Hits Its Target
Francis began his rise to prominence in 1984 with
publication of his Power and History: The Political
Thought of James Burnham. Generating no controversy
at the time, Power and History demonstrated that
its writer understood not only Burnham's thinking
on the role of ruling elites, but perhaps surpassed
his subject in understanding the theoretical basis
of political power. Soon thereafter Francis authored
The Soviet Strategy of Terror, and following several
years' service as a U.S. Senate aide resumed his
writing career with a succession of ground-breaking
columns, essays, speeches and books which came
to define the struggle for the soul of American
1 copy: $21
3 copies: $55;
P.O. Box 270
Vienna, VA 22183
almost two years after his death comes a superb collection
of his work. The aptly entitled Shots Fired: Sam Francis
on America's Culture War is the most comprehensive collection
of his writings to be assembled in a single volume. Included
are previously unpublished speeches, regular weekly newspaper
columns, rare Francis gems published in a variety of venues
over his prolific years as a writer, and selections from "Principalties
and Powers," a regular feature he wrote for Chronicles
Pat Buchanan's forward sets the tone of the book and speaks
admiringly of his late friend: "Early on Sam saw that
America was in the grip of a culture war where peaceful coexistence
was self-delusion. For all the victories of the Republican
Party and the Beltway Right, Middle America was being mugged
and robbed of its heritage." Regarding the politically
powerful detractors of Francis, Buchanan lays bare their vulnerability:
"They feared Sam, for they feared the truth, and knew
there are many in Middle America who, if they read Sam, would
agree with him."
Read him they did. In his too-short career, Francis became
one of the American right's most popular authors. Editor Peter
B. Gemma has skillfully assembled more than 50 separate works
in sixteen chapters spanning nearly 400 pages. The selections
are representative and reveal a cross section of a productive
literary output. Arranged by issues and ideas, the chapter
titles are descriptive, tipping off the reader to what is
in store within.
In the chapter entitled "The Grand Old Stupid Party"
Francis documents the ascendancy of neoconservatism on the
establishment right. True to form, he waxes eloquent while
explaining much, then without fanfare distills it down to
a single terse statement stunningly summarizing his point.
An example is found in "A Conservative Movement that
Doesn't Move": "So far from being conservatism of
any recognizeable stripe, neo-conservatism merely displaces
(and in fact helped muzzle) the real Right and perpetuates
the liberal monopoly on political and cultural discourse."
The chapter "Talking About Religion and Politics"
is a collection of columns dealing with topics including Billy
Graham, the Pope, censorship of religious expression and political
manipulation. While much is covered, the thrust is encapsulated
in one vintage Francis declaration that chastises those in
the West who advocate apologizing for their culture's past:
"If the civilization of Western Man-which used to be
known as "Christendom"-is going to flourish in the
coming millennium, it won't be because a sick old man crawled
on his knees for forgiveness... It will be because Western
men themselves have rejected the disease the culture of guilt
has injected into their veins and learned once more to take
pride in the civilization their ancestors created and the
blood they shed so it could survive."
One of Francis's more well known Chronicles essays,
"National Endowment for the Arts," unloads on the
establishment world view with both barrels to debunk politically
correct notions about popular culture. "The transference
of cultural power and cultural production from the people
who consume it to bureaucratized elites that despise and fear
their own audiences is of course an aspect of the continuing
destruction of republican self-government, no less than the
transference of political and economic power to similar bureaucratized
elites in the centralized government and economy."
Here is Francis on the government's drug war: "The truth
is that American political culture no longer permits the prosecution
of any kind of war because the elites that prevail in politics,
the economy and the culture rule and think in terms of manipulation,
deception, and sheer fraud rather than force."
Perhaps most politically incorrect is the chapter entitled
"Equality as a Political Weapon." In a 1991 address
to the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Francis unapologetically
treads on the sacred cow of the chattering classes: "
doctrine of equality never flourishes unless it serves
a weapon or instrument by which one group challenges and resists
the power of other groups and advances its own power."
Whether dealing with the vital role of the Second Amendment
in American culture ("Historical Basis for the Second
Amendment"), debunking Lincoln and Roosevelt mythology
("Looking Into Lincoln's Legacy" and "The Real
Roosevelt Record"), setting the record straight about
Joe McCarthy ("McCarthy's Rehabilitation"), discussing
immigration ("Smuggling Revolution: The Sanctuary Movement"-must
reading for understanding the open borders lobby) or in separate
sections commenting on American populism, attacks on Southern
symbols or Christmas celebrations, the entire volume is laden
with refreshingly cogent and incisive observations important
to Middle Americans concerned about the future of their country.
Francis's unfailing ability to "cut to the chase"
and make his point with rhetorical vigor is something sorely
lacking in contemporary social criticism and political analysis.
His untimely death at age 57 cut short a literary career that
had established him, in Buchanan's phrase, as the "Clausewitz
of the right." By then readers from coast to coast were
familiar with his skillful political analysis. He was a latter
day Mencken, deftly conveying lofty principles in down-to-earth
prose, complete with trenchant and occasionally humorous punch
lines leaving no doubt as to his meaning. Francis was a two-time
winner of the American Society of Newspaper Editors Distinguished
Writing Award for Editorial Writing.
Little wonder that he has been called "America's foremost
critic of our social, political and cultural decline."
Shots Fired is not for the faint of heart. To the uninitiated
reader it will most likely serve as political shock therapy.
His writing is red meat for true believers, a dose of political
realism defining the real struggle over what is left of an
American culture. The book is an indispensable guide to understanding
how the power game really works - lessons that Middle America
should wake up and learn.
T. March, J.D., is a former U.S. Senate aide.