What is Bannon referring to by that elusive “Camp of the Saints”? Well, it’s nothing but the title of an obscure 1973 French racist novel by Jean Raspail. Bannon explains the world by it. He has repeatedly used it as a metaphor to describe the largest refugee crisis in human history.
The novel has become a sort of cult favorite of the far right. The reason may well be that it’s an overtly racist rant. It uses race as the main characterization of characters. Basically it describes the takeover of Europe by waves of immigrants that wash ashore like the plague or like a hurricane. The refugee is basically dehumanized and reduced to a force of nature to be escaped and fought. It turns events into a fight of death between races and a clash of civilizations. It has been repeatedly published in the US, always with the support and public acclaim of white supremacists and racists of various stripes, not excluding the KKK.
The novel was translated and published in the US in 1975. It was reviewed in the magazine Kirkus who described it as “a major event like Mein Kampf was a major event.”
Let’s not forget that Bannon is the undisputed puppet master behind the scene at the White House pulling Trump’s strings and advising policies such as the controversial ban on Muslim travelers from seven majority Moslem countries.
Let’s not also forget that he used to be the executive chairman of the right-wing news site Breitbart, the online movement of the white nationalist movement in America, known for its anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant stances.
The cover of this English translation of The Camp of the Saints calls it “a chilling novel about the end of the white world.”
The plot of the book is quite simple and predictable. An armada of almost a million impoverished Indians heads for Europe. A debate follows among leaders of the EU, including a liberal Pope from Latin America (a prophecy of sorts) on whether to let them in or simply kill them all, which many think it is the hard but also the right thing to do. All the non-white people of the earth intently watch the events. If the Indians succeed in their mission to enter Europe they will all rise up and overthrow Western White Society as we know it.
By the time the French government decides to act and repeal the “invasion,” it’s too late. Chinese pour into the White bastion that is Russia, the queen of England is forced to marry her son to a Pakistani woman, the mayor of New York must house an African-American family (another preposterous prophecy given that the current mayor of New York, Mr. Di Biasio, is married to an African-American). The rogue heroes defending white Christian supremacy are killed in the process. The are the martyrs of the cause, so to speak.
One of those heroes and martyrs is Calgues who compares himself to past European heroes and their mythical defenses of European Christendom: Rhodes against the Ottoman Empire, the fall of Constantinople to the Muslims, the naval battle of Lepanto. He considers himself fully human. The others, brown or black, arouse disgust. Many of the others are sexual deviants.
This tragedy, as per Calgues comes about because the West has lost the belief in its own cultural and racial superiority. It doesn’t take long before the reader realizes that the spirit of the Crusades is being revived. The crusade in this case, however, is against the poor and non-whites.
Raspal wrote the book at Cannes while looking at the Mediterranean sea and imagining the hordes of refugees arriving by sea, the Third World overrunning “this blessed country that is France,” as he puts it. As could be expected the book did not get many favorable reviews, but there was a favorable one in the conservative Republican publication National Review which wrote the following: “Raspail brings the reader to the surprising conclusion that killing a million or so starving refugees from India would be a supreme act of individual sanity and cultural health.”
Also there is this gem from Professor Jeffrey Hart who in 1975 wrote that “Raspail is to genocide what D.H. Lawrence is to sex; a great fuss is being made over Raspail’s supposed racism, but the liberal rote anathema on racism is in effect a poisonous assault upon Western self-preference.”
The book was re-published in 1983 thanks to Cordelia Scaife May, heiress to the Mellon fortune; and this time around it became an icon among immigration opponents, among whom John Tanton, the grandfather of anti-immigration movements in the US. He began innocently enough as an environmentalist and population control advocate, but ended up founding the Federation of American Immigration Reform, and the Center for Immigration Studies, and US English, for the advocacy of English as the US official language. Eventually he began advertising the book and championing pro-eugenics programs.
In 1995 the book saw a third publication as concerns with global demographic trends intensified. Tanton wrote then that “Over the years the American public has absorbed a great number of books, articles, poems and films which exalt the immigrant experience, it is easy for the feelings evoked by Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to obscure the fact that we are currently receiving too many immigrants (and receiving them too fast) for the health of our environment and of our common culture. Raspail evokes different feelings and that may help to pave the way for policy changes.”
In 2001, the book was republished one more time, again by Tanton, and again gained a cult following among opponents of immigration like the Border-patrolling Minutemen and eventually the online “alt-right” which has referenced the novel multiple times. In one such references, Julia Hahn, now an aide to Bannon in the White House, compared the admonition of Pope Francis to a joint session of Congress to “open your arms to refugees” to that found in Raspal’s novel by the liberal Latin American pontiff pointing out, as Bannon also does frequently enough, that migration is a disguise for invasion, that the refugee crisis did not just happen, it was planned, that something more sinister is going on. The villains in such a conspiracy theory, besides the liberal Latin American pope, are of course the secular liberals who weaken the West.
What is most intriguing about this racist paranoia and rejection of “the other” is that immigrants and refugees are not perceived as human beings in dire straits and needs, but as enemies to be exterminated. It is the resurrection of the Nazi mind-set and its final solution. The solution of the refugee crisis does not lie in compassion and solidarity, but in extermination. The aim is to win the war. As per Bannon and his minions, there is a war going on and it is between the president trying to deconstruct the established status quo, and what goes by the name of Deep State and its agents (intelligence agencies, liberal press, elite political establishment, etc).
This phenomenon can be detected even in a progressive magazine such as this one. Accepting all opinions, they are of course tolerated, but you may have noticed already that there are regular contributors who never fail to inveigh against the Deep State which they consider the traitorous enemy of a our president, never mind how he got there, never mind its derangement. Their arguments appear rational, even reasonable, but in fact are proclaimed like an article of faith. The influence of books such as the one we have examined is quite apparent. They echo the Nazi era of the thirty in Germany when scapegoats were being charged for all the troubles of Germany
“Do you believe the elites in this country have the backbone, have the belief in the underlying principles of the Judeo-Christian West to actually win this war?” Bannon asked Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), now the attorney general, in June 2016. “I’m worried about that. … They’re eroding, regularly it seems to me, classical American values that are so critical to our success,” Sessions replied.
As the saying goes: birds of a feather flock together. Both Bannon and Sessions are now integral part of the White House, and that goes a long way in explaining why a Trump, who reads no book and is only capable of writing 140 characters tweets requiring two minutes span of attention, tends to conflate immigration and warfare and perceives his anti-Muslim executive orders as life-or-death national security issues comparable to a “military operation.”
Considering the above analysis, perhaps we are not going too are afield in asserting that the slogan “Let’s make American Great again” is a code for “Let’s make America White again.” In other words, let’s consider the root and the heritage of America as derived mostly from Northern Europe and all others as inferior and undesirables, un-American.
Trump, Bannon and Sessions have so far managed to fool a substantial amount of people with that popular slogan, but as another president quipped once: “You can fool all of the people some of the times, and you can fool some of the people all of the times, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the times.”
Note: this article has already appeared in Ovi magazine on Tuesday March 7, 2017.