Sunday, April 15, 2012

Can We Talk?

John O'Sullivan has a lengthy, but rewarding piece on the recent firing of John Derbyshire by National Review. It's probably the most thoughtful, balanced, and well-reasoned opinion on the matter that I've read so far. Derb and Discourse:

Moreover, I fear that Mark Steyn is right in saying that Derb’s departure will further narrow the already narrow limits of acceptable debate in American intellectual life. The tumbrils are already rolling, with Elspeth Reeve at the Atlantic Wire denouncing Victor Davis Hanson on obscure grounds and calling for a campaign to drive “racist” writers from their jobs. Driving people from their jobs, causing them to lose health insurance, bringing distress to their spouses and children — this seems a curious ambition for a young journalist of (presumably) liberal bent. Fifty years ago liberals denounced McCarthy for driving people from their jobs because, as Communists, they were supporting a state that was genocidal at the time. They raged against “guilt by association.” Are they now anxious to have their own witch-hunts against racists? But who will define “racist”? Will it be Ms. Reeve? Or a committee of public safety? Set up by whom? And will Ms. Reeve herself have to appear before this tribunal, having written several times for Taki’s Magazine and being therefore a colleague of Derb’s at one remove and so guilty by association? To get the nasty and vicious flavor of this enterprise, read the comments from the Internet Left where perhaps the most common theme is that National Review fired John because we are racists attempting to conceal our racism that he made uncomfortably explicit. There’s no pleasing such people, and we shouldn’t try pleasing them anyway.

That's the biggest problem that I have with the way that NR responded to this incident. Firing Derbyshire won't placate those who view any perspective that doesn't toe the standard "diversity is our strength" line as racist. It will only encourage them to seek out more scalps they can add to their tally.

The real shame in all this is that for all the talk of the need for America to have an open and honest discussion of race, once anyone comes out with an opinion that deviates from the accepted current day orthodoxy on the subject their voice is immediately deemed to be illegitimate and outside the bounds. Wouldn’t we be better off debating the merits of what Derbyshire said instead of rushing to the judgment that he shouldn’t have said anything at all?