Hatred takes 'Diarist' on road to Stone Age

January 18, 1998|By Glenn McNatt

I SPENT A CHILLING evening the other night reading "The Turner Diaries," a fictional tale about a white supremacist takeover of the U.S. government that federal prosecutors say inspired the Oklahoma City bombing.

Published in 1978, the novel takes the form of a diary ostensibly kept by a participant in the events it describes. Those events include the violent overthrow of the government sometime in the 1990s and its replacement by a white supremacist regime bent on purging the world of nonwhites and Jews.

By the end of the novel, that goal has been accomplished -- at a staggering cost.

Two hundred million Americans, most of them white, are dead. Blacks, Hispanics and Asians have been murdered en masse. Hundreds of thousands of whites are executed by the new government as "race traitors."

But most of the white deaths result from a nuclear war with the Soviet Union that the new regime deliberately provokes. In addition to the American casualties, tens of millions in Western Europe and Russia perish, plus virtually the entire populations of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Those who survive are reduced to subsistence level. The new "Aryan republic" forcibly relocates millions of people to the countryside in a weird reprise of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge's "glorious agricultural revolution." Starvation and disease take their toll. Meanwhile, vast areas of the globe are rendered uninhabitable by nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Civilization reverts to a Stone Age existence.

Yet for the book's protagonist, it is all worth it. As he exclaims near the diary's conclusion:

"What a miracle it is to walk streets which only a few weeks ago were filled with non-Whites lounging at every street corner and in every doorway and to see only White faces -- clean, happy, enthusiastic White faces, determined and hopeful for the future!"

For years "The Turner Diaries" circulated through the shadowy underground of right-wing militias, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups. Its author, William L. Pierce, is a white supremacist and organizer of the National Alliance, a West Virginia-based neo-Nazi group.

A photocopy of part of "The Turner Diaries" was found in the car driven by Timothy McVeigh immediately after the Oklahoma City bombing. Similar hate literature was discovered in the home of Terry Nichols, McVeigh's accomplice in the bombing.

One might wonder how even the most hardened anti-Semite or racist could be inspired by the bleak and burnt-out world of "The Turner Diaries."

The answer, I hope, is none -- at least for the overwhelming majority of Americans. But the unadulterated hatred of the lunatic fringe is instructive nevertheless.

Halfway through the book, for example, the protagonist describes a crucial shift in strategy by the anti-government guerrillas: "What the Organization began doing about six months ago is treating Americans realistically, for the first time -- namely, like a herd of cattle," he writes.

"Since they are no longer capable of responding to an idealistic appeal, we began appealing to things they can understand: fear and hunger.

"We will take the food off their tables and empty their refrigerators. We will rob the System of its principal hold over them. And, when they begin getting hungry, we will make them fear us more than they fear the System. We will treat them exactly the way they deserve to be treated."

The contempt expressed here is the same contempt that allowed ordinary people to kill millions of their fellow citizens in the former Soviet Union, in China, in Rwanda and in Cambodia's killing fields.

PTC Power appeals to life's losers and misfits. They need to feel superior to someone, and their hatred is a form of ritual self-esteem building. All that matters is that there are others to be hated, and when the ritualized "others" have all been disposed of, they turn on those who are left.

That is why their hatred has no end and why, when they wield power, neither does their propensity for killing. Having failed to make anything of their own possibilities, they wish to remake totally the world that scorns their inadequacy.

If nothing else, life as a neo-Nazi, skinhead, Ku Klux Klansman, or right-wing militiaman at least guarantees one won't be completely ignored.

There's a lively debate on the Internet over whether books like "The Turner Diaries" ought to be more widely available or whether society should try to protect itself against hate literature the way it tries to protect itself from pornography and obscenity.

I say let anyone read it -- and let the haters be hoist on their own petard. For every Timothy McVeigh or Terry Nichols who reads it and is inspired, a thousand others will be revolted and appalled.

In truth, "The Turner Diaries" is itself probably the best argument against the neo-Nazi ideology it espouses. After all, how attractive can any ideology be that promises to do for America what the Khmer Rouge did for Cambodia?

Pub Date: 1/18/98

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