National Review probably thought that by firing contributor John Derbyshire on Saturday night for writing a bizarre racist column for another publication they had put the question of racists in their family to rest. Alas, on Tuesday they were forced to sever ties to another writer for his extremist views on race.
On Tuesday night National Review’s editor Rich Lowry posted on Phi Beta Cons, the magazine’s blog devoted to combating liberalism in academia, to announce that they were axing another writer:
Unbeknowst [sic] to us, occasional Phi Beta Cons contributor Robert Weissberg (whose book was published a few years ago by Transaction) participated in an American Renaissance conference where he delivered a noxious talk about the future of white nationalism. He will no longer be posting here. Thanks to those who brought it to our attention.
American Renaissance, as you probably don’t know—but Lowry seems to assume National Review readers would—is a publication dedicated to purveying racist ideologies. Here’s how the Southern Poverty Law Center describes it:
Founded by Jared Taylor in 1990, the New Century Foundation is a self-styled think tank that promotes pseudo-scientific studies and research that purport to show the inferiority of blacks to whites—although in hifalutin language that avoids open racial slurs and attempts to portray itself as serious scholarship. It is best known for its American Renaissance magazine and website, which regularly feature proponents of eugenics and blatant anti-black racists.
In other words it is exactly like John Derbyshire’s article. (American Renaissance had rushed to Derbyshire’s defense, calling his critics “commentators on the lunatic fringes of the extreme Left.”)
And just what did Weissberg have to say at their conference? The American Renaissance website is proud to tell us:
The first speaker Saturday morning was the always stimulating Robert Weissberg, Emeritus professor of University of Illinois at Champagne, who proposed “A Politically Viable Alternative to White Nationalism.” He argued that any movement that is explicitly based on white racial identity is “dead on arrival,” and must be repackaged in order to win successful recognition. The reality—that racial nationalism “is intuitive and written in our genes” and that even children are conscious of race—is a huge advantage for those who want to build a racial movement, but any white movement today that takes an explicitly racial stand will fail: “We are considered just above child molesters.” Prof. Weissberg also noted that there is no economic advantage to promoting white racial consciousness, and that most people do not act without financial incentives…. Prof. Weissberg argued that an “80 percent solution” would be one that enforced the “First-World” standards of excellence and hard work that attract and reward whites. He pointed out that there are still many “Whitopias” in America and that there are many ways to keep them white, such as zoning that requires large houses, and a cultural ambiance or classical music and refined demeanor that repels undesirables. This approach to maintaining whiteness has the advantage that people can make a living catering to whites in their enclaves.
Prof. Weissberg went on to argue that liberals are beyond reason when it comes to race, that explaining the facts of IQ or the necessity of racial consciousness for whites “is like trying to explain to an eight-year-old why sex is more fun than chocolate ice cream.…” In answer to questions about the adequacy of his “enclave” solution for poor whites who cannot afford to live in them, Prof. Weissberg expressed the hope that less financially successful whites could draw on their sturdy, warrior heritage to protect their own enclaves.
I’m not even going to bother making fun of this because I think it speaks for itself. As with Derbyshire’s column, it borders on self-parody.
Also like Derbyshire, it is not as if Weissberg’s crazy views on race came completely out of nowhere. His 2010 book Bad Students, Not Bad Schools argued that America’s lower educational outcomes are caused by certain populations simply lacking the intelligence to succeed academically. A largely positive review in The New Criterion noted, “No doubt the book will gain most notice because of its claim that certain sections of the American population, namely the blacks and the Hispanics, have lower IQs than whites and Asians; that this difference is genetically determined; and that, since the Hispanics are becoming a larger proportion of the population, the average IQ in America is bound to fall.” His previous book was titled Pernicious Tolerance: How Teaching to Accept Differences Undermines Civic Society.
But the fact that his speech came to Lowry’s attention just after the Derbyshire brouhaha is coincidental, not the result of some racist-seeking witch-hunt, as some hysterical right wing bloggers argued. Weissberg’s speech was reported in Searchlight magazine, an anti-racist journal, as part of a dispatch on the conference as a whole. That report was picked up by the blog Little Green Footballs.
So, why is it that the leading conservative magazine has such a penchant for attracting the contributions of people who turn out to hold silly, offensive views on race relations? Perhaps it is because many conservatives have overlapping views with racists. This is not at all the same thing as saying that all conservatives are themselves racist. One could, for example, say, “Many liberals have overlapping views with socialists.” Liberals, like socialists, generally think all Americans should be able to access healthcare. It is nonetheless a dishonest smear when Republicans characterize President Obama and his signature healthcare reform law as “socialist.” Likewise, conservatives share Weissberg’s antipathy toward multiculturalism and affirmative action.
Daniel Foster of National Review wrote sensibly and honestly about this question regarding Derbyshire:
I’ve always thought that conservatives should simply bite the bullet and admit that there are racists among self-described conservatives, and moreover, that these conservatives’ racism is an evitable (that is, unwarranted) extension of the mainstream conservative position on race. But this is true in the same way it is true that there are communists among self-described liberals, and that their communism is an evitable (that is, unwarranted) extension of the mainstream liberal position on political economy.… The fact is that both conservatives and racists think that considerations about race should play a much smaller part in our political discourse.
Foster errs in saying there are communists among self-described liberals. There are hardly any communists in America. Certainly there are far more racists than communists. The leftists that I remember from college who might have been, if not quite communists, at least sympathetic to some communist governments such as Cuba’s, would not have described themselves as liberals but with a term that signals left-wing revolutionary politics such as “radical.” But my analogy—that mainstream liberals may share some policy views with communists or socialists just as mainstream conservatives share some policy views with racists—is similar to Foster’s.
Conservatives are often incredibly touchy about anyone pointing this out. They get huffy and respond that they are being unfairly maligned as bigots. By contrast, I have no problem with someone saying, “Your concern for public welfare and economic quality is similar to that of a socialist.” There are much worse things to be than a socialist. For example, a racist. I hope conservatives take this opportunity—instead of trying to avoid discussing why they find racists in their midst—to ask themselves whether the fact that they have common ground with racists should cause them to critically examine both the policies and politics of their movement.