Untruth at The New Yorker
A column on the Trayvon Martin case elicits an egregious attack.


Victor Davis Hanson

It is rare to read an essay in which almost every statement is wrong, but that is the case with “A Sermon on Race from National Review” by one Kelefa Sanneh, appearing on The New Yorker’s website — little more than McCarthyite character assassination in the form of a reply to my column this week on the president’s and the attorney general’s reactions to the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.

Here we go:

1) Sanneh writes, “Evidently this [Hanson’s] advice, the wisdom of generations, can be summarized in a single sentence: ‘When you go to San Francisco, be careful if a group of black youths approaches you.’”

That is entirely untrue, and the disingenuous Sanneh knows it. His phrase “summarized in a single sentence” does not characterize what I wrote, which was as follows: “In my case, the sermon — aside from constant reminders to judge a man on his merits, not on his class or race — was very precise. . . . Note what he did not say to me. He did not employ language like ‘typical black person.’ He did not advise extra caution about black women, the elderly, or the very young — or about young Asian, Punjabi, or Native American males. In other words, the advice was not about race per se, but instead about the tendency of males of one particular age and race to commit an inordinate amount of violent crime.”

All that is a single sentence?

2) Pace Sanneh, I did not have to mention John Derbyshire’s essay on race, because long ago I had already objected to it.

Any sober reader can see why I did, and why Derbyshire’s essay was far different from my own: I do not share, inter alia, his thoughts on the relationships between race and IQ and the suggestions of genetic inferiority, and on more than one occasion I objected to his blanket generalizing about all African-Americans. As I wrote of Derbyshire’s essay: “As for Mr. Derbyshire, he surely must have known that what he wrote was way over the line, and, besides, did not follow his own usually rigorous standards of statistical logic. He knows that purported IQ per se is not necessarily proof of competency; if it were, the stellar Steven Chu would be a great cabinet secretary rather than on his way to be the James Watt or Earl Butz of our age. And if crime rates for young, black urban males prove disproportionately high, why would one use them as probable cause not to lend assistance to blacks in general when stuck on the side of the road? That it is statistically iffy to walk alone in downtown Detroit at night is certainly no reason to pass by a black person on the road in dire need of assistance, given the vast majority of blacks are not urban/young/male/with criminal records, and to treat them as if they all were by virtue of their shared race seems not merely wrong and racist, but, to someone of Mr. Derbyshire’s intellect, statistically illogical.”

Again, Sanneh should know all this, but the truth is again at odds with his preconceived purposes.

3) Sanneh is almost comical when he writes that my parents “might have had a chance to drive away” — as if a middle-aged man and his wife, when surrounded by criminals, had the ability to do so, or might be somehow at fault for not being able to do so.

He adds that my father would have been wiser to have told me, “When you go to the big city, bring a gun.”

What sage post facto advice in the post-Zimmerman-trial era!

4) As a good McCarthyite, Sanneh apparently hopes he can assist in some way in having me fired: “And as of Wednesday afternoon, thirty-six hours after publication, Hanson still seems to be employed at National Review.”

In a classic use of guilt by association, he believes that the reader should be outraged that those at and John Derbyshire nodded in approval at something I wrote.


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