Thursday, February 17, 2005

Last of a Dying Breed, literally:

Sam Francis died a few days ago. It should come as no surprise; he was morbidly obese for much of his life and, David Brock, in his book, claims that he chained smoked (both of them worked at the Washington Times).

Francis is a throwback to the days when racist arguments were acceptable in conservative circles. If you don't remember, his last controversy was criticizing the Terrell Owens-Nicolette Sheridan commercial not merely because it was racy, but because it attempted to "normalize" interracial couplings.

Some have argued that he along with Jared Taylor, represent a "new" type of white supremicism, not the crude-toothless kind, but a more dangerous kind -- educated, urbane, with high intellectual arguments. For instance, Taylor is Yale educated, fluent in Japanese, and was a successful international businessman. Francis had a Ph'd from an excellent school and did scholarly work for Congress (not that his work necessarily served the "public good." As I recall, when he worked for a Congressman, he tried to smear MLK and worked against the recognition of that holiday).

I first became aware of these "racialist paleoconservatives" when I was in law school and a fellow student named Lincoln Herbert started (or re-started) something known as the "Western Heritage" group. Now, I like Western Culture as much as the next guy, but when I inquired as to what this group was all about, I found out it was a racial, not a cultural group, and it was dedicated to advancing such racialist arguments. Sorry but Western culture doesn't need these defenders. Harold Bloom will do instead. The student was recently reinstated after being expelled by the Dean -- a liberal who worked for the NAACP -- under very complicated circumstances. Herbert claims it was because of his beliefs (thus the expulsion violated his First Amendment rights); the Dean claimed it was for lying about an incident where Herbert maced someone at the lawschool.

Temple University is a school with an historically high black population. And as such, Herbert's group didn't go over well with the "diversity" crowd. It was rumored (I wasn't a student at that time) that Herbert's original events where he brought Sam Francis and Jared Taylor, et al. to speak, were crowded -- not with supporters, but with enemies, with liberal law professors and students coming to challenge this heresy.

When I was a student, the speakers were invited back for their "second" round, two years later. I came to see Francis speak, but this time, there was no controversy; the event was completely ignored. Maybe 8 people were in the room, two of which were Herbert and his girlfriend, one of which was Francis. I think I recall challenging his views on immigration and I noted that the cultural elite -- whom he railed against -- were better torch-bearers of Western Culture than the peasants with pitchforks -- the folks who drive pick-up trucks with the confederate flags on the back -- whom he purported to represent. After all, who is more likely to go to or donate to an art-museum or have read Milton? A liberal NPR listener living in Manhattan, or a working class Southern white guy with a confederate flag next to his gunrack?

Still this obituary touched my heart and made me feel sad for old Sam.

Like many older bachelors, Sam Francis became set in his ways. He could be gruff and even irascible. I suspect he was lonely, although no-one could have been surrounded by more loyal and devoted friends in his final days.

I have always been puzzled at the visceral animosity this reclusive and retiring figure provoked from the likes of John J. Miller and David Brock. Both launched campaigns to drive him out of public life. But for the internet, they might have succeeded. Sam was more hurt by these campaigns than he should have been—heartrendingly, you could always see in him the shy and sensitive little boy. I believe, however, that there will be a reckoning for these campaigns—as in the parallel case of Sam’s friend Pat Buchanan—in the future.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a 1995 Temple Law alumnus. I was there when the whole Lincoln Herbert thing developed. Prior to founding the Western Heritage Society, he started a chapter of the Federalist Society at the Law School. However, that platform did not last, as the very chapter which he had begun kicked him out. His views and tactics were not a good fit at all for the Federalists. As for Dean Reinstein, he was certainly motivated by a personal and/or political animus toward Herbert, who had directed many a rhetorical attack at Reinstein by name. Sure, Herbert was a kook who maced a homeless guy. However, had he been a kook who maced a homeless guy while also serving as president of the Gay and Lesbian Law Students Association, instead of the Western Heritage Society, he would not have had a problem. Reinstein is very far left, and I have no faith that his own extremism did not inform his decisions as to what to do with Herbert.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I was a graduate of Temple Law School around that time.

It was clear that Lincoln Herbert held extreme far right views. But the Dean of the school, Robert J. Reinstein, held extreme LEFT views. As well as ethnic and religious bias.

Herbert wasn't the only one to be a victim of Robert Reinstein's "groupthink". There were two other students who were suspended or threatened with suspension before Lincoln Herbert. In 1991 and in 1993.

In both '91 and '93 cases, Robert Reinstein made serious, but inevitably false, claims of mental instability on the part of each student---just like the power people did in the old Soviet Union.

Robert Reinstein was a left wing nut. And Herbert was a right wing kook. But the left wing nut had more power than the right wing kook.

AmericanEyes said...

"But the Dean of the school, Robert J. Reinstein, held extreme LEFT views. As well as ethnic and religious bias."

I have known Robert Reinstein my entire life, and he's the last person I'd ever describe as having extreme left views. To be sure, he is a liberal, but he's no barking loon. Care to elaborate on the nature of this bias you speak of?

Anonymous said...

Americaneyes:

In the time Herbert brought his case, Reinstein had previously suspended or threatened to suspend two other law students.

In each case, the students had previously had some dispute or altercation with a Jewish student or professor in Temple.

Reinstein was absolutely rabid. In the first case, around 1991, the student had made some reference in a negative end-of-semester survey about the professor's religion. Reinstein had disciplinary charges brought up against the student, and he was accused of being seriously mentally unbalanced. Dean Reinstein would only let the student continue at Temple if he received "psychiatric counseling".

The second case I am less familiar with--but it was pre-Herbert. In that one, the student had been harassed by a militant gay group on the campus---they were making false allegations against him.

After that same student received a severe beating several nights after directly confronting the militant, Reinstein came down in favor of the militant (who was coincidentally, Jewish).

Reinstein further made numerous derogatory remarks against the beaten student and alleged that he had some, again, unspecified severe "psychological problem".

Reinstein made this kind of accusation THREE times in the early 1990's, at practically 18 month intervals. All against people who were either to the right of left, or who got into a dispute with a Jew.

And P.S., that puts Reinstein's advocacy of Eden Jacobowitz in a slightly different light, doesn't it?