The other day, Niall Ferguson, a celebrity historian at Harvard, was at an “investors’ conference,” the kind of speaking gig he plays a lot of: You get a ton of money to go see a small number of extremely rich people and tell them something provocative — but not too provocative. So, at this conference of money guys in Carlsbad, somebody brings up the best-known quote from the most influential economist of our age — John Maynard Keynes’s line that “in the long run we are all dead” — and Ferguson responds to the effect that, well, Keynes was a childless homosexual, so he would say that, wouldn’t he? It’s not an original thought: In fact, the only reason I didn’t include it in the passage on Keynes in my book was that I felt it had been done a bazillion times before. But it evidently was so shocking to the California crowd, many of whom undoubtedly have friends who are gay hedge-funders or are thinking of becoming one, that everybody had the vapors about it, and poor old Ferguson found himself instantly transformed from one of Time’s “100 most influential people in the world” into the Todd Akin of Harvard. “This takes gay-bashing to new heights,” shrieked Tom Kostigen of Financial Advisor, who really needs to get out of the house more.
In the long run, Keynes is dead. So Obama was unable to place a Sandra Fluke/Jason Collins supportive phone call to him. But “the Queen of King’s,” as he was known at Cambridge, would have been amused by his newfound status as America’s most bashed gay. In 1917, in Washington for Anglo-American debt talks, Keynes wrote home to his lover Duncan Grant about what a ghastly place it was: “The only really sympathetic and original thing in America is the niggers, who are charming.”
If I understand the Gay Enforcers’ position correctly, Keynes’s homosexuality is no reflection on his economic theories, but Ferguson’s homophobia most certainly is a reflection on his economic theories, which can now be safely dismissed by all respectable persons. Recognizing the threat to his highly lucrative brand, Professor Ferguson immediately issued an “unqualified apology.” He is married to one of the bravest women on the planet, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has stood firm for a decade against loons who want to kill her as they did her friend Theo van Gogh. Up against a bunch of hysterical ninnies threatening only his speaking fees, Ferguson caved.
A few days later, the Heritage Foundation published an analysis of the impending immigration amnesty. Bottom line: It’s gonna add six trillion bucks to the costs of Medicare, Obamacare, etc. Rather than refute the paper, the enforcers for the Undocumented-American community decided to Fergify the junior author, Jason Richwine. They discovered that, back in his student days, Richwine had written about the IQ of certain minority groups. Where’d he do this? Ninth-grade essay at Lynching High in Klansville, Miss.? No, some joint called Harvard. Three of the most eminent professors on the faculty approved his dissertation, and gave him a thing called a “doctorate” for it. Ferguson and Richwine are both Harvard men, but one’s a star and the other isn’t. So Heritage leaned on Richwine to “resign,” thereby doing a better job of discrediting their own paper than any of the amnesty shills had done.
Unlike Ferguson at Harvard and Richwine at Heritage, Charles Ramsey toils in the intellectually freewheeling milieu of minimum-wage dishwashing. He’s the black guy who rescued three white girls from their Hispanic kidnapper in Cleveland. Everybody loves him. But, interviewed live on Channel 5, he said, “Bro, I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway. Dead giveaway . . .” I thought that was a cute line, although, as the black columnist Larry Elder quipped, “What, you’ve never seen a Shirley Temple movie?” But the white reporter immediately broke off the interview, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the New York Times, and everyone else vacuumed the quote out of their otherwise extensive coverage of Ramsey’s remarks. He is a funny, flawed figure who, when it counted, did the right thing, but a real black man has to be airbrushed into bland conformity with white-liberal pieties.
So Ramsey got bowdlerized, Richwine got canned, and Ferguson agreed to self-neuter. Best of all was Howard Kurtz, fired from Tina Brown’s Daily Beast for wandering off the gay reservation by suggesting Sports Illustrated’s Jason Collins story might be a wee bit more complicated, including as it does a longstanding fiancée of the opposite sex. The following Sunday Kurtz went on air at CNN and solemnly hosted (as Breitbart News put it) a show trial of himself. He had to be forcibly restrained from marching himself to a brick wall, putting a blindfold on, and offering himself a last cigarette.
Strange times. When I talk about free-speech issues in Commonwealth countries, I often quote a guy who came up to me after I testified to the Ontario parliament at Queen’s Park and told me, “Give me the right to free speech, and I will use it to claim all my other rights.” Conversely, the new enforcers are happy to shrivel free speech precisely in order to render dissenting views impossible even to articulate — on gays, immigrants, economics, anything. And, as usual, in just one grim week we on the right threw in far too many towels, and made the next round of concessions all the more inevitable.
– Mr. Steyn blogs at SteynOnline (www.steynonline.com).