Dr. Dawg

The Derbyshire debacle

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Ah, the pleasing sound of another mask dropping.

John Derbyshire is hardly new at this, but he’s never been quite so unvarnished before.

Derbyshire is the man who in 2001 called for the killing of Clinton. That’s Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Bill and Hillary, at the time not even 21:

She bears the taint; and though not prosecutable in law, in custom and nature the taint cannot be ignored.

When called upon it, he (of course) said he was just kidding. Alibi-laughter, not patriotism, is the last refuge of a scoundrel these days.

But here he was all too serious. And now his colleagues at National Review Online are royally pissed. He gave away the secret handshake! The codes!

The prescient Derbyshire knows precisely what’s going on at NRO at the moment. Here he is not five years ago, on the unlikelihood that the magazine would ever publish a piece favouring the notions of radical anti-Semite Kevin MacDonald:

Anyone running a mainstream conservative magazine has to constantly demonstrate ideological purity in matters of race. They have to show repeatedly, by indirect means of course (I mean, it would be no use to just stamp “THIS IS NOT AN ANTISEMITIC MAGAZINE! WE DO NOT FAVOR THE RETURN OF JIM CROW LAWS!” in Day-Glo letters on the cover) that they are ideologically pure in this zone. Otherwise, they won’t be taken seriously by the cultural establishment.

…There isn’t any kind of chicanery or dishonesty there. That’s just how the world is, how America is, under what Bill Buckley calls “the prevailing structure of taboos,” and the prevailing system of status perception, both of individual human beings and of easily anthropomorphizable entities like opinion magazines.

National Review wants to get certain ideas out to the U.S. public—ideas about economics, politics, law, religion, science, history, the arts, and more. To do that, the magazine needs standing in our broad cultural milieu. It needs status. That’s hard at the best of times for a conservative publication. To lose status points—to lose standing…would be dumb.

Now Derbyshire has come a cropper for ignoring his own advice. No, his execrable piece was neither submitted to nor published in NRO. But the Internet has shrunk the world into one big conversation. Publish anywhere and you’ve published everywhere. Publish in the white nationalist Taki’s Mag and you’ve published in the New Yorker.

So what was his sin, so far as his fellows at NRO are concerned? Being impolitic. Disclosing the agenda the rest of them have learned to cloak in “acceptable” discourses: opposition to affirmative action, heavy restrictions on immigration, snotty comments about Trayvon Martin, und so weiter. Conservatives have managed to attract a number of prominent Blacks to their cause in recent years—from heavy hitters like Thomas Sowell to powerful lightweights like Clarence Thomas—and they aren’t about to throw all that away by reverting to thinly-disguised Jim Crow talk, however classily phrased.

They’ve spent years, after all, perfecting their art of racist subterfuge, blowing dogwhistles until their cheeks are fairly bursting while at the time managing to be strategic— most of the time—in their use of language. The election of Barack Obama has been a sore test, certainly, and not one they’ve always passed. But the usual wheeze has been to be harshly critical (how dare Obama say that if he had a son he’d “look like Trayvon?”) while letting the commenters on endless newsthreads and talk shows and the sign-bearers at Tea Party rallies do the racial heavy lifting, like a crowd of ventriloquists’ dummies.

Derbyshire has strayed embarrassingly off-message to the point that there’s likely a bus somewhere already revving. But it’s not because his erstwhile friends on the Right, the so-called “mainstream conservatives,” necessarily disagree with him. It’s just the way he said it.

[H/t mattt]

UPDATE: And the bus has run its course. [H/t commenter JJ]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on April 7, 2012 10:35 AM.

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