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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, fife'n'drum version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes, this is your paraphrastically genial host John Derbyshire with highlights from the week's news.
From the last couple of weeks, actually. Faithful listeners will know that I spent last week on the road and was unable to record a full broadcast. I am still in the U.S.A., but now at the Derbyshire estates in Long Island, where I am at leisure and can contemplate the world's affairs with my usual expansive detachment.
I can also record my observations at my own private sound studio here, with the help of my partner in marriage, the ever-loyal and complaisant Mrs Derbyshire. Ah, Honey, is that coffee ready yet? [Stream of irritated abuse in Chinese.] I guess that's a "no."
It's been a strange couple of weeks here in the United States of Hysteria. National productivity has plummeted as Americans working in big corporations, schools, and government departments have been repeatedly ordered away from their desks to attend Two Minutes Hate sessions. Let's begin this week by taking a look at those.
02 — Harmless old coot gets scarlet "R." First up is the case of Cliven Bundy, a rancher out in Clark County, Nevada.
We first heard of Mr Bundy back in mid-April when he and some armed supporters confronted enforcement agents from the federal Bureau of Land Management who were trying to impound his cattle in some dispute over grazing fees on federal land.
At first blush it looked like an ornery citizen in the best old American tradition standing up to over-reaching government bureaucracy. Do federal enforcement agents often behave like bossy, obnoxious control freaks? They sure do. Do we have twice as many federal agencies as we need to have? Yes we do. Is the federal government with its powers totally out of control? Yes it is.
There is also a deeper historical and constitutional case that's been simmering for a hundred years and more: that these federal lands should properly be state lands.
And on top of all that, it turned out that one reason the feds were upset at Mr Bundy was that his longstanding defiance of the rules about grazing on federal land conflicted with the feds' determination to protect the habitat of the desert tortoise, an endangered species.
Individual rights; armed neighbors supporting each other against federal power; states' rights; over-the-top environmentalism; conservatives knew by instinct which side of this dispute they were on. Rand Paul, Sean Hannity, and other bigfoot conservatives hastened to Bundy's defense. Harry Reid, the left-wing senior Senator from Nevada, helped the trend along by calling Mr Bundy and his supporters "domestic terrorists." Whatever side Happy Harry's on, a conservative wants to be on the other side.
So far, so good. Then, at an impromptu press conference on April 19th, Mr Bundy unbosomed himself of some general reflections of a social and historical nature.
Concerning American Negroes he said, inter alia, quote:
I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom.
That's where rancher Bundy got himself awarded a Two Minutes Hate. Every pompous, self-righteous nitwit in American public life — which is to say, pretty much everyone in our public life — crawled out of his burrow to deliver the ritual condemnations using the special words they use for such purposes: "repugnant," "bigot," "hurtful," "ignorant," … You know the approved vocabulary here. Bundy was no longer speaking, he was "spewing," or "spouting," or "ranting." Rand Paul and Sean Hannity were running away from their previous statements of support so fast you could see the soles of their Gucci loafers.
So suddenly Cliven Bundy, who comes across to me as a harmless old coot with a few bees in his bonnet, went from being a folk hero to the Fox News and GOP hopeful set, to being a limb of Satan branded with the dreadful scarlet "R" of racism.
It's all sadly emblematic of our times; so much so, I'm going to give Mr. Bundy's case another segment. Here we go …
03 — The uses of history. With Cliven Bundy's words ringing in our ears, I think it's time Radio Derb took a position on the slavery issue. We're against it, OK? This is a liberty-loving podcast.
That said, I'll add this: Nobody should be talking about any historical topic if they can't exercise a little historical imagination.
To illustrate the point, here's a quote that has nothing to do with slavery. I've taken it from Chapter 4 of Steven Pinker's fine book The Better Angels of Our Nature. Quote:
In 16th-century Paris, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, in which a cat was hoisted in a sling on a stage and slowly lowered into a fire. According to the historian Norman Davies, "The spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized."
Here's my question for you, listeners: Do you think the people watching that spectacle were evil people?
I don't; and I speak as a person who is strongly against cat-burning. My point is that most people, in most times and places, accept the society they find themselves in and try to carve out some kind of life for themselves in it. They'll go along with cat-burning, or race slavery, without thinking about them much; not because they're evil — very few individuals in any time or place are evil — but because most people don't think much; and when they do think, it's in terms of situations and concepts that are familiar to them from their upbringing and surroundings.
I'm not being relativistic here. Of course some times and places are better than others. I'm only saying that you can't understand anything about history unless you try to get inside the skin of the people who actually lived it.
In any society there are a few rebels who see things differently from the mass. Sometimes there are enough of them to catch the general imagination; and sometimes, that having happened, their contrarian view triumphs, and society changes. People of the changed society then look back at those rebels as foresighted heroes.
It's usually the case, if you look more closely, that many of them were cranks, misanthropes, or hypocrites; but, as the saying goes, history is written by the victors.
Ever since Karl Marx showed the way, shallow-minded people have been accustomed to see society in terms of some group oppressing some other group. This too sometimes fails the test of historical imagination.
Try reading the Slave Narratives, for example — recorded reminiscences from ex-slaves, gathered by the Federal Writers' Project in the 1930s. They're on the internet, you can read them for yourself. A surprising number express affection for old masters and nostalgia for the days of slavery.
No, of course I don't want to bring back race slavery. I'm just making a plea for the exercise of some historical imagination.
Have you ever been inside a slave cabin? I have, when touring Andrew Jackson's old estate outside Nashville. Those slave cabins compared pretty favorably with the 19th-century coal-miners' cottages you can find preserved in England, in places like the Coalbrookdale industrial museum. Supporting quote, from Fogel and Engerman's book Time on the Cross, quote:
U.S. slaves had much longer life expectations than free urban industrial workers in both the United States and Europe.
Again, I've no wish to go back to those times, either for slaves or for free workers; but if you're going to talk about history, or criticize someone else for talking about it, at least try to understand it as people of the time understood it, not as some Boomer Marxist schoolteacher or bubblehead Hollywood director told you about it.
The problem with historical imagination is, that people of the present day want to use history — or their own interpretation of history — as a weapon in their struggles for social status and political power. It's much easier to do that if you can reduce the past to a Marxist melodrama in which leering, heartless rich white males wickedly oppress non-rich nonwhite non-males. Been to the movies lately?
So fie! on all the posturing ninnies pretending to be outraged by Cliven Bundy's ramblings. The guy's entitled to his opinions, and they anyway have nothing to do with his case against the Bureau of Land Management.
So … what do I think of that case? Here's what I think. Wait a minute: structure, structure — this needs yet another segment, a short one I promise.
04 — A nation of laws … please. I'm afraid I'm going to have to unmask myself as anti-Bundy, though with no malice towards the guy.
It's not the race stuff — at least half of white Americans have had the thoughts Mr Bundy expressed, although ninety-five percent of that half are too PC-whipped to admit it in public. No, it's the case itself.
Federal ownership of these huge tracts of land may be wrong. The federal grazing fees Mr Bundy has refused to pay for 21 years may be unjust impositions. It may be the height of sentimental stupidity to put the interests of desert tortoises before the interests of human beings and cattle. It may be, as Mr Bundy seems to believe, that we'd all be better off without a federal government.
We live under a Constitution, though, and our Constitution specifies a federal structure. We're ruled by laws passed by the people's elected representatives in Congress. We have multiple layers of courts in which to adjudicate our disputes and grievances.
Here on Radio Derb I've expended a lot of breath against the disgraceful un-willingness of the federal government to enforce the people's laws on immigration. I'm naturally hesitant to castigate that same federal government for willingness to enforce federal land laws.
The notion of living in a nation of laws strongly appeals to me. I'd like to see more of it.
And speaking of immigration, here's what Cliven Bundy had to say about illegal immigrants in that same press conference, quote:
Now let me talk about the Spanish people. Now I understand that they come over here against our Constitution and cross our borders. But they're here, and they're people … And I'll tell you, in my way of thinking, they're awful nice people. And we need to have those people going to be with us.
Sorry, Mr Bundy: It's time you obeyed the law. If you want the law changed, get to grips with the political process. And while you're at it, stop encouraging foreigners to break our laws.
05 — Moral preen-o-rama. All right, I've finished with Cliven Bundy. Just as we were all traipsing back from the auditorium after our Two Minutes Hate against him, though, the whistle went off again and we had to turn round, head back to our seats, and work up another Two Minutes Hate against Donald Sterling.
This one has so many layers of irony I can't possibly work through them all in a four-minute segment.
Sterling's eighty years old. His life's been one of those modest Ashkenazi-Jewish success stories. After growing up in Los Angeles he started out as a lawyer; then he got into real estate and owned apartment buildings; then in 1981 he purchased a basketball team, the Clippers, and he's owned it ever since.
Through the years he's given money to many charities, including black charities — the NAACP presented him with a Humanitarian Award in 2009, and were all set to give him another award this month. He's also given money to politicians, mostly Democrats; although in later life he seems to have registered as a Republican.
Sterling's a pretty good businessman. Not only did he make enough from his apartment buildings to buy this basketball team, he bought the team for $12½m and it's now worth nearly $600m. If the business of America is business, Sterling's a damn good American. Sterling has supplied a lot of people with decent places to live, and provided a lot of others with entertainment that pleases them.
Compare, for example, the other person the NAACP was due to honor this month, and so far as I know still intends to: Al Sharpton. Sharpton's major accomplishments have been in the areas of tortious defamation, tax avoidance, and incitement to arson and homicide. In a culturally healthy nation Sharpton would be shunned by all decent people; in the nation we actually live in, he is fawned over by celebrities and politicians, including the President himself.
Well, you know what happened. A woman Sterling was having some kind of relationship with — a woman who is, to use the phrase the Victorians favored, no better than she ought to be — recorded some private conversations between Sterling and herself in which he chid her for publicizing pictures of herself in company with black guys.
The recordings were almost certainly illegal, and the lady sounds to have been coaxing the offending remarks out of him. It all looks like a set-up by someone who wants to force Sterling to sell his basketball team.
In the speculations I've seen, the chief candidate for that "someone" slot is Magic Johnson, a sometime basketball player himself who became a major culture hero on account of having caught a venereal disease. Johnson is one of the blacks that Sterling's lady friend took her picture with.
Defaming public officials, inciting mobs to arson and murder, and catching VD, will all bring you fame and fortune in today's America. The President himself will kneel at your feet.
Contrariwise, not wishing it known that your lady friend is walking out with blacks is serious thoughtcrime. Sterling has been thrown out of the National Basketball Association and fined $2½m. He's under pressure to sell his team, though apparently the NBA can't force him to do so.
I can't improve here on the words of Mark Steyn, writing about the affair in his blog Tuesday, quote:
In a free society you should be able to make racist remarks in private without being fined and losing your property rights. Because the alternative is worse.
Steyn's brand of common sense has been very rare these few days, though. Primed to hitherto-unscaled heights of anti-racist rectitude by the Cliven Bundy saga, practically all of of the commentariat, including of course self-styled conservatives, have been whooping and cackling with glee at having a real live racist to drag around the city walls behind their chariots — or more to the point, at having an opportunity to advertise their own shining racial virtue from the comfort of their doorman apartment buildings and gated communities.
Examples are legion, but I'll just pick one of the more stomach-turning specimens. This is columnist Andrea Peyser in Wednesday's New York Post, quote:
No punishment will cure the cancer eating at Sterling's soul. His recorded conversation … reveals a sexual insecurity and a twisted obsession with races other than Caucasian that has no place in basketball, and is out of touch with American values.
That, Ms Peyser, is self-righteous moral preening of the lowest and most contemptible kind. "Sexual insecurity"? The guy is eighty years old, for crying out loud. "A twisted obsession"? The whore coaxed a few mildly negative remarks about blacks out of an eighty-year-old guy. "Bile"? I'm feeling a little bilious myself after reading your self-congratulatory vaporings, Ms Pure-of-Soul.
Andrea Peyser is white. She lives in Brooklyn, New York; though whether in South Brooklyn, which Business Insider's article on America's most segregated cities describes as, quote, "mostly white, with pockets of Asians and Hispanics," end quote, or in Northeast Brooklyn, quote, "heavily black," end quote, I have not been able to ascertain.
06 — Redefining debate. Remember high school and college debating teams? I was on one back in my own high-school days in England.
There'd be a motion you had to defend or oppose. Some other guy — I attended an all-boys' school — some other guy would take the opposing side, and two others would be seconds, for and against. The room would vote on the motion, we'd all say our piece, there'd be some questions from the audience, then the room would vote again. Whichever side had changed the most minds got the victory.
I can remember opposing the motion that "This house would rather be red than dead." We lost that one by a big margin. This was around 1963, and young people were already turning left.
Not all our subjects were serious, though. On another occasion I spoke in support of the motion: "This house believes that work is the curse of the drinking classes." I forget which way that one came out. Ah, good times.
With that background, I was naturally interested in this April 16th article from The Atlantic someone sent me. Headline: Hacking Traditional College Debate's White-Privilege Problem. Sub-heading: "Minority participants aren't just debating resolutions — they're challenging the terms of the debate itself."
What's going on here is that black debaters, instead of addressing the debate topic, or even paying any attention to it, just issue forth stream-of-consciousness diatribes against whites.
You think I'm kidding? I wish I were. Here is a brief sample of a debate at Indiana University on March 24th, on the motion that "This house believes that the U.S. President's war powers should be restricted." You ready? Here we go. This lady — her name is Ameena Ruffin — is speaking for the motion … I think.
[Clip: Extract from CEDA 2014 debate, final round.]
Got that? In case you didn't get it, here's a translation: "Black black black black black! Blackety blackety black black black! Blackety blackety blackety blackety blackety blackety blackety blackety blackety blackety blackety black! …" I think that captures the essence of it.
So this prankster got ejected for totally ignoring the rules of debate, right? Wrong. I have to tell you — you might want to sit down for this, listeners — I have to tell you, Ms Ruffin and her partner, who spoke in the same style, won this year's Cross Examination Debate Association Championships. They are the winners.
Quote from the Atlantic article, quote:
In the final round, Ruffin and Johnson squared off against Rashid Campbell and George Lee from the University of Oklahoma, two highly accomplished African-American debaters with distinctive dreadlocks and dashikis. Over four hours, the two teams engaged in a heated discussion of concepts like [quote] "nigga authenticity" [end quote] and performed hip-hop and spoken-word poetry.
This, let me remind you, was at a university. One of the commenters on the Atlantic article expressed my sentiments, quote: "Western civilization, it was nice knowing you."
I should add as a footnote here that some disgruntled students who wanted to debate in the traditional format attempted to start a breakaway debating organization. They set up an alternative debate tournament, scheduled to take place later in March. When word of this got out, however, they were denounced on Facebook as racists, and the venue they'd booked canceled on them.
I know, it all sounds fantastic and incredible. Another commenter on the Atlantic article asked. "Is this a joke?" If only it were!
07 — "No stronger retrograde force." As always, I have to note that the villains in that last segment are not the blacks who are pulling these stunts, but the white college administrators who are letting them get away with it. And — again as always — I have to ask the key question here: What on earth is the matter with white people?
If you think things are bad here, though, they're even worse across the pond. In Britain there's a big Muslim population, and they are even more aggressive and ruthless at intimidating the majority than black Americans are.
We got an illustration of that on April 26th when Paul Weston, a candidate in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament, was arrested by police on the steps of Winchester town hall, searched, and taken away in a paddy wagon.
Mr Weston spent several hours in a cell at Winchester Police Station, after which he was charged with a Racially Aggravated Crime under Section 4 of the Public Order Act. This charge carries a prison sentence of up to two years.
What was Mr Weston's crime? He was addressing a small crowd from the town hall steps using a bull horn. The main part of his address was a reading from Winston Churchill's second book The River War, published in 1899. It's a passage that begins, quote: "How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries!" The passage ends, quote:
Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.
Once again, this was Winston Churchill that Mr Weston was quoting — a great national hero of the British when I was growing up there, and a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953.
None of that matters today, any more than the rules of formal debate matter. Everything must be for the blacks and the Muslims; the rest of us must bow our heads and yield.
And once more, just to press the point home, all the police officers involved in the arrest — I counted six in the various pictures — were white non-Muslim English people, so far as one could judge — not very surprising, as 92 percent of Winchester's resident population are white British and only 0.5 percent are Muslims.
You can't blame the blacks and Muslims for taking advantage of the situation. Faced with the cringing, craven masochism of whites, who wouldn't take advantage?
Perhaps they pity us for our spinelessness and our refusal to defend our civilization. More likely they just feel contempt.
08 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: I'm going to trespass on the boundaries of bad taste here, listeners, by passing unkind remarks about a man who died last Tuesday.
Name of the man: Clayton Lockett, 38 years old, of Perry, Oklahoma. Cause of death: lethal injection, on a gurney at the state penitentiary in McAlester, OK. Main newsworthy point: They got the dosage wrong, or something, and Mr Lockett writhed and groaned on the gurney for 43 minutes before going on to his eternal reward.
In June 1999, two weeks after graduating high school, 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman drove a friend home in her Chevy truck. Clayton Lockett and two other men were in the house, busily engaged in a home invasion. When the friend went in, they beat her and forced her to call Stephanie in. After Stephanie went in, they raped the friend. Then they beat Stephanie, silenced her with duct tape, and drove her into the countryside in her own vehicle, along with the friend, the occupant of the house, and the occupant's nine-month-old baby. The men tried to make Stephanie swear she wouldn't identify them to police, but she refused.
One of Clayton Lockett's accomplices spent twenty minutes digging a grave. Then Lockett shot Stephanie twice in front of the other victims. In between the two shots the men were laughing about how tough Stephanie was. The shootings in fact failed to kill her, so they buried her alive.
A lot of people are upset at the way Clayton Lockett died. Given the Constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, I guess they have a point. Some kind of a point. I guess.
Item: The village of Dull in Scotland has since 2012 been enjoying a relationship with the town of Boring in Oregon — one of those "twinning" arrangements to encourage tourism. The two places actually celebrate a Boring and Dull Day every year on August 9th.
Well, the county of Bland in Australia got to hear about this and wanted a piece of the … action? So now, instead of being merely twinned, Bland, Dull and Boring are tripleted.
So there's your next vacation right there, and you have three countries to choose from. Just take something to read. Something long.
What, you didn't find that story interesting? Hey, I don't make the news, I just report it.
Item: Finally, just a follow-up to the Donald Sterling story. The lady in the case is named V. Stiviano. Nobody seems to know what the "V" stands for. Perhaps it doesn't stand for anything, like the "S" in "Harry S. Truman." Anyway, a reporter from the Los Angeles Times caught up with V on Tuesday and elicited the following words from her, quote:
One day, I will become President of the United States of America and I will change the legislation and laws. Modern day history. Civil rights movement.
Legislation and laws, wow.
09 — Signoff. And there you have it, ladies and gents. Another week has trickled away into the sands of time.
Bland, Dull, and Boring Day is, as I said, August 9th. That's some way away yet, but we may as well start getting in the right mood, so here's Carson Robison to sing us out.
More from Radio Derb next week! Take it away, Carson.
[Music clip: Carson Robison, "Life Gets Teejus, Don't It?"]