That’s right: Derbyshire reviews “Expelled” without actually having seen it. This is a man who has friends he has never met, and who can review movies he has never seen. It is perhaps fortuitous that Bill Buckley, the founder of National Review, recently passed from among us: this is a talent I am not sure he would have fully appreciated.
This ability to judge a movie without having to suffer the indignity of actually watching it surely sets Derbyshire apart. Who else could accomplish the task with so few tools: a little hearsay, a few second hand reports–and perhaps a Ouija board. This is a critical skill at which the rest of us can only marvel.
Most film critics attend screenings; Derbyshire conducts a séance.
I tried The Fountainhead, and after several chapters just put the sorry thing down, wondering what it was that had so transfixed so many of my friends.
I would have tried harder, but I had already read Whitaker Chambers famous literary take-down of her books written more than 50 years ago now in his review of Atlas Shrugged…
Now a Randian could argue that I have not read the books, and that therefore I cannot judge them, to which I can only say that I am not judging them. I am only explaining why I have not read them: because I have never yet encountered anyone whose literary tastes I respected say they were worth reading–and plenty whose tastes I did respect who assured me I needn’t bother.
Now I could say that it’s hypocritical of Cothran to now defend reviewing things without having read them, but he is, in some narrow sense, right. I haven’t read Ayn Rand’s books, and I know they’re shitty, and I don’t plan to read them. I know it the same way I knew Expelled: No Intelligence would be a shitty movie before I saw it. Then I saw it, and it was a shitty movie. John Derbyshire made the right choice to avoid seeing it. And Martin Cothran owes him (and National Review) an apology.