»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Friday, April 12th, 2019


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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]

01 — Intro.     And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your jocosely genial host John Derbyshire.

I admire, but cannot emulate, those TV, radio, and podcast hosts who open up the show by telling you what terrific news stories they have lined up to stun and amaze you. Sean Hannity at Fox News is the champion here. Sean opens every single show by telling his viewers they'll be knocked of their chairs by what he's about to tell them. It's obviously a very effective pitch: Sean is jousting at the top of the ratings with somebody called Rachel Maddow.

As I said: I admire but can't emulate. When nothing excites me in the week's news, I drift off into generalities about social science, 18th-century English literature, or figures of speech.

So you're quite safe on your chair this week, listeners. Nothing that follows will amaze or astound you. If I can arouse a sad sigh, a guilty snicker, a nod of agreement, or a roll of the eyes, then my work here will not have been in vain.

In that regrettably lackluster spirit, let's see what's been happening.


02 — House committee hears about white nationalism.     A thing that happened Tuesday on Capitol Hill was the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the threat of white nationalism.

I didn't read very far into the transcripts of this event before I realized the complete bogosity of it. It was a pseudo-event, like one of those family squabbles about which, in calm reflection afterwards, people say: "It wasn't really about what it was about."

What it pretended to be about was, yes, the threat to our social order from white nationalism. Eight invited witnesses — four blacks, two Jews, a Muslim, and a lady from Google who I can't pin down by any group affiliation — opined to 32 congresscritters: ten Republicans, 22 Democrats.

In his video report on the event, Jared Taylor called it, quote: "a miserable display of ignorance and arrogance." I can't improve on that; and I urge listeners to set aside fifteen minutes of time to watch Jared's report.

The notion that our social order is under threat from white nationalism is, as I said, mere pretense. The hearings leaned heavily on statistics supplied by the Anti-Defamation League purporting to show that white nationalist terrorism is real and rising.

The statistics are fake. Jared and Gregory Hood did a rigorous analysis of them, concluding that of nineteen deaths in 2017 claimed by the ADL as resulting from white nationalist terrorism, one was, quote, "clearly authentic," one was plausible, and one ambiguous. The rest were bogus.

Considering there were over seventeen thousand homicides that year in the U.S.A., one authenticated white nationalist killing, one plausible, and one ambiguous doesn't seem like something the republic should lose sleep over.

(That plausible one, by the way, was James Fields hitting Heather Heyer with his car at Charlottesville, an event which strikes many of us as more properly belonging in the "ambiguous" category.)

So what was this hearing really about? My guess is, the motive is linguistic. When you control a powerful ideological narrative, and are determined to keep controlling it, language is key.

I went to Google's Ngram to look up the comparative frequency in published books of the three terms "racist," "white supremacist," and "white nationalist." My inquiries weren't very successful as Ngram could only show me data up to 2008. I really want to see data for the past decade, but they don't have it.

The data up to 2008 is suggestive, though. "Racist" has been losing market share since the late 1990s, although it has stayed way ahead of the other two terms up to 2008. I bet this last eleven years it's dropped a lot more. If you remove "racist" from the Ngram scan, "white supremacist" was way ahead of "white nationalist," around seventeen times the frequency, but starting to fall after 2003.

Every totalitarian power cult needs a vocabulary of vituperation — some way to talk about the enemies of the people: those wreckers, saboteurs, and counter-revolutionaries who are always trying to slow or divert society's righteous march forward to a radiant future.

Cultural Marxism relied on "racist" through recent decades as the principal identifier for these enemies of the people. The word has worn thin with over-use, though.

It also suffers from the drawback of not being explicitly anti-white. The word "racist" contains within itself the possibility of applying it to nonwhite people. CultMarx philosophers have come up with arguments to prove that nonwhites can't be racist, but the arguments never got much traction outside the faculty lounges, and popular mainstream or civic-nationalist commentators still score points with their audiences by tagging anti-white agitators as "racist."

So "racist" was worn out and unsatisfactory. My impression is that for most of the past ten or a dozen years, there was a push by the ideologues to replace "racist" with "white supremacist."

For reasons I don't understand, but shall take some guesses at, "white supremacist" is now slipping out of favor. "White nationalist" is the preferred replacement, and this week's congressional hearing was an effort by the ideologues to give "white nationalist" a clear stamp of approval.

My guesses as to why "white supremacist" has lost market share are as follows.

  • "White supremacist" sounds a bit antique. It brings to mind the old Jim Crow South — Bull Connor, George Wallace. Those images don't have much purchase on people's minds today, especially young people's minds. Society has changed too much.
  • Hardly any of the people tagged as "white supremacist" actually desire supremacy over nonwhites. Mostly they just want to get away from them, or prevent their numbers from driving whites into minority status.
  • In the CultMarx worldview nationalism is evil because, you know, Hitler-Hitler-Hitler. And furthermore …
  • Donald Trump has declared himself a nationalist, so "white nationalist" rings the anti-Trump bell.

Those are my guesses. Possibly I've missed something. I'm pretty clear, though, that in the vituperation market, now is the time for wise investors to sell "white supremacist" and buy "white nationalist."


03 — Trump Disappointment Syndrome (cont.).     In last week's podcast I had some sport with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's deeply unimpressive performance on Tucker Carlson's show April 2nd.

By the time that podcast aired, Secretary Nielsen was out. Apparently the President was just as unimpressed as I was with her failure to respond in any very significant way to the sixty, seventy, hundred thousand foreigners now strolling into our country every month without permission.

We await the announcement of a new name to be Secretary of Homeland Security. Serious immigration patriots are rooting for the President to nominate Kris Kobach, who has actually put forward some specific proposals to stanch the flood, proposals that don't depend on Congress acting — because we all know, of course, that this Congress will do nothing to stop mass illegal immigration.

There's a murmur around that Kris Kobach couldn't get approved by the Senate because he's taken too hard a line on illegal immigration and voter fraud. Well, possibly. I've met Kobach in person, though, and there is nothing the least bit flaky or off-putting about him. He's well-spoken and well-informed, skillful in debate. That ought to count for something in a Senate committee hearing. If I were advising the President I'd say nominate him anyway, and damn the torpedoes.

Meanwhile I've been feeling a wee bit guilty about my snarkiness towards Kirstjen Nielsen. Sure, she was useless at her job; but she wasn't any more useless than her boss, the President. On illegal immigration, Trump has been all hat and no cattle.

The latest fiasco was his climbdown on closing the border with Mexico. March 29th our President tweeted that, quote:

If Mexico doesn't immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States through our Southern Border, I will be CLOSING the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week.

End quote.

What he actually did the following week — on Thursday, April 4th — was back down, telling Mexico he'd give them a year's warning in advance before closing the border. So the previous week's tweet had just been empty bluster.

"Speak softly but carry a big stick," said Teddy Roosevelt. Trump blusters and carries a wet noodle.

And this is what he's like on illegal immigration. On legal immigration, he's Jeb Bush.

It's no use blaming Kirstjen Nielsen, or Jared Kushner, or Mercedes Schlapp. These people serve at the President's pleasure. He doesn't have to listen to them. He chooses to listen to them, presumably because what they say makes some kind of sense to him. It doesn't make any sense to us, your voter base, Mr President.

It's no use blaming Congress. Your party controlled Congress for two years, and you did nothing. Fairly or not, a President is judged by his success at getting Congress to do things, including things they don't much want to do.

It's no use blaming the courts. That's just blaming Congress at one remove. The courts interpret the laws Congress passes.

As things stand we'll probably vote for you, Mr President — grudgingly, reluctantly — because the alternative is worse, and because you are hated by all the people we hate. On the National Question, though, the issue more than any other that got you elected, you have so far delivered nothing.

What a disappointment. What a terrible, shameful disappointment.


04 — Sanctuary hypocrisy.     As a footnote to the previous segment, I should note that not all was dark on the immigration front this week. Not that things were exactly bright anywhere; but we did get something at least worth a smile.

This was the news on Thursday that one of Trump's policy advisers had proposed last November that the catch-and-release program for illegals coming in across our southern border should be adjusted so that the "release" part took place in sanctuary cities. Quote from the New York Times, April 11th, quote:

The proponents of the idea inside the White House argued at the time that it would help with overcrowding at nonprofit shelters in border towns by transferring the migrants to cities that already embrace the idea of having more immigrants.

End quote.

The idea went nowhere back then, but it came up again in February, as border facilities were being overwhelmed by floods of incomers.

The reports say that Secretary Nielsen's DHS thought that there might be legal issues with busing the illegals to sanctuary cities. I don't myself see why there should be. If it's legal for the authorities to drop busloads of Central Americans at Phoenix bus station, which they now routinely do, why would it be any less legal to drop them in Denver or Los Angeles?

Or in San Francisco among Nancy Pelosi's constituents — not to mention, of course, the surviving relatives of Kate Steinle and of Tony Bologna and his sons.

Someone seems to have mentioned that possibility to Speaker Pelosi herself. The lady did not respond in person, but a spokes-lackey told the Times that, quote:

The extent of this administration's cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated … Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable, and in some cases, criminal.

End quote.

Ah, the kiddies, the kiddies, those poor little kiddies.

When it comes to cynicism, though, I think Mrs Pelosi takes the palm. Obviously she thinks it's a great idea for San Francisco to be a sanctuary city. But then, if it's such a great idea, why should she object to a few thousand illegals being placed there? Wouldn't it be, like, a "safe space" for them? And their kiddies?

We smile at the flagrant hypocrisy on display here. When we actually think about the idea, though, our smile fades. Once the illegals are in our country, they're in. We could drop them off in San Francisco, but they don't have to stay there, and they wouldn't. They'd head off to wherever their relatives, or people from their village, had settled.

And while it's nice to think that someone in the White House has a sense of humor, it would be a whole lot nicer if the Executive would take legal action against cities — and some entire states — committing gross and willful defiance of federal immigration laws.

Words are nice — and sometimes kinda fun, as in this case — but where are the actions?


05 — Reparations madness.     Back in 1838, in order to keep its finances afloat, Georgetown University in Washington DC sold 272 slaves to plantations in Louisiana at a price equivalent in today's money to $12,000 per head.

This week undergraduate students at Georgetown voted to hike tuition by $27.20 per semester to cover reparations to descendants of those slaves. With around sixty percent of students voting, two-thirds approved the tuition hike, which awaits approval by the college board.

This is of course the latest news item about reparations for slavery, an issue prominent at the moment among candidates vying for next year's Democratic Presidential nomination. It was a big topic at Al Sharpton's bash, which I reported on last week. Several of the wannabe nominees there affirmed their support for reparations.

The whole thing baffles me. I've never seen any explanation as to how reparations would work.

Start with the question: Who is eligible to receive reparations? Would descendants of free blacks count? How about blacks who arrived here from the West Indies after Emancipation?

What about black-white mixtures? If we could establish — and that's a darn big "if" — that Joe is directly descended from a black female slave and a white slaveowner, most people would consider Joe eligible for reparations, I guess.

How about this case, though? In their book Time on the Cross, Fogel and Engerman deduced from contemporary records that prostitutes in the antebellum South were mostly white. There wasn't much call for black prostitutes because of, you know, racism. So what if we could establish that Sam is directly descended from a white prostitute and a free black client? Is Sam eligible?

And jurisprudentially, the whole idea is very radical. There is no precedent in our legal and constitutional philosophy for a doctrine of hereditary guilt. As Jared has pointed out: "Murder is worse than slavery, and yet a murder victim's son has no claim of any kind on the son of a man who killed his father."

The whole thing just makes no sense. That the idea of reparations is being seriously entertained by people who think they have a shot at being elected President, illustrates the depths of imbecility to which our public discourse has sunk under the poisonous influence of race guilt and anti-white madness.

Is it too much to hope that when electioneering gets going in earnest next year some candidate, when asked about reparations, will laugh out loud and say: "Absolutely not!" Yes, it probably is.


06 — Miscellany.     And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.

Imprimis:  In last week's podcast I noted the tremendous crowds at the New York City funeral of Rabbi Portugal, a revered leader of the Hasidic sect of Judaism.

Thursday this week there was a similar spectacle on the left coast: a funeral attended by tens of thousands of worshipping mourners, some of whom had traveled hundreds of miles to be there.

This was the funeral in Los Angeles of Nipsey Hussle, a black performer of rap music, who had been shot dead March 31st by another black rapper in some kind of personal quarrel. The shooter's name was Eric Holder, but this is apparently not Barack Obama's Attorney General.

The ex-President was present at the obsequies, though, at any rate in spirit. A letter from Obama was read out at the funeral service for Mr Hussle.

The funeral procession covered 25 miles through the city of Los Angeles. Mourners expressed their grief by stampeding, fighting with police, trashing at least one police car, and of course by shooting each other. Altogether four people were shot, three males and a female, all black. One of the four died.

As I said, a similar spectacle to the Rabbi's funeral last week. City streets jammed with thousands of mourners; black the predominating color in both cases. I'm sure there were other similarities, too. Let's hope not too many, though: Diversity is our strength!


ItemLast week we had some fun with synecdoches, in particular with a Chinese synecdoche I like: lingxiu, "collars and sleeves," meaning "leaders" — the Mandarins and high officials who run things.

Numerous readers emailed in to point out that the English language has a closely similar synecdoche: "suits," meaning the decision-making managers in some organization. Those readers are of course right.

Possibly not for much longer, though. Headline: Is it the end for the man's suit?

This is from BBC News, March 8th. The article features one Will Welch, newly-appointed editor-in-chief of GQ magazine, which was Gentlemen's Quarterly until 1967.

Mr Welch is having no truck with the traditional men's suit. Well, a little truck. Quote from the article:

In the entire [February] issue [of GQ], there are only a handful of suits, the most conservative of them worn without socks.

Without socks? Ay ay ay! Yes, the suit is on its way out. Let's not shed tears, though; it's had a pretty good innings, as fashion goes — a hundred years and some. There are suits in my closet I had made nearly forty years ago, and ties I had as birthday presents back in the Eisenhower administration. They look perfectly fine; I wear them unselfconsciously.

When you consider the speed with which men went from knee breeches to trousers two hundred years ago — I think Jefferson was the first President to be inaugurated wearing trousers — and from powdered wigs to hair oil, the men's suit has exhibited extraordinary staying power. That's not even to mention women's fashions.

For sheer stasis, though, the West has nothing on the East. The "collars and sleeves" of those Chinese Mandarins seem, to my admittedly inexpert eye, to have gone unchanged across a millennium or so.

Of course, if the men's suit really does disappear, we're going to need a new synecdoche for the people who boss us around. Well, there's one we can import from China ready-made: "collars and sleeves"!


Item:  While I'm fondling words and rhetorical figures, here's a word I learned just last week: "speciose." The first part comes from the word "species," meaning of course the lowest level of classification for living things (if you don't count races, breeds, and varieties). The last bit, the suffix "-ose," means "full of," "abounding in," "given to," or "like." So "verbose" means "wordy"; "jocose" means "full of humor" and so on.

So "speciose" means "abounding in species." I learned it from one of Razib Khan's tweets, but it's been around for a while. "Species-rich," says the Oxford Dictionary.

Razib was of course tweeting about this new species of Homo found in a cave in the Philippines. This comes just a few years after remains of another species, the so-called "hobbit" humans, turned up in Indonesia. And that was not long after fragments of yet another ancient species, the Denisovans, had turned up in a Siberian cave.

[Note added later:  I got my hominins mixed up there. The "hobbits" were the earlier discovery, the Denisovans the later. Sorry!]

The time scale here is tens to hundreds of thousands of years ago, parallel to the development of our own species, Homo sapiens, which became distinct around two hundred thousand years ago. We are learning that our family tree in that remote past was speciose.

Kind of interesting, but should we care? Not immediately; but we know that there was interbreeding among these lineages. Modern humans outside Africa have bits of Neanderthal genome; Australian aborigines and Pacific islanders have bits of the Denisovan genome; and so on.

Do those bits affect the group characteristics of the groups that possess them? We don't know, but it wouldn't be astounding if they did. In the present state of our understanding, however, speculation is otiose.


Item:  Finally, I note belatedly from the April issue of The New Criterion, that Jeff Hart passed away in February shortly before his 89th birthday.

Jeff was primarily a literary scholar; he taught English Literature at Dartmouth for thirty years. He had a sideline in Presidential speechwriting, though, for Nixon and Reagan. He was a senior editor at National Review, too, and used to come down from Dartmouth for our editorial conferences every second Monday.

I sat with him at the editorial table dozens of times in the early 2000s, as had Peter Brimelow in the mid-1990s. Jeff's contributions to the editorial conferences were erudite and often very funny. When you got a compliment from Jeff on something you'd written — I scored a couple — it was a compliment to be treasured.

Jeff parted company with National Review in the mid-2000s over disgust with George W. Bush, whose policies he deplored as Wilsonian betrayals of true conservatism. He was of course right about that; although in distancing himself from Bush he went a bit too far, voting for Obama in 2008.

I liked and admired Jeff Hart notwithstanding, and I was sorry to hear of his passing. Rest in peace, Jeff.


07 — Signoff.     And there you have it, ladies and gents. Thank you for your time and attention; be safe; and don't take any wooden nickels.

We have some dear old friends coming to stay over this weekend. When I asked what they'd like for breakfast Sunday, they said they wanted a real New York breakfast: bagels and lox with cream cheese. That caught me off guard. I've lived most of the last fifty years in New York City and its suburbs, but I think I've had bagels and lox about three times altogether, maybe four.

I headed off to a deli to purchase the necessaries. No sooner had I uttered the words across the counter than a silly song started up in my head. The darn thing is still playing. My hope is that by signing out with it I may get rid of it. You know the song I mean; or if you don't, you will in a moment.

There will be more from Radio Derb next week.


[Music clip: Alan Sherman, "There is nothing like a lox."]