theatlantic | Before there was an alt-right, there was The Turner Diaries.
First published nearly 40 years ago, the infamous dystopian novel depicts a fictional white nationalist revolution culminating in global genocide.
The events of the book open 25 years ago today—September 16, 1991, the date of the first entry in Earl Turner’s diary. The fictional diary describes a racist’s vision of a nightmare world, in which “The System”—African American enforcers led by Jewish politicians—attempt to confiscate all guns in the United States. A secretive organization known as The Order rises up to take back the country for white supremacists, eventually winning an apocalyptic insurgency and nuclear war, first taking over the country and later the world.
The Turner Diaries was created in the 1970s by William Luther Pierce, leader of the neo-Nazi group the National Alliance. Crudely written and wildly racist, The Turner Diaries has helped inspire dozens of armed robberies and more than 200 murders in the decades since its publication.
The Turner Diaries first made headlines when a violent white nationalist gang appropriated the name of The Order, following the tactical blueprint for terrorism in the book. Turner catapulted to national prominence when it was revealed to be a key inspiration for Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people using a truck bomb strikingly similar to one described in detail in the book. Since then, The Turner Diaries has inspired hate crimes and terrorism across the United States and in Europe in more than a dozen separate plots through the present day.
But beyond the violence committed by its readers, The Turner Diaries was also the seed of significant shift in white-nationalist ideology and recruitment, the effects of which are increasingly relevant today. In “The Turner Legacy,” a new paper for ICCT – The Hague, I examine the complicated history of racist dystopian propaganda and the reasons for Turner’s enduring impact.