Apr
11
2012

A Racist at National Review? Do Tell

Conservative Forbes columnist Josh Barro is happy that John Derbyshire was fired for writing a racist column:

I'm pleased to see that National Review has fired John Derbyshire as a result of his racist screed in Taki's Magazine last week. Derbyshire's remarks were beyond the pale, and this severing of ties is important for the credibility of one of the pillar institutions in conservative publishing.

Barro, a contributor to National Review (NR) and National Review Online (NRO), was one of the first conservatives to call for Derbyshire's ouster, arguing that keeping company with a racist like Derbyshire presented a "problem for [editor Rich] Lowry and other conservatives who want to be taken seriously by broad audiences when they write about racial issues." Apparently Barro believes purging Derbyshire will remove a racist taint from the "pillar" of conservative publishing.

That's funny, because NR's 57-year history has been defined in good part by racism. And while Derbyshire may have been the magazine's latest house bigot (Elspeth Reeve has a nice summary of Derbyshire's recent racism at AtlanticWire, 4/6/12), he is just one in a continuous line of racists writing in the pages of NR.

From its founding NR held up the flag of racial segregation and white supremacy, championing racist regimes in the American South (8/24/57) and South Africa (4/23/60; 6/30/64).

In a 1957 editorial, "Why the South Must Prevail" (8/24/57), NR founder William F. Buckley cited the "cultural superiority of white over Negro" in explaining why whites were "entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where [they do] not predominate numerically." Appearing on NPR's Fresh Air in 1989 (rebroadcast 2/28/08), he stood by the passage. "Well, I think that's absolutely correct," Buckley told host Terry Gross when she read it back to him.

And why would he retract? His magazine had become and would continue to be a leading popular repository of "academic" racism and its claims that black people are less intelligent and more prone to violence and criminality than others.

In 1993, NR published a gushing review (1/18) of Paved With Good Intentions: The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America by Jared Taylor, which argued that black Americans are more violent and criminal than others. Taylor has since become a leading voice of white nationalism as the publisher of American Renaissance magazine. (In the 1990s, Taylor described himself to me as a "white separatist.") The NR review was written by fellow white nationalist Peter Brimelow, who launched the openly racist and nativist VDare website in 1999. Brimelow called Taylor's book "the most important book to be published on the subject in many years," concluding that its message would likely be missed: "It is hardly surprising that both Left and (alleged) Right prefer to cling to the myth of a culpable–but therefore at least in theory correctable–white racist America."

In a positive review (NR, 9/12/94) of Race, Evolution, and Behavior, a 1994 book by Philippe Rushton, reviewer Mark Snyderman eagerly recounted the book's "ambitious" and "fearless" thesis: "Orientals are more intelligent, have larger brains for their body size, have smaller genitalia, have less sex drive, are less fecund, work harder and are more readily socialized than Caucasians; and Caucasians on average bear the same relationship to blacks."

Since white supremacist and academic racist writings have been a fairly continuous staple at NR, current staff can't feign ignorance. Current NR editor Rich Lowry, who fired Derbyshire, was hired as a writer in 1992.

In 1997, the year Lowry became editor of the magazine, NR tapped Rushton, already notorious for his racial theories, to write a review of a new edition of The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould's critique of eugenics and academic racism. Predictably, Rushton (9/15/97) panned the book . In 2002, when Gould died, Lowry turned to Steve Sailer (NR, 5/22/02), a leading promoter of racial IQ theories and regular contributor to VDARE, to do some grave-spitting.

To be sure, Derbyshire was flaunting his racism. Samples from the Taki's Magazine piece he was fired over include advice to white children not to "attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks" and to "avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally." Derbyshire also counsels young whites to seek out the rare friendly, civilized black to fend off charges of prejudice.

It is blatant racism, but it's hard to see a great deal of difference between what he was fired over–assertions that black people are less civilized, less intelligent and more prone to violence and criminality than others–and the racist views NR has promoted since its birth 57 years ago. And it's hard to see why anyone would take NR seriously "when they write about racial issues."

About Steve Rendall

Senior Media Analyst and Co-producer of CounterSpin Steve Rendall is FAIR's senior analyst. He is co-host of CounterSpin, FAIR's national radio show. His work has received awards from Project Censored, and has won the praise of noted journalists such as Les Payne, Molly Ivins and Garry Wills. He is co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error (The New Press, 1995, New York City). Rendall has appeared on dozens of national television and radio shows, including appearances on CNN, C-SPAN, CNBC, MTV and Fox Morning News. He was the subject of a profile in the New York Times (5/19/96), and has been quoted on issues of media and politics in publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and New York Times. Rendall contributed stories to the International Herald Tribune from France, Spain and North Africa; worked as a freelance writer in San Francisco; and worked as an archivist collecting historical material on the Spanish Civil War and the volunteers who fought in it. Rendall studied philosophy and chemistry at San Francisco State University, the College of Notre Dame and UC Berkeley.