Less than two months after Washington Times editor-in-chief Wes Pruden in June demoted me to the rank of editorial writer and cut my salary by 25 percent, yet another cloud began to form on my horizon. In May 1994, I had given a speech at a conference on “Race and American Culture” in Atlanta sponsored by Jared Taylor’s newsletter American Renaissance, and a rather bizarre account of the conference took up part of a chapter in Dinesh D’Souza’s new book, The End of Racism. D’Souza tried to portray the meeting and its speakers as representing a “new spirit of white bigotry,” and lumped it in the same category as black racial crackpots like Leonard Jeffries and Louis Farrakhan; but it was plain to me and the other conference participants that D’Souza, by depicting the Atlanta conference in a sinister light, was anticipating and trying to deflect the accusations of “racism” that would soon be lodged against his own book.

D’Souza’s smear seemed to have little to do with my situation at the Times, but on September 24, the Sunday Washington Post published a long excerpt from his chapter on the Atlanta conference. I expected that Wes Pruden and Tod Lindberg would use it to complete my defenestration, but in fact I heard nothing about it for several days. I had forgotten something, though. Since I had started writing three editorials a week three months earlier, I had formed the habit of turning in all three pieces on Thursday afternoons. That’s what I did that week, sending the drafts to Tod around one o’clock. Two hours later, I was asked to step into Pruden’s office.

With Tod brooding silently next to his desk, Wes at once launched into his firing speech. A copy of the D’Souza piece from the Post and another from the book were on his desk, and certain passages were highlighted for quick reference. Wes’s main argument for my immediate departure was that while the Times editorialized against affirmative action and similar policies, my views on race as expressed in the passages from D’Souza’s book could be construed as ulterior reasons for taking those editorial positions, and he did not want the paper associated with those views. I pointed out that (a) I did not write these passages in the paper or for editorials; (b) I did not control what appeared on the editorial page; what I submitted for the editorial page had to be approved and edited by Tod or his deputy and Wes himself before the paper published it; (c) what I wrote under my own name had nothing to do with the paper; and (d) there was nothing wrong with what I had written anyway. I also argued that whatever he thought about my views on race, I had never written or said anything negative or demeaning about blacks or other racial groups as groups and had not engaged in racial slurs.

Wes quickly dismissed all my arguments and proposed a three-month severance agreement whereby the paper would continue to pay me my present (reduced) salary if I gave him a letter of resignation the next day. Since I had already been making plans to leave the paper, and there was little to be accomplished by further back and forth, I accepted. I also expressed the hope the paper would continue to run my column. Wes said he thought it was best to make a clean break and cease publishing it. Finally, I asked him, “I assume you know that my column is popular.” He readily acknowledged this fact, but since that made no difference to him either, what more was there to say?

The next day, September 29, I turned in the letter of resignation Wes had demanded. The paper carried my column that day but has not published it since, though it did publish the three editorials I wrote during my last week. After nine years on the staff of the 13-year-old paper, after remaining in the editorial department when most of my colleagues walked out, after serving as editorial writer, deputy editorial page editor, acting editorial page editor, and staff columnist, after winning the two most distinguished awards anyone at the paper had ever received, I had finally been told to pack up the luggage and get out. If this is the “official voice of the conservative movement,” it’s not one I want to listen to any longer.

When news broke among my readers that the Times had finally fired me, the reaction could only be called one of cold fury, and the volume of correspondence between outraged or mystified readers and the increasingly defensive Pruden continued to swell. Wes now resorted to outright lies to cover his action, sending out yet another form letter that made even darker insinuations than before. “Sam Francis, whose primary duties were writing editorials to express the views of the newspaper,” he wrote, “knew that he deliberately stepped over the line by challenging the restraints put on his persistent pushing of a personal agenda, the full content of which you may not be aware and would not heed warnings that the forbearance of the newspaper was not inexhaustible.” This letter was sent out only a few days after Wes had been telling readers my voice “was as vibrant as ever” and that I continued to hold a “position of highest prestige” at the paper. His pretense that I had been insubordinate by trying to impose my “agenda” on the paper was preposterous. In my nine years of writing editorials at the paper, I had never tried to do any such thing, and none of the several editors I worked under ever claimed I had. Pruden’s contradictions, outright untruths, and the several grammatical and spelling errors in his letters all suggest he was feeling some heat, if not a little guilt and fear, over his action against me.

There were also cancellations of subscriptions. I don’t know how many, and they probably didn’t hurt the paper’s circulation significantly, but they seem to have been numerous. One friend who called up to cancel says the clerk asked him why he was dropping his subscription, and he told her it was because the paper had fired me and stopped publishing my column. The clerk replied that quite a lot of readers had been canceling for that reason.

As editor-in-chief, Pruden had the legal right to fire me and the editorial authority not to publish material he didn’t want to publish. His rights in these respects are not at issue; what is at issue is whether he had good reason to exercise those rights in this case. However controversial my column was or is, it never harmed the paper, and the support expressed by readers testified that it remained a popular feature. As for Pruden’s claim that what I had written about race might somehow damage the paper’s credibility, it’s a red herring. No one other than Wes ever suggested that.

But the story isn’t over. This January, the City Paper, a weekly Washington-area advertising vehicle, carried an article about my recent misadventures. The City Paper is a fashionably left-liberal publication, sporting commercial ads for such Beltway emporia as “The Pleasure Place,” which styles itself “Washington’s Premier Erotic Boutique” where one may purchase essentials of Potomac living like “Quality Leather and Latex Clothes and Toys,” as well as only slightly less commercial personal ads for “Women Seeking Women” and “Men Seeking Men.” The paper’s article about me turned out to be a predictably leftist imitation of Jeffrey Dahmer preparing his dinner, complimenting my writing as “nutty and despicable” and “reactionary bilge.” After that it got nasty, but one useful feature of the article was what it tells us about the other members of the cabal determined to bring me down.

The soi-disant leader of the cabal turned out to be someone named Gregory Forster, a “policy analyst” for the Center for Equal Opportunity, which is an obscure neoconservative Beltway foundation headed by pro-immigration activist Linda Chavez. He and his superiors seemed to take an unusual interest in my journalistic reflections. Forster told the City Paper that “I’m essentially running a one-man crusade to get this man [i.e., me] kicked out of the conservative movement.” But he’s only partly right; it’s not exactly a “one-man” crusade, and Forster, age 22, definitely isn’t running it.

The vice-president of Chavez’s center, one John Miller, a former writer for The New Republic, told the City Paper that he had been keeping tabs on me for a long time. “I’ve wanted to run Sam Francis out of polite society for months, if not for years,” Miller told the paper’s reporter, who wrote that “neo-conservatives find Francis and his ideas monstrous.” The paper reported that Chavez herself was in on the plot (Chavez, in a letter to the editor of the City Paper, later denied that she had authorized any such thing) and that Miller and Forster proceeded “with her approval.” “Forster began shopping a hit piece on Francis at conservative magazines in town (he won’t say which ones),” the City Paper reported. “He says he hoped to discredit Francis among conservatives the same way [William F.] Buckley had discredited anti-Semitism half-a-century earlier. ‘I was putting out feelers to say, “Hey Washington Times, wake up, kick this guy out.” . . . Before that happened. they did.'”

Yet another member of the crusade was Morton Kaplan, publisher of The World & I, the 700-page monthly magazine the Washington Times Corporation publishes. To this day I have never even laid eyes on Kaplan, though I heard from a reader last spring that he was complaining about my columns. The City Paper reported that “Kaplan began bitching loudly about Francis early last year,” and he told the interviewer, “There are certain limits beyond which you don’t go. If you say that Hitler is the greatest statesman of the 20th century, you’re going to be fired. I felt that when he was identified as an employee of the newspaper, that was over the line.” In the next sentence, Kaplan “acknowledges that Francis never defended Hitler,” but the City Paper says that “one can imagine his doing it.” Not only do our guardians of “polite society” mount secret crusades to destroy you for what you have said, they also go after you for what they “imagine” you might say.

Oddly, the City Paper article raps paleoconservatives for their “paranoia” about “tenebrous cabals (often of Jews) threatening American culture and values at every turn,” but then concludes, “to be fair, Francis did have his enemies.” Indeed. As a matter of fact, the boasting admissions by the wrecking crew at Chavez’s outfit that they were out to get me are the most damning confirmations of paleoconservatives’ “paranoia” about neoconservative intolerance ever published. I had never even heard of Forster or Miller, have met Linda Chavez only briefly, and merely heard of Kaplan; yet I awoke one morning to discover that all of them were neck-deep in a campaign to force me out of my job and ruin me professionally. Not once did a single one of them contact me or offer any public criticism of anything I had written.

Throughout the last 15 years or so, neoconservatives have engineered similar hit jobs on several paleoconservatives whom they perceived as threats to them and their control of the American right—on M.E. Bradford, Joe Sobran, Paul Gottfried, and Pat Buchanan, among others. You don’t have to be paranoid to get the impression that someone out there doesn’t like paleos, doesn’t want paleos writing “offensive” things, and is willing to mount organized but secretive “crusades” to ruin their careers.

Though many paleos persist at the Washington Times, the paper almost from its beginnings has leaned toward the neoconservatives. The City Paper article acknowledges as much, noting that “the Times has divested itself of paleoconservatives over the last five years” and “both insiders and media observers agree that the paper has drifted into neoconservatism.” The Times has always shown a penchant for hiring the young and largely untested progeny of the senior neocon sages and their pals, and over the years the paper or its sister weekly magazine Insight has employed not only a Podhoretz (and his roommate) but also a Kristol and a Wattenberg. One of my colleagues at the editorial page was a daughter of Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter whom Tod hired as a writer and who, I later found, had complained about my columns to Tod and his deputy behind my back.

The Times seems to have absorbed the neoconservatives’ mentality of repression along with their offspring. I know of no proof that the Chavez cabal or even Kaplan ever influenced Wes or Tod in their decision to give me the heave. But whatever the conspiratorial hugger-mugger surrounding my booting, what happened to me is less the product of a conspiracy than of the permeation of the minds of the paper’s top editors by neoconservative right-think. Kaplan, actually a liberal rather than a neoconservative, offers the most succinct expression of their attitude; “There are certain limits beyond which you don’t go,” and if you do go beyond them, “you’re going to be fired.”

Obviously, there are limits to what you can and should say and to what newspapers should publish—on the use of obscenity, tastelessness, inaccuracies, libel, and inciting to illegal actions—but the neocons’ cry for limits goes well beyond these conventional boundaries. The limits they impose prohibit expression of virtually any idea that challenges the premises protecting the dominant liberalism of American public life—ideas that offer a different view of man, society, and the state from those included within the now-defunct “liberal consensus” or “vital center” of the 1950’s. Of all the constraints intended to preserve that consensus, none is more crucial for preserving liberal control of public expression than its taboos on open discussion of race.

Those taboos block any challenge to legal and social egalitarianism, open immigration, socially therapeutic uplift, the systematic rewriting of history, and the coerced reconstruction of European and American culture. Yet these are precisely the taboos I have challenged.

But neoconservatives, posturing as conservatives, cannot afford to be very open about their real functions of defending liberal control. To invoke the specific taboos openly would expose their own hidden allegiances to the fundamental assumptions of the left. Hence, their constant tactic of covert smears against paleos and their habit of falsely accusing their rivals of violating taboos most paleoconservatives have never contemplated violating. Hence also Wes Pruden’s refusal to tell his own readers why he fired me or even admit that I had been fired. The simple truth was that I had “gone too far,” as he told me in June, that I had violated the boundaries that he insists his paper respect. But if he had told his readers that, it would have been an admission that all his thunderboxing about the Confederate Flag, the South, and Christianity is just window dressing designed to delude paleoconservative readers and make the gaping void of the paper’s dominant neoconservatism look pretty around its edges.

It’s interesting that whenever the “limits” on what one is permitted to say are invoked, the examples of the limits transgressed that are offered are always fictitious and hypothetical, never the actual limits. No one says “You can’t write that the Bible doesn’t condemn slavery,” but rather that you can’t give what Tod Lindberg told the City Paper was my “theological defense of slavery.” No one says you can’t denounce the proposed Arthur Ashe statue in Richmond, but rather that you can’t say “Hitler is the greatest statesman of the 20th century.” Lacking the courage (or capacity) to define the exact “limits” to free discussion it insists on enforcing, the self-appointed neoconservative Thought Patrol simply enforces the conventional constraints that liberalism has imposed and refuses to challenge the basic premises and power structure the constraints protect.

And the mission of the Thought Patrol in protecting liberal hegemony from attacks on its right brings us to the real reason why, however nutty, despicable, offensive, monstrous, or dangerous the ideas I have expressed might be, the danger they represent shrivels beside the perils neoconservative repression embodies. As long as neoconservatives succeed in their masquerade as the “official voice of the conservative movement,” at the Washington Times or elsewhere, they will be able not only to muzzle those who reject their leadership but also to prevent the right as a whole from challenging liberal dominance, and there will be little prospect of serious challenges to the liberal-left control of public discussion, despite the rejection of liberalism by American voters. The whole mission, the whole political function of neoconservatism, is to preserve the “limits” the left imposes and to discipline, by inflicting professional ruin upon, those on the right who dare to question the boundaries that protect the left’s empire.

As for me, my column has actually gained newspapers since my defenestration at the Times. It’s true I lost my job and my Washington outlet, and that’s a blow, but it’s far from death. In the coming years, the Beltway right may be amazed to discover how little it has to do with the direction in which the country is moving, and I plan to be there when it finds out that no one else is paying much attention to its precious “limits” on what you can and cannot say.