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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, dobro guitar version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your sinologically genial host John Derbyshire, recording here on the first day of the Lunar New Year, the Year of the Dog.
For the canine demographic in my listenership I shall have some dog news later in the podcast, and I promise you it will smell great.
Before I get to the lesser news, though, I have things to say about Wednesday's atrocity in Florida, where a crazy 19-year-old murdered fourteen highschoolers and three faculty members in Parkland, an upscale suburb of Miami, and of course left others gravely wounded.
This kind of thing is a commentator's nightmare. There have been enough of these horrors now that there is nothing new to say about them; and they quickly get politicized in an annoying — and to my way of thinking, unhelpful — way.
I have a point of view, though, and I'll try to express it. I hope to do so without giving offense to anyone. The only person to blame for what happened, in my opinion, is the maniac who made it happen. The rest of us are either victims — a category that includes the grieving relatives and friends, may they find some consolation — or mere bystanders.
02 — Lunatic shoots up school, commentators flap arms. Another school shooting, another flurry of pointless arm-flapping from the commentariat.
It's the same old stuff: every commentator mounting his favorite hobby-horse and galloping off to the races. Stricter federal gun control! Ban long guns for civilians! Mental health! Broken families! Violent video games! And of course: Trump!
This is tedious, and it gets more tedious each time around. Just to take those points:
Stricter federal gun control. Oh, you want much more restrictive federal gun laws? Couple of problems with that.
First problem: It's not what Americans want. Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution tweeted out a very nifty little video showing the spread of "Shall-Issue" and "Unrestricted Issue" right-to-carry laws — laws that make access to handguns easier — state by state across the U.S.A. from 1986 to the present.
Executive summary: The video — it's actually a GIF, for you tech-savvy listeners — shows well-nigh the whole country blanketed with "May-Issue" and "No-Issue" states thirty years ago, the most restrictive types of state law. Only lonely little Vermont is "Unrestricted" — the freest access to guns — and a mere handful of no-account places like Maine, Alabama and Washington State are in the slightly less free condition called "Shall-Issue."
Forward thirty years to the present. Pretty much the whole nation is now "Unrestricted" or "Shall-Issue," with a healthy minority of states in the "Unrestricted" category. Only a few hell-holes like New York State and California are still "May-Issue" restrictionists, and the "No-Issue" category has disappeared completely. The last "No-Issue" state was Illinois, which freed up its gun laws in 2013.
That's the American people voting via their state representatives. We don't want tighter gun control laws.
You may say that proves that democracy, as instantiated in this country by regular elections and universal suffrage, is a lousy idea. You may be right; but we like our democracy, too, so you've just shifted from wanting to ban one thing we like to wanting to ban a different thing we like.
Second problem with stricter federal gun control: I work at VDARE.com, a website dedicated to patriotic immigration reform. The U.S.A. has hundreds of federal laws regulating immigration. Let me tell you: If, starting tomorrow, the federal government began rigorous, impartial enforcement of those laws, Peter and Lydia and myself and the rest of our contributors would be dancing down Broadway in Carnival costumes spraying bystanders with champagne.
Federal laws are a joke. If there's some powerful lobby in Washington that wants them enforced, they'll get enforced. If there's some powerful lobby in Washington that doesn't want them enforced, they won't be. If neither thing pertains, then sometimes they will and sometimes they won't, consequent upon the whim of federal judges, FBI suits, and political fashions.
That's the country we live in. If you don't know it yet, keep reading VDARE.com.
What else you got? Ban long guns for civilians? Setting aside the small issue of repealing the Second Amendment, the Virginia Tech shooting eleven years ago, which killed almost twice as many as this Florida event, was carried out entirely with handguns.
Mental health? We have only the vaguest idea what constitutes mental health or ill-health; and our idea changes with social fashions. Fifty years ago chain-smoking was considered normal behavior, but homosexuality was listed as a mental illness. Today chain-smoking has an entry in the DSM, the psychiatrist's manual of mental illnesses. If you want to look it up, it's item 305.1 in the current DSM, titled "Tobacco Use Disorder."
Here's what we know about mental health. Most people are responsible and well-socialized. We plod through life without ever doing anything seriously wacky. A tiny minority of people are insane. This one honestly believes he is a robot, operated by commands from an orbiting satellite; that one unpredictably takes off all his clothes and runs around in circles singing "Battle Hymn of the Republic"; this other one over here regularly eats his own poop, with a dollop of mustard and a side order of sweet potato fries.
In between the big group of normals and the plainly insane few, there is a mass of people who are odd in some way or other. Some are just eccentric or antisocial; others strike the people around them as a wee bit off-tune in some areas. Still others are normal until they're suddenly not. It's a whole spectrum of oddity, with the absent-minded professor at one end and the cheerful milquetoast who suddenly butchers his wife at the other.
In the state of our present understanding, there's very little we can do about that middle mass. We can't even lock 'em all up. We could lock up the absent-minded professors and the people whose laugh sounds like a dog barking and the people who brush their teeth by holding the toothbrush still and moving their heads back and forth, but that won't catch the milquetoast sudden wife-butcherer.
Likewise with people who are aghast that the FBI didn't jump all over the case when the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, declared on social media last September that, quote, "I'm going to be a professional school shooter," end quote. This is a nation of a third of a billion souls. If the FBI pulled in every teenager who posted a violence fantasy on social media, they would do nothing else.
What else you got? Family breakdown? Prior to modern medicine, it was a normal thing. Women died in childbirth at a horrifying rate; Dads succumbed to untreatable diseases too. Read Victorian novels; they're full of widows, widowers, and orphans. The cherished memory we have of Darby and Joan raising their kids then sinking into happy retirement together was a historically brief mid-20th-century episode, when a fast rate of medical advances coincided with a conservative, conformist social ethos. The advances continue, thank goodness; but we don't have that ethos any more.
And in fact this Florida killer was in the Victorian mode. His father died from a heart attack when he was nine; his mother died from an infection last year. No amount of badgering people to stay together for the sake of the kids is going to prevent outcomes like that.
Are video games making kids violent? I just did a search. Many headlines like this one, from Time magazine, March 2014, headline: Little By Little, Violent Video Games Make Us More Aggressive. And then, many headlines like this one, from The Guardian, November 2014, headline: Video games are not making us more violent, study shows. Subheading: "Long-term research into homicide rates and depictions of violence in video games and movies shows no significant relationship."
Take your pick. My conclusion, scanning the list of headlines: We don't have a clue. For certain, there is no rock-solid established relationship between watching video games and doing violent crazy things. There seems in fact — although this is impressionistic on my part — to be a slight preponderance of studies showing no relationship.
And then of course we're hearing from the Trump Derangement Syndrome types that it's our President's fault.
Trump is not a God-King, though, whose moods affect the weather and whose command makes the crops grow. He's the hired functionary who temporarily heads up one of the three branches of one of our levels of government, that's all. School shootings have happened under presidents of every political complexion.
Trump Derangement Syndrome really should be in the shrinks' diagnostic manual. I've met a couple of these people recently, and, boy! — talk about swivel-eyed.
I think that covers all the usual responses from the commentariat. Is there anything useful we can say about these events? Anything that does not come under the descriptor "arm-flapping"?
I'm not sure. This is Radio Derb, though. I'll give it a try, and let you judge for yourself. Next segment.
03 — It's who we are. The paucity of useful and/or interesting comment on the Florida shooting was obvious, at any rate to me.
My own commentarial lodestar nowadays is Tucker Carlson. I watched Tucker's entire show Thursday night, and for the first time felt let down. The guy didn't really have anything to say. He was flapping his arms with the rest of them.
Can I do any better? I'm not sure, but I'll try.
First off, I'd note that these school shootings are a distinctly American thing. Yes, I know about the Australia shootings in 1996. That wasn't a school, though. In fact if you go to the Wikipedia page titled "List of massacres in Australia" and try Ctrl-F "school," you get no hits, although there are thirty massacres listed just for the past hundred years.
And yes, I know about the school killings that same year in Dunblane, Scotland. Not to pick nits, but that was an elementary school, and was also done with handguns by the way.
If you go looking for high-school shoot-'em-ups worldwide, far as I can see you come up totally dry, notwithstanding the fact that plenty of nations have more open attitudes to private gun ownership than we do — Switzerland and Israel, to name two.
So there's a significant data point: It's an American thing.
What do we do with that? Well, first let me confess I am laboring under a bias here. The bias is not deep-rooted: it arises from something I wrote recently, that is still in my mind — a book review that will appear at the VDARE.com website sometime in the next few days.
The book I reviewed has nothing to do with guns or social violence. It was in fact about China. I get all the China books to review. The author has much to say about the way Chinese people see the world and interact with each other, and with foreigners.
Well, here's a thing I wrote in my review, quote from myself:
[Mao Tse-tung's] revolution, for all its upheavals and horrors, had very little effect on [China's] national psyche, perhaps none at all.
End self-quote. I still have that on my mind, which is why I say I'm temporarily biased towards national character as an explanation.
That's speculative, but not wildly so. Following an earlier mass shooting four years ago, the human-science blogger JayMan, over at The Unz Review, posted a lengthy piece on guns and violence. He included numerous maps and charts, and chewed over all possible aspects of the relationship between gun ownership and gun violence. He touches all the bases you'd think of: breaking out suicides from homicides, international comparisons, violence-prone minorities, levels of religiosity, and many others.
JayMan is an intelligent and learned guy, definitely no fanatic. He is, though, over towards the genetic-determinism end of the nature-nurture spectrum, as am I.
That's where his inquiry lands up at last. It's us, he concludes. It is, as the progressive schoolmarms like to say, "who we are." Not just us Americans, but us, the different root stocks: Yankees, Appalachians, Tidewater folk, Westerners, and so on — JayMan has maps explaining that.
With fellow-citizens weeping for young lives lost, it sounds callous to say this, but it may none the less be true: We put up with dozens of dead victims of spree shooters every year because we're Americans who regard it as the price of our liberty to own guns; just as we put up with thirty thousand road traffic deaths every year because we're Americans who regard that as the price of our liberty to own personal transportation.
Probably there are things you might suggest we could do to reduce both those numbers. We're not going to do them, though, because we're Americans. That's who we are.
These are the mysteries of national character. If you track them back in a systematic way, some of them have their roots in the folds and convolutions of population genetics. Take a few tens of thousands of people from the wild, scrappy Anglo-Scottish border country, or from the nonconformist congregations of eastern England, move them to distinct territories in North America — the Appalachians, New England — and leave them alone to continue breeding among themselves for a dozen further generations or so, you'll get distinct personality types, that you might call Hillbillies or Yankees.
The precise way this works, the exact paths from individual human genome to individual human personality, is far from our present understanding. As JayMan says, though: You don't need to know the name of every worker in the factory to know that the place produces widgets. Everything we can measure about human personality and behavior has a heritable component, usually around fifty percent. Human societies are just the vector sum of lots of human personalities.
Sure, this is speculative. It's less speculative than arm-flapping about mental health and broken families, though. There's some real science in play: not enough to say dispositively that this is the last word, but enough to plant the strong suspicion that this is just who we are. Enough also to encourage researchers to press on until we do have some clear understanding.
Oh, it's solutions you're wanting? I got solutions.
I note from the business news that Remington, the country's most famous gun manufacturer, is in trouble, has in fact filed for bankruptcy. Source of the trouble? Collapsing sales.
There were spikes in gun sales following each of Barack Obama's election victories, and another spike after the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012. Gun owners thought Obama would pass more restrictive gun laws, so they armored up while they could. With the election of Donald Trump, though, panic has subsided, and the long-term slow decline in gun ownership has resumed.
So there's a solution to gun violence right there: Elect populist, gun-loving presidents, and gun ownership will decline. If you elect Progressive nanny-state presidents like Barack Obama, there'll be more guns out there.
Let's hope the gun-haters of America get that message.
04 — Blackety-black history month. February is of course Black History month, so I'm packing a couple of blackety-black news items into this segment.
I can't promise you much depth to either of them, mainly because I have zero interest in blackness. There are particular black persons I find interesting — John McWhorter, mentioned here on Radio Derb more than once, and the human-science blogger JayMan, who I was talking about in the last segment — but blackness the thing is a snoozer for me.
First up: This new movie Black Panther is making a lot of noise. It was only released — or, to recycle a very old Hollywood joke: it only escaped — on Thursday this week. The pre-publicity was stupendous, though. In case you've spent the past month or so sealed in a sensory-deprivation tank, it's a superhero movie, like the old Superman flicks.
There's this hero, the eponymous Black Panther, who has super powers. Where Superman's home was the planet Krypton, Black Panther hails from a black state called Wakanda, in Africa. Wakanda is, to quote the reviewer in Atlantic magazine, "Technologically advanced beyond the dreams of any other nation." Yeah, I know, you just sprayed coffee through your nose. Go along with me here … after you've cleaned up the mess.
The lack of narrative originality is breathtaking. As with Superman, there's a magic mineral. Unlike Kryptonite, though, this one is not lethal to the hero, in fact it's super-strong. It's called vibranium. Vibrant … vibranium — geddit? Among names the scriptwriters discarded: melanium, negronium, malcolmxium, chitlinsium, diversitium, affirmativeactionarium.
You can guess I won't be watching Black Panther. I try to keep to a minimum my watching of movies named after violent anti-white paramilitary street gangs. Also, I haven't read a comic book since the Eisenhower administration, and I regard adults who do read them as proper subjects for a reference in the psychiatrist's diagnostic manual.
In lieu of watching the actual movie, I watched Ramzpaul's YouTube take on it, which was positive. Ramzpaul offers three reasons to like the movie.
Now, it's possible — I don't actually know, I only say it's possible — that Ramzpaul, who is white, and who in fact has addressed American Renaissance conferences — it's possible that Ramzpaul has his tongue in his cheek there. Judge for yourself.
Next item on the blackety-black checklist: The just-unveiled portraits of Barack Obama and his lady, commissioned by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
Both portraits are, to anyone who likes good painting, toe-curlingly awful. That they were accepted by the Smithsonian, a national institution of high respectablity and seriousness, is a grave scandal.
But of course the Smithsonian had to accept them. Not only are Mr and Mrs Obama both black, so are both the artists. Had the Smithsonian dissed four blacks, the entire board of commissioners would have been chased out of town by a shrieking mob of Social Justice Warriors.
My question: Why were both artists black? White Americans don't paint portraits any more? Perhaps it was just random coincidence. [Laugh.]
Not only are both artists black, they mainly paint black people. Concerning Amy Sherald, the female artist who painted Mrs Obama, the New York Times tells us that she, quote, "typically depicts African-Americans doing everyday things — two women in bathing suits, a man holding a child …" End quote.
Kehinde Wiley, the guy who painted Mr Obama, takes it to the next level. Mr Wiley, a black homosexual, has previously done at least two paintings of high-T, man-jawed black women holding the severed heads of young white women. Those were supposed to have been inspired somehow by the biblical story of Judith slaying the Assyrian general Holofernes; but since Judith was a Jewish woman, presumably white, and Holofernes was a male, you have to suspect there's more going on in Mr Wiley's head than scriptural narrative.
This segment's closing remark is addressed to older Radio Derb listeners. Do you remember back at the time of the Civil Rights movement fifty years ago, do you remember the widespread dream of a unified nation in which race would be of no consequence; in which blacks and whites mingled together in equality and comity, without favoritism or tribal attachments, just American citizens together, past resentments forgotten? Remember that dream?
What a damn fool naïve stupid dream that was.
05 — Miscellany. Forgive me, listeners. I'm coming up against my time limits, having gotten carried away by the sound of my own voice there. I have to proceed straight to our closing miscellany of brief items.
Imprimis: I promised you some dog news, so here it is.
Tuesday night the prestigious Westminster Dog Show reached its climax. A little chap named Flynn was crowned Best In Show.
Flynn's breed is given to us as bichon frisé. I'm sure I don't need to tell you that's French: "bichon" is an archaic word for "dog," cognate with the English word "bitch," while "frisé" means "curly."
And if you think that's a pretty gay name for a dog breed, check out pictures of fabulous Flynn. Quote from the New York Times, February 13th, quote:
The champion … cut a striking, cloudlike figure in the ring: His powder-puff fur was painstakingly coifed, and he trotted jauntily across the floor with a step that looked almost lighter than air.
Hoo-kay. I think we know what zone we're in here. A suggestion from me for Flynn's owner: If you want to get a portrait painted of that pooch, I know just the guy.
There can't be any major figure in the history of science who's been so comprehensively misunderstood by non-scientists as Darwin. "He said we're descended from apes!" you still hear, when Darwin didn't say that at all. What he actually said was that humans, along with gorillas, chimps, and orangutans, all descended from a common ancestor.
"He came up with that stinky Theory of Evolution," you still hear. No he didn't. The notion that the species of today evolved gradually from earlier, different species, was around way before Darwin was born. By the time he published his great book in 1859, evolution was widely accepted by scientifically-minded people.
There just weren't any convincing theories about how it happened, what mechanism was driving evolution. Darwin supplied the answer: natural selection.
And in a kind of cruel symmetry, just as the Theory of Evolution was around decades before Darwin was born, it took decades after his death before natural selection was accepted.
The low point in those later decades was Eberhard Dennert's book At the Deathbed of Darwinism, published in 1904 — twenty-two years after Darwin's death. Dennert accepted evolution, but thought natural selection was a crock. You can read his whole book on the Gutenberg website.
It wasn't until modern population genetics got airborne in the years after WW1 that natural selection was gradually accepted by all biologists — half a century after Darwin's death, three-quarters of a century after he published his theory. What a genius!
Item: The resistance to science nowadays comes not from religious fundamentalists, but from Cultural Marxists.
We saw this in Sacramento last week. A local high school held a science fair. One of the projects on display was headed "Race and IQ." It kicked around the relationship between those two things, in a way not at all controversial to anyone who's looked into the science on this.
There was of course fainting and swooning all over. School District Superintendent Jorge Aguilar went on local TV to deliver, in a Mexican accent, a sniveling apology to all the Sacramentoans who had been mentally shattered by this outrage, and to assure them that the offending project was Not OK and furthermore that This Is Not Who We Are.
To anyone who appreciates empirical inquiry and doesn't mind unfashionable truths, the whole thing was pretty depressing. Say what you like about Eberhard Dennert; but until we had some understanding of genetics, there were plausible scientific reasons to doubt natural selection. These Sacramento folk are just ideological obscurantists.
It's not all negative, though. There may be a silver lining here. This is my chance to give a shout-out to another favorite blogger of mine, the one who calls himself Audacious Epigone.
For a while now Audacious has been running the theme that Generation Z — that's the one after Millennials: Generation Z are still in high school — is way less tolerant of CultMarx progressivism than the older cohorts.
He has some great maps illustrating this from a poll of high school students across the country conducted by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation in Fall of 2016. The maps show the states colored red or blue, according to respondent's preferences: Red for Trump, blue for Clinton.
My favorite one of those maps shows white male high school students only. The only blue place is Washington, D.C. The rest is wall to wall red, except for a couple of write-in exceptions.
The Millennial generation may have represented peak crazy. Perhaps there's a train back to sanity steaming towards us over the horizon. Watch those high-schoolers, especially that kid in Sacramento — who, by the way, is Asian, although whether South or East Asian, I can't discover.
When the subject of Mediterranean boat people comes up, I like to remind people that this may not stay a Mediterranean problem, especially when the Europeans institute strong Australian-style measures to stop the Mediterranean traffic.
I went on to point out that the U.S.A. had already received its first African boat people. That was back in 2007, when a boat full of Senegalese illegals arrived in Brooklyn after crossing the Atlantic.
Well, I was right in the general, just not in the particular. Here's a quote from a website named Journalists for Transparency, which for some reason doesn't date-stamp its articles. From internal evidence, this one seems to have been posted late last year. Quote:
Abdul Majeed was 5,000 miles and an ocean away from his home in Ghana when he crossed the Darien Gap, the jungle border that lies between Colombia and Panama. With him were scores of other migrants. [Inner quote.] "Somalis, Indians, Senegalese, Nepalese, Ghanaians, Bangladeshis, Cubans, Haitians and Nigerians," [End inner quote.] he recalled …
End quote. Europe's problem yesterday, our problem today. They're just taking planes instead of boats. Hey, those Africans are pretty smart!
It's a good thing we elected President Trump and got that wall built in time along the border with Mexico. Oh, wait …
Item: Speaking of Europe and of illegal immigration thereinto, the political situation there, in several countries, is crystallizing ever more clearly.
Clearest of all is that center-left parties — what over there are called Social Democrats, equivalent to our Democratic Party — are melting away like dew in the populist morn.
British author Matthew Goodwin tweeted the other day that Germany's Social Democrat Party is now polling at 16 percent, their lowest share of the vote since the 1880s. In France, Holland, and Austria it's the same, in fact somewhat worse; and as reported on Radio Derb last week, Italy's Social Democrats look like getting their culi handed to them in the March 4th elections.
Meanwhile, in case you thought that progressives couldn't get any more brazen in their contempt for white males, the youth wing of Britain's own equivalent, the Labour Party, will hold an Equalities Conference in London on March 17th.
Applications are only being accepted for folk who are either ethnic minority, or disabled, or LGBT, or female. No white, straight, fully-abled males need apply.
Those Gen Z high-schoolers can't grow up fast enough.
Item: Finally, a sports item here. I don't do half as much sports coverage as I should.
This item concerns the noble sport of curling, a sort of ice equivalent of bocce. Competitors slide rounded, flattened granite stones ("also called rocks," the Wikipedia article tells us helpfully) across an ice-covered arena, trying to have them come to rest in a circular target area at the far end.
Why has this sport suddenly got everyone's attention? For the lowest and most carnal of reasons, I am sorry to report. You see, Russian curler Anastasia Bryzgalova is, by common agreement, the hottest babe on the ice at the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Hence gushing stories like this one from the Daily Mail, February 12th, sample quote: "Admirers on Twitter have compared her to some of the world's most beautiful women including Adriana Lima, Megan Fox and Angelina Jolie," end quote.
Should you look Ms Bryzgalova up and find yourself harboring romantic aspirations towards her, please note that last year she married another curler, one of her team partners. And no, this is not ladies' golf we're talking about here: Ms Bryzgalova's marital partner is male, name of Alexander Krushelnitskiy. Presumably the couple practice curling together … [Aside.] Honey, could you turn down the thermostat a little, it's getting kinda warm in here …
06 — Signoff. That's it, ladies and gents. Thank you for listening, and welcome to the Year of the Dog. Oh: and when reporting on the Westminster Dog Show, I forgot to mention that the powder-puff fur of Flynn, the show winner, that fur that was so painstakingly coifed, is dazzling white. I await the inevitable hashtag: #WestminsterSoWhite.
Since I mentioned Darwin back there, let's have some Darwin music to see us out in honor of the great man's birthday.
What, you didn't know there was Darwin music? Of course there is. This selection — natural, of course — is from the video version of the Horrible Histories, the book series of which kept my kids' attention for a few weeks when they were little.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: From the Horrible Histories "Natural Selection."]