Book review -- the racial nightmare of The Camp of the Saints
This astonishingly stupid novel has been almost as influential on fringe-right thinking as Atlas Shrugged, which it resembles in several ways, but it doesn't seem to be nearly as well known by name, or at least not cited anything like as often. It's a good idea to be aware of it, though, since the memes it spawned live on today in the heads even of people who have never heard of it.
The storyline is simple enough. In Calcutta, India, an impoverished mob of a million people commandeers a fleet of decrepit ships and sets sail for France, where they hope to settle and enjoy material prosperity unavailable in their own country. Never mind the logistical implausibility of this (such as assembling the amount of food that would have to be taken along to feed so many people on such a long journey) -- nothing in this book has any connection with the real world.
As the fleet works its way around Africa and then northward through the Atlantic toward Europe, the French and the Western world in general debate how to respond. In Raspail's version of reality, they are so feckless and demoralized by liberalism, atheism, and suchlike right-wing bogeymen as to be unable to recognize an obvious existential threat when it's staring them in the face, and so they do nothing. As it becomes clear that the West has no intention of stopping the fleet, hordes of people elsewhere in the Third World gather and prepare their own mass migrations to various Western countries, and populations of immigrant ancestry in Europe (and even black Americans), all presented as faceless menacing aliens, get ready to join with the waves of migrants in seizing control of the West.
The novel ends with the fall of Western civilization, overwhelmed by vast hordes of Third World migrants, its societies decaying toward Third World levels of poverty, corruption, violence, and general backwardness.
I'm not being quite honest in my use of the term "Western", because the novel is explicitly and proudly racist. The fate of white but non-Western nations like Russia is depicted the same way (overwhelmed by Chinese migrants), while the existence of advanced and wealthy non-white nations like Japan and South Korea is simply ignored. Modern civilization is implicitly presented as something that only the superior white race can build and maintain, doomed to collapse once the dusky lesser races get their hands on it. This theme is not subtle. Race, the contrast of civilized white and backward non-white, is thrown in your face again and again throughout the novel.
The real villains, though, are not the non-white people (most of whom Raspail depicts as barely human), but rather the white liberals who, in his view, have undermined the West's sense of race-consciousness and therefore its ability to defend itself against the dark-skinned hordes. He also despises atheists and pretty much anyone who doesn't live a traditional, conservative lifestyle.
As I mentioned, The Camp of the Saints noticeably resembles Atlas Shrugged. Much of the "dialog" consists of people making interminable, stilted, turgid speeches, utterly unlike the way actual humans converse. The left-wing characters, like Rand's "statists" and "moochers", are cardboard caricatures bearing no resemblance to any actual left-wing person you have ever met. The world-view is absolutist, black-and-white, devoid of nuance or ambiguity.
One difference from Atlas Shrugged is the omnipresent theme of menacing sexuality. The sexual threat presented by dark-skinned males against white women hovers constantly in the background. The million Indians of the migrant fleet are described as passing their time at sea with pansexual orgies which would startle anyone familiar with India's actual sexual mores. The subject of rape keeps cropping up, to the point where one wonders if Raspail has an inordinate fascination with it -- notably a lurid scene where a liberal journalist's wife is gang-raped by a mob of escaped convicts, though the episode seems to serve little purpose in the story (unless it's simply to relish a liberal getting his just desserts). Near the end of the book, with the West under the rule of the new order, mention is made of an official "White Female Practice and Experimentation Center" where white women are to be made sexually available to non-white men in order to "demythify" them. This novel really is that crude in its appeals to the sexual anxieties which have always been part of the racist mentality.
Preposterous though it is, The Camp of the Saints has sold surprisingly well ever since publication. It probably serves the same function for racists as Atlas Shrugged does for elitist libertarians -- a lurid depiction of their worst nightmares made real, and a reassurance of the utter depravity of their opponents. And just as Atlas Shrugged provides libertarians with a template to use in interpreting real-world events, The Camp of the Saints provides racists, or even just those with an inordinate fear of immigration, with a sort of funhouse mirror that warps real-world events into harbingers of a racial apocalypse. Why have the relatively small and gradually assimilating Muslim populations in European countries inspired endless absurd predictions that they would ultimately overwhelm and Islamize those countries? Why are demographically-insignificant numbers of boat people crossing the Mediterranean or unaccompanied minors on the US-Mexican border repeatedly described with terms like "flood" or "siege"? I'm convinced that the memes and imagery offered by The Camp of the Saints are a big part of the reason.
[Note: The image at the top of this post was actually on the cover of the copy of The Camp of the Saints which I read when I was young.]