• Play the sound file
[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire March No. 2, fife'n'drum version]
01 — Intro. And Radio Derb is on the air! Greetings, listeners, from your symbolically genial host John Derbyshire, here with news from far and wide.
My lady here has been having anxious phone calls and WeChat exchanges with friends and relatives in China. What's that all about? Let's take a look.
02 — Hysteria goes viral. Screaming headlines all over.
Drudge Report: OUTBREAK OVERWHELMS … DOCTORS COLLAPSE … LOCKDOWN TOO LATE? …
New York Post: VIDEOS SHOW "DIRE" SITUATIONS AT CHINESE HOSPITALS AMID CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK. That's the online version. My print edition says: A STATE OF WAR vs. VIRUS.
Daily Mail Online: CHINA IN LOCKDOWN.
Guardian: LIFE UNDER LOCKDOWN IN CHINA: HOSPITAL QUEUES AND EMPTY STREETS.
New York Times: CHINA'S TRAVEL LIMITS NOW COVER 35 MILLION PEOPLE.
Los Angeles Times: YOU'VE REACHED YOUR FREE ARTICLE LIMIT. Ah, the hell with these paywalls.
So what is the body count here? Twenty-six as I speak; so far as I can gather, all of them in China, all or most in or near the central city of Wuhan.
Twenty-six dead? In a nation of 1.4 billion? It's too bad for the loved ones of those twenty-six, of course. Send not to know For whom the bell tolls. There but for the grace of God, … and so on. Proper sympathy and respect. But … twenty-six? In Communist China? Prison guards in Tibet probably clubbed twenty-six Buddhist nuns to death over the same span of time.
So what accounts for all the hysteria? A number of things.
First of course there is the folk memory of great plagues in the past: the Black Death in 14th-century Europe, the Plague of Justinian eight hundred years earlier, which seems to have been even worse, and recurring similar but lesser events down into quite modern times — the great influenza pandemic that followed World War One, and killed more people than the war had.
Bear in mind, too, that "modern times" came later in China than in the West. My wife's home town in Manchuria was the epicenter of the greatest-ever outbreak of pneumonic plague, a close relative of the Black Death. Tens of thousands died. That was in 1911. There must be people my age in that town who heard all about it from their parents.
All right, all right; but with today's understandings of disease transmission, and today's standards of public hygiene — yes, even in China, although perhaps not in San Francisco — is all the hysteria really justified?
My guess would be not. Michael Fumento, who knows this territory better than anyone — he's the guy who debunked the myth of heterosexual AIDS in a book with that title thirty years ago — has a good scoff piece in today's New York Post.
So, dim folk memories aside, why the hysteria? I think that so far as the Western world is concerned, we have caught it from China. The Chinese are hysterical about it and hysteria, like influenza, is contagious. That's especially true in an age like ours: a hysterical age, with public media hungry for sensation, and the old human fascination for tales of world-wide catastrophe still strong — think of global warming.
But that just pushes the question back one square. Why are the Chinese so hysterical about it?
For clues, look back to the SARS panic of seventeen years ago. I got an interesting perspective on that event from reading a novel about it by Chinese dissident writer Hu Fayun. I not only read the novel, I reviewed it: You can read my review at johnderbyshire.com under Reviews, Fiction. Here's a quote from my review:
SARS was much more a political than a medical event. Only a few hundred people died from the disease. As a character in the novel asks rhetorically: "With all the hundreds of millions of people in China, can you name a cause of death that doesn't kill more people than SARS?" As that character also points out, though, the management of public panic over SARS offered both great dangers and great career opportunities to government officials, and that was always the aspect of the matter foremost in their minds.
You have to hear that in the context of medical care in China, which is different from medical care in Western countries in important ways.
The one great truth about medical care everywhere is that supply can never meet demand. In the West we do our best to square the circle with pricing, waiting lists, taxes on employers, government-subsidized bogus "insurance" schemes, and so on — all pretty open, and as annoying and irrational as they are, everyone's used to them.
The Chinese health-care system is more … Chinese. There are I am sure many kind and humane doctors in China doing their best for their patients. There are a lot of the other kind, too, though.
I have spent very little time in China these past twenty years, but the little time I've spent was enough to hear ordinary citizens express angry dislike of the medical profession on three or four occasions. Something like: "Doctors, those bastards …" Corruption is certainly quite common. The doctor will see you now … for a price — in cash, please.
Layered on top of this is the huge rise in expectations that has come up this past thirty years as a side consequence of China's amazing economic advance. From a poor, cramped society up against Malthusian limits, with an unresponsive economy, China has quite suddenly been transformed into a more-or-less modern, Western-style consumer paradise, where middle-class people can buy all they need in free markets … except, of course, for the aforementioned reasons of supply and demand, in the matter of health-care.
So a widespread medical emergency gets citizens talking and thinking about one of the more unpopular features of their social and political system. That spooks the authorities. To re-quote from my review of Hu Fayun's novel:
The management of public panic over SARS offered both great dangers and great career opportunities to government officials.
Hence all these strenuous efforts by the authorities to show how capably they can handle a crisis.
The totalitarian nature of Chinese society also promotes hysteria. China is not as totalitarian as it was thirty years ago; but news media are still firmly controlled by the Party, and old habits — habits of both the rulers and the ruled — die hard. Just as a bouncing ball ricochets faster and more energetically in a small space than in a large one, fears, panics, and hysteria bounce around in a closed or partly-closed society more than in an open one.
It's unfortunate, too, that this outbreak has happened in the run-up to Chinese New Year, when huge numbers of Chinese people are on the move to spend the New Year holiday with relatives in distant places. If you are Chinese, this is the time of year more than any other when you find yourself jammed in great crowds of strangers trying to get on trains, or buy tickets. Imagine being stuck in one of those throngs when some stranger an arm's length away emits a loud sneeze. The Chinese word for "stampede," in case you're wondering, is 惊 逃.
And then I have darker suspicions. You don't hear much about biological warfare research, and there is supposed to be a worldwide ban on it. I would not be astounded to learn, though, that the major powers have projects ongoing under deep secrecy.
I would especially be un-astounded to learn that China is doing bioweapons research. There is somewhat more awareness of the topic in China than here. ChiCom propaganda says that when Japan occupied northeast China back in the 1930s and 1940s, the Japs did biological warfare experiments on Chinese subjects. I have no idea whether this is true, though it might be; the point is that everyone in China has heard about it many many times.
If the ChiComs are doing biological warfare research and something nasty were to escape from one of their labs, they would be seriously embarrassed. They don't like being embarrassed.
Stretching my suspicions a wee bit further, I wonder if perhaps someone in the Inner Party has read Irwin Shaw's 1967 short story The Mannichon Solution.
If you read my monthly diaries you'll recall that in the story, an industrial chemist accidentally discovers a substance that is instantly lethal to living creatures, but only yellow ones. One of the guy's colleagues is Japanese. The story ends with this colleague placing an order with his lab supplier for a thousand white mice.
03 — Canada's SPLC knock-off. Speaking of contagions, I am sorry to see that our neighbors up there in the Friendly Giant to the North have acquired their very own Southern Poverty Law Center.
This Canadian version of the SPLC is of course not called "Southern" anything. The SPLC branded themselves that way so as to key in to Northern liberals' fantasies about leering, sneering Good Ol' Boys down South beating up on cringing, defenseless Negroes. That was in furtherance of the SPLC's entire business model, originally thought up by SPLC founder Morris Dees, which is to monetize Northern liberals' conviction of their moral superiority over Hillbillies and hicks.
In a Canadian context, "Southern" wouldn't make much sense, as practically all Canadians live in the South of their big, wonderful, picturesque country. The small numbers who don't are either Eskimos or else white people considerably less liberal than the inhabitants of Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, or Vancouver.
So this Canadian knock-off of SPLC is not called "Southern" anything. It's actually called CAHN, C-A-H-N, which stands for "Canadian Anti-Hate Network." Quote from an excellent piece of long-form journalism by John Klein at the web magazine C2C Journal, January 22nd, edited quote:
CAHN began operations in early 2018, billing itself as an "independent, nonprofit organization made up of Canada's leading experts and researchers on hate groups and hate crimes." … It makes no bones about the inspiration for its domestic anti-hate crusade. In a letter to a House of Commons committee introducing itself to Canadian parliamentarians last April, CAHN claimed to be "modelled after, and supported by, the esteemed Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in the United States." The letter was delivered several weeks after the no-longer-esteemed [Morris] Dees was fired for allegations of sexual and racial misconduct.
CAHN are not having things all their own way up there in the Dominion. Another thing that happened in 2018 was the founding of the People's Party of Canada, an anti-elitist and mildly — although by Canadian standards radically — immigration-patriotic party.
The PPC wants, for example, to restrict chain migration, and to end obstetric tourism. I'm not clear if they want to end birthright citizenship. If they do, and they succeed, that will be a major victory for immigration sanity. Of advanced nations outside Latin America, only the U.S.A. and Canada currently grant birthright citizenship. If the Canadians dump it, we'll be all alone in the birthright-citizenship club with Cuba, Brazil, and some others down there south of the border.
The People's Party of Canada is led by the smart, photogenic, and French-English-bilingual politician Maxime Bernier. Bernier has been scathing about this CAHN outfit, tweeting yesterday that it is, tweet, "a far left outfit allied with Antifa thugs," end tweet.
My earlier theme of hysteria is relevant here, too. In order to accomplish their goal — which is, of course, to make a huge bundle of money — CAHN needs to whip up hysteria about "hate" spreading across the Canadian tundra like an outbreak of coronavirus.
No such thing is happening, of course; as one of the commenters at Bernier's tweet observed, CAHN is a solution looking for a problem. But as the success of the SPLC showed, there is a widespread hunger among gullible white liberals and media types to believe in an epidemic of "hate," and that hunger can be monetized very profitably.
The SPLC's assets are now over half a billion dollars. Once you know that, it's surprising that it's taken Canada so long to produce a domestic imitator. It seems to me that any nation in which white ethnomasochism is a major feature of the social landscape ought to have produced an SPLC knock-off by now. What's happened to the spirit of entrepreneurship?
As a footnote here, let me just vent briefly about the commandeering of the perfectly good English word "hate" to refer to any kind of departure from ruling-class ideology.
To recycle my favorite example: I am strongly opposed to mass settlement of Muslims in Western countries. I think it's a simply terrible idea. So I hate Islam, right?
Not at all. I respect Islam as an old and worthy religion that provides consolation and structure for the lives of many millions. It's not for me; but then, I'm not a religious person.
There are, though, fifty-odd majority-Muslim nations, some of them very prosperous, most with pleasant climates. There is no necessity for millions of Muslims to move to Western nations, and their doing so brings stresses and discord we don't need.
I wish joy, happiness, long life, and prosperity to Muslims everywhere. I just don't think they mix well in Western societies. As we say here on the Dissident Right: That's what separate countries are for.
If those sentiments are a form of "hate," then something very strange has happened to the meaning of words.
04 — Miscellany. If you don't mind, listeners, I shall depart from the usual Radio Derb template and proceed straight to my miscellany of brief items. In any given week there are topics I want to air at length, and other topics where I have only a half-dozen sentences to say. The proportion of the first kind of topics to the second varies. This week the brief items predominate; so here they are.
Imprimis: Uplifting event of the week was undoubtedly the rally for Second Amendment rights in Richmond, Virginia on Monday. Our own correspondent Jack Dalton gave good stirring coverage to the event, and I won't try to improve on his post.
I was, though, struck by Jack's noting that, quote:
Strangely, the National Rifle Association (NRA) had virtually no presence at all and barely participated in this amazing grassroots event.
I wasn't at the rally myself, so I'll take Jack's word on it. Speaking as an NRA life member, though, I'm disappointed in them for not having taken the lead here. Yes, I'm aware the NRA has been going through some troubles recently. The inside information I've heard is that Wayne LaPierre is decent and dedicated but prone to personnel problems. Hey, just like a certain President I can think of …
Whatever the facts there, I hope the NRA sorts itself out and comes to the forefront again as our nation's voice for responsible gun ownership. When I'm through with the podcast I shall send them a modest check; although, I'm sorry guys, $300 to upgrade to an Endowment Life Membership is way outside my budget, even with the gift of a complimentary jacket.
Item: I don't have a Wall Street Journal subscription, so I hit another paywall trying to read this story. The headline was encouraging, though.
Headline: U.S. Goes From Support to Sanctions for African Ally. Subhead: "Washington punishes South Sudan after giving it billions, as political deadlock prolongs conflict and raises famine risk."
From the little bit I could read it seems that South Sudan, a new country that broke away from the rest of Sudan nine years ago, is a total failure, with no economy worth speaking of and corrupt leaders whose main activities are fighting among themselves for access to the billions of dollars they get in aid from the civilized world.
Has the Trump administration actually stopped our aid to South Sudan, though? I really hope so, speaking as a firm believer in the late Lord Bauer's apothegm that foreign aid is the transfer of wealth from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.
I can't find any confirmation in other news outlets, though; and the pessimist in me says that Deep State bureaucrats in America or any other civilized country would pluck out their own eyeballs rather than cut their foreign aid budgets.
Casting around there for news about South Sudan, in fact, what I was mainly getting was pictures of starving lions in the Khartoum zoo. The poor lions are very seriously undernourished; you can count their ribs.
Given what I can reasonably surmise about the quality of political leadership in South Sudan, I have a suggestion for the people of that country as to how they might improve that quality and fatten up the lions all in one move. If South Sudan citizens groups will get in touch with me via VDARE.com, I'll be glad to pass on my suggestion. No charge!
Item: How do you feel about faggots, listener? Personally, as a working-class English lad with relatives in the Northwest and West Midlands, I'm very fond of faggots. I love to chow down on a nice faggot smothered in gravy. Delicious!
Here's another faggot-fancier: Paul Lynch from Morriston in South Wales. Mr Lynch's local butcher supplies an especially delectable faggot, so much so that Mr Lynch put up a post on Facebook, urging readers to patronize the butcher and his faggots.
That got Mr Lynch banned from Facebook for hate speech. Mr Lynch asked them to review their decision, but they just confirmed the ban. Apparently none of Mark Zuckerberg's commissars owns a dictionary or has access to Wikipedia.
Item: Here's a glimpse of things to come, if ever I glimpsed one.
Rebecca Roache is a philosopher — I mean, a real academic philosopher, in fact a research philosopher, at the University of London. Dr Roache lists among her research interests: Metaphysics (especially philosophy of time, free will, personal identity), and philosophy of mind.
One thing the future may have in store for us, according to Dr Roache, is biotechnology to trick our minds into thinking time is passing more slowly than it actually is. I'm guessing that a metaphysician like Dr Roache would want quotes around the word "actually" there … whatever.
Dr Roache is particularly keen on uploading human minds to computers to speed up the rate at which the mind works. What use would that be? Well, says the good doctor, we could save a bundle of money on incarceration costs. Quote from her:
Uploading the mind of a convicted criminal and running it a million times faster than normal would enable the uploaded criminal to serve a thousand-year sentence in eight-and-a-half hours. This would, obviously, be much cheaper for the taxpayer than extending criminals' lifespans to enable them to serve a thousand years in real time.
Well, yes, I guess it would. Although I must say, to judge from proceedings in the U.S. Senate this week, the trick to making an actual eight and a half hours seem like a thousand years has already been mastered.
Item: Last November Chesa Boudin was elected District Attorney for San Francisco. Who he? He a red-diaper baby, son of communist terrorists Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert.
That's not idle abuse I'm offering there: Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert were both arrested, tried, and convicted for the murders of two police officers and a security guard in 1981, when Chesa was one year old. Gilbert is still in jail; Kathy Boudin was let out on parole in 2003.
Chesa was raised by two other crazy leftists, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. Ayers and Dohrn avoided lengthy prison sentences and settled to comfortable well-paid careers in, of course, the academy.
None of that is Chesa Boudin's fault, but it might as well be: He's a crazy radical himself. CBS San Francisco tells us that he, quote,
ran a progressive campaign that included working to end mass incarcerations and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
If you have followed my commentary on the stupid, innumerate, and pernicious Disparate Impact doctrine, you'll have heard me argue that those racial disparities in the criminal justice system are a straightforward consequence of the fact that some races are way more criminal than others. And in the matter of mass incarceration, you may also have heard me argue that we're not putting enough black men in prison.
Chesa Boudin begs to differ. As soon as he took office on January 8th he set about fulfilling his campaign promises. What he did was, he fired six of the D.A. office's prosecutors, in the homicide, felony and gang units. This is not usual behavior in an incoming D.A. People get moved around, sometimes demoted, but not often just fired.
I suppose Chesa Boudin's actions are not surprising. What did surprise me, in fact shocked me, was that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor sent him a gushing video of congratulation when he took office, praising his, quote, "strength of character and moral composure" and calling him, quote, "a great beacon to many."
I understand, of course, that the notion that U.S. Supreme Court justices dwell in a lofty realm of jurisprudential philosophizing high above the grubby politicking of the other two branches, that this notion is just a polite fiction; but aren't the justices supposed to pretend?
Item: Speaking as a diehard reactionary, I'm unhappy when we lose words or expressions out of the language, or when useful words with a clear straightforward meaning, like "hate," get kidnapped by the Social Justice fanatics and made to serve purposes they were never designed for.
In the same spirit I am sad at the loss of useful symbols. I therefore mourn, and urge fellow reactionaries to mourn with me, the loss of the humble, innocuous cent sign. Come on: When was the last time you saw one?
I thought I remembered that manual typewriters used to have a key with the cent symbol on it. Hoping to perform my due diligence, I went up to the attic and dug out my own old manual typewriter. I'd forgotten, however, that it is a British model, so my effort was in vain.
I can tell you, though, that if you want to help me keep the cent sign in circulation, you can produce it on a standard computer keyboard by holding down the Alt key and typing "155" on the numeric keypad at your right.
Please do this at every opportunity. The cent symbol thanks you.
05 — Signoff. That's all for this week, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your time and attention.
As mentioned in last week's podcast, tomorrow, January 25th, is the first day of the Chinese New Year. This new year is a Year of the Rat, the first year in a twelve-year cycle, so I guess that's double auspicious. These twelve-year cycles are parceled up five at a time into sixty-year cycles; so for total auspiciousness — auspiciosity, whatever — you want the first day of a sixty-year cycle. That won't happen until January 30th 2044, though, so don't hold your breath.
Sorry: I have a mild recurring obsession with matters calendrical. I must try to keep it in check.
And tomorrow night is also Burns Night, so best wishes are also due to Scottish listeners.
Putting the two things together, double best wishes are due to inhabitants of the greatest of all Sino-Caledonian joint enterprises, the city of Hong Kong, whose modern prosperity was first established by Scotsmen then brought to fullness by the efforts of Chinese people. Well done there, Hong Kongers, and I wish you all the luck in the world keeping the ChiComs at bay.
After all that, I don't know whether I should sign out with something Chinese or something Scottish. I think this year I'll go with the Scots; in fact with Robbie Burns himself. This poem has been set to music more than once; but I prefer a plain reading by a good strong Scottish voice, in this case the voice of actor Donald Douglas — still with us, at age 86.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Donald Douglas reading "A Red, Red Rose."]