Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Paleocons and the Legacy of Samuel Francis

My thanks to Liberty Corner for allowing me to guest-post.

I voted for Pat Buchanan in 2000, and so long as paleoconservatism spent its time critiquing mainstream conservatism for its compromises, it had my sympathy. But old-rightists have increasingly called for political separatism which seems helpful only to the polarizing forces of extremism. In such cases, the left will always benefit more than the “right.” Perhaps no better illustration of this was the encomiums lavished on the late Samuel Francis, exponent of American ethno-nationalism.

The sad thing was that commentators offered glowing praise of Francis’s journalism while overlooking some major intellectual blemishes. Others were less restrained, as for example the anti-immigration group VDARE which opined that: “With the end of the Cold War, [Francis] emerged as a type of white nationalist, defending the interests of the community upon which the historic United States was, as a matter of fact, built....”

Francis first got into hot water for his Washington Times column from July 27, 1995 in which he berated the opportunism of various religious groups—in this case the Southern Baptists—for their “apologies for slavery.” Most conservatives would agree that this was shameless political posturing. But Francis went further.

If the sin is hatred or exploitation, they may be on solid ground, but neither “slavery” nor “racism” as an institution is a sin.... Not until the Enlightenment of the 18th century did a bastardized version of Christian ethics condemn slavery. Today we know that version under the label of “liberalism,” or its more extreme cousin, communism.

Whatever his other talents, Francis’ dearth of historical and theological expertise is staggering. It’s true (though not a popular view) that there are worse things than slavery—abortion or mass murder for instance. Bur it’s simply wrong to imply that only some sort of later-day, liberalized Christianity condemned slavery. In 1462, Pope Pius II called slavery a “great crime” and Catholic leaders opposed the revival of a practice which had been so successfully stamped out in the Middle Ages.

In a parting gesture (November 26, 2004), Francis condemned an ad on ABC’s Monday Night Football which featured a risqué situation between a football player and a woman as an “act of moral subversion.” What really rankled him, however, was the fact that the football player was black and the woman was white. His conclusion was that “interracial” sex (rather than mere promiscuity) is the “major weapon of cultural destruction.” But Francis was, after all, an admirer of Nietzsche and an editor of the racial-eugenicist Occidental Quarterly. In conclusion, whatever good Francis might have done was certainly annulled by an atavistic, fringe theorizing that has no relevance to the classic conservative outlook. At any rate, Mr. Francis’s legacy is apt to be a divisive one, if short-lived.