04:02 Conference report. (An enthusing weekend.)
12:12 Musk buys Twitter. (And I remember Speakers' Corner.)
20:03 All hail National Poetry Month! (From a consumer, not a producer.)
22:53 Versifying for revolution. (Be careful what you wish for, Ma'am.)
28:12 The long shadow of George Floyd. (Poetry goes blackety-black.)
37:05 Haidt & Wright. (Turbulence is really hard.)
41:33 Let's get rid of disinformation. (Yes, please!)
43:58 Our eight-legged friends. (Woke cause du jour.)
46:52 Signoff. (With CSN.)
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! That was a snippet of Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2 played on traditional instruments, and this is of course your enthusiastically genial host John Derbyshire, podcasting for VDARE.com.
I was interested to learn — and a bit ashamed not to have known — that Monday, April 25th, was a state holiday in Alabama and Mississippi: Confederate Memorial Day. Congratulations to citizens of those states for keeping up that tradition.
Back in my schooldays in England, when the teacher taught us about the American Civil War some smart kid would always ask: "If it was righteous for the Americans to secede from Britain, why was it wrong for the South to secede from the U.S.A.?" When that moment arrived in my history class — and no, I wasn't the smart kid who asked, I'm not that smart — the teacher, who'd clearly heard the question before, explained briskly that (a) sometimes in human affairs the two parties to a dispute are so irreconcilable that matters can only be decided by force, and (b) history is written by the victors.
Useful things to learn; but that was back in the days when schools thought it was their business to teach useful things. I don't know how it goes over there nowadays. Perhaps Britain's teachers today, like ours, think that "Social-Emotional Learning" is more important than imparting true facts about the world … I don't know.
Not to leave my Union-supporting listeners out in the cold, I note that Wednesday, April 27th, was the 200th birthday of Ulysses S. Grant. An old friend of mine, who shares most of my views, read Grant's memoirs two or three years ago, and has ever since been urging me to do the same. I confess I haven't yet taken up my friend's suggestion, but I vow I shall before too long …
Enough with the commemorations. What's been happening? The first VDARE conference, that's what, at our castle in beautiful West Virginia. Last week I promised you a report, so here it is.
The next segment comes with a warning: I'm going to gush. I don't do much gushing on Radio Derb, nor anywhere else. I'm not the gushing type. So indulge me just this once.
02 — Conference report. I expected to enjoy myself at last weekend's conference, but I didn't expect to come away feeling so charged up. A couple of times during the proceedings I found myself thinking something's happening here. You know that feeling? Like Donald Trump coming down the escalator, or — if you belong in the geezer cohort — the first time you heard the Beatles.
Since coming home from the conference I've been telling my kids that twenty or so years from now, when I shall most likely be pushing up daisies, the VDARE castle in Berkeley Springs will be nationally famous, while Peter and Lydia Brimelow, who are the prime movers in making whatever it is that's happening, happen, will be household names.
That sounds absurdly grandiose, I know, but it was my true feeling on the long drive back to New York — and still now, a week later. I was enthused, and I don't enthuse easily.
Something's happening; and I, a VDARE.com contributor almost from the beginning, have been privileged — if you'll pardon the expression — to be a small part of it.
The castle itself was part of the enthusing experience. It really is a lovely place; but a castle with only half a dozen people in it can't help but seem kind of empty and superfluous. With dozens of conference attendees present, though, milling around cheerfully, eating and drinking, getting to know each other and exchanging shared opinions and experiences, the castle really comes alive.
The talks were good, with excellent Q&A sessions to follow. The speakers on Saturday were: Peter and Lydia together, me, Peter alone, "Washington Watcher" (via Peter, as "Washington Watcher" himself wants to stay undercover), James Kirkpatrick, and James Fulford.
After dinner Saturday evening we had a debate on the subject: Are we doomed? The pessimists, arguing that we are doomed, were myself and James Kirkpatrick; the other side, the optimists, were Peter Brimelow and James Fulford. Polling before and after the debate showed no minds changed, with pessimists a 58 percent majority in both polls.
We all agreed, however, that pessimism is no excuse for inaction. As I pointed out, we are all personally doomed to die someday, but we don't take the knowledge of that as a reason to lie down inert until it happens. Dum vivimus, vivamus. That's a Latin dum there, not an English "doom." In Latin, dum means "while." While we live, let's live! So even the pessimists among us are determined to keep fighting.
Sunday morning after breakfast we had talks from Noah Arnold, VDARE's media guy, and Paul Kersey. Paul was as lively and interesting in person as his writing; but with no offense to Paul, it was Noah who really got my attention.
This is a young guy whom I had previously known only as a background techie fussing with mikes and cameras. I knew he has impressive technical skills. What I didn't know until Sunday morning was that he is full of interesting and imaginative plans to advance our media presence and promotions. Whatever it is that's happening, Noah will be key to helping make it happen.
As a geezer and a bookworm, I don't engage much with the world of art, design, and video. Noah does, and he's buzzing with plans to extend VDARE's reach in those areas, especially video. In the Q&A after his talk I quipped that if, under his inspiration, VDARE starts up a sitcom, I want to play the part of the grumpy old man. Noah laughed with the others, but I could swear I saw him thinking: Hey, that's not a bad idea …
So, a fun and encouraging weekend. Not the least impressive aspect of it was the high level of organizational competence Peter and Lydia put into it, and the energy and good humor of their staff. It's no small thing to put an event like that together. Spending some time with them behind the scenes there, I saw how hard they were working. To all of them, a big THANK YOU!
Our country, our beloved country, is in a sorry state. Illiterate Third World opportunists are being waved in across our borders by the hundreds of thousands; white race guilt and bizarre theories about human sexuality are destroying our schools and corrupting our children; the justice system has been perverted for political ends; our irresponsible politicians — and, to be fair, also Russia's — are playing games with nuclear fire; and as David Goldman points out, our nation's economy is dependent on imports from China, our declared strategic rival — a situation for which there is no historical precedent.
This great ship, the U.S.A., is listing badly and needs righting. VDARE, I do believe, will be a leader in that effort.
I can recall, to the month at any rate, the moment when I first heard of Twitter. It was November 2007. I was a guest on Alan Colmes' late-night radio show at the Fox studios in Manhattan. One of the other guests was a pleasant young lady named Julia Allison, who billed herself as a "dating columnist."
At one point in the show Ms Allison became absorbed with her smartphone. When Alan asked what she was doing she said she was sending out something on Twitter. On what? we less hip others enquired.
"You don't know about Twitter?" the lady replied incredulously. "It's this great new messaging app …"
"What, you mean like email?" asked clueless Derb, who didn't even own a smartphone (and still doesn't).
She gave me one of those looks that transmit both contempt and pity. "No-o-o- … Twitter. Everybody's on it …"
I did eventually get on Twitter, just to tweet an alert when I've published an article or podcast somewhere. I can never think of anything else to tweet, although I do spend half an hour reading the site each morning. People often tweet interesting things.
I'm old-school, though. If I think I have something interesting to say, I put it in my podcast or file it away for my monthly diary at VDARE. What can I tell you? I'm way behind the times, shall never catch up, and don't care.
Before leaving Ms Allison I'll just note that seven years after our encounter at Fox studios she attained her fifteen minutes of world-wide fame by getting married to herself.
That presumably says something deep about male-female relations in the early 21st century, but I can't be bothered to figure out what. I'll be content if we can just prevent the words "male" and "female" being banned from everyday speech, as the controllers of Western culture seem to want.
As only minimally a Twitter user, I don't have any strong feelings about Musk buying the thing. Yes, of course, I understand that Twitter has been a tool of the managerial state, with narratives unfriendly to the regime flagrantly suppressed — most flagrantly in the case of Hunter Biden's laptop in the weeks before the 2020 election.
Musk seems to have sensible opinions. If he can establish control over the CultMarx ideologues who manage Twitter's content, there should be an expansion of counter-regime commentary there, obviously a good thing.
Free speech is a tricky concept, though. If everyone can say what they like in any public forum, most of the people speaking loudest and most often will be cranks, bores, and monomaniacs. What we math geeks call a power law takes over, with a small proportion of speakers doing most of the speaking.
When I was a kid in England the phrase "freedom of speech" on a word-association test usually got the response "Speakers' Corner." This is a place in west-central London, at the northeast corner of Hyde Park. Since the early 19th century it's been a place where anyone at all could bring along a soap-box and stand on it saying anything at all — well, within broad limits, broader than those on our social-media platforms.
When I went to live in London at age 18 I was naturally curious to sample Speakers' Corner. I went along there one day. Sure enough, there were half a dozen speakers declaiming on various topics. The topics I recall were: reincarnation, the wickedness of the Roman Catholic Church, the perils of fluoride in public water supplies, and the need to resist further dissolution of the British Empire. I came away not very impressed with the principle of free speech.
The novelist Evelyn Waugh seems to have felt the same way. In his 1938 novel Scoop there's a crisis going on in Ishmaelia, a fictional African country. The novel's protagonist, a London Journalist, walks home via Hyde Park one evening. Edited extract from Chapter Four of Scoop:
William walked to Hyde Park. A black man, on a little rostrum, was explaining to a small audience why the Ishmaelite patriots were right and the traitors were wrong …
"Who built the Pyramids?" cried the Ishmaelite orator. "A Negro. Who invented the circulation of the blood? A Negro. Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you as impartial members of the great British public, who discovered America?"
And William went sadly on his way to a solitary dinner and an early bed.
That, just to remind you, was published 84 years ago. Plus ça change …
Yes, poetry. This month, April, is National Poetry Month. April has been National Poetry Month since the Academy of American Poets launched the idea 26 years ago.
Did you know that? I didn't, until a friend pointed it out to me. It's a bit surprising that I didn't. I'm very susceptible to poetry, have been all my life. I've engaged with poetry in three or four different languages. You can hear me doing so at the "Readings" page on my personal website, johnderbyshire.com.
I'm strictly a consumer of poetry, not a producer. In my teens and twenties, and very occasionally since, I've written poetry, but it wasn't any good and I knew it wasn't. You don't need to be a poet to have strong feelings about poetry, though. As Dr Johnson said: I can criticize a man who makes me a bad table even though I can't make tables myself.
This year, as it happens, is the centenary of British poet Philip Larkin, a favorite of mine. He was born August 9th 1922, died in 1985. If you know Larkin at all you probably know him from his short poem titled "This Be The Verse." If you don't know that particular poem, I'll leave you to explore it for yourself.
I'm not going to say more about Philip Larkin here. I'll cover his centenary in my August Diary, unless I forget. Here on today's Radio Derb I just want to cover two living American poets. I shall give over a segment to each.
So here are two — count 'em: two — segments on poetry.
05 — Versifying for revolution. Yes, it's National Poetry Month. One feature of National Poetry Month is a competition to be National Youth Poet Laureate. NPR has been showcasing the four finalists in this competition, one each week in April.
So this week NPR showcased the fourth of those finalists: Jessica Kim of Los Angeles, who has just turned 18.
Jessica introduced herself to NPR listeners as, quote: "A visually-impaired Korean-American writer," end quote.
Oh, you want a sample of her verse? Glad to oblige. Here in fact are two samples from the NPR broadcast, the poet herself reading. First sample:
[Clip: America doesn't have a body, just the rupture from a pistol, broken like a mother's backbone. One night, I returned home to find her collapsing into her own tongue, a second-hand language she bought for a dollar.]
[Clip: At home, a mother afraid of school shootings says, be careful, as if I am not already full, tight stomached. Pulling my body closer to her is because it's the only unhardened object within reach. Unlike America, I inhabit a body I wish to vacate, and I know this isn't the answer she is searching for. I am defeated again when the syllables of the American dream vibrate like bombs ticking, ready to burst.]
I lifted those clips from the NPR website. Preparing the Radio Derb transcript, I also copied the text from that website. Unfortunately NPR shows the extracts as just slabs of prose, with no indication where the line breaks are. I tried to figure the line breaks out for myself, but the task defeated me.
There are in fact no natural line breaks. That's quite normal in what is called "poetry" today. Most of it is just prose — rhythmic prose if you're lucky, which in this case you are not — whose claim to be poetry is strictly typographical. They call it poetry because it's printed like poetry, with the lines broken up.
The other common feature of current "poetry," also nicely illustrated by Ms Kim's work, is that it's victimological. If you want to compete for poetry awards, or get published in poetry magazines, you must have some claim to victimhood. Straight white males need not apply.
In her NPR interview, before reading her verse, Ms Kim spoke of living, quote
in a fragile, fearful and sometimes frustrating world. And by moving around a lot and being visually impaired, I felt excluded from my communities and suffered in silence for a long time.
She felt "excluded" — a victim, see? Later she tells us that, quote:
I want people to take away from my poems that I'm in for a revolution.
Hey, Jessica: In Korea, the nation of your ancestors, they already had a revolution — well, in one half of Korea. They swept away the corrupt, feudal old order, liquidated class enemies, and established a paradise for workers and peasants, ruled over by an infallibly wise and kind leader with the same family name as yours!
Perhaps you should head over there and check it out. Don't let the door hit ya …
Poetry Magazine is one of the U.S.A.'s oldest and most prominent literary publications, launched in 1912 and supervised by the Poetry Foundation, a not-for-profit in Chicago. Next month, May 16th to be exact, Poetry Magazine will have a new editor — their first black editor!
I was surprised to learn that. Not surprised that the new editor is black, surprised that he will be the first black editor. I barely engage at all with current American poetry, for reasons which will be obvious to you by now; but my very vague impression, from presidential inaugurations and the like, was that all of today's American poets are black females.
After reading about Jessica Kim, the young lady in the last segment, I modified my vague impression from "black" to "nonwhite." I was still surprised to learn that we have gotten all the way to A.D. 2022 without America's flagship poetry magazine having a black editor.
I was even more surprised, digging deeper, to learn that the Poetry Foundation, which runs Poetry Magazine, only got its first black president last year. This is Michelle Boone, a mulatto from Chicago.
Ms Boone's presidency of the Poetry Foundation is a by-product of the death of junkie hooligan George Floyd two years ago. As the national hysteria over that was gathering steam, the Foundation issued a statement expressing, quote, "solidarity with the black community," end quote, and declaring faith in, quote, "the strength and power of poetry to uplift in times of despair," end quote.
That was considered outrageously tame and insufficiently anti-white by poets and poetry-lovers nationwide. They denounced the Poetry Foundation for its truckling to the white-supremacist power structure, and demanded reform.
The Foundation of course went into full racial cringe mode, the leadership confessing their appalling whiteness and vowing to correct their thinking. Michelle Boone, this new Foundation president, is the result.
So, indirectly, is this new editor of Poetry Magazine who will take over next month. The lucky guy is 50-year-old Adrian Matejka of Indianapolis, another mulatto. The Chicago Sun-Times describes him as, quote: "a much-lauded poet whose 2013 collection The Big Smoke was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award," end quote.
So Mr Matejka is also a poet. I don't see why he needs to be. Writing poetry and editing magazines are two different skill sets. To edit a poetry magazine you do need to like poetry, but I don't see why you need to be able to do it. What, is he going to write the editorials in quatrains and couplets?
Anyway, I was naturally keen to sample Mr Matejka's poetry. A friend obliged, sending me some verses from a cycle of poems titled "Bullet Parts." Mr Matejka is very interested in bullets.
Here I do have the line breaks to work from; I shall pause at the end of each line, with a longer pause between stanzas. Here we go:
Lead in the belly, copper
& nickel skin in abundance
each year. 10 billion bullets
made in the U.S.A. each
year. Enough bullets to kill
most of us twice each year.
The bullet hits 3 times
faster than we can hear
its concussion. The bullet
breaks the air with its 2,182-
mph admission. The bullet
is a grim onomatopoeia
for itself. The bullet is
a slim allegory for a gun
happy nation & its attendant
segregations. Lead belly,
wrapped in the grinning
the gun is always more
important than the people
in front of it as the antagonists
tell us. & here we are again:
so many black women
& black men in front of it.
My friend pointed out that there is surely a typo in the last line. Just to recap those two final stanzas: The poet has told us that according to our enemies, the gun is more important than the people in front of it. Then he says, re-quote:
… here we are again:
so many black women
& black men in front of it.
"in front of it"? asks my friend. Given the actual statistics on gun homicide, shouldn't that be "behind it"?
Perhaps that's what is meant by the phrase "poetic license."
When they have interesting things to say that need more than the Twitter limit on characters, they offer links. That was my entry into the most interesting discussion I've seen this week.
The dicussers are social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and Bloggingheads.tv founder Robert Wright. Haidt and Wright; sorry about the close similarity of names, it's not my fault.
Haidt's article was published in Atlantic a couple of weeks ago. It generated a lot of responses. If you don't have an Atlantic subscription, I've downloaded the text so you can read it from my website: johnderbyshire.com/Opinions/RadioDerb/Extras/Babel.txt.
Haidt starts with the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. The people in the story — one people with one language — built a tower, trying to reach Heaven. This offended God, so he punished humanity by giving them all different languages, unable to understand each other.
That, said Haidt, is a metaphor for what social media have done to America. Quote:
We are disoriented, unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth. We are cut off from one another and from the past.
On Substack this week Robert Wright posted a response to Haidt. Yes, he says, its's bad, but, quote:
We've been here before, and humankind survived.
Robert Wright lays out an argument saying that, executive summary, any time there's a major revolution in how we communicate ideas, it creates a lot of turbulence.
It happened with the introduction of movable-type printing to Europe in the 15th century; it happened with the invention of writing back in the Bronze Age; it very likely happened when human beings started communicating in structured speech back in the Paleolithic.
That's what we're going through, says Wright: an inevitable spell of turbulence.
So how will it ultimately play out? That's the great unknown.
Mathematicians who study fluid mechanics will tell you that turbulence is … really difficult. The 20th-century physicist Werner Heisenberg is supposed to have remarked that, quote:
When I meet God, I'm going to ask him two questions: why relativity? And why turbulence? I really believe he'll have an answer for the first.
Item: I see from Tucker Carlson's show last night and from my newspaper this morning that our federal government has established a Disinformation Governance Board within the Department of Homeland Security, to tackle and punish disinformation. Quote from the DHS, quote:
The spread of disinformation can affect border security, Americans' safety during disasters, and public trust in our democratic institutions.
Hooray! I'm all for it. There is way too much disinformation we need to tackle.
I would start with the narrative that the different average levels of academic achievement between races are due to social or historical causes.
That narrative is causing school systems and colleges to scrap standardized tests and deemphasize, or even abandon altogether, the A-F grading system.
We now have more than a hundred years of data on this from psychology and the social sciences, with genetics beginning to chime in. Everything we have learned tells the same story: race differences in behavior, intelligence, and personality, just as much as in bone density, disease susceptibility, and hair texture, are biological in origin.
The idea that black people's under-performance and, I guess, East Asian people's over-performance are the result of white malice is disinformation, and it's destroying our education systems. Let's stamp out this disinformation. Follow the science!
Item: Five years ago this month, in my April 2017 Diary, I recorded having read a curious book: a book about octopuses — "octopodes," if you want to be pedantic — written by a philosoper.
Octopuses are philosophically interesting. They are very intelligent, and yet
A lot of other people read that book, probably inspired to do so by my Diary note. Octopus rights are the woke crusade du jour.
New York Post, April 22nd, headline: "Crying in remorse as I chomped": Woke eaters are giving up octopus.
Quote from the body of the story:
Activists are advocating for the animal's freedom, diners are asking waiters to omit it from their order and restaurants are hesitant to even offer it.
Pity; I rather like octopus. Nice taste, nice texture.
Can we try for a compromise here? Surely the thing doesn't need eight legs. Couldn't the octopus farmers just lop off two or three and then free the octopus back into the ocean? The critters would have their lives back, and we'd still have octopus on the menu.
Just a suggestion …
A listener emailed in to say that after my extended commentary about the Southern Hemisphere last week, he was disappointed that I didn't sign off with Crosby, Stills, and Nash singing Southern Cross.
I hate to leave listeners disappointed, and I was a big CSN fan back in the day — also a CSNY fan, and a Y fan. Southern Cross is musically one of their best, although it's a bit difficult to figure out what's going on from listening to the lyrics. Apparently the singer has gotten himself an ocean-going boat and he's sailing away from a failed love affair, from California down to the South Pacific — he mentions Papeete and the Marquesas — in hopes of finding a new love and forgetting the old one.
So here they are, CSN circa 1982, with a snippet from Southern Cross. There will of course be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Crosby, Stills, & Nash, "Southern Cross."]