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A Religious Magazine Whitewashes a Xenophobic Novel Advocating Genocide
First Things peddles a cult favorite among white supremacists, comparing it to 1984 and Brave New World
Creatitve Commons. Fabrice Bluszez
French author Jean Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints has become a cult favorite on the extreme right in Europe and the United States. Published originally in French in 1973, Charles Scribner’s Sons brought out an English translation in 1975 to largely unfavorable reviews, and it soon went out of print.
But in 1987, John Tanton, the founder of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a rabidly nativist outfit, published a cheap reprint through the Social Contract Press, part of Tanton’s myriad network of anti-immigrant and population control groups. Reprinted numerous times since then, the book soon found an audience on the xenophobic right. Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Marine Le Pen and Viktor Orbán are among the book’s fans, and it was touted at the National Conservatives’ third annual policy conference in 2022 during a discussion of “Catholicism and the Necessity of Nationalism.”
The presenter at that conference, Nathan Pinkoski of the University of Florida, has now published a defense of The Camp of the Saints in First Things that boldly declares that if Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984 were the most important dystopian novels of the first half of the 20th century, then The Camp of the Saints is the most important one of the second half.
The Dehumanization of the Brown Skinned
In fact, the novel is nothing more—or less—than a pornographic call to genocide. It is shocking and dismaying to see it praised in a publication that describes itself as “America’s most influential journal of religion and public life.” Pinkoski defends the novel as a revelation of “the nihilism of guilt whereby the West welcomes its own destruction.” He claims, “Raspail wishes to hold a mirror up to our own society: He is concerned with ‘us,’ not ‘them.’” But that is too clever by half because without “them” there is no “us,” which is why the book devotes pages and chapters describing “them” in terms beyond lurid.
The storyline begins in famine-stricken Calcutta where desperate Indian parents have gathered outside the Belgian consulate hoping to send their children to Belgium to be adopted by Europeans. At the back of the crowd, “a giant of a man … [u]ntouchable pariah, this dealer in droppings, dung roller by trade, molder of manure briquettes, turd eater in time of famine” holds aloft a monster child emblematic of the future race that will destroy Europe. Soon, a flotilla of rusty, broken-down vessels sets sail from India bearing the “refuse of mankind,” rutting their way across the seas. Raspail’s brown-skinned, subhuman creatures are legion—millions of them invading Europe, the United States, South Africa (a white-ruled apartheid state at the time the novel was written), driven by lust and envy—and bent on raping entire continents.
For some 300 pages, we are treated to one horror after another as the Last Chance Armada pushes toward the West, its decks hidden by “a mass of hands and mouths, of phalluses and rumps…. Everywhere, rivers of sperm. Streaming over bodies, oozing between breasts and buttocks, and thighs, and lips, and fingers.” By the novel’s end, only a small group of white resisters remain in the south of France, gathered “to hunt down the black, the way you shoot rabbits in a game preserve.”
It is true that Raspail saves some of his venom for the whites he blames for encouraging this invasion: “‘Nigger-lovers’ is what they start out as. They end up as ‘fellow travelers’ later, when there’s no more white left in them at all,” a sergeant says as he aims his rifle at a group of French stragglers, who’d initially welcomed the wretched refuse, but were now trying to join the band of white survivors holed up in a 17th century villa. Alas, it is too late, as bombs drop from the sky.
The Rosetta Stone of White Supremacy
There is a reason why The Camp of the Saints has become, along with The Turner Diaries, the Rosetta Stone of white supremacy. It would be difficult to find more egregiously racist language anywhere than in its pages. Yet, Pinkoski defends it noting: “Raspail will not allow the migrants to be idealized. Throughout the novel, he emphasizes their vulgarity by providing lengthy descriptions of their crudeness, sexual promiscuity, and repellent hygiene.” Pinkoski adds, in parenthesis, in case we miss the point: “(In parts of India, human feces are used to generate heat. The boats rely on this kind of fuel.)”
But, not to worry: “These descriptions may be excessive, but they are not gratuitous,” he assures us. Indeed, in Pinkoski’s reading, the novel is merely an exposé of the fallacies of Western intellectuals like Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon and their multiculturalist inheritors who believe in a kind of moral universalism: “The Camp of the Saints gives guidance to those of us who hope to save our spiritual integrity as we seek to preserve and honor our patrimony. It shows us how not to act. The novel’s band of [French] resisters are very much part of Raspail’s satire. They lack ethical refinement and display a rough, schoolboy Nietzscheanism. They are either lovers of violence or lovers of sensual pleasures. They have only the fragments of the real religion. They are Last Men.”
Pinkoski is enamored of Raspail, a fellow Catholic, not least because he shares the author’s disdain for the modern Roman Catholic Church. In the novel, Raspail depicts a Latin American pontiff who has already sold off all the Vatican’s treasures and whose clergy await the armada approaching the French shores as if Christ Himself is coming, with cries of “thank God, thank God.”
Pinkoski—following Raspail—depicts the universalistic aspirations of the Catholic Church as the problem because they make France weak-kneed in defending its civilization—never mind that the word Catholic literally means universal and that the church’s universalism has historically been its strength, not weakness.
Christianity is the largest religion in the world, and Catholicism is its largest denomination at 1.36 billion. Ironically, given Pinkoski’s view, much of the church’s recent growth has come from the Global South, especially Africa, now home to more than 260 million Catholics. Visit any center city Catholic parish and many suburban ones in the U.S. and you will see Guatemalan, Nigerian and Filipino immigrants filling the pews alongside the progeny of the Irish, Italian, Polish, German and Bohemian immigrants who came before them. More importantly, Catholicism (and Christianity in general) envisions each person as made in God’s image, imposing a sacred obligation to treat every human being as such.
But Raspail strips brown people of their humanity, envisioning instead monsters such as the child held up by the giant outside the Belgian consulate: “a mass of human flesh. At the bottom, two stumps; then an enormous trunk, all hunched and twisted and bent out of shape; no neck, but a kind of extra stump, a third one in place of a head, and a bald little skull, with two holes for eyes and a hole for a mouth, but a mouth that was no mouth at all—no throat, no teeth—just a flap of skin over his gullet.”
Pinkoski tries to intellectualize Raspail’s novel as a critique of the West’s decline. “Raspail is right,” he tells us. “God will not deliver us from the consequences of our guilty self-hatred. It is up to us to decide whether we will reject Sartre’s false liturgy of atonement through occupation and turn instead to the Lord.” And what exactly does that turning to the Lord mean? Instead of seeking inspiration in the Gospels, where Christ instructs, “For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in,” Pinkoski and First Things turn to The Apocalypse.
Western Civ = White Superiority
For all of Pinkoski’s protest that “[t]he disparagement of Raspail as a racist stands as one sign among many that we live in a mendacious age, one that veils its nihilism with endless demonstrations of its politically correct virtues,” the novelist himself was blunter in his own assessment about what’s truly at stake in admitting brown-skinned people into the West. Indeed, contrary to Pinkoski’s assertion that both liberals and white supremacists who frame the novel as a “fictional race war that stokes fears about genocide against whites” are wrong, the subsequent English edition includes the subtitle, not in the original French: “The End of the White Race.”
Moreover, right off the bat in the opening pages of that edition, Raspail reveals his intention, as if to directly refute Pinkoski: “I had wanted to write a lengthy preface to explain my position and show that this is no wild-eyed dream… We need only glance at the awesome population figures predicted for the year 2000…. seven billion people, only nine hundred million of whom will be white.”
He was not far off as far as numbers go—the world population is now about 7.9 billion, somewhat more than a billion of whom are “white,” depending on how the term itself is defined. And that is the point—what does whiteness signify to the denizens of the right if not intellectual, physical, moral and cultural superiority inextricably linked to race?
Indeed, The Camp of the Saints goes out of its way to suggest that Black and brown people cannot become “white” even if they adopt the manners, dress, customs and beliefs of the beleaguered Frenchmen who remain at the novel’s conclusion. A Hindu named Hamadura, “dressed Western style, but his skin was dark,” tries to join a ragtag group fleeing France at the end of the novel, reassuring them that “being white isn’t really a question of color. Every white supremacist cause—no matter where or when—has had blacks on its side…. Today, with so many whites turning black, why can’t a few ‘darkies’ decide to be white? Like me?”
Pinkoski rattles off the literary awards Raspail received in France—no doubt to buttress his argument that if Raspail has fallen in bad odor it is not because he is a vile racist but because we live at a time when political correctness has run amuck. But French novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline, a notorious anti-Semite who advocated an alliance with Nazi Germany and sided with the Germans during the occupation of France in World War II, also received plenty of national honors. Is it an advance for human decency—or political correctness—that praise for him has been driven out of respectable company? Also, Pinkoski doesn’t admire Raspail for his literary prowess, the reason he won awards, but rather the grotesque message for which he deploys this prowess.
But to maintain his tendentious interpretation, Pinkoski expends few words quoting the novel he praises in First Things or in his speech to the NatCons. But I have spent many. Why? Because only by letting Raspail’s words speak for themselves can we plumb the depths of depravity of The Camp of the Saints. No amount of whitewash can scrub the obscenity from this novel or hide its message: Let in brown-skinned people, even those who share our faith and ways, and they will wipe us from the earth—unless we kill them first.
If that is not racism in its most naked form, what is?
© The UnPopulist 2023