Ilana Mercer's Preface to Into the Cannibal's Pot: Lessons For America From Post-Apartheid South Africa

Peter Brimelow writes: It seems clear that Political Correctness in MainStream Publishing is getting more intense, but Jared Taylor and now Ilana Mercer show that the new technology is weakening the traditional gatekeepers. Ilana's just-released new book, Into the Cannibal's Pot: Lessons For America From Post-Apartheid South Africa, carries a blurb from John Derbyshire upon which I cannot improve (although we can add hyperlinks):
 

"Ilana Mercer calls her book 'a labor of love to my homelands, old and new.' The old is South Africa, which the author left in 1995. The new is the U.S.A. In both nations the founding European stock yielded up their dominance in the interests of justice and liberty. Instead of moving to equal citizenship under fair laws, however, both nations—in different style and measure but with similarly dire results—have embraced official tribalism ('multiculturalism') and state-enforced racial favoritism ('affirmative action'). For South Africa the transformation has been fatal—brutally so for victims of the nation's swelling social disorder, as Ms. Mercer documents in heartbreaking detail. For the U.S.A. it is not too late to change course. The lesson of South Africa, if widely known, will help to open American eyes. Here is the lesson, in a compelling and important book." -JOHN DERBYSHIRE, novelist, National Review columnist, pop-math writer, author most recently of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism, and all-round bon vivant.  

It is no surprise that a manifesto against majoritarianism would not find favor with the mission of most American publishers. Opposition to mass society was once an accepted (indeed, unremarkable) theme in the richly layered works of iconic conservatives such as Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, and James Burnham. Today, by contrast, such opposition is considered as damning as it is impolitic.

And don't even think of writing a less-than hagiographical account of Nelson Mandela. Time Magazine's Richard Stengel has serialized his tributes to Saint Mandela. . (Stengel has completed two. Perhaps a third is planned?) But an opposing voice to the media paean for the democratic South Africa and its deity, written by a dissenting South African exile—this cannot be countenanced.

"What menaces democratic society in this age is not a simple collapse of order", as Russell Kirk wrote, explicating  Alexis de Tocqueville's thought, "but a tyranny of mediocrity, a standardization of mind and spirit and condition". In the context of post-apartheid South Africa, this sameness of mind and spirit manifests in a convergence of opinion—even in the neatly bifurcated America.

Thus, while almost every other postcolonial insurgency in Africa has been scrutinized, rival views of post-apartheid South Africa are unwelcome. Despite the country's body count since "freedom", the foundations of what was a joint Anglo-American undertaking are not to be faulted or questioned.

The loss of 300,000 innocents murdered since democracy dawned in South Africa is therefore regularly dismissed. People slide into extenuation: "We had [in South Africa] an impossible situation and a certainty that we were going to have bloodbath, and because we had good leadership it was averted, and we now have, I'm proud to say, a working, wonderful democracy."These words were uttered by the roaming Justice Richard Goldstone, [CNN Transcript, October 4, 2009] who—unlike this writer's father—attached himself to the anti-apartheid cause only once it became fashionable, safe and professionally expedient.

In itself, the tale of the publication of Into the Cannibal's Pot: Lessons For America From Post-Apartheid South Africa bears telling. For while this polemic respects no political totems or taboos, it is faithful to facts. These facts cried out to be chronicled. They should not have had a struggle to find their way into print.

Yet struggle they did.

"Ilana, if you'd only give me something like Corinne Hofmann's Back From Africa, publishers would pounce," promised one literary agent. Hofmann's salacious account of her time as the sexual plaything of a virile African tribal chief was described by The Times Literary Supplement as "a dated tale of exotic desire and disillusionment".

As the PC pecking order stands, Into the Cannibal's Pot might also have been pounced upon had its author been more like economist Dambisa Moyo, authoress of the trendy Dead Aid. That popular book consists of derivative deductions which had been better reached decades earlier by Peter Thomas Bauer, the enfant terrible of development economics. (To give Ms. Moyo her due, Dead Aid is dedicated to the late Lord Bauer.)

The following is an assessment from a well-known academic publisher whose stock does not exactly fly off the shelves:

"I've long been aware of Mercer's writing. Though I rarely agree with her, she's quite a presence on the right side of the blogosphere. This is an extremely well- written and provocative work. I was riveted as I read it. …The problem here is that the market for a book with such a clear political bias is that much smaller. So I just don't think we could take it on."

"There is no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a flea," said Dr. Johnson. This is my position with respect to political parties stateside and in South Africa. How can a book that discounts the venerated vote and disavows all political parties have a political bias? Into the Cannibal's Pot is manifestly against politics! A partiality for small government and big society—in other words, for civilization—is not a "political bias".

No, the prejudice was that of the petitioned publisher; his was a prejudice against an unorthodox perspective that comports with the classical liberal philosophy, and with reality.

Another publisher made the following excuse:

"We recently had the chance to review your manuscript. Like everything you do, it is well-written and worthy of publication. However, we do not believe we can successfully market it."

This particular editor added that the imprint would be concentrating instead on the timeless topic of the Olympic Games in China. Obviously that is a far more inspiring subject than this writer's "unhealthy" preoccupation with the methodical ethnic cleansing of the Afrikaner farmer.

Other respondents lavished praise on a "closely argued stylish effort" (for which, of course, they did not care to make an effort).

To go by the Left's postmodern strictures, truth is not immutable but subject to a process of discovery. As a practical matter, then, how is a synthesis of the South-African situation to emerge if the antithesis is disallowed?

Let us not discount the publishing world's ongoing drive for the bottom line and the lowest common denominator. (The publisher who refused to bear Christian witness, citing the prospects of poor profits, is an example.) This uncompromising dedication does not lend itself to contrarian material, not even when the facts are pressing (and almost too horrible for words).

After all, a complicit publishing establishment can shirk responsibility and seek comfort in the fact that the marketplace for books no longer adjudicates the product's worth. Actually, nowadays this marketplace does no more than offer an aggregate snapshot of the millions of subjective preferences consumers demand and publishers deliver. High On Arrival, Mackenzie Phillips' squalid story of incest and insanity, outsells Ludwig von Mises' pearls of wisdom.

For some this cultural foot-and-mouth will be faith-inspiring, for others deeply distressing.

Ilana Mercer (email her) is a weekly columnist for WorldNetDaily.com, a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, and the author of Broad Sides: One Woman's Clash With a Corrupt Culture, the Foreword to which was written by Peter Brimelow. Her website is www.ilanamercer.com; her blog www.barelyablog.com. She writes in the introduction to her new book, Into the Cannibal's Pot, that "the titular tease is meant as a metaphor, and is inspired by Ayn Rand's wise counsel against prostrating civilization to savagery."