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The Turner Legacy
My new paper for the International Centre for Counter Terrorism -- The Hague was published today: The Turner Legacy. The abstract:
The Turner Diaries, the infamous racist dystopian novel by neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce, has inspired more than 200 murders since its publication in 1978, including the single deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, the Oklahoma City bombing.
The book is arguably the most important single work of white nationalist propaganda in the English language, but it is not a singular artifact. The Turner Diaries is part of a genre of racist dystopian propaganda dating back to the U.S. Civil War. This paper will document the books that directly and indirectly inspired Turner and examine the extensive violence that the novel has inspired.
By comparing and contrasting The Turner Diaries to its less-remembered predecessors, this paper analyses the reasons for the novel’s lasting impact, including its focus on rational choices over identity choices, its simplification of white nationalist ideology, its repeated calls to action, and the powerfully persuasive nature of dystopian narratives, which can be understood as a secular analogue for religious apocalyptic texts.
This paper is a milestone in the topic of this blog, which explores the relationship between dystopian fiction and radical politics. While this subject goes well beyond right-wing extremism, the importance of race to the dytopian genre is extraordinary. The earliest modern dystopian novel I could identify was a racist screed against the abolitionist movement, and anti-abolition dystopias helped fuel the genre's popularity. Dystopia is also important to racist extremism, and in a companion piece for The Atlantic, I discuss the role of The Turner Diaries in shaping what we know today as the alt right.
I will be posting more related to these themes over the next week or two, and follow me on Twitter @intelwire for more discussion. In the meantime, here are some related posts from this site: