Little-known for decades outside of extremist circles, The Turner Diaries is now well-established as a core text due to its use as, essentially, a training manual for America’s largest neo-Nazi organization. The internet has made it more accessible than ever.
Nick Statt of the verge wrote that “the novel espouses ideologies that overlap with those of QAnon believers, many of whom think President Donald Trump is waging a secret war against a cabal of child predators who run the country that will one day require them to participate in a violent overthrow of the US government.”
The book lays out exactly how they intend to start a second civil war in the United States. The Turner Diaries includes an attack on the U.S. Capitol, where a working gallows is erected outside the Capitol, to bring ‘traitors’ out for trial and then kill them. They’re not hiding what they intend to do, and yet throughout history, the people who are at risk have not taken those messages, warnings, and manifestos seriously.”
In the book dozens are killed in the assault, including members of Congress and their staffers. But in the insurrectionists’ view, the greater victory is symbolic.
The book was greatly influential in shaping white nationalism and the later development of the white genocide conspiracy theory. It has also inspired numerous hate crimes and acts of terrorism, including the 1984 assassination of Alan Berg, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and the 1999 London nail bombings and Columbine High School massacre.
The book contains lurid, graphic violence carried out against liberals, government officials, members of the media, and Black and Jewish citizens.
Published in 1978 by William Luther Pierce under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald, The Turner Diaries depicts a fictional coup in the US conducted by an underground group of white supremacists, of which the main character becomes a central leader, and the ensuing widespread genocide that results. The book has been cited as a foundational text for modern racist and anti-Semitic groups and movements
Over the decades, the novel has been cited as inspiration in at least 40 terrorist attacks and hate crimes, according to J.M. Berger, a researcher and analyst who studies extremist activities in the United States. It has been labeled the “bible of the racist right” by the FBI
More recently, the book has cropped up online in messages posted by far-right groups like the Proud Boys and has been referenced by extremists who sought to overturn the presidential election.
On Monday after the January 6 insurrection, Amazon removed the novel from its website. It had previously been available for purchase with a disclaimer identifying it as “a racist, white supremacist fantasy” that had inspired domestic terrorists.”
Amazon also started removing merchandise from far-right militia movements, some of which participated in the attack on the Capitol and have continued promoting violent insurrection in the lead-up to Inauguration Day.
Barbara Walter is a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, and one of the world’s leading experts on civil wars, political violence and terrorism. She is also a permanent member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has consulted for the State Department, the Department of Defense, the UN and the World Bank. Asked about the next civil war, she said:
“They would turn to unconventional tactics, in particular terrorism, maybe even a little bit of guerrilla warfare, where they would target federal buildings, synagogues, places with large crowds. The strategy would be one of intimidation and to scare the American public into believing that the federal government isn’t capable of taking care of them.”
A 2020 plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan, could be a sign of things to come. Walter suggests that opposition figures, moderate Republicans and judges deemed unsympathetic might all become potential assassination targets.
“I could also imagine situations where militias, in conjunction with law enforcement in those areas, carve out little white ethnostates in areas where that’s possible because of the way power is divided here in the United States. It would certainly not look anything like the civil war that happened in the 1860s.
Walter said the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was surprising but should not have been because we had been watching “American democracy decline since 2016.” Walter added: “The U.S. used to be considered a full democracy like Norway, Switzerland or Iceland,” she said, “and it’s now considered a partial democracy like Ecuador, Somalia or Haiti.”
Last month Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who has bemoaned the treatment of 6 January defendants jailed for their role in the attack, called for a “national divorce” between blue and red states.
But the most meaningful geographic separation in our society is no longer as tidy as North and South, East and West or groups of states. It is the divide between urban and rural, or to update that a bit: metro versus non-metro.
James Hawdon, director of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention at Virginia Tech university, said: “I don’t like to be an alarmist, but the country has been moving more and more toward violence, not away from it. Another contested election may have grim consequences.”
We can see that influence in the most direct and chilling way — because, among other things, The Turner Diaries ends with a violent terrorist coup against the US government, not unlike the January 6 Capitol insurrection.