Nothing exposes our racism and bigotry better than the history of a seedy racist diatribe by obscure French writer Jean Raspail. Lauded by conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic, it stands as a monument to White privilege and racism.
Nothing exposes our racism and bigotry better than the history of a seedy racist diatribe by an obscure French writer first published in 1973, followed by an English edition in 1975. The Camp of the Saints: The End of the White Race by Jean Raspail was largely and appropriately ignored until in the early1980s conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic raised concerns about the impending deluge posed by Third World poor “invading” Europe and North America. The issue was and is race, but there were attempts to hide the racism behind the alleged aim of saving Western Civilization and our cultural values. At that time, a conservative columnist and editor for the National Review and Dartmouth English professor, Jeffrey Hart, lauded a reprint of Raspail’s The Camp of the Saints as being “One of the major works of our time.” Hart attempted to compare Raspail’s book with the 1982 science fiction movie Blade Runner by director Ridley Scott, claiming both had common themes of “cultural inundation and devastation” caused by massive immigration from the Third World to the United States and Europe.
Hart’s attempted linking of Raspail’s Saints with director Ridley Scott’s classic science fiction movie, Blade Runner, demonstrated a lack of understanding of Scott’s work, which was an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novella, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? He saw Scott’s movie vision of Los Angeles in 2019, in which the streets are shabby, dirty, and dominated by Asians and Latin Americans, an empty shell filled with darkness, filth, and illiterates as a statement of the future in support of Raspail’s dark vision. Of course, what Hart asserted about Blade Runner had little relationship to the movie or Scott’s intent, and he’s oblivious to the obvious effects of global warming and climate change demonstrated by the unending downpour evident throughout the movie. He ignores the fact that Blade Runner’s Los Angeles is a point of departure from a dying Earth. That explains the presence of so many Asians and Latin Americans. (Probably at the bottom of the list of those able to leave). Hart’s attempted linking reveals how little he knew about the movie.
Raspail’s attempt in The Camp of the Saints to have us in the West redefine our civilization and re-examine its core identity is lost in the author’s racism and paranoid fears of dirty little Asians, particularly Indians, overrunning Riviera beaches and all of France. And who is to blame for allowing this dreadful turn of events? In Raspail’s twisted logic the problem of Third World refugees flooding the civilized world is the diabolical work of liberal politicians aided by the media. Alas, who else would the right ideologues blame for problems they played a big part in creating? He and others like former Breitbart commentator and Trump advisor Steve Bannon ignore the impact of conservative policies and practices of several hundred years of colonial rule on most of the planet.
In December 1994 Matthew Connelly and Paul Kennedy resurrected Raspail’s Saints in an article titled “Must it be the rest against the West?” appearing in Atlantic Monthly. Connelly and Kennedy see the recovery of Raspail’s “neglected work” as helping us to call attention to the key global problem during the final years of the twentieth century: “unbalanced wealth and resources, unbalanced demographic trends, and the relationship between the two.” To the interplay of these two forces, they add migration as the third part of the problem. “If we do not act now to counteract tendencies toward global apartheid, they will only hurry the day when we may indeed see Raspail’s vision made real.”
Connelly and Kennedy’s analysis reveals an interesting, although common flaw in their thinking. They see only population and economic forces as being important. Perhaps they believe social and political collapse, global warming, and the degradation of the environment as mere consequences of the imbalance of wealth and resources? Even if we could balance wealth and resources across this planet, we would still have the same unsolved environmental problems tied to the current economic paradigm, only they would be much worse.
Again, this blatantly racist drivel resurfaced in 2015 with the help of future presidential advisor Steve Bannon. Speaking on a Sirius radio broadcast in October along with then-Senator Jeff Session about Immigration Policies, Bannon, then with Breitbart News said about the immigration crisis caused by the Syrian Civil War that, “It’s been almost a Camp of the Saints-type invasion into Central and then Western and Northern Europe.” In March 2017, French author/journalist, Marc Weitzmann published an article about the 92-year-old Raspail being Bannon’s mentor. In March of 2019, Bannon, speaking at the annual meeting of the French right-wing National Front, told the crowd to wear the racist label as a “badge of honor.”
Openly racists groups seem to be growing throughout the world, emboldened by people and politicians such as Donald Trump. Nowhere is it more troubling and disconcerting than in the United States and Europe in part in reaction to the flood of refugees coming from Africa and the Middle East in Europe, and from Latin America in the U.S. Sadly, what we see now is only a trickle and a prelude to what will be coming later in the 21st century as the impact of global warming and climate change flood coastal lowlands and turn other areas into uninhabitable deserts.
Had Europe and the United States acted and behaved more responsibly in the past and done more to aid the growth and development of Third World nations and societies along more constructive lines perhaps by now they would have developed more stable institutions and created more wealth for their people so there would have been no need for them to flee the poverty, oppression, and tyranny that is their reality. What we did instead was corrupt and bend their governments and institutions, steal their natural resources for our selfish purposes, and thus we see the results.
Of course, Raspail, Bannon, and their followers comprehend none of this. In their limited and twisted view, it is the liberal politicians aided by the media who are the real villains. It is the liberals, through their ‘bleeding heart’ attitudes and policies toward the Third World poor popularized in the media, that lead to the end of Western Civilization (White European) as we have known it by drowning it in a flood of Third World poor (Brown, Black, and Yellow) invading their shores.
What he and others like him, such as Bannon, ignore or are incapable of seeing is that America, the land built and kept afloat by immigration, needs an influx of new citizens to remind us of who we are, but more importantly, to understand that it is through these new immigrants suddenly discovering the new freedoms that they grow, flourish, and enrich our culture and nation.
I am reminded of the bright young Hispanic man I encountered on a subway train in L.A. in 2016. We were leaving the station near the convention center when he struck up a conversation by noting the abundant construction taking place in the area. I judged him to be in his mid-twenties, probably came to the U.S. illegally, and very knowledgeable for his age. He told me how he had come to the U.S. from Mexico to escape poverty, violence, and to seek an opportunity with nothing but the clothes on his back. He had gone to work doing whatever work was available, working three jobs to take care of his family, and was determined to be successful.
The freedom he experienced, the willingness to work hard, and having a purpose and a dream, he had been able to create a business. It didn’t stop there. He used what he had learned to leverage the business to create a second business and then a third. Now, after working hard and putting his natural entrepreneurial spirit to work, he was proud to share with me he was able not only to take care of his family but many others as well.
As we talked and it came time for him to leave the train, he looked at me with some disbelief and shared his confusion and inability to understand why more of those who are born here in a land of such opportunity are not more successful or why they lack the desire and work ethic to make it happen.
But for Raspail, Bannon, or others like them, it is race and not class or ideology that determines everything. Raspail’s message is indeed apocalyptic. He sees us heading into a future where a relatively small number of rich, satiated, demographically stagnant societies are confronted by many poverty-stricken, resource depleted nations whose populations are growing exponentially. To confront this challenge Raspail sees racism as a cultural value to be protected. In his view, it is necessary because people of different races can’t get along. He mistakes the superficial racial motive for deeper economic and social problems.
Raspail tries to hide, tries to use racism as an excuse for preserving a privileged minority position. The Camp of the Saints is trite, poorly written, racist garbage. Raspail, like those who follow and admire him, is consumed by his hatred. His claim, and that of his followers, like Steve Bannon, see racism as a positive value of Western Civilization that exposes their inability to free themselves from the 19th century. They yearn to return us to what they consider Western Civilizations glorious past, but it is a poorly constructed smokescreen intended to hide their paranoid fears that the poor masses of the planet will awaken and come and take the wealth stolen from them. While he admits nothing has been done of real significance to help the Third World, he leaves the distinct impression nothing should. In his view, we have it and should keep it, by force.
The danger in this book, written by a harmless paranoid old man, his heart and awareness lost in a time warp of 19th-century myths, is that others will pick it up and use it in some Hitleresque manner as is now evident.
When we hear politicians and those holding high public office refer to cultural survival and protection, they are referring to white supremacy. It is as if all human history is contained in the last 500 years of Western (European) experience. Donald Trump and the current Republican Party ignore and are ignorant of our debt to the many others and much of human experience before the rise of the West that provided the foundation upon which Western Civilization was built.
Over the past several decades’ attempts have been persistently made by those on the right to downplay racial bias by trying to find excuses for racism, bigotry, and prejudice by continually finding new ways of packaging and selling them. Hiding behind false narratives as is exhibited in Raspail’s Camp of the Saints is just one such example. It doesn’t matter what form it takes, tax credits for private schools, killing civil rights legislation, failure to enforce laws, voter suppression, etc. They are motivated by racist impulse whether they acknowledge it or not.
It is our misfortune to have been founded by those who stole the land, exterminated its inhabitants, and then developed and prospered by enslaving over four million others based on the color of their skin. Our failure to acknowledge the past traps us into never being able to grow and escape from it.