The Corner

By His Own Standard

In 2010, John Derbyshire gave remarks on the race/IQ question in which he said this: “Group differences are statistical truths. They exist in an abstract realm quite far removed from our everyday personal experience. They tell you nothing about the person you just met.”

John’s recent column abandons that principle. It gives practical advice (think twice about voting for a black politician; do not be a Good Samaritan to blacks; and much more) according to which each individual black person should start out at a kind of deficit. We see John’s departure from his stated view of 2010, as well, in the recent column’s hyperlinks. For example, on not being a Good Samaritan, John offers an article about a black man who, while beating up his girlfriend, stomped to death a white man who tried to defend her. There are many abusive people of all races, and many of them would attack any third party who intervened to stop the abuse. The statistics John cites do not even begin to justify the notion that the individual in this case acted as he did because he was black; but John is perfectly happy to make that assumption. This move from the abstract and statistical to the very personal is the most overtly racist aspect of the column, to my mind, and I think John’s defenders are failing to register it.

I think they are also insufficiently troubled by John’s readiness to assume that statistical differences between races — e.g. between their incarceration rates or average scores on IQ tests — are due to innate psychological and cognitive differences. The causation is hotly disputed, but John has always seemed interested in only one explanation — or, at a minimum, he has seemed startlingly uninterested in telling us why he finds that explanation the most compelling.

I share Mark’s frustration with the selectivity of our culture’s racial outrage, and his alarm over the manner in which political correctness restricts the bounds of discourse and thought; but neither point strikes me as a good reason for NR to affiliate itself with a writer who expresses genuinely racist sentiments. (Two wrongs don’t make a right &c.) At the same time, there is something thuggish, not to mention insecure, in the mob’s expectation that a head be thrown to it without any discussion of the nature of the offense, and in its refusal to entertain any possibility of forgiveness.

Human beings are complicated. It is possible for good people to have deep flaws, and for traits utterly worthy of condemnation to exist alongside admirable ones. And so I will end by saying that in my personal dealings with him I have always found John to be thoughtful and kind, that some of his work (for instance his novel Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream, which Rich has mentioned) expresses a deep and generous humanity, and that I will sorely miss his column “The Straggler” in NR’s books section.

Most Popular

Culture

Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his editor, I’m going to have to keep this short. I’ve spent most of every day this week in a studio recording the audiobook version of my dead-tree/pixel ... Read More
Immigration

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More
U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More
Religion

Billy Graham: Neither Prophet nor Theologian

Asked in 1972 if he believed in miracles, Billy Graham answered: Yes, Jesus performed some and there are many "miracles around us today, including television and airplanes." Graham was no theologian. Neither was he a prophet. Jesus said "a prophet hath no honor in his own country." Prophets take adversarial ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More