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AS A PERSON WHO IS NEI-ther a paleo- nor a neoconservative, yet enjoys the paleos’ flagship publication, Chronicles, I read with interest the article on Sam Francis (“Angry White Male,” 1/19). I’m stunned by its relative even-handedness—the typical left-leaning article on mere moderate right-wingers (e.g., Newt Gingrich) is hysterical and moronic. But John Cloud is actually almost fair to a genuinely despicable nutball.
However, he makes a mistake in giving the impression that Francis is a typical paleo. Francis’ obsession with race is an exaggeration of the norm. Certainly paleos are often xenophobic and almost always anti-gay. But their views are complex, and include the defense of local businesses and values against soulless corporations and centralization, as well as sophisticated arguments against mass culture and militarism. (Cloud’s identification of Francis’ anti-communism leads one to believe that paleos are no different than neocon hawks like Charles Krauthammer. Yet paleos were more consistently against the Gulf War than any other ideological subgroup, and foreign policy is more crucial to their split with neocons than race is.)
Thomas Fleming, the editor of Chronicles, is one of the finest writers working today; in him, there is none of the cliché pap you find in the Washington Times and none of the shrill bigotry you get from Francis. The magazine itself includes an odd assortment of work, not just Francis’ rantings: Paeans to Gore Vidal have been run, and the most recent issue even has what amounts to a press release for the Zapatistas! This is obviously not your average conservative fare.
Yet one would never know this reading Cloud—you’d just think all paleos are like Sam Francis. This detracts greatly from an otherwise decent and entertaining article.
Port Townsend, Wash.