John Derbyshire, photographed in June 2001.
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Update: Derbyshire’s homepage at Taki magazine includes links to some of my favourite libertarians/Austrian economists, such as Tom Woods, Karen de Coste, Peter Schiff, Justin Raimondo and Paul Gottfried (OK, I’m not sure Gottfried is a libertarian and he’s probably not an Austrian economist, but I like what he writes update: but he is a fan of HL Mencken), soDerbyshire’s not all bad. However, reading his posts just reminds me of why I’m not a conservative.

John Derbyshire writes and speaks well: imaginatively, highly knowledgeably, and with sarcastic humour. He’s been in my Google Reader for, oh, at least 2 months (a long time by my standards). I’ve learned much about good writing from reading his columns and something about how to put together an amusing and informative radio show. I also was interested in his report on how he put all his “attic stuff” online. But even though he is a fellow British expatriate, after reading his latest radio show transcript and one of his recent opinion columns, out he goes. I’m sure he will be mortified, and he may well write to me to beg to be re-instated, but I am adamant (although, perhaps, for a large fee…)

The first reason is his attempt to be humorous at the expense of the nine people murdered by the Defense Force of a certain Middle East nation. Don’t get me wrong: I’m no bleeding-heart liberal; indeed, Derbyshire’s no-nonsense conservatism was one of the things that attracted me about his writing. Derbyshire unerringly nails the false perceptions and phony values that mislead a lot of perhaps otherwise well-meaning folk:

  1. warm feelings about helping colorful third-world peasants escape from colonial oppression;
  2. The boats were filled with peace activists wearing beads and sandals, singing Pete Seeger songs and scattering rose petals on the waters of the Mediterranean as they went. Their mission was to bring much-needed food and medicine to the poor, peace-loving souls in the Gaza Strip;
  3. This Atrocity aroused the indignation of that mighty power for justice, liberty, and truth — the international community. Wherever in the world there is a hungry child, an anxious mother, a helpless invalid, or a victim of injustice, the international community will soon be on hand to cool the fevered brow, apply balm to the wounds, wipe away the little child’s tears, murmur words of gentle encouragement, and bring relief to the oppressed.

Derbyshire’s response is basically to completely exonerate the murderers, asking rhetorically if they are not to be permitted to defend themselves. I just found his response too pat, the repetition of the old conservative bromides too predictable. His complete exoneration of the murders seemed to me to reveal a harsh set of values which I do not share.

the poor, peace-loving souls in the Gaza Strip, who have been languishing in sickness and hunger since the cruel Israelis, for no reason but sheer malice, imposed a blockade on the place three years ago.

“For no reason but sheer malice” is clearly false; however, is the implied opposite therefore necessarily true? In addition, I thought this comment by libertarian Gary North more to the point:

The State of Israel has suffered its worst setback in public relations in my lifetime. I can recall nothing even remotely close. The PR disaster has barely begun to unfold.

The person who planned the Turkish resistance took a page out of Saul Alinsky‘s Rules for Radicals (1972). The overarching principle of Alinsky’s system is this: the action is the reaction.

The goal is to provoke a response that embarrasses the target. Alinsky recommended nonviolence. His model was Gandhi. But violence can be effective, too. Mild violence is implemented in order to gain a more powerful response, one that seems to be overkill.

I have studied his tactics for almost 40 years. I first wrote about them in 1983. I posted an article on this in March.

The six ships that sailed for Gaza were tests. They were opportunities for a confrontation. That is a basic plan of action for Alinsky. If there is no resistance, this displays weakness. It undermines the will to resist. If there is resistance, the plan works if this resistance is seen by the public as excessive.

He goes on to list 9 actions which would have in all probability avoided bloodshed and, in the writer’s opinion, more importantly avoided falling into the “Alinsky trap”. (The article is only available to members.)

The second reason is another of Derbyshire’s values:

Living processes, presumably including those that comprise human thought and feeling, are complicated chemical reactions…. Biologists have known this stuff for a long time, but most nonspecialists have been reading only the first bit of Hamlet’s address: “What a piece of work is a man!” A few more revelations about our species’ jumbled, chaotic deep history, and we shall be in the “quintessence of dust” camp, where man delights not us.

Yawn. “We’re just a bunch of chemicals.” I thought Ayn Rand had dealt with that one pretty effectively, e.g. in Atlas Shrugged

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