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Samuel Huntington

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Harvard scholar Samuel P. Huntington’s Who Are We?, undoubtedly the most important criticism of mass immigration by a major academic figure in the last 50 years, has now been published, and if the onslaught against it has not been quite the gang rape some predicted, the establishment embrace of the book has not exactly been a love match.

Reactions to Mr. Huntington’s book range from the pedantically skeptical to the predictably ranting, but most of the responses merely reflect the ideological fixations of the reviewers rather than any substantive criticism.

What they reveal is that the ruling class or at least its cultural commissars simply can’t handle serious discussion of mass immigration and the multicultural and multiracial messes it is creating.

Who Are We? is notable for three claims.

  • First, it argues that the real and enduring American national identity comes from and remains dependent on what Mr. Huntington calls the “Anglo-Protestant core” culture created by the early settlers who established the first European societies in North America.

Alternative views are that our identity, if we have one at all, is universal, the product of a “creed” or proposition that includes all peoples and all cultures, or that if we used to be an Anglo-Protestant society, we are no longer and good riddance.

  • The book then argues that the mass immigration of non-Western, Third World—specifically, Hispanic—peoples into the United States over the last 40 years or so is undermining our Anglo-Protestant identity.

This part of the book is probably the best and most sustained critique of mass immigration on cultural grounds ever written. It has not been well received at the hands of the culture cops.

  • Finally, Mr. Huntington argues that immigration represents a cultural threat not just because of the pressures from immigration itself but also because of the absolute refusal of our elites—not only in culture but big business and politics also—to resist cultural deracination, slow or halt immigration itself, or even enforce assimilation of newcomers into traditional American civilization.

These claims are not mere assertions. Mr. Huntington, like the major scholar he is, documents all of them with a vast amount of information and no small amount of ingenuity. Even if you love immigration, his book is the one you have to read if you want to know what its critics think and say.

But the book is far from perfect, and in fact it contains a major conceptual flaw.

The flaw is that even though Mr. Huntington argues that America is not “based on a creed,” he believes there is a creed that in effect defines the nation. It’s just that the creed grows out of and remains dependent on the Anglo-Protestant culture.

The “creed” he describes is one that endorses the “political principles of liberty, equality, democracy, individualism, human rights, the rule of law, and private property”—in short, liberalism. Mr. Huntington is right that many Americans do believe in one version or another of such a creed, but there’s no reason to think it’s the defining trait of American beliefs.

It never seems to occur to Mr. Huntington that the creed he describes is self-evidently false in at least one important respect: It claims to be universal. But if, as he argues, it’s really the product of a specific culture and history (the “Anglo-Protestant core”), then it’s not really universal. It’s just what we or some of us happen to believe.

And if the creed is really only a culturally unique set of beliefs, there’s no reason to worship it or elevate it to the level of divinely revealed dogma, which is what the very term “creed” suggests.

In fact, America has no creed. There are many different documents in our history, but nowhere is there one that is known as the “American Creed.” It’s interesting that most of the writers Mr. Huntington cites on the creed are in fact foreigners themselves.

What defines America is indeed the very kind of cultural identity Mr. Huntington started out talking about, an identity that produces many different beliefs and belief systems. Americans decide which “creed” to swallow based on their merits—whether they’re true or false, logical or illogical—and not because they’re supposed to believe one or another.

But Mr. Huntington is entirely right that mass immigration by peoples who don’t share the same cultural roots and often hate or reject them won’t be assimilating to it any time soon.

He’s also right that if no one in charge demands that they assimilate, the culture won’t last long.

You can quibble or rant about a good many of the claims Mr. Huntington makes in his important book, but if you learn only that much, you will have gotten your money’s worth.

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The hunt is on for Samuel P. Huntington, the distinguished Harvard political scientist whose new book Who Are We? lifts a skeptical eyebrow at mass immigration and the cultural devastation it inflicts.

Mr. Huntington, author of the acclaimed Clash of Civilizations a few years back, has already raised ripples in the placid ponds of elite opinion with his article on how mass Hispanic immigration undermines what he calls the cultural integrity of the nation’s “Anglo-Protestant core.”

The placid ponds, you see, don’t think the nation has or should have any cultural core except what they permit and define, and “Anglo”anything is definitely not permitted, any more than Protestant,Catholic, or any other kind of Christian identity. When a world-famous Harvard professor opposes mass immigration and defends the Anglo-Protestant identity of his country, the pond knows he has to be muzzled before his ideas get out of Harvard Yard.

But if you can’t muzzle him, you can at least ridicule and distort what he says, which is what Deborah Solomon did in an interview with Mr. Huntington in the New York Times magazine last Sunday. [Three Cheers for Assimilation, Interview by Deborah Solomon, May 2, 2004]

She didn’t get away with it, but she did reveal a good many of her own preconceptions about immigration and race.

Mr. Huntington started off the interview with a brief summary of his thesis—that more than half the immigrants coming into the country are Hispanic and speak “a single, non-English language,” and that this fact, coupled with other cultural characteristics, sets the stage for massive cultural, political and racial clashes.

Miss Solomon apparently had a lot of trouble understanding what he just said. “Doesn’t America’s greatness lie in its ability to assimilate all kinds of people?” she asked.

Mr. Huntington explained that the Founding Fathers were skeptical about letting just anyone into the country, to which Miss Solomon responds, “But we’ve welcomed waves of immigrants since,”which is the same question she just asked. Mr. Huntington answered by affirming that “immigration has been central to American development.” That didn’t help.

Finally, Miss Solomon gets down to business. Her second question to Mr. Huntington was, “Some of us find it surprising that a man like yourself, a Harvard professor and an eminent political scientist, would see the trend toward bilingualism as such a threat.”

Interesting. First, who is “us” exactly? And second, why are “we” so surprised somebody at Harvard and an eminent political scientist disagrees with “us”?

It couldn’t possibly be because “we” are so narrow-minded and empty-headed, could it? It must be that Mr. Huntington is, well, driven by his own ethnic fears and resentments. Exposing this discovery is the business to which Miss Solomon finally applies her meager talents.

“Are you an immigrant?” she asks. “I hope you’re not one of those Mayflower snobs.” You can be against immigration only if you’re an immigrant, I guess. If you’re not for mass immigration and worry about the cultural identity of the country, you must be a “snob.”

Mr. Huntington says his family goes back to 1633. Well, sounds like Miss Solomon is on the right track.

“Did you grow up in a WASP-y mansion in Connecticut with servants?” she asks. By now, what’s clear is that Miss Solomon treads a little ethnic water of her own. Maybe that’s the reason she doesn’t like people—especially WASP-y Mayflower snobs—criticizing immigration.

“Do you think that there is any truth to the stereotypical view of WASP’s as emotionally cold people?” she asks. At this point, Mr. Huntington might have simply smacked her face and walked out, but, being a Mayflower snob, he didn’t.

What if Miss Solomon interviewed Jesse Jackson and asked, “Do you think there is any truth to the stereotypical views of blacks as stupid, lazy, and violent?” I’ll bet she would have a great career as a pizza delivery girl. But regurgitating negative stereotypes of “WASPs”is OK.

There is a good deal more to what Samuel Huntington has to say than Miss Solomon’s pitiful little zingers managed to elicit, and what he says is not always right, but, as mentioned above, finding out what he thinks and why wasn’t really the point of the interview at all.

The point was to expose Mr. Huntington as a “WASP,” a “Mayflower snob,” which apparently means someone proud of his own ethnic and cultural identity who wishes to preserve the country and civilization his ancestors created, and therefore, his case against mass immigration need not be taken seriously.

If we learn anything at all from Miss Solomon’s insulting but revealing interview, it is that she and the “us” to whom she reports don’t like that identity one little bit and believe that if mass immigration wipes it and the people who created it out of existence, that would be terrific.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Immigration, Samuel Huntington 
Sam Francis
About Sam Francis

Dr. Samuel T. Francis (1947-2005) was a leading paleoconservative columnist and intellectual theorist, serving as an adviser to the presidential campaigns of Patrick Buchanan and as an editorial writer, columnist, and editor at The Washington Times. He received the Distinguished Writing Award for Editorial Writing of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in both 1989 and 1990, while being a finalist for the National Journalism Award (Walker Stone Prize) for Editorial Writing of the Scripps Howard Foundation those same years. His undergraduate education was at Johns Hopkins and he later earned his Ph.D. in modern history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His books include The Soviet Strategy of Terror(1981, rev.1985), Power and History: The Political Thought of James Burnham (1984); Beautiful Losers: Essays on the Failure of American Conservatism (1993); Revolution from the Middle: Essays and Articles from Chronicles, 1989–1996 (1997); and Thinkers of Our Time: James Burnham (1999). His published articles or reviews appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, National Review, The Spectator (London), The New American, The Occidental Quarterly, and Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, of which he was political editor and for which he wrote a monthly column, “Principalities and Powers.”