Samuel Francis Reader, by which existing admirers can observe afresh his versatility, and (with luck) new readers can be lured on board.">
Shots Fired: Sam Francis on America’s Culture War
By Samuel Francis / Edited by Peter B. Gemma
Published by FGF Books (Vienna, Virginia), 2006; 361 pages with index
To those of us who knew and respected for years the journalism of Samuel Francis (1947-2005), it remains hard to believe that he is gone. The outlets that regularly published him – Chronicles, VDARE, The American Conservative, Middle American News and others – seem, as their editors would doubtless admit, strangely diminished without his copy. At least we now have what has long been lacking: a comprehensive Samuel Francis Reader, by which existing admirers can observe afresh his versatility, and (with luck) new readers can be lured on board.
Other authors’ obituaries have given numerous details of Francis’s background, idiom, outlook, and philosophical influences. Further details occur in this book’s shrewd accompanying tributes by Patrick Buchanan, Joseph Sobran, and Peter Gemma. Suffice it here to cite Francis’s lifelong love of English history -– seventeenth-century English history above all –- and literature: a love very different from the bemused ignorance so frequent among Francis’s compatriots, who all too often share the misconception lamented by Alistair Cooke, that almost every educated Englishman is “an eighth earl accustomed to whipping the peasants.” There was in Francis a quasi-Cromwellian contempt for genteel, debauched poseurs (the Prince Ruperts of our time), though also a most un-Cromwellian concision and breadth of scholarship.
Ultimately, nonetheless, what made Francis one of America’s most compulsively readable modern essayists was not his intellectual debt to Lord Clarendon and other protagonists of the English Civil War, but his courage, his stylistic sharpness, his frequent gallows-humor, and his total freedom from party-politicking. While he did work for two Republican Senators, John East and Jesse Helms, no American writer of recent times has more bracingly excoriated the delusion that vox G.O.P., vox Dei, or been less prone to credit such unlovely pro-abort, Caucasophobic specimens as Rudolph Giuliani with serious conservative principles. In one stinging sentence (p. 61), Francis – amid a 2003 article called “‘Movement Conservatism’ Now Irrelevant” – sees off “the Beltway Right, that dwindling and never-merry band of direct mail scam artists, ‘think tank’ czars, decrepit ‘youth leaders,’ journalists with phony British accents, and professional Family Values activists who haven’t seen their own kids for 20 years.”
Francis is equally scathing about the single most pernicious fantasy which American neoconservatism (and, let it be said, Australian neoconservatism too) preaches: the myth of Economic Man, thirsting for a perpetual materialist paradise, who thereby calls to mind the famous definition of a mule: “without pride of ancestry, or hope of posterity.” Francis himself traced this myth, in an American context, to the Lincoln regime: which, by accident –-since there is no evidence that Lincoln consciously thought through the implications of what he was doing –- led “to the unlimited expansion of centralized state power, the destruction of the power and authority of the states, and the enthronement of Economic Man as the summum bonum of human endeavor.” Given this development, there is (as Francis notes) no cause for surprise that “an American public expresses indifference to the moral conduct of the chief executive [Clinton at the time] and praises him for his successful management of the economy” (p. 201).
No commentator surpassed Francis in his awareness of Third World immigration’s costs to America’s social contract. One of Shots Fired’s longest pieces is Francis’s analysis (pp. 221-262) of the informal but brilliantly organized 1980s network known as Sanctuary. Dominated by almost 300 churches, which purveyed then-fashionable tripe about liberation theology, Sanctuary encouraged hordes of immigrants -– euphemistically known, of course, as “refugees” -– to flee from El Salvador and Guatemala (though not from such Marxist havens as Nicaragua) and to settle in America without the particle of a legal right. Accordingly, it is to this decade that the origins of America’s current immigration disaster can, and should, be traced. Francis has named names, shown how Communists infiltrated the relevant lawyers’ organizations from the start, and emphasized the millenarian hatred for the white Christian West which Sanctuary’s spokesmen displayed. Still, one wonders if even the overtly leftist Sanctuary could match, for sheer malevolence, the pro-immigration phantasms now peddled on Wall Street. Everything that Sanctuary recommended in terms of “creative destruction” -– the objects to be destroyed being, basically, you and me -– is today advocated by the entire American political and economic establishment from George W. Bush down. The vocabulary of this establishment differs from Sanctuary’s; in place of boilerplate Marxist lingo, we have bellyaching about the evils of “racism”, “fascism”, and “nativism.” Alas, the principles, as opposed to the lexicon, have not changed a jot.
For anyone seriously doubting the continuity between old-fashioned socialistic hatred and new-fashioned plutocratic hatred (to the limited extent that these phenomena differ from one another at all), Francis’s repeated discussions of the political class’s anti-Confederate obsession will constitute a tonic. It is instructive, although it is also nauseating, to read Francis’s accounts of how Big Business and its tame media appease the NAACP, in order to condemn not only the flying of Confederate flags, but every other manifestation (however mild) of pride in Southern heritage. Even the 1999 firebombing and defacing (p. 282) of a Robert E. Lee mural in Virginia—“White devil”, “black baby-killer”, and “kill the white demons” were among the more tasteful graffiti adorning this portrait—failed to inspire the smallest qualms among masochistic rich whites about the wisdom of such truckling.
The Church of Martin Luther King continues to be America’s established creed, backed up by a governmental infrastructure of terror and coercion that no Spanish Inquisitor in his most surreal dreams could have imagined. This, moreover, despite the fact that King’s plagiarism, sexual squalor, and Communistic fellow-travelling have been matters of public record for a quarter of a century, thanks in part to Francis’s own efforts. In one of his 2003 columns, “A Little Real Black History”, Francis not only puts King in his place (that place being somewhere between Che and Ho Chi Minh); he also reveals the similar Red sympathies of King’s female counterpart, Rosa Parks. Mrs. Parks’s Stalinist minders knew that what mattered for their cause was not that Mr. and Mrs. Average White America be persuaded to believe in Stalinism—an unlikely prospect at the best, or worst, of times—but simply that they be taught to loathe their own history, their own culture, and finally their own race:
Immersed in white guilt, a vast number of Americans now accept that the entire history of their nation up to the 1960s was a dark age of repression and hatred, with only a few bright spots like Abraham Lincoln and the crusade against Hitler. Having lost their own history, Americans can no longer expect to keep the nation their history created and defined. That, of course, was the whole point .... It’s an amazing story, about how an entire people was bamboozled out of its own heritage and its own country (pp. 163-164).
Francis maintained the most robust pessimism about the prospects of America recivilizing itself, or even of learning to slouch (rather than continuing to hurtle) towards Gomorrah. Perhaps the best antidote to such pessimism—or, at any rate, the most appropriate reason for questioning it—is the very fact that this book can appear in the U.S.A.; that, instead of bearing all the typographical hallmarks of Crank Lit, it can be handsomely produced on good paper stock, with an agreeable font which encourages rather than deterring the reader; that it can be comprehensively advertised; and that authors of Buchanan’s fame can support it. Merely to compare Francis’s achievement with the craven adolescent chatter of Australia’s own mainstream “conservatives” is to grasp anew a central literary truth of our time. That truth is this: America might not be a good country for a courageous and independent-minded author to earn his bread in, but every other country is now still worse.
R. J. Stove lives in Melbourne, Australia, and is a Contributing Editor at The American Conservative.
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