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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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48 Responses

  1. Derbyshire’s attack on multiculturalism is not an attack on “brown people.” His argument is that there is no longer a British ethos, a coherent British society. It’s a piece of land with a government.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      What’s underlying it is all those damn immigrants, though. And it’s also not true.Report

      • Unassimilated immigrants, with no loyalty to the British state or society? One would have to look at who’s rioting. As for your paean to the Sikhs and Turks fighting the looters, Erik, it must be noted they were defending their own temples and shops respectively.

        But I think Derbyshire would find that just peachy. His attack is on the politically correct types who make excuses for the looters, “root causes” and all that muff, and a government that was loath to take immediate and effective measures against the unrest for fear of allegations of racism. This is the “deracinated” Christianity he speaks of, which amounts to little more than hand-wringing and timidity.

        The Sikhs and Turks had no such trepidations. They acted like normal people.Report

    • Avatar superluminar in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      he has an “argument”? who knew? you can’t tell from what he wrote, at any rate.Report

      • It’s a blog post, not a formal piece—you’d have to be familiar with where Derbyshire is coming from. When he says “Christian” approvingly, he’s speaking of a cultural ethos, since he’s an atheist.

        As for judging a man by his comments sections, that’s asinine. Just take a look around here.

        😉Report

  2. Avatar superluminar says:

    oohhh…second comment in on derbyshire’s piece:

    John Derbyshire has received some criticism for the racial aspect of his writeup. He is not mistaken. A true nation is, among other things, a race. Britain always was a racially homogenous place – pre-World War II. Angle, Saxon, Jute, Celtic, Viking – these are their origins, ethnically Germanic, of one race. The nonwhites were allowed in because the radical left wants to fragment society (thus making it easier to progressively erode liberty), and because they want the indigenous race to be dissolved into other races. The left didn’t like Britain being what it had always been ethnically, and were determined change it by bringing in other races. This tears at the fabric of nationhood – a nation being a people.

    well, lord knows how comments such as that would associate themselves with Derbyshire’s eloquent writings…Report

  3. Avatar wardsmith says:

    If the British didn’t have the ‘brown’ to look down on, they’d manage to find someone else. They can slice class warfare into iota slices and still not be done.

    Was on a cruise ship with a bunch of Brits in the Med. They refused to eat with anyone, at all. They had to have the entire dining area to themselves even though they were a minority on the ship. I had endless fun telling a bloke from Cambridge that he sounded like he was from Manchester. Vice versa worked too. The Scots hate the English who hate the Welsh who hate the Irish, they all hate the next town down the road, it goes round and round.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to wardsmith says:

      Well it sounds charming, I must say.Report

    • Avatar superluminar in reply to wardsmith says:

      apart from ‘amusing’ anecdotes to deploy on blogs, have you actually met any real life Brits?Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to superluminar says:

        Thousands, and my good friend from school lives in London now. I’ve sent him email asking how he’s doing but he hasn’t answered.
        I would have to state that those 900 or so Brits on the ship were real life also, and while “ugly american” has its place in world travel, the British bring their own special baggage with them. But after all, wasn’t most of the world a colony of theirs at one time?

        Should you ever chance to meet an actual Brit you can play the accent game with them and see how they respond. It helps if like me you’ve traveled extensively there so you have a decent ear for the local dialects, but you could just watch Mrs. Doubtfire a few times and pretend that teaches you something. Try telling one their “accent seems a bit muddled”.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to wardsmith says:

      I once worked with a number of expat, permanent-resident English engineers. Describing a Scot or a Welshman as “British” would get you an earful.

      Which, y’know, is actually somewhat understandable. To put it in American terms, it would be like describing a Texan as being “from New York” because Texas and New York City are both in the same country.Report

  4. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    Whatever the racial politics of the Derbyshire piece are, they didn’t disturb me too much as I take his real target to be dessicated western liberal culture. What did bug me a bit was his cheering on the destruction of a society because its current culture isn’t what it used to be when he was a child. I suppose if I read more of him I’d get the real nuance of that position, but I’m not calling it conservative under any circumstances.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Rufus F. says:

      Rufus, I’d say his point is that England’s no longer a society atall: nothing special, just a piece of real estate with some people and shops, interchangeable with any other modern bourgeois liberal democracy except the food’s worse. A bazaar, as he put it. Its own people see little to defend, its self-hate for it colonial past, its drift toward borderless one-worldism, its multiculturalism that has more respect for other cultures than its own.

      If they won’t defend their own home, philosophically or even physically, then as he says, let it burn.

      And Derbs is a bit…idiosyncratic, keep in mind, often at odds with the bulk of his National Review fellow Cornerites. I have no desire to defend him chapter and verse, but I think equating his position with mere racism is unfair.Report

      • Avatar superluminar in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        If they won’t defend their own home, philosophically or even physically, then as he says, let it burn.

        and here is revealed the viewpoint of the modern ‘conservative’.
        I’d forgotten what it was I hated about you guys, thanks for the reminder, I guess.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I throw my chips on this.

      There are cultural arguments to be made here. It’s unfortunate that they’re made by people like Derbyshire and not by the people who could make them but fear being linked with Derbyshire.

      One of the best subjects on the subject is Theodore Dalrymple’s Life At The Bottom. He spends some time on immigrants, but a good portion of it is on what has become of British’s culture. I don’t agree with a lot of it, and his tone can be a bit aggravating, but I recommend it in the strongest possible terms. I view what’s going on now in a very different way than I otherwise would have.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Will Truman says:

        My take is that there are obviously assimilation issues in Europe, Britain included. The question is why? Why are there so many more problems there than here?Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          My current estimation is that bringing in immigrants requires a degree of bending, and the British culture is more break than bend. Right now, at least, the USA has a good combination of assimilation and acculturation. I think they’re having a harder time making that work. Our lack of history allowed us to define ourselves in a way that their hundreds of years of history made more difficult. I suspect the problem to be more culture than policy (of course, the former influencing the latter to a great degree). In the same way that I don’t think we can make ourselves Norway, they can’t make themselves America.Report

          • Avatar David Cheatham in reply to Will Truman says:

            This is why I keep saying the nativists in America are dangerous.

            Why? Because we _have immigration_. Sure, we could we turn into Norway or Britian, we could start marginalizing immigrants…and then we have idiotic riots two generations later because we treat the ‘Mexicans’ like crap.

            Or we can just assimilate them like we’ve always done, and two generations later the ‘Mexicans’ and everyone else will be the Cinco de Mayo parade…just like they’re at the St. Patrick’s one. And then they all go home as _Americans_, and we don’t have idiotic society-destroying unrest. (Meanwhile, the Nativists will be yelling about Hindus or something. These Nativists, ironic and un-self-awaredly, will contain plenty of Mexican immigrants from two generations ago.)

            There are two types of societies…there’s America, and probably a few others I’m not aware of, that can bend and let others in…and there’s the ones that break.

            And I’m not sure in this modern world that attempting to stop immigration is very plausible. But we are _incredibly_ lucky to live in a country that knows how to deal with it, and not live in a place like Norway or Japan, or even a place like Britain.Report

            • Some of it relies on definitions, though I do share a somewhat jaundiced view of nativism. But I think it’s only part of the equation. My “worst case scenario” is that they come in large numbers and we engender greats amount of hostility towards them. Then, decades down the line, we wonder why they never “bought in.”

              That being said, there are some legitimate counterweights here. There are multiple issues involved, ranging from border security to welfare systems to multiculturalism, and we have to be careful not to dismiss folks who want to change our system (rather than close our borders and start the manhunt for the illegals) as nativist. There are competing values at stake here.

              But yes, I don’t think we can or should redefine ourselves in a European manner (even if we make allowances that a lot of Americans are not of European extraction). It’s debatable as to whether or not it’s working for Europe.Report

              • Avatar David Cheatham in reply to Will Truman says:

                I’m exactly with you on the worse case scenario. We have a pattern in this country. First-gen immigrants get here, work hard, and get crapped on, second-gen go out and become culturally Americans, and everyone after them celebrates their ‘heritage’ by once a decade taking a vacation to their ‘home country’ and eating some weird food they pretend to like, and then coming back home to America.

                Let’s not do anything to screw it up. It’s made us one of the most resilient countries in the world, and it’s a reason that smart people who never fit in in their home country come here.

                OTOH, I probably should remember that, as long as it’s been happening, there’s been prejudice against it, too. So in the end, it will probably work out.

                As for immigration reform, I’m all for it. One of the worst things that can happen to a country is to keep an underclass that is outside the law. It’s a near infinite pool of victims, and a rather large pool of possible criminals, too. (This doesn’t just apply to immigrants. See: prostitutes.) Likewise, having a huge funnel of people coming in illegally cannot possibly help keeping terrorists out.

                I’ll even admit that we have a somewhat unique situation with Mexico. It’s a lot easier to get here from there then from, for example, Italy. Likewise, until the situation gets better over there, they won’t stop coming here. (Which would seem to be self-correcting…except the problems there aren’t due to over-population. They’re due to violent drug cartels, which would be entirely happy with 95% of the population leaving Mexico.)

                This is why, although I’m opposed to most forms of foreign aid, I actually think we should step in and fix Mexico, as best we can…it’s one thing to screw around with countries halfway around the world, but they’re neighbors. Especially as a very large portion of their problems are due to the drug war’s money and hence are _our fault_.

                But a lot of the people are, as you say, ready to close the borders and hunt ‘illegals’. My state, Georgia, rather stupidly decided to keep them out of our fields…and lost half of our harvest this year.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          This just in I was going to post something about how France’s riots compared to these and lo and behold someone did it for me. Ah the beauty of memes, may they be forever free.Report

        • Avatar James K in reply to E.D. Kain says:

          I’m not an expert in this area, but I think there’s a real distinction between old world countries and those that were founded as colonies. Countries like the US and New Zealand have been dealing with new immigrants since before they even existed. By contrast, my impression is that the cultures of old world countries are more homogeneous and less flexible.

          Religion is probably a good example – in England the Church of England is an apparatus of the State (to the point where England is a de jure theocracy), and so when new immigrants enter the country they have a choice between abandoning their religion on pain of being mildly second-class citizens (call this the nativist viewpoint) or let the new immigrants build their own religion into the state as well (call this the multicultural viewpoint).

          The problem with these choices is that the first promotes resentment and both promote separatism. And in the US or New Zealand neither choice would be necessary because our society doesn’t work that way.Report

      • Mr. Truman, I did a piece on Derbyshire reviewing Dalrymple 5 years ago. I’d forgotten. Thx for pulling it out of the dustbin of my brain.

        http://reformclub.blogspot.com/2006/01/life-at-bottom-and-how-to-get-there.htmlReport

      • Mr. Truman, Theodore Dalrymple on the latest lunacy:

        The ferocious criminality exhibited by an uncomfortably large section of the English population during the current riots has not surprised me in the least. I have been writing about it, in its slightly less acute manifestations, for the past 20 years. To have spotted it required no great perspicacity on my part; rather, it took a peculiar cowardly blindness, one regularly displayed by the British intelligentsia and political class, not to see it and not to realize its significance. There is nothing that an intellectual less likes to change than his mind, or a politician his policy.

        Three men were run over and killed as they tried to protect their property in the very area of Birmingham in which I used to work, and through which I walked daily; the large town that I live near when I’m in England has also seen rioting. Only someone who never looked around him and never drew any conclusions from the faces and manner of the young men he saw would have been surprised.

        The riots are the apotheosis of the welfare state and popular culture in their British form. A population thinks (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class) that it is entitled to a high standard of consumption, irrespective of its personal efforts; and therefore it regards the fact that it does not receive that high standard, by comparison with the rest of society, as a sign of injustice. It believes itself deprived (because it has often been told so by intellectuals and the political class), even though each member of it has received an education costing $80,000, toward which neither he nor—quite likely—any member of his family has made much of a contribution; indeed, he may well have lived his entire life at others’ expense, such that every mouthful of food he has ever eaten, every shirt he has ever worn, every television he has ever watched, has been provided by others. Even if he were to recognize this, he would not be grateful, for dependency does not promote gratitude. On the contrary, he would simply feel that the subventions were not sufficient to allow him to live as he would have liked.

        http://www.city-journal.org/2011/eon0810td.htmlReport

        • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Tom – while I admit readily there is a problem with the British welfare state, if this is all the case why are other countries similarly hitched to welfarism not similarly afflicted by looting and riots and criminality?

          Why not Sweden? Why not Norway? Why not Australia (though the Aussies have an admirably limited government, they still provide universal healthcare)?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            Here’s an “off the top of my head” question:

            Has it been unseasonably hot in England this week?Report

          • Avatar Will Truman in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            There are three more paragraphs where he discusses culture and the culture’s interaction with the welfare state.

            Ultimately, what I think it would come down to is something of an allergic reaction, or a combination of temperament and drug. Put the same welfare state, to the letter, in three different cultures, and you’re likely to get three different kinds of result.

            What was medicine for Scandanavia may well be poison for the UK (or, for that matter, the US). Nations and societies, like people, are not blank slates.

            With your counterexamples in mind, I don’t think that it can safely be said that welfare state causes this dysfunction, as sure as gravity. But it may well be that it can cause it or at least can contribute to it. Especially if poorly implemented (either in the universal sense or poorly suited to the society that implements it).Report

            • Avatar MFarmer in reply to Will Truman says:

              It also depends on the country. Norway is about the size of New Mexico, and although immigration workers have increased, they are mainly populated by Norwegians who all mostly agree to high taxes and generous State benefits. They are highly dependent on oil revenue which might be running out in a couple of decades. With an aging population, and with the possibility of losing much of the oil revenue, they could begin having programs because of government spending on lavish benfits and a lack of diverse industry — Norway also doesn’t have a situation in which half the country doesn’t pay income tax — they pay a healthy income tax and a vat tax and about $8 a gallon for gas. It’s easier for 5 million people who are mostly like minded to agree to a welfare state like they possess, but this is different from using Norway as a model for welfare schemes across the world. Also, they have many state-owned industries, and if most countries followed this set-up, supply and demand signals would be out of kilter — Norway can read the signals of the global market, but that’s because there are major players with private industries competing and sending the signals. Norway has been able to set up a system they like, but economic reality might not let them keep it for long.Report

          • Erik, it’s not the welfare state, it’s the ethos—or lack of one— that grows up around it.

            As Will Truman points out, in a smallish, ethnically homogenous society welfarism-as-communitarianism has [probably] a healthy-enough ethos, perhaps some shred of gratitude to one’s fellow citizens and/or love of a country that so generously provides for all.

            Or you have what a called a piece of land with a government, with no attachment to either, and a feeling of entitlement, the government never generous enough. Class war against those who keep you poor, disrespect for one’s own country as the protector of the unjust status quo and the wealthy and powerful.

            As for the ethnic dimension of Britain’s riots, I haven’t delved into the ethnic breakdown, and the press is loath to tell us [and we all know why. My first thought that the “Duggan” guy whose death triggered all this was an Irishman or something]. But I will say that Germany has many or mostly Turks, who come from a country that’s been reasonably stable for 100 years. It was Turks in the UK who defended their business, not among the looters.

            I don’t know what “Asians” are involved in the looting, but I would guess they’re from fairly dysfunctional countries, and they clearly have no gratitude to the UK for taking them in.

            As for the non-ethnic dimension, if there is one, we may look to Greece, which had its own set of riots, presumably by young folk with a sense that the government owes them a living, the dysfunctional ethos—or lack of one altogether—to which I refer above.

            There is nothing wrong in theory with a welfare state that is a) financially viable and b) surrounded by a healthy, not hostile ethos. That’s what I’ve been talking about with you for awhile now, where “pity-charity” gives way to an abstract and demanding language of “rights,” demands that can never truly be assuaged.Report

            • Worth noting is that in the entirety of Life at the Bottom, only a few chapters are dedicated to the newcomers. And even then, some of their problems are framed as low British culture infecting them, rather than vice-versa.

              The bigger issue that he pressed hard on, was not so much that there are a bunch of newcomers who are not buying into (the good of) British culture, but that large swaths of the traditional British population have stopped doing so. It is on this that he blames the welfare state and a poisonous low culture. At the very least, I was left with the impression that if all of the newcomers left tomorrow, most of the serious problems would persist.Report

              • Aye, Mr. Truman, many of my remarks on the “entitlement” mentality contemplated Dalrymple.

                Derbyshire on Dalrymple:

                Americans may find it surprising that most of the people wallowing in this slough of ignorance, illiteracy, promiscuity, bastardy, intoxication, vice, folly, lawlessness and hopelessness are white English people. Much of what is described here is the sort of thing Americans instinctively associate with this country’s own black underclass. There is some satisfaction, I suppose, though of a very melancholy kind, to be drawn from the revelation that sufficiently wrong-headed social policies, persisted in with sufficiently dogged refusal to face simple truths, will visit moral catastrophe on people of any race.

                It’s not all about race, although the “East Asian” society-within-a-society doesn’t help matters. In a sad way, they have quite assimilated into the underbelly of what’s left of British society.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                @TVD, There was a similar milieu going on in Appalachia with poor whites meeting the “ignorance etc.” criteria.Report

              • Mr. Smith, see also Sowell’s “Black Rednecks,” that Scots-Irish hillbilly low-lifeism was transmitted to southern blacks.

                Dunno if I buy the thesis, but he tells an interesting story of more prejudice against hillbillies than blacks in the early 20th-century Midwest.

                Summary here [PDF]:

                http://www.defenbaugh.org/basicweb/References/Summaries/summary-51106-blackredneckswl-ents.pdfReport

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Rufus F. says:

      What did bug me a bit was his cheering on the destruction of a society because its current culture isn’t what it used to be when he was a child.

      That is, what he imagines it used to be when he was a child, but otherwise spot on.Report

  5. What’s that you say? John Derbyshire embroiled in an ugly confrontation over remarks of his that have been perceived by many as tone-deaf-bordering-on-bigoted? I am shocked, simply shocked.Report

  6. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    Nice post on video games and violence, I hadn’t caught that the first time.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Dude. Your post about the vidya games has been hit/runned.

    That is *AWESOME*.Report

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