Monday, June 18, 2007
Axis of ... Me?
Yesterday night, the immigration restrictionist website VDare.com posted a long critique of my life and work by the blogger Steve Sailer. I am tempted to respond simply by inviting readers to take a look at it and make up their own minds without further comment from me.
The VDare.com piece was provoked by my complaint in a June 25 article for the print NR that the immigration restrictionists damage their own cause by expressing racial disdain and animus. Sailer responds at length that I only think that way because I'm Jewish. (Er sorry, "ethnocentric.")
Shall I rest my case there?
I'm tempted, but no. Sailer raises a number of substantial points, and some of them do call for answer.
1) Sailer asks: Where have I been till now on the immigration debate?
I answer: In 1990, as an editor at the Wall Street Journal page, I worked hard to open the ears of my colleagues to evidence on the immigration issue. I published two opeds that year by George Borjas, the only two times his work has appeared on that all-important page until 2006. I also worked hard, usually with less success, to publish articles by Marvin Kosters and other economists warning that the inequality trend detected by liberal economists was real.
In 1994, I published my first book, Dead Right, which predicted that the immigration issue would emerge as one of the largest issues in American politics. (It took a while to happen, but that prediction seems at last to have come true.) Between 1996 and 2000, I wrote a lengthy history of the 1970s, How We Got Here, one of whose major themes was equality and inequality and that treated immigration at length. In 2001, I joined the Bush White House. My influence in the administration was modest to say the most, but to the extent I had a voice, I raised it against amnesty and in favor of enforcement. In 2004, Richard Perle & I published An End to Evil, which discussed at length the role of immigration enforcement in an anti-terrorism strategy. Since 2004, I have published more articles on the subject than I can easily count, including one in January 2005 warning that the president's determination to proceed with his immigration ideas would wreck the Republican party.
That's where I've been.
2) Sailer complains that it is somehow illegitimate or weak-willed to react against racialism and antisemitism on the immigration skeptic right. Sailer even suggests that I am only pretending to object to anti-black disdain - my true concern being of course entirely and exclusively my "ethnocentric obsessions."
Racialism is to immigration reform what communism was to American socialism. It is the enemy within, the flaw that can destroy everything you hope to achieve. It is also, as should go without saying, historically obtuse, intellectually corrupting, and morally wrong.
I have known Peter Brimelow for more than two decades. He is a man of keen intellect, of real courage, and of surprising emotional sensitivity. I cannot begin to say how deeply I am grieved and saddened, how much I personally feel the loss, of the path he has chosen to walk in consequence of his "no enemies to the racialist right" approach to politics.
The VDare website has broken important stories and published important analytic work. Steve Sailer is no dunce either, obviously. Yet they pollute all the good that they do or could do when they give way to racial contempt and antisemitic paranoia.
If I were the only person repelled by this, I suppose it would not matter very much. But I don't think I am. And if we are trying to understand why the immigration reform cause has not had better success over the past 15 years, that repulsion is an important part of the story.
3) Sailer announces that "nobody takes Frum terribly seriously any more," that I am responsible for all that has gone wrong in the war on terror, that I am guilty of the "undue partiality" for a foreign nation against which George Washington warned in his Farewell Address (hint: the nation they have in mind isn't Canada), and that I demonstrated my intolerance of dissent in my 2003 NR article "Unpatriotic Conservatives."
That's quite a mouthful of disobliging personal remarks, and for the most part I will let them pass. It is not for me to say how my work is received. I write; you decide.
But there is one thing that does bear repeating: My 2003 article, which can be read here , was not an article about dissent on the Iraq war. In fact, the article stated explicitly and at the top that dissent on Iraq was not only "reasonable," but "valuable." The article dealt with the radical alienation from the United States that led some conservatives
far, far beyond the advocacy of alternative strategies. They have made common cause with the left-wing and Islamist antiwar movements in this country and in Europe. They deny and excuse terror. They espouse a potentially self-fulfilling defeatism. They publicize wild conspiracy theories. And some of them explicitly yearn for the victory of their nation's enemies.
Every one of these assertions was backed by numerous and substantial citations and quotations.
For example, I quoted this statement from a column by a contributor to the American Conservative magazine:
"What could Arabs do to prevent a war of aggression against Iraq that increasingly resembles a medieval crusade? Form a united diplomatic front that demands U.N. inspections continue. Stage an oil boycott of the U.S. if Iraq is attacked. Send 250,000 civilians from across the Arab World to form human shields around Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. Boycott Britain, Turkey, Kuwait, and the Gulf states that join or abet the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Withdraw all funds on deposit in U.S. and British banks. Accept payment for oil only in Euros, not dollars. Send Arab League troops to Iraq, so that an attack on Iraq is an attack on the entire League. Cancel billions worth of arms contracts with the U.S. and Britain. At least make a token show of male hormones and national pride."
Those are not the words of a "dissenter."
4) I will confess that Sailer does land one blow on a sensitive spot. He writes:
In 2004 on NRO, he [Frum] unintentionally demonstrated the neocon worldview in a nutshell while writing about his " friend Dean Godson, for many years the chief editorial writer of Britain's Daily Telegraph."
"His [Godson's] father was an American Jew born in Russia, so you might have expected him to concentrate his attention on the Arab-Israeli dispute. Instead, for no reason that any outsider could easily discern, Dean became profoundly concerned with the Irish quarrel—and passionately committed to the lonely struggle of what may qualify as the world's least popular political constituency, the predominantly Protestant Unionists of northern Ireland." [ Irish Lesson David Frum’s Diary, National Review Online, June 21, 2004]
Think about that for a minute.
Frum says nobody could understand why the editorial writer of the leading Conservative newspaper in the United Kingdom chose to concentrate his attention on the guerilla war going on within the United Kingdom rather than on the problems of a distant land from which some of his ancestors had migrated a couple of thousand years ago!
Furthermore, it's hardly bizarre for the chief Tory editorialist to support loyalists in Northern Ireland who wish to remain subjects of the Queen. It would be far stranger if the Telegraph's editorial voice didn't mind the prospect of the dismemberment of his country.
Yet Frum just didn't get it.
To respond to this one requires a tale out of school.
As the pair of blogposts from which Sailer quoted demonstrate, I hardly need any lessons on the significance of the northern Ireland problem. Here's how the posts opened:
The 1990s were an era of seeming peacemaking. In Israel, in Colombia, in northern Ireland, enduring quarrels were being negotiated to apparent compromise. Nobel Prizes were awarded the Arab and Israeli peacemakers in 1994, and then the Irish peacemakers in 1998. We seemed decisively moving toward a better world—in my opinion, for what it is worth, one reason that the stock market managed to rise so high and fast in the mid-1990s despite the Bill Clinton tax increases of 1993.
I must confess that I was as caught up in the enthusiasm of those times too. Yet through it all, my phone kept ringing—and there on the other end was my friend Dean Godson, for many years the chief editorial writer of Britain's Daily Telegraph, and as thoroughly unillusioned an observer of politics as exists on either side of the Atlantic.
Dean kept pointing out that the Israeli, Colomiban, and Irish processes all shared a dangerous defect: They were attempts to make peace with terrorist adversaries who were not sincerely committed to peace. As US President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair lavished their patience and ingenuity to bring the two sides together, Dean kept perceiving that Clinton and Blair were engaging in a massive self-deception—refusing to see facts as they were, because those facts were too ugly and depressing.
And so on.
My blogposts on Dean Godson were written in praise of his biography of David Trimble, leader of the Irish Unionists. The book in question is more than 1,000 pages long and took Dean more than 5 years to write. It details the intricacies of the Irish peace process not only day by day but often hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute. Along the way, Dean rendered two different apartments not just uninhabitable but almost unenterable with his huge collections of Irish newspapers, pamphlets, cassette tapes, and so on. He would often call me at 2 or 3 in the morning UK time to work through some obscure point of argument between different Irish Marxist subfactions.
By this point, Dean's absorption in his project overwhelmed not only me - not only his colleagues on the Telegraph - but the very subject of his biography, David Trimble, who once quipped over dinner that Dean found Trimble's life more fascinating than Trimble himself ever had.
This struck me as amusing, and so I teasingly referred in the first draft of that blogpost to my friend developing an "unlikely obsessive monomania." I posted the item and then went off on my daily rounds. An hour later, it hit me that irony does not always work well online - and that somebody might misinterpret my little jest as genuinely disparaging my friend's sanity. I didnt have my computer with me, so I called into NR and asked that somebody just tone the language down a little. In the process the joke was lost altogether, and I never did get around to fixing it. I regret that disservice to Dean and to NRO readers. Still, it's an ill wind that blows nobody good: My editorial carelessness gave Steve Sailer an opportunity to ventilate one of his obsessive manias, a mania rather less to Sailer's credit than Dean's to his.
06/18 07:49 AM