According to the old German proverb:
Ist der Ruf erst ruiniert,
Lebt es sich ganz ungeniert.
“Once reputation is ruined, one may live unabashedly.”
John Derbyshire’s loss of respectability came in April of last year when he published a column (“The Talk—Nonblack Version”) offering advice for the young on how, when, and when not, to interact with blacks. A particularly self-congratulatory session of ritual defamation erupted over the author’s head, and National Review hastened to do its enemies’ bidding by firing him.
Even some of Mr. Derbyshire’s well-wishers were not entirely displeased with this development. Bearing in mind the German proverb, we looked forward to seeing in what direction he would go once he no longer had to look over his shoulder for approval from the guardians of American journalistic respectability. The essays now collected in From the Dissident Right tell that story.
The book starts off with the column that sparked the original two-minute hate. Most of what follows consists of pieces written over the next ten months, as well as some public addresses. There are also, however, a few columns on the national question originally written for VDare.com between 2001 and 2008. At that point, National Review scotched Mr. Derbyshire’s affiliation with VDare, resentful of editor Peter Brimelow’s candor about NR’s founding editor Bill Buckley. Among the blessings of Mr. Derbyshire’s firing has been his reemergence at VDare with a regular weekly column.
The largest aftershock to follow the original “Talk” was sparked by these words from a later VDare column: “White supremacy . . . is one of the better arrangements History has come up with.” The words I left out of the quotation are “in the sense of a society in which key decisions are made by white Europeans.” Most readers seem to have mentally edited them out in the course of reading as well. The result, for the cliché-ridden leftist mind, was something like a vision of an unkempt and tobacco-chewing Mr. Derbyshire whipping frightened darkies across scorching Mississippi cotton fields, a sadistic glint in his eye.
Of course, all Mr. Derbyshire was pointing out was that government by white Europeans tends to produce societies that persons of all races find attractive to live in, as their actions (if not words) invariably show.
Mr. Derbyshire gives “racism” the same dispassionate analysis as “white supremacy.” In a column of July, 2012, he distinguishes several possible meanings that might be attributed to the word, finding nothing morally wrong with the majority of them.
Other topics include “What’s so scary about Darwin?”, “The Roots of (White) Ethnomasochism”, “Combating Anosognosia “ (buy the book to find out what that is), and “The Future of Elite Attitudes on Race” (hint: not a mere continuation of present elite attitudes).
I was present at more than one of the live talks reproduced in this volume, and there is not one from which I did not benefit by reading the text. The moral: Even if you read all Mr. Derbyshire’s columns the day they came out, get the book anyway. You will learn more from them the second time around, and putting them all together seems to multiply their force.
As for the significance of the events that led to the publication of From the Dissident Right, I am unable to improve on what Richard Spencer wrote at the time:
The conservative movement deserves to die. And it must be fully de-legitimized before we can build something new in its place. The firing of John Derbyshire brought us a step closer.
I certainly share Mr. Devlin’s admiration for John Derbyshire, and I am pleased to publish this graceful tribute to his new book.
However, I do not share Mr. Devlin’s desire to see conventional conservatism die. National Review, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the National Rifle Association, the American Enterprise Institute, Human Events, the Eagle Forum, the Manhattan Institute, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and many other groups are run and supported by the people who are most likely to be our allies.
Of course, we regret that they either do not fully understand race or are afraid to act on what they do understand, but would America be a better place if “conservatism” disappeared? No, it would be worse. Without it, “anti-racism” would run wild, and I do not believe that the more ferociously the country becomes anti-white the better it is for us.
The truth about race is independent of politics; one can be realistic about race and be an anarchist, communist, socialist, libertarian, conventional liberal, or conventional conservative. There are many historical examples of people on the Left who had no illusions about race. However, in our own time, those who see the truth about race are more likely to come from conservatism than from anywhere else. We can hope for allies from every part of the political spectrum, but why insult the very people who are most likely to become our friends? When conservatives do foolish things we should certainly point it out but it is mean spirited–and pointless–to want the entire movement to die.
I do not see the people who have been expelled from the conventional right—Jason Richwine, Robert Weissberg, or Mr. Derbyshire himself—spitting fire at their former colleagues. I think they understand that much as we would like others to agree with us, it is not a moral failing if they don’t. I’m sure some conservatives believe what they say they believe, and that they believe we are wrong. If we win them over, it will be by convincing them, not by despising them.
Some conservatives—and even some liberals—may agree with us but dare not say so. Dissent is dangerous, and some people can live with more danger than others. Many people who read American Renaissance do not say publicly everything they believe. We might wish that they did, but each of us must decide how much risk he is willing to run.
We want only one thing: that the truth will prevail and change our society. Is the truth more likely to prevail if we lash out at people who disagree with us or if we try to understand them and act and speak in ways that might win their respect? A generous demeanor will often persuade more skeptics than irrefutable logic.
We should approach all people—on all points on the political spectrum—with hope and good will. Not many people change, but they are more likely to change if we treat them as potential brothers rather than as eternal enemies. Let us be grateful for whatever others are willing to say, and try not to reproach them for what they are not.