Radio Derb: Life In Derbistan (London As It Used To Be), Etc.
00m49s — Life in Derbistan. (London as it used to be.)
14m21s — Absimilation strikes. (At the cultural heart.)
24m49s — Life imitates fiction. (France debates.)
31m47s — GOP healthcare bill flatlining. (Richard Spencer meets Peggy Noonan.)
40m16s — Gorsuch no Scalia. (Let’s be grateful for small mercies.)
42m35s — Data nerds alert! (The 2016 election demographics.)
44m18s — A terrorist passes. (Bill Clinton mourns.)
47m11s — Weasel word of the week. (An aid to magical thinking.)
49m15s — The great understatements. (The Japanese are no slouches.)
51m46s — Signoff. (And a sonnet.)
[Music clip: From Haydn’s Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, from your nostalgically genial host John Derbyshire, here with VDARE.com’s weekly roundup of the week’s news with a National Conservative spin.
First this week, a nostalgic trip to the old country. Get yer hankies out.
02 — Life in Derbistan. I’m going to exercise podcaster’s privilege here and indulge myself in some nostalgia. It’s geezerish, I know, and I promise not to do it often; but reading about the terrorist attack on London’s Westminster Bridge this Wednesday got me thinking about London, and I began to nostalge.
(Is that a verb, “nostalge”? “I nostalge; you nostalge; he, she, or it nostalges?” If it isn’t, it ought to be.)
So here goes with a trip down Memory Lane.
I was raised in a sleepy small provincial town whose natives referred to London, seventy miles southeast of us, as “the Smoke.” I only really got acquainted with London when I went to college there, from 1963 to 1966.
The colleges of London University didn’t have much residential accommodation. I lived for those three years in rented rooms, in private houses owned by Londoners. My very first semester’s landlord was an employee of Pentonville Prison in north-central London. He had fun stories about executions, capital punishment being then still on the books in England.
Not wanting to pay rent while back in my home town for vacations, I changed lodgings every semester, and sometimes mid-semester; so I got a good random selection of Londoners as landlords, or more often landladies.
A single rented room in a private house was called a “bedsitter,” and that’s what I lived in those three years. There was a whole bedsitter culture back then. Spike Milligan wrote a play titled The Bedsitting Room. Quentin Crisp described the bedsitter environment in his memoir The Naked Civil Servant.
London in the early 1960s wasn’t very diverse by current standards. My landlords and landladies were mostly English, or in one case Welsh. I did have a West Indian landlady for half a semester: a plump Trinidadian mulatto, pleasant enough when not in a mood, but a terrible housekeeper, with a host of men friends who shared her intimate favors serially on some schedule I never figured out.
The only other non-British foreigner was a Greek Cypriot, who threw me out summarily because he thought, mistakenly, I’d made a pass at his wife. People who knew Greek-Cypriot culture told me I was lucky to get away with all my parts still attached.
The modern immigration boom was well under way, but in London there were only a few small concentrations of blacks, and light scatterings of others like the Cypriots and Chinese.
The city had had its first black race riot in 1958. A poll taken five years later would I am sure have shown that most English people would have preferred the blacks to leave; but it wasn’t something people thought about much, so nothing was done. There was even some plantation-style paternalist affection towards blacks: on TV The Black and White Minstrel Show was very popular.
Islam was even less of an issue. Muslim countries themselves were either keen to modernize or sunk in medieval apathy. For those trying to modernize, Islam was a dusty relic of the past that was only holding them back. That’s why you had these secular dictatorships like Nasser’s Egypt or Ba’ath Syria. Nobody in London spoke or thought about Islam.
Notwithstanding which, Pakistani immigrants were deeply unpopular. Blacks, with all their faults, were at least cheerful, colorful, and musical. Pakis were none of those things, and were widely disliked. There was a genre of Paki jokes going round, some of them quite nasty. Here’s one of the milder ones:
A Pakistani is at London airport for a trip home. He’s sixpence short of the air fare, though. He approaches an English traveller. “Excuse me, Sir,” he says, “Could I ask you for sixpence, please? I’m trying to get home to Pakistan.”
The Englishman reaches into his pocket and brings out a half crown [equivalent to five sixpences]. “Here,” he says, “take four of your pals with you.”
End Paki joke. There was some diversity in the student body of course. My math class contained a Chinese lad from Hong Kong, an early instance of the Asian math nerd. He introduced us to ngau-yuk-gon, the Cantonese version of beef jerky, which I still have a taste for.
In the Muswell Hill district, where I lodged for a year, there was also a clique of West African students, twenty-something guys from well-off families in Ghana, which at that time was under the dictatorship of the buffoonish Kwame Nkrumah, whom they all despised.
I hung out with them for a while, and learned some scattered things about West African culture. Tribalism, for example: One of them would say of another, “Oh, Kofi’s all right, but it was his people that put my father out of business …” Naming customs, too: If I were Ghanaian, my name would be Kwasi, because I was born on a Sunday — it goes by day of the week.
And drugs, of course. The Ghanaians all smoked hash in their leisure hours. I tried to join in for the sake of companionship, but it made me throw up. I’ve never since bothered much with recreational pharmaceuticals. I didn’t cut much of a figure as a bohemian.
The Britain of fifty-odd years ago was a high-trust society. I had a girlfriend in my home town, and weekends I’d go home to see her. My normal mode of travel for those seventy miles was to hitch-hike. I’d take the subway out to Hendon Central, walk a half-mile to the on-ramp for the M1 (Britain’s first expressway, then new), and stand there with my thumb out, trying to look pleasant. Some truck driver or traveling salesman would pull over seeking some conversation on his drive, and an hour and a half later I’d be home.
It was the standard way of getting around if you had no money: not just in Britain, either, but all over Europe. In my 1964 summer vacation I hitch-hiked clear across the continent, to the Black Sea and back.
That was the London I knew, in the England I knew, in my salad days. It had plenty of blemishes, of course. There was terrific class snobbery; and a smug, stuffy establishment, not many of whom practiced noblesse oblige. A few years later, Irish terrorism came up, and made a nuisance of itself — sometimes a lethal one — to Londoners.
Still it was a country, whose various classes and subgroups knew each other — and close neighbors like the Irish — from long acquaintance, even if they didn’t necessarily like each other. Occasionally lunatics did crazy horrible things; but they were our lunatics and we dealt with them our way.
I’m aware that I approach National Question issues with that lost England in mind. I want to live in a country with a big solid majority of one race, one culture. I don’t mind there being others around, and in fact think it’s a healthy thing — salt in the stew. Foreigners can be interesting and amusing.
It’s all a matter of numbers, numbers and concentrations. Don’t take in too many, and discourage clustering — especially in this age of modern communications, when immigrants can bring their native country with them.
Is such an arrangement actually possible in this world today, though, with cheap air travel and low trade barriers? It surely is: Japan, for example, is a pure Derbistan, as I just described the ideal.
That brings Japan in for a lot of scolding from the open-borders mob. Mass-immigration fanatic Bret Stephens was lecturing them in The Wall Street Journal the other day. Sample quote:
On current trend the population will fall to 97 million by the middle of the century. Barely 10 per cent of Japanese will be children. The rest of the population will divide almost evenly between working-age adults and the elderly.
That doesn’t sound so bad. Late 20th-century Japan was very overcrowded. A population drop to 97 million would be good; 50 million would probably be better. The age distribution doesn’t much matter, with modern healthcare and productivity. Once the baby-boomers have died off and it’s these smaller age cohorts that are aging, it will matter even less.
Or if the Japanese want to get their population back in nine digits via mass immigration, it’s a democratic country and they can elect politicians who’ll take care of that. They show no inclination to do so, for all Bret Stephens’ hectoring.
Is it too late to get Britain back to the Derbish ideal? My guess would be that it probably is. The place — that’s what it is now: a place, not a country — the place is irrevocably wrecked.
Still, something is owed to honesty. The Brits should at least admit — some major public figure, a member of the Royal Family, for example, should publicly admit — that in the matter of mass immigration, the Brits long ago made a horribly wrong decision, while the Japanese made the right one. The Brits destroyed their country; the Japanese preserved theirs.
A Muslim terrorist, of the “lone wolf” variety so far as we know, drove his car into pedestrians strolling on Westminster Bridge, killing three and wounding forty. When he arrived at the north end of the bridge, he jumped out and ran into the Houses of Parliament yard, brandishing a knife. He stabbed a policeman to death before being shot dead himself.
The killer was identified as Khalid Masood. The media, terrified that anyone might make an immigration connection, went to much trouble to emphasize that he was British born.
He was indeed, but there is more to be said. In fact Masood was black, or at any rate mulatto, born to a 17-year-old English mother and an unknown but presumably black father 52 years ago — just when I was sampling hashish and hiding from enraged Cypriots in North London bedsitters.
When he was two years old his mother married a Nigerian gent, surname Ajao, who may or may not have been his biological father — nobody seems to know. He was thereafter raised as Adrian Russell Ajao. A career petty criminal, he was apparently converted to Islam in jail. That seems to happen a lot, especially to blacks. Being in jail sure happens to British blacks a lot: Ten percent of inmates in British jails are black, though they are less than three percent of the general population.
For all the media’s glee about him being British born, Masood actually illustrates a thesis I’ve been arguing for years: that it’s not the first generation of immigrants you need to worry about so much as the second and subsequent generations.
As I have argued, some assimilate, some ab-similate; some immigrant lines become more like us while some go the opposite way, becoming more alienated — they ab-similate. Ab-similation is especially probable when there is a deep difference in race or religion, with blacks and Muslims being the most likely to ab-similate.
The human tragedies of Masood’s victims make sad reading. One of those killed on the bridge was an American tourist, on a European vacation with his wife to mark their 25th wedding anniversary. The wife was badly injured. Another fatality on the bridge was a woman on her way to pick up her kids from school. She was thrown in the path of a double-decker bus and crushed to death. The third bridge fatality was a 75-year-old working-class Londoner, native English.
Many of those not actually killed will have had their lives destroyed. A 29-year-old Romanian tourist, celebrating her birthday in London with her fiancé, was thrown off the bridge into the river, suffering serious head injuries and damaged lungs.
Aside from the personal human dimension, the attack was a strike at English culture, at Englishness itself. Westminster Bridge stands at the heart of Englishness. On the north bank is the Palace of Westminster, where England’s laws have been made for 750 years. Next door is Westminster Abbey, built almost a thousand years ago, for centuries the last resting place of England’s kings, queens, heroes and poets.
On the south side of the bridge is St. Thomas’ hospital, whose origins go far back into the unknown past, and Lambeth Palace, London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who leads the Church of England.
If you hate England and the English and want to hit them where it hurts most, this is the place to strike. It’s hard to believe Khalid Masood didn’t have that in mind.
Britain’s elites responded to the attack in General Casey style, generic quote: “As horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, that would be worse,” end quote.
The worthless, dithering Prime Minister, Theresa May, who was in charge of U.K. immigration policy for six years without making any perceptible dent in the numbers flooding in, summoned up the spirit of the Blitz, assuring her countrymen that values of freedom of speech, liberty and democracy would prevail.
I wouldn’t bet on it, with freedom of speech already effectively abolished in Britain by the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006. You can’t have deep differences of race and religion while maintaining the kind of liberties Englishmen traditionally enjoyed.
And while it’s certainly stirring for a British politician to summon the spirit of the Blitz, that leads to the awkward reflection that the Blitz was an attempt by foreign would-be conquerors to bend the British to their will.
The Brits of nowadays bend way more easily than their grandfathers did. They have reacted in good General Casey fashion, with floral tributes to the dead, moments of silence, and, yes, candlelight vigils, all decorated with assurances of national unity and respect for Islam.
London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, an Islamic supremacist of the stealth variety, presenting a calm, reasonable manner for the TV cameras while his people quietly infiltrate and take over, told viewers that, quote, “We won’t be cowed by terrorists,” end quote. Who do you mean by “we,” Kimosabe?
The Mayor’s comments have an American dimension. Last September, after a bombing by an Afghan immigrant in New York City, Mayor Khan told a British newspaper that the threat of terror attacks is, quote, “part and parcel of living in a big city.” Well, Donald Trump Junior, our President’s son, tweeted that quote following last Wednesday’s Westminster attack, garnished with the comment, quote from Trump Junior: “You have to be kidding me.”
That raised gasps of horrified outrage from goodthinking Americans and Brits. Several of them noticed a previous connection between the Trumps and London’s Mayor. The goodthinkers have quoted with approval the Mayor’s comment last May that Donald’s father, now President Trump, was, quote, “ignorant” about Islam.
The definitive response to that is the one tweeted by the blogger Iowahawk a few months ago when TV talking head Piers Morgan opined that jihadi terrorists were not practicing true Islam. I’ll adapt Iowahawk’s remark to the current situation, thus: Sadiq Khan has a law degree from a British university, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has a Ph.D. in Islamic theology from the Islamic University of Baghdad. In the matter of what is true Islam, which one should we believe?
All the soothing words and earnest declarations of national unity have worked their magic, though. Everyone’s feelings have been soothed — everyone’s feelings except, of course, the feelings of those bereaved or crippled by Mr. Masood’s actions. Now the Brits can relax, sink back into their lotus dreams of prosperity and racial harmony, and wait for the next Islamic atrocity.
On Monday March 20th the presidential race got its first televised debate. Ms. Le Pen was in there with four other candidates; but the one she had to beat was Emmanuel Macron, a political newcomer, a former socialist now running as an independent.
Macron is photogenic and ten years younger than Le Pen; and although he’s advertised as from outside the establishment, he has a smooth line in neoliberal globalist patter. Key dividing lines between them are, one, the European Union, with Macron a strong Europhile but Le Pen wanting a “Frexit,” and two, accommodations to Islam, with Macron pushing the diversity-is-our-strength line and Le Pen wanting face veils and burkinis banned in public.
The debate went way over time; they had to cut off the televising after three hours. Verdicts on the winner were mixed, with polls of voters generally giving Macron the victory. One respectable poll found 29 percent of viewers voting Macron the most convincing candidate, against only 19 percent for Le Pen. Some bigfoot political commentators, though, found Macron unimpressive in debate. We’ll see how it all plays out in the voting on April 23rd.
That’s the first round of voting. There’ll be a runoff two weeks later, assuming no-one wins a majority in the first round, which is a pretty solid assumption. Even assuming that Le Pen wins the first round, in that second round the anti-Le Pen forces — French equivalents of NeverTrumpers — will likely consolidate behind Macron and make him France’s next President.
That would be a pity for national conservatism at large. The fact that Ms. Le Pen’s party has got as far as it has, though, with a strongly ethnonationalist program, speaks volumes about the political crisis of the Western world today.
The question to be decided over the next decade is whether there is a hard ceiling on the ethnonationalist appeal of parties like Le Pen’s in France and Geert Wilders’ in Holland, or whether national conservatism can break through to capture a clear majority of voters.
For literary types, this year’s French election has a particular interest, as it is mentioned in Michel Houellebecq’s bestselling 2015 novel Submission. That novel takes place in 2022, at the time of the next presidential election. The characters in the novel are looking back to 2017.
Some sample quotes. First sample quote, page 23:
[First character]: “In three weeks we might have a new president …”
[Second character]: “Please, that’s all settled. It will be just like 2017, the National Front [that’s Le Pen’s party] will make it into the runoffs and the left will be voted back in.”
Second sample quote, pages 38 and 39:
Over the years, the rise of the far right had made things a little more interesting. It gave the debates a long-lost frisson of fascism. Still, it wasn’t until 2017, and the presidential runoff, that things really started to heat up. The foreign press looked on, bewildered, as a leftist president was re-elected in a country that was more and more openly right-wing: the spectacle was shameful but mathematically inevitable … Then, a month after the election, Mohammed Ben Abbes announced the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood.
End quotes. What happens is, against a background of widespread unemployment, this Muslim Brotherhood goes into alliance with the Socialists. The alliance wins the 2022 election and starts implementing a program of Islamization.
I can’t say I’m a big fan of Houellebecq: too disorganized and too smutty for my taste. Submission was published two years ago, though; which means he was likely writing it three years ago. Yet it looks as though he will correctly have predicted the result of this year’s election: Le Pen making it to the runoffs, then someone else — okay, not precisely “the left,” but definitely not any national conservative — will win the second round. That’s what everyone’s predicting at this point.
Which raises the interesting question: If Houellebecq got that right, might he have gotten the rest right, too? The rise of an explicitly Muslim party? Its alliance with the traditional left in a time of economic malaise? Their victory in the 2022 presidential election?
There you see the problem with politics nowadays: It’s hard to tell the fiction from the nonfiction.
05 — GOP healthcare bill flatlining. The big political drama over here is the fiasco of GOP healthcare reform. The effort by Republicans to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a different model crashed and burned in Congress this afternoon, Friday March 24th.
Note the care with which I said the GOP healthcare reform, as opposed to the Trump healthcare reform. That’s because I’m a Trump voter before I’m a GOP voter. I couldn’t care less if this trainwreck hurts the congressional Republican Party, who are mostly useless seat-warmers. If it hurts our President, though, that would be bad.
Yes, I see the contradiction. If the 2010 healthcare law is commonly known as Obamacare because Obama promoted it, why shouldn’t this failed replacement be called Trumpcare, since Trump promoted it?
I’d argue that Trump never identified himself with the bill as closely as Obama did with the Affordable Care Act. His declaration this week that it should pass or perish quickly indicates that he knew what a tar baby it was. No doubt he’s regretting those extravagant campaign promises to repeal and replace Obamacare, which he seems to have made without appreciating the political problems he’d confront.
Those problems are that (a) no congressional Democrats would support the bill, and (b) conservative ideologues in the GOP didn’t think it was radical enough in the direction of a free-market system, and (c) other Republicans went gun-shy after the Congressional Budget Office said the bill would leave millions without coverage.
My argument last week that the coming collapse of the bill, already obvious at that point, would be blamed more on Congress than on the President, I think still stands. What would make me more confident about that would be if the President, before turning to projects that are actually doable, would utter some indication that he is considering, somewhere down the line, a switch to single-payer nationalized healthcare.
I’ve been arguing for years that the only rational healthcare system is one that’s socialized — universal provision at a decent level, financed from general taxation, with a free market in health insurance for anyone who wants more and can afford it.
More and more people on the right, all segments of the right, are coming round to my point of view. You see the power of Radio Derb?
Last week I noted that Conservatism, Inc. commentator Peggy Noonan is on board. In a very different right-wing precinct, so is Alt Right parade marshal Richard Spencer. Thursday this week at AltRight.com, Spencer posted a column headlined: Why Trump Must Champion National Healthcare.
The same day our own James Kirkpatrick here at VDARE.com posted a fine piece titled Healthcare and Nationalism: The Case of Poland about how the nationalist government of that East European country has strengthened its appeal to its voter base by strong welfare policies to tackle inequality. Trump, says James, could do the same, starting with healthcare.
The real case against single-payer universal healthcare is nothing to do with Friedrich Hayek’s metaphysics or Russell Kirk’s theology. It’s not a classical conservative case at all; it’s a race-realist one. If you want to hear it, set aside nine minutes and thirty-four seconds and bring up the YouTube clip titled Americans Will NEVER HAVE Single-Payer Healthcare: Here’s Why from the vlogger who calls himself Black Pigeon.
Executive summary: socialism can’t be made to work in a racially diverse society. Socialism only works in a racially and culturally homogenous society.
White Americans, says Black Pigeon, will see a single-payer system as one more imposition on them and their declining wages to the benefit of blacks and Hispanics. They just won’t buy it.
I’d respond that it depends on the alternative. If the mess that is our current system — the Obamacare system — gets worse, as seems inevitable, with doctors resigning and insurance companies fleeing the “market” — which isn’t really a market, and that’s why they’re fleeing — as the whole thing slowly falls apart, anything will seem preferable.
And there are two things the Trump administration could do to make single-payer even more appealing.
First thing: Clean up the areas of healthcare that are already socialized — Medicaid, Medicare, and the VA system. They are inefficient and corrupt.
In Russia there are mansions on 300 acres, with twenty bedrooms, crystal chandeliers, and gold-plated faucets in the bathrooms, all paid for out of Medicare scams. This should be a prime area for Trumpish reforms: businesslike efficiencies and some salutary prosecutions.
Second thing: End mass immigration. Deport illegals. Restrict chain migration to spouses and minor children. Close down the guest-worker programs — H-1B and the rest. The U.S.A. has all the people it needs. This again is perfect territory for Trump to act in. He promised real patriotic immigration reform in his campaign, and millions voted for him based on those promises.
We’ve been stuck with some diversity since the Founding. We have to cope with it as best we can; but at least we should stop making it worse.
With those reforms, and some prospect that even if we can’t get back to the European supermajorities of fifty years ago, at least we can hold the line on diversity and get some real mid-20th-century-style assimilation under way, then single-payer healthcare would be a much easier sell.
Over to you, Mr. President.
As usual at hearings for senior judiciary nominees, Gorsuch was circumspect about how he might rule on controversial issues. On abortion, for example, the most he would reveal was, quote: “Precedent is like our shared family history of judges. It deserves our respect.” Since precedent here means the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, Gorsuch seemed to be signaling that he would let it stand.
The irksome thing here is the degree to which the left runs the show and sets the parameters. If you imagine a left-right scale of judicial opinion, calibrated with views like VDARE.com’s at positive ten and someone like, oh, Rachel Maddow at negative ten, then the late Antonin Scalia was a positive five, Samuel Alito is a positive two, and John Roberts is a positive one. On this scale Gorsuch looks like another positive one, maybe positive one point five.
Meanwhile we have Ruth Bader Ginsburg as negative five, Elena Kagan at negative seven, and the Wise Latina at negative twenty-nine. It’s just so unbalanced.
Well, let’s be grateful for small mercies. I predict much cucking from Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch; but at least he’s not a Hillary Clinton appointee.
Item: For data nerds, the blogger Audacious Epigone has worked up a very nice graphic for the demographic breakdown of last November’s election, similar to the one our Steve Sailer did for the 2012 election.
So we learn, for example, that bisexuals were 29.5 percent for Trump, while black single mothers were less than three percent. Mormons were 71.6 percent for Trump, which is more than I would have thought, while Muslims were only 28.4 percent. And so on.
As with those 2012 numbers, the thing that really jumps out is the marriage gap. Single Jewish women, for example, went only 11.8 percent for Trump, while married Jewish women went 42.9 percent. As Audacious points out, the marriage gap is a much bigger story than the sex gap.
Some of the sample sizes are small. How many Hindus are there going to be in a total sample of thirteen thousand? We do what we can, though, and I thank Audacious for his efforts here. Political analysts, election strategists, and persons named Donald J. Trump should also thank him.
Item: I mentioned the terrorist campaign by Irish republican extremists back in my first segment. Well, one of the worst of them, Martin McGuinness, died this week.
McGuinness seems not to have been much of a hands-on killer himself; but as an IRA commander, he sanctioned untold numbers of murders. And no, his victims were not only British soldiers and policemen, but also innocent citizens, women and children, like those who were killed or maimed at the Enniskillen bombing in 1987.
As described in my St. Patrick’s Day special last week, the British at last bought off the IRA in 1998 with government jobs and cash. McGuinness was a beneficiary of the deal. He spent the last twenty years of his life living off those British taxpayers he had previously schemed to murder. He had a fancy job title, a chauffered car, and a government salary.
It would have been more just for McGuinness to have been summarily shot as soon as he showed himself in public, but the Tony Blair government didn’t have the spine for that.
It’s a hard thing to say, but if they had just kept up their security operation for another three years, they would have been the beneficiaries of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.A.
Those al Qaeda operations made former American supporters of the IRA realize that terrorism against civilians in civilized countries was not a romantic adventure but an irruption of barbarism. It similarly dawned on pro-IRA American politicians like Rep. Peter King that perhaps support for the international terrorist movement might no longer be a vote-getter with the American public.
Well, the filthy psychopath is dead and buried — good riddance! Bill Clinton showed up at the funeral and gave a gushing speech about what a peace-loving man McGuinness had been. Tony Blair, Britain’s Bill Clinton clone, in what for him is a rare display of decency, did not attend.
This week’s weasel word: “discredited.” It showed up a lot in the flap about Charles Murray’s speaking gig at Middlebury College in Vermont. Murray’s work has, said activists, been “discredited.”
I caught this weasel word again in Jared Taylor’s March 21st interview with ABC news the other day. Taylor’s race realism has, the interviewer said, been “discredited.”
It hasn’t, of course, any more than have Charles Murray’s researches. What’s going on here, from the psychological point of view, is magical thinking — the power of words, of spells, to make true things untrue, and vice versa. By saying something is “discredited” you make it so.
To discredit the accusation of “discredited,” the accusee would have to bring forth a consensus of credentialed experts in the field under discussion — psychometry in Murray’s case, biology in Taylor’s — denying the position the accusee has taken. This obviously isn’t possible in the flow of an interview or debate, so the accusation works rhetorically.
It’s still low and cheap, though — a weasel word.
An academic at the University of Sheffield over there has compiled a list of the greatest instances of the British talent for understatement. The winner, at number one on the list, was the Duke of Wellington quote that I myself deployed back in January on Radio Derb. Quote from myself, quote:
“I have lost my leg, by God!” Lord Uxbridge told the Duke of Wellington on the field of Waterloo, as cannonballs whizzed by. “By God, and have you!” replied the Duke.
End quote. I’m not sure that counts as understatement. It’s more a case of British sang-froid. The same with Captain Oates, on the 1912 British expedition to Antarctica, when he decided to sacrifice himself for his colleagues by going out into a howling Antarctic blizzard as food was running low in their tent. Said Captain Oates: “I’m just going outside and may be some time.”
For superlative breathtaking understatement, I think the international crown has to go to the late Emperor of Japan, telling his subjects over the radio following the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear weapons that, quote, “The war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage,” end quote.
And see the symmetry here — marvel at the podcaster’s art! Not only have I ended where I began my first segment, in Britain, I have ended where I ended my first segment, in Japan.
You think this stuff is easy? Ha!
If Westminster Bridge’s place at the center of English consciousness needed literary reinforcement, which it really doesn’t, it got it two centuries ago from the poet William Wordsworth. Here’s a fine British actor, Ralph Fiennes, reading Wordsworth’s poem “Composed upon Westminster Bridge.”
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Ralph Fiennes reading Wordsworth’s “Composed upon Westminster Bridge.”]