John Derbyshire on Nationalism

Nationalism is a dirty word according to mainstream media and academia. As globalism expanded in the wake of World War II, its antithesis – nationalism – was lumped in with Nazism and Fascism as evils that must never again be countenanced. Globalism became the de facto position of anyone in public discourse. Anyone who criticized the globalist program risked being identified as a Nazi or Fascist, which could be disastrous. Communism, on the other hand, despite having a body count that dwarfed the Nazi regimes was still acceptable in elite company. Perhaps this is because communism was started as a globalist enterprise – Marx and Lenin dreamed of a worldwide revolution of the proletariat. Or perhaps it is because many globalist elites also have communist sympathies. Nobody defends Nazism by saying “It just hasn’t been properly implemented.”

In any case, the taboo placed upon the idea of nationalism is quickly eroding. The United States elected a president who proudly claims the title of nationalist, for which the globalist bureaucrats will never forgive him. A majority of British voters declared their desire to leave the globalist European Union and reclaim their national sovereignty. The globalist media continues to label any nationalist sentiment in the US and Europe as “far right” and “extremist” but their power to influence appears to be waning. Nationalist parties are gaining power throughout Europe and protesters are taking to the streets in France, the UK, Belgium, and other countries still in the globalist yoke. The Globalist Party still thinks they can crush this uprising and return to the postwar New World Order, but I believe nationalism is inevitable. Globalism requires pounding too many square pegs into round holes for it to be successful in the long term.

John Derbyshire is an author and podcaster who has been championing nationalism in the US for nearly twenty years. He does not fear being slandered by mainstream media for his views. In 2012 he published an article at Takimag titled “The Talk: Nonblack Version.” In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, police shootings of young black men was a national issue. Black commentators and journalists wrote articles explaining “the talk” they would have with their children about how to avoid being shot during encounters with police. Absent in the national discussion was any mention of young black men committing crimes that brought them into contact with police in the first place, though objective crime statistics have always been readily available. Derbyshire sought to provide that missing perspective, explaining how he warns his children to stay away from certain places and groups that might be dangerous. He was, of course, labeled as a racist not only by mainstream media but by Globalist Party conservatives as well. He was fired from National Review and his work relegated to fringe publications like Takimag and Vdare.com. Neither the fact that he made it clear he bore no prejudice toward individuals, nor the fact that his children are half-Chinese, made any difference. Noticing things is simply racist.

Yet like Steve Sailer (another exile from the conservative movement), Derbyshire writes astutely and transparently about current events. Freed from the self-censorship that mainstream figures must endure in order to avoid such exile, Derbyshire is able to simply tell it as it is. In addition to his work at Takimag and Vdare.com, Derbyshire posts a podcast every Saturday morning with his comments on the weekly news. It was on this podcast a few weeks ago that Derbyshire made one of the clearest explanations of the rise of nationalism that I have ever heard. I hope he will not mind if I excerpt the entire segment from the transcript, because he explains better than I can why nationalism is rising and why it is inevitable. I encourage you to listen to the entire podcast.

Nationalism was much discussed this week. It was at the front of the minds of all sorts of people, for all sorts of reasons.

A few of those reasons at random:

    • At a pre-election campaign rally in Texas, October 22nd, President Trump had declared himself a proud nationalist. Apparently in response to this, at a ceremony in Paris last Sunday to commemorate the Armistice that ended World War One a hundred years ago, French President Emmanuel Macron laid in to nationalism, quote from him: “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.” End quote.
    • That Armistice Day, November 11th, is also, as it happens, Poland’s National Independence Day, a public holiday — the Polish July Fourth, as it were. This year is the centenary not only of the Armistice, but also of modern Polish independence, which Poles seized as the empires of Russia, Germany, and Austria were disintegrating all around them in 1918.
    • In Britain, the most significant nationalist event of the past few decades was the 2016 vote by referendum to leave the European Union — Brexit. Negotiations between the British government and the EU on the terms of departure have dragged on for two and a half years, but the matter now seems at last to be coming to a head.
    • Also in Europe, and also with Emmanuel Macron to the fore, there is talk of building a new European Army independent of NATO. German Chancellor Angela Merkel chimed in with agreement. We American nationalists would like nothing better than for the U.S.A. to withdraw from NATO. That would be a great boost to our nationalism, American nationalism. Our nationalist President inexplicably disagrees: he scoffed at Macron’s idea.

There have been some lesser manifestations of interest — both positive and negative — in nationalism; I’ll squinch some of them in as occasion allows.

Nationalism is definitely a Thing right now, though; so much so that National Public Radio on November 14th declared “nationalist” to be theWord of the Year for 2018.

There is of course a very great deal to be said about nationalism — far more than I can say in a podcast. The topic is highly relevant to our mission here at VDARE.com, though, which is to promote thoughtful, well-informed discussion of the U.S.A.’s National Question, with special attention to issues of demographics and foreign settlement.

I am therefore going to give over most of this week’s podcast to poking and prodding the nationalism issue in hopes of uncovering new insights.

Let’s start with Emmanuel Macron.

I’m not a close follower of French politics, but I have to say I find Macron deeply unimpressive. None of his recorded remarks has struck me as very intelligent or memorable.

Working from a limited base of knowledge as I am, I could of course be wrong. I note, however, that the French people themselves seem to agree with me. At any rate, Macron’s party is polling poorly, below twenty percent — behind Marine Le Pen’s nationalists.

It’s characteristic of people like that — of mediocrities, I mean, if I’ve got Macron right — it’s characteristic of mediocrities to be in thrall to the shallow clichés of the generation that came before them. For Macron in particular to be in thrall to the generation before him would actually be less surprising than the average, as he is married to a member of that generation.

Mrs Macron’s generation is also mine, more or less — she is eight years younger than I am — so I can speak with authority about those shallow clichés that were in the air during the decades after WW2. One of those clichés was that while patriotism was good, nationalism was bad.

Patriotism, the talking heads all told us in 1960 and 1970, was the warm, loving feeling you have for your country, with no malice or prejudice against anyone else’s country. Where there was such malice — or disdain, or contempt, or aggressive intentions — that was nationalism. So nationalism was patriotism with attitude.

That was what all good-thinking people believed through my young adulthood, and Mrs Macron’s. It’s not hard to figure why we believed that. The aggressor powers in WW2, Germany and Japan, had state ideologies of militaristic imperialism, of which nationalism was undeniably a component. Setting out to conquer Europe and Asia, the Germans and Japanese felt justified in doing so because their nations were best.

Nationalism-wise, there’s a contradiction in there, though. As militaristic imperialists, the Germans and the Japanese had no time for anyone else’snationalism. They both knew, as imperialists have known since civilization began, that nationalism is the bane of imperialism.

The Germans and Japanese who fought WW2 were not fans of Polish nationalism or Korean nationalism. They strove very mightily and brutally to extinguish those nationalisms. They were imperialists. Nationalist impulses may be harnessed by imperialism, but imperialism is fundamentally anti-nationalist. Ask a Tibetan.

That nationalism can be harnessed to the service of militaristic imperialism is not an argument against nationalism; it’s an argument against militaristic imperialism. The bonds of family loyalty and affection can be harnessed to the service of organized crime, as we see with the Mafia. That’s not an argument against family loyalty and affection.

So the conventional wisdom of 1970 — patriotism good, nationalism bad — while it was understandable after the mid-century horrors, left much unsaid. Now the things then left unsaid are being said. Here am I saying some of them. It’s going to take me a couple more segments.

So what does distinguish patriotism from nationalism?

One answer going around is: nothing. The words “patriotism” and “nationalism” are synonyms.

If true, that’s kind of annoying. Why cumber ourselves with two words for the same thing? I am anyway resistant to it. Cyril Mortimer taught my primary-school class back around 1955 that there are no true synonyms; that even words closely related in meaning have different shades of color, different usages and connotations. Mr Mortimer was right.

But then, if — contra President Macron — if there is a healthy and harmless style of nationalism, with nothing negative in it towards other nations, how does such a nationalism distinguish itself from attitude-free patriotism?

I would seek the answer in the complexity of our feelings about our nation and others. Let me offer some literary references.

    • In 1783 James Boswell said, of his hero Samuel Johnson, that he was, quote: “a stern true-born Englishman, and fully prejudiced against all other nations,” end quote. So was Dr. Johnson a nationalist, or a patriot? (Yes, yes, Johnson was also the man who said, quote: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” His target there was scoundrels, though, not patriots.)
    • In 1805 Sir Walter Scott wrote, quote: “Breathes there the man with soul so dead, / Who never to himself hath said, / This is my own, my native land!” End quote. Definitely patriotic, right? No attitude there, right? We-ell … Read the whole poem. There’s a depth of feeling there that I think goes beyond once-a-year salute-the-flag bland patriotism.
  • Frank Richards told George Orwell in 1940 that, quote: “I have lived in many countries, and talked in several languages: and found something to esteem in every country I have visited. But I have never seen any nation the equal of my own.” End quote. Patriot or nationalist?

Discussing this topic with a learned friend, she told me something about the situation here in the U.S. that I hadn’t heard before, though it may be a commonplace among people better steeped in U.S. culture than I am. In the names of organizations, she said, the word “national” has generally been preferred by the political left, while the right favors the word “American.”

So on the left you have the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Organization of Women, while on the right you have the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

When I raised that in discussion with a different friend, he observed that two of this country’s leading political magazines both have “nation” in the title: The Nation on the left but National Review on the right!

(As a sidebar to that, I note that Britain’s leading left-wing weekly has, since a merger in 1931, carried the full title The New Statesman and Nation. It used to be, and for all I know still is, known affectionately around Fleet Street as “The Staggers and Naggers.”)

Patriotism; nationalism; left; right; at this point my head’s beginning to spin. Let me just step back and see if I can extract some final sense from all this.

First let me express some skepticism towards the idea of a bland, harmless patriotism, with malice towards none and charity for all.

Human nature just isn’t like that. To ask that I have a strong love for my country with no negativity whatsoever towards other countries, is to ask too much. We’re not wired that way.

In the vapid dualism of today’s ruling ideology, according to which if you don’t approve something whole-heartedly you must hate, hate, hate it, this understanding has been lost. All the intermediate emotions between swooning love and seething hate are no longer fit subjects for discussion. Mild disapproval; amused mockery; grudging tolerance; good old utter indifference; nobody has such feelings any more, according to the guardians of our state ideology. If you don’t love Big Brother, you must hate him.

Back in 1940, or 1805, or 1783, we had a better understanding of our nature. When Boswell wrote that Johnson was “fully prejudiced against all other nations,” nobody would have understood it to mean that Johnson wanted to invade and occupy those other nations, or persecute their citizens. He just didn’t like their ways much, because they differed from the English ways he was accustomed to.

In the same letter in which Frank Richards expressed his patriotism to George Orwell, Richards also wrote the following thing, quote:

As for foreigners being funny, I must shock Mr Orwell by telling him that foreigners are funny. They lack the sense of humor that is the special gift of our own chosen nation.

End quote. That’s patriotism, but it’s not blandly neutral towards foreigners. Richards thinks they’re funny. It’s not neutral, but it’s not aggressive. He doesn’t hate foreigners, or want to enslave them. He just wants to laugh at them.

This is human nature in all its convolutions and anfractuosities. If you try to encompass it with the infantile simplicities of Cultural Marxism, you will fail.

At last I think it comes down to this: that the word “nationalism,” whatever anyone thought it meant in 1970, has a new currency now because it is a handy way to refer to the opposite of globalism.

Globalism has been the grand theme of the past few decades. For one thing, globalist organizations came up after the World Wars. Some of them came up in reaction to the horrors of those wars; the United Nations most obviously. Some were products of the Cold War, like NATO. Some were originally mercantile leagues, like the EU.

For another thing, it’s just gotten much easier to move around the world, and there are way more people who want to do the moving. So mass immigration from poor countries to rich ones has been rising steeply. There have been winners and losers from this, and the winners have naturally taken up a globalist outlook.

The rise of globalism has generated a reaction. Those big globalist organizations have exhibited bureaucratic arrogance, not to mention corruption. Mass immigration has depressed wages and left many people feeling like strangers in their own countries. This reaction needs a name, and the word “nationalism” is lying around, not much used, so we’ve taken it up as a name for the anti-globalist outlook.

The word “nationalism” wasn’t taken up at random. Public discourse in the civilized world is controlled by globalists. They naturally want to put resistance to globalism in as bad a light as possible.

To people who don’t think much, people like Emmanuel Macron, the word “nationalism” has that tinge of darkness, that frisson of Hitlery-Hitlery-Hitler that commends it to the globalists for purposes of vituperation.

There are some contradictions here that globalists would much rather you didn’t think about. There is, for example, the tricky matter of Israel.

Back near the beginning of the podcast I mentioned Yoram Hazony’s book The Virtue of Nationalism. Hazony is an Israeli scholar, President of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem. He makes the point that Israeli nationalism is in a way the archetypal nationalism, forged over long centuries in opposition to great empires: the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Roman, Ottoman, and, yes, British.

It’s not very surprising that Israel today is a beacon of nationalism, or that a best-selling book titled The Virtue of Nationalism should have an Israeli author.

It is, though, hard to square with those Hitlery-Hitlery-Hitler connotations of the word “nationalism” that are so dear to globalists like President Macron. If “nationalism” is a Hitlery-Hitlery-Hitler sort of word, what sense does it make to talk of Israeli nationalism?

Israel’s intense nationalism is also a problem for Jewish immigration romantics in the U.S.A.: people like Max Boot, John Podhoretz, David Brooks, Bret Stephens, Michelle Goldberg.

Reading these pundits, you sometimes get the impression they were happier with the older situation, before the modern state of Israel came up, when Jews were, in the Soviet phrase, “rootless cosmopolitans.” Boot, Podhoretz, Brooks, & Co. are not really against nationalism, you find yourself thinking; they’re just against goy nationalism.

Well, the Jewish immigration romantics will have to find their own way out of that maze. It’s their problem, not mine. I’m happy that nationalism has settled in as a Thing, that the word “nationalism” has been anointed as Word of the Year even by a CultMarx outfit like National Public Radio, and that books praising nationalism are finding a good market.

Globalism is not a contemptible idea. Of course civilized nations should strive to get along with each other, to avoid wars, and to contain, as best they can, the non-civilized. Probably there need to be some transnational organizations to help all that along. And yes, we should try, like Frank Richards, to find something to esteem in other countries we visit.

The nations of the world are our natural homes, though. They are not, in my lifetime or yours, going to merge into a caramel-colored uniformity, speaking the same tongue, eating the same food, worshipping the same gods, laughing at the same jokes. That’s a fantasy, and not a benign one.

Let’s cherish our nations. Let’s be nationalists!

Links to the Radio Derb podcasts can be found here: https://vdare.com/radio-derb

Transcripts for each podcast can be found here: https://johnderbyshire.com/Opinions/RadioDerb/page.html

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