Ta-Nehisi Coates has a terse statement on John Derbyshire’s firing.
Let’s not overthink this: John Derbyshire is a racist. Declaring such does not require an act of of mind-reading, it requires an act of Derbyshire-reading:I am a homophobe, though a mild and tolerant one, and a racist, though an even more mild and tolerant one, and those things are going to be illegal pretty soon, the way we are going.I guess it’s admirable that Rich Lowry is taking time away from pondering why people think he’s a bigot, to denounce Derbyshire. But ‘Derb’ told you what he was in 2003. And National Review continued to employ him. That’s who they are.What else is there?
I don’t want to waste too much time on this, but Coates links to a piece which has an appended follow-up in which Derb goes to great lengths to elaborate his views on this specific quote. The additional nuance is helpful. An important vein, which I find to be quite liberal, is that private views ought to not be subject to discrimination.
From my reading of Coates, he believes NR ought to have fired Derbyshire when they realized he was bigoted against blacks and homosexuals. That strikes me as particularly, and ironically, illiberal.
I don’t regularly read Coates. My understanding is that people believe he is one of the best bloggers on the web. Maybe this is just a bad example.
If you fight for civil liberty, and especially against discrimination, I think it’s one of the great tests of your tolerance to be able to apply your principles universally. NR did just that: aware of Derb’s private intolerance, the magazine understood that Derb’s and all of its employees’ private thoughts were their own. What solely mattered was the editorial content of the publication, which censors private views of authors who do not align with it.
I commend Rich Lowry for doing that. Coates’ soft suggestion that Lowry is a bigot himself, and should fire employees based on private beliefs, belittles him.
Derb said one thing particularly prescient in the interview Coates links to:
Don’t get me wrong: there are good reasons for the self-imposed restraints that “respectable” conservative journalists like me accept–mainly, that we would be crucified but (sic) the liberal media establishment if we broached those limits, and have to give up opinionating and go find some boring office job somewhere.
Derb didn’t speak for all conservative journalists, but he understood his situation. He should have taken his own advice.