Derb’s November Diary: Mencken Club, Dissolution Of The Universities, Etc.


Mencken Club postscripts. First event of the month was the tenth annual conference of the H.L. Mencken Club. Congratulations to Paul Gottfried for carrying the club forward these ten years.

Thanks also to Mary Gottfried for her organizational efforts. I think I have a fair idea how much time and trouble goes into setting up a conference like this. It’s more than I would care to take on.

This year’s conference was fully booked and spirits were high. It was, as Paul says in his conference report, “a rousing success.” Some of that results from what happened on November 8th 2016, but at least as much was owing to the dogged energy of Paul and Mary.

You can browse the presentations at the conference website. My own talk, cross-posted at VDARE.com November 8th, had the title “The Alt Right Perspective.”

Since I have no clue what the Alt Right perspective is, I went for inspiration to someone who believes he does know. This is the blogger Vox Day, who last year published a 16-point Alt Right Manifesto. In my address to the Mencken Club I read off Vox Day’s points and passed comment on each one.

As a format for a talk, this has somewhat of cheating about it; but spirits were so high, nobody minded, and my talk went over well with the audience.

Not so much with Vox Day, who picked nits with my comments on his website a few days later. That’s okay, and all in good argumentative combat. I respect Vox Day as an ally in the Cultural Counterrevolution, as well as a writer of wit and courage. We disagree about many things, but our disagreements are cordial.

Our deepest disagreement is anyway just temperamental. In the language of We Are Doomed, Chapter 7: he’s a religionist, I’m a biologian. He thinks the universe cares about the human race, and even about individual persons; I see no evidence of either thing. He thinks we are a unique creation, kissed with magic; I think we’re smart chimps.

There’s no use arguing about this. The difference is, as I said, temperamental, most likely genetic. It shouldn’t stop us liking and respecting each other, and acknowledging that both personality types have a part to play in the Cultural Counterrevolution.

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Rent-an-egghead. Second event of the month was the party for Gene Dattel’s new book, Reckoning with Race: America’s Failure. I shall be posting a review of the book shortly. “Dattel,” by the way, is sounded like “rattle,” not like “hotel.”

Meanwhile you may want to read Myron Magnet’s review in City Journal. Or you might not: It’s a fine review, but unusually long — 6,400 words. If you haven’t time for the whole thing, please at least read Myron’s stirring last paragraph, a mere 185 words. It is, to deploy my favorite Pat-Buchananism, right down the smokestack.

After the book party I had dinner with Roger Kimball, the publisher, and two of Roger’s editors at The New Criterion. It was great fun. Roger is the perfect dinner-table companion: erudite, witty, and opinionated. If, Heaven forbid, his publishing ventures ever fail and leave him destitute, Roger could put himself out for hire, like those people you can rent by the hour to liven up your party.

Roger told me that TNC is doing very well, sales at their highest point ever. I suggested that for a further boost, the magazine should publish more long-form articles on mid-20th-century Hungarian literature. Roger seemed … not very receptive to this suggestion.

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Where is Henry the Eighth when we need him? Myron’s review of Gene’s book includes an appeal to alumni of prestigious colleges — he excepts Caltech and Hillsdale — not to give donations to these institutions as they now exist.

They provide social and business connections, not learning, except for hard-science departments and medical schools. They deserve neither respect nor contributions. Dogmatic, unthinking, heretic-persecuting, decadent, and corrupt, what they desperately need is their own indignant Martin Luther.

That Reformation meme is very much “in the air” right now. I have spotted it in two or three other opinion pieces.

It’s been in my own mind for a while. Because I am English-born, though, my own model for a liberator from entrenched, wealthy, privileged dogma is not so much Martin Luther as Henry the Eighth.

One of my cousins used to live in a pretty little cottage overlooking the ruins of Lilleshall Abbey in the English West Midlands. Lilleshall was one of the religious establishments emptied out during Henry’s English Reformation in the 1530s.

When reading horror stories about American universities today at CampusReform.org or HeterodoxAcademy.org, a picture of those melancholy ruins has often floated into my mind, along with the wistful thought that one day our own smug, arrogant, eleven-digit-endowment universities — with a few exceptions as noted — may be in a similar condition.

I doubt I shall live long enough to see Harvard and Yale reduced to heaps of mossy rubble; but if anything I write helps to hasten the day, I shall not have lived in vain.

Away with all pests! My second thoughts in the November 17th Radio Derb about using the term “bug holocaust” stirred a listener to suggest, as an alternative, “Bugnarök.” He is making a play on “Ragnarök,” the End Times in old Norse mythology (and part of the name of a current movie).

Not bad; but that umlaut makes “Bugnarök” a nuisance to type. The same defect is apparent in “Buggerdämmerung,” which in any case I think should be reserved for a massive social collapse caused by unrestrained homosexuality.

(The promoters of the movie have dropped the umlaut from “Ragnarök,” which I think is a mistake. To an English-speaking eye [sic], the umlaut carries a hint of menace — just what you want in a movie of this kind. P.J. O’Rourke once suggested that our nation could enhance its geopolitical street cred by introducing an umlaut into its name: Ü.S.A.)

After deep and intense cogitation on these and other possibilities, I think I shall settle on “Bugocalypse.” No umlauts; no un-English consonant clusters (as in, for example, “Bugmageddon”), only a pleasant alternation of vowels and consonants.

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Dark thoughts. Stress is bad for you, the lifestyle gurus tell us. Taking this as a general proposition, I seriously doubt it. All kinds of complex biological systems need stress, or they die. Bones and muscles are obvious examples; if not regularly stressed, they atrophy and become useless.

Too much stress will of course break a bone or tear a muscle; there’s a point of balance. I’m only saying that the point of balance is not at zero on the stress scale.

The other day I had a dark thought. I very much doubt it’s original with me, but it struck me with some force, and I’ve been turning it over in my mind ever since.

The thought is: Do human societies, like those other complex biological systems, need regular doses of stress?

I had been in conversation with a friend, an Englishman the same age as myself, raised over there in the years immediately after WW2. We had exchanged some remarks about the insanities of modern Western culture — college professors telling us there is no such thing as sex, and so on.

Then we got to reminiscing about our childhoods. The adults we grew up among had all been through the war, and talked about it constantly. Their talk had a wistful, nostalgic quality to it. The war years were good years, we kids inferred. When there were political ructions in 1950s England, our elders would sigh and say: “It wasn’t like this in the war, none of this petty bickering. We were a real country then — united, all pulling together.”

Now, WW2 was for Britain a very stressful time. Try to imagine what it’s like to have fleets of enemy planes flying over your cities night after night, dropping high explosives on homes and workplaces, while your husbands, brothers, and sons are incommunicado in distant lands with high probabilities of being killed or maimed. Stressful? Ya think?

The main social consequence of all that stress was a great burst of demographic vitality — the Baby Boom. As Paul Fussell notes: In classical mythology, one of the lovers of Venus was Mars.

Also in that conversation, for reasons I can’t recall, the topic of John B. Calhoun’s “Mousetopia” came up.

Calhoun studied animal behavior. In the late 1960s at the University of Maryland he set up a perfect little stress-free mouse city which he called Universe 25.

There was abundant clean food, water, and nesting material. The Universe was cleaned every four to eight weeks. There were no predators, the temperature was kept at a steady 68°F, and the mice were a disease-free elite selected from the National Institutes of Health’s breeding colony.

The mice soon lost interest in breeding, fell into weird social pathologies, and after a few generations they had all died off.

In the years after WW2 Britain developed an advanced, prosperous welfare state. Comfort, good health, and modest prosperity — the things we all want — were available to all, and were widely distributed.

By 1957 the country’s Prime Minister could tell his countrymen that: “Most of our people have never had it so good.”

He was right. They had reached Mousetopia.

Now, sixty years on — the equivalent of just a few months on the mouse breeding cycle — entire British towns have been taken over by Third World settlers, and white-British fertility is down below replacement level. What was once a nation has become a mere place, the ancient liberties long forgotten.

On the bright side, though, life in Britain these past few decades has, by historical standards, been wonderfully free of stress.

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In the dark depths. There seems now to be no hope left for the 44 crew members of ARA San Juan, the Argentine submarine that went missing November 15th. Intensive searches have turned up no sign of the vessel on the surface; and if it’s been submerged for 15 days the oxygen has long since been exhausted.

It’s awful to think of the despair and suffering of the crew in those circumstances. It seems almost improper to speak of a positive side to such a horror, but there is much quiet pride in Britain that the Royal Navy and Air Force have been going all out to help Argentina with the search-and-rescue effort. Memories of the Falklands War have been firmly set aside by both Britain and Argentina.

As one British news source says: “Politics has been rightly absent during this incident.” In these wretched times, when politics seems never to be absent from anything — sport, showbiz, the arts — those are blessed words to read.

For Civil War buffs, any submarine disaster brings to mind the strange, tragic story of the Confederate vessel CSS H.L. Hunley, named after one of its builders, Horace Hunley. The Hunley has a fair claim to being the first true submarine. It was certainly the first anything-like-a-submarine to sink a warship.

If you don’t know the story of Hunley and his submarine, check it out. There are many websites; and Volume II in Shelby Foote’s monumental history of the war gives a good account (last chapter).

When you first get into learning about the Civil War, it seems peculiar that the South, which was much inferior to the Union in scientific and industrial prowess, should have been the side to make such a technological breakthrough.

It’s not really that surprising, though. The driving motivation here was to weaken the Union blockade of Southern ports, which was giving the South much difficulty.

And the Hunley was not a great technological marvel. She had, for example, no engine. Crew members — she carried eight — turned the propellers by working cranks.

She was also, as Shelby Foote puts it delicately, “accident-prone.” She sank on her first sea trials, taking five crewmen to their deaths. “Still,” says Foote, “there was no difficulty in finding more volunteers to man her.” These included Horace Hunley himself. He took charge of the vessel named after him, and continued sea trials with the new crew.

Three weeks in, the Hunley went down but didn’t come up. A hatch hadn’t been properly closed. Horace Hunley and his seven crew members all perished.

The Hunley was raised again, cleared of corpses again, and Foote tells us that then — astoundingly, it seems to me — “a third crew promptly volunteered for service.” This was the crew that sank the USS Housatonic on the evening of February 17th 1864 in Charleston harbor. Unfortunately they also sank themselves; and that was the end of the Hunley. Five crew members of the Housatonic died, along with all eight of the Hunley’s.

It’s a very touching story of courage, dogged ingenuity, patriotism, triumph, and disaster. I’ll give you the last words of Shelby Foote’s account:

Searchers found what was left of the sloop [i.e. the Housatonic] and the submarine years later, lying side by side on the sandy bottom, just beyond the bar.

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Soldier in the house. Friends and followers all want to know how Junior is coping since coming home October 24th after four years with the colors.

Perfectly well, so far as we can tell. He’s been catching up on sleep, working on college applications, and going out evenings with old high school buddies. He seems happy and well-adjusted.

In mid-November a panel truck showed up to deliver an astonishing quantity of large cardboard boxes bearing the logo of Sourdough Transfer, an Alaska moving-and-storage company. Junior’s been busy unpacking, storing, and setting up electronic equipment. At month end it’s all been cleared; we have a stable and tidy house again.

And garage! I finished the garage makeover the day before that panel truck arrived. My garage, which a few months ago was a zone of utter chaos, is now as neat and clean as an old maid’s parlor.

(Yes: That New York State flag in front of the hanging storage is Junior’s. Balancing loyalty to one’s state with patriotism can be a ticklish thing, as many Americans discovered in 1861. He’s worked it all out in his own mind, though, and I’m happy to go along.)

People are very kind. I’d like to express heartfelt thanks on behalf of Junior, and add my own, to readers and listeners who’ve expressed appreciation for his service.

Which, as a matter of fact, isn’t over. He’s working off accumulated leave, so is technically still on the lists (and getting paid) until December 9th. After that he joins the Reserves. Mom and I are quietly hoping no big balloons go up between now and then. Fingers crossed.

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Glyphs vext quiz. I played a game of Scrabble at Thanksgiving. I play about one game a year. My opponent on this occasion, though, is a compulsive Scrabbler who plays all the time.

That caused me some annoyance. I’ll confess right away that I lost the game, and I don’t like losing any more than you do or he, she, or it does; but I have more than sour grapes to proffer here. It wasn’t the losing that annoyed me. While I don’t like losing, I don’t resent losing in a fair contest.

There is a strategic aspect to Scrabble: spotting two or three moves ahead that you might be about to make one of the prized triple-word squares more accessible to your opponent, for example. The other player was very good at this strategic aspect, and might well have beaten me anyway. That would have been fair enough.

What annoyed me was her deployment of Scrabble words — words that exist only among, and for the benefit of, Scrabble fanatics.

Did you know, for example, that “aa” is a word? (From Hawaiian: “basaltic lava having a rough surface.”) Or “oe” (Scottish dialect for “a grandchild.”) Or “qi” (In traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy, “the vital life force that flows through the body and is supposedly regulated by acupuncture.”)

I did actually know the word qi. Heck, I can speak Chinese. I know the character for it, too: both the traditional (氣) and the modern simplified (气) forms. I know which tone it’s uttered in (the fourth). I know how it’s pronounced in Cantonese (hei, mid-level tone). I even know how it was pronounced in the Middle Chinese of the eighth century (kiəi, in the “departing” tone, though I admit I had to look that one up). I just didn’t know it was valid in Scrabble.

What was really annoying was that my opponent didn’t know the meanings of these words. She’d just memorized them from lists on the Internet.

So she put down “azo.” I’d given up challenging at this point and just let it go. A move or two later, though, I had a really good opportunity if I could stick an “s” on the end of “azo.” I asked: “Is ‘azo’ a noun?” She didn’t know!

“I don’t know what it means,” she told me a bit sniffily, “but it’s a legal word.” So it is. Grrr.

I guess if you regard Scrabble in the abstract, as merely a game with permissible combinations of letters, there’s a case for this. It seems to me, though, that this approach ruins Scrabble as a parlor game. There’s a difference between prowess in how many letter-combinations you know, and how many words you know.

Let’s be frank, and to hell with strategy: What is Scrabble really for, if not for bookish nerds to show off their vocabularies to each other?

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Non-event of the month. October 26th I got an email from Richard Spencer inviting me to speak at his NPI conference on Sunday, November 19th. The event, he said, was to be held in the Rotunda Room at the Reagan Building in Washington, DC. NPI would cover my hotel costs — which, since the show was scheduled to go on until 8pm, would presumably be for two nights.

I emailed back that I’d be delighted to speak, but had a travel issue. I had a hard-to-get medical appointment here at home that Monday morning, so couldn’t stay in DC overnight the Sunday. In lieu of that night’s hotel fee, would NPI spring for a rental car so I could get back for my appointment?

There was no reply to that. After a couple of weeks I vaguely supposed the conference had been scuppered somehow, and put it out of my mind.

November 13th I got another email from Richard, plainly a general-purpose one for all attendees. The contractor for the Reagan Building was refusing to rent to NPI due to “security concerns.” The conference would go ahead, though, at a secret location.

There followed a complicated set of instructions for attendees to get to that location: Check text messages early Sunday morning to learn your personal pick-up point … don’t tell anyone about it … don’t be early at the pick-up point (might compromise it) but don’t be late (you may get left behind) … a volunteer will check your name off our master list … you will be loaded onto a van … do not park a car near the pick-up point (antifa may vandalize) … do not bring weapons …

It was all a bit too much for me, I’m afraid; and I was mildly ticked off at my own earlier email having been ignored. I replied that I am too old and unwell for cloaks and daggers, and would leave this one to the young bloods.

So I didn’t go to the NPI conference. It went ahead on the 19th at Rocklands Farm, a place outside DC that rents space and does catering for corporate events. Halfway through the proceedings one of the service people recognized Richard and alerted management [Email them] who told everyone to leave. So they left.

That’s my non-event of the month. I can’t honestly say I’m sorry to have missed the thing. As I told them, I’m past the age for covert ops, and would have appreciated a response on my travel difficulties.

That aside, the treatment of Richard and his group here is pretty damn scandalous. For the managers of the Reagan Building to back out of their constitutional obligations (so far as I understand them: it’s a government facility) because of “security concerns” is a confession that DC police are unwilling to enforce the laws — the laws? the Bill of Rights, for crying out loud — on behalf of people with unpopular opinions.

The behavior of Rocklands Farm has more of a tortious aspect to it; but if bakers have to make a cake for homosexual “weddings” against the bakers’ beliefs, it’s hard for a lay person to understand why a catering hall shouldn’t have to accommodate White Nationalists against what Rocklands Farm, in a typically mealy-mouthed self-justification, call their “values.” [Richard Spencer hosted an event at a Maryland farm. Halfway through, everyone was kicked out, By Perry Stein, The Washington Post, November 21, 2017]

As I always observe at this point, I am personally a freedom-of-association absolutist where private commercial transactions are involved. If the bakers don’t want to bake that cake, leave ’em be; if Rockland Farms doesn’t want to host that group, likewise.

Freedom of association has been a dead letter in American jurisprudence since laws against “discrimination” came up, though … except, apparently, when it’s a handy tool against Thought Criminals. Our laws have been thoroughly politicized.

I hope Richard Spencer litigates the hell out of both the public (Reagan Building) and private (Rocklands Farm) issues; and I hope that by some lucky fluke he finds himself before one of the, what? three? half a dozen? judges in the U.S.A. who understand the meaning of “equal before the law.”

In the meantime the question left hanging is the one posed by commentator Noah at the Z-man’s blog:

You mean to tell me not one person has a farm, or private land that can be controlled and monitored?

Just so. Is it really the case that in a nation of a third of a billion people, there is no-one with White Nationalist sympathies, or just a firm belief in freedom of association, who could offer a few hours accommodation for a hundred or so people — in a nice big barn, perhaps?

The venue should preferably be in a Castle Doctrine state with a strong intolerance of trespassers, so that any antifa infiltrators could be chased off with buckshot.

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Math Corner. My daughter Nellie, who has an IQ in the 110-120 range, applied for a clerical job early this month. As part of the screening, the employer asked her to complete, in her own time, some simple IQ-type tests. She enlisted me to check her results.

My first thought was that the employer urgently needs to be told about the Supreme Court ruling in Griggs v. Duke Power. However, a friend who knows the law told me there are exceptions and work-arounds, so perhaps this is one of them.

My girl had done very well, I thought. There was, though, one question she couldn’t answer; and when I tried it myself, I couldn’t either.

It’s a sequence problem, as follows.

What is the next number in the following sequence: 2, 7, 8, 13, 12, 9, …?

The answer, you are told, is one of the following: 10, 15, 5, 11.

After five minutes of frustration, I went to the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. This one ain’t there.

Nellie got the job, so there’s nothing riding on this, but I’d like to know the answer.

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