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[Music clip: Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 1, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, this Good Friday evening as I record, the third day of Passover. This is of course your irresistibly genial host John Derbyshire with some notes on the week's news.
If you tuned in last week you will know that I was away from my desk, on vacation. Mrs Derbyshire and I actually spent nine days in the Texas Hill Country, visiting with friends there and indulging ourselves in some random sightseeing.
I shall report in more detail about that in my April Diary at the end of this month. For now I just want to
I should also point out that because I was off the grid the last week of March, this week's podcast will cover events from those seven days as well as from this week, the first week of April. It's a two-weeker, got that? Excellent! Let's proceed.
02 — Currents of social change. An item much chewed over by commentators that last week of March was a survey, just then published, of the attitudes Americans hold towards topics like patriotism, religious belief, family life, and so on. The survey was conducted from March 1st to 13th by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and funded by The Wall Street Journal.
The sample size is 1,019 respondents, half of them in the suburbs, the rest split pretty evenly between rural and urban. That's not a big sample: 4.1 percent sampling error at the 95 percent confidence level. It's not a statistician's dream, but it's enough to give us some fair idea what's going on.
The numbers it turned up were not very cheering — well, not to those of us with a conservative temperament. Only 38 percent of respondents said that patriotism was very important to them. Twenty-five years ago the number was 70 percent. That's a heck of a drop.
Religion? This year 39 percent of respondents said faith was very important to them. In 1998 the number was 62 percent.
Family formation? Thirty percent said having children was very important to them; that's down from 59 percent in 1998, so it's halved.
Getting involved in community affairs? Twenty-seven percent said "very important." That's down from 62 percent just four years ago.
Tolerance for others? Fifty-eight percent, down from 80 percent just four years ago.
Bearing in mind that this survey was carried out with funding from The Wall Street Journal I did not have high hopes that it would evince any interest in what hoi polloi think about unrestrained mass immigration, but I thought I should check anyway.
Ctrl-F "immigr"? 0/0. Ctrl-F "migrant"? 0/0. Ctrl-F "asylum"? 0/0. Ctrl-F "refuge"? 0/0. Ctrl-F "border"? 0/0.
So I guess I was right. Our ruling class, including the people who determine Wall Street Journal disbursements and the people who run Research Centers at our universities, don't give a fig how Americans feel about demographic replacement. No surprises there.
So as I said, the numbers there, including all those zeros for immigration, are not very cheering for conservatives. It sounds as though the poor old U.S.A. is going to the dogs.
What's my take on all this? I'm not much bothered by it.
For one thing, it's old news. Community involvement? It's close to a quarter century since Robert Putnam's book Bowling Alone came out, lamenting the decline of voluntary organizations, clubs, fraternal organizations, and so on.
Decline in religious belief? Heck: I got a whole chapter out of that for my book We Are Doomed, which I wrote fifteen years ago. Sample quote from that chapter, Chapter 8:
The 2001 American Religious Identification Survey found that: [inner quote] "[T]he greatest increase in absolute as well as in percentage terms has been among those adults who do not subscribe to any religious identification; their number has more than doubled from 14.3 million in 1990 to 29.4 million in 2001; their proportion has grown from just eight percent of the total in 1990 to over fourteen percent in 2001." [End inner quote.]
And on the other side of that issue, this latest survey asks the question, quote:
Which statement comes closest to expressing what you believe about God?
End quote; and then a list of options.
Leaving aside those who didn't respond, the options were divided into six, ranging from "I don't believe in God" at the unbeliever end to, at the other end, "I know God really exists and I have no doubts about it."
By far the biggest proportion of respondents, 49 percent, put themselves in that latter category: They know God really exists and have no doubts about it. That's half of us — not exactly a roaring triumph for atheism and agnosticism.
As for patriotism: A person who knows British social history can't discuss this in the early days of 2023 without recalling that February 9th this year was the 90th anniversary of an event that generated much scandalized commentary over there — way more than this survey has caused here.
That event was a debate at the Oxford Union Society on February 9th 1933. That's "Oxford" as in "University of Oxford." The Oxford Union is one of the most prestigious debating societies in the U.K., and one of the oldest — founded just two hundred years ago.
The question for debate on that occasion in 1933 was, quote: "That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and Country." End quote.
What scandalized the nation was that this motion, when voted on, passed. Fifty-six percent of those voting agreed that no, they would in no circumstances fight for their King and Country.
Allowances should be, and were, made. The horrors of WW1 were only fifteen years in the past. Those voting were all men — women were excluded from the Society until 1963. A high proportion of the voters were undergraduates at the university, liable to be drafted if a war broke out. Indeed, some unknown number of them must, ten years later, have been in the British armed forces fighting the Axis powers in WW2.
And this year, 2023, on the 90th anniversary of that vote, the Oxford Union again debated the same motion. This time only 29 percent were in favor; the motion was defeated, 88 votes to 212.
These are the strange, swirling, not-very-well-understood currents of social change. Attitudes and circumstances are volatile, and sometimes go into reverse. Always bear that in mind, fellow conservatives. Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth.
03 — Americans still sound on race and sex. Current shibboleths don't come altogether well out of that survey. Question, quote:
Do you favor, oppose, or neither favor nor oppose colleges and universities considering a student's race and ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions?
"Strongly favor": five percent. "Strongly oppose": 38 percent. That's a good healthy skepticism towards race preferences, at least in college admissions.
The colleges will of course go on practicing anti-white and anti-Asian discrimination anyway, by hook or by crook, but they don't have much public support for the practice.
Similarly encouraging were the responses to questions about the current fad for "transgenderism" — men pretending to be women, and vice versa.
Respondents were asked how they felt about, quote:
Being asked to use gender-neutral pronouns, such as "they/them," when addressing another person.
"Very favorable": 11 percent. "Very unfavorable": 35 percent.
Another question asked, quote:
Do you think transgender athletes should be able to play on sports teams that match their current gender identity or should transgender athletes only be allowed to play on sports teams that match the sex assigned at their birth?
If you exclude the 26 percent who said "Don't know," "Not sure," or who refused to answer, those with an opinion broke 56 percent to 17 percent saying the trannies should only play on teams that match the sex assigned at their birth.
That's a good solid body of resistance to the transgender cult.
The survey didn't ask a suitable question, but if they had asked I'm sure they would have found that practically no-one wishes any harm to people who are confused about their sex, nor to people suffering any other kind of nonviolent mental disturbance.
(I myself, in my January 2021 Diary, wrote an admiring and sympathetic obituary for the writer Jan Morris, who had made a full, surgical, male-to-female transition in her mid-forties.)
Likewise I'm sure they would have found, if they'd asked, majorities of respondents wanting some kind of restraint or censure of adults who encourage children to submit to chemical or surgical treatment in hopes of turning themselves into the other sex.
If little Timmy thinks he'd be happier as a girl, he should be told the same thing we'd tell him about drinking, smoking, voting, joining the army, or taking out a mortgage: to wait until he's old enough to make a mature decision.
That's good child-raising and sound common sense. It's also a neat segue to my next topic.
04 — Sexually-confused school shooters. Monday, March 27th, there was a school shooting, this one in Nashville, Tennessee. The shooter was a 28-year-old graduate of the school, name of Audrey Hale.
Armed with two rifles and a handgun, Ms Hale shot and killed six people in the school: three nine-year-old students, a teacher, the headmistress, and a custodian.
The rampage lasted just 14 minutes before police shot Ms Hale dead. Amid all the horror and tragedy of the event, the swift and decisive response of the cops at least made a happy contrast with last year's school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, when responding police cowered in a safe corridor for an hour waiting for a Border Control SWAT team to arrive from sixty miles away while a lunatic murdered 21 students and teachers.
What's the connection with my previous segment? Well, the shooter in Nashville, Audrey Hale, born a female, had decided to become a man. She dressed accordingly and had started using "Aiden" as her first name.
Such is the strange, degraded condition of our public discourse that it is considered grossly ill-mannered to mention Ms Hale's sexual confusion in the context of the school shooting. CBS News actually banned its reporters from using the word "transgender" to describe her.
When police searched the shooter's home after the event they found a manifesto she'd written. It's usual in such cases for a document like that to be made public so that citizens might understand what drives someone to such a dreadful deed.
In this case, however, the manifesto is being kept under lock and key. News reports have been telling us repetitively for two weeks that it is, quote, "under review" by the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit. That must be a very intensive review.
From what we know of the shooter it's not likely that the manifesto is stridently political. Most probably, from other things we know she wrote, it centers on her own personal resentments and mental distress. Still it's odd that the elites are being so cagey about it.
And if there is nothing directly political, there is a social-cultural dimension to this awful event. The school where the shooting happened, and of which the shooter was a graduate, is a private Christian school for kindergartners up to sixth grade, with strong emphasis on religious instruction.
So from the social-cultural aspect, Ms Hale, with her sexual confusion and identity issues, is on one side of our current divide while the school, with its traditionalist Christian orientation, is on the other.
Was this a factor in Ms Hale's final, lethal derangement? Perhaps the manifesto, if we are ever allowed to read it, will give us a clue.
And then, while I was pondering these things for the podcast, and wondering whether things could possibly get any weirder, … they got weirder.
News outlets yesterday were reporting that a young man named William Whitworth, 19 years old, of Colorado Springs in — of course — Colorado had detailed plans to attack three schools and some churches. The details, along with — yes! — a manifesto were found at the suspect's home when police searched it following a call from Whitworth's sister.
They didn't find any guns at the home, but they did find firearm cleaning supplies and instructions for 3-D printing firearms. Also, quote:
Authorities recovered a copy of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrick Engels among Whitworth's possessions.
That's all sufficiently weird by itself, but what raised the weirdness factor to Radio-Derb-commentworthy level was the fact that 19-year-old William Whitworth is currently trying to become a female. He has been asking people to call him "Lilly," L-I-L-L-Y. That third "L" just adds to the weirdness, I'm not sure why.
Lilly is under arrest, charged with two counts of criminal attempt to commit murder in the first degree, criminal mischief, menacing and interference with staff, faculty or students of educational institutions. He or she is being held on a $75,000 bond until first court appearance May 5.
So: Sexually-confused school shooters — it's a trend.
05 — AI, Musk, and Gates. People have been worrying for a while about Artificial Intelligence and what it might do for, or to the human race.
The most famous specimen of this worrying was the scenario posited by philosopher Nick Bostrom twenty years ago: the paperclip apocalypse. Edited quote from Bostrom's 2003 paper:
The risks in developing superintelligence include the risk of failure to give it the supergoal of philanthropy. One way in which this could … happen is that a well-meaning team of programmers make a big mistake in designing its goal system. This could result … in a superintelligence whose top goal is the manufacturing of paperclips, with the consequence that it starts transforming first all of earth and then increasing portions of space into paperclip manufacturing facilities.
The AI there is doing what it was designed to do: turn raw matter into paperclips. The problem is, it's doing this without any regard to other considerations such as the continued existence of the human race.
Another well-aired possibility, with computer scientist Ray Kurtzweil its leading proponent, is that of a Singularity. AI, says this possibility, will eventually be smarter than we are.
We shall be sharing our planet with a superior intelligence. And since we were smart enough to create AI, presumably AI will be smart enough to create AI+, which will be smart enough to create AI++, and so on up into realms of intelligence as much higher than ours as ours is than a worm's.
That's all good fun to speculate about. Recently, though, some very smart people have been pondering the possibility that while AI might rise to a revolutionary level, the revolution will be like the Industrial Revolution of 200 years ago: radically changing our lives and our society, with some pluses and minuses, but not destroying it.
That earlier revolution relieved humanity of a lot of repetitive, soul-numbing work, but also gave us air pollution, the machine-gun, and televised award shows.
A very good example of this line of thinking was offered by sociologist Noah Carl on his Substack account, April 4th.
The current version of ChatGPT, says Carl, is not smarter than the smartest humans, but it's smarter than the average college undergraduate.
If you want a brief report written on a particular subject, you're better off going to a human specialist than you are using ChatGPT. However, you're better off using ChatGPT than you are going to most humans. For many intellectual tasks, the current rank order of performance is: human specialist; ChatGPT; most humans. It's possible that within a decade or two, it will be: ChatGPT; human specialist; most humans.
AI is already sufficiently developed, and is advancing sufficiently fast, that we can see on the horizon, just a decade or two away, a world in which anyone engaged in any kind of vaguely intellectual work — journalists, scientists, writers, researchers, lawyers, engineers, programmers, analysts, designers, film-makers and architects — will be out of a job. So says Carl.
He's upbeat about the possibilities. Perhaps, he says, we'll just merge with the AI, advancing by AI-designed genetic modifications as the AI itself advances. It doesn't sound too bad — better than being turned into paperclips, anyway.
Some other eggheads are a bit more worried than Carl. March 29th an outfit called the Future of Life Institute (FLI) called for a six-month pause on further development of the GPT chatbots, whose version 4 just came out.
Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable.
FLI, which put out that statement, has Elon Musk's foundation as a major donor. The GPT chatbots come from the OpenAI enterprise, which is backed by Microsoft. Musk is known to believe that the GPTs are too "woke."
So — who knows? — perhaps this will end up with single combat, Elon Musk versus Bill Gates: two falls, two submissions, or a knockout to decide the winner. I'd pay to watch that.
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: I know: I haven't said anything about the Trump arraignment. My excuses are:
I'll just repeat what I said two weeks ago: that the relationship between politics and law is way out of kilter. If we don't feel like correcting it — for example via the ballot box, by electing legislators willing to impeach out-of-control judges — and apparently we don't feel like doing that, we should at least get some of our people into the lawfare game.
To judge from the commentary I've seen, a lot of people are thinking the same way. The New York Post reported yesterday that House Oversight Committee chairman James Comer has had two phone calls from Republican county attorneys — one in Kentucky, one in Tennessee — asking if there are ways they can go after Joe Biden the way Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg has gone after Trump.
I don't know that there's a lot of opportunities there. How much business has Joe been doing in Kentucky? Peking, Shanghai, and Kiev are more the Biden family's zones of operation.
I admire the spirit, though. If we can't get our legal and political systems back in balance, let's start doing to the progressive fanatics what they're doing to us.
Let slip the dogs of lawfare!
Item: For a couple of years now I've been waging a lonely campaign to promote the idea of hulks as accommodation for illegal aliens who can't be returned whither they came.
Quote from myself: Radio Derb, October 23rd 2020:
I may be getting some traction with the Brits. The government in London wants to use a humongous barge — it has 500 beds — moored off England's southwestern coast to hold illegals arrested crossing the English Channel from France.
There are some problems to be surmounted. First problem: The barge is a huge, hideously ugly object, and the British government, which is even stupider than ours, has in its stupidity chosen as the place they want to moor it a famous beauty spot — a UNESCO World Heritage site in fact, whatever that means. Naturally the locals are up in arms.
Second problem: Those 500 beds represent around one percent of the annual cross-Channel arrivals. It's reported that plans are in motion to hire a second barge able to hold four times as many people. That would bring the total embarged to 2,500; still only five percent of the annual flow, so we're talking gesture politics here.
Still, it shows that the hulks idea is getting traction. Somewhere up above (or down below, more likely) Great-Great-Grandpa George is chuckling to himself.
Item: I see that Finland has joined NATO. That adds 832 miles to the alliance's border with Russia.
Good for Finland. I'm all for the European nations joining in a mutual-defense alliance for their own security. And I smile to think of the frowns and head-shakings there must be among the Russian high command, remembering the last time they engaged militarily with Finland, 83 years ago.
If memory serves, that ended with the commander of Russian forces muttering, quote: "We have won just enough territory to bury our dead." End quote.
So again, good for the Finns; but I still don't understand why we are in that alliance, unless we are deliberately setting ourselves up for another two-front war — Atlantic and Pacific both.
Are our geostrategists in the Pentagon really that dumb? Yes: to judge by the last twenty years of our military bumblings and flounderings, they probably are.
Item: A small victory for the forces of anti-anti-whiteness.
If you read my March Diary you'll know my feelings about public-sector employee lobbies — or "unions," as they shamelessly try to promote themselves. One of the worst of them — the most ruthless, avaricious, and antisocial — is the UFT, United Federation of Teachers.
Two weeks ago came the news that this bloodsucking parasite that pretends to be a union was sponsoring a virtual workshop for its New York members titled "Holding the Weight on Whiteness."
The purpose of this workshop was to teach UFT members how to fight back against the, quote, "harmful effects of whiteness in our lives," end quote. It was to be held the following Monday, March 27th, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and would be hosted by anti-whiteness superstar Erica Sandoval. There would be a $25 registration fee.
On Tuesday, the day after that scheduled workshop, we New York Post readers were delighted to see in our breakfast delivery of the paper that the event did not take place. It was canceled.
Why? According to the UFT spokes-reptile, because Ms Sandoval had been inundated with, quote, "hate messages and disparaging comments," end quote.
Ah, "hate"! Let's hear it for "hate"! [Crowd cheering.]
Item: A very high-ranking member of the Biden administration was in Africa last week, please don't ask me why. It's something to do with China, according to the analysts.
At a presser with the President of Ghana, this American VIP said the following. See if you can guess who the VIP was. Slightly edited quote:
But going forward, let's recognize that there are a number of things on the issue of the economy as a whole that we must do … And a lot of that work is the work that I'm here to do on the continent …
That "Who We Are" might have you thinking it's Barack Obama; but he's not in this administration, so it's not him. Who is it? Who's who-we-are-ing here?
07 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. Thank you for your time and attention, for your emails and support; and thanks once again to the good people of the Lone Star State for their hospitality … well, except for that guy at the Avis counter in San Antonio airport.
For my first signout music in April, here is one of my favorite hymns. It always comes to mind when the calendar turns over to April. I'll read you the first verse then hand you off to the Glasgow Orpheus Choir. First verse:
All in the April evening
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: The Glasgow Orpheus Choir, "All in the April Evening."]