The Turner Diaries
In hopes of forestalling the inevitable chorus of condemnation from the Left, I shall say one thing right from the start. The Turner Diaries is one of the most disturbing and unpleasant books I have ever read. I only read it the first time around because people were telling me that I shouldn't read it. (I followed this logic with The Satanic Verses as well, which is even less readable and vastly overrated.) I recently reread the book and I cannot say that it improved.
The Turner Diaries is set in the very near future (from when the book was published) and covers a race war within an unrecognisable version of the United States. The ‘hero’ of the book, a member of an organisation known only as the Organisation (imaginative, I'm sure), finds himself arrested for possessing illegal guns, weeks after the private possession of all handguns has been prohibited. This search nets so many people that the Government – referred throughout as The System – is forced to let most of them go, including Turner. Turner and his cell – the Organisation functions on a similar pattern to the IRA – launch a terrorist campaign against the System. The System finds itself unable to fight back effectively, although Turner notes that time is in fact on its side.
The System is very much the nightmare of the Far Right. It is controlled by the Jews (portrayed in very unflattering terms), and enforced by the Blacks, who are portrayed in even more unflattering terms. (Basically, every Black man in the story is a rapist dope-fiend one step removed from the jungle.) The System is backed up by a massive propaganda outlet, which sees to it that hardly anyone dares offer resistance, for fear of being branded a racist. Most of white America has been emasculated by the System and cannot fight back effectively. Turner’s voice drips contempt for them, an attitude that flows through the entire book.
Turner himself comes across as a strange combination of traits. On one hand, he is a racist and probably a sexist. On the other, he is capable of extreme bravery, love (he falls in love with one of his cell mates) and devotion to his cause. This is noted by his superiors and he finds himself inducted into The Order (an SS-like group existing within the Organisation, but unknown to the majority of its members) and charged with defending the white race at all costs. This also gets him into considerable trouble; during the course of the war, Turner accidentally exposes himself to the System and gets arrested for his pains. The Order takes a very dim view of such failure.
Luckily for Turner, they are remarkably forgiving for such an organisation. The Order ‘merely’ promises him a chance to redeem himself and sends him back to work. The action moves to California, where the Organisation is finally ready to make a move towards the endgame, the overthrow of the System itself. Turner becomes a very important personage within the Organisation as the group comes out into the open, taking over California and eventually expanding up against the System (and ethnically cleansing the occupied zone of every last Black, Jew and Race Traitor.) In the nuclear stand-off that follows, Turner is finally offered his chance to redeem himself by flying a nuclear-armed plane into the Pentagon, decapitating the System (and killing himself in the process.) The Organisation, as the epilogue makes clear, uses this opportunity to take over America, Europe and then the world. After slaughtering every last non-white in existence, they all lived happily ever after.
(Except for Turner, who’s dead.)
What can one say about such a book?
The writer, and I say this without regard for his politics or his worldview, was an evil genius who could have gone far, had he chosen to write more mainstream books. Turner comes across as a surprisingly well drawn and likeable character (indeed, almost sympathetic); it takes thought and reflection to realise just how warped his worldview truly is, or just what kind of monster he was. Turner is a man who could be kind and loving at one point, and utterly sadistic the next. His particular brand of evil is justified quite extensively; Turner, one feels, believes that the ends always justify the means. He thinks nothing of fighting fire with fire. It is clear that the ends of the Organisation (and the Order) are actually very similar to the System, with the only real difference being the people in charge.
I have believed for quite some time that if you read a book, you have to accept the underlying premise. (There’s no point in reading a book about dragons if you cannot accept that dragons exist, at least in the book.) The underlying premise of The Turner Diaries is a dark and sinister one, the more so for being presented in a manner that almost requires one to accept it. Turner defines himself against a background of social decay, degeneration and hopelessness – the more so because of the rising tide of violence and anarchy. The stereotypes within the book only enhance that effect, the more so because all stereotypes tend to contain a hint of truth. There is nothing particularly subtle about the message, but it is chillingly easy to get sucked under into the miasma. The book was a hit with its intended readership and it is easy to understand why.
The book also reveals the underlying hypocritical nature of those who share Turner’s belief system. Turner believes, firmly, in the right to keep and bear arms, yet he is unwilling to extend that right to anyone who doesn’t agree with him on all points. Turner believes in protecting women – there are several incidents in the book where he intervenes to protect white women on the verge of being raped by black men – but it is protection on his terms. The concept of female equality is dismissed; women in Turner’s world, even his lover, are required to be seen and not heard. The Madonna/Whore syndrome is a large part of Turner’s mindset and it shows. Don’t even mention gays, liberals or mixed-race couples. The latter, in particular, come in for special bashing. Towards the end of the book, they are all gleefully wiped out, exposing the true nature of Turner’s belief system. Like all fascist and communist groups, The Organisation cannot tolerate any other group’s mere existence. Compromise, even with Conservatives, is impossible. It is a world where George W. Bush and Barrack Obama would end up hanging together from a lamppost, while Hilary would be firmly bitch-slapped and sent back to the kitchen.
I believe (from old and probably unreliable memory) that some groups saw The Turner Diaries as a guidebook to the inevitable race war. (Which, for some strange reason, has not materialised.) Unfortunately for them, much about the war described in The Turner Diaries doesn't make sense. The System is brutally incompetent and weighed down by its own insane social policies (one assumes that the National Guards have been disbanded, as there is no mention of them within the book) and the Organisation is far too good at keeping it off balance. In reality, I suspect that the cities would be fairly easy to control, but the countryside would become a seething mass of discontent.
The author (purely by accident, I suspect) does make one good point, although he plays it up so much that it is hard to recognise that there is an important point underneath. The word ‘racist’ has been grossly overused, to the point where people are afraid to bring charges against ethnic minorities (or pay attention to the less savoury aspects of such groups) because they find themselves accused of being racist. In reality, this means that forced marriages and poor treatment of women is ignored; in the book, a white girl can be forced to allow a black guy to have sex with her...or be branded a racist. The word is so badly devalued that it is now effectively meaningless, used only as a magic talisman to keep away the evil. (I shall hear no evil, cries the liberal, blocking his ears to the screams of the victims.)
It does not require an application of logic and reason to realise that, seen in the cold light of day, that Turner’s world is not only warped, but unrealistic. If the Jews are as all-powerful as Turner suggests, why exactly have they been getting the short end of the stick for so long? The book claims that the ‘great one’ (Hitler) led the charge that crippled Jewish power for years, but Jews have been persecuted since time out of mind. That’s a little odd for the secret rulers of the world. Hitler was hardly the first anti-Semite to gain power and he wasn't the last. And then there’s the version of black men...there isn’t a single redeeming character (good or bad) in the book, with one exception. A conservative member of the Organisation refuses to carry out an attack that would have resulted in civilian deaths...and, for this, is put to death by Turner and his men.
Turner’s world is not ours. Let’s be grateful.
It's hard to give the book any rating. On one hand, I am impressed with the author’s skill at creating a book that conveyed his message so well. (People who say that this is easy have never tried it.) On the other hand, his message is profoundly disturbing and dishonest, not least because it bears little relationship to reality. If you want to read a book about noble patriots taking on the might of a corrupt American government, read Unintended Consequences or A State of Disobedience instead. At least they have characters you can root for.