[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, organ version]
01 — Intro. [Party noises in background] And Radio Derb is on the air! Yes … er, excuse me a moment. [Footsteps away, door closes, party noises stop, footsteps back] I apologize for that. Yes, this is your multiculturally genial host John Derbyshire with Taki Magazine's roundup of the week's news.
First off, I am glad to say that my staff members and the villagers who went over to Betty and Philip's island to celebrate the new arrival there all returned safely. My forebodings of another White Ship disaster were not fulfilled, thank goodness.
However, having returned to their duties, my staff seem unable to shake off the party spirit, and not much inclined to carry out those duties. The partying has been pretty continuous here. I am going to have to institute disciplinary measures, I am afraid.
That will have to wait, though, until I have performed my own duty: to bring to eager listeners a survey of the past week's alarums and excursions. I shall begin with reports that will bring tears to your eyes, tragic and terrible reports about monstrous outrages against America's most beloved public figures.
02 — Hail the conquering zero: Oprah! Beloved public figure number one: Oprah Winfrey.
The first opinion I would pass about Oprah Winfrey is that she is a genius. The second opinion is that the thing she is a genius at, is a thing in which I have zero interest, and which has zero social value.
I'd like to just emphasize the zeros there. Zero is not positive, but it's also not negative.
What Oprah is a genius at, is engaging the attention and emotions of great numbers of people, most but not all of them women, most but not all of them on the left side of the IQ bell curve, by causing them to identify their common thoughts and experiences with hers, and hers with theirs, and thereby lifting them out of themselves into a sense of warm fellowship — more accurately, in most cases, sisterhood.
It's a kind of genius, in the sense that not one person in a million could do that particular thing as well as Oprah can do it. I have zero interest in it because, like most males, and also like most bookish people of both sexes, I don't find the common experiences of life all that interesting, unless they are described by a great writer in the context of an imaginative literary structure.
I emphasize the zero because, while I am not interested in what Oprah does, I don't mind it. My feelings about it are neither positive nor negative. I have never watched one of the TV talk shows by which Oprah made her name and her fortune. If forced to watch one, I'm sure I should fall asleep five minutes into the thing.
Same with the other zero, the one in "zero social value." I don't think Oprah's labors have added anything to the culture of the United States this past thirty years that we couldn't have done perfectly well without; but again, I can't see that she's done any significant harm.
Here you actually can argue the contrary on both sides. On the positive side: Yes, you can argue, Oprah has added social value, by giving people understandings they otherwise wouldn't have had, understandings about the lives of strangers in different circumstances from their own. She has thereby added to the social glue that holds our nation together, to our mutual sympathies and mutual understanding, to our bonding.
And on the negative side: Yes, you can argue, she has done harm via the phenomenon known as "Oprahfication" — encouraging people to think that their own everyday emotions are more important and more interesting than they in fact are, thereby encouraging people to obsess narcissistically about their inner lives when they should be paying more attention to their outer lives, to social and family responsibilities.
You can argue those things, the positive and the negative, but I'm going to stick with zero on the social value of what Oprah does so superbly well. I don't think it has any social value. I don't think it adds anything to our public life, but nor does it subtract anything from it. It's just a nullity, a kind of pablum to fill the minds of people who can't engage with anything more serious or worthwhile.
Just because you are a genius at something — you do something exceptionally, superbly well — doesn't necessarily mean it has any value. There are people who are geniuses at whistling through their teeth; there are people who are geniuses at memorizing baseball statistics; there are genius skateboarders, genius mimes, geniuses at playing the kazoo. They all have their places in the great scheme of things, no doubt, and are good for entertainment in an idle moment or two; but that any of them adds anything to the sum total of Western Civilization, can I think reasonably be doubted.
OK, that's where I stand with Oprah. So why is she in the news?
[Clip: "I was in Zürich for Tina Turner's wedding, and I decided I'm going to leave the hotel. It's just me, by myself: Stedman, you know, wasn't there, and Gayle wasn't there — no friends, I'm out by myself — and I go into a store, which shall remain … unnamed, and I say to the woman: 'Ah, may I see that bag right above your head?' And she says to me: 'No. It's too expensive.' And I said: 'No no no, no, see, the black one, the one that's folded over the da da da,' and she said: 'No no no, you don't want to see that one, you want to see this one, because that one will cost too much, you will not be able to afford that.' And I said: 'Well, no, I really did want to see that one,' and she, she, she refused to get it! She refused to get it. And she started to show me these other little bags, and, um, I said, er, one more time I tried, I said: 'But I really do just really want to see that one.' And she said: 'Oh, I don't … I don't want to hurt your feelings.' And I said: 'OK. Thank you so much. You're probably right, I can't afford it,' and I walked out of the store."]
That caused a minor sensation. In no time at all the store was identified as the Trois Pomme boutique in Storchengasse, which is the Zürich equivalent of Rodeo Drive; the handbag was a black crocodile-skin item priced at $38,000; the sales person was an Italian lady with good but not perfect English; and the owner of the store is local socialite Trudie Goetz, who was also a guest at Tina Turner's wedding.
By this point I can hear you grumbling: "OK, Derb, but there's rather a lot going on in the world right now: wars and revolutions, natural disasters and political ructions, death and taxes. Why are you giving over two segments of your show to a minor social abrasion suffered by a billionairess when shopping for preposterously overpriced fashion accessories in a city populated entirely by investment bankers?"
Short answer: because the incident tells us something about the current condition of our society. Supplementary to that: The last time I gave over a segment to Oprah was back in September of 2008, nearly five years ago, so I don't exactly have a fixation on the lady. I'll try to make it another five years before I mention her again, all right?
OK, so what does the incident tell us? Well, first, it tells us that there is no accusation of racism so absurdly ridiculous and paper-thin in credibility that liberals — including practically all of the mainstream media — won't take it in dead earnest. Even Bill O'Reilly came to Oprah's defense, quote: "That was Oprah's experience, and she has a perfect right to express her feelings about it. The truth is, there are racists." End quote.
The other, sadder thing it tells us is that the post-racial America we were promised when Barack Obama was first elected President, has not arrived, is in fact further away than ever. The less blacks have to complain about — and for us working stiffs, it's hard to see that a person with 2.9 billion dollars in the bank has anything to complain about — the more they want to whine and guilt-trip us nonblacks over tiny or imaginary slights.
And this one does seem to have been imaginary. The sales assistant who so bruised Oprah's feelings told a Swiss Sunday newspaper that the incident didn't transpire at all as Oprah related it. She indignantly denied telling Oprah that the bag cost too much and Oprah wouldn't be able to afford it. Quote from her: "This is not true. This is absurd. I would never say something like that to a customer."
Well: she said, she said. I have zero experience of shopping in upmarket fashion stores, but people who do have tell me that the sales assistants can be awfully snooty — the more upmarket, the snootier.
On the other hand, their snootiness is comprehensive: I mean, the stories you hear about the snootiness come from people of all colors and backgrounds.
In a store like that, in a location like that, when a black woman comes in, the default assumption would be that she is the family member of some African dictator. Mrs. Mugabe, for example, is known to be an extremely keen shopper for luxury goods. They don't have too many black welfare queens in downtown Zürich. On circumstantial grounds, therefore, I seriously doubt racial prejudice played any part in any snootiness the store assistant may have engaged in.
Fortifying the impression that Oprah was making an alp out of a molehill there is the fact that Oprah is promoting a movie she has a part in, a piece of black grievance porn about a White House butler. One thing about Oprah that no-one could deny is that the lady has a talent for publicizing herself … "By any means necessary," as the slogan on ghetto T-shirts goes.
If, as I think more likely than not, Oprah lied about this incident, or perhaps just embroidered the truth some for purposes of self-promotion, then she did a wicked thing.
For a powerful, wealthy, invulnerable person like Oprah to tell lies about a humble working shop girl, would be beyond shameful. Back in aristocratic times there was the concept of noblesse oblige, which told the rich and powerful that they owed some deference to the poor and powerless people whose labors supported them.
It may be that Oprah, being black, and obviously caught up in the romance of American blackness, still thinks of herself as one of the poor and powerless, and of low-wage shop assistants, if they are white, as belonging to the rich and powerful.
That would relieve her of any need to practice noblesse oblige. That's psychologically possible … but I am merely speculating.
As a footnote here: I couldn't help but smile at the naïvety of the store assistant, in her interview with the Swiss newspaper, betraying the fact that she has not undergone the years of rigorous training in racial hypersensitivity that Americans get in their school and college years. Quote from her: "I didn't hurt anyone. I don't know why someone as great as her must cannibalize me on TV." End quote.
Given that Oprah Winfrey is black, and the size of a small chalet, "cannibalize" was not the happiest choice of word there, Signorina.
04 — Missouri rodeo homicidal racist outrage. If the indignities suffered by a black media billionairess at the hands of a store assistant leave you dry-eyed, perhaps I can touch your heart with a different racist outrage, this one suffered by a different black American who, although not yet a billionaire, has twice been elected President of the United States and has also been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, yet still gets threatened with violence by sneering white racists. Get your hanky out. Ready? OK.
The victim here is of course Barack Obama. The racist criminal thug who insulted our President is a clown who was supplying light relief during a rodeo at the Missouri state fair last week.
The clown was originally identified as one Tuffy Gessling, but Mr. Gessling says that while he was part of the clown troupe at the fair, he wasn't the one who burned the cross on Obama's front lawn.
No, wait, that wasn't what they offending clown did. What did he do? He put on an Obama mask and said: "I know I'm a clown. He just runs around actin' like one, doesn't know he is one." Then he participated in some clown repartee about a bull chasing Obama. The crowd laughed appreciatively.
Oh, the humanity! The nation naturally exploded in outraged horror at this vicious display of naked racism. Claire McCaskill, Missouri's senior senator, said the clown's act was, quote, "shameful." Missouri congressman Lacy Clay said it showed, quote, "an ugly face of intolerance," presumably not referring to the Obama mask. The Lieutenant Governor of the state tweeted that, quote: "I condemn the actions disrespectful to POTUS the other night. We are better than this." End quote. The Governor himself, at a press conference, said that the clown act was, quote, "inappropriate and offensive and does not reflect the values of Missourians," end quote.
The President of the NAACP's Missouri Chapter, name of Mary Ratliff, told a local TV station that, quote: "I think that a hate crime occurred. I think a hate crime occurs when you use a person's race to despict who they are and to make degrading comments, gestures, etc., against them." End quote. She then called on both the Justice Department and the Secret Service to open investigations of the clown.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, himself a native of Missouri, told reporters that, quote: "It was certainly not one of the finer moments in our state," end quote. At the time of going to tape here, the President himself has not yet spoken up, perhaps being too distraught to do so. Nor have we yet heard reactions from foreign heads of state, from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, from the Pope, the Dalai Lama, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, or the Supreme Council of Galactic Overlords.
The Missouri State Fair Commission has ordered that officials and contractors hired by the state's rodeo association — which would include cowboys and clowns — complete sensitivity training before they are allowed to perform at the state fair again.
I'm sorry, guys; but to demand sensitivity training for clowns is to utterly miss the point of clownhood.
To cast our eyes back once again to the old aristocratic orders of Europe, the licensed jester or fool was the one person free to say anything he pleased about the monarch or nobleman he served. As one of Shakespeare's characters says: "There is no slander in an allowed fool." Indeed, those court fools served a valuable function, keeping their masters in touch with reality. In King Lear the king's fool is the only one talking sense. True, he gets hanged for it at last, but not by Lear.
The Missouri rodeo clown has not yet been hanged, only crushed like a bug. The Missouri State Fair has banned him for life. The announcer who engaged in repartee with him has resigned as president of the Missouri Cowboy Rodeo Association and is under pressure to resign as Superintendent of the Boonville School District.
Once again, as with the Oprah incident, the impression we're left with here is that of the racism charge being used on behalf of someone rich and powerful to beat down and destroy someone poor and helpless. I guess that powerful blacks, and the rich white liberals who fawn on them, just aren't into noblesse oblige.
05 — Why you should worry about Egypt. I mentioned back there somewhere the real trouble and strife that's going on in other parts of the world. The action isn't all in luxury Swiss boutiques and flyover country state fairs.
There is, for example, Egypt, much in the news this week. You'll recall that Hosni Mubarak, who ran an easy-going authoritarian dictatorship as friendly to the U.S.A. as it's possible to be in that neck of the desert, was regarded as insufficiently humanitarian by our State Department. They co-operated in his overthrow. The military took power for a while, then there were parliamentary elections, won by the Muslim Brotherhood, a fanatically Islamist outfit.
Fanatical Islam, for all its emotional appeal, is not very good at parliamentary government, or indeed at putting rice in people's bowls. There was a political crack-up and the military took over again. This made the Muslim Brotherhood supporters mad as hell, and they've been out protesting. The military responded with force, killing several hundred protestors in the capital this week. Law and order seems to have broken down elsewhere in the country, too. Coptic Christians in particular are being persecuted and their churches burned.
All this is as Radio Derb predicted back in January, when we called Egypt "the next failed state."
The U.S. government has responded by clicking its tongue and issuing disapproving statements about "human rights" and such. They have not, though, shown any indication of shutting off the aid spigot. We give Egypt $1.5 billion a year as a bribe not to make trouble with Israel; but our government is legally obliged to stop the aid in the event of a coup d'etat.
Since a coup is exactly what happened last month, our government is in an unstable position here. Sensing this, and ticked off by the Obama administration's apparent continuing support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the military rulers of Egypt seem to be looking for support from Russia and China.
It's all a heck of a mess, and a complete failure for American diplomacy. It also seems to vindicate the judgment of David Goldman, in his 2011 book How Civilizations Die, that the Muslim world is in a death spiral, those nations not propped up by oil revenues sliding back into barbarism and destitution.
Should we care? Well, certainly we should care about the incompetence of our diplomats, as a general matter; and we should care that our government throws billions of our public dollars into a trashcan state like Egypt. The first thing is shameful, and the second is wasteful.
What we should mostly care about, though, is the refugee problem. Egypt has more than eighty million people, 45 percent of them illiterate and unemployable in an advanced society. As Egypt disintegrates, untold numbers of Egyptians will try to get out.
Europe will be their immediate destination: Greece and Cyprus are both just 300 miles from Egypt by sea, and both are members of the European Schengen area of countries whose borders are entirely open to each other.
We have seen, though, with Somalis, Syrians, and the African refugees on Malta, how eager our State Department is to settle refugees in the U.S.A. So when the Europeans start to howl as the second or third million Egyptian refugees come ashore, you can be sure our diplomats will rush to help out.
It's distressing to see pictures of Muslim Brotherhood supporters being shot down in the streets of Cairo, but ultimately it's their business and not many Americans will lose sleep over it. What should keep you awake at night is the prospect of the State Department and their refugee contractors settling ten thousand Muslim Brotherhood refugees in your town.
Don't think they won't do it. In all likelihood, plans are already under way.
06 — Miscellany. And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: A federal judge, Shira Sheindlin, has ruled that the stop-and-frisk tactics of the New York Police Department violate the constitutional rights of minorities in the city. Now the whole policy has to be reworked under federal supervision.
I'm afraid this awakens the heartless cynic in me. That heartless cynic has long suspected that the white liberals who dominate New York society want to drive out blacks and Hispanics, who make the place look untidy and generate no revenue. Of course a white New York liberal would die under torture before admitting to any such motive; but as the philosopher John Locke said, quote: "I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts." The actions of white liberals like Mayor Michael Bloomberg seem designed to make New York's non-Asian minorities uncomfortable and unwelcome. Stop-and-frisk was a case in point.
Judge Sheindlin's ruling has me wondering whether perhaps I haven't been cynical enough. The ending of stop-and-frisk will surely lead to a big increase in the number of blacks and Hispanics killing each other. Is that perhaps Judge Sheindlin's intention? Having failed to drive these undesirables out of the city, is it now the hope of the liberals that they will just annihilate themselves in a frenzy of homicide? I can't help wondering.
Item: The thing that struck me most about the Paula Deen affair of a few weeks ago was the element of cruelty in it. I knew of course that liberal ant-racists are vicious and unprincipled, but the Paula Deen business brought home to me how nasty they are. Ms. Deen never did harm to anyone, and groveled and pleaded for mercy, yet the liberals did everything but tie her to a stake and shoot arrows at her.
The nastiest thing of all, I thought, was her publisher's canceling Ms. Deen's forthcoming book, which was already selling well by pre-order, and would surely have made them a bundle of money. Making a profit by doing mean things to people is all too common in the world, God knows, and nothing to be surprised about; but forgoing a profit so that you can be mean to a silly but harmless old woman, is something close to pathological. The publisher there was Ballantyne Books, and if I can think of anything to do to show my disgust for their despicable action, I shall do it.
Well, the whole fuss arose because of a lawsuit against Ms. Deen by the manager of a restaurant she owned. The manager, Lisa Jackson, had sued Ms. Deen for racial discrimination and sexual harassment. Since Ms. Jackson is white and female, just like Ms. Deen, it was a pretty implausible suit from the get-go. On Monday this week a U.S. District Court Judge threw out the racial discrimination charges on the grounds that Ms. Jackson, being white, has no standing to sue another white person under the Civil Rights Act.
The sexual harassment charges are still outstanding but will likely follow the racial discrimination ones down the judicial toilet. It's small consolation for Ms. Deen, whose life has been comprehensively ruined by the anti-racist stormtroopers, but I congratulate her on the small victory anyway.
Item: Here are two news stories about California. See if you can spot the cognitive dissonance here. Ready?
Here's the first story, from the Sacramento Business Journal, Thursday, headline: California jobless claims rise by 3,700. Extract, quote:
The Golden State saw jobless claims rise by 3,715 due to layoffs in the service industry … the number also doesn't include the long-term jobless in general, who are no longer eligible for benefits and may have given up on their job searches.
End quote. Got that? OK, here's the second story, from the Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, headline: Congressional representatives urge Brown to sign immigration bill. Extract, quote:
Twenty-eight of California's congressional representatives are throwing their weight behind state legislation that would make it harder to deport immigrants who are in the country illegally.
So unemployment numbers are rising, what should we do? I know — let's make it harder to deport illegal aliens! That'll solve the problem! Ri-i-ight.
Item: Here is Hillary Clinton addressing a room full of Civil Rights muckety-mucks on Monday.
[Clip: "One of my early mentors as a lawyer was John Doar, who argued pivotal voting-rights cases for the Kennedy Justice Department. In 1963, in Jackson, Mississippi, John stepped between angry protesters and armed police to prevent a potential massacre after the murder of Medgar Evans……"]
That's very touching, Mrs. Clinton; except that the guy's name, as any Bob Dylan fan could tell you, was Medgar Evers, not Medgar Evans. Although really, at this point, what difference does it make? [Hillary laugh.]
Item: Finally, just a shout-out here to 28-year-old Ryan Havens Tannenholz of Boise, Idaho. Mr. Tannenholz is a "furry," which is to say a person who dresses up as an animal. There are a whole lot of such people, a menagerie of them you might say. They even have a website, Flayrah.com. According to that website, Mr. Tannenholz leans towards the canine fancy, dressing up as a dog, a wolf, a white husky and a fox.
Which is very strange, I mean even stranger than it sounds, because on August 1st, in Boise, Idaho, Mr. Tannenholz was arrested for having sexual intercourse with a cat.
Before you ask: No, I don't know what kind of cat it was — tabby, ginger, Siamese, I just don't know. Nor do I know whether Mr. Tannenholz dressed up as a dog to do the deed. I don't even know if it was a male or a female cat; though I'd assume it was female — they're pretty conventional folk up there in Idaho.
07 — Signoff. And there you are, ladies and gents; that's your ration for this week. I now have to go and lay down the law to my recalcitrant employees, some of whom I can see frolicking in the garden outside the studio window … Good grief, is that Mandy, my research assistant? Looks like … though it's hard to tell in that position … I really must try to impose some discipline here …
More from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches]