Derb's February Diary: Adam Rutherford's "Racist Myths," Basil's Namesakes, Fury vs. Wilder, Etc. (12 ITEMS)
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Our dumb ruling class.     In discussions of our ongoing Cold Civil War between the goodwhite Tutsi ruling class and us badwhite Hutu deplorables, it's often observed that we understand them much better that they understand us. Of course we do: We perforce live in their mental world, while they only cast occasional disapproving glances at ours.

This came to mind when I was reading about Tutsi propagandist Adam Rutherford, who has a new book out this month. The book's title is How to Argue With a Racist. Rutherford, a geneticist, is keen for us to know that there is No Such Thing As Race (NOSTAR). It's all a fig newton of your imagination!

I read Steve Sailer's February 19th review of Rutherford's book over at Taki's Magazine. That didn't stir my interest sufficiently to make me want to read the book itself, but I did do some idle browsing around in related topics. Among the websites my eye fell on was one belonging to BBC Radio, promoting some talks Rutherford is giving about his book. The website lists "Five Racist Myths Well And Truly Debunked" by Dr. Rutherford.

OK, what are these racist myths that we benighted Hutus lug around in our tiny blood-starved brains, that Dr. Rutherford has "well and truly debunked"?

1.  The DNA of white and black people is completely different.

Say what? "Completely different" like the DNA of an elephant and a slime mold? Is there a literate human being anywhere who believes that?

2.  There is such a thing as "racial purity."

That's a big thing with the NOSTAR crowd. We Hutus are obsessed with the notion of racial purity, they believe.

I wouldn't rule out the possibility that there are people thus obsessed. Human beings nurse all kinds of odd obsessions. I will testify, though, that after twenty years of hanging out with fellow race-realist Hutus—reading their blogs, joining their online discussion groups, reviewing their books, attending their conferences, sometimes addressing those conferences, I can't recall a single conversation or talk about racial purity. To the best of my awareness, it's not a thing on the Dissident Right.

3.  England is for the English.

"In truth, Britain has been steadily invaded throughout its history and has become home to migrants since it became an island around 7,500 years ago!"

So being invaded—having foreign people enter your nation in quantity and settle there, displacing those currently resident, frequently killing off their menfolk and taking their women—this is natural, inevitable, and not to be resisted? The hell you say.

4.  A genealogy test can prove someone is 100 percent white.

See number 2 above.

5.  Black people are better at running than white people.

Which black people? Surely not the 300-lb Momma who snarled at me across the DMV counter the other week. We race realists prefer to express statistical truths in properly statistical language, not in airy generalizations.

Derb's restatement of Rutherford's racist myth number 5.

At the furthest right tails of the running-ability distributions—both for sprinting and for distance running—runners of sub-Saharan black ancestry are strongly over-represented.

We have several decades-worth of statistics on this topic now, from the Olympics and other athletic competitions. Do the numbers support my restatement, or not? (Steve covers this in his review, and elsewhere.)

For a tribe that occupies all the commanding heights of our culture and civilization, goodwhite Tutsis often seem kind of dumb.

(Also illiterate. From that same BBC Radio website:  "Two people from different tribes in Southern Africa will be more genetically different from each other than a Britain, a Sri Lankan and a Maori."  Uh, there are three people in that last clause, not two; and "Britain" should be "Briton." Are there really people writing copy for the British Broadcasting Corporation who have never sung "Rule Britannia"? Of course there are!)


Martial arts.     How many adult Americans can name the world heavyweight boxing champion, I wonder?

I read somewhere that in the years before World War Two the most popular spectator sports in America were boxing and horse-racing. Neither sport has much purchase on the public imagination nowadays. They exist, of course, and have their devotees, but they're rarely newsworthy.

The February 22nd heavyweight championship fight between Briton (yes!) Tyson Fury and American Deontay Wilder got basically no coverage in my print edition of the New York Post. I had to go to the online version to read about it. It seems to have been a nice little earner for the pay-per-view companies (whose customers apparently include our President), but back in the day it would have been the sporting event of the year.

Eh, times change, I guess. My sentimental fondness for boxing aside, I'm not really much of a sports fan, anyway. Sure, throwing a ball through a hoop from twenty yards away is kind of impressive, and so is whacking a hockey puck past a guy on ice skates. For sporting spectacle, though, watching two very large guys punch each other in the head until one of them falls down, is hard to beat. In my opinion.


Gulled at the opera.     I'm an opera fan. I can't afford a Met membership, but I have friends who can, and they get tickets for dress rehearsals. These dress rehearsals take place in the midday hours when most people have to work; so my friends often can't use their tickets, and generously gift them to me.

I'm glad to get them. A dress rehearsal is very little different from the real thing. If the conductor finds some fault, he'll stop the show and make them do it over. This doesn't happen much, though. Also, singers—especially older ones, who have learned caution—often don't sing full voice at a dress rehearsal, saving their best for the full performance. On the whole, though, a dress rehearsal is nearly as good as an actual performance. And hey, the price is right.

So it was that around ten o'clock on the morning of February 3rd I was striding across the Lincoln Center plaza bearing two tickets for the dress rehearsal of Handel's Agrippina, superstar soprano Joyce DiDonato in the title role. These tickets always come in twos, for adjacent seats, and had been gifted to me thus. I'd invited a friend to join me, but at the last minute he couldn't make it.

Halfway across the plaza I was approached by a very sweet-looking old lady—tiny, wrinkled, silver hair, heavy Slavic accent—who begged to know if I perchance had a spare ticket for the dress rehearsal. I said I did, and was so charmed by her and by her touching desire to worship at the altar of Handel, I just gave her my spare ticket. She was effusively grateful. I continued on my way glowing with charitable righteousness.

Taking my seat, I of course expected to see the object of my charity take the seat next to me. No: It was taken by a much larger, much younger lady. I suppose—I didn't ask—granny had sold my ticket forward for a profit.

Telling the story to my wife and son over dinner that evening, I got a mocking blast from Mrs. Derbyshire, who has the Third Worlder's scorn for rich-world gulls. My son, who is a cynic, said that my sweet little old lady was probably part of a gang run out of Moscow.


Things I want to know.     Since the Chinese word for "saliva" is 口水 kou-shui, literally "mouth-water," why isn't the Chinese word for "snot" 鼻水 bi-shui, literally "nose-water"? Instead it is 鼻涕 bi-ti, "nose-tears."


Finding the Mindy    It's a complex world we live in: So complex, it has generated a whole category of situations that I think of to myself under the heading: "Find the Mindy."

Mindy (which is not her real name: which does not in fact have a single letter in common with her real name) is a middle-aged lady who works at my local chain-store pharmacy. She knows all the innumerable loops, tangles, and anfractuosities of retail pharmaceutics.

Mrs. Derbyshire was going into the village to do some shopping. I asked her to pick up a prescription I'd phoned in. I gave her a magic card that Mindy had told me about, a card identifying me as a member of something called the Janssen CarePath Savings Program. "Just show them this," I told the Mrs. "Then it'll only be a ten-dollar co-pay."

She came home with no medications. "They wanted fifty dollars co-pay," she said.

Me: "Did you show them the card?"

She: "Of course. They insisted it was fifty dollars."

Me: "Was Mindy there?"

She: "No."

I went down to the pharmacy to argue with them anyway. There were two young women on duty, Mindy not to be seen. "We looked you up on the computer," one young woman told me. "It's fifty dollars." What about the card? "It doesn't apply. We looked it up. Fifty dollars!" If it was ten dollars last month and ten dollars the month before, how come it's suddenly fifty dollars? "I don't know. That's what the computer says." I tried to remonstrate, but they just got snippier.

Next day I drove down there mid-morning. No Mindy. I went down again mid-afternoon. Still no Mindy. At half past four I tried again—Mindy was on duty!

I explained the situation and showed Mindy the card. She rolled her eyes and fiddled with her computers. "Yes," she said at last, "ten dollars is right. I've added a note to your record so in future they'll know."

Moral of the story: A great many situations in our world are too complex for middling-IQ drones working from a one-page script. To get things done properly, you have to find the Mindy—the one person who knows how the system works.

I don't engage much nowadays with other spheres of complexity, but my guess would be that Finding the Mindy is especially necessary in healthcare.


Basilolatry.     So how is the new puppy settling in? readers want to know.

Just fine, is the answer: happy, healthy, and affectionate. He's not totally house-trained yet, but he shows proper remorse for his occasional delinquencies, and when the warm weather comes so we can open the doggy door, we are sure he'll practice proper discipline.

I'm still surprised at how many people I meet who don't know that Basil is a guy's name. It seems to be even more Brit-specific than "Nigel." When people do know, Basil Rathbone is the only one they can come up with.

I have been idly, unsystematically collecting other Basils to offer to people in evidence.

Fictional Basils:

  • Basil Fawlty, of course.

  • Basil Brush, a feature of British children's TV for many years. I think he's a squirrel.

  • Basil Milbank in P.G. Wodehouse's 1920 novel The Coming of Bill.

    "It was not so long ago, she reflected with pride, that she had induced Ruth to refuse to marry Basil Milbank—a considerable feat, he being a young man of remarkable personal attractions and a great match in every way. Mrs. Porter's objection to him was that his father had died believing to the last that he was a teapot.

    "There is nothing evil or degrading in believing oneself a teapot, but it argues a certain inaccuracy of the thought processes; and Mrs. Porter had used all her influence with Ruth to make her reject Basil."

  • The first-person protagonist of Wilkie Collins' novel Basil. We don't know his surname.

    "Circumstances which will appear hereafter, have forced me to abandon my father's name. I have been obliged in honour to resign it; and in honour I abstain from mentioning it here …"

Real Basils:

The Basil I am most pleased to have uncovered was a real one: Mick Jagger's dad.

(The European name Basil derives from Greek βασιλειος, "royal." A friend who knows Arabic, however, tells me that basil means "lion" in that language, and is used as a male forename. The best-known recent example was Basil (spelled "Bassel" on Wikipedia) al-Assad, elder son of Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria 1971-2000. Basil died in a car crash, 1994. His brother Bashar got the dictator job, and still has it.)


The 10,000-th Spectator    Highbrow print journalism is not dead yet. The London Spectator is still with us, and coming up to its ten-thousandth issue. That's a heck of a run for a magazine.

David Butterfield has written a commemorative book: 10,000 Not Out: The History of The Spectator 1828-2020. The book doesn't appear until April 23rd, which I think is the date of the magazine's ten-thousandth issue, but you can pre-order it from Amazon.

When, sixty years ago, I started paying attention to such things, the Spectator was in serious disfavor among the cool crowd of postulant intellectuals. It was, we were told—I never deigned to check—a periodical for elderly Anglican clergymen in remote village parsonages. As a young lefty, I read the New Statesman instead.

By my thirties, more mature and of course more conservative, I found the Spectator now suited my taste, and I kept up a subscription for many years. I became an occasional contributor: I recorded my marriage in the pages of the Spectator. However, the last piece they commissioned from me was rejected by Boris Johnson, then the editor, in 2005. I dropped my subscription soon afterwards.

No hard feelings, guys. Congratulations to the Speccie on its upcoming ten-thousandth! Onwards and upwards to issue number one million, round about September of a.d. 20993.


Remembering Bertrand Russell.     I mentioned teapots back there somewhere. The most famous teapot in philosophy belonged to Bertrand Russell.

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense.

I have no head for academic philosophy and leave you to make up your own mind about Russell's teapot. I would, though, like to note—if only because no one else seems to have noted it—that February 2nd was the 50th anniversary of Russell's death, from influenza, at age 97.

That was shortly after the publication of his autobiography, in three volumes, 1967-69. I was then in my early twenties, still a lefty, an avid reader, and primed by having had to engage with Whitehead and Russell's Principia Mathematica in my Foundations of Mathematics course at university. I loved the autobiography, and still quote it—I quoted the incident with Gladstone to a friend just the other day.

Now, looking back, I can see that Russell was sometimes silly, sometimes vain, and sometimes wrong. I have never been able to dislike the guy, though. After that university course, some of my classmates cooked up a vague plan to go and visit Russell at his home in Penrhyndeudraeth. He was known to be hospitable to young admirers, if given fair notice. The scheme fell through for some reason. I have always regretted it.


Bernie Sanders explained.     Also fifty years ago this month, I bought my first house, in London. To be precise, I and my then-girlfriend co-bought it. It was a three-bedroom row-house in a quiet street, with a garden out back. We easily got a mortgage.

We were two working-class kids not long out of college. (We'd both graduated in 1967.) Our two families had a combined net worth of … zero. And we bought a house—in London! The asking price was three times my annual salary as a young cube jockey.

An equivalent property today will set you back about £450,000. That's three times £150,000. Do young data professionals two years out of college make £150,000 a year in London today? In their dreams!

Corresponding figures apply in America. Right there you have an explanation for the radicalism of young adults and the "OK, Boomer" sourness.


Things I haven't done.     Yes, I hate Twitter, too. After forty years as a freelance writer, if I have anything to say that anyone wants to hear, I expect to get paid for it.

But like the rest of youse, I can't resist browsing the fool thing in idle moments. For once I'm glad I did.

This was bouncing around—or "twouncing," whatever the verb is.

Give yourself one point for each thing you haven't done

1. Skipped school.
2. Broken a bone.
3. Fired a gun.
4. Done drugs.
5. Been in a limo.
6. Gotten a tattoo.
7. Ridden a horse.
8. Sung karaoke.
9. Gotten a ticket.
10. Been arrested.
11. Gone ziplining.
12. Been on TV.
13. Been on a cruise.
14. Gotten a piercing.
15. Smoked.
16. Met a celeb.
17. Been skydiving.
18. Had a 1-night stand.
19. Skinny-dipped.
20. Been drunk.

I scored just two (6, 14). Judging by other people's responses, assuming they are responding honestly, that puts me way down at some low percentile.

Occasionally I get depressed thinking what a humdrum affair my life has been. I've never swum the Hellespont, dated a movie star, rescued a child from a burning building, commanded men in battle, written a good poem, won a thousand dollars at poker, taken tea with Bertrand Russell, or had a mathematical theorem named after me.

But hey, just two! Looks like I've lived a little after all.


Fiction of the month    Novelist Charles Portis died February 17th at age 86. I'd never heard of the guy, but an acquaintance of mine turns out to be a huge Portis fan. He enthused at length about Portis's writerly prowess.

Always ready to try good fiction, I bought a copy of Portis's best-known novel, True Grit (1968). Yes, it's good. From the afterword by Donna Tartt in my Overlook Press edition:

Portis is such a genius of a literary mimic that the book reads less like a novel than a first-hand account: the Wild West of the 1870s, as recollected in a spinster's memory and filtered through the sedate sepia tones of the early 1900s. [The first-person protagonist's] narrative tone is naïve, didactic, hard-headed, and completely lacking in self-consciousness—and, at times, unintentionally hilarious …

Now I have to see the John Wayne movie, which somehow I never did.


Math Corner    Returning, by steps, to the theme of my opening segment, I note for the umpteenth time how wearying it is to engage in Adam Rutherford-type discussions about race differences with people who are statistically illiterate. (Rutherford probably isn't, but to judge from Steve's review he might as well be.) An astonishing number of people don't understand words like "average" or "outlier," or even (I'm sometimes driven to thinking) the difference in meaning between the words "some," "many," and "all."

My pal who blogs as PostTenureTourettes voiced similar frustrations a couple of years ago in a post headed Latent Variable Fallacy.

The latent variable fallacy ignores possible hidden variables controlling (apparently) causally unrelated surface features. Fringe claims of melanin directly causing criminality notwithstanding, the HBD argument for racial disparities on behavioral traits holds up perfectly well without direct causation. All you need is a latent variable (genes) controlling both melanin and aggression levels.

PTT offers the following brainteaser. The answer to the easy part is actually in the post I just linked to.

Arnold and Barney are two doctors who have never met or communicated in any way. Miraculously, they manage to agree on 99 percent of all of their patient diagnoses! [For the purpose of this puzzle, each patient is two-sided coin that lands on HEALTHY or SICK with some probability—not necessarily with fair odds, or even the same odds for each patient. The patients are statistically independent, and each patient gets diagnosed once by each doctor.]

1. (easy) How do they manage such a high rate of agreement without any communication?

2. (trickier) Given the information above, what quantitative conclusion can you draw about Arnold and Barney's diagnostic abilities?

And now, to close the Rutherford circle, here are the top scorers in the 2019 Putnam Mathematical Competition for undergraduates in the U.S.A. and Canada, held December 7th. Top five scorers, surname only, alphabetic order:

Sah, Sun, Yao, Zhang, Zhu.

Next eleven:

Ardeishar, Bhattacharya, Gu, Lin, Liu, Peng, Ren, Schildkraut, Singhal, Yao, Zhao.

Next twelve:

Gao, Kim, Kim, Lin, Liu, Liu, Nichani, Ren, Rong, Tang, Wang, Zhang.

All together now, repeat after me: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS RACE!


John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him.) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He has had two books published by com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT II: ESSAYS 2013.

For years he’s been podcasting at Radio Derb, now available at for no charge. His writings are archived at

Readers who wish to donate (tax deductible) funds specifically earmarked for John Derbyshire's writings at can do so here.


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