Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Praises Racist Lovecraft Essay, Says Lovecraft's Immigration Views "Cannot ... Be Surpassed"
I’d never heard of Joseph Cotto before this morning, and probably for good reason. He’s a bottom-tier conservative columnist with aristocratic sympathies. He’s the kind of person who emphasizes in his biography that he received a knighthood and barony from the deposed titular king of Rwanda. Anyway, Cotto wrote a syndicated column earlier this month that was rather shocking in its outright rejection of pluralistic democracy in favor of essentially a monarchist vision of America. To do so, he quoted H. P. Lovecraft, whose racist vision he celebrated as the true spirit of America
“Since the definition of Americanism we grew up with is not exactly holding water in our day and age, I prefer to share an alternative and substantive explanation for our, at least once upon a time, great land,” Cotto wrote.
Cotto chose to devote most of his column to an essay that H. P. Lovecraft wrote on Americanism in The United Amateur in July 1919 (later collected in Miscellaneous Writings, among others places), during his most racist years, when he easily became violently angry at any indication of diversity. To give you a sense of Lovecraft’s essay and the blatant racism underlying it:
But it is worthy of note that nearly all would-be definers of “Americanism” fail through their prejudiced unwillingness to trace the quality to its European source. They cannot bring themselves to see that abiogenesis is as rare in the realm of ideas as it is in the kingdom of organic life; and consequently waste their efforts in trying to treat America as if it were an isolated phenomenon without ancestry.
The great man quoted was Theodore Roosevelt, who on May 27, 1918 said in response to an English-only rule in Iowa schools that “This is a nation — not a polyglot boarding house. There is not room in the country for any 50-50 American, nor can there be but one loyalty — to the Stars and Stripes.”
Cotto at least had the good sense to notice that the essay is racist and not really appropriate for publishing in mainstream newspapers. He selectively edited the text to remove references to racial purity, or as Cotto put it, “I do not agree with his Euro-racialism.”
What does he agree with then?
“I have nothing to add. Lovecraft put it all so succinctly — so beautifully — that his words cannot, from my perspective, be surpassed. […] Like it or not, this is an Anglocentric country. The farther we roam from our foundational English macro-culture, the worse off we become.”
Cotto’s argument is an untenable one. He wants to praise Lovecraft while rejecting the core of Lovecraft’s beliefs. He wants to celebrate our “English” heritage while pretending that it is not aligned with issues of race. The fact of the matter is that Lovecraft’s argument was predicated upon and inseparable from his belief in scientific racism, namely that the Anglo-Saxon race was genetically and culturally superior, with the Celts and Teutons coming close, and the other races failing to make the grade by dint of their inherent inferiority. Cotto would have us separate English culture from the Anglo-Saxon race, even though this was not a division Lovecraft (in 1919 at least) considered possible. For Cotto, culture is a separate entity—as indeed, in the literal sense, it is, since culture cannot be passed genetically and has no relation to biology.
But we would be foolish to imagine that Cotto is actually praising American values. This is a man who proudly accepted not one but two fictitious aristocratic titles from a deposed monarch, in direct contravention of America’s equalitarian ethos. To praise the England of the 1700s and 1800s is also to praise the rigidity of social class and the naturalness of aristocracy. These are not American values. But they are the kind of values that animate a particular segment of the right, particularly the alt-right. Nevertheless, because these values are at such odds with those expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, we are left with an inescapable paradox: If the author wishes to praise England and America for what they share, but not to actually support the institutions of democracy and equality that animate their current societies, then we are left with the elements of culture that are part of the old tribal view of nation—language, religion, and blood.
While Cotto left all of this in subtext to sanitize it for family newspapers, he was nonetheless being rather unoriginal. So-called “alt-right” blogger Vox Day (a.k.a. Theodore Beale) quoted the same Lovecraft essay last year (in turn quoting white nationalist blogs) as a stirring defense of Anglo-America against immigrants. He was blunter than Cotto and quite explicitly identified America as a land of white people, alleging that non-whites cannot understand American values: “‘America’ is not only white, it is, as Lovecraft said, an ‘expanded Anglo-Saxonism’. While other peoples may respect it, admire it, envy it, and seek to emulate it, they have observably been collectively incapable of understanding, adopting, or even preserving it.” The irony is that Day is, by his own admission, himself partially of Native American and Mexican descent and therefore among the swarthy Latin scum that Lovecraft would have expelled, and, according to his genetic determinist math, about 50% less capable of understanding American values than your average white person.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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