The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Derbyshire, Goldstein and Lowry

Posted on | April 10, 2012 | 63 Comments

The Bonfire of the Derbyshire has burnt itself out, although some latecomers are still poking around in the ashes. Liberals have reassured themselves of their moral superiority. Rich Lowry has reassured himself of his own editorial adequacy. And all is right with the world.

Except of course, it’s not really.

The wheels keep turning, and if Derbyshire’s downfall was just an isolated incident, rather than part of a larger phenomenon, it wouldn’t have resulted in such a carnival of finger-pointing and recriminations.

Mark Judge congratulates himself upon the theft of his bicycle? Meh.

The other day, I made a call to a Known Thought Criminal and chatted for a while about all this. Republicans have an amazing flinch reflex about race, I said, and the Left’s politicization of race is something the GOP can’t figure out how to deal with. National Review is a Republican magazine, and Derbyshire’s extracurricular outrage was a public-relations nightmare in an election year, which Think Progress seized on in a way no one had hitherto seized on Derb’s previous excursions into race-talk.

Having studied the ways of the finger-pointers — sanctimonious white liberals who are as eager as Ashley Judd to drape themselves in a borrowed mantle of righteous victimhood —  the whole ritual was to me entirely predictable. From the minute it was brought to my attention, I knew Derbyshire was doomed. If he wished to advocate freedom of association, certainly Derb understood that the proprietors of National Review must be extended the same freedom, eh?

We may therefore say they segregated themselves from Derbism, and the great misfortune may have been Derbyshire’s foolish belief that he could integrate himself into an unwelcoming community.

Perhaps no one will be offended (but my apologies in advance, anyway) if I extend the metaphor by saying that one day, Derb was minding his own business, wearing his hoodie and walking back from the store with some Skittles, when suddenly his career was ambushed by the Zimmermans of tolerance.

Like I said, apologies in advance.

Jeff Goldstein offers some wise words:

Eric Holder once told us were were afraid to have a real dialogue on race.  And he did so because he knew we were

Goldstein’s theme is “defending the indefensible.” I know Jeff as someone who, like me, absolutely hates to see liberals win a fight — any fight — and especially hates it when liberals win because conservatives permit cowardice or convenience to persuade them to surrender.

You don’t have to agree with Derbyshire’s argument to say that liberals routinely get away with making worse arguments with more serious consequences: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” And isn’t politics about electing officials and enacting policies?

Isn’t it true that accusations of racism — overt or implicit — are a common tactic of the Democratic Party? So wouldn’t it have possible for Rich Lowry to say something like this?

“Wait a minute! I’ve called John Derbyshire on the carpet, read him the Riot Act, and suspended him from National Review until we can calm down and figure this out. I strongly disagree with what John wrote, and some of my colleagues are very angry at me for having let Derb drift along like this for so long without any attempt at enforcing editorial discipline. He’s an old man undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, and I think his ill health should be taken into consideration in dealing with this problem. It is not, and should not be interpreted as, an endorsement of Derbyshire’s opinions for me to refuse to fire a longtime employee, a writer whose work has been enjoyed for years by our magazine’s readers, under such extraordinary circumstances.
“We may be unable to work out any honorable solution, and in that case, a parting of the ways will be necessary. However, as matters stand, Derbyshire is suspended until further notice, and this seems like as good time as any — a ‘teachable moment,’ as our liberal friends might say — for National Review to have a thoroughing discussion about how issues of race relations have impacted our nation’s culture and politics. What Derbyshire did was both stupid and wrong, but if I’m the Boss around here, I must bear the responsibility for what my employees do.
“I am inextricably implicated in Derbyshire’s misdeeds, which happened under my negligent supervision. Therefore, as General Lee said to his defeated troops as they retreated from the failed assault on Cemetery Ridge he had ordered, ‘This is all my fault.’
“It would be dishonorable for me to say otherwise, and if the board of directors should see fit to require my resignation as the consequence of this embarrassment, I would tender my resignation without resentment, regretting only my costly failure.”

Yes, if Rich Lowry were a man, he might have said something like that.

But the word “if” denotes a hypothetical, doesn’t it?


  • Pathfinder’s wife

    Just my own opinion, but sometimes the best way to win a fight is to not engage with the enemy.

    Seems to me the left expects the right to always engage them point for point, and so far they’ve been accurate in that assumption…thus they always fight on their home turf.

    Constantly fighting the enemy on its own home turf, under conditions set up by the enemy is usually a recipe for losing, or at least that’s always been my experience.

  • PaulLemmen

    Sadly, conservatives never get to fight a battle on the place or time of their own choosing because of their reluctance to engage. Conservatives will always be the underdog in these controversies because of this unwillingness.

  • smitty

    @rsmccain:disqus  Maybe there is a conceptual similarity between JD’s sin and the notion of women in the military.There are vast numbers of fantastic female warriors in all branches of the service, and what I’m about to say is no personal slight, attack on their value, or diminishing of their service.
    However, the orthodoxy of females serving in the military is such that it is utterly impossible to ask: “Is the overall gain worth the expense of a co-ed military?”
    We’d rather have our clock hypothetically cleaned on a potential battlefield than float the question in an honest way.
    And I say this in the context of somebody who served in the Navy and, in all honesty, just doesn’t wouldn’t want to deploy with women. I’m retired, so I can be honest on the point: for all the great work done by female service members, I’d prefer to serve in unisex ships.
    Because I’m just a thought criminal like that, given to wanton acts of heterodoxy.

  • robertstacymccain

    Well, this isn’t about the tactics or strategy of the fight, so much as it is about the necessity of having commanders who know how to control their troops. Derbyshire was evidently allowed to drift along without any reprimand or warning, so that he got the idea he could write any damned thing he wanted, and this was the predictable outcome.

    Rich Lowry at least has now acted decisively — a rare thing, except when he is decisively wrong, as is his habit — but if he’s taken responsibility for his mismanagement, he must have done so privately, because I haven’t seen any admission of his own passive role in the fiasco.

  • McGehee

    Funny thing is, I didn’t get to choose my battles until after I’d won a bunch that were chosen for me by the other guy. Choosing your battles is a luxury you really can’t afford when you’re constantly getting your clock cleaned because you’re too good to fight back.

  • JeffWeimer

    OT: BREAKING: Rick Santorum to drop out. Just heard it on the radio. Press conference announced for this hour (2:00 PM EDT).

  • JeffWeimer

    Future ambassador to Vanuatu hardest hit….

  • K-Bob

     Saw the headline at, too.


  • Finrod Felagund

    Hm, technically he’s suspending his campaign, but then again that’s how Herman Cain put it when he dropped out too.

  • PAcon12

    Out: violent shakes in Vanuatu.
    In: violent shakes in the Romney Etch-A-Sketch

  • Conan The King of Aquilonia


  • gloogle gloogle

    ” We’ll always have Iowa…”

  • Bob Belvedere
  • Conan The King of Aquilonia

    Until you reject the cultural marxist game of raciss! raciss! raciss! there is no winning. Vox Day, of your own blogroll fame, has a good deal in speaking of this.
    The National Review is dead.
    Jeff Goldstein of Protein wisdom is also dead on this subject.

  • K-Bob

    I’m kind of curious, though.  What posessed Derb to write about something so explosive without the least hint of cimcumlocution and subtlety?  It would be one thing if he were directly responding to one individual, and used that person’s points as rebuttal fodder.  But to just pop up with that, I gotta wonder where the self-discipline broke down.

    I used to tell my kids about “the truth.”

    Yes, I’d say, that woman with the shopping cart in front of us is, in fact, two axe-handles wide.  That may be the very soul of truth.  But not all truths need be stated where everyone can hear them.  It is enough to help children see when to speak up, and when to stay silent on a topic.

    And (I think) I do understand the zen of gonzo.  But the the real trick of gonzo is to stay ON the highwire, especially since the gonzo work without a net.

  • daialanye

    Honest and perceptive folk must admit that much of what Derbyshire said is accurate if unpopular. The fact is that racism is more active among blacks that whites, and certainly takes more violent forms. Anyone who doubts this may either view statistics of black on white versus white on black crime. Alternatively, observe and speak with black Americans.

    Foolish and superficial Republicans, among many others, voted for Obama partly with the hope that the specter of racism would be dispelled. In fact, black racism has become more prominent due to encouragement by a racist president and his associates, plus the agitation of race-baiters of all persuasions. As a counter-result, white racism is now more openly expressed.

    Not a good situation, obviously, and the National Review method of dealing with it doesn’t help matters.

  • Adjoran

     It seems to me he was clearly inspired by Tyler Perry’s outrage at being pulled over by Atlanta PD for swinging from the far right lane of a six lane highway to take a left, and then being questioned about his paranoid claim to be avoiding pursuit from unknown tails, after which he remembered his Moms giving him “the talk” about obeying police orders and being polite and cooperative.  Because it seems some people NEED “the talk” to use common freakin’ sense.

    Derb’s hypothetical point was that there are a lot more young white people – including white Asians and white Hispanics – who are hurt by disregarding his version of the talk than young black people hurt by the police.

    He went too far, like Ashley Judd at a dessert bar.  If only someone had been there to act as a caution flag, maybe Derb wouldn’t have been canned from the job he’s held for three decades or more and Ashley wouldn’t be shopping Plus sizes.

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    Well, that’s just it — if the commanders don’t know how to control the troops, then you have a problem with needing new commanders.

  • Adjoran

     The phone’s for you – Gloria somebody, she sounds mad.

  • Adjoran

     There are many advantages to keeping the campaign account active.  It can be used to run for other federal offices, for example, and to pay political expenses along the way.  As long as you don’t hold a federal office, you can even pay yourself a salary out of the funds.

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    That’s the sort of thinking that makes you loose —  when a person picks a fight with you, then they have to be thinking they can win, and if you just react to them on their terms, they likely will.

    There’s a big difference between not fighting and refusing to fight on the terms set by the other person.
    And right now, you’re constantly getting your clock cleaned anyway, so the results are still the same.

  • Adobe_Walls

    That’s because we are always on defense strategically and tactically.
    Derbyshire’s article was a perfect opportunity to be on offense strategically and defense tactically. He took a position that compelled the left to assault but rather than defend that position many conservatives abandoned it and joined with the left, out of fear of being politically incorrect.

  • McGehee

    It would be the sort of thinking that made me lose — if I’d been losing.

    Now, I did refuse to fight on the other guy’s terms, but that’s really not the issue with our current leadership. They have a completely wrong notion of what the stakes are, and the horizons in which they consider the fight are entirely too short.

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    People like to run in packs, especially when they think there may be an advantage to it, and they also like to have scapegoats.  Nobody has the market cornered on this. In other news, water is wet.  And unless you’re willing and able to get rid of everyone considered “other” then you’re going to have to come to terms with this in a reasonable and civil way, and then find a way to work out you and the other’s mutual problems in a beneficial way to all concerned — or nasty things come out of it.

    The agitatiors however  most definitely don’t want any of this.  They want an agitation which will lead to a break down of rule of law and civil society, and a collapse of this country, and which will lead to those nasty things.  Everybody is just a useful idiot to help them achieve this goal — why they want it, well, because people like this sort of shit; it’s power and evil caprice…it’s the human condition, and in other news water is wet.

    If you want to stop such things (not put an end to them, that will never happen), then you can’t let yourself be diverted by the arguements and quarrels that the agitators want to have with you.   Otherwise you’re going to get wrong footed every time.

    Why not start asking Al and Jesse if they aren’t just like this Derbyshire guy in the opposite direction (publicly); at least this guy has admitted he is a racist…how ’bout them?  Bug the bejesus out of them; isn’t as though there isn’t plenty there to bug them with. Eventually they will crack.
    So don’t get cornered into defending Derbyshire or distancing yourself — just bypass it and go after them.  Then ask them why they do this when they know it will hurt the country, of which “their people” are a part, same as you and I, why do they hate their own people so much as to destroy the country they belong to?  Over and over, and over.  
    Don’t react to them — be proactive.  

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    Oh, and if they bring up David Duke or any such person as a method of diversion — say, yeah, he/she’s just like you: seems to really want this country to fall; you’re just alike — why do you share the same opinions as David Duke, Al, Jesse, Shabazz?  Why do you all hate America so much?  
    Don’t let any of them go, not even if they cry “uncle” — fights aren’t supposed to be fair, they’re supposed to be won.

  • Adjoran

    Yep, our side lined up like lemmings at the Denunciation Microphone, each waiting his turn to Do Say The Right Thing and receive Temporary Pardon from the great Guardians of The Correct.

    Ah, if only we all had the moral courage of a Rich Lowry who, when he trolls the mean streets of DC and comes upon a hooded crowed of young black men, keeps his head high and walks right into their midst, saying, “Yo yo yo, ma nizzles!  Whassssup?!”

    In his freakin’ dreams, of course.  In reality, he’s in the back of a limo urging the driver to get out of here.

  • Adobe_Walls

    You would of course be reffering to the coward Rich Lowry.

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    That’s a pretty fair enough way to look at it.  Everyone has a right to bring up a question and give their opinion.
    There may be some way to work out the differences as long as both sides agree that life is not fair and nobody gets their cake and eat it too.  At the end of the day we still have to put up with each other, so it’s probably better to float the question in an honest way (realizing we have to put up with each other) and figure out a workable solution.

    …and realize that those who just want to stir things up probably don’t have anybody’s interests but their own at heart

  • Tennwriter

    Well, that is what editors are for, to rein you in when you get hog-wild.

  • Quartermaster

    Smitty, this is something that we banged around over at Neptunus Lex several times. CDR Salamander thinks women belong. Virgil Xenophon and I begged to differ. strongly. Coed ships and units have serious problems. The presence of women in deploying combat units (this includes combat support for you Army types) is, in fact, corrosive. We have gained nothing by making coed ships, or placing women in aviation units. We have, OTOH, weakend them, probably seriously.

  • Tennwriter

    Attack the Inchon, or do as was done in Desert Storm, sweep around them.


    This applies to gay marriage as well.  Attack the left by attacking No Fault Divorce.  Make them sweat bullets as you threaten to change the world on them instead of waiting for the next provocation from some freak.

    One thing that helps with race is pointing out that the Dems were, and are the party of racists.

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    Or maybe some of them don’t mind the situation as it stands?

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    We’ll agree to disagree — my personal beef was with really stupid people and shiftless bums; talk about corrosive (and a pita to deal with, even if some of the really dumb ones were good joes, nothing more grating than a person you have to essentially babysit because they’re too stupid or too malingering to positively breathe without a  reminder — yes, that’s hyperbole, but you know it isn’t by much with some of them).

    Now, I will always admit that the way things stand is not exactly working (personally, I think the mindset of giving women special personhood status is a big problem, but that’s my opinion).

  • smitty

    The finer point I’m after is that you can’t even raise this question, irrespective of the intellectually honest answer.

  • franklaughter

     It never ceases to amaze me. American corporations constantly find themselves stuck with incompetent and destructive CEOs and spend years defending and propping them up instead of just firing the POS. I stopped reading NRO years several ago because it suffers from the same malady.

  • Charles

    Look, the fight to take to the enemy is the race-baiting lies being told on CNN, MSNBC, NBC, and other news outlets. Derbyshire surrendered the high ground to meander around collecting unneeded wagons.

  • Bob Belvedere

    John published the column over at Taki Mag, where such ruminations are encouraged.

    John is a straight-talker and no diplomat – that is part of his appeal to me.  He is a Tory Christopher Hitchens, and what was said about the great John Adams applies to him: I am persuaded, however, that he means well for his Country, is always an honest Man, often a wise one, but sometimes, and in some things, absolutely out of his senses.
    I am persuaded, however, that he means well for his Country, is always an honest Man, often a wise one, but sometimes, and in some things, absolutely out of his senses.

  • Bob Belvedere

    I believe you are correct sir, because I know for a fact that Rich Lowry Is A Coward

  • Bob Belvedere

    Just as John found out when he dared be so truthful about his views.

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    In a sense, you just did with me — and see? No kaboom.

    Now…if you had been a complete a-hole about it (rather than your polite and humble self) then there might have been.

    Because you basically have a problem with something (or something intrinsically related to) the people in question have no control over (their gender in this case — because hey, some of us do not want a sex change, ok?), and then you have to tread a little more gracefully and realize you are putting them on the spot and if you push the rapids too much they have no recourse than to fire back.
    And that is where things can go wrong.

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    But some of that was over the line — the IQ thing was really a bit much.  Honestly, I can’t see how high IQ = better person (which is a conclusion one could draw from Derbyshire’s article; case in point: Bill Ayers.  I’m sure ol’ Bill tested out as a high IQ, doesn’t exactly make him a good person, nor somebody one should necessarily want to associate with, nor a person whose ideas are particularly good.
    And on another level I find sorting people and selecting them through something like an IQ test vis a vis race/ethnicity isn’t exactly the best way to go about such things from a logical/scientific standpoint (there are lots of logical fallacies involved therein imhao; you’d have to test for DNA haplotype in order to get an honest reading there in order to test for some sort of genetically racial link) — besides it smacking of the sort of bs Sanger and her ilk foisted off on people (and which no conservative should be defending, again imhao).

    The anti-Good Samaritan stuff was pretty s****y as well — it’s always a crapshoot with that sort of thing, but let’s be honest — there are other things besides skin color which should be determining whether or not you choose to help somebody.  Example: black family broke down on side of road vs. couple of  white, skinhead looking guys…I’d probably roll the dice on helping the former (this is highly judgemental on looks of course, but we have to be honest that we make such judgements fairly or unfairly all the time, which was one of the hard truths Derbyshire did address).

    So fair is fair — I wouldn’t blame a black person for being especially angry about those things.  This of course leads back to the idea that there is no right to not being offended, but if they fired back I’d understand.

  • justaconservativegirl

    Some fights aren’t worth battling.  This may be among them.  That article did nothing to further the conversation.  

    I agree that Lowry should have taken more responsibility in the light that Derby has been expressing this kind of thing for a while now, but it doesn’t change the fact that the article really was fireable offense.  

    We aren’t ready to have the difficult discussion on race as a country.  His articles of stereotypes and one sided stats show the reason why.  

  • Adobe_Walls

    So it’s a matter of indisputable fact that Rich Lowry is a coward, thanks for the update.

  • Pablo

    As a point of order, Derb, by his own description, was not fired as he was not an employee, but rather a freelance contributor.  This and other interesting things can be found in his post-kerfuffle interview with, of all things, Gawker.

  • Pablo

     Do you see how this can actually be discussed without anything exploding?

  • Pablo

    So it’s a firing offense because we’re not ready to have the conversation we’re not ready to have.

    Holder was right.

  • Adobe_Walls

    Given that we don’t need to further the conversation makes the point that it did nothing to further it moot. There is no justification for firing him other than the fact that Rich Lowry is a coward of course.

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    Pablo — your question deserves an answer: hit the things that are  addressable (like special person status for example or the very hard truths that are behind some presumptions — like crime rates and how that causes the rest of society to make a poor value judgement on you because of the law of large numbers/averages); these are all things that are not intrinsic and you’d likely get some sort of mutual truce on from at least some people and a few will probably heartily agree with you, especially if you keep a civil tone.

    And agree to drop the things that are not likely to change — like a certain tension due to “otherness”, you can’t change who you are on a physical level like gender or race, and we all have to admit to the fact that value judgements are simply a fact of life, humans like to run in packs, and people like to make scapegoats out of the somebody else (because it’s a quick, feel good solution)…but at the end of the day we all have to find a way to deal with each other, at the end of the day nobody gets their cake and eat it to, and we do not have the right to impune on another person with the same — whether that be flash mob violence, vigilantism, or being, well, a-holish with our own personal bigotries (which everyone has…multitudes of).

    It won’t be easy, but it might be a better strategy in the long run than just reacting in the opposite direction (which isn’t really working).

  • Pathfinder’s wife

    Oh, and forgot: it has to be demanded that both sides be willing to do this (whatever sides are involved, as this topic goes into a lot of different areas) as nobody is not guilty of holding at least some personal prejudices (so that would get all the calls of protestations to prove that one is off the table — it was dishonest anyway) — how one conducts oneself with one’s personal thoughts is another story.

  • Pablo

    It would do us a world of good to figure out why a lot of the things Derb mentions are the way they are and what we might do about improving them. Many of them are not due to genetics, IQ or immutable human nature.  Many of them are, as you say, addressable. Which is why we should have the conversation and those who aren’t ready should buck up and get in the truck.

    Getting the vapors benefits only those who really don’t hope to improve the situation.