An Antiracist's Reading: The Turner Diaries

I read The Turner Diaries, so you don’t have to. It’s a bad book. If you need to know about this book, here’s my notes on what I think you need to know.

Okay, this is going to turn into a Choose Your Own Adventure post, now that we’re past the part that shows up as a preview if you link this on social media or whatever. For the full experience, read these sections through from the top and stop where I tell you. Don’t take the content warning in the tags for this post lightly.

I don’t know much about the book. Maybe I’ve heard of it in passing?

The Turner Diaries is an explicitly racist and antisemitic novel, written by William Luther Pierce. It’s about a (fictional) white nationalist organization and how it goes from being an underground terrorist organization to controlling the whole world. It has, in large or small part, inspired numerous white nationalist terrorist attacks.

You don’t need to read this book. If you’re looking for bad books to make fun of, I totally understand where you’re coming from, and you should skip this one. In terms of its basic plot, pacing, and composition, it isn’t bad enough that there’s that much fun to be made of it. You don’t need to finish reading this blog post either. I’d encourage you to stop reading here: even if you’re interested in neo-Nazi movements, there are better ways to do that than to read some internet rando’s blog post about a Nazi novel. I read this book because this is a subject I actively and personally study, and I’m mostly writing this for people who do the same and would prefer not to read the book (yet).

If you’re looking for something about modern racism to read, I’d recommend How To Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.. If you’re looking for something about modern antisemitism, I’d recommend Antisemitism: Here and Now by Deborah Lipstadt.

If you’re looking for an entertaining read, try Jam by Yahtzee Crowshaw. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s definitely shaping up to be much better than The Turner Diaries. Which isn’t saying much, but y’know.

Alright, if this was “your section,” stop here and close the page. Or go check out something else I wrote. Or, if you must, keep going. I’m not your mom.

I’ve already read The Turner Diaries or its synopsis.

You may or may not get anything out of this post; these are just the notes I took while I read the book. Some of it’s a half-assed synopsis, some of it might have some useful insight. Your call as to whether or not to stop here.

Yup, this still sounds like my kind of blog post.

If you just want a synopsis or a summary of the cultural reaction to this book, just head to Wikipedia.

Then let’s get started.

  • Here’s the three things in this book I imagine will be referenced the most regularly.

    • Cohen bill: guns are illegal, and the state confiscates weapons and may give a 10-year prison sentence if weapons aren’t surrendered. Also used to argue against gun registration. Points out that weapons aren’t taken from black neighborhoods because the bill is only enforced against “racists and fascists.” Much later in the book, it’s remarked that it’s a good thing that Black people don’t have guns due to the Cohen act anyway.
      • This all starts in chapter 1. As if, say, they wanted to immediately disabuse the reader from the idea that antifascists have any reason for existing but to attack their outgroup–white people.
      • That comment about how it’s good that Black people and (again, as the book would phrase it) race traitors had their guns taken away is similar to opinions I’ve actually heard about red flag laws. (Well, that one militia rando that I don’t care to look back up was talking about antifascists and Communists, but I’d caution you from discounting the link between the two too much.)
    • The Day Of The Rope: on August 1st, 1993, the terrorist group (called The Organization, while the US government is called The System) executes large numbers of (again, as the book would put it–I won’t be pointing this out or scare-quoting racist terminology after this for style reasons) race traitors and race defilers. I’ll elaborate when we get to the part about chapter 23.
    • The Day Of Martyrs: November 9th, the anniversary of Turner (the protagonist) suicide-bombing the Pentagon with a nuclear bomb, delivered by a low-flying aircraft. We’ll get to that at the end.
  • This book has a quick foreword about how the body of the work consists of the diaries of Earl Turner. It begins to establish the world. The book promptly jumps into the diaries, with an occasional one-or-two line digression describing parts of the world that the (fictional) distant-future reader might find confusing. After the end of the diaries, there’s an afterword, establishing what happened to the world in the years after their completion. (Spoiler: The Organization wins, keeps warring, and eventually turns the world into one textbook-fascist world government.

  • I used Flesh to calculate the Flesch reading ease of the whole book’s text. It scores 55.87, implying that this is roughly grade 10 to 11 material. You could say this book is intended for reasonably smart 16 to 25-year-olds. Chapters are typically fairly short. The book is about 90,000 words long.

    • Generally, reading this proved perversely refreshing for a while. You don’t need to keep your eye out for racist subtleties. They’re all, like, right there. From the first couple pages, I mean. It makes no pretenses about what it is. Turner doesn’t even complain about being called racist/fascist, even as the author is clearly making some sort of commentary on the demonization of Real Americans or whatever.
    • Pierce was quite educated, and Turner’s hobbies and skills throughout the book (electronics, chemistry, physics, …) are reflected in his own youth. Pierce’s highest academic achievement was a PhD in physics from the University of Colorado. He’d later teach physics for a few years before taking up extreme-right organizing.
  • The book opens with the passing of the Cohen Bill, and a group of Black thugs break into Turner’s house, tearing through his house searching for weapons. (Most of them are hidden underground, outside of town. Yes, they’re retrieved a handful of chapters later.) They’re said to be too stupid to find where his one weapon is actually hidden–in a door frame–but a White officer with a metal detector finds it, has the thugs tear it from the wall, and Turner is arrested. They’d investigated because he was a known racist, and because the police’s records didn’t show he’d turned in his registered weapons. He’s rounded up with many, many others for some time–too many to book–and then released after some time with the note that the state could come round him back up and press charges whenever it liked. He seems to think this makes it a good time to get started on the entire terrorism thing, since the state is coming for him anyway. He and a few other Organization members/sympathizers rob and pillage and set up a little home base in a remote, abandoned building around Washington DC.

  • You can see little echoes of how Pierce really slept around in chapter 4. Nice how, what, the only woman with more than a couple throwaway mentions across more than one chapter “naturally” becomes Turner’s sex kitten or whatever in the first quarter of the book, as a natural consequence of happening into accidentally seeing each other naked?

    • The book teases that one of the other members of the household might have also had some interest in Katherine, this love interest. This is somewhat quickly dropped.
  • The default in-universe liberalism is framed as socially-default, unnatural thought (or passive lack thereof), constructed to promote the construction of the police state/deny the reality of race and the inherent virtue of racially cohesive society. These truths are apparently to be reintroduced to people with some rough connection to the movement. In Katherine’s case, this seems to have been the… normal liberal behavior of keeping weapons to fend off the violent, raping-and-murdering straw-Blacks attacking her family. (And, yes, this is how virtually every Black person in the book is said to behave.)

    • “None of the bigotry, none fo the guilt it takes to make a really committed, full-time liberal.” -ch. 4, concerning Katherine, if I recall.
    • I won’t bother to mention each and every time some random Black thug comes around to rape and rob and pillage, or every time a Jew acts stereotypically conniving, etc. For the most part, Pierce isn’t being that creative about how he paints non-Whites as subhuman. Turner’s solution is usually to dress up in Black/Brown/Jewface and play to ridiculous, hammy, racist stereotypes. Which everyone usually falls for. Otherwise, the solution is to shoot everyone else. This seems to happen whenever Pierce felt the chapter’s pacing was a little slow.
    • As the book progresses, the full list of enemies of the Organization unfolds: it’s liberals, communists, conservatives, libertarians, Jews, and anyone non-White. Go full fash or die, folks.
  • Chapter 4, we learn they’re going to go blow up an FBI building. That’s some of the most action-movie-villain shit ever. Pierce is all fuckin’ “we live in a society”, I swear to goddamn.

  • Turner is framed as a sort-of handy everyman with some specific technical skills: electronics, communications, and explosives. He meets some other cell where none of the members have even basic electrical competence–he looks down on them at first, then is surprised by some of their other unusual competencies.

    • If you’re trying to build a terrorist movement with staying power, there’s a lot of advice that looks basically technically sane in this book. This kinda trojan-horse makes the racism and antisemitism seem more reasonable: it’s right next to a bunch of plausibly smart stuff, after all! Up to this point, it’s nearly giving off a mediocre-fanfic vibe, actually.
    • The bomb-making in this book generally seems technically plausible. (Pierce did at least have some basic chemistry competence.)
  • Apparently, Turner thinks Americans are metaphorical slaves of the state, and it’s immigrants’ faults. And he thinks the liter iron chains are coming. He thinks that this will result in the (literal, not this) genocide of the White race.

  • The bombing goes well for them: they successfully kill a lot of people and take out a computer system that the government was going to use as part of a wide-reaching ID verification program. As in, if you go to a store to buy something, are a known Organization affiliate, and scan your ID as required, the police will be right along to arrest you.

  • Turner’s cell attacks the Washington Post for spreading lies.

    • Concerning an editor they attack: “His words dripped with Talmudic hatred.”
  • Chapter 7, we get to the part about where Turner starts talking about how great Nazis are, and how so many good White lives had been lost to Jewish lies. Alrighty then Pierce.

    • I’m not doing a blow-by-blow synopsis; where I have gaps between these chapters, they’re just plotting or carrying out more-or-less interesting terrorist attacks, or Turner philosophizes about how people who don’t support the ethnostate are Bad. Ok? Ok. Not all of it really struck me as worth mentioning.
  • The Organization, the “editor” character, and Turner are neither straightforwardly male-chauvinist or antisexist.

    • Feminism is bad because there are bad consequences to being under the delusion that you’re anything but just a woman.
    • Femininity is good–when it’s used to help the warrior men make their white ethnostate. Otherwise it’s weak and bad.
    • The Organization is gender-neutral, except that it isn’t at all. When straws are drawn, only men draw them. Men can veto orders given to their wives, but women can’t.
    • Turner considers that the Organization respects their woman more than the rest of the culture at-large.
    • Feminism is blamed for the legalization of rape–yes, the legalization of rape is explicitly discussed in the book’s text–and it’s because it’s bad to insinuate that women are weaker than men and that they have to be prevented from being raped. And also because of antiracism, because making rape illegal was disproportionately effecting the mobs of Black rapists.
      • Nope, not making that shit up. Sorry. There are loads of fun misogynist and misandrist implications here, as an added bonus, like the assumption that all rape is female-on-male. (All of it isn’t in this book, actually: when Turner is tortured later in the book, it explicitly includes male-on-male sexual violence, albeit without the use of a penis.)
  • Okay, I said I wasn’t going to mention every situation where Pierce paints all Black people as stupid thugs (etc.), but I’ll do some of ’em. He doesn’t stop pounding that drum for very long, at any given time.

    • Chapter 10: “…diverted the police from their regular duties and the Blacks and other criminal elements are really taking advantage of it.” So there’s a one-to-one correspondence between the set of Black people and Black criminals.
      • Also ignoring all of his personal violent robberies, even before the bombings.
    • ibid. “deputizing large numbers of Blacks from the welfare rolls, the way they did for the Gun Raids.” Shock surprise that he’d think this–and this might be anachronic, I haven’t checked–but statistically shouldn’t he be shitting on White women for recieving welfare at least as much?
  • A few chapters ago, we also got some glimmers of homophobia. Isn’t it semi-well-known that in practice, Pierce kind of slept around with anyone? Like, that he was David Duke-tier slutty? I recall hearing–roughly, sorry, it’s been a few weeks–(here, IIRC?) an anecdote of the police being called on some meeting at his home in which a woman was making a scene outdoors. Turns out that woman was his mistress, and she was upset about being made to stay on the couch, because he was sharing his bed with a visiting man. Makes me wonder if he felt some sort of inner conflict in writing that.

  • References to the need to follow the Organization’s missions with religious fervor run abound. The Book is introduced–some high secret Organization manifesto–and Turner says of it that “…we are truly the instruments of God in the fulfillment of His Grand Design…,” followed by commentary about how he never was religious.

  • He’s then inducted into The Order (a really stereotypical basement circle robe cult. Made me remember the NWA in Hot Fuzz, honestly) for passing a drug-enhanced interrogation and his efforts in the war. He’s given a pendant with a suicide pill, and directions to take it in the event he’d be imminently captured.

    • Are you fucking serious?
      • Well, I guess the target audience is 16. Wonder if the people who loved this book would’ve also been fans of Attack On Titan if it weren’t before their time or something. (All the Asian people involved aside, natch.)
  • Chapter 12: turns out the Mafia runs a lot of labor unions in this universe.

  • Ibid, the Jews sell White women into slavery. Or least a specific one of them does. Whose name I won’t bother repeating, because I’m not bothering with all of the other racial slurs that Pierce strews around the entire book. He finds this out because a woman he talks to in a slumhouse sold an annoying (White, naturally) roommate to the guy. Turner is upset, pitches a bit of a fuss, and gets noticed by others in the slumhouse. That leads right into next chapter’s raid–turns out they sold him out.

  • Chapter 13: Turner is captured in a raid on the grouphouse due to a mishap with his own explosives that were supposed to cover his and everyone elses’ escapes (the rest do escape), is rehabilitated and relieved of his suicide pill, and finds him locked inside an FBI building basement. They’re leaving him to Israeli intelligence (again, in the FBI building), and the “editor” character explains the supposed evil of the Eichmann trial.

    • And the Israeli guy tortures Turner for information in various ways that make the FBI escorts wince. Pierce emphasizes the way that he Jewishly gloats about how this is also what he’s done before in Germany and Palestine.
      • Interestingly, despite how Pierce is also perfectly willing to blast Arabs the same as any other non-White peoples (including in this book!), Hezbollah has apparently also reprinted some of Pierce’s speeches on the Arab-Israeli conflict. I also learned that Pierce was invited to speak about white nationalism on the Discovery Channel in ’98. Weird, no?
    • He’s kept in solitary for 14 months, which he describes as somewhat welcome, in part because he would “not… have to worry about Blacks, which would have been a real curse in ordinary prison.” There’s a lot of other Organization people locked up in there, and then the Organization starts blowing up the prison and escorts everyone out. Yaaaaaaaaay?
  • Ok yadda yadda chapter 14 they’re gonna make him go on a suicide mission for not biting his kill pill and getting captured, because the Order can’t set a precedent of being weak with their judgments, etc. etc., how very tropey.

    • There’s a fleeting reference to the “great unwashed proletariat” in another one of Turner’s diatribes about all the greedy White familymen who remain “passive” despite the slow invasion of all of these Jews and Blacks. Cute how he slips into typically Marx-coded language here, if you ask me. Anyway.
    • They’ve switched gradually from terrorism to guerilla warfare meant to force civilians into action, explicitly taking inspiration from African warlords.
    • Conservatives are accused of “giving another round of concessions to the Blacks.” Conservatism is still far too liberal for Turner. Or Pierce. Again, the book wants you to go full fash, no holds barred.
  • Later, Organization members are said to be killed by an Israeli execution squad (this is still all in the US…), and by Mafia contractors working under the feds. (Both are said to be masterminded by Jews, natch.)

  • Chapter 17 explicitly denies the gas chamber executions.

  • 20: the past few chapters have been building to approximate societal collapse in California.

    • Turner trains tens of people outside of his usual cell on electronics, ordinance, and how to plan attacks. All of them, him included, are shipped out to make an attack in California.
    • They’re getting ridiculous numbers of recruits. They get a large minority of the US Armed Forces, at least for a terrorist organization. This caused military infighting and self-destruction–units are casting out their own Black soldiers. Police lead the counter-resistance at this point.
    • The Organization can now pretty much break out fire on Black people in public with impunity.
  • 21: food and drug scarcity among civilians begin. Black people begin eating White people, including setting up at least one entire apartment complex as a slaughterhouse.

    • Yep, he fucking went there.
  • 23: Finally got to the part with The Day Of The Rope. All White “race traitors” and “race defilers” on Organization lists in California are hanged (or at least those who weren’t shot on the spot for putting up too much protest), pretty much anywhere the Organization can tie ropes. (Think a body or two dangling around per city block.) This is meant to send a message to the rest of the public and to incite the public to perform even more lynchings. Turner claims to have had a few instrumental roles in organizing all of this.

    • “Race traitors” include people who accepted money to make integrated housing more available, even if begrudgingly.
    • “Race defilers” include Whites who live with or marry anyone non-White. (And, again, Jews don’t count.)
    • Also hanged are any White people they found by mistake, because they can’t have a reputation for hesitation and because most White people are apparently too traitorous (i.e. liberal) anyway.
      • Apparently they’ll give marginally more clemency to their own, seeing as Turner is supposed to head out on a suicide mission before too long, instead of being killed by the Order on the spot. Ho hum.
  • 24: About 200 nuclear bombs are planned to be hand-smuggled into California. Meanwhile, redevelopment in California is ongoing.

    • “Jews and other Bolshevik elements” are discussed–the old cultural Bolshevism canard is invoked explicitly, finally. (You’ll still see this one to this very day. And it’s basically Jordan Peterson’s catchphrase at this point, also, so it is getting mainstreamed again.) I’m sure all the bits blaming liberalism on Jews just take it as some sort of Bolshevik conspiracy to tip towards Bolshevism over time. (I really don’t see many Bolsheviks actually doing this, looking at the Soviets and the disputes between the historic Antifaschistische Aktion and Iron Front (I’d urge the reader to consider how either groups’ symbols are used today with caution and an awareness for the semi-anachronicity, of course).)
  • 25: Turner heads back to Washington DC. The Organization detonates two bombs, and demands a message to be broadcast, threatening similar attacks if it isn’t read, and threatening (paraphrasing here) “the Jewish presence in Palestine” if The Organization’s controlled (“liberated”) Californian territory is threatened. Turner personally feels some of the blast.

    • The part about the broadcast really plays up how Jewish the newscaster is, and how furious he is that these people are threatening his Jewish agenda.
    • Turner opines that this was a bluff–neither target was NYC, and he mentions that the “megakikes” in NYC (clearly meaning millions of Jews, in this context, not really-intense-Jews) would’ve made NYC a better initial target.
    • The trends of all of their disguises being stupid stereotypes (Latinx people this time! That’s a first!) and the continued denial of non-White humanity continues en-masse. Apparently, if White soldiers make friends with a Black soldier, they’ll just end up joining the Black person in thinking that murder and rape are fun things to do.
    • Turner describes the difference between the “liberated” and US-controlled US as more spiritual than practical. (He’d waxed poetic earlier about the beauty of all of these innocent White souls and White children working to build society back up…)
    • Oh, and the broadcast said that they’re coming for the next of the world next. (Pretty damn optimistic, seeing as they basically control a little slice of the Californian coastline at this point.)
  • 26: The (as-of-yet-unmentioned, as far as I’d noticed) border around the Pentagon expands, killing most of Turner’s old guard, including his love interest while he’s off on an errand. They were being evacuated, but then died in a struggle stemming from how the only things Black characters do in this book are theft and rape. The single surviving member of the cell relays the news to him. Then, nuclear bombs are detonated in Baltimore (presumably because it’s around half-Black) and New York (because there are lots of Jews, as we’d discussed…), the US retaliates with an ineffective nuclear strike in California, then The Organization nukes Israel (yep, Jews again…) and the Soviet Union (in order to force the US to launch most of the rest of their arsenal at the Soviets to prevent Soviet retaliation).

    • The subtext that all that was lost in attacking Russia were Bolshevik lives is left unstated, and the death toll there is left unmentioned.
    • Can’t wait to be done with this stupid fucking book. Almost there…
  • Last chapter: Turner finally gets his suicide mission, taking a dive into the Pentagon with a nuke in tow. The diaries are saved, the epilogue says that he succeeded and that November 9th was declared the Day of Martyrs, it explains how The Organization takes over the world over the coming years and forms a global totalitarian White ethnostate, and the credits metaphorically roll. You get a handful of pages of denouement.

Closing thoughts

I’m so fucking glad I’m done reading this awful book and typing up this post (which is now around 4% of the length of the book itself). Don’t read it if you don’t really have to. It’s dumb and bad and not even an ironically fun experience. Peace out.