California Literary Review

An Interview With Chilton Williamson

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March 31st, 2007 at 9:15 pm

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Chilton Williamson

Chilton Williamson is a distinguished gentleman of American letters. He has penned four nonfiction books, two novels, and he’s currently working on his third novel. He is the senior editor for books and a regular columnist for the magazine Chronicles. Prior to that he worked for nearly fourteen years as the literary editor for the National Review. Williamson is one of a small cadre of intellectuals who are unique among the literati because of their steadfast stand against American statism, their defense of the traditions of Western civilization, and their tireless resistance to the pernicious assault of nihilism upon our declining culture. Williamson is, in fact, a paleoconservative, and for those who insist on lumping all conservatives under one stereotypical label, you should be aware that the paleocons are the last defenders of the “Christian faith, national sovereignty and cultural identity, federalism, republicanism, restraint of capital, community, agrarianism, and homocentric environmentalism.” One suspects that when it is all said and done, they will be known as “the last Americans.” Chilton Williamson is a gifted writer, rhetorician, and polemicist. His latest book is is The Conservative Bookshelf: Essential Works That Impact Today’s Conservative Thinkers.

Is there a general definition for conservatism?
I would say: Conservatism, rightly understood, is man’s willingness to discern for himself, and to accept from God, a fundamental, practical, just, human, and unchangeable plan for man-and stick to it.
In your new book, The Conservative Bookshelf, you’ve defined a number of subcategories of conservatism, including neoconservatism. Is neoconservatism really a part of the conservative movement?
No. It’s a type of liberalism; really it descends from Jacobism. Claas Ryn has written a very good book, making just the point.
What conservative writer or philosopher that has the greatest effect on your thinking?
None in particular.
Contemporary liberalism (socialism) has failed in every venue which its been tried. Why do you think that it continues to retain the support it has today?
Because of the intellectual pride of the intellectual class, the openness of the masses to flattery by the democratic politicians and the envy and resentment they provoke, and their readiness to be bought off by the promise of something for nothing.
In recent years there have been a number of separatist movements that have sprung up in the United States. Several espouse constitutional principles, and I’m thinking here of the League of the South. To what purpose, if any, do you think these movements serve, and what do you see as the future for the League?
I think separatism in the U.S. has no future at all-except for the Southwest, which, owing to immigration from Mexico, could easily be annexed by that country within the next century. On the other hand, it seems to me just possible that regional antipathies between different areas of the country might in time lead to a second Constitutional Convention, in which Calhoun’s idea of concurrent majorities might be worked into a revised document.
What is your opinion of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the associated treaties, NAFTA, and GATT?
I am against all organizations with the word “World” in their names. As for free trade, it is a strategy of deracinated corporations to enrich themselves at the expense of discrete nations and their peoples.
What have been the cultural effects of American immigration policies since 1965?
They have diluted half of our national culture, and destroyed the rest of it. And the baseline date is more like 1880 than 1965.
You’ve said that you agreed with the Afghan War because, “That’s where al Qaeda was.” What is your position on the Iraq War, and the Bush Administration’s policy to “bring democracy to the Middle East?”
The Middle East can never be democratic, because democracy is not compatible with the local culture and religion. Bush may just be naïve enough to believe otherwise. One way or the other, however, the Iraq War was engineered by Likudniks in the Bush administration known as neoconservatives, eager to have the U.S. act as the cat’s paw for Sharon’s foreign policy by making the Middle East safe for Israel.
In your essay on Ann Coulter’s book, Treason, you implied she was not a true conservative. Why?
That isn’t really what I said. What I wrote was, as a conservative of sorts, she doesn’t press her conservatism far enough to be radically-meaning, truly-conservative.
Do you see the confrontation between conservatism and contemporary liberalism as a contest between “good and evil?”
If you mean real conservatism as opposed to what goes by the name today, then the answer is yes. Conservatism, properly understood, has a theological foundation. Liberalism (and not just contemporary liberalism) is essentially another example of man’s rebellion against metaphysical reality.
Of the fifty books you selected for The Conservative Bookshelf, which one is your favorite?
That’s really impossible to say. Those nearest my heart are probably Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, O’Connor’s The Habit of Being, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Faulkner’s The Bear, and Abbey’s Desert Solitaire.
Mr. Williamson, thank you for taking the time to talk with the California Literary Review.
You’re welcome.

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