A law student targets SPLC in an assassination fantasy. Kyle Bristow also conjures up an imaginary past for white people
It was no surprise last October when former hate group leader Kyle Bristow self-published a white nationalist novel featuring the graphic assassination of a character based on a prominent employee of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Bristow, after all, has had an outsized ax to grind with the SPLC since his undergraduate years at Michigan State University. It was there that he first attained notoriety for inviting hate group spokesmen to speak on campus and for promoting a video game centered on killing Mexican migrants.
Somewhat more surprising than the book itself are the dozen gushing blurbs Bristow collected in praise of his violently racist debut novel, White Apocalypse. Some of these blurbs are from usual suspects like Billy Roper, of White Revolution and the Nationalist Party of America, and James Edwards, of the hate radio program "The Political Cesspool." But the book also received glowing praise from two academics with ties to well-known universities.
The first is Kevin MacDonald, professor of psychology at California State University at Long Beach. McDonald calls White Apocalypse "an emotionally compelling account of Whites as historical victims of non-Whites — just the sort of thing we need to motivate a renaissance among our people."
Despite his high-sounding position, MacDonald is a raging anti-Semite who contends that Jews are driven by a genetically programmed evolutionary strategy to undermine Western civilization. MacDonald, whose writings on Jews have been condemned by his academic colleagues, recently joined an explicitly white supremacist group, the American Third Position, which was started by a man who has called for the deportation of all Americans with any "ascertainable trace of Negro blood."
Another fan of Bristow's novel is self-described white "separatist" Virginia Abernethy, a professor emerita at Vanderbilt University medical school. Abernethy calls White Apocalypse a "well-researched page-turner" and hopes it is the first of many. "One looks forward to much more from this author," she writes.
Craig Bodeker, producer of the film "A Conversation About Race," also weighs in with a prominent endorsement. Bodeker, who persists in claiming he is no racist despite posting Internet comments describing black people as "EVIL monkeys," calls Bristow's book "the jolt Whites need to awaken from our suicidal slumber!"
Let's hope no one takes Bristow's book seriously, let alone finds themselves being "awakened" by it. Its plot is driven by puerile prose and revolves around a series of violent revenge fantasies against Jewish professors, Latino and Native American activists, and the SPLC.
Much of White Apocalypse is spent dramatizing one man's crusade against the "evil, anti-Western" activities of an Atlanta-based organization called the "Center for Diversity and Multiculturalism." The organization, with its "hate group list" and large legal staff, is clearly modeled on the Montgomery, Ala.-based SPLC. The book also includes characters whose roles match that of two SPLC senior staffers: Mark Potok, the director of SPLC's Intelligence Project and editor of this magazine, and Heidi Beirich, the SPLC's director of research.
On page 195, the Potok character — the Center's spokesman, named David Greenberg, who Bristow describes as an "oily, curly haired troll" — has just finished delivering testimony in a federal courthouse. As Greenberg stands outside the building, the novel's hero, a one-man militia named Jack Schoenherr (which translates roughly from the German as "Mr. Handsome") fires a bullet from his AR-15 from the roof of a nearby parking garage. Bristow describes the event as follows:
"The supersonic projectile hit the leftist agitator one inch below the eye, and the bullet exited the back of his head nanoseconds later. … Brain, blood, and skull fragments burst forth from what was once Greenberg's head, and the leftist was blown off both of his feet. Greenberg died instantly, and his last words were 'We must destroy the plague that is Western culture.' Ironically, Western culture got him first. From Valhalla [a celebration hall in Scandinavian mythology], Thor, the archenemy of trolls, smiled at the accomplishment of the epitome of Western Man."
When asked to comment on what is obviously a murder fantasy concerning the SPLC's Potok, Bristow replied via E-mail to this reporter that any parallels were purely coincidental.
"Dear Guttersnipe," read Bristow's response, "I do not 'fantasize' about anyone's death. I do, however, fantasize quite often of taking the country over and implementing a real right-wing agenda that would make [archconservative MSNBC commentator] Pat Buchanan and the late Sam Francis [the chief editor of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens] proud. What I mean by this is the most offensive thing possible, and what this is I will leave to your imagination."
Precious little imagination is required.
With its anti-Semitism and racist venom, White Apocalypse is the latest entry into a long tradition of American hate-fiction animated by the hatreds, fantasies, and frustrations that fester in far-right circles. The most famous of the genre in recent times is, of course, the late neo-Nazi William Pierce's The Turner Diaries, a race-war novel that inspired the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the murderous acts of the domestic terrorist group, the Order, in the mid-1980s.
Bristow's book makes clear that his current heroes include not just marginal" far-right figures, but also conservative commentators employed by major cable news and radio networks. Early in the novel, Bristow quotes "Dr. Michael Savage" approvingly, an obvious reference to hate-radio jock Michael Savage. The book's militia tough-guy hero offers a reading list that includes Pat Buchanan's The Suicide of the West. Nor does it take long to figure out that the name of his protagonist, Samuel Buchanan, is meant as homage to Pat Buchanan and Buchanan's late friend, one-time Washington Times columnist Samuel Francis.
Bristow, now a law student at the University of Toledo, forged most of his connections to the radical right as the 21-year-old campus director of the Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). He gained notoriety (as well as the SPLC's hate group designation) for inviting well-known extremists to speak on campus, such as the leader of the whites-only British National Party, Holocaust denier Nick Griffin, and for stunts like advocating a video game in which players earned points by shooting Mexican migrants at the border.
While representing YAF, Bristow earned notice from bookers and hosts at Fox News Channel. As Bristow still proudly boasts on his website, he once appeared on The O'Reilly Factor and has been quoted on-air by Sean Hannity.
Bristow's national television appearances occurred back when he was a lowly student activist. Today, he is a self-published author on a crusade not merely to entertain or inspire to violence his fellow white nationalists, but to reveal the true story of their Stone Age ancestors, who, he firmly believes, settled North America some 20,000 years ago.
Stone Age Aryans
To the extent that Bristow's violent novel can be said to service an idea, that idea is a newly resurgent fad on the far-right known as the "Solutrean Hypothesis." The hero of White Apocalypse is on a mission to give the hypothesis its proper hearing. SPLC villains are the main obstacles standing in his way.
The crux of Bristow's "repressed knowledge" is the belief that Stone Age European explorers first settled the North American continent millennia before the Asian settlers known to history as Native Americans.
The origin of the idea lies in the 1933 discovery of an arrow- and spearhead known as a "Clovis point." Its design led archeologists to coin the term "Clovis culture" to refer to what they believed was distinctive about a wave of settlers who crossed the Bering Straight from Eastern Siberia during the last ice age, around 14,000 BCE.
Soon after the Clovis discovery, an archaeologist named Frank Hibben began writing about the similarities between the Clovis points found in North America and those designed by a Stone Age Southwestern European civilization known as the Solutrean. While overwhelmingly dismissed by his peers, Hibben's hypothesis struck a resonant chord with Americans who liked the idea that the discovery and settlement of the Western Hemisphere was a prehistoric triumph of European, not Asian, will and technology.
Over the next 60 years, the Solutrean Hypothesis of a European-American "lost race" gained a handful of adherents, but it was generally considered crank science and dismissed. The hypothesis gained new life and professional traction only in the late 1990s. It was then that two archeologists associated with the Smithsonian Institution, Dennis Stanford and Brace Bradley, claimed to be in a position to finally build on Hibben's original theory.
The major event in this renaissance occurred in 1996, when archeologists discovered a skeleton in Washington State that was described as having "Caucasoid" features. Although a report by the National Park Service Archaeology and Ethnology Program later declared that the remains were Native American and only 9,000 years old, white nationalist advocates of the Solutrean Hypothesis seized on the initial reports to revive the idea that Europeans were the first to settle the Western Hemisphere. They were further encouraged a few years later, when Stanford and Bradley announced what they claimed was further evidence of prehistoric Solutrean settlement. This evidence was largely based on a negative discovery: They reported finding no trace of Clovis technology in the Asian areas that the Native Americans supposedly came from. This argument was matched with a complex and contested history of the lineage of a mitochondrial DNA called haplogroup X found in some mummified North American remains.
As it had been in the 1930s, the archeology profession was once again largely dismissive of the new and improved Solutrean Hypothesis. The anthropologist Lawrence Guy Straus summed up the still-reigning consensus view that the Clovis civilization was native, and not dependent on contact with Solutreans, in a 2000 interview with National Geographic. "One of the great failings of archaeology," he told the magazine, "is a continuous falling back on the notion that if a couple of things [like Clovis arrowheads] resemble one another, they have to have the same source. But these similarities appear and reappear time and again in different places."
The 'Real' Native Americans
Despite any real proof that Solutreans settled North America, the hypothesis over the last decade has continued to gain white nationalist adherents who have seized on it to stage a prehistoric white persecution drama. If Europeans settled North America first, then the Asians that followed them — now known as Native Americans — not only have no claim on the land, but also must have committed genocide against the original white settlers, who did not survive to tell their story. This is the meaning of the title of Bristow's novel, White Apocalypse, which he dedicates to "the real Native Americans"—i.e., the descendents of Stone Age Europeans. The title for Bristow's promotional site for the book, meanwhile, is named The Solutrean Liberation Front, after the fictional group created by the novel's assassin-hero, Jack Schoenherr.
Unfortunately for Bristow and his fellow white nationalist Solutrean proponents, the hypothesis as understood even by sympathetic archeologists does not exactly jibe with their reading.
Shortly after Bristow released his book, the watchdog group YAF Watch contacted Dennis Stanford, the most prominent proponent of the Solutrean Hypothesis and head of the National Museum of Natural History's Archaeology Division. His take on the crude appropriation of his ideas by white nationalists was not sympathetic.
"There are several major problems" with using the Solutrean Hypothesis to advance a white nationalist racial politics, said Stanford. The biggest, he explained, is that "even if the Solutrean hypothesis is demonstrated, there is no evidence that these people were the same race as modern Europeans; in fact, they most likely were not the same race. Their origin in Europe is a major research question. At the present, most scholars believe the people who made the European Solutrean artifacts came out of North Africa [around] 25,000 years ago."
The other leading proponent of the Solutrean Hypothesis, Bruce Bradley, is no better disposed to the efforts that Bristow and others are making to use it as intellectual fuel for the white power movement.
"It is quite likely that [if] these events happened, [it was] before 'racial' diversification occurred," Bradley, now an associate professor of experimental archeology at the University of Exeter in England, told the Intelligence Report. "Any facile explanations about the possible implications in relation to modern history will certainly be discredited."
Bristow has shown to the world he's not much of a writer. It turns out he's an even worse armchair archeologist.