»  National Review Online

June 7th, 2001



If you spend much time fiddling with computers and browsing technical sites on the web, you know all about FAQs. FAQ stands for "Frequently Asked Question." Well, here are some of the FAQs from my emailbag.

        Q:  Having attained 15 minutes of fame earlier this year as The Man Who Hates Chelsea Clinton, when are you going to dump on the Bush girls?
        A:  When they've spent as much of my money (and yours), and as brazenly, as Chelsea did, and when they've helped their Dad to trash the law and the Constitution, and to survive impeachment for lying to a grand jury. And when they've gone out on the stump to help their Mom turn my state into North Korea. And when they've been late to church.

        Q:  Given that you are not yet a U.S. citizen, where do you get off passing derogatory comments about America?
        A:  I find it hard to believe that I have ever made any derogatory comments about America, a country I adore. If anyone can come up with an example, I'll apologize for it. My derogatory comments either deal with Western society at large — Europe as much as America — or else take on one small subset of Americans, namely politicians, bureaucrats, public-sector union bosses, and others who live, directly or indirectly, on tax revenues. Though merely a resident alien, I pay full federal, state and local taxes, and FICA, at levels that take my breath away. Which is to say, I pay the salaries and benefits of the tax-eaters, just as much as you do; yet I do not have the vote. Sounding off on NRO is my way of saying: "No taxation without representation." If you can get me off the tax hook, I promise to shut up. Better be quick, though; my citizenship papers are moving through the system.

        Q:  You occasionally refer to your day job. What is your day job?
        A:  Freelance financial systems consultant … which is a hifalutin way of saying I cut code for Wall Street firms at an hourly fee. Dirty work, but someone has to do it.

        Q:  When's your new novel coming out, and what's it about?
        A:  Very soon, I hope. Depending on certain factors beyond my control, either this month, or else late August. It's about China, Tibet, Wall Street, and Italian opera.

        Q:  Your wife is Chinese. Is she on board with all the rude things you write about China?
        A:  I don't write rude things about China. I write rude things about the Chinese Communist Party, which is a loathsome clique of gangsters, a blight on their own people (not to mention the people of Tibet, Eastern Turkestan, Taiwan and Mongolia) and a serious danger to the peace of the world. My wife and I both pray for the day when China's long night of despotism comes to an end at last, and freedom's morning breaks over that beautiful, tragic land.

        Q:  What's your favorite movie?
        ALonely Are the Brave (Kirk Douglas, Walter Matthau).

        Q:  When you read for pleasure, what do you read?
        A:  I have very little time to read for pleasure, I am very, very sorry to say. I mostly read books I am paid to read, for review or as background to an article. I am currently reading two books just for pleasure: Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy's life of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey and Roger Scruton's book of essays The Philosopher on Dover Beach. The last work of fiction I read without being paid to was Jack Higgins' Day of Reckoning, which was not very good, but better than most of the "literary" fiction I get for review.

        Q:  If there were a Derbyshire amendment to the U.S. Constitution, what would it be?
        A:  It would ban labor unions in the public sector, including teacher and police unions.

        Q:  Why do you never respond to Andrew Sullivan's attacks and smears?
        AAquila non capit muscas.

        Q:  Given that you think homosexuality is unhealthy because it spreads AIDS, and given that AIDS is spread in Africa mainly by heterosexual intercourse, do you think heterosexuality is also unhealthy?
        A:  Yes, I most certainly do think that the African style of heterosexuality, with very high levels of promiscuity and prostitution, and the weird, disgusting phenomenon of "dry sex," is unhealthy.

        Q:  What will you do if your son (currently age 6) or your daughter (8) decides to live as a homosexual?
        A:  I'll cope, as loving parents generally do, bless them all. But I would gladly give an arm to prevent it happening. A reader has suggested the following thought experiment. Imagine that tomorrow some drug company were to announce a new drug with the following properties: (1) If taken by a pregnant woman during her second trimester, it would infallibly guarantee that the baby to be born would grow up heterosexual, and (2) It had absolutely no harmful side effects whatsoever on either mother or child. Question: In which direction do you think that company's share price would move?

        Q:  Why don't you go to church more often?
        A:  Sloth.

        Q:  Why didn't you answer my email?
        A:  Dealing with reader email isn't easy. I am one of the dwindling band of columnists that still posts an e-address for readers to reply to. This, I frankly admit, is for selfish reasons. I learn a lot from reader emails, and even get ideas for columns from them. (No, you don't make commission. Glory has no price.) To be sure, a lot of emails come in from bores, cranks and lunatics, but there are many more from thoughtful people who have something instructive or interesting to say. Plus, there's always the off-chance that the CEO of Harper-Collins will be excited by something I've written and email back to offer me a $4m advance if I'll expand it to book length. Or that Britney Spears will swoon over a column and, captivated by my fascinating opinions, decide on e-impulse to hire me as her personal masseur. "Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days …" Of course, I would reply to all emails if I could, and I feel bad that I can't. It's as if you were to give a lecture, and, at the end of the lecture, stepping down from the podium, be accosted by a member of the audience saying: "Thank you for the talk, Mr. Derbyshire, but I'd just like to take you up on something you said …" What are you going to do, turn on your heel and walk away from that person? Not if you have any manners. However, it is a matter of sheer numbers. An average column brings in 70-80 emails. Imagine 70 people waiting at the foot of the podium. If I say anything controversial, it goes up to 200-300. I do conscientiously read all of them (except the ones from planet Zvorx), but cannot possibly answer all. I do my best, and I think am currently batting around .500, but you have to take pot luck. Catch me on a slack day, when I don't much feel like doing real work, and I'll give you a thought-out answer. (I do not use boilerplate in responses.) Catch me on a double-deadline day, when the day job is acting up too, and you're going to get lost in the "pending" folder, which now occupies most of my 80-Gb hard disk. Sorry. But everything non-abusive gets read. And, where appropriate, plagiarized.

        QDo you get hate email? Is it scary?
        A:  Anyone who writes for the public gets hate mail. There are some very peculiar people out there. With a little experience, though, you can easily spot hate email from the opening words. Anything beginning: "You, Sir, …," for example, is invariably from a maniac. Often they declare themselves right there in the subject line, so you don't even have to open the damn thing: subject line "You suck" is a pretty reliable clue, I have found. Either way you can hit the "delete" button in short order and have the satisfaction of knowing the lunatic spent more time composing his foam-flecked little philippic than you did dealing with it. Once in a while someone slips in under your radar, though, so that you do end up actually reading a hate email as far as the main point. These pieces have a certain grisly fascination for me. My favorite to date is the chap who inquired politely about the location of my mother's grave … so that he could do Number One on it.

The only ones I find scary are those from people who assume that because I hold an opinion different from theirs I must therefore be "sick" and in need of "treatment." Sometimes these sinister little missives are couched in terms of the most tender, compassionate concern. ("Do please seek help, I beg you …" OK, Hillary.) These are creepy — pure U.S.S.R. All lefties are, fundamentally, totalitarians who believe dissent is either wicked or diseased.

        Q:  I want to be Derb. How can I attain this goal?
        A:  [Yes, I really do get these, surprisingly often.] You do not want to be me. I drive an 8-year-old car and own a 75-year-old house with a damp basement. I am married to a lady who has almost reached the age at which, as the classic joke says, I can trade her in for two twenties. I have two small children who, in their normal mode of activity, make more noise than WW2, and who, if I bought them Mount Rushmore as a Christmas present, would manage to lose it inside an hour. I have bad teeth, flat feet, a weak chin, receding hair, love handles and a reconstructed left ankle (car crash). You don't want to be Derb. You want to be Brad Pitt.