Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Turner Diaries -- a review

A blurb on the back of The Turner Diaries by William Luther Pierce (under the pseudonym Andrew MacDonald), states that if books were banned in America, this novel would surely be banned. It's good that The Turner Diaries is not banned. The novel should actually be more widely circulated. Its underground reputation and its scarcity in bookstores have boosted its legend far beyond what the book delivers. Were this book stacked against other novels that profess ideologies, this infamous novel would finally be seen for what it is: a dull adventure novel that takes itself very seriously and as a consequence, is rife with much unintended comedy.

The story comes in the form of a diary written by an educated conservative gun-lover named Earl Turner in the futuristic world of America, circa 1991 (the novel was originally published in 1978). From the outset, the author shamelessly sets up this future world so that he and his gun-loving brethren appear as oppressed martyrs for freedom. The "Cohen Act" has outlawed firearms and anyone caught with one is subject to arrest and imprisonment. A police state not dissimilar to that which exists in America in 2008 lays siege to the America in this novel. The part of the police state that most troubles Earl Turner is having his beloved guns outlawed.

The unintended humor of this novel comes to light within the first 50 pages. The unabashed hypocrisy of the author and his movement is stunning. The "patriots" in The Turner Diaries live in small Communistic "units" -- think "terror cells" -- that resemble urban communes: Turner and his commune reside in an abandoned auto garage that has no hot water, but does have makeshift, pirated electricity and heat. Everything among the "patriots" is shared, they each contribute to the commune according to their talents: Katherine, the only female in Earl Turner's commune is an expert with make-up, so she specializes in creating disguises for the others; Earl Turner is an electrical engineer, so he wires the bombs and sets up the cold water shower for the group. Henry and George, the other two guys in the unit, are just a couple of hairy-forearmed, true-believing grunts.

What Turner and his commune -- and the other communes that comprise their gun-loving Woodstock Nation, known as "The Organization" -- are that these people, regardless of age, education, walk-of-life, or gender are all addicts. Instead of being addicted to narcotics, they are addicted to guns: a knee-jerk "I-want-this-and-you-can't-tell-me-I-can't" ideology. Like a dope fiend -- such as Rush Limbaugh, for instance -- they are addicted to the phony sense of empowerment, god-like-ness their weapons give them, and ultimately to the violence the guns make possible. In the same way a drug user will reason, "It's my body and I should have control over whatever I choose put into it," so too do Turner and his commune believe in their right to possess guns.

That is paramount to understanding The Turner Diaries -- the main character and his commune are addicts. To support their habit, these addicts plot to destroy everyone who stands between them and their satisfying their habit, robbing and murdering in order to feed their addiction. Although Earl Turner continually sneers about other, "lesser" races lacking moral fiber, being filled with uncouth blood and living as prisoners to their basic instincts, he and his commune are guilty of each of these sins; often to a greater extent than those he criticizes and despises. For instance, Turner and his people are among that minute fraction of the population who murder other human beings. Moreover, Turner and his commune are part of the fraction within that fraction who believe killing innocents -- even of their own precious race -- is justified because it suits The Organization's needs. What are these profound needs that are so important as to make Turner and his ilk feel justified in murdering literally hundreds and hundreds of people? The need to own a gun -- to feed his addiction. There may be numerous addicts in the world, but how many have devolved to these deranged depths?

The author of the novel rightly predicted that the news media of the future would be completely compromised and utterly subverted for propagandist purposes. How do the commune-living "patriots" of The Turner Diaries wish to deal with those reporters with whom they disagree? They wish to cut their throats and pile their bodies in city streets. In Earl Turner's "free" America, no one would have the freedom to disagree with him. Guns in this futuristic world were taken away from the populace because of the violence perpetrated with these weapons. How does Turner and his commune prove they are worthy of owning firearms? By killing people -- many, many people (nearly 1,000 by the end of the first 100 pages), most of them unarmed and no direct threat to Earl Turner.

This is not to say The Turner Diaries is a one-note white supremacist rant. It's not. Early on, Earl Turner turns on the musk-oil charm and seduces Katherine. One morning, while the other two men are out on a "mission", Earl Turner walks into the little shower closet just as she finishes showering. You can almost hear the wah-guitar come in as this fish-white Terry-Nichols-like main character stands naked before Katherine. His big move to get the carnal action rolling? He holds out his arms to her, like a guy in community theater porn. Earl Turner has all the suavity of John Madden. So, Turner begins the sort of godless, hedonistic sexual relationship with the woman behind the backs of his comrades -- just the sort of extravagance he would deride the hippies of the 1960s for carrying on, or worse, modern day liberals. Yeah, the society of the heroes in The Turner Diaries is bleak and reeking of hypocrisy. They commit all the same sins of the people they profess to hate. None of this is surprising, though it just gives an interesting insight into the frighteningly narrow, shallow world of white supremacists.

After blowing up an FBI building and bombing The Washington Post, destroying a printing press, Earl Turner and his merry band of sociopaths lament the negative media attention their "heroic" acts receive:
What's happening now is reminiscent of the media campaign against Hitler and the German's back in the 1940's: stories about Hitler flying into rages and chewing carpets, phony German plans for the invasion of America, babies being skinned alive to make lampshades and then boiled down into soap, girls kidnapped and sent to Nazi "stud farms." The Jews convinced the American people that those stories were true, and the result was World War II, with millions of the best of our race butchered -- by us -- and all of eastern and central Europe turned into a huge, communist prison camp.
If Earl Turner had even a rudimentary knowledge of American history, he would know that it was the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor that brought America into World War II. And the "stories" of Nazis atrocities are corroborated by tens of thousands of photographs and libraries of documentation created and kept by the Nazis, themselves, along with tens of thousands of eye witnesses. In short, this single passage illustrates that Earl Turner and his commune -- and the novel's author -- were utterly divorced from reality. I once saw an interview with Ted Bundy, which occurred shortly before he was executed. He claimed that hardcore pornography led him to commit his awful crimes. In fact, authorities never found any pornography among his possessions. What they did find were a number of "majorette" magazines that featured articles on and pictures of female high school majorettes in marching bands. The parallel I'm drawing here is the ability of a psychotic mind to absolutely fabricate stories that can be checked and verified.

As any band of lunatics would do, the Organization refers to its harsh methods of dealing with dissension as "discipline." At one point in the story, Harry Powell, leader of "Unit 5", is ordered by the Organization to assassinate "two of the most obnoxious and outspoken advocates of race mixing". Powell refuses. He wrote back to his superiors "that he was opposed to the further use of violence". He was arrested by members of other units, shot and buried for his trouble.

The Turner Diaries was Tim McVeigh's bible. I read the book in the spirit of Lenny Bruce's comment, "Knowledge of syphilis is not instruction to go out an get syphillis." I've always heard of The Turner Diaries in the context of right wing lunatics. So, I thought I'd see what it was all about. What I found was a trove of unintended satire. The characters' reasoning for their admitted terrorism sounds pretty much like what we'd imagine Osama bin Laden would think rationalizing his acts of terrorism: "Our cause is so righteous, it justifies the killing of innocents."

The world envisioned by white supremacists as conveyed in The Turner Diaries is stark and grim, devoid of the human qualities that make human life worth living: love, art, beauty, dialogue among people, the freedom of people to have their own beliefs. Earl Turner and the author of the novel grope toward a world where "civilization" is whittled down to a band of wary-eyed, sullen white people who punish every infraction among themselves -- no matter how small or insignificant -- with death. It's Communism with a rabid, racist brand label on it. I can just see a person in the group beautifying his home in some way that makes the rest of the stunted commune accuse him of having "Jew blood" somewhere back in his family. Who proceed to stone the guy to death just because he painted his front door a color deemed "unpatriotic" by the rest of the clan. The people in and who embrace The Turner Diaries think very highly of themselves as they strive to undo every advance that has made civilization as we know it. They refer to people of races they hate as "mud people," but it's The Turner Diaries crowd who seek the primordial mud of incest and cannibalism and arbitrary murder. Actually, I believe a world such as this does already exist. We know it as Hell.

7 comments:

Ascendantlive said...

Thanks for the review..the unintended humor aside, I can see some parallels between parts of this books ideology and today's politics. It plays the definition game, patriotic and traitor, freedom and oppression, peace and violence all become interchangeable terms. Politicians love to spout off the common terms of American values(freedom, democracy, etc) but the freedom and democracy they're usually referring to is not my definition.
As for the ideology it's amazing what people can convince themselves is true despite all evidence to the contrary...what I don't understand is how does the author justify death, destruction and murder, how does it advance their cause of wanting guns and white people? Are they basically successful in their cause? Nevermind every violent terrorism campaign in history has failed to bring about any change. Do their acts of terrorism actually overthrow the government? If so the book is far far from reality, since every act of such terrorism would likely bring down the full wrath of the nation as it did with McVeigh.

This may be an interesting parallel - Edward Abbey's the Monkey Wrench Gang - A book about western U.S. eco-terrorists, no racism, no murder, but an awful lot of property damage. In the end their terrorism failed as well, failed to stop the development of land, strip mining, etc. They were basically 'good' people, but became caught up in their own self-righteousness, they became their cause and could do no wrong. From parts of the book I got the feeling that some of the eco-terrorists didn't care so much about the cause as having a cause.

Did the Turner Diaries provide any insight into these gun-toting supremacists, or is it just plain excuses for hatred and violence?

Tor Hershman said...

People buy books in America but they don't, for the most past, read them lest banning would be.

Stay on groovin' safari,
Tor

Tor Hershman said...

orrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
even the most PART

some even proofread

Whetam Gnauckweirst said...

The Turner Diaries did provide insight into these gun-toting supremacists, showing them to be a bunch of cowards who don't have ideas or ideals that can be articulated. They are tremendously unevolved and wish to have us all back living in trees. They hate organized society because they are terminal children who will forever want cake for every meal and entertain themselves by pulling the wings off of flies and shoving firecrackers into the mouths of frogs. Except these overgrown children wish to kill anyone who doesn't agree with their way of life.

The author never makes any attempt to justify the killing of innocents in the novel. I think this is because he knew he was preaching to the choir and any and all bloodshed would be cheered.

The carnage and stupidity overwhelmed me by page 100, so I never found out if the delusional author had his "heroes" overthrow the government.

I'm glad I read the book, though. These things that hide in shadows have to be uprooted and dragged into the light. They wilt under scrutiny.

Mike Cane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Cane said...

Let me try again, since I neglected to do a proper hyperlink.

Take 2:

Brilliant. Linked.

Matthew St. Amand Does It Damned Good

f-that said...

Hrm, First let me say I have never read the book though I have heard about it a lot. I must say for a review that rails against knee jerk reactions this review pretty much read like a knee jerk reaction. I'm quite liberal but I love guns. I never understood why gun enthusiasts are so reviled by "liberals". It's really kind of disturbing when you are on the other side of it. When I bought my first pistol most of my friends suddenly acted like I was some sort of lunatic. I'm sure there are many reasons to dislike the Turner Diaries, I just can't agree that supporting the right to bear arms is one of them. The Framers put that one in for a reason...and it wasn't so people could go hunting. Be careful what liberties you give up in the name of safety.