The Corner

Clearing the Record

The Party of Andrew released a sharply partisan attack today, insuating that John Derbyshire is  a Nazi.  This reader’s email copied to me explains how Sullivan Dowdified the argument here:

Mr. Sullivan,

As it happens, I strongly disagree with Derbyshire on almost every point imaginable.  Indeed, I disagree with the position he’s staked out in the current Corner debate.  But it’s frankly disgusting how you’ve willfully misconstrued his position by taking Goldberg’s quote entirely out of context.

Podhoretz and Derbyshire were engaged in a vigorous debate over whether it makes sense for America to preserve its ethnic composition.  One of Derbyshire’s tangential positions was that racial hatred is motivated not out of a sense of racial superiority, but out of a sense of racial inferiority.  Derbyshire wrote: “And immigration-related hostility to certain populations on the part of past generations of Americans was inspired not by the belief that they were inferior, but more often by the belief that they were superior.”  (http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=Y2NhZDYzZmY2M2ZjMmM2ODVlZTVmYWEwZjE0YzU2OGI= )  To which, Podhoretz responded, “The Know-Nothings didn’t think Catholics were superior. To put it mildly. Nor did the Populists of the 1890s hurl imprecations at Jews because they considered Jews superior. Sorry, Derb.”  (http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=ZDBlN2RjY2M0NDQxZGIwMTdhNjY4ZGUwNTU0ZTBkMWI= )  Derbyshire continued to try to defend the position, writing: “I can’t speak to 19C America, but among the Protestant Englishmen I grew up among, ‘Jesuitical’ was a synonym for ‘very smart.’  . . .  Whether there were people who believed Jews intellectually inferior to Gentiles I do not know; but I do know I have never, in a longish and well-traveled life, ever met such a person.” (http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=NmQyMWU4ODRiMjdmYzVmMTUzMDMzYzIzY2FlMWJkODM=)  At that point, Goldberg entered the fray and wrote, “Derb, I really think you’re wrong about the racial superiority thing. I am in fact as we speak rewriting my chapter which deals with much of this, and I’ve found very little of that sort of thing. I think the Japanese may be an exception. But — to take just one example — E.A. Ross, by far the premiere ‘raceologist’ of the day, and an advisor to TR on immigration issues, was not prone to making arguments about the racial superiority of immigrants. He argued — as did many Progressives — that the darker and furrier races trying to come here were inferior to ‘real’ Americans.” (http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=NWU3MzhhYjlkOGNhODVkN2I2NjJlM2JhNzQ3MjI4NGI=)

It is entirely and plainly obvious what the debate was about, and it was decidedly not about whether non-Hispanic whites are racially superior to Hispanic whites (let alone a Nazi position that would justify the “Herr Derbyshire” smear).  Either you decided to write about the debate and characterize its disputants without bothering to read what was actually written, which is a decidedly shabby thing to do (and foolish, in light of the debate over you attacking Ponnuru’s book without reading it), or you knew what they were actually talking about and decided to do a smear job, which is even shabbier.

Equally shameful is your insinuation that most of the Corner agreed with Derbyshire’s position (either his real one or your constructed one) because there were “few dissents.”  As a factual matter, there were numerous dissenting posts.  Podhoretz, Goldberg, and Lopez all criticized his position, Podhoretz repeatedly and dramatically (calling it, among other things, “chilling” and “horrifying”).  Only Stuttaford and Ponnuru posted anything else after the debate started, and neither made any suggestion that he endorsed Derbyshire’s position.  Perhaps most preposterous of all is the suggestion that Derbyshire’s position is mainstream conservatism, a suggestion leveled even as Congress and the President distance themselves from any anti-immigrant position (and indeed from any tough-on-illegal-immigration legislation).  If Bush is the prophet of “Christianist” conservatism, shouldn’t he be marching with Derbyshire’s purported goose-step?

I recognize that their recent attacks on your critiques of “Christianism” and Ponnuru’s book must be upsetting, particularly as the debate has taken a personal turn (in both directions).  But this kind of intellectual dishonesty is not going to impress anyone who bothers to click through the links you provide or who followed the debate on the Corner as it unfolded.  Having read the entire debate, I am, as the tone of the email suggests, appalled.  I’ve read your page fairly religiously for about six years now, and, honestly, this may be the point I check out.  For caricatures of the right and strawman arguments, there are better sites out there, and that seems to be the dish of the day from Chef Andrew.

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