John Derbyshire’s bad advice column.

So, in case you haven’t heard, John Derbyshire was a writer for National Review. He wrote an essay, not for NR, but another publication last week. You can read it here, but the gist of it was: if you are not a black person, you should minimize contact with black people, especially large groups of black people.

John Derbyshire is no longer a writer for National Review.

I have a few points that I offer in counter to Derbyshire’s. He thoughtfully numbered his, so I will give my rebuttals and list in parentheses which of his statements they apply to.

Ready? Let’s go:

(10a, 10c, 10d, 10e,10i) All of these points would be equally good advice if the word “black” were stricken from them. Avoiding large crowds of strangers, and not talking to strangers on the street are always good rules of thumb regardless of the stranger’s race. Derbyshire’s advice is kind of like saying “if a guy in a red shirt comes running at you screaming with a big, bloody chainsaw, you should try to get away or stop him somehow.” Guess what? That’s true if the guy is wearing a blue shirt, too.

(10b, 10f) the evidence for these is purely anecdotal; maybe good advice, maybe not, but his evidence is two incidents.

(10g) This is foolhardy. Scrutinize all politicians’ character closely. Why the hell would you ever not scrutinize them all to the best of your ability?

(10h) This is similar to my first point, but there’s more to it. First of all, the article he links to in order to illustrate this point is quite dubious. There is every reason, on reading it, to conclude that the “Good Samaritan” tried to help the woman, and was simply defeated by the younger man from whom he was defending her. The witnesses could easily have misinterpreted what they saw. In which case, he did exactly the right thing, and simply (tragically) lost the fight. In any event, this is an unusual case. It’s true that criminals–regardless of race–sometimes do try to attract victims by faking a need for help, but one can usually use one’s own judgement to figure out who is genuinely in need of help and who is best avoided.

So, to summarize, Derbyshire has some obvious rules of thumb, into which he throws racial terms needlessly, he has some rules which he supports with anecdotal evidence, he has one extremely bad rule which would inevitably lead to failure to detect bad politicians, and he has one rule that makes a blanket statement where individual, case-by-case judgement is perfectly adequate.

Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, wrote after firing Derbyshire:

His latest provocation… lurches from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible. We never would have published it, but the main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer… So there has to be a parting of the ways. Derb has long danced around the line on these issues, but this column is so outlandish it constitutes a kind of letter of resignation.

Here’s what I would have written, were I in Lowry’s place:

John Derbyshire’s column is full of bad advice that, if obeyed, will lead to needless errors. Because Mr. Derbyshire has shown himself capable of such poor reasoning, we have decided to terminate his employment with National Review.

But I suppose Lowry can’t fire people just for offering bad advice. Most Republican/Conservative advice is bad advice. Given that, why not keep Derbyshire? He fits right in!

What's your stake in this, cowboy?