[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air. Greetings, from your bleakly genial host John Derbyshire; welcome to this, our antepenultimate podcast of 2016.News-wise, this week was a snoozer. By that I mean that nothing much happened that piqued my interest or that I thought of immediate importance.What generally happens with weeks like that is that my commentary drifts off into speculation on large general themes. I'll try to keep my feet on the ground, but … no guarantees.With that caution, let's take a look at the two big stories — in my opinion, actually non-stories — agitating the news wires this week: "fake news" and Russia's alleged manipulation of our election. Asia Times for Far Eastern stuff, Discover magazine for science, and so on.And then there are links and clips that listeners send me, some from bloggers or local newspapers. And yes, I read blogs myself. There are 26 in my Feedly.com feed, and they of course often link to news stories.OK, end of preface, now my confession.A couple of podcasts ago I read a story that caught my fancy. There was a link to it in one of the blogs, and a listener — not the blogger — also sent me the same link. I did a segment on it for Radio Derb.Fortunately this podcast, before it goes on the air, gets scrutinized by VDARE.com's James Fulford. Nothing gets past James. He spotted the source — it was a website called The Boston Tribune — as a fake news site. He cross-checked with the fact-checker site Snopes.com, and sure enough the story was bogus. I had to do some fast editing on the Radio Derb sound file before James would let me on the air.That, by the way, is more journalistic due diligence from VDARE.com than you get at some major news outlets — a thing to bear in mind when deciding whether to (a) sign up for a subscription to one of the broadsheet newspaper web sites, or (b) donate to VDARE.com.There is actually a commercial rationale for the existence of these fake news websites. If, like the Boston Tribune, you can work up a good newspaperish-looking website, a lot of underpaid ink-stanied wretches like me, zipping around the internet looking for stories, will be taken in during a moment of haste, distraction, or intoxication. They'll link to your fake story, pass it on to others, and you'll get enough clicks to make you worth the attention of advertisers, who will pay you good dollars to place their ads. [Ker-ching!] Hey, it's a living.I can't get worked up about this, or about the current "fake news" fake hysteria, because I have never held journalists in the high regard in which they hold themselves.My general approach to the integrity of news outlets was expressed at length in a column I wrote thirteen years ago for National Review, column title: "Journalists are Scum." In that column I summoned up the traditional British view of the journalistic profession as the haunt of drunks, vagabonds, perverts, con artists, and scoundrels.The canonical expression of that viewpoint was Evelyn Waugh's 1933 novel Scoop, whose lead character, William Boot, was based on my old editor at the London Daily Telegraph, Bill Deedes. Bill was actually an honest hard-working journalist with a good nose for a story, but some of the other characters in Waugh's novel were less scrupulous. The American reporter Wenlock Jakes, for example. Quote from Scoop:
Why, once Jakes went out to cover a revolution in one of the Balkan capitals. He overslept in his carriage, woke up at the wrong station, didn't know any different, got out, went straight to an hotel, and cabled off a thousand-word story about barricades in the streets, flaming churches, machine-guns answering the rattle of his typewriter as he wrote, a dead child, like a broken doll, spreadeagled in the deserted roadway below hiswindow — you know.So yes, fake news has been around for ever. It's probably as old as real news … maybe older. I bet someone back in Mycenae was fake-newsing the Trojan War.That Democrats are raising the specter of fake news as something peculiar to late 2016 and the Trump campaign bespeaks a complete lack of historical and literary awareness. Not to mention desperation. trying to influence the Ukrainian elections two years ago.And what did the Russians actually accomplish in the way of influencing our elections? Answer: We don't know, since the evidence that they did anything is entirely circumstantial.On the very worst interpretation, all the Russians did was expose the cynicism and dishonesty of Mrs Clinton and her operatives by releasing their emails — what Judge Andrew Napolitano has referred to as "the truthful revelation of private facts."If you want to know how politicians and their staffers talk to each other in private, you generally have to wait a decade or two until the memoirs are published. Wikileaks — possibly with Russian help — gave us the same information without the time lag, that's all.I can't see anything here to get agitated about. The main thought I come away with is: Why don't we have hackers as good as theirs, to access Vladimir Putin's emails, and Xi Jinping's, and Kim Jong Un's, and broadcast them to their people? That would at least be playing the game in a spirited fashion, instead of hunkering curled up in a corner and whining.What's really going on here with the fusses about fake news and Russian interference is what I'm going to christen the Roger Lyons Strategy.Readers of my monthly diaries here at VDARE.com will recall my reminiscing, in last month's diary, about some very obscure events of fifty-three years ago, events that brought me my first real political insight.In very brief: I was a freshman undergraduate at University College, London. The college's student union held an election for union president. There was a leftist candidate named Roger Lyons and a conservative candidate whose name I've forgotten. A ballot was held, and the conservative won.The leftists wouldn't accept that result. They called endless meetings, raised endless tiny points of order. At last the mass of students got bored with it all and let them have their way. The election was re-held. Roger Lyons was elected.That's what the political left is like, always and everywhere. They are relentless in the pursuit of power. Byron said that "love is of man's life a thing apart, / 'Tis woman's whole existence." Something similar applies to political passion: For a conservative, politics is one feature of a many-faceted life; to a leftist, it's his whole existence.And the left is anti-realist. They don't like reality. They are in fact prisoners of the Moralistic Fallacy: the belief that anything that offends my personal sensibilities cannot be the case. Hence all the huffing about "no such thing as race." If there were innate race differences in personality and behavior, that would be emotionally offensive to CultMarx sensibilities. Ergo there can't be.Last month's election result was a real thing, a fact in the world. So far as I can determine, there was nothing false or illusory about it. From the point of view of the political left, though, it was the wrong result. It cannot be a fact in the world because it's wrong: that is, it has caused Cultural Marxists to experience negative emotions.Hence all the hysteria: demands for recounts, "fake news," Russian hacking, intimidation of Electors.I doubt it'll stop there. Like Roger Lyons and his supporters all those years ago, the left won't quit. The Trump administration, both pre- and post-Inauguration, will be pestered with allegations, inquiries, lawsuits, protests … This show will run and run.When events hurt your feelings, they can't possibly be real events. There was a plot, a conspiracy, covert action. Someone, somewhere, was pulling a hidden lever. We have to find that person and punish him! literature, in science and math, Russia has been a major player since at least the 18th century. The MacTutor biographical dictionary of important mathematicians lists 130 born in Russia. I covered some of them in my own books about the history of mathematics.Culturally, civilizationally, Russians are our brothers and sisters. Without their contributions, Western Civ. would be the poorer.That said, you then have to say this: That of all the great European nations, Russia alone has never really struggled up out of medieval despotism into full civic nationhood. Politically, Russia is the problem child of the modern West.Compare Russia with the other white-European nations. Compare her political performance with theirs across the modern era — the last four or five hundred years.Sure, most other white nations have blots on their copybooks. Spain got stuck for far too long in clerico-monarchism. France had the revolutionary Terror and the Napoleonic military dictatorship that followed. Britain's done better than most in maintaining open, consensual government under fair laws; but Britain's treatment of her own subjects in Ireland was nothing to boast of.Elsewhere, the Dutch and the Scandinavians, when free of foreign domination, have managed things well. The Austrians and the Poles look pretty good, with a few small blots.Europe's newer nations — Germany, Italy, Greece — have done OK too.Yes, yes, we all know about the Nazis. It's the only thing a modern American high-school graduate does know about Germany. Germany's been a united nation for a hundred and fifty years, though; the Nazis were in power for only twelve of those years — eight percent of modern Germany's lifetime. It was a horrible episode, but an episode.I'll allow that the Germany of Bismarck and the Kaisers was a bit too fond of military bluster, but government was open and consensual. They invented Democratic Socialism — Bertand Russell wrote an admiring book about it (his first book) — and Germany gave us the modern welfare state.Italy, as a modern nation, is the same age as Germany; Greece a bit older. They haven't given as good an example as the north Europeans. The seven-year junta of the Greek Colonels was a blot, and Mussolini's twenty-year rule in Italy was a much bigger one; but both nations have shown at least a capacity for sustained constitutional government, both pre- and post-blot.Russia makes a dismal contrast. For all the cultural achievements, the political life of the nation has operated in the range from merely squalid to horrific, with no civilized stretches at all. Reformers who tried to steer the nation in the direction of civic engagement and constitutionalism ended up murdered, like Stolypin and Vladimir Nabokov's father, or in exile, like Kerensky.Now and then — after the 1905 revolution, or after the fall of the U.S.S.R. a lifetime later — there have been stirrings of civic consciousness; but then the terrible gravitational force of old Russia soon dragged the nation back down into the mud.Poverty, fatalism, cynicism, paranoia, drunkenness, the long habits of submission, and the sheer awful size of the place seem to condemn Russians to at best a corrupt authoritarianism, as at present, or at worst a terrorist dictatorship like those of Lenin and Stalin — which together lasted three times as long as Hitler's Nazis and murdered far more of their own citizens.Is there anything we can do about this? I doubt it. Nations — especially old nations with ingrained political habits — are not malleable things.Not that we haven't tried. Here's Colonel Ralph Peters, in a column published December 11th.Before I get to the pertinent quote, let me just note that Peters is a neocon, with a line in militaristic bluster that would have had the last Kaiser nodding along enthusiastically. Sample quote from Peters:
To align ourselves with Putin in 2017 would be the equivalent of allying with Hitler in 1937.End quote. Hoo-kay, Colonel; time for a refill on the meds, perhaps.(Peters also tells little white lies. He writes for example that, quote: "He [that is, Putin] invaded Georgia," end quote. Well, yes; but only after Georgia had invaded South Ossetia and shelled its capital city.)OK, but in among all the neocon bombast and shiftiness, Peters writes this, pertinent quote:
I served in Washington (traveling often to Moscow) as the Soviet Union died of organ failure. Far from attempting to punish the "new" Russia, we and our European allies fell all over ourselves to indulge Moscow's whims and encourage investment. Our State Department's infatuation with the "new" Russia was embarrassingly extreme.End quote. Yes it was. We believe, in our blithe American optimism, that once a nation is shown the benefits of constitutional democracy it will leap to embrace that form of government. In the nineties in Russia, and again in the Middle East a decade later, that belief was field tested. The field tests did not go well.If there's nothing positive we can do, though, there are follies we can avoid. If we can't actually do anything to improve Russia, we should at least not do things that stimulate their worst national characteristics.Like, for example, moving NATO up to their borders. Colonel Peters tells us that the desire of East Europeans to join NATO is understandable, as of course it is. He cites the horrors of Soviet imperialism, quote:
The slaughter of workers in Berlin in 1953 … The bloodbath in Hungary in '56 … Soviet tanks rolling into Prague in '68 …End quote. Peters forgets to mention that Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson did nothing about those atrocities; and that nothing was what the American public wanted them to do.If Russia does something similar today — to Latvia, say — we are obliged by treaty to go to war against Russia. Plainly that's what Ralph Peters wants. Is it what Americans want?
05 — The Sun People tsunami. Our anxieties about the Russians, and their anxieties about us, anyway have a deckchairs-on-the-Titanic quality about them. Peering forward into the middle 21st century as best I am able, there are much bigger issues looming.Nine years ago I wrote a piece titled "The Arctic Alliance." My argument, in a nutshell, was that the north-Eurasian nations — that is, Europe (along with some of its settler nations like Australia and the U.S.A.), Russia, China, Japan, and the Koreas — shared common strengths and a common weakness.The common strengths are high average IQ and a long record of civilizational attainment, with the aforementioned blots duly noted. The common weakness is demographic collapse — below-replacement birth rates.I suggested that these "Arctic" nations should stop bickering among themselves and join forces in self-preservation against the ballooning low-average-IQ populations of the temperate and tropical zones. Hence the Arctic Alliance.Now, nine years on, with millions of Sun People pouring into those Ice People nations, I think I'm entitled to at least a whispered "I told you so."This is where my subscription to the New York Times helps me out. Thursday this week the Gray Lady ran a report headlined Heat, Hunger and War Force Africans Onto a "Road on Fire". The piece is about the Sahel: that east-west strip along Africa where the southern Sahara Desert meets the grasslands and woodlands further south. The "Road on Fire" is the road out of there, on the people-smuggling routes across the Sahara, north to the Mediterranean and Europe.Steve Sailer noticed the same report, and has some pithy comments about it at The Unz Review. I can't improve on Steve, but I urge listeners to check out the report. It's revealing in two different ways.Way One, which Steve concentrates on, is the style of the reporting, in which all the appalling problems of this region — overpopulation, poverty, the loss of trees and arable land — are blamed on the demon white man.Way Two is the utter hopelessness of the situation there. As the population surges upwards it becomes ever more difficult to make a living. The land has been sucked dry. Whatever you think about global warming, it sure doesn't look as though it'll be getting cooler and wetter down there any time soon.And the human capital is poor: low-IQ populations, not well adapted to modern societies, with no native industries or expertise in anything much. There has been no civilization down there in the Sahel, other than what European colonizers brought in. It's not smug or spiteful to point that out, it's just factual.Yet still the populations surge. Niger, right in the middle of the strip, has a total fertility rate of almost seven children per woman, the highest in the world. Seven children per woman. Mali and Burkina Faso, to the west, are just below six; Chad to the east is a comparatively feeble four and a half.Those numbers are way different from the corresponding numbers for Ice People. For Europe as a whole, the total fertility rate is 1.6 children per woman. Russia and China are about the same. Japan is 1.4, South Korea 1.25, North Korea … who knows?That's the demographic tsunami that's been starting to come ashore in Europe this past year and a half. Set against that, our children and grandchildren in the middle of this century will look back with amazement at our intra-Arctic bickering about whether Vladimir Putin did or did not assist in releasing John Podesta's emails. Chinese, and Koreans continue to keep their nations' doors tight shut even as their populations dwindle? Will they be able to?There's a lot of questions there, but I don't have any answers. When I think about these things, all I can come up with is Lifeboat Ethics. Quote from the foundational text:
So here we sit, say 50 people in our lifeboat. To be generous, let us assume it has room for 10 more, making a total capacity of 60. Suppose the 50 of us in the lifeboat see 100 others swimming in the water outside, begging for admission to our boat or for handouts. We have several options: we may be tempted to try to live by the Christian ideal of being "our brother's keeper," or by the Marxist ideal of "to each according to his needs." Since the needs of all in the water are the same, and since they can all be seen as "our brothers," we could take them all into our boat, making a total of 150 in a boat designed for 60. The boat swamps, everyone drowns. Complete justice, complete catastrophe …Suppose we decide to preserve our small safety factor and admit no more to the lifeboat. Our survival is then possible although we shall have to be constantly on guard against boarding parties.End quote. Yes, that's bleak, but who's got anything else to say? Who, actually — other than me — who is thinking about these issues?Steve, in his commentary on the New York Times report, implies that we need to get Africans using birth control. Haven't we been trying that for, like, my entire lifetime?Like Steve, I'm a gentle soul who wishes no harm to anyone. I'm sorry for those folk in the Sahel, in their poverty and hopelessness. They didn't ask to be born there, any more than I asked to be born in the West. I got lucky and they didn't. It's a shame. It's not fair. I entirely agree.At the same time, I very much want Western Civilization to survive; and I want my children and grandchildren to live in it, in peace and prosperity.I really hope there is some humane way we can science our way out of this colossal problem that's bearing down on us, but I don't see it.I hope I'm just too stupid to see it. I hope someone smarter than me does see it, and can sell his solution to us Ice People.
07 — The Aleppo horrors. While I'm taking a walk on the bleak side, I may as well say something about the taking of Aleppo in Syria's civil war. The city seems definitely to have fallen this week, to the forces of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies.A good thing? A bad thing? Well, a lot of people, including a lot of unarmed civilians, have been maimed and killed. That's bad. But then, if the fall of Aleppo means the civil war is coming to an end, that's good. But then again, if the civil war ends with Assad and Putin the victors, that's bad because they are both deeply unpleasant people who regard constitutional government and the rule of law with scorn. But then again again, if Assad isn't fighting his own rebel generals, maybe he and his Iranian pals will concentrate on fighting ISIS, which would be good.That's all grist for ruminations in journals of geopolitical strategy, but what does any of it mean for the U.S.A.? Not a darn thing, so far as I can see.When the U.S.A. was having our own very bloody civil war, the great-great-grandparents of the current inhabitants of Aleppo were subjects of the Ottoman Empire. Did the Ottoman Sultan and his pashas fret over the suffering people of Atlanta and Richmond? Did the traders and craftsmen of Aleppo? I doubt it.Nations will have civil wars, and they do tend to be nasty affairs. If you feel an urge to help the people of Aleppo, all the usual organizations are making efforts to get stuff in, though apparently with mixed success: the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, Médecins Sans Frontières, and so on. If the spirit of charity moves you, they'll be glad of your donations.However, to judge from conversations I've had and comment threads I've seen, Americans are not much stirred by the Aleppo horrors. It seems to me in fact that there has been a general hardening of hearts in the West during my lifetime towards human catastrophes in the Third World.I remember for example the Nigerian civil war of the late 1960s. I was living in England at the time so I can't speak about American attitudes; but I recall a lot of people being genuinely distressed at all the suffering there. I'm not seeing that in relation to Syria.Compassion fatigue? Middle East mayhem fatigue? Or were those upset Brits of 1968 just indulging in post-imperial guilt? (Nigeria had been a British colony until 1960. I can still, for some reason, remember the name of the first Prime Minister of independent Nigeria: Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, last seen sprawled in a ditch outside Lagos with a very nasty case of lead poisoning, victim of a coup.)That's impressionistic, and might be wrong. Still, if Lifeboat Ethics is in fact going to be the default outlook of mid-21st century Ice People, it may be that the necessary adjustment — the hardening of hearts, the averting of eyes — has been under way for a while. The future, said Arthur Koestler, casts a shadow back into the past. Rage Against the Machine" is the title in the print edition, subtitle: "Will robots take your job?"The author, Elizabeth Colbert, thinks they will. Most people who look into this subject agree.If you try to get a conversation about AI going among non-specialists, it quickly collapses into metaphysics. Will AI robots be conscious? Will they have feelings, ambitions, dreams?The best articles, like this one, eschew speculation of that sort and concentrate on what's being done and what it's likely to mean for the national economy.Ms Colbert introduces readers to the job matrix, a square divided into four equal squares. The north-south axis through the matrix goes from manual work to cognitive work; the east-west axis goes from routine tasks to nonroutine ones.So the four boxes represent four kinds of jobs:
In 2014, Facebook acquired Whatsapp for twenty-two billion dollars. At that point, the messaging firm had a grand total of fifty-five employees. When a twenty-two-billion-dollar company can fit its entire workforce into a Greyhound bus, the concept of surplus labor would seem to have run its course.This is still the New Yorker we're reading, though, so she ends with a swipe at Donald Trump. Quote:
The other day, during his "victory lap" through the Midwest, the President-elect vowed to "usher in a new Industrial Revolution," apparently unaware that such a revolution is already under way, and that this is precisely the problem. The pain of dislocation he spoke to during the campaign is genuine; the solutions he offers are not. How this will all end, no one can say with confidence, except, perhaps, for Watson.End quote. Yep. Some things are true even though hyper-liberal magazines say they are true. Imprimis: I guess this one comes under the heading Western Civilization Suicide Watch.A young German woman, 19-year-old Maria Ladenburger was raped and murdered in October by an illegal immigrant from Afghanistan. Her corpse was found in a river. The murderer arrived in Germany last year as an unaccompanied minor.Maria's family published an obituary notice in a German newspaper. There was a touching farewell message to the girl; then a notice of the funeral service; then a request that in place of flowers, well-wishers should make donations to two named charities.The first charity is a church project in Bangladesh. The second one sponsors "refugees and asylum seekers."Which is to say, illegal immigrants like the one that raped and murdered Maria Ladenburger.I am not even a teeny bit surprised to read that Maria's father, who presumably placed the notice, is a lawyer who works for the EU.Item: Here's another story under the same heading: Western Civilization Suicide Watch.Students at the University of Pennsylvania have removed a portrait of William Shakespeare that had been hanging in one of their halls of residence and replaced it with one of a black lesbian poetess.Head of the college English Department Professor Jed Esty is totally happy with the switch. Quote from him:
We invite everyone to join us in the task of critical thinking about the changing nature of authorship, the history of language, and the political life of symbols.End quote.The Shakespeare portrait is now in the office of Prof Esty, we are told.I would be glad to come down there and take it off his hands. It's painful to think of the greatest writer in the English language having to keep company, even just in portraiture, with such gibbering fools.Item: Hate crime hoax of the week: Eighteen-year-old Yasmin Seweid, a student at Baruch College in New York City — a college where I once taught evening classes in Visual Basic — told police that three white men had attacked her on the subway. They'd screamed "Donald Trump" at her, she said, and tried to pull off her headscarf.The police launched an intensive investigation but could find no supporting evidence or testimony. Tuesday this week Ms Seweid admitted she'd made it all up to get attention because of problems she was having with her family.I know, you are shaken to the core. Really, does anyone take these Narrative-compliant hate-crime stories seriously? Well, police departments I guess have to; but there must be a lot of eye-rolling down at the station house when the investigation is launched.Sure, there sometimes are crimes motivated by general race or religious hatred. We saw the final outcome of one such this week with the conviction of the guy who shot up a church meeting in South Carolina. A country of 320 million people contains a portion of homicidal lunatics.Where there are no corpses in evidence, though, only something scrawled on a wall when no-one was around, or someone's report of being yelled at when there were no witnesses, you can be pretty sure it was made up.At any rate, you can if the scrawl or the shouting was Narrative-compliant — anti-black, anti-homosexual, or anti-Muslim. If it was anti-white or anti-Christian, that wouldn't be a hate crime. That would be what Professor Esty at U. Penn. would call "critical thinking about the political life of symbols."