Derb’s May Diary: The Increasingly Less Soft Totalitarianism Of The Current Year, Etc. (12 ITEMS!)
Who plays the corresponding role in the soft — but increasingly less soft — totalitarianism of 2017 America? The obvious answer is of course: Donald Trump.
That’s not quite right, though. For a really convincing hate figure there needs to be an element of treachery. Emmanuel Goldstein, like Trotsky (on whom of course he was modeled) had once been a comrade-in-arms of the Supreme Leader; but their views had diverged, and Goldstein had gone to the dark side.
You can’t really fit Donald Trump into that mold. It’s true that in the past he schmoozed with liberal politicians and sometimes expressed liberal sentiments. He wasn’t any kind of leader of liberalism, though, and never had any connection at all with the violent antifa fanaticism that is now taking over from late 20th-century milquetoast progressivism.
I submit that a better candidate for the Emmanuel Goldstein role is Richard Spencer.
No, Richard was never a liberal leader either; nor even a liberal. He is, though, articulate, well-educated and well-read. In that sense he is a traitor to his class — the intellectual class. There’s the element of treachery.
This comes out very well in the article on Richard in the current issue of The Atlantic. (In which article, by the way, your humble diarist has a walk-on part, paragraph ten.) The article is by Graeme Wood, who was a highschool classmate of Richard’s in late-1990s Dallas.
Wood is a conventionally unimaginative liberal who seeds his piece with an appropriate number of virtue signals — gasping in horror, for instance, at the notion that “East Asians are slightly smarter than whites, who are in turn much smarter than blacks,” as if this were not a plain fact in the world known to every person not blinded by ideology. Still, he’s a pretty good reporter, and gives a fairer picture of Richard than is usual in mainstream-media outlets.
That’s a low bar, though. While an antifa thug would probably think Wood’s piece insufficiently hostile, Wood makes it clear he is writing about an Enemy of the State.
That’s Richard’s status now. The antifa bullies are out to make his life as difficult as possible, and there is no significant institution in our society with the guts to stand up to them. At age 39, Richard is utterly unemployable. Given the unavoidable incidence of lunatics in a population of one-third of a billion, he is also at risk of serious harm.
And his Emmanuel Goldstein status is entirely ideological. Richard has broken no laws or windows; nor has he incited others to do those things. He wishes for white gentiles to have a homeland of their own, that’s all. You can agree with that or disagree, but it doesn’t pick your pocket or break your leg. So far as I’m aware, he doesn’t wish harm to anyone.
An antifa would say: “Open discussion of those ideas might bring about a rebirth of fascism.” I suppose it might. Open discussion of Marx’s and Lenin’s ideas might bring about a rebirth of militant communism, leading to the kinds of horrors that were engulfing Cambodia forty years ago. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow; and mighty oaks can be a mighty nuisance. That is not, however, a case against tolerating acorns.
When Jared Taylor found he could not host the annual conference of his white-advocacy group American Renaissance in private hotels, he booked instead a facility owned by the State of Tennessee, which apparently is not allowed to practice ideological discrimination. This has worked very well. We’ll be meeting there again in July. Both Peter Brimelow and myself will be speakers.
So perhaps if Richard Spencer were to apply for a job with, say, the U.S. Postal Service, they would not be able to reject him on ideological grounds. I’d be interested to hear an opinion on this from someone who knows the relevant law.
For sure the private sector is closed to him employment-wise. The ranting of old-line socialists against capitalism looks very quaint in 2017. American business is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the antifa mobs.
This month Richard had his gym membership revoked — not for any misbehavior, but because the gym owners didn’t like his opinions.
(Or possibly some antifa activists paid them a visit: “Nice little gym you’ve got here. Be a shame if anything happened to it …” Might things really have gone that far? Nothing in this zone surprises me any more.)
Even the CultMarx Washington Post, hanging on by its fingernails to the older, more civilized style of American liberalism, felt they should post a column critical of the gym. (Although they decorated the column with the most Hitlery picture of Richard they could find in their archives.)
That was mid-May. At month end someone called Alex Kotch, “an independent investigative journalist,” got Richard dropped from SoundCloud, his podcast-hosting service.
Says Mr Kotch: “No honorable company should accept white nationalists’ cause, or their money.”
In other words: “Jump, capitalists, jump!”
To which the U.S. private sector replies: “How high, Sir?”
Yep: Ideologically speaking, the U.S. economy can be fairly described as Antifa Capitalism. That includes the media sector. Mainstream media outlets are being systematically closed off to heterodox opinions.
We are fast headed towards that condition Karl Wittfogel, in his book on oriental despotism, called “a beggars’ democracy.” Hold any opinions you like; but only a narrow range of approved opinions will be allowed into the public square.
I heard that rumor a year or so ago, and mentioned it to my wife at the time. Her response was an emphatic shake of the head, then: “No way. Absolutely not.”
Me: “How can you be so sure?”
She: “I remember the way he looked at me.” (Spencer has been a house guest chez Derb a couple of times.) “I’m a woman. I know men’s looks and what they mean.”
Why, after several decades in the world, can I still be surprised by the degree to which women have us men figured out?
Not gay but Goy. One important difference between Emmanuel Goldstein and Richard Spencer is that the former, even within the world of Orwell’s novel, may not have existed. He may have been a fictional creation by the Party propaganda department, like model revolutionary Lei Feng in Mao Tse-tung’s China (and still today, according to Wikipedia).
Our own soft totalitarianism has not yet advanced to the complete fabrication of history, although we have moved some way in that direction. (How many Americans know that John F. Kennedy was killed by a communist?) We can take small comfort from the fact that our Model Citizens and Enemies of the People are still, at least, actual human beings. I can personally vouch for the existence of Richard Spencer: see previous segment.
Another Goldstein-Spencer difference is that Orwell’s creation was Jewish, which Spencer is most definitely not. That brings to mind a mischievous thought I’ve been having.
A few days ago in conversation with a friend I used the word “Goy” facetiously. My friend, who is Jewish, took mild objection. “We don’t really use that word,” he said. “It’s kind of low-class and not very polite.”
I honestly did not know this. (Neither, apparently, does Steven Pinker.) Now that I know, do I care? No. I refuse to join the offense-taking community.
My friend then told me that some of the naughtier spirits on the Alt-Right have taken to referring themselves as Goy or Goyim — owning the insult.
So, I replied, it’s like blacks addressing each other as “Nigga.” He said yes, he guessed it was the same idea.
Here came my mischievous thought. The next time I meet Richard Spencer, I shall greet him with, “Yo theah, muh Goy!” and record his reaction.
Don’t Let’s Be Beastly To The Germans. That Atlantic piece had a whiff of anti-Germanism about it that set my teeth on edge.
I’m a Germanophile, partly on account of having invested three of my highschool years to learning the language (it was one of my best subjects) and being reluctant to write off the investment, but also because I’m a math geek, and Germans have generated more first-class math per capita in modern times than any other nation. That’s not even to mention the music.
So anti-Germanism irks me, and there’s a lot of it about. German-language classes have well-nigh disappeared from our highschools; and with the dire state of history teaching, probably the only thing most U.S. highschool graduates could tell you about Germany is that it’s The Hitler Country. Come to think of it, that’s probably true of college graduates, too.
I’ll say more on this in my review of Paul Gottfried’s new book, which I’ll be posting here next week. Suffice it to say that Graeme Wood’s piece inflamed my anti-anti-Germanism.
For consolation I went browsing in my Penguin Book of German Verse, 1963 edition. I turned up this little gem of Heine’s, which I either never knew or had forgotten.
Das Glück ist eine leichte Dirne
Und weilt nicht gern am selben Ort;
Sie streicht das Haar dir von der Stirne,
Und küßt dich rasch und flattert fort.
Frau Unglück hat im Gegenteile
Dich liebefest ans Herz gedrückt;
Sie sagt, sie habe keine Eile,
Setzt sich zu dir ans Bett und strickt.
Here’s the Penguin book’s prose translation by Leonard Forster:
Fortune is a wanton creature and does not like to stay long in one place. She smooths your hair back from your forehead, gives you a quick kiss, and flits away.
Mrs Misfortune, on the other hand, soon takes you to her heart with firm affection. She says she is in no hurry, and sits and does her knitting by your bed.
Can’t you just see Frau Unglück — Mrs Misfortune — a big square matron who’s planted herself immovably by your bed, knitting? That’s really first-class imagery.
In line to the throne? The froth story of the month — I mean, if you found yourself paying much attention to this story, you really need to get a life — came from the other side of the pond. I’m referring of course to the May 20th wedding of Pippa Middleton, younger sister of Kate Middleton, who herself is married to Bill Windsor, second in line to the British throne.
Pippa — it’s short for “Philippa,” one of those names, like “Nigel,” that only Brits use — had had just one previous claim on our attention. At Kate’s wedding in 2011, where Pippa was Maid of Honour, she wore a dress that emphasized her exceptionally shapely rear end. This caused a worldwide sensation, according to the tabloid Daily Mirror. A Twitter account tagged @pippasass quickly acquired several thousand followers, and a Facebook page was established for the Pippa Middleton Ass Appreciation Society.
Froth doesn’t get any frothier than that. My excuse for mentioning this is that I have a small — very small — personal stake in the Middletons. I may be related to them, and so, at some very distant remove — the scenario here would be a few hundred thousand British survivors of a killer plague, asteroid strike, or nuclear holocaust — in line to the throne.
See, my mother’s mother’s father’s mother, one of my great-great-grandmothers, was named Charlotte Middleton. She was born in the Dutch East Indies, nowadays Indonesia, under circumstances not known to me, and married my great-great-grandfather George Paddey in England in 1837.
So I am one-sixteenth a Middleton. If Pippa is descended from a male sibling of Charlotte Middleton’s, then Pippa and I are fourth cousins.
That’s as close as it’s likely to be. Genealogists tell us, though, that all but the commonest British surnames were adopted just once. “Middleton” is not one of the commonest. It’s ranked 219th in this survey. (“Derbyshire” is ranked 4,096th.) Pippa and I are probably something like seventeenth cousins four times removed.
I could clinch the relationship if I knew more about my great-great-granny Charlotte Middleton: the shape of her rear end, for example, might offer significant evidence of a genetic connection.
My researches continue, but I have not yet got to the bottom of this.
Chris Brand, RIP. In last month’s diary I boasted that, where HBD (human biodiversity) is concerned, I have a low Party number:
Back when being a communist was subversive — and in some jurisdictions, dangerous — the big status marker among the faithful was having a low Party number. Having a low Party number meant you had joined the Party early on, from inner conviction, not because Party-member friends had persuaded you, and certainly not because it was trendy in your social clique.
Well, HBD-wise, I have a low Party number. I was a founder member, or at least a very early one, of Steve Sailer’s HBD online discussion group back in 1999. That’s about equivalent to having joined the Communist Party of the U.S.A. in 1919, the year it was founded.
Another member of that discussion group, and so also blessed with a low Party number, was British psychometrist Chris Brand, who died May 28th.
Chris had come to Steve’s attention in 1996 when the academic publisher John Wiley & Sons withdrew Chris’s book The g Factor: General Intelligence and Its Implications for political incorrectness. Fortunately the internet had just recently arrived. Chris put the book online, whence you can still download it.
I got to know Chris quite well through the discussion group and many one-on-one email exchanges, though I don’t think I ever met him in person. His wife Shiou — she’s Chinese from Taiwan — came to stay with us in Long Island fifteen or so years ago, to do some researches at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Chris’s blog survives here, I don’t know for how much longer.
Chris was one of those people whose career prospects under a regime of strict ideological conformity are not good. He was loud and frank with his opinions (which were well-founded in the human sciences) and had an irreverent, unpredictable style of humor. If he’d been born a generation earlier in the U.S.S.R. he would have been shot around 1938. As it was he was merely fired from his lecturing position at the University of Edinburgh.
That was in 1997, after Chris had been teaching at the university for 27 years. What took them so long? I wondered when I first got to know him. From the perspective of twenty years further on, I think I know the answer.
Probably Chris was always Chris, his style in 1997 no different from what it had been in 1987 or 1977. The intellectual environment of 1997, however, was changing fast. Political correctness had firmly settled in; the ideological screws were being tightened. Things you could get away with saying ten or twenty years earlier were now taboo. Today they are doubleplus-taboo.
Chris took his dismissal from the university in good spirit. People like that, of his generation and temperament, don’t whine. If I recall correctly he got a job as a waiter.
Rest in peace, Chris. Our condolences to Shiou, who I am sure will recognize these words written by another spirited nonconformist long ago: 安能摧眉折腰事權貴, 使我不得開心顏 (last line of this poem).
I liked The O’Reilly Factor. “Liked” is exactly right there. I wasn’t a bowled-over enthusiast for the thing; my enthusiasm never rose above the lukewarm level I recorded in a 2001 column about the show. Still, to the very end there, if I had nothing much to do at eight o’clock on a weekday evening, I’d generally tune in to the Factor on the off-chance that O’Reilly or one of his guests might say something interesting.
I don’t know what the Big Mick plans to do with his time now; but whatever it is, I wish him all success with it.
That eight o’clock slot has now been taken by Tucker Carlson, who is even more watchable than O’Reilly was.
The metaphor that comes to mind when I’m watching Carlson is deep-sea marine biology. I’m thinking of those scientists who bring up weird life-forms from the lightless depths miles below the surface: critters with luminous probosci or improbable body plans, escapees from some sci-fi comic book or your childhood nightmares.
Carlson’s specialty is somewhat similar. He dredges up monsters from the deep, lightless trenches of today’s political culture and lets them display themselves in all their hideous freakishness.
There was for example this prize specimen: something named Yvette Felarca, billed as, Heaven help us!, a schoolteacher in — where else? — Berkeley, California, and as a leader of the anarchist street-fighting outfit By Any Means Necessary (BAMN).
Carlson: Just so we can understand the standard here, what is a fascist?
Felarca: So a fascist is someone who’s organizing a mass movement that’s attacking women, immigrants, black people, other minority groups, in a movement of genocide. That’s what a fascist is.
The word “attacking” there means “saying heterodox things about.” Carlson had just shown a clip in which some actual physical attacking was being done by Ms Felarca and her accomplices against peaceful protestors.
I note in passing that Ms Felarca tended to begin her responses with an unnecessary “So …” I’ve been remarking on this feature of recent linguistic fashion for at least ten years. It seems to be particularly localized in the Social Justice crowd. Here’s another one of Carlson’s deep-ocean specimens who I think began all his responses with “So …”
Carlson gives real entertainment value. It’s not just those critters he brings forth to make your flesh creep. There are also some fairly normal people telling us key things about the times we live in.
Student activists had demanded that all white people leave the Evergreen campus for one day so that they, the activists, could hold anti-racist (which means, of course, anti-white) rallies. The professor had refused. The activists thereupon subjected him to what, back in Mao’s China, used to be called a struggle session — getting him alone, surrounding him, then shouting and swearing to humiliate him. Carlson showed video of the struggle session.
That was just the start of it, the professor told Carlson. There was another meeting, even crazier than the one on video. The college administration totally capitulated to the activists. They even stood down the campus police force, who were, the professor told us, barricaded in the campus police station.
All fascinating enough, but then came the punch line.
Carlson: I assume you’re no kind of right-winger. If you teach at Evergreen I’m sure you’re, you know, a Hillary voter. But you had this …
Professor: No, no, not a Hillary voter. I’m a deeply progressive person, and I must say I’m troubled by what this implies about the current state of the Left.
I couldn’t help but smile at that point. Carlson himself started a smile, but then thought better of it. His guest, who looks to be in his thirties and is obviously smart enough to be teaching at a university, has somehow failed to notice the Left’s long, slow curdle into totalitarianism. Chris Brand could have told him about it twenty years ago.
Schadenfreude is not an attractive emotion, but sometimes the temptation is irresistible. So forgive me, please, for the following:
How’d you like it being done to you, Prof?
Book report: fiction. That segues nicely into coverage of this months’ fiction reading: Yuri Trifonov’s The House on the Embankment, recommended by a friend.
Trifonov, whose dates were 1925-1981, lived all his life in the U.S.S.R. and wrote about the lives of ordinary urban Soviet people, for publication by approved Soviet publishing houses.
You’d think that would make for dull fiction, but in fact a good deal of first-class storytelling came out of that environment. Stuck in a provincial Chinese college during the academic year 1982-3, I pillaged the college library for reading material. All they had in English-language fiction was some approved Eng. Lit. classics and a shelf of translated Russian novels from the 1940s and 1950s. A lot of that latter stuff was good, especially the WW2 fiction, though the names of the authors were not well-known.
The House on the Embankment is a cleverly-structured mix of childhood reminiscence and academic politics. The central character, Vadim Glebov, is a careerist who has to negotiate the rapids of Party discipline without selling too much of his soul. Through the author’s skill you end up liking him, but guiltily.
Now, someone familiar with the 1950s Moscow literary scene please tell me: Who is the poet at Sonya’s party in pages 243-4 of the Northwestern University Press edition? From the style and context it seems that Trifonov is drawing a real person. Who?
Book report: nonfiction. I finished Baboon Metaphysics. I am much wiser now about baboons and their quite complicated social life.
Not much wiser about the metaphysics, though. Baboons know an amazing number of things, especially social things — the rankings of themselves and others in the social hierarchy of their troop, for example.
How much of what they know do they know they know, though? How aware are they of their own selves, their own thoughts, their own BDIs (that’s beliefs, desires, and intentions)? How conscious are they?
The answer seems to be: not very.
Whereas they make relatively complex inferences about the target of other individuals’ calls and other individuals’ motivations towards themselves, they do not go out of their way to inform others about what they know, even when the others lack crucial information. Baboons extract rich causal narratives from other animals’ calls, but these narratives remain private. Unlike humans and even very young children, they feel no urge to gossip or share information …
Although they appear to monitor their knowledge in some limited ways, they seem incapable of the sort of “what if” introspection that permits deliberate planning and the weighing of alternative strategies … Baboons’ social intelligence is impressive, but they live largely in the present tense.
The authors quote from one of John Donne‘s sermons, dated 1628: “The beast does but know, but the man knows that he knows.” It looks like Donne got most of the answer right there, four hundred years ago.
It’s funny what people remember. I’ve published or e-published thousands of pieces — millions of words — in books, magazines, webzines, and blogs. Some pieces I’m pleased with; some I’d rather forget; the great majority I actually have forgotten.
Here’s one from that last category. An old acquaintance passed the following remark in an email: “I have enjoyed great mileage from being one of the favored few to know your ‘A certain young hillbilly bumpkin’ limerick from 12 or so years ago.”
Wha? I had no clue what he was talking about, had to look it up. Thanks, Google.
The BBC reports that 75 percent of our genetic makeup is the same as that of the common pumpkin. Presumably this is why the word “pumpkin” ends with “kin.” But wait — what is that fluttering of gossamer wings I hear! Why, it’s the Muse …
Lines in Appreciation of Genetic Propinquity
by John Derbyshire
A certain young hillbilly bumpkin
Was caught having sex with a pumpkin.
When arrested he swore:
“What’s all this fuss for?
Where I’m from, it’s okay to hump kin!”
[National Review Online, July 15th 2004.]
Mind you, one needs to be careful with this kind of thing nowadays. With this rash of sympathetic books about white proles (Hillbilly Elegy, White Trash, and White Working Class), references to Appalachian sex practices are probably microaggressive at this point.
Math Corner. A mighty host of people have asked me to comment on the post at the AMS blog by black female mathematician Piper Harron of the University of Hawaii. (AMS is the American Mathematical Society.) Assistant Professor Harron wants white men of normal sexuality to resign from their positions teaching math.
Not to alarm you, but I probably want you to quit your job, or at least take a demotion. Statistically speaking, you are probably taking up room that should go to someone else. If you are a white cis man (meaning you identify as male and you were assigned male at birth) you almost certainly should resign from your position of power. That’s right, please quit. Too difficult? Well, as a first step, at least get off your hiring committee, your curriculum committee, and make sure you’re replaced by a woman of color or trans person. Don’t have any in your department? HOW SHOCKING.
What people mainly want to know is: Is this woman a complete fake — the ultimate affirmative action hire, given an assistant professorship in spite of knowing diddley-squat about math?
It’s not an area of math I know well. I have, though, sat through many, many presentations about areas of math I don’t know well, so I think I can spot a fake.
This isn’t one. Harron is a genuine mathematician who’s done hard work in a challenging field.
That said, the following things are also true.
- Her written style, as displayed in her thesis is that of a ditzy twelve-year-old. Her comments about “white cis men” at the AMS blog are moronic. She may be an instance of the idiot savant.
- Mathematicians, even those of the first rank, are often politically stupid. The great G.H. Hardy once, on a postcard to a friend during WW2, listed six New Year’s resolutions, among them: “To be proclaimed the first president of the U.S.S.R., Great Britain, and Germany.” When this kind of thing comes up in conversation I excuse mathematicians by saying that math is so demanding of one’s cognitive resources, there is nothing left over for clear thinking about politics.
- Her manner in that video, especially in the closing Q&A, is that of someone not at all sure of herself. That’s why a lot of commenters think she has just been intensively coached through this one topic. I don’t believe it, but her manner seems to be designed to arouse the suspicion.
- That suspicion itself has some basis in reality. Travelling around college math departments to promote my math books, I have more than once been told that college administrators fight like cats over the small number of black Ph.D.s in math. In that atmosphere, there is bound to be some chicanery. I just don’t believe this is an instance of it.
- Although Harron is not a fraud, I doubt she would have made the cut for an assistant professorship if she had been a white male.
- Mathematics, to my deep sorrow, has succumbed like the rest of the Academy to feelgood CultMarx blathering. Lead article in the current (June-July 2017) edition of The American Mathematical Monthly is eleven pages of girlish PC mush about “human flourishing” by Francis Edward Su, recently-retired President of the Mathematical Association of America.
- You can’t escape this garbage, even in the pages of respectable math journals. There are no safe spaces. We are doomed.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He’s had two books published by VDARE.com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and From the Dissident Right II: Essays 2013. His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.