I recently pointed out that even though actress Jodie Foster reportedly had carefully searched out a sperm donor with an IQ of 160 to father her two children, the expected boost in her kids` IQ over what she would have gotten from a typical 100 IQ donor would fall in a range centering around merely 12 points. This is due to a pervasive phenomenon that its discoverer, Sir Francis Galton, called "regression toward mediocrity" and we now call "regression toward the mean."
Interacting with John Podhoretz, the son of long-time Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz, inevitably calls to mind Galton`s great discovery.
Last week, I noted on my iSteve.com blog some of the younger Podhoretz`s bumptious comments on National Review Online`s "Corner" free-for-all. In reaction to John Derbyshire`s concerns about the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment granting automatic birthright citizenship to the children of illegal aliens, Podhoretz blustered:
"Sorry, pal. You`re born here, you`re a citizen here. Period. That`s how it works, and thank God for it, otherwise a great deal of the advances made in the 20th century by immigrant children to the United States would not have come to pass..."
I suggested this "birthright pundit" might extend his logic like this:
"Sorry, pal. If you`re born a Podhoretz, you get to make a living offering your opinions, no matter how big of a jerk and fool you are. Period. That`s how it works, and thank God for it, otherwise a great deal of the money made in the 21st century by Podhoretz relatives would not have come to pass."
Later, out of the blue, I received an email from Podhoretz reading:
"Please keep attacking me. It`s how I know I`m not a bigoted, racist scum."
Peter Brimelow has observed how often a "racist" turns out to be someone who is winning an argument with a liberal. But with a neocon of Podhoretz the Lesser`s quality, well, you don`t even have to be arguing with him to be "a bigoted, racist scum." I`m not exactly sure what "a … scum" is, but, clearly, Pod No Like. I replied:
"Such wit, such eloquence, such insight!"
He fired back:
"If you think I lack them, I imagine you think I have too much melanin in my skin."
Hoo-boy! You got me there!
Thoroughly enjoying shooting fish in a barrel, I answered:
"How do you come up with such devastating comebacks? Do you keep a half-dozen Nobel Laureates on staff, or do you, somehow, just make these up all by yourself?"
While Podhoretz Minor might be an extreme example, he reflects the intellectual decline of neoconservatism from the first generation to the second. While the formidable father has often provoked fury, the son has mostly elicited laughter. Hanna Rosin reported in 1998:
... around the Washington Times offices, the [Podhoretz] column was often read out loud in Podhoretz`s absence, for comic value, in a ritual famously called Podenfreude ....
Norman Podhoretz was somewhat anomalous among the first generation of neoconservatives, such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Nathan Glazer, and James Q. Wilson, because he was trained as a literary critic rather than a social scientist. But like them, and like later neoconservatives such as Charles Murray, he had some audacious things to say about race.
"[F]or a long time I was puzzled to think that Jews were supposed to be rich when the only Jews I knew were poor, and that Negroes were supposed to be persecuted when it was the Negroes who were doing the only persecuting I knew about—and doing it, moreover, to me… [It] was the whites, the Italians and Jews, who feared the Negroes, not the other way around."
Thirty years later, the elder Podhoretz reflected on the controversy his article about "black thuggery" had caused:
"In 1963 those descriptions were very shocking to most white liberals. In their eyes Negroes were all long-suffering and noble victims of the kind who had become familiar through the struggles of the civil rights movement in the South, the "heroic period" of the movement, as one if its most heroic leaders, Bayard Rustin, called it. While none of my white critics went so far as to deny the truthfulness of the stories I told, they themselves could hardly imagine being afraid of Negroes (how could they when the only Negroes most of them knew personally were maids and cleaning women?). In any case they very much disliked the emphasis I placed on black thuggery and aggression.
"Today, when black-on-white violence is much more common than it was then, many white readers could easily top those stories with worse. And yet even today few of them would be willing to speak truthfully in public about their entirely rational fear of black violence and black crime. Telling the truth about blacks remains dangerous to one`s reputation: to use that now famous phrase I once appropriated from D.H. Lawrence in talking about ambition, the fear of blacks has become the dirty little secret of our political culture. And since a dirty little secret breeds hypocrisy and cant in those who harbor it, I suppose it can still be said that most whites are sick and twisted in their feelings about blacks, albeit in a very different sense that they were in 1963."
Time for John Podhoretz to email to his father accusing him of being "a bigoted, racist scum."!