Defaming the Dead By Tom Piatak

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By Tom Piatak at Chronicles Magazine

Sam championed all three presidential campaigns of a conservative Christian, Pat Buchanan, who found philosophical resistance to liberalism in his Christian beliefs, and who wrote for decades in a magazine largely written by other conservative Christians.

Two years ago, Matthew Rose wrote a lengthy article about Sam Francis in First Things (“The Outsider,” October 2019) that I responded to in these pages (“A Giant Beset by Pygmies,” December 2019 Chronicles). I had hoped that Rose would consider the information I presented and use it to paint a more accurate picture of Francis. Instead, Rose turned that article into a chapter in his new book, A World After Liberalism: Philosophers of the Radical Right, which reinforces his old errors about Francis with new ones. The time has come to point out Rose’s inaccuracies once again.

The only concession Rose appears to have made to those of us who objected to his earlier piece is to change his statement that Francis’s “published writings displayed no feeling for literature, art, music, philosophy, or theology” to “little feeling” for these disciplines. However, as I pointed out two years ago, “Far from being indifferent to art, Sam produced it himself—if literary criticism counts as art—as shown by his essays on the film The Godfather (1972) and the fiction of H. P. Lovecraft, which I count as two of the finest studies of film and literature Chronicles has published in its long and illustrious history.” Rose mentions neither essay in his book, but I will share two reactions to those pieces.

One, from a liberal friend, a former history professor and lawyer, who had never heard of the author. After reading the essay on The Godfather and Sam’s populist apologia “From Household to Nation,” he concluded Francis was a genius and asked for more of his work. In National Review, John Derbyshire reacted similarly to the Lovecraft essay. “Francis’s review is simply brilliant,” he wrote. “I only met Sam Francis once … Now I wish I had made a better effort to get acquainted.” I am confident no fair reader could come to Rose’s conclusions about Francis’s alleged tastelessness and cultural boorishness. Before Rose presumed to prejudge Francis, he should have read either of those two brilliant essays.

Rose then presents Sam’s concept of the Middle American Revolution as a conscious response to “‘the colored world revolution’ that both Spengler and [Bill] Clinton had glimpsed.” He writes that Francis:

never pretended, not even for a moment, that his was a matter of moral right or justice. It was a matter of power meeting power. ‘The issue,’ as he candidly put it, is ‘who in the wrecked vessel of the American Republic, is to be master?’

One is led to believe by Rose that the struggle for control in the “wrecked vessel of the American Republic” is between whites and nonwhites. In fact, the Francis essay he quotes, “Not Really a Republic” (August 1991 Chronicles), casts the struggle as one between “those Middle Americans who were the nucleus of the American Republic … and who now find themselves victims of the new imperium” and “the elite that now prevails.” It is Rose who boils this down to a racial struggle, not Francis.

Moreover, Francis would deny that this struggle has nothing to do with moral right or justice. Certainly, Francis’s writings opposing antiwhite discrimination and the outsourcing of American jobs—including, of course, those held by black and Hispanic Americans—contained appeals to higher ideals. Does Rose consider Francis’s opposition to affirmative action and globalization as racist or atavistic? It would seem so, by this logic.

Rose also disparages Sam’s criticism of the Religious Right of the ’90s, the leaders of which ended up picking Bob Dole over Pat Buchanan, who had long been a stalwart champion of social conservatism. In 1994, Francis wrote an essay criticizing this iteration of the Religious Right, dubbing it “the religious wrong” and asserting that many of its followers, although sincere in their religious beliefs, operated politically under a “false consciousness.”
… Read more at Chronicles Magazine

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