isn’t totally, 1000 percent safe?

In this, as in most other things, they differ not at all from Beltway “liberals.”

It’s self-serving cant & sham & hypocrisy, all the way down.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 08, 2012 10:23 AM | Send

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