The Other McCain

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

A 21st-Century Mrs. Jellyby

Posted on | June 7, 2020 | 2 Comments


What can be said about David French? Honestly, my preference would be to say nothing, to forget that such a person even exists, and indeed, I make it a habit to ignore all #NeverTrump people. So you can imagine what extraordinary effort is necessary to attract my notice to any #NeverTrump argument, and David French has outdone himself:

Today let’s dive into one of the toughest questions of our religious, cultural, and political lives. While we write and print millions of words about race in America, why is it still so hard to have a truly respectful, decent, and humble dialogue about perhaps the most complicated and contentious issue in American life? . . .

(Notice all the caveats stacked up here in the first two sentences. Having invited readers to “dive into” this topic, David French then feels compelled to add multiple warnings about how difficult it is to be “respectful,” etc., in discussing this “complicated and contentious issue.” Don’t try this at home kids. This man is a Harvard Law graduate!)

Take “systemic racism,” for example. I daresay that only a vanishingly small number of Americans know that this is a term with an academic meaning that’s not entirely obvious from the words themselves. . . .

(Are you part of the “vanishingly small number” familiar with the “academic meaning” of this phrase? No, you’re a stupid Republican voter, so you need a Harvard Law alumnus to explain it to you.)

Yet millions of Americans read the accusation that America is beset with “systemic racism” and hear a simpler and more direct meaning of the term — you’re saying our systems (and by implication the people in them) are racist. But that’s completely contrary to their experience. They think, “How can it be that ‘the system is racist’ when I just left a corporate diversity training seminar, I work at an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer, my son’s college professors are constantly telling him to ‘check his privilege,’ and no one I know is a bigot? It seems to me that the most powerful actors in ‘the system’ are saying the same things—don’t be racist.” . . .

(Notice the mind-reading trick David French performs here. He presumes to know what other people think when hearing the phrase “systemic racism,” and even offers a verbatim quote from inside the mind of “millions of Americans.” Do they teach this skill at Harvard Law, or does the admissions process screen out any applicants who fail to demonstrate clairvoyant abilities?)

If you’re conservative, chances are your social media feed is full of images of rioting and looting. There are viral videos (including one the president retweeted Saturday) that declare “George Floyd was not a good person” and “the fact that he has been held up as a martyr sickens me.” There is the constant repetition of statistics about black-on-black crime, and posts and pieces arguing that police racism and brutality are overblown are shared across the length and breadth of social media. . . .

(Note the requisite appearance of the “Orange Man Bad” theme here. The fact that President Trump retweets a video means that whatever was in the video was wrong. Why bother making an actual rebuttal to an argument about, e.g., the statistical frequency of police brutality, if instead you can simply say that Trump is on the same side as people who cite such statistics, and therefore this argument must be wrong?)

I freely confess that to some extent where I stood on American racial issues was dictated by where I sat my entire life. I always deplored racism –those values were instilled in me from birth — but I was also someone who recoiled at words like “systemic racism.” I looked at the strides we’d made since slavery and Jim Crow and said, “Look how far we’ve come.” I was less apt to say, “and look how much farther we have to go.”
Then, where I sit changed, dramatically. I just didn’t know it at the time. I went from being the father of two white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids to the father of three kids — one of them a beautiful little girl from Ethiopia. When Naomi arrived, our experiences changed. Strange incidents started to happen. . . .

(He now wheels out the proof — PROOF! — of his moral superiority, just in his case his Harvard Law degree wasn’t sufficient proof.)

There was the white woman who demanded that Naomi — the only black girl in our neighborhood pool — point out her parents, in spite of the fact that she was clearly wearing the colored bracelet showing she was permitted to swim.
There was the time a police officer approached her at a department store and questioned her about who she was with and what she was shopping for. That never happened to my oldest daughter.
There was the classmate who told Naomi that she couldn’t come to our house for a play date because, “My dad says it’s dangerous to go black people’s neighborhoods.”
I could go on, and — sure — some of the incidents could have a benign explanation, but as they multiplied, and it was clear that Naomi’s experience was clearly different from her siblings, it became increasingly implausible that all the explanations were benign.
Then the Trump campaign happened, the alt-right rallied to his banner, and our lives truly changed. . . .

You can read the whole thing, if you’re afflicited with masochistic urges, but you get the general idea of where French is headed with this. The fact that he was bombarded with “alt-right” racist messages is not surprising. The Internet is a large place, and if one-tenth of 1% of Americans fit this description, in a nation of 280 million people age 15 and older, that means nearly 300,000 “alt-right” racists are available to harass anyone who attracts their hostile attention. The amplifying effect of social media can empower a strident minority to have enormous impact. This is how, for example, the transgender cult has become such a nuisance.

We must keep in mind The Law of Large Numbers when considering such phenomena, or otherwise we might be deceived into thinking that the most militantly obnoxious voices on the Internet represent widespread public sentiment. Thinks about the “incel” phenomenon, which some people have inflated into a terrorist threat, as if nerds who can’t get laid are a menace equivalent to al-Qaeda. Yes, a few “incels” have carried out mass-murder sprees, but is Elliot Rodger typical? Is every introverted geek a would-be killer? Is this a genuine trend? Or are such incidents being wrongly magnified by the media which, by devoting so much coverage to mass-murder incidents, actually help inspire copycats?

Is having “a truly respectful, decent, and humble dialogue” about race really that much more difficult than discussing other issues? If so, why? Isn’t the real reason that people are afraid of being “canceled” if they say the wrong thing? And why is that? Who has made it so risky to speak plainly about this issue? So what we need is not pious sermons from Harvard Law alumni, but instead someone courageous enough to say, “It’s OK if your opinion is unpopular. People shouldn’t be getting fired for disagreeing with liberals.” In fact, David French used to be engaged in such work, as an attorney for FIRE, but that was before he succumbed to Trump Derangement Syndrome. Now he’s just another liberal, an ally of the Thought Police who want to silence anyone who dissents from Officially Acceptable Opinion. The salt has lost its savour.

Being a conservative requires taking the unpopular side of arguments in which you know a majority of public opinion is on the other side. In a culture devoted to liberal notions of Progress, we know going into the fight that it will be unpopular to defend Tradition. Conservatives assert the value of “ordered liberty” in a society suffused with egalitarian sentiment. Surrounded by the decadent perversity of modernism, the conservative calls attention to ancient distinctions of Good and Evil. Of course this means that liberals hate us. We must learn not only to endure their hatred, but to embrace it as a badge of honor.

If you ever let yourself lose sight of this — if you ever start craving liberal approval — your value as a conservative is at an end. On what issue does David French, the Principled Conservative™, now disagree with Joe Biden? If there is any such issue, how does David French propose to influence the direction of public policy, given that his stance as a Principled Conservative™ can now be summarized as “Vote Democrat”?

Perhaps it is not necessary to further elaborate how #NeverTrump, with all their fine talk of “principles,” have in fact embraced an unconditional surrender to liberalism. It was not by my urging that Republican primary voters chose Donald Trump as their presidential nominee, but once the voters had made their choice, I felt bound to respect it, and thus counted myself among those in the “basket of deplorables.” Of course this put me on the side of certain “alt-right” types whose attitudes or opinions I don’t share, but what about 2012, when I was forced to stifle my complaints in order to support Mitt Romney? If I could bite my tongue and work with a bunch of open-borders country-club RINOs, why shouldn’t I be able to do the same with the “alt-right”? But more importantly, isn’t the existence of the “alt-right” a testimony to the failure of “mainstream” conservatives? What if National Review hadn’t purged Peter Brimelow and John O’Sullivan? What if the Bush administration hadn’t embraced a globalist agenda? What if conservatives had actually tried to conserve something?

We must live in reality, and not our fantasy of an ideal world. Of course, your ideal world may be a lot different than mine, but the point is that we are all forced to accommodate ourselves to realities that are beyond our control, including the historic consequences of events that transpired long before we were born. How different might the world be, for example, had it not been for the Bosnian assassin Gavrilo Princip?

Why do we live in a world where David French imagines that the rest of us stand ready to applaud his incessant virtue-signalling?

It’s hard even to begin to describe all the ramifications of 345 years of legalized oppression and 56 years of contentious change, but we can say two things at once — yes, we have made great strides (and we should acknowledge that fact and remember the men and women who made it possible), but the central and salient consideration of American racial politics shouldn’t center around pride in how far we’ve come, but in humble realization of how much farther we have to go.

You see how the liberal conception of Progress comes sneaking in, with this history of “great strides” toward the Heaven-on-Earth destination which, nevertheless, is still a long way off in the distance, perhaps as far away as Borrioboola-Gha, the missionary venture of “telescopic philanthropy” that consumed Mrs. Jellyby’s attention.

My belief is that we are not following a path of Progress at all, but are instead far gone down the road to decadence and anarchy. Frankly, I’m reminded of something Martin Luther King Jr. once said, that he feared black people were being “integrated” into a burning house.

If America is such a terribly racist country as David French would have us believe, then is the “beautiful little girl from Ethiopia” his family adopted actually better off here? Wouldn’t she be safer in Ethiopia, far away from all these racist Americans, including the 60% majority of voters in Tennessee who voted for Trump? Obviously, if racism is the worst thing in the world, and if Trump voters are all despicable racists — because this is what David French actually means by his pious sermon — then shouldn’t the French family get out of Tennessee and go someplace more liberal, where their Ethiopian daughter would be safer?

Well, there is such a place in America — a congressional district where Hillary Clinton got 74% of the vote, where liberals elected an African immigrant to represent them in Congress. Minnesota’s 5th District is a bastion of liberalism. It’s also where George Floyd got killed.

David French’s sermon about “how much farther we have to go” in dealing with “the most complicated and contentious issue in American life” is misguided in its fundamental premise that white racism, however it manifests itself, is the sole determining factor in the quality of life for black people — or anyone else, for that matter. This belief in the omnipotence of racism is part of a liberal mythology so self-evidently false that I struggle to imagine how any intelligent person could believe it. There were black millionaires in America long before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted. Harvard graduated its first black student in 1870, at a time when my own illiterate ancestors were farming the red clay hills of Alabama with mule-drawn plows. One can acknowledge the existence of racism without imagining that the mere existence of such prejudice has a debilitating effect that renders black people helpless.

But don’t let me interrupt your sermons about “legalized oppression,” Mrs. Jellyby, and good luck with your project in Borrioboola-Gha.




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