The Turner Diaries, Other Racist Novels, Inspire Extremist Violence
The late founder of the neo-Nazi National Alliance spent his life spurring American extremism — but his most infamous legacy is his ultra-violent race-war narrative, The Turner Diaries, which continues to inspire extremist fiction today.
Few works of fiction have moved readers to action quite like The Turner Diaries. Written under a pseudonym by William Pierce, late founder of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, the bloody race-war novel has been dubbed the "bible of the racist right" by the FBI.
Published in 1978, The Turner Diaries has fueled some of the last two decades' most infamous outbreaks of extremist violence, including Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Although The Turner Diaries may be the most famous such novel, it is neither the first nor the last novelized version of dire conspiracies and drastic solutions.
Pierce told his seminal story through two years of diary entries by his white-supremacist hero, Earl Turner. Turner carries out orders for the Organization, an underground group struggling against the System — an anti-white, anti-gun U.S. government that continually puts more restrictions on its citizens.
Using "detonators, timers, igniters and other gadgets" built by Turner, the Organization spawns vicious warfare between blacks, Jews and whites as it takes over the country, city by city.
Despite Pierce's stilted prose — a holdover, maybe, from his career as a physics professor — the violence is unforgettably vivid. Turner describes slicing the throat of a Jewish shop owner "from ear to ear," murdering a Washington Post editor with two shotgun blasts, and watching starving blacks barbecue and eat white children.
By the novel's end, Turner is working for an elite survivalist group called the Order and plotting a suicide mission — flying a crop-duster plane strapped with a warhead into the Pentagon, the System's last remaining military stronghold. "Two-thirds of the troops around the Pentagon are n------," Turner writes in his journal, "which should greatly enhance my chances of getting through."
Published by Pierce's own National Vanguard Press, The Turner Diaries didn't exactly rocket up the best-seller lists when it first appeared. But Pierce certainly got through to Bob Mathews.
A neo-Nazi follower, Mathews organized a real-life group called The Order, based on Pierce's fictional Order, which committed a series of armored car heists and plotted serious racist violence before ambushing and murdering Jewish radio talk show host Alan Berg in 1984.
The Turner Diaries reached its pinnacle of popularity in 1995, after it was widely reported that pages of the novel were found in a plastic baggie in McVeigh's car shortly after the bombing that killed 168 people in Oklahoma City. McVeigh, who sold copies of his favorite novel at gun shows across the country, later said that while he didn't subscribe to the book's racism, he was inspired by its "pro-gun rights" message.
After McVeigh brought widespread attention to The Turner Diaries, the pace of violence it inspired picked up. In subsequent years, a variety of Earl Turner wannabes have been arrested — for stockpiling biological weapons, engaging in a racist shooting spree, robbing banks, and assembling pipe bombs with Jewish and black targets in mind.
In 1998, before three white men in Texas beat and dragged James Byrd Jr. to death behind a pickup truck, one of the men, John King, reportedly announced, "We're starting The Turner Diaries early."
Pierce, who died in 2002, seemed incredulous — though pleased — that his hastily written novel had attracted so much attention. Pierce began the book as a series of installments for Attack!, a racist tabloid published by his National Youth Alliance.
After years of writing nonfiction, both about physics and about neo-Nazism, he wanted to explore the propagandistic possibilities offered by fiction. Pierce later told biographer Robert S. Griffin why he believed novels could be so effective: "If the protagonist learns something or comes to believe in something, if he changes his ideas, the reader tends to do the same thing, he changes too. So what you have is a powerful teaching tool, a persuasive tool."
Violence and Virtue
In the past 15 years, dozens of racist and extremist novels have been published by writers hoping to use the tool of fiction as persuasively — if, perhaps, to a less explicitly violent end — as Pierce. The novels span every category of extremism — neo-Nazi, neo-Confederate, radical environmentalist, anti-immigration, antigovernment — but most stick to Pierce's formula: a white male hero, learning of a massive conspiracy against law-abiding whites, undertakes violent revenge.
The excessive violence draws readers in, says Griffin, a professor at the University of Vermont. But the ultimate message, he told the Intelligence Report, is "that European people, white people, have a right to stand up for themselves, have a right to self-determination, to pride, to collective action."
Though most are simple, formulaic and no more colorfully written than The Turner Diaries, these novels are finding readers (see sidebar, above). Their authors aren't in a big hurry to sell a million copies, though. They know that Pierce's novel marinated on bookshelves for 17 years before the Oklahoma City bombings made it famous.
"There are some books that become more popular as the years go by," says Gerald James McManus, author of a racist fable called Dark Millennium. "Moby Dick was not a great success when it was first written, and today it's a classic, so you never know."
America's first important extremist novel also took a while to catch on. Published in 1905, Thomas Dixon's The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan made its impact 10 years later when D.W. Griffith adapted it into the landmark film, "Birth of a Nation." Once the movie became a hit, Dixon's maudlin ode to white supremacy helped fuel a massive resurgence of the KKK, which had nearly died out after Reconstruction.
Dixon's novel even gave Klansmen a new technique: cross-burnings, which had not been part of the first Klan movement.
The Clansman depicts a South under barbaric "black rule" during Reconstruction. The plot is touched off by an "apelike" black man, his "yellow teeth grinning through thick lips," raping the daughter of a white politician.
Shamed, the daughter and her mother are both driven to suicide — which is later avenged by the "chivalric" Klan, hooded and robed men Dixon describes as "noble in sentiment, generous in manhood, and patriotic in purpose."
Noble sentiments were hardly the key to The Clansman's success, says Notre Dame professor Rory McVeigh. "The novel and the film played on fears and prejudices held by many white Americans of the time," says McVeigh. "In particular, they appealed to stereotypes that portrayed black men as lust-crazed beasts who posed a danger to the safety and virtue of white women."
More than half a century later, French novelist Jean Raspail tapped into a similar set of stereotypes and fears with his anti-immigration novel, The Camp of the Saints. Written in the early 1970s during a wave of Algerian immigration into France, The Camp of the Saints also took a while to catch on in the U.S. But when it did, two decades later, it had a major influence on the American anti-immigration movement.
Far more fluidly written than most extremist novels, The Camp of the Saints is infused with apocalyptic foreboding. The plot concerns a famine-induced pilgrimage to the shores of the French Riviera by Hindu refugees described as "kinky-haired, swarthy-skinned, long-despised phantoms."
As the flotilla makes its way around Africa to France, Raspail writes about the ineffectual reactions of government officials, church leaders, liberals and soldiers — the cultured and civilized who belong to the "camp of the saints." He rails against the "monstrous cancer" of multiculturalism and lingers over descriptions of the brown and black hordes with their "fleshless, Gandhi arms" — all heading ominously, disastrously, toward France.
When The Social Contract Press, an anti-immigration hate group, reprinted The Camp of the Saints in 1995, the book caught fire with extremists. Reviewing the novel in the white-supremacist American Renaissance magazine, editor Jared Taylor proclaimed, "this may be the first significant racialist novel since the days of Thomas Dixon."
The Camp of the Saints was "astonishingly current," Taylor said, given the influx of Hispanic immigrants into the U.S. Its "central tragedy" was the "suicidal white weakness" demonstrated by Westerners reluctant to turn away the immigrants.
Taylor and other anti-immigration activists also picked up on Raspail's notion that the Algerian immigration amounted to a "peaceful invasion" of France; many U.S. activists are convinced that a "Mexican invasion" of America is currently underway.
The anti-immigration activists at The Social Contract Press recognized how influential a book like Raspail's could be. "The poet, the playwright, the novelist, the filmmaker can present truths and open our eyes in ways that demographic analyses, comparative income studies, or social welfare statistics never can," reads a publisher's note to the 1995 edition. "The storytellers can advance notions prohibited to others."
Feeding the Hogs
The main "prohibited notion" in recent extremist novels is the oppression, unseen but insidious, of white people.
In Ellen Williams' Bedford, a World Vision, a small Southern village — loosely based on Williams' own hometown of Leroy, Ala. — has been overtaken by liberals. The story revolves around 14-year-old Horace Adam Pruitt Jr., a Southern Baptist kid who's fallen under the influence of a left-wing teacher. Young Pruitt sues his parents for making him go to church — but that's only the tip of the iceberg.
Bedford is in upheaval as public schools are "dumbed down," abortion is legalized, secularists advocate euthanasia of the elderly to conserve resources, and speaking out against homosexuality is outlawed. To make matters even worse, the U.S. flag is banned in favor of a United World flag. States have been dissolved, and the country divided into regions.
"Most people have liked it," Williams told the Intelligence Report. "People say the book is coming true." Williams (see Honoring the Confederacy) belongs to both the Council of Conservative Citizens and the League of the South, predominantly Southern hate groups that often work on "heritage issues." At League of the South gatherings, she often provides entertainment, singing such tunes as "Dixie" and "God Save the South."
Another neo-Confederate, author Lloyd Lenard, sings a similar tune about the oppression of Southern whites in The Last Confederate Flag (see C-4 and the Confederacy). Lenard's protagonist, Stonewall Bedford, is persecuted by militant blacks because of his loyalty to the rebel flag.
"The carpetbaggers aren't all white," Bedford tells his wife. "Hundreds of them are black. They spring up right in our midst, spurred on daily by the goading of their own political leaders. Protected by the U.S. Justice Department, these militants push for the necessity of remolding Southerners into more pliant people."
But they won't remold Bedford. As angry blacks threaten to remove the Confederate battle flag from city hall — and open fire on Bedford's family — he tries valiantly to preserve the flag. Nothing can keep him from being true to his Southern heritage.
In John Ross' Unintended Consequences, a white Southern man faces another form of oppression — an "obscure federal gun law written to promote massive noncompliance and give idled [gun] prohibition agents something to do." Ross paints Henry Bowman as a Fourth-Amendment underdog who ultimately has no choice but to fight back against the federal government.
"You fools have been using blank search warrants, planting evidence, and perjuring yourselves in court," Bowman tells federal agents after he's turned the tables and apprehended them during a failed raid. "You've reinterpreted your own rulings and used entrapment to put people in prison over paperwork disputes."
Bowman, an expert gunman, makes sure that the agents he captures don't abuse citizens' rights any more: He dismembers them and feeds their bodies to hogs.
Bowman's violent revenge has drawn comparisons — both positive and negative — to Earl Turner's adventures. A review from Publisher's Weekly notes that Ross's novel "seethes with a grudge against a government that is portrayed as having persecuted praiseworthy citizens who merely want to exercise their civil rights. Like the notorious and paranoid Turner Diaries, this novel may speak to readers on the fringes of American society — but it misses the middle, both artistic and political, by a long shot."
Whites in Outer Space
Of course, the middle is not what these novelists are aiming for. Extremist novelists see radical problems that mainstream Americans don't — and they dream up equally radical solutions. In Gerald James McManus' Dark Millennium, the problem is "multicultural democracy." The solution is unwavering racial violence.
McManus' novel follows racist tyrant Alexander McGrail as he rises "with phenomenal quickness from relative obscurity to the top rung of American politics" — and then usurps the U.S. presidency to become "President of Earth for Life." McGrail directs a worldwide extermination of all people of color, except for a few particularly intelligent Asians.
McManus describes the victims being herded into pits and shot, massacred in the streets, and sterilized through tainted drinking water. Whites who fail an IQ test are sterilized, too. Pregnant black women are killed on sight.
"I think the ultimate message in the book is that the world is heading for terrible problems," McManus told the Intelligence Report. He's flattered when readers tell him that his book is "like a sequel to The Turner Diaries," even if he's never actually read Pierce's work.
Like Pierce, McManus is not about to apologize for the mass killings of people of color. His concern, he says, is ultimately the preservation of humanity.
"The only way for humanity to prosper and expand into outer space is through some type of worldwide benevolent government," says McManus. "We have to quell the population and produce the homogenous society that's needed to survive."
Outer space is often the ultimate destination for white characters who survive the violent plots of these books. In Hold Back This Day, Ward Kendall describes a racist dystopia — a super-globalized world of "Unification" where all major religions are distilled into one, Chrislamhindbuddhism, and where brown skin is preferred over white.
The story revolves around one of the Earth's remaining fair-skinned men, Jeff Huxton. After having a white son in his first marriage, Huxton joins the multicultural majority, taking an Asian woman as his second wife and fathering a biracial daughter. When his white son, Adam, has trouble fitting in at school, Huxton recalls his own days of being a misfit: "Like Adam, he too had been the class 'freak,' having had the misfortune of being born to one of the last sets of parents who were 'unblended.' "
Young Adam finds a white mentor, Karl Ramstrom, who teaches him about white history, back in the good old days before Unification. Adam falls in love with Ramstrom's daughter. The plot thickens when Huxton discovers Adam's plan to leave for Mars with his new white friends and join Avalon, the only white colony left in the universe. Huxton comes around to a new way of thinking, rejecting his multicultural beliefs and blended family in favor of Avalon.
Kendall says his novel has been embraced by "white nationalists" not because it ends with a utopian fantasy, but because it's based on reality. "It shows our struggle from the viewpoint of a single man, facing a world determined to see our kind made extinct," says Kendall.
Against the Odds
The idea of a lone hero doing battle with the world's evils is nothing new. But William Pierce was apparently on to something when he gave that old storyline a new, white-supremacist twist. Most extremist novels published since The Turner Diaries focus on a white protagonist who wakes up to what's wrong with the world, and then acts against the odds to make things right.
There's a good reason for that, says Harvard University lecturer Rebecca Wingfield. Social protest novels — whether it's Uncle Tom's Cabin or Hold Back This Day — work on readers by drawing them into the experiences of a protagonist they can relate to.
"As the character undergoes a shift in his or her political position," Wingfield says, "we, as readers, undergo this shift with him or her. Since the appeal here is to our emotions and sympathies, and not just our intellects, fiction offers a much more subtle way of bringing us around to a particular point of view than abstract political argument."
Pat Shannan certainly hopes so. A writer for the antigovernment Media Bypass magazine, Shannan centers his novel, One In a Million, around the character of Brock Freeman, an easy-going, wholesome attorney from the Midwest. Freeman begins to question the federal tax system, revisiting laws like the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and determining that gold and silver are the only valid forms of tender.
"Lawful money is defined in 12 USC 152 as '... gold and silver coin of the United States,'" Freeman explains to his wife, Sarah. "So you see Honey, these were bona fide receipts good for redemption in the real wealth at any time."
Freeman goes on to discover what antigovernment "Patriots" have been saying all along: filing taxes is downright un-American. In the shower one morning, he ruminates: "The Fourth Amendment protection of people to be secure in their 'persons, homes, papers, and effects' is violated by any law that would require one to voluntarily declare all that information on a government form. ...
"Even if there is a law that requires people to file," Freeman decides, "the law is inapplicable to anyone who doesn't volunteer to fall under it."
As Freeman shifts his thinking, Shannan hopes readers will shift theirs along with him — and feel his fury when the IRS cracks down on the tax-protesting hero, killing his wife in the process.
Shannan told the Intelligence Report that One In a Million is "a historical novel because most of it's true." Not the part about the IRS killing his wife, but the amendments and laws and tax-protesting plot. "Most of it actually happened to me because I've done battle with the IRS," he says.
After years of writing nonfiction stories for Media Bypass and other outlets, Shannan says he turned to fiction because it works. "The way to get people to listen to your message," he says, "is to give them some blood and guts."
A century after Thomas Dixon brought out The Clansman, Shannan hopes to take a page out of Dixon's book — by taking his "blood and guts" approach to the big screen. He's convinced that One In a Million could work as a movie. To that end, he's mailed a copy of the novel to Hutton Gibson, Mel's anti-Semitic father.
"I can see Mel Gibson playing Brock Freeman," Shannan says. No word yet on whether the star is interested.