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Book Review: The Turner Diaries by Andrew Macdonald

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Henry Gibson played a Neo-Nazi in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers. Standing in front of his brownshirted buffoons, he uttered the following speech:

“White men! White women! The flag is calling you. The sacred and ancient symbol of your race, since the beginning of time. The Jew is using The Black as muscle against you. And you are left there helpless. Well, what are you going to do about it, Whitey? Just sit there? Of course not! You are going to join with us. The members of the American, National Socialist, White Peoples' Party. An organization of decent, law-abiding white folk. Just like you!”

Unfortunately, the Turner Diaries has much the same content. Make no mistake; the book is not a comedy, at least not intentionally. The rigid seriousness of the narrator, one Earl Turner, and the pedestrian writing style left this reader rolling his eyes and saying to himself, “Oh come on! Seriously?” Before ridiculing the author, one has to realize that this scary little book is a product of its times. What was he thinking? Why did he think that? Why is he constantly blaming the Jews and the Blacks for all his troubles?

In the Seventies, the United States faced a combination of crises in the economy, in foreign policy, and in politics. The US support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War resulted in the OPEC-sponsored economic warfare commonly known as the oil embargo. Decades of fighting a foreign war in Vietnam resulted in a crumbling infrastructure, a divisive chasm unleashed by domestic protests, the Civil Rights movement, and the heavy-handed tactics used to quash domestic dissent. The Watergate scandal led to President Nixon to resign in disgrace and a foreign policy that shrank away from the challenges of foreign engagements. Runaway inflation, gas rationing, and losing a decade-long war fueled paranoia and resentment. In these dark times, Andrew Macdonald (the nom de plume of William Luther Pierce) wrote The Turner Diaries.

Pierce founded the white supremacist organization the National Alliance in 1970 with a Neo-Nazi ideology that is “explicitly genocidal” (according to the group profile on the Southern Poverty Law Center website). Writing under another name, Pierce wrote a fictional account of a revolution that violently overthrew the government of the United States. In the novel, we follow the clandestine exploits of one Earl Turner: gun owner, racist Christian, and Anti-Semite.

Pierce relishes in the violence and mass murder with a sociopathic glee. The ruthlessness of the main characters pales the misdeeds and atrocities of the Marquis de Sade’s characters. The Turner Diaries is also, in its own perverse way, family-friendly. The novel has very little sex and not that much vulgarity (Cf. Sade’s novels).

What makes this book far worse than the usual saber-rattling thriller or ideological screed masquerading as fiction? The “good guys” do some pretty disgusting things. Murder, assassination, bombing government buildings, and hanging “race-defilers” are only a few things Earl Turner does in the name of White empowerment. In the novel, Turner belongs to the Organization and wages a campaign of domestic terrorism against The System. The System is Big Government personified to the brink of self-parody. The novel opens with Turner and pals hiding their weapons due to the passage of the Cohen Act. The repressive government has sent machete-wielding Negroes to seize their weapons. (Come on! Seriously?)

Make no mistake, Pierce casts aspersions at the usual suspects (liberals, Jews, Blacks, Communists, Israel, homosexuals, feminists, etc.), but this is also a novel that espouses Neo-Nazi revolutionary rhetoric. Turner unleashes bile against conservatives, since they do not want to overthrow the System.

Unlike other works by fascist authors, Pierce is not a good writer. Lyle Stuart writes in the Introduction that the book was a favorite on the gun show circuit. One could facetiously classify the Turner Diaries as “gun nut fanfiction.” Gun shows appeal to a certain fandom and Pierce writes for them. One does not look for the technical precision of someone like Vladimir Nabokov or Samuel Beckett. For gun owners with a serious beef against the Federal Government, this book was probably a gripping read. To this reviewer, the novel offered an implausible plot slathered in sub-standard prose.

Louis-Ferdinand Céline for all his vile Anti-Semitism and misanthropy could at least craft a decent sentence. Ezra Pound, even while recording radio broadcasts as Benito Mussolini’s cheerleader, had the capacity to write some of the finest poetry in the English language. Ironically, it is the vilest sections, the parts dedicated to the most heinous racist ideology, that the prose reveals a talented writer. The novel itself has cardboard cutouts (the “heroes”) fighting racist caricatures. It is like Blazing Saddles minus the jokes.

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