It was inevitable that the waves of Syrian refugees fleeing a civil war that has submerged their nation for five long years would also create nativist sentiment in Europe and America. Indeed, the rise of Donald Trump is nothing if notone big nativist spasm.
What's really disturbing isn't that this nativism exists, but that this spasm is increasingly spreading beyond the fringe into respectable conservative circles. Exhibit A is the rising interest among conservatives in The Camp of the Saints, a sick dystopian book penned by French novelist Jean Raspail in 1973 that predicts the demise of the West by unfettered Third World migration.
Raspail, now a 90-year-old Catholic, has long been on an obsessive quest to defend the West's racial and cultural purity. And The Camp of the Saint's main objective is to jawbone the West into confronting how liberalism, progressive humanism, and Christian meekness are destroying this sacred goal. He sets up a denouement so cartoonish that even Mad Max writers would cringe.
The central plot line of the book involves an armada of "kinky-haired, swarthy-skinned, long-despised" Indians who, exhorted by a "turd eating" god-man to get a piece of the "white man's comfort," board a fleet of rickety ships to France, the land of "milk and honey," to escape poverty and illness.
The sojourners are hungry and diseased. But that evidently does nothing to dull their satyr-like sexual appetite since these are people who, in Raspail's telling, "never found sex to be a sin." So their journey becomes one long orgiastic ride as they hump everything in sight. Here's Raspail in his own words. (And be advised, it's not for the faint of heart.)
"Everywhere, rivers of sperm. Streaming over bodies, oozing between breasts, and buttocks, and thighs, and lips, and fingers....[E]verywhere, a mass of hands and mounts, of phalluses and rumps....Young boys, passed from hand to hand. Young girls, barely ripe...walking to the silent play of eager lips…Men with women, men with men, women with women, men with children, children with each other." [Raspail]
About a quarter of these "Ganges people" succumb in this journey of "dung and debauch," but the rest arrive on the shores of the beautiful French Riviera on Easter Sunday. Unfortunately, mowing them down (Raspail's preferred response) is not an option for the "fragile Western World" reeling from the Holocaust and wracked with liberal guilt over colonization. Instead, the lily-white French, seeking redemption, dispatch rescue crews to bring these grotesque masses to safety like "a million Christs."
Among the few dissenters willing to do what it takes to defend their race and civilization is a Mozart-listening French professor, the book's hero. He lives in his gorgeous ancestral villa, overlooking the shore where the armada is landing. His villa is filled with beautiful artifacts and heirlooms that he can't bear the thought of having sullied by the leprous hands of this lecherous people. He takes it upon himself to personally shoot a few—and assist a ragtag French vigilante group, led by a former French colonel, to kill a few more in a futile resistance effort.
A French bomb destroys these patriotic martyrs while they are standing on the terrace, reducing the villa to rubble, an unsubtle metaphor for the collapse of Western civilization and the white race. But the colonel, who sees his fate coming, has no regrets. "I'd rather be killed by our own," he says just before being blown to smithereens. "It's much cleaner that way."
France's fecklessness encourages more waves of swarthy hordes from over-populated China, Pakistan, and elsewhere to other parts of the West, including America and England, until the white race and its culture is entirely obliterated. Even the queen of England, horror of horrors, is forced to marry her son to a Pakistani woman (clearly prefiguring the seduction of Lady Di by Egyptian magnate Dodi Fayed!).
Unsurprisingly, this book is a perennial cult classic among white supremacists in America and Europe. Every time a refugee crisis, big or small, emerges, they start chattering in dark, apocalyptic tones about the prescience of the book—never mind that countries have been absorbing refugees of famine and war since time immemorial. The National Vanguard Magazine, founded by the notorious neo-Nazi William Pierce (whose novel The Turner Diaries called for a white-led violent revolution in America) routinely whips out characters and scenes from Raspail's magnum opus to explain current events. VDare, a restrictionist website that has long been peddling racist nonsense against immigrants, has a tag named after the book to archive posts. And then there is the race-baiting Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), whose quasi-white-nationalist founder John Tanton, a Michigan-based ophthalmologist, republished the book in America in 1994. He gushed in his introduction that the book would perform the vital function of evoking "different feelings" toward immigrants from those evoked by bathetic Ellis Island stories that "exalt the immigrant experience."
FAIR's imprimatur likely aborted conservative interest in the book, despite a neutral Atlantic piece examining its Malthusian premise that came out just when it was republished. Indeed, apart from National Review's Bill Buckley who, in a 2004 piece titled "No Irish Need Apply," to his eternal shame, called the book a "great novel," few prominent conservatives rushed to praise it.
Until now, that is.
In the last few years, this vile tract has slowly risen out of the white supremacist ghetto into conservative gutter sites such as American Thinker and Breitbart (which has been running long features every few months drawing ominous parallels between the book and the Western response to the Syrian refugee crisis)—and then to more respectable and mainstream outfits such as the thoughtful, if quirky, American Conservative and the lively and ecumenical The Federalist.
This Federalist piece by John Daniel Davidson is particularly perplexing because, unlike the American Conservative, whose founding editor Pat Buchanan is a known immigration opponent, The Federalist has no restrictionist agenda. To the contrary, in fact.
American Conservative's recent pieces by Rod Dreher don't soft peddle the book's racism or its "moral ugliness." Davidson's glowing portrait, by contrast, dismisses concerns about the book's racism and fascism as so much "handwringing." "Only a reader looking for an easy way to dismiss [Raspail's] larger thesis would find the racism or fascism at the heart of the novel," Davidson declares.
But the fact of the matter is that Raspail's "larger thesis" is just that: racist and fascist.
Davidson believes that Raspail's main concern is about the impossibility of truly assimilating immigrants, not anything intrinsic about their race. In fact, it's the opposite. Raspail isn't worried that immigrants won't assimilate but that they will. Davidson frets that Muslims in Europe don't marry native Europeans (as if white Europeans are waiting in line, rings in hand, to marry Muslims). But Raspail worries that they will, as his scenario about the pedigreed English queen's son marrying a Pakistani suggests. Raspail is a big opponent of miscegenation, and the whole project of The Camp of the Saints is to evoke horror at it.