I am deeply saddened by the death of Lawrence Auster. I would like to use this format to say something about what he has meant to me.
Quite simply, he completely changed my way of thinking, showing me alternate ways of thinking about the problems that beset our civilization. Indeed, I probably would not have used a phrase like “problems that beset our civilization” before encountering his writing. When the 9/11 attacks took place I was more or less a libertarian, “fiscally conservative and socially liberal”; I had no notion of the danger of Islam, or the problem of immigration, or the reality of racial differences, or the problem of sexual and homosexual liberation, or of the inadequacy of describing American or Western society as “secular.” Mr. Auster showed me the need and possibility of a holistic, traditionalist conservative approach, clearly identifying the false and evil principles that are driving the West to civilizational suicide. I believe, with others, that his contribution to the fight to save the West will one day be widely recognized.
An intellectual loner and self-described “misfit” and spiritual seeker, Mr. Auster fought a long, lonely battle to wake up a nation bent on national suicide. The unacceptability of the truths he told left him shunned by the mainstream conservative movement, which must have been harder to endure than the vicious personal attacks to which he was subjected. And yet, he somehow endured and prevailed.
I will be thinking for a long time about where, exactly, Mr. Auster’s genius lay. It might seem that the combination of Christian conservatism with “race realism” would lead many individuals to hold views similar to his, and there are a fair number of writers publishing at VDare, for example, who, without crediting him, express similar ideas. But no one came close to saying it as well as he did, and none applied the traditionalist approach to such a wide range of human experience. He cut the Gordian Knot of rationalization and evasion that permeates the discourse of liberal society, exposing the underlying truth and expressing traditional values in powerful statements that mesmerized the reader with their truth and righteousness.
His trick was to speak so frankly about the issues that even sympathetic conservatives would think that he was taking things too far. And yet the reader would return again and again to his blog until completely won over. The transformation sometimes resulted in a complete inversion of conventional values. When Mr. Auster wrote about the menace of “black savages,” for instance, he was making a moral statement about the need for whites to protect themselves, and was in no way motivated by hatred. But to someone still seeped in liberal assumptions, such statements represent the height of immorality. He had to train his own readers to appreciate his writing.
The format of his blog, though simple in concept, was highly unusual in practice: centered on his own postings, but selecting, editing, and posting reader comments to create what could be very extended dialogues. I see him as a Socratic figure, fleshing out a living philosophy through continuous dialogue with readers and fellow writers without ever sketching out a system. (The analogy to Socrates, who left no written works, is strained by the fact that nearly all of Mr. Auster’s “dialogues” took place in the printed, though fluid, format of the Internet. But a present-day Socrates would probably be a blogger.) This approach had its drawbacks, but clearly was perfect for him, and attracted and engaged many readers of high intellectual caliber.
An aspect of his thought that doubtless helped him to reach me was his patriotic American approach. I had not and still have not worked through some of the religious questions that might separate me from full-fledged Christian traditionalists, but I had inherited from my parents exactly the same love of America that was the starting point for Mr. Auster’s work. Though I had always appreciated American freedom, this patriotic feeling was submerged and forgotten for much of my adult life. Following the shock of 9/11, I was ready to wake up, and there was Mr. Auster’s site, View From the Right – amnation.com, the American Nation. The level of national identity was the right level for me to begin my journey to a return to traditional values. It is ironic and in some sense, perhaps, fitting that Auster ended his career with the conviction that the historic nation of the United States of America was gone and not coming back. I concur with him on this, but it leaves us with the question of what to do with the issue of national identity. America is dead, but there are still a couple hundred million Americans.
Some commenters have used words like “quarrelsome” and “irascible” to describe Mr. Auster’s personality. As far as I know, this reputation comes from the online persona, not the private person, who seems to have been soft-spoken, a respectful listener, and gentlemanly – if also utterly blunt and honest. (Perhaps someone versed in astrology can explain this unusual combination.) VFR thrived on conflict with the larger liberal society and its supporters, and Mr. Auster’s harsh criticisms of mainstream conservatives and “jihad critics” were necessary, even if they won him few friends. On the other hand, he was not blame-free in some of the disputes with friendly correspondents that ended badly. Extremely concerned with defending himself and his positions, he sometimes missed the effect his words might have on the other party.
These musings on Lawrence Auster still do not get at the tremendous vitality and passion that permeated his writing. His love of the West and righteous anger at its destruction, his intense interest in ideas and in the world – everything was personal to him and engaged the reader personally. During his final illness, he amazed me with deeply personal pieces of writing documenting his ordeals and revealing aspects of his life about which he had previously been silent, and shared messages of support from his readers which, for me, were comforting in showing how many others had had their lives changed by his writing. I am glad that he found a kind of happiness as he faced death surrounded by loved ones, and glad that he has left his legacy of work in the capable and faithful hands of Laura Wood. I still can’t believe that no new postings are forthcoming at View From the Right. An era has passed. A great hero has fallen. For the rest of us, our work continues.