Discovering one’s childhood heroes have feet of clay is bad enough, but it’s worse to hear that you may have misunderstood them entirely. As a teen I’d consumed an immoderate amount of horror fantasy from a minor US author called H. P. Lovecraft; I’d recently wandered through his childhood neighborhood, all clapboard New England Gothic, in Providence, Rhode Island, learnt about his miserable life and even reread a favorite tale. His dark imaginings had seemed unfilmable, so I was delighted, in these virus-limited times, to tune into a new TV series called Lovecraft Country recently.
Silly me. According to the TV series publicity, Lovecraft was a racist.
Somehow, all those ghoulish, dread-filled tales of monsters and nameless terrors were primed with race hate, except my 15-year-old self hadn’t noticed. Judge for yourself from three Lovecraft storylines: a lonely, tormented creature passes in front of a mirror for the first time and realises that he’s a hideous ghoul; explorers cross Antarctic wastes only to be slaughtered and dissected by unseen ancient aliens; and a crazed asylum patient vanishes, turning out to be the resurrection of some evil but long-dead necromancing forebear.
By contrast, Lovecraft Country introduced slithery, eyeball-studded Cthulhu monsters in the first few minutes (they are usually only hinted at in the genuine stories) but then told a tale of fun-loving blacks suffering undeserved abuse and beatings from gun-toting small-town whites on a New England road trip. The real monsters are the racist whites, get it? Hollywood took the Lovecraftian myths as simply the setting and tacked on a fashionable, systemic racism narrative, separating the artist from his art and adding an opposite race message.
When this episode aired, American cities were being torn apart by long-running race riots, and Black Lives Matter protesters were filmed viciously putting the boot into white bystanders in Portland and New York City. The race boot is literally on the other foot in our times, so who is really peddling race fantasy here?
I dug deeper and found Lovecraft was indeed a racist, hating blacks, Jews and, for good measure, the Irish. He wrote in the early 20th century, a peak era for eugenics and race theories. His life was unhappy and short, with both parents committed to mental asylums, and his own mother reportedly called him hideous. He was haunted by illness, earned little from his writings and died malnourished and in poverty at 46.
‘The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown,’ he wrote, in what sounds like an epitaph for his own life. Google gives this partial list of his fears: ‘invertebrates, marine life in general, temperatures below freezing, fat people, people of other races, race-mixing, slums, percussion instruments, caves, cellars, old age, great expanses of time, monumental architecture, non-Euclidean geometry, deserts, oceans, rats, dogs, the New England countryside’ and many more. Life itself seems to have terrorised Lovecraft.
Racial thinking is the lens of our time, the yardstick by which everything is measured and understood — even hiring and training quarantine guards in Melbourne must be done ‘inclusively’. To a hammer, everything else is a nail, and so Lovecraft’s scary tales must become part of the racial breast-beating of our times. The white supremacist’s art was separated from the artist and used to convey a message of sympathy for blacks.
Yet race is a ridiculously shallow and facile way of categorising humans. Because of your skin pigmentation, you behave, feel and think a certain way, the same as all others of that color? Please. Society is in furious agreement in denouncing racism, yet is still race-obsessed, unable to move on. Example: the Bard died in 1616, three years before slavery began in the US, yet Washington’s Folger Shakespeare Library, dedicated to the Bard, has now taken up identity politics, vowing to tell the stories of people of colour, and hold ‘critical race conversations’. In fact, one of the best things we could do to fix racial problems is to stop talking about them. We keep ripping the scab off the sore. When the actor Morgan Freeman was asked how to stop racism, he said: ‘Stop talking about it. I am going to stop calling you a white man and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.’
Racism has, however, just been made central to the US presidential election, with Democrat contender Joe Biden explicitly building his campaign on a race lie. Biden told the Democrats’ convention that he was running for president because of racism, because he heard Trump say that there were ‘very fine people on both sides’ after an infamous 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville. ‘At that moment, I knew I’d have to run.’
Joe must have stopped listening to Trump immediately, because Trump went on to say ‘and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists — because they should be condemned totally.’ Trump’s censure of white supremacy was spontaneous and clear, but is an inconvenient truth for the Left, because playing the race card is their bread and butter. Is Joe Biden too dumb to know that this race smear is a lie? Or does he know, or (more likely) cynically think he can get away with it? With the US in the midst of a racial conflagration, what does it say about the Democrats that they are prepared to chuck a lit torch into the racism tinderbox?
The Democrats can hardly fight this election on their policies, which are way too unpopular and radical – think free health care for illegal immigrants, Green New Deal, de facto open borders, defunding the police. It’s also why genial, dufferish Joe is such a useful mask for the radicals. He’s been in Washington for 47 years and it’s all been business as usual; who better to use as a Trojan Horse for a raft of unpopular policies? Joe can make all the right noises about unity and American values, while hiding policies that promise a root and branch reconstruction of the country.
Without saleable policies, or an inspiring candidate, and unable to attack Trump over his impressive achievements, the Left is falling back on the race card and the rougher aspects of Trump’s personality. It’s all they’ve got. As Portland suffers through three months of nightly ‘peaceful protests’ and NYC runs short of glass to fix riot-smashed subway train windows, the Democrats think a little more racial tension is in order, so it’s back to this exhausted political fantasy of systemic racism. Disgraceful.
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