John Derbyshire, as probably everyone but me already knew, has been fired by National Review. The firing was in response to a calmly written but injudiciously frank piece on Takimag on what to tell American children about race relations. Rich Lowry, in slipping the knife into his colleague's back, was surprisingly polite, confining himself to words like "nasty and indefensible." Compared to the nasty and indefensible name-calling that has been the hallmark of NR, this is almost a compliment. Wanting to think as well of Lowry as I ought to, I can only assume that he deliberately avoided terms like "racist" and "bigot" in order to avoid harming Derbyshire's damaged reputation.
On the other hand, the worst thing that John Derbyshire has done to his reputation with serious people is to associate with NR. He is intelligent, reasonably well-read, possessed of a decent prose-style and the courage of his convictions. What in the world was such a man doing in such company?
I have been telling Mr. Derbyshire this, admittedly at long intervals, for over a decade. I have also advised him that he has been too candid on race matters. There is hardly a subject on which Americans can stand to know the truth or even hear it discussed, and race heads the list of taboo subjects, taking precedence even over sex and gender issues. Even Rich Lowry, as ill-informed as he appears to be on everything under the sun worth knowing, must know that Derbyshire's arguments are the result of statistical studies, not of racial prejudice. The fact that Lowry--or anyone else at NRO--does not even try to refute them seems pretty clear proof.
Long before Rich Lowry went to National Review, the founder of the magazine had excommunicated the Birchers, Murray Rothbard, Sam Francis, and Joe Sobran. Those were the good old days, when NR still had men on the staff who would commiserate, if only in private, with the victims. I had several reassuring conversations after Mr. Buckley threatened to "excrete" Chronicles and its editors from the wholesome body of conservatism. I supposed he picked up this charming diction from the father of John Podhoretz and his friends.
I searched for comments on NRO and found none. Of the tweets I looked at, most made no comment and of those that did it was 20 to one critical of Lowry for being too polite. A million such readers add up to exactly nothing. "I'm glad I'm a beta," I can almost hear them saying, "alphas have too much responsibility and gammas are stupid."
John Derbyshire is no doubt unhappy to be out of a job, but his friends and fans can only congratulate him on his good fortune in getting away from these awful, stupid people.
Thomas Fleming is the former editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of The Politics of Human Nature, Montenegro: The Divided Land, and The Morality of Everyday Life, named Editors' Choice in philosophy by Booklist in 2005. He is the coauthor of The Conservative Movement and the editor of Immigration and the American Identity. He holds a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Rockford Institute, he taught classics at the University of Miami of Ohio, served as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Education, and was headmaster at the Archibald Rutledge Academy. He has been published in, among others, The Spectator (London), Independent on Sunday (London), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, National Review, Classical Journal, Telos, and Modern Age. He and his wife, Gail, have four children and four grandchildren.