Chronicles makes it official: it no longer believes in America

(August 8: In an exchange of comments at the Chronicles website, discussed here, Thomas Fleming has confirmed what I said about him in the below entry.)

For many years I’ve been saying that Chronicles, A Magazine of American Culture, the magazine that gave birth to paleoconservatism, has become so disenchanted with America as to be fairly described as anti-American. There were several components to this. One, Chronicles doesn’t just regard the excessive federal power that has developed over the last 70 years as illegitimate; it regards the war to save the Union in 1861-1865 as illegitimate, meaning that it regards America as it has existed since 1865 as illegitimate. Two, Chronicles hates contemporary, left-leaning America so much that it hates America as such; chilling proof is Chronicles’ editor Thomas Fleming’s article on the 9/11 attack. Three, Chronicles’ orientation, as Paul Gottfried has recently pointed out, has become specifically Catholic rather than American.

Ok, that’s the background for what I’m about to tell you. Is your seat belt fastened?

At the Chronicles website, we find this:

Ninatos Bestias (“Beastie Boys”)
by Thomas Fleming
The following is the first in a series of translations of Chronicles articles into Spanish, as part of our outreach to the Spanish-speaking world. (TJF)

What follows is a 3,400 word article by Thomas Fleming in Spanish. In Chronicles. You know. The magazine where Samuel Francis used to write his monthly column about the Middle American Radicals.

The deliberate, symbolic meaning of translating an entire Chronicles article into Spanish, as part of “outreach” to the Spanish speaking world (tens of millions of members of which now reside in the U.S.), is unmistakable. Chronicles has given up on the defense of America as a historically and culturally distinctive nation, and is adjusting itself to, and invoking, the increasing presence and influence of the Spanish language and culture in America. It is analogous to the supposedly anti-Muslim immigration Jean-Marie Le Pen’s accommodation with the Muslims.

During the 2000 presidential campaign I castigated candidate George W. Bush for saying in a speech in Miami:

We are now one of the largest Spanish-speaking nations in the world. We’re a major source of Latin music, journalism and culture.

Just go to Miami, or San Antonio, Los Angeles, Chicago or West New York, New Jersey … and close your eyes and listen. You could just as easily be in Santo Domingo or Santiago, or San Miguel de Allende.

For years our nation has debated this change—some have praised it and others have resented it. By nominating me, my party has made a choice to welcome the new America.

And now Chronicles, the home of paleoconservatism, has joined Bush.

And people think I’m crazy for persistently pointing out that various prominent conservatives aren’t real conservatives!

- end of initial entry -

Gintas writes:

It’s just another in a series of white flags. Fleming has a couple of articles on their site entitled “Poor Mexico, Poor America,” here and here, in which he basically runs down American culture.

Chilton Williamson has had a long-running fiction series in the print version about a family of Mexican immigrants, Republicans all, one of whom improbably joins the Minutemen. It seems that being against Mexican immigration is too close to anti-Catholicism.

Contrast with Vanishing American’s (yes, she’s back) efforts to remember and describe American culture.

A reader writes:

Can you figure out what the article is about? If they’ve gone Catholic, they probably see the Hispanics as allies. But many Hispanics have become evangelical Protestants. Still, it serves to undermine America and I guess that’s what Chronicles wants, damn them.

Stephen T. writes:

This infatuation with Spanish seems as much an effort to appear up-to-date or somehow media-hip, than a real necessity for communication. I’ve got a question for the editors of Chronicle: Are you kidding yourselves? How many Spanish-only speakers do they believe have the slightest intention of reading a publication billed as “A Magazine of American Culture”? It’s hysterical! Is there any immigrant group to this country which has shown more indifference to American culture and U.S. current events than those from Mexico and other Hispanic countries? Chronicle’s achingly obvious Anglo naivete and lack of street-level exposure to Hispanic culture, particularly Mestizo Mexican, is tragi-comic. If Mexicans aren’t reading Chronicle it’s NOT because it’s written in the wrong language.

When news of some national crisis or turning point in war makes headlines in American papers, it’s always interesting to contrast the same-day headline in La Opinion, the large, L.A.-based Spanish newspaper. Typically, the in-depth story about our country won’t even make page one, but is supplanted instead by a raft of revealingly short articles, most of which prominently display the word “immigracion” or “amnestia” in the lead, or detail internal Mexican politics. They are obviously aimed at a mass market which La Opinion publishers themselves consider uninterested in, if not totally oblivious to, issues vital to the United States.

Yet, it’s the same market which the publishers of Chronicles obviously believe represents some sort of vast untapped readership for a magazine about American culture.

LA replies:

Amusing reflections, but I don’t agree with your premise. I don’t think this is at all directed at Spanish speaking readers or is a move to position Chronicles in the media. It is intended as an announcement that Chronicles accepts and endorses the Hispanicization of the U.S.

Bruce B. writes:

“It is intended as an announcement that Chronicles accepts and endorses the Hispanicization of the U.S.”

I wasn’t thrilled when I saw it either but slow down, Larry. I don’t think that’s the case. Chronicles has maintained the position that Hispanic immigration to the U.S. is (culturally, morally, spiritually) bad for Hispanics because there’s little for them to assimilate to besides lowest common denominator culture. And can anyone argue with THAT. The translation of articles allows them to share traditional conservatism with Hispanics. Some may not come here as a result and some may return. In any event, they’re gonna keep coming whether Chronicles translates their articles or not.

At least read a translation of the article and the full texts of the articles Gintas links before jumping to such a radical conclusion.

LA replies:

I wouldn’t be surprised if the article has some negative things about immigration, which Fleming could point to and use to deny that the translation means what I say it means. The significance of the Spanish translation is in its symbolic impact. Chronicles probably has close to zero Hispanic-American readers and would appeal to zero readers who only speak Spanish. So there’s no practical reason for them to do this. Its intention is purely symbolic. And what is it symbolizing? I’ve given my interpretation of it.

LA continues:

I missed this. Bruce B. wrote:

Chronicles has maintained the position that Hispanic immigration to the U.S. is (culturally, morally, spiritually) bad for Hispanics because there’s little for them to assimilate to besides lowest common denominator culture.

1. Are Hispanics going to be listening to Chronicles’ advice about whether they should immigrate to the U.S.? Of course not. So what is the point of Chronicles’ saying this? (For answer, see point two.)

2. If that’s Chronicles’ main argument on immigration, that Hispanics shouldn’t come here because there is so little culture here to speak of for them to assimiliate into, it shows once again that their main interest is in the badness of America, not in saving America from the Hispanic immigration that is going to continue notwithstanding Chronicles’ hostility to America.

And by the way, I argued in Huddled Cliches that the great moral-cultural qualities that Mexicans supposedly bring with them and that will improve our moral-cultural qualities will be lost as soon as they assimilate into our anomic culture; and if they don’t assimilate into our culture but remain separate, their supposedly great qualities will not help us in any case. The point of my criticism of the present American culture was, we have to save ourselves, not think that importing some alien group is going to save us. But where do we see any sign in Fleming that he even cares about saving America?

John Hagan writes:

Thomas Fleming has always been a chaotic, iconoclastic imbecile. When Chronicles mattered back in the early ’90s, reading Fleming was always an exercise in futility. I subscribed to Chronicles for years and I remember getting angry letters in the mail from Fleming ranting and raving about how cheap we subscribers were for taking advantage of Chronicles’ own magazine discounts. Those were not the kind of letters that would endear his reader base to the magazine. Sam Francis carried that magazine on his back. When Francis passed away it was inevitable that Chronicles would fade away, with Fleming running wild over there.

Chronicles was only a serious conservative magazine because of the intellectual power of Sam Francis. Sam did some of his best writing in that magazine. And though there have been other worthwhile projects at Chronicles over the years, the looming, malignant shadow of Fleming has slowly sucked the life out of it. It’s even worse than National Review now, and that’s saying something.

Paul T. writes from Canada:

My impression is that Thomas Fleming has for a long time now been looking for a country he can believe in, with Serbia and Italy the leading contenders. I recall seeing a piece he wrote a couple of years back in which he said that unchecked Mexican migration would spell the end of America, and he didn’t sound happy about that; but he also compared Americans, as people, unfavorably with Mexicans. All that aside, I find him annoying because of his unremitting anger and his frequent obscurity. I should add that on the one occasion when I met him he was pleasant and courteous.

Dan R., who sent me the Chronicles articles, writes:

I wasn’t sure if I was losing my mind as I read it. While I don’t agree with all the particulars in your attack on Fleming, I’ve decided that I’ve donated to them for the last time. Thanks for a great post…and I’m happy to see a good reader response as well.

LA writes:

I’ve changed the title of this entry from saying that Chronicles is “anti-American” to saying it “no longer believes in America.” The “anti-American” charge is a grave one and should not be used without a full case backing it up, which I do not present in this entry, though I have pointed out anti-American sentiments in Chronicles elsewhere, for example, my commentary on Fleming’s article on the 9/11 attack. For this article, it’s enough to say that Chronicles has given up on defending America as a distinct culture, which, of course, was its founding mission and the defining idea of paleoconservatism.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 07, 2008 09:32 AM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):