03m13s A random act of violence. (Strange paucity of news reports.)
09m29s Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior. (Facebook bans Unz Review.)
20m13s Pathological moralization. (Immigration today, immigration tomorrow, immigration forever.)
26m38s The war against the past. (The un-personing of Nathan Bedford Forrest.)
32m39s Virtue signalling from Congress. (Couldn't they go on pilgrimage instead?)
34m43s Coronavirus unknowns, cont. (The case for epistemic humility.)
38m00s Heather Mac visits Yale. (The Woke Spa.)
40m46s Signoff. (RIP Little Richard.)
Commentating is a strange kind of business. You labor to work up erudite thousand-word articles on matters of public concern, and three emails come in as response, one of them intended for a different recipient. Then you throw off a couple of hundred words about your dog, and the emails pour in like the Red Sea on Pharaoh's chariots.
I actually like this, in a philosophical way. Public affairs are dominated by bores and monomaniacs. Normal people give over their thoughts and feelings mostly to private life: to family, work, and hobbies.
I've never been able to take the phrase "low-information voter" altogether seriously as an insult. Yes, we should keep ourselves decently well-informed about what our government is doing; but if we have to devote big chunks of our time to political participation, that's a sign we have way too much government. Which, alas, we currently have.
I touched on this theme in my "Social Distancing" vidcast with Peter Brimelow this week. What's been coming back at me confirms my happiest beliefs about my fellow men. A high proportion of incoming emails have been in praise of Basil, the Derb family puppy. He's cute, people want to tell me. Well, yes he is, and he thanks you for noticing.
In response to several queries, Basil is a mix of schnauzer and rat terrier, with small contributions from other breeds. He has a web page of his own at johnderbyshire.com, under "Family Album."
OK, on to public affairs— to "great matters under Heaven," as Chinese people say. What's been going on?
02— A random act of violence. Pretty much every morning, weather permitting, Paul and Lidia Marino, an elderly Italian-American couple from Elkton, Maryland, would drive the five miles to Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery, just across the border in, of course, Delaware. They would visit the grave of their son Anthony, who died three years ago at age 54.
Anthony was not himself a veteran. His Dad Paul was, though, and the cemetery rules allow disabled adult children of veterans to take a plot. Anthony had been born with cerebral palsy and suffered wretched health all his life. Paul and Lidia, both in their mid-eighties, married more than sixty years, had cared for Anthony until he died in 2017. They were helped by their older twin sons, Paul Junior and Ray.
Paul Senior worked in the printing industry for decades before retiring in 1994. Lidia was what we used to call a home-maker: cooking, shopping, minding the kids, keeping the house clean. She and Paul were both hobbyists: Lidia, like my own Mum, loved needlework, Paul painted and played guitar.
It's a touching little bit of Americana: a close, busy, loving family, like a dozen you and I know, minding their business and facing life's misfortunes with courage, humanity, and grit.
So there was this couple, he 86 and she 85, crossing the cemetery on their way to Anthony's grave on the morning of May 8th as they had done hundreds of times before.
Twenty-nine-year-old Sheldon Francis, a black man dressed entirely in black, with a black face mask, came up behind them and shot them both with a handgun. Lidia was shot first, and died at the scene. Paul was shot in the head, presumably after just seeing his wife shot; he died later in hospital.
The killer, Sheldon Francis, ran off into some nearby woods. He had a good-quality rifle with him and plenty of ammo, which suggests some planning beforehand. There was a standoff with police and a firefight. When Francis had been silent for a while, cops went into the woods and found him dead of a gunshot wound. Whether the wound was self-inflicted or the result of police shooting, we don't know.
A horrible end to two lives well lived, and a third that would have been better not lived at all. Plainly a homicide, though, so we're naturally curious to know the motive.
Let's see: Italian Americans— is there a mob connection? Given what we know about the couple's life, and about the killer, it seems highly improbable. Was Sheldon Francis a disgruntled employee or contractor? Again, that's a bit of a stretch, given what we know.
We don't know much, though. About Sheldon Francis, we know almost nothing. I have been doggedly googling all week and still can't find out anything about him. He must have some kind of rap sheet; the news pictures of him are obvious law-enforcement mugshots. What does the rap sheet say? Was he married or single? How did he make a living?
Google … Google … Google … nothing. I just tried again, putting a filter on the Google search for "past week." There's a flurry of "Gunman Identified" items from four or five days ago, no new details. I changed the filter to "past 24 hours": twelve hits on Sheldon Francis, but still no new information. We're no wiser about possible motives.
Hm. Let's try a different shooter: Travis McMichael, the white guy who shot a black guy in Brunswick, Georgia, news of which came out just the day before the Marinos were killed. Filter to "past week": hoo boy, "about 210,000 results" says Google. Let's change the filter to "past 24 hours." "About 32,000," says Google.
That Travis McMichael is some media star: nearly three thousand times bigger than Sheldon Francis.
03— Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior. This website, VDARE.com, is of course focused on immigration. We try to move the public discussion of immigration policy in the direction of more restrictive laws and better enforcement of current laws: most hopefully, in the current dire economic situation, to a moratorium, with of course a few thousand obvious exceptions per annum— spouse and minor children of U.S. citizens, and some others.
Our problem is that immigration policy has been moralized, in fact hyper-moralized. If you hold this view of immigration, you are a good person; if you hold that view, you are a bad person, a very bad person.
To a lot of us, this seems nuts. Immigration is just a policy, like farm price supports or how many aircraft carriers to have. We should argue the pros and cons in our public spaces and come to some kind of conclusion as to what's the best policy for us as a nation, for Americans.
This cold, practical approach is common among immigrants, like myself and Peter Brimelow. We know, because we've been through it, that immigration is just a process, like getting a driver's license or finding a job. There are forms to be filled out, interviews, a house moving, … all a bit of a chore, but worth it to improve your life, with the other party's consent of course.
To a lot of native citizens, people who haven't been through the process, the topic of immigration dwells in a cloudy realm of myth and magic: a moralized realm, where Good is at war with Evil.
Native citizens know nothing about the process. Why should they? I know nothing about the process of getting a license to sell liquor. I've never wanted to sell liquor. We only have so much room in our heads for things to bother about. Other things are just aery wisps and fantasies, susceptible to moralistic coloring.
For example: I wasn't much surprised to see the other day that Texas Representative Dan Crenshaw did not know about the 1965 Immigration Act. He didn't just not know the details, he seems not to have heard of the Act at all.
Congressman Crenshaw is actually not American-born. He was born in Scotland; but to American parents, and came back to the states when an infant, a citizen from birth, so has had no real engagement with the immigration process. Why should he know about the 1965 Act?
There is all kinds of legislation I don't know about. Those farm price supports, for instance: Was there some key federal law passed sixty years ago that totally changed the whole process? Don't ask me, I've never been a farmer.
You may say that as a congressman with a master's degree in public administration, Rep. Crenshaw ought to be better informed. Well, yeah, he really ought to be; but Rep. Crenshaw's a young guy, and congressfolk, like the rest of us, only have so much room in their heads. I'll cut him some slack … not much, but some.
And then, the fact of immigration policy having been so intensely moralized deters a lot of people from engaging with it. If you want a quiet life, there are zones of public discussion best avoided. Immigration is not a respectable subject.
The other day I was reading Ron Unz's column about his website, The Unz Review, getting banned from Facebook. Why was it banned? Ron did some digging and turned up a report out of Facebook itself, title: April 2020 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report.
What, according to Facebook, is Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior? Quote:
Coordinated campaigns that seek to manipulate public debate.
Eh? Doesn't every kind of opinion outlet seek to "manipulate public debate"? Isn't that what opinion outlets are for?
Is it the "coordinated" that brings down the wrath of Facebook? So if Joe and Sally put their heads together offline, then go to their Facebook accounts and post similar opinions, Facebook will shut them both down? Really? And does that apply to all opinions about public policy, or only certain particular opinions?
The Facebook report provides an answer to that last question. There are only two references to The Unz Review, both identically worded, referring to a "network" that Facebook claims to have identified, a network that is carrying out, quote, "suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior ahead of the 2020 election in the U.S.," end quote.
The precise references read as follows, quote:
Our investigation linked this network to VDARE, a website known for posting anti-immigration content, and individuals associated with a similar website The Unz Review.
"Coordinated inauthentic behavior," eh? As a contributor to VDARE.com across twenty years, whose posts are frequently cross-posted to The Unz Review, I object strongly to my contributions being tagged "inauthentic." I am sometimes wrong, like any other opinionator, but I have always written and said what I believe to be true, based on such evidence as I can muster. How are my posts "inauthentic," Zuck?
"Coordinated" I suppose means that before putting finger to keyboard or voice to mike, I check with Party Center to be sure I have the correct "line" for this week. I wouldn't want to get caught out saying we're at war with Eurasia when, according to the Center, we have always been at war with Eastasia.
Of course I do no such thing. The only people who think in those terms and make those accusations are people who themselves are in thrall to a totalitarian ideology— people who cannot believe, cannot even imagine, that free-thinking human beings might reasonably disagree with what the ideology dictates. People like Mark Zuckerberg, or whichever one of his minions composed this report.
But just go back to that last actual reference in the Facebook report. Re-quote:
Our investigation linked this network to VDARE, a website known for posting anti-immigration content, and individuals associated with a similar website The Unz Review.
We are "a website known for posting anti-immigration content." And that is wrong. We are bad people.
Immigration is not a topic on which different opinions can reasonably be held, pro and con. If you're pro (as, in fact, Ron Unz himself is) you are a good person, and welcome to the public forum. If you are con, or if you run a website that cross-posts "anti-immigration content," then you are a limb of Satan, to be cast into the pit.
04— Pathological moralization. This hyper-moralization of the immigration issue has major consequences for national policy. Here are a couple of examples: one from the U.S.A., the second from Britain.
As you've probably heard, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is today, Friday, considering a bill to tackle the massive economic dislocations caused by all the shutdowns and lockdowns we've been going through. The bill is heavy on pro-immigration measures.
Yes: While north of thirty million Americans are out of work, Congress is busy making it easier for foreign guest workers to come in, for existing guest workers to advance to permanent residence, and for illegal aliens to avoid deportation.
This is a simply astonishing position for a national legislature to take: a brazen, shameless, criticize-us-if-you-dare preference for the interests of foreigners over the interests of citizens. And of course very few persons in positions of respectable authority will dare to criticize it. To do so would be "anti-immigration," and that would be evil, hateful, xenophobic. Facebook says so.
I said in the previous segment that the immigration topic has been hyper-moralized. This bill is so crazy, it seems to me we have now passed beyond that, into a zone of pathological moralization.
Over to Britain, where the Office of National Statistics has released a report on population change in the year from mid-2018 to mid-2019.
Headline figure: The population increased by 361,000. That's more than half a percent in just one year.
The report breaks down the numbers. Thirty-five percent of the increase, 129,000, is natural increase, which is to say, births minus deaths. The rest, 231,000, came from net migration— immigrants minus emigrants. Non-EU immigrants, a high proportion of them blacks and Muslims, clocked up 250,000 immigrants, the highest level since 2004.
Bottom line here: After decades— at least five decades— of British people, when polled, saying they want less immigration, the Third Worlders continue to pour in. There have been elections, successions of Prime Ministers of various stripes; there have been economic expansions and recessions; there have been wars and terrorism; and through it all the immigrants have been pouring in, as if immigration were a force of nature no government can control.
From 2001 to the middle of last year, population density in the U.K. went from 632 per square mile to 712. That's a 14 percent increase in a small, crowded country across eighteen years. In London the increase was 22 percent.
Nobody wanted this and nobody much likes it, except of course the immigrant foreigners. It just happens, like the weather. Politicians are helpless. There's no way they can control who comes to settle in their island. No way! It's impossible!
05— The war against the past. Seven years ago I published a piece at Taki's Magazine about Confederate cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest. I'd been binge-reading about the Civil War and someone directed my attention to Andrew Lytle's biography of the man, published in 1931.
Forrest really gets your attention. A rough-and-ready fighting man in the old frontier tradition, he was not only fearless but also fear-some: not a man you'd want to mess with one on one, and a brilliant field commander.
As I noted in my article, Forrest took, quote:
a leadership position in the Ku Klux Klan right after the war, when the Klan was founded as a resistance movement against the lawlessness of Reconstruction. When, by 1869, Klan groups had descended into terrorism, Forrest was instrumental in disbanding them. In his final years— he died in 1877— he got religion and spoke for racial reconciliation.
There used to be a park in Memphis, Tennessee named after Forrest. It contained a big equestrian statue of the commander; he and his wife were buried right by the statue. The monument was dedicated just 115 years ago tomorrow: May 16th, 1905.
In the 21st century, as our Cultural Revolution got seriously under way, there was agitation to un-person Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest Park was renamed Health Sciences Park in 2013. In 2015 the Memphis City Council voted to remove the Forrest monument from the park. The move was, however, blocked by the Tennessee Historical Commission.
In 2017, when the Cold Civil War got warmer following the police-assisted Antifa riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, Memphis City Council sold the park to Memphis Greenspace, a non-profit outfit created to, quote, "promote parkland … in Tennessee." Memphis Greenspace is headed up by an activist black attorney named Van Turner, Jr.
The sale of the cemetery, at the strikingly low price of one thousand dollars, took place on December 20th 2017. Forrest's statue was moved out that very evening. It is "currently in the possession of the Sons of Confederate Veterans," according to Wikipedia, but I don't know how they acquired it.
This week we learned that the bodies of Forrest and his wife will also be removed from the park. This follows litigation between the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the SCV, and Memphis Greenspace. Apparently the SCV has in mind to install both monument and corpses in a new Forrest Park, details not yet final.
The litigation that has brought about this result seems to have been conducted in a collegial and gentlemanly way, as you'd expect from the South. We don't live in a collegial and gentlemanly age, though. How are the SCV going to protect monument and graves from Antifa vandalizers in their new park, and park visitors from assault by crazed Cultural Marxists? Presumably they have some kind of security in mind. I hope it's good.
The title of my Taki's Magazine piece, the piece I started out by mentioning, was: "The War Against the Past." That's what we have here: the wanton obliteration of our nation's history, in service of a brutal and ignorant ideology.
As our VDARE.com tweetmaster tweeted out on Wednesday, tweet:
How long until this mindset forces Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and other Founding Fathers to be exhumed?
If patriots don't join forces to stamp out this vandalism, we shall find out.
This is the umpteenth attempt to get a federal anti-lynching law on the books, the first back in 1900, but it seems to have a better chance than previous efforts. The Senate has yet to consider it; but they voted approval of a similar measure last year, so hopes are high.
You may find yourself thinking: "Wait a minute— isn't homicide a crime in every jurisdiction? Why do we need a federal law against some ill-defined subset of homicides? What happened to the old Anglo-Saxon prohibition on double jeopardy?"
If you do find yourself thinking that, you are badly out of date. A prohibition on double jeopardy? That ship sailed long ago, when the bogus, illogical, and unconstitutional concept of "hate crime" slithered onto the statute books.
Our national life would be much improved if the congressweasels could find a way to signal their virtue to us by some other method than passing unnecessary and obnoxious new laws. Perhaps we could bring back the old custom of making long pilgrimages to foreign shores and distant shrines. The more distant, the better, would be my hope.
Item: I guess I should include some virus news. This item isn't actually news so much as thoughtful commentary that fits into my theme about the deep state of ignorance we're still in regarding this new virus.
The commentator here is Jacob Sullum, writing at Reason magazine. The title of his piece is 8 Possible Reasons for the Huge International Differences in COVID-19 Deaths. The sub-title is, "For each plausible theory, there are puzzling counterexamples."
Indeed there are. For example, as Radio Derb has noted, Africa seems to be getting off lightly. Why?
Two obvious possibilities are the age structure of the population— Africa has very low median age, around 20— and climate, the coronaviruses seeming not to like warmth and humidity.
Hoo-kay, says Sullum: But age-wise, what about Iran, median age 32, and Ecuador, median age 28? Both those numbers are way lower than hard-hit places like Japan (48) and Europe (around 43). Yet both are major crisis spots for COVID-19.
Some of the worst outbreaks in the developing world have been in places like the Amazonas region of Brazil, as tropical a place as any.
Population density, with New York City as Exhibit A? Sullum again, quote:
Densely populated cities such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Bangkok, New Delhi, and Lagos have not seen anything like the cases and deaths reported in New York.
Yep, there's a great deal we don't yet understand here. That's not at all surprising: You don't get to know all there is to know about a new virus in three months.
I hope our understanding will improve; I hope that, with all the intense research that must be going on world-wide, there'll be a vaccine in record time. In the meantime, the posture that gets most respect from me is one of epistemic humility.
Heather is writing in the Spring issue of City Journal on the topic, title of her column, The Therapeutic Campus.
She is writing mainly about the Good Life Center, GLC for short, at Yale University. Quote:
Call it the college woke spa, though its official title is the Good Life Center. Featuring a sandbox, essential oils, massage, and mental-health workshops, the center unites the most powerful forces in higher education today: the feminization of the university, therapeutic culture, identity politics, and the vast student-services bureaucracy.
This is one of those pieces where I hesitate to extract short quotes because the whole darn thing is quotable. Just one more, quote:
Underneath the essential oils and yoga mats, the woke spa mental-wellness crusade is accomplishing an even more profound transformation of university life. The assumption that emotional threat and danger lie just beyond the spa is the product of an increasingly female-dominated student body, faculty, and administration. That assumption is undermining traditional academic values of rational discourse, argumentation, and free speech.
Read it and weep. Then join with me in hoping for a Henry the Eighth to come along, disestablish these horrible places, and force the inhabitants to do something with their lives more useful to themselves and their fellow citizens than playing sandboxes and obsessing about their feelings, wo wo wo feelings.
Halfway through May, this is not shaping up as a good month for aging pop singers whose names are suggestive of diminutive stature. Last week I noted the May 5th passing of Millie Small. Four days later we lost Little Richard, a great favorite of my pre-teen and early-teen years.
Here I shall borrow the words of Nik Cohn, who is just a few months younger than I am, quote:
The first record I ever bought was by Little Richard and, at one throw, it taught me everything I need to know about pop.
The message went [inner quote]: "Tutti frutti all rootie, tutti frutti all rootie, tutti frutti all rootie, awopbopaloobop alopbamboom!" [End inner quote.] As a summing-up of what rock'n'roll was really all about, this was nothing but masterly.
I've taken that from Cohn's 1969 book about the golden age of rock. The book actually bears the title Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom— my favorite book title, I think.
I can in fact boast of a wider-than-average acquaintance with the literature on Little Richard. I once read Charles White's 1985 biography of the man, title The Quasar of Rock, which has … interesting things to say about the origins of the song "Tutti Frutti." I'll leave youse to investigate that for yourselves.
I'm entirely on board with Nik Cohn's argument that those immortal words "awopbopaloobop alopbamboom" encapsulate the true spirit, the deep inner meaning of rock'n'roll, in the days of rock's first fine careless rapture, before self-consciousness and computerized keyboards took over. Computerized keyboards? Little Richard used to play the piano with his foot.
Even so, "awopbopaloobop alopbamboom" is not my favorite bit of Little Richard phrasing. My favorite is in the song "I'll Never Let You Go" where he sings "boo hoo hoo hoo" with a shriek in between each syllable.
The thirteen-year-old Derb so wanted to be able to do that, and I must have spent hours trying, but it's not as easy as Little Richard made it sound. Artistic masterpieces are like that: vita brevis, ars longa. RIP Little Richard.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Little Richard, "I'll Never Let You Go."]