Derbyshire on MacDonald

British immigrant commentator John Derbyshire is at it again, firing a tiny salvo in the direction of evolutionary psychologist Kevin MacDonald. Since discovering MacDonald’s corpus of writing on Jews, Derbyshire has had a like-dislike relationship with the author’s work.

In a column on VDARE last week, Derbyshire said he was satisfied with the account of an interview with MacDonald as told by Jon Entine, author of Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People. Entine surprisingly quotes MacDonald as saying “I’m a scientific racist” and likens MacDonald’s work to (you guessed it) The Protocols of Zion. Entine then summed up MacDonald’s work as making the argument that “Jews have an almost diabolical, biologically programmed plan of dominance.”

Diabolical? As in the devil? Can any fair reader of MacDonald’s social science prose make such a claim?  For his part, MacDonald vehemently disagreed with Entine’s version. “I never wrote anything like ‘the devious nature of Jews.’ Such a statement would be an outrageous overgeneralization. Rather, I simply stated that Jewish identification and interests among the Boasians were unstated in their public writings and that the movement was couched in the language of science and universalism.” What, then, could Derbyshire mean when he claims “Entine’s account seems fair to me”?

Derbyshire’s first major piece on MacDonald appeared in the March 10, 2003 issue of The American Conservative under the title “The Marx of the Anti-Semites.” There his take on the book was mixed, beginning with “The Culture of Critique includes many good things. . . . Kevin MacDonald is working in an important field.” Derbyshire even validates an important point of MacDonald’s work: “These Jewish-inspired pseudoscientific phenomena that The Culture of Critique is concerned with—Boasian anthropology, psychoanalysis, the Frankfurt School, and so on—were they a net negative for America? Yes, I agree with MacDonald, they were.”

But Derbyshire then concludes that “This is, after all, in the dictionary definition of the term, an anti-Semitic book.” Perhaps, however, MacDonald can be forgiven, since, as Derbyshire muses, MacDonald suffers the defects of being “prickly and unworldly.” Yet the mildly generous Derbyshire nonetheless leaves the reader with the ominous conclusion: “I am not sure I could persuade less charitable souls that my interpretation is the correct one, and that there is not malice lurking behind MacDonald’s elaborate sociological jargon.” (See MacDonald’s reply.)

To be fair, Derbyshire is the proverbial writer caught between a rock and a hard place. While he aims to write honestly — wherever the chips may fall, as he implies — he’s also exquisitely aware of the risks a non-Jew takes when writing in a forthright manner about things Jewish. Worse, as a self-described minor name in American journalism, he fears that any criticism of Jews may well spell career destruction.

Derbyshire made an excellent case for this risk in a remarkable exchange with Joey Kurtzman, a Jewish editor of the website, asserting:

So far as the consequences of ticking off Jews are concerned: First, I was making particular reference to respectable rightwing journalism, most especially in the U.S. I can absolutely assure you that anyone who made general, mildly negative, remarks about Jews would NOT — not ever again — be published in the Wall Street Journal opinion pages, The Weekly Standard, National Review, The New York Sun, The New York Post, or The Washington Times. I know the actual people, the editors, involved here, and I can assert this confidently.

Despite this conscious awareness of why he won’t give MacDonald’s work the praise it deserves, Derbyshire continues with his mixed feelings: “I found his first two books tough-going, jargony, and not very well written.” Later, he complains about MacDonald’s “rather unscholarly language in speaking about the ‘manipulation’ of Gentile culture by Jewish intellectuals, and so on.”

Elsewhere, however, Derbyshire felt otherwise (and to his credit, he is a smart enough writer to admit to contradicting himself at times): “Kevin has interesting things to say . . . He ought to be heard.” “The Culture of Critique is an interesting book. (It is also, by the way, better-written than most books by academics.)”

He even admits that he finds the parts about the “partly malign influence of Jews on modern American culture very persuasive.” And then it’s back to snark, referring to MacDonald’s work as “some rather abstruse socio-historical theories cooked up by a cranky small-college faculty member.” This last crack, of course, recalls Judith Shulevitz’s nasty comment in her 2000 Slate article: A man in his 50s, MacDonald is still an associate professor of psychology at a third-rate school, California State University in Long Beach.” (She was wrong; MacDonald was and is a full professor.)

Worse, in his VDARE column last week, after agreeing with Entine’s smear of MacDonald, Derbyshire repeats his praises for Yuri Slezkine’s exposé, The Jewish Century. (See MacDonald’s review of Slezkine.) Derbyshire writes that he finally understands the importance of the assertions about the Jewish role in the Bolshevik revolution. As Slezkine tells us, “anyone who had the misfortune to fall into the hands of the Cheka stood a very good chance of finding himself confronted with and possibly shot by a Jewish investigator.” Estimates are that up to twenty million non-Jews died during this “rise of the Jews,” prompting Slezkine to call such Jews “Stalin’s willing executioners.”

One might question the orientation of Derbyshire’s moral compass when he can reconcile the above with his claim that Jews add far more to a nation than they take away. Spain, he believes, suffered greatly for expelling its Jews, and America without its great wave of Jewish immigrants indisputably “would have been worse off.” Indeed, he believes “American conservatism is proud of its Jews, and glad to have them on board.” Needless to say, critics of Jewish neoconservatives, among others, would likely disagree. For one thing, the attachment of Jewish neoconservatives to an open borders immigration policy will in short order, if it hasn’t already, leave precious little to be conservative about.

Derbyshire’s own opinion of MacDonald is that “he is a plain reactionary, at least so far as the Jews in America are concerned. . . . I think MacDonald is in love with 1950—with the old Gentile supremacy.” But for members of MacDonald’s group of European Americans—the overwhelming majority then—1950 was on average probably far better for them than today’s America.

And what’s wrong with a group trying to retain supremacy? As historian Jerry Z. Miller’s recent Foreign Affairs essay reminds us, ethnonationalism is the rule around the world (most notably, for purposes of this essay, in Israel). Viewed in cross-cultural perspective, the immigration policies throughout the West that will inevitably lead to the displacement of white populations are provincial indeed.

Oddly, it is Derbyshire who seems to be caught back in 1950, when Jews were, in his view, responsible for “the wonderful vitality of American popular culture.” But should we today classify South Park’s scatological holiday special “Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo” or the equally vulgar performances of Sarah Silverman as part of this “wonderful vitality”? More than a few observers have concluded—to borrow a phrase—that American popular culture has gone to hell in a handbasket. And it’s been progressively more Jewish the whole way, as argued in the preface the paperback edition of The Culture of Critique that you reviewed.

Again, when you write that “it’s a scandal that Kevin’s books are not more widely reviewed and read” and that shutting them out from the public forum is “absurd and unfair,” I applaud you. In the end, however, your Jewish sparring partner Joey Kurtzman comes across as the greater booster of MacDonald’s work. Recall that Kurtzman wrote:

MacDonald has presented us with a fascinating and genuinely novel examination of the history and internal workings of the Jewish world. His trilogy is a hell of a read. To any Jewcy readers tired of pious, ‘hooray-for-us!’ Jewish historiography, or just interested in seeing traditional Jewish history through a kaleidoscope, I happily recommend it.

Let me propose a deal: we readers will try to be more sympathetic if you will try to more forcefully challenge the (largely Jewish) forces which now compose what Buckley once called “the prevailing structure of taboos.” You know it won’t be easy; after all, one of your exchanges was titled, with reference to Jewish power, “Be Nice, or We’ll Crush You: Criticizing Jews is professional suicide. But your own vow to write honestly demands that you try harder.

Edmund Connelly is a freelance writer, academic, and expert on the cinema arts. He has previously written for The Occidental Quarterly.