OH, ain't no reason to waste any more birdshot in John Derbyshire's direction, if there ever was; the man was one more jangling exposed nerve in our national mouthful of oral decay, and is there some reason we have to import them? Derbyshire seemed smart--and refreshingly human-esque--by comparison to his National Review cohort, but who wouldn't? Victor Davis Hanson sounds like an historian if you compare him to people who couldn't find Greece on a map. Hell, even Newt Gingrich…nah, let's not go overboard.
Let us ponder, instead, Rich Lowry's kiss-off, "Parting Ways". And let us do so, first, without saying "Well, at least Derbyshire was honest". He wasn't. He was, to some small extent, candid. Honesty's been out of fashion in those parts since around the time Derbyshire was born, and at this point there's no one left who remembers how it's done.
Lowry: "[T]he main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer." The corollary being that people wouldn't notice just another racist right-wing screed on the internets. Shouldn't this be troubling to Lowry? Shouldn't it be troubling to the Right in general, and the Republican party that harvests its votes? Well, no, of course not, but shouldn't they at least sound like it? Instead they've barely been able to keep racist claptrap out of the mouths of every one of their Presidential candidates.
Lowry's main concern seems to be that Derbyshire was trading on NatRev's precious brand name, which, to begin with, seems curious when you consider that Derbyshire's probably the only one in that whole mucky stable who could find gainful employment without wingnut welfare. Not to mention the fact that undisguised racial seething is the brand, or was, until it became unmarketable. (I'm sorry; I mean long after, since Buckley was still smearing King twenty years after his murder, but, then, the National Review isn't really marketable in any sense of the word, either.) I've got no idea what Derbyshire was up to, if anything; it's interesting to consider what reception this would have gotten around the water cooler if he'd sent it as an inter-office memo. It's long been clear that Derbyshire was unhinged in racial and other matters. Does that distinguish him among that crew? And, personally, I'm all for giving the "maddening, outrageous, cranky, and provocative" a voice. The problem for NatRev is that it's not true, except maybe for the cranky part, and "cranky" is as essential to the modern "conservative" as "Beatle wig" was to the British-invasion-era lounge combo. Add "cranky" to "racist" and "the British aristocracy's post-war resentment that the help wouldn't eat rook anymore" and you get William Fuh Buckley, not John Derbyshire. Did Derbyshire outrage anyone with his defense of 19th century science? Anyone who isn't on the NatRev masthead?
What did "Derb" say that Charles Murray hasn't said, except Derbyshire said it succinctly, and for free, while Murray goes on at book length? And Murray's got a spot at the table.
Listen, I don't care. I don't even care to score points on this. It's fucking obvious to anyone who's paid attention to the Right for the last sixty years that the downfall of racism, both institutional and casual, had a greater effect on it that the downfall of Soviet communism. And, really, but me no buts about how this represents a "newer, tolerant 'conservative' movement". If Young Republicans don't acknowledge the racist foundations of their "movement" and their party, then they're either butt-ignorant or bald-faced liars. That dodge has been going on since public racism became indefensible. "Conservatism" is not absolved of sin just because Republicans won't make the King holiday a national issue anymore. Republicans--and the National Review--will be absolved sometime after they confront what's really wrong with what Derbyshire wrote: not crossing some imaginary line about racist utterance, but the ease with which it's possible to do so in those circles. Without question Lowry had to be quit of John Derbyshire; but without question this will not lead to any self-reflection at the National Review, which will now defend Derbyshire's right of free speech by denying it, and him, and will denounce the ugly racist attitudes contained within not at all.