»  Taki's Magazine

April 12th, 2012

  Talking Back


Goodness, what a fuss!

The topic here is of course my Takimag column of last week, which has brought me worldwide fame, though no doubt only for the proverbial fifteen minutes.

The first and most essential thing to record here is heartfelt, down-on-my-knees-hugging-yours gratitude:

•  Thanks to the hundreds of readers who have emailed in with expressions of support. I did begin by answering them as they came in; but by Sunday I was finding that while I'd answered a dozen, forty more had appeared in my in-box. I'll continue to do my best, as time permits, but there is probably no way I shall ever answer all these supportive emails, so I can only offer a blanket THANK YOU! to those who wrote, and a promise on my honor that every word of every email will at least be read and appreciated.

•  The "Donate" button on my own website has been lighting up like a pinball target. Remarks similar to those in the previous paragraph apply a fortiori to all the generous souls who have contributed their own hard-won dollars to help my little boat and its four occupants through these present rough waters. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(Though I confess to being baffled by the guy who sent me $1. Was it meant as sarcasm? Sheer bad typing? A genuine widower's mite? He didn't tell me. Awash as I am in the milk of human kindness, I'm going to assume the best of humanity and include him in my thanks along with the rest.)

[Added later :  Er, see here.]

•  Major individual thanks to Steve Sailer at iSteve and to Peter Brimelow at VDARE for directing their own readers to my "Donate" button. This is over-the-top gracious on their part as they themselves live largely by donations. Please help me to thank them by helping them. Steve's button is at top right of his page there; VDARE, as it happens, has just started its Spring funds appeal, so you go right there. (No slight on Takimag here; the Takimag site operates on different principles and is not set up to do this kind of thing on the fly.)

Steve and Peter are major voices of the oppositional Right, which is slowly, groping and stumbling, building up into some kind of coherent force, thanks to the internet and much generosity from supporters. It's going to take a few years, but everything helps. For a sane immigration policy; for true equality under the law, without preferences or quotas; for freedom of association; for plain frank speaking, citizen to citizen; for sovereignty; for military restraint; for liberty; cast thy bread upon the waters. It will be returned to thee an hundredfold; or at least to thy children and grandchildren, and to our lovely country.

Now to some random particulars.

Was it a suicide column?  Many people have surmised that I was fed up with National Review and wanted to go out with a bang.

Nothing of the sort. I was comfortable at NR and honestly thought I was writing a routine column, on a website that anyway never references my NR connections. The results were entirely unanticipated.

Grassy knolls.  Some people went berserk over-analyzing the situation. Guys: Most things are just as simple as they look, if not simpler.

A favorite (e.g. with Gucci Little Piggy's Chuck Rudd) was the cryptic muttering with which I opened the March 30th edition of Radio Derb. "Aha!" said the amateur cryptanalysts, "Derb was signaling that he's through with National Review and about to press the plunger on his suicide vest!"

Fiddlesticks. I was making an ad hoc spoof on the incident where Barack Obama left his mike on while talking with Dmitry Medvedev. That's all.

Although, if you were to extract that sound clip and play it backwards …

Was it the meds talking?  I don't think so. My current chemotherapy regime runs on a four-week cycle. There are two days of "infusion" — i.e. getting various kinds of poison pumped into my veins. This is followed by three or four days of Death-where-is-thy-sting? misery, then a slow return to normal … just in time for the next infusion. The offending column was written near the end of the cycle, when I was as normal as I get.

Perfectly clear-headed, though? As best I can judge, yes; but there's an infinite regress lurking in there somewhere.

Be a bad Samaritan!  Setting aside the hordes of lunatics who descended on the piece, among thoughtful and largely-sympathetic commentators — the only ones I give a fig about — the item of advice most often objected to was:

(10h) Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g. on the highway.

Christians of course thought this un-Christian; but even people commenting from no religious position thought is unkind and poor citizenship.

I'm going to do bit of "on-the-one-hand, on-the-other" havering here. You ready to wobble?

On the one hand, I wish I had elaborated some on that, to the effect that in view of not-uncommon outcomes like the one I linked to, you just need to be a whole lot more wary about acting Good Samaritan when the distressed traveler is black (even, as a matter of fact, if you yourself are black). One can of course think of cases where you should act anyway, but in most situations, I'd still recommend double caution.

I had in mind to elaborate thus, but was heading for my word limit so kept it short.

On the other hand, the context here is advice to kids. Deciding which situation says "stay out of this!" and which says "help the guy" requires an act of judgment. Kids don't have very good judgment; so a blanket "stay out of this!" is not bad advice in context.

Statistical common sense.  Readers, even quite friendly and intelligent ones (maybe an IWSB or two, who knows?) emailed in to say things like: "I live in a heavily black neighborhood, and things are just fine, never any trouble."

I don't doubt it. Of course there are nice black neighborhoods. That misses my point about statistical common sense. A white person who finds himself in a neighborhood about which he knows nothing except that it is heavily black is more likely to encounter trouble than he would be in some strange neighborhood not heavily black.

Likewise, if your stretch of beach is suddenly flooded by a swarm of black people, it might be a local convention of the Association of Black Cardiologists taking a break. But this is not very likely.

I don't know why people have so much difficulty thinking statistically, as we behave statistically all the time. The sky is overcast; I have to go out to an event where I'll be in the open; I take an umbrella. If, after all, it does not rain, do I feel like an idiot for having taken the umbrella? Of course not. I yielded to my inner statistician. I went with the percentages. We all do it a dozen times a day. It's statistical common sense. The trouble-free black neighborhood is the rain-free overcast day: happens a lot, but take that umbrella.

Hypotheses non fingo.  Lefty commenters waxed large on my piece as promoting eugenics, arguing for genetic inferiority, and so on.

Now, I do have opinions about eugenics. I support, for example, the eugenic requirements in the marriage laws of my state (see under "Familial Restrictions" here.)

Similarly, I have opinions about the notion of genetic success (as I should prefer to frame the issue). In the long biological view, the only criterion is survival. The humble sea cucumber, which has been around for 400 million years, is a "superior" organism — more successful — than the saber-toothed tiger, which I don't think lasted even one million. Likewise, the premise of the movie Idiocracy is that coarse, dumb people will inherit the earth by out-breeding refined, smart people. If that happens (and I wouldn't be surprised) then from a biological perspective, which is actually my own perspective as a stone-cold empiricist, the coarse, dumb people will have proven "superior" to the refined, smart ones. Personally I prefer the latter type: but Ma Nature doesn't care what I prefer.

Sure, I have opinions; sure, I'm willing to discuss these topics. There was nothing of them in my piece, though. I just stated facts, based on statistics gathered over decades, by both private and government agencies, accumulated and checked beyond the range of dispute. Those facts might have any of several causes, with corresponding remedies. They might be "cultural": perhaps a nationwide ban on rap music and malt liquor might change them. They might be biomedical, fixable by some not-yet-discovered pharmacological wonder we could put in the water supply, like fluoride. They might be manipulated by extraterrestrial powers lurking in the fogs of Jupiter, beaming malign rays at us. I didn't speculate. I framed no hypotheses. Just the facts.

Best of the hostiles?  Were there any hostile pieces that I thought made good points against mine, with logic and style? somebody asked.

I couldn't say. I don't read stuff hostile to me; never have, unless paid time and a half for my trouble. You can call that arrogance if you like, or cowardice. The way I look at it is: Why invite indigestion?

Best of the non-hostile critiques?  All right: were there any reasoned non-hostile critiques I thought were good?

Even there, I only looked at three or four, at the urging of friends. Of those, the best was Noah Millman's. It deserves a formal, collegial rebuttal, but I'm so far behind with absolutely everything, I daren't think about it. I haven't done my damn TAXES yet. Sorry, Noah. In any case, most of the points I'd make are there in the comment thread to Noah's piece.

Would I like to offer some kind of sniveling apology for the piece?  In your dreams, pal. I haven't sniveled since about 1952, and I'm too old to re-acquire the habit.

I say what I think, and I'm very much obliged to Takimag for letting me do so. If you don't like the kinds of things I say, there is a very simple remedy available to you: Don't read me.

And here's the pesky word limit again, w-a-a-y back in the rear-view mirror in fact. I may return to this topic another time. Or then again, I may not.