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The Turner Diaries: A Manual For Racist Terrorism

by Vrinda Jain
The Turner Diaries: A Manual For Racist Terrorism

February 25, 2021

Written and published by racist white supremacist and ultra-nationalist William Luther Pierce, The Turner Diaries has long been seen as a central manual of "extremism". It's important to know what it contains to know just what you need to steer away from.

Although many well-known cultural artifacts such as The Catcher in the Rye or The Anarchist Cookbook have captured massive public interest as bait for aggressive behaviour and unaffected loners, The Turner Diaries has been around for decades, mainly restricted to extremist circles.

Within these radical circles, The Turner Diaries became well known as a central text because of its contextual use. It is basically a training manual for America’s largest neo-Nazi organisations — and the internet has only made its popularity soar in such groups.

William-Pierce-and-his-book-Turner's-Diaries-scoolbuzz
William Pierce and his book "Turner's Diaries", an inspiring work of the far right.

Turner Inspired Racist Terror Acts

While The Turner Diaries is fictional, its plot represents current tropes in the real world, perhaps because many modern-day extremists have been inspired by it. We can see its impact on contemporary events most transparently and disturbingly. 

Among other things, The Turner Diaries concludes with a violent terrorist uprising against the U.S. government, eerily similar to the Capitol riots and insurrection of 6 January 2021. But while the book was the backbone of modern white supremacy’s terror actions, it may have influenced the philosophy even more — an impact that would be harder to eradicate.

The Turner Diaries by William Luther Pierce

Born in Atlanta and raised in Virginia and Alabama, William Luther Pierce allegedly claimed to be a descendant of a Civil War governor. He attended a military high school in Texas and graduated in physics.

He first joined the American Nazi Party and eventually joined another organisation to support Alabama Gov. George Wallace and his 1968 presidential election campaign. Pierce turned the organisation into what eventually became, in 1974, a party called the ‘National Alliance‘.

Through the National Alliance, Pierce ran his own secret media network, including a newspaper, a book press, a radio station, and an extremist record dealer— all to broadcast his message of militant white nationalism.

Grasp on the Populace

In a 1998 article, the Anti-Defamation League noted party’s 16 active cells from coast to coast. Thousands of Americans listen to its radio broadcasts and explore its online platform. The National Alliance is America’s largest and most active neo-Nazi organisation.

The Turner Diaries was first published in 1978 under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald. The real author was William Luther Pierce— a racist man labelled the “most important Nazi America” of the 20th century by the Southern Poverty Law Centre. It would be hard to overstate Pierce’s heroic sacrifices to the struggle of U.S. white supremacy—and that’s without mentioning The Turner Diaries.

What is the Controversy Around The Turner Diaries?

The Turner Diaries first hit the headlines when the extremist white nationalist mob took The Order’s name, following the novel’s operational blueprint for terrorism. Turner propelled to national notoriety when it was discovered to be a crucial inspiration to the ‘Oklahoma City bombing’ conspirator Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people using a remarkably similar truck bomb similar to the one mentioned in detail in the novel.

Since then, the Turner Diaries has motivated hate crimes and terrorism in more than a dozen different plots throughout the United States and Europe. But beyond the aggression from its readers, the book was also the seed of a significant change in white-nationalist philosophy and recruitment, the consequences of which are highly prevalent today.

White Supremacy- An American Standard

In The Turner Legacy, a new paper for ICCT – The Hague, the complicated past of racist dystopian propaganda and the reasons for Turner’s lasting effect are explored. White supremacy has been the standard in the United States for much of the country’s history.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, the institutionalised white supremacy started to disintegrate, which accelerated into the 20th century. Against the civil rights movement, white nationalism has begun to evolve diverse philosophies, with various strains emerging.

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The Turner Diaries-William Luther Pierce-White Supremacy-Racism

The Amazon Controversy

The aftermath of the U.S. Capitol attack on 6 January, Amazon made an unprecedented decision on 12 January to delete all the novel’s copies from its virtual shelves. This may seem like a radical stance in the background of the debate on censorship and freedom of expression that has followed violent purges.

But it’s one that means just how infamous the book has become, and how much real-world harm it’s actually caused. Amazon store listings for the Turner Diaries have been removed, replaced by a “page not found” message suggesting that it is no longer available for purchase.

In recent days, Amazon has seen a critical backlash over its decision to sell a book, explicitly called for by the Los Angeles Times to include a guide for last week’s deadly assault on the U.S. Capitol.

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