Remembering a Philosopher-King

Gerry T. Neal, Throne, Altar, Liberty, February 21, 2015

It has long been recognized that there are two ways in which civilization can break down into barbaric conditions. The rule of law can collapse altogether leaving ordinary citizens powerless against the criminal elements that now call the shots. This is called anarchy. Or the state can become intrusive and controlling, curtailing its people’s freedoms, dictating their everyday decisions, and ruling by sheer force in an atmosphere of fear. This is called tyranny. It has also long been recognized that there is a cyclical pattern to the rise and fall of civilizations in which after civilization breaks down into one of these conditions for a period, the other emerges in response, and eventually a new civilization is born out of the rubble.

What if, however, civilization were to break down in both ways simultaneously and the same state was to fail in providing the basic protection of the law on the one hand, while tyrannically harassing and abusing its people on the other? Twenty years ago one of the greatest American political thinkers of the last half of the twentieth century saw this happening in the United States and all around the Western world and coined a term to describe it–anarchotyranny, the synthesis of anarchy and tyranny. On February 15th, ten years ago, he passed away due to complications following heart surgery at the age of 57. His name was Sam Francis.

Sam Francis was far more than just the man who thought up a clever name for this phenomenon–he was also its chief chronicler, analyst, and critic. In his twice-weekly column, syndicated by Creators but carried by far fewer newspapers than it ought to have been for reasons we will shortly get into, he provided a bold, uncompromising, commentary, expressed in a dry, sardonic wit that was perfectly complemented by the way he seemed to look out at you with amused disdain through his heavy glasses in the publicity photo attached to his column, on the news and issues of the day and the narrative beneath the news and issues–the ongoing war being waged by those presently in power in the West and particularly in the United States on the traditions, cultures, symbols, and ways of life of Western peoples. Nor did he shy away from addressing the taboo aspect of this subject, the racial element.

Dr. Samuel Todd Francis was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on April 29, 1947, and it was in Chattanooga that he was raised and where as a young prodigy his literary talents and brilliant mind first gained attention. It was also in the Scenic City, under the Appalachian mountains, that he was finally laid to rest in 2005. He studied English literature at John Hopkins University in Baltimore before taking his Ph.D in history from the University of North Carolina.

It was at Chapel Hill that he became acquainted with two of his fellow students, the classicist Thomas Fleming and the historian Clyde Wilson. These men would become his lifelong colleagues. They worked together on the Southern Partisan, a conservative quarterly that was started up in the late 1970s in the spirit of the Vanderbilt Agrarians. Each contributed to The New Right Papers, a 1982 anthology put together by Robert W. Whitaker. Their most significant collaboration however was in Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, founded by Leopold Tyrmand in 1976 and published by the Rockford Institute of Rockford, Illinois. Thomas Fleming became the editor of Chronicles following Tyrmand’s death in 1985. Clyde Wilson is an associate editor, and until his passing Sam Francis was the magazine’s Washington or political editor. Under the direction of these men Chronicles became the flagship publication of paleoconservatism which, in opposition to the neoconservatives who were calling for a Pax Americana, a new world order in which the United States would use its military might to export liberal, capitalist, democracy to the farthest parts of the globe, called American conservatism back to its roots in the Burkean traditionalism of Russell Kirk and the small-r republicanism of the American Old Right that had opposed the New Deal, American entanglement in foreign conflicts, and the development of the “welfare-warfare state”. This was very much bucking the trend in the larger American conservative movement. As the neoconservative viewpoint came to increasingly dominate the movement, conservative writers who having opposed mass, demographics-altering, immigration, both legal and illegal, criticized Israel and objected to America’s being drawn into wars in the Middle East on her behalf, called for a rollback of the American federal government to its constitutional limits, refused to concede the victories of liberalism in the culture wars, and otherwise offended the neoconservatives, found themselves exiled from the pages of National Review and other mainstream conservative publications.Chronicles became a place of sanctuary for these writers. By the middle of the 1990s it was a sanctuary Dr. Francis was himself in need of.

Up to that point his career as a thinker within the American conservative movement had been quite successful. It had three basic stages. In 1977 he joined the Heritage Foundation, a Washington D. C. think tank that had been founded four years earlier by New Right activist Paul Weyrich and Edwin Feulner with money put up by beer baron Joseph Coors. Dr. Francis was hired as a policy analyst in the fields of intelligence and security, particularly with regards to the threat of terrorism as a strategy employed by the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

In 1981, following the publication of his The Soviet Strategy of Terror, he left the Heritage Foundation to take a position as legislative assistant to Senator John P. East, R-North Carolina. It was as an expert on national security matters that he was hired to this position but, interestingly, in the course of his work for East he was called upon to write a document that both required this expertise yet also had to do with the cultural and racial concerns on which his later, and lasting, fame rests. In 1983, US President Ronald Reagan signed into law a bill that made the third Monday in January into an American national holiday in honour of Martin Luther King Jr. The bill had been hotly debated, and leading the opposition to the holiday was the other Republican Senator from North Carolina, Jesse Helms. Senator East worked closely with his colleague and mentor in the campaign against this ridiculous holiday and on October 3, 1983, Helms read out in Congress a paper written by Dr. Francis that documented King’s collaboration with Soviet agents and Communist fronts.

Dr. Francis worked for Senator East until the latter’s death in 1986 at which point he joined the staff of the Washington Times. He served the newspaper as an editorial writer, opinion columnist, and editor and it was here that his career started to really take off. His column was nationally syndicated, and his articles won him the Distinguished Writing Award in 1989 and 1990. He was runner up for another award both those years as well. Then, in 1995 all of that came to an end.

It started with his column for June 27, 1995, entitled “All Those Things to Apologize For”. Written one week after the Southern Baptist Convention issued a grovelling apology for the stance they had taken 150 years previously in the controversy over slavery that divided them from the Northern Baptists, this column pointed out that the Baptists were making a big deal about repenting for something never condemned as a sin by the Bible. “Neither Jesus nor the apostles nor the early church condemned slavery,” he wrote, “despite countless opportunities to do so, and there is no indication that slavery is contrary to Christian ethics or that any serious theologian before modern times ever thought it was”. All of this is true. Unfortunately, it is the kind of truth that people in this era cannot bear to hear.

Dr. Francis was not arguing for slavery. He was arguing against what he called a “bastardized version of Christian ethics”, that had appeared in the 18th Century and had so permeated the churches that they “now spend more time preaching against apartheid and colonialism than they do against real sins such as pinching secretaries and pilfering from the office coffee-pool.” He observed, correctly, that to read the abolitionist message into the New Testament and dismiss the passages that tell bond-servants to obey their masters as irrelevant is to undermine the authority of passages that “enjoin other social responsibilities.” These truths were especially embarrassing to the kind of Christians who, on the one hand pride themselves on the Christian roots of abolitionism, while on the other hand trying to defend what remains of traditional authority and order against the modernizing influences of those who see the abolitionist movement as the first stage in their perpetual revolution against the “slavery” of marriage, family, and traditional morality.

This embarrassment proved too much for Wesley Pruden, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief. He rebuked and demoted Dr. Francis, cut his salary, and began censoring his columns. In September of that same year, he fired Dr. Francis outright. This time it was not over something he had written in a column but something he had said in a speech the year previously.

In May of 1994, American Renaissance, a monthly periodical devoted to matters of race, intelligence, and immigration hosted its first conference and Dr. Francis was invited to speak. He gave a message entitled “Why Race Matters”, the text of which was later published as an article in the September 1994 issue of American Renaissance. In this speech, he talked about how the culture of Western countries, especially the United States and in particular the South had come under attack, with traditional symbols being attacked, demonized, and replaced, how anti-racism was an effective strategy in a campaign being waged against the white race, how whites themselves were digging “their own racial and civilization grave” through liberalism and leftism, and that a merely cultural strategy in defence of Western civilization would not be sufficient–there needs to be conscious racial element to Western identity as well. He said:

The civilization that we as whites created in Europe and America could not have developed apart from the genetic endowments of the creating people, nor is there any reason to believe that the civilization can be successfully transmitted to a different people.

This is so obviously true that one wonders that it needs to be stated. Nevertheless, it was the last straw for Wesley Pruden. The way in which Pruden learned of the remark did not help matters. Dinesh D’Souza, who had attended the conference, wrote a book, The End of Racism, which was published in 1995. D’Souza’s book discussed many of the same issues American Renaissance specializes in, and often took positions similar to theirs. D’Souza was, however, a firm believer in propositional nationalism and the ideal of the United States as a “universal nation”, who objected very much to the idea of defending Western civilization in explicitly racial terms. The chapter in which he talked about the conference contained many distortions–even after D’Souza was force to rewrite the chapter when Jared Taylor andLawrence Auster, along with Dr. Francis, wrote to the publisher to complain of the many ways in which D’Souza had twisted their words. In September of 1995, at the time the book finally saw print and reviews were beginning to appear, an article by D’Souza about the American Renaissance conference appeared in the Washington Post. D’Souza selectively quoted from Dr. Francis’ speech and presented the quotes in a very unfavourable light. And so, Dr. Francis lost his job at the Washington Times.

He remained on the editorial staff of Chronicles, of course, to which he contributed each month, either his “Principalities and Powers” column or a book review or feature article. The Creators Syndicate continued to distribute his column. In the latter he offered his commentary on the news of the day and, while immigration was the issue that he most frequently addressed, he covered a broad gamut of topics, including free trade and globalization, gun control, and the erosion of civil liberties. He supported the presidential candidacies of his friend Patrick Buchanan and kept a watchful eye on the doings of those who actually made it to the White House. Scathing as his criticism of the Clinton administration was, he was no less severe in his assessment of George W. Bush. He contrasted the way in which the Bush administration had expanded its policing powers, undermining the civil liberties of Americans in the process, by means of antiterrorist legislation like the USA PATRIOT Act, with the way in which it refused to use its existing, lawful, powers to control immigration, this contrast being a classic example of anarchotyranny. In 2002 he wrote several columns against the Bush administration’s plans to invade Iraq and when that invasion took place saw his arguments more than justified. His arguments against the war were far more sane, sensible, and interesting than either the neocon arguments for the war or the blithering banalities uttered against it by the left-wing peaceniks. His final column was about George W. Bush’s second inaugural speech and it concluded by saying that Bush had “confirmed once and for all that the neo-conservatism to which he has delivered his administration and the country is fundamentally indistinguishable from the liberalism many conservatives imagine he has renounced and defeated.”

In his Chronicles column, where he had more space to work with, he discussed the same topics at a deeper level. From James Burnham, about whose ideas he had written a book, he had learned much about the nature of power and the elites who inevitably hold it, including the present elite of technocratic managers who preside over the dismantling of the traditions, culture, and civilization of Western societies and rationalize their actions with the universalistic ideology of liberalism. From liberal sociologist Donald Warren he had gleaned insights into how the alliance of the uppermost and lowermost classes in the welfare state was putting the squeeze on the middle class, radicalizing what is ordinarily the most stable of classes, and thus generating a support base that a populist movement could use against the elites. From these insights, Dr. Francis framed his argument for such a populist “revolt from the middle”, bending the cold, hard, theory of Machiavellian power politics to serve ends that were anything but cold and hard–those of the cause of white, middle class Americans, who were seeing everything they held dear, their culture and religion, traditions and way of life, on every level from the regional to the national, including the constitution of their republic and their habits and institutions of freedom, being mercilessly swept away by elites they seemed powerless to stop. First in the New Right that brought Ronald Reagan into power, and later in the movement that failed to deliver the presidency to Pat Buchanan, he had found movements that could potentially achieve his ends. The dilemma for which he was seeking a solution to the very end of his life, as can be seen in his last “Principalities and Powers” article entitled “Towards a Hard Right”, was how such a movement could gain success without being sidetracked from its goals by corporate globalists dangling the carrot of the free market before its eyes.

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  • MekongDelta69

    He was a fantastic guy, and a fantastic writer.

    I was fortunate enough to have had a few (not many) email exchanges with him.

    I simply cannot believe it’s been 10 years since he’s been with us…

    • LHathaway

      Seems like yesterday I heard the news.

  • Sam Francis would have been happier than a pig in slop to work with all the material that the world would have provided for him in the ten years since he left this world.

    If you’re new to Sam Francis, my recommendation is to go straight to his long form, in Chronicles specifically. He made a great enough short form columnist, but he really needed a lot of column inches to get up to full speed and to display his writing talents.

    • Samuel Hathaway

      As a former subscriber to Chronicles, I saved every issue with his column written under the heading, “Principalites and Powers.” After his untimely death, there was no reason to continue the subscription.

      • maxsnafu

        If you can find it, read Francis’ column entitled “Synthesizing Tyranny.” It is a classic.

      • Speedy Steve

        Not so, my friend. Chronicles will continue to improve under the leadership of Tom Piatak, who is now at the helm of the Rockford Institute. Their subscriber base had been in a slow decline. The latest issue: I am not Charlie is outstanding. And Chronicles will always be available on paper. I strongly urge AmRen readers to get subscriptions to Chronicles.

    • I googled Sam Francis and just found an artist. Then I googled Sam Francis, writer and still just found the artist. Is this who you mean?

      California-born abstract expressionist Sam Francis (1923–1994) and offers a comprehensive chronicle of his artistic journey.

      There seem to be no other ones under Google.
      Never mind, I found it. One has to type “Sam Francis, Chronicles”, otherwise you just get pages & pages on the artist.

  • Truthseeker

    I never heard of Sam Francis until relatively recently, when I started reading the alternative right. I wish I had been familiar with him when he was alive. It might’ve helped me make better sense of the world in my younger years.

  • superlloyd

    Sam Francis was completely correct about anarchotyranny. This is the prevailing condition in the Western world today with the rise of PC, the curtailment of free speech whilst anti societal forces of muslims and blacks especially are allowed nay even encouraged to indulge their sociopathies and psychoses.

    • Speedy Steve

      Political correctness and mohammedanism go hand in hand. They both come to rob, kill and destroy.

  • David Ashton

    Sam got better as he got older. He fully understood the situation my (former) country once known as “England”.

    • Samuel Hathaway

      Dr. Francis articles are a university education no one gets, even in the Ivy League. You get history, culture, reason, philosophy, understanding, all with the benefit of an expansive vocabulary rarely seen in today’s columnists. The best benefit is an arsenal of defense against the radical left and its myths of equality, anti-racism, “fairness” and tolerance.

      • David Ashton

        Too many colleges are trying to turn out illiterate zombies programmed merely to “act” against “racism”, “sexism”, “homophobia”, “transphobia”, “islamophobia”, “antisemitism”, “christian bigotry”, “patriarchy”, “un-deconstructed texts”, “elitism”, “geneticism”, “body fascism”, “white-skin privilege”, “militarism”, “climate denial”, &c. The closing of the

        western mind followed by the destruction of the western mind, with drugs for the rest.

        • Speedy Steve

          You forgot chauvinism; as in male chauvinist piggery!

          • David Ashton

            Just finished reading a “History Today” article by Robert Colls, a Professor of Cultural History, on the English “Christian Socialism” whose ideological ancestry is more masculine Methodist than Marxist. He says his “students would simply not understand it…not diverse, possibly illegal, certainly not on message”. By “illegal” he is not referring to its challenge to foreign finance, but its religious and patriotic incompatibility with the present state-enforced “equality and diversity” legislation, of which our “students” are expected to become the future enforcers like the Soviet pioneers, Maoist cultural revolutionaries or the Junior Anti-Sex(ism) squads of Orwell’s dystopia.

  • Epiminondas

    The death of Francis was a crippling blow. No replacement at his intellectual level has appeared. As John Derbyshire is fond of saying, “we are doomed.”

    • Samuel Hathaway

      Sam Francis was a one and only. Like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Secretariat. There will never be an encore. And that’s the way it has to be. Gifted intellectuals must carve their own styles and causes for the greater good of our people. They must never imitate or try to follow in the shoes of others, risking becoming a cheap imitation. Greatness always sets its own agenda, set apart from others.

  • LHathaway

    This is a great article explaining many of the ideas and insights of the late Sam Francis. It’s relatively informative and interesting to read. But if we must tell the truth about MLK, let’s also tell the truth about the Samuel Francis . . . He was a peddler and promoter of White guilt, from the right. He was also, likely an atheist.

    After reading this, now I know why Coors beer is the racist beer. At least it is in Colorado. First we lose Illinois, thanks to Barack Obama, don’t tell me we are going to lose Wisconsin too?

    • maxsnafu

      Sam Francis was a lifelong Presbyterian–until his final day–at which time he was received into the Catholic church by Fr. Paul Scalia, son of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia.

  • Spikeygrrl

    Heard of Francis but never read. I hope some of his work is on Kindle because I won’t be able to get to a library unassisted for AT LEAST another year…quite possibly NEVER.

    Which of his works should I start with?

    • meanqueen

      Call your library and see if they have a program where they mail books to you and you mail them back when you’re done. My library has that service and it costs only $2. I’d be very surprised if your library wasn’t doing that already.