Like Imperium, The Turner Diaries are a mainstay of the lunatic fringe. It is also a classic millennial text. I have never read this book, and I have no intention to. However, John read and reviewed it because the millennial impulse can and does break out in the real world, and we ought to know how bad it can get.
The Turner Diaries
by "Andrew MacDonald" (William L. Pierce)
The National Alliance, 1978
Approx. 80,000 words
WARNING TO THE READER: This is the most repulsive book I have ever reviewed. Persons offended by descriptions of virulent racism and of the advocacy of genocide may not wish to continue reading.
According to Michael Barkun in Religion and the Racist Right (p. 225 et seq.), the author of "The Turner Diaries" is one William L. Pierce, writing under the pseudonym "Andrew MacDonald." Pierce received a doctorate in physics from the University of Colorado and worked in industry and as a university instructor before becoming involved with Nazi groups in the 1960s. "The Turner Diaries" appeared from 1975 to 1978 as a serial in "Attack!," a publication of the National Alliance, an American Nazi faction led by Pierce. ("Attack" [Der Angriff] was also the name of the paper Josef Goebbels founded in Berlin in the 1920s.) The book was first published as a paperback in 1978, and Barkun cites a second edition, also published by the National Alliance (Washington, DC 1980). The text for this review was found online, without copyright, at http://members.tripod.com/~EdgarS/TurnerD/turner.html in December 1997.
"The Turner Diaries" has been around for about 20 years at this writing. This work has long been of some interest to students of religious and political cults. What made it famous, however, was the destruction of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. (The date was apparently chosen to commemorate the destruction of the compound of the Branch Davidian sect at Waco, Texas, precisely two years earlier.) The crime was committed with a truck bomb using ammonium nitrate fertilizer as an explosive, a weapon system described in some detail in this book. While there is no reason to believe that the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing were working directly from the historical script set out in "The Turner Diaries," nevertheless the book is well-known in the circles with which they associated. Echoes of names and incidents in the story, such as the racist insurgent group known as the "Order" that appeared in the 1980s, continue to turn up from time to time.
The book purports to have been published in the year 100 of the New Era, which is apparently about AD 2100. In form, the book is a commemorative edition of the diaries of one Earl Turner, a 35 year-old electrical engineer who became a hero of the Great Revolution that preceded the New Era. The diaries cover Turner's activities as an insurgent from 1991 to his death in 1993. The revolution was orchestrated by a guerrilla army known simply as "the Organization." (Its opponents are normally referred to collectively as "the System.") The heart of the Organization was a quasi-religious group known as "the Order," into which Turner is inducted. We learn almost nothing about the governance or history of these bodies, though the Order seems to be inspired by the Templar-model of the SS sometimes favored by Heinrich Himmler, under the apparent influence of the apostate Austrian monk Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels. (See "The Occult Roots of Nazism" by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, New York University Press, 1992) For that matter, there is no systematic exposition of the beliefs of either the Organization or the Order. The diaries are supposed to provide a ground level view of a great event, interspersed with occasional reflections.
Before proceeding to an analysis, it would be helpful to look at a full chronology of the dates and events named in the text. The story is built around a system of commemorative dates. The major events of the Great Revolution are almost all timed to coincide with such anniversaries as Hitler's ascension to the Chancellorship of Germany (January 30), Hitler's birthday (April 20) and, especially, the Beer Hall Putsch and Kristallnacht (November 9). Some of these dates, as well as the sophisticated weapons the author describes, may unfortunately have relevance in the future.
John's interests in cycles of history and millennial movements sometimes led him down strange alleys. One of those was his study of modern international fascism. It is pretty common to slur someone as a fascist, far less common to actually meet one. They still exist, and probably loom larger in the press than their actual numbers, and have, if anything, gotten weirder as the twentieth century waned and turned into the twenty-first.
Imperium comes up here because Yockey's main source was Spengler. It is not at all clear that Yockey understood Spengler, but nonetheless he appropriated Spengler's vocabulary. John was my main source of knowledge about modern international fascism, and also the reason I see just about any political discourse about how "fascist" something or other is as just so much piffle. There are real fascists. They sound like something out of a convoluted conspiracy theory novel, except that they keep insisting on self-publishing books about what they are up to.
Imperium: The Philosophy of History and Politics
by Ulick Varange (Francis Parker Yockey)
The Noontide Press, 1962 (First Published 1948)
626 Pages, US$ 7.75
"Imperium" may be the closest thing that the real world offers to H.P. Lovecraft's fictional "Necronomicon." Though little more than a rumor in the world at large, it is a key text in the underground universe of international fascist ideology, and it seems to have had a significant effect on the development of Traditional Satanism. At the risk of making "Imperium" sound more interesting than it actually is, we may note that the book claims an almost magical essence for itself. By its own account, "Imperium" is "part of a life of action" and "only in form a book at all," so that reading it is more than a merely mental event.
"Imperium" was written in the service of an ambitious cause. The author, Francis Parker Yockey, holds that it is the destiny of the West to found a universal empire, the core of which will be a Nazi Europe. His book promotes European unity and the expulsion of the United States from the continent's affairs, as well as a fascist revolution in the United States itself. "Imperium" is a reprise of history and political theory, designed to show why the outcomes of the world wars of the first half of the 20th century were only temporary setbacks toward the ultimate goal.
If America were a church, Yockey would have been an apostate. Born in Chicago in 1917, he was involved with various right-wing political groups as a young man. He took both a BA and a law degree at Notre Dame University and was commissioned an officer during the Second World War, though he soon received a medical discharge. As a civilian attorney, he served on the staff that helped to prepare war-crimes trials in Germany, but was dismissed for siding with the defendants. (This may have included spying for them.) Yockey retired to Brittas Bay in Ireland to write "Imperium," finishing it in 1948. (January 30 of that year, to be precise: the 15th anniversary of Hitler's accession to the chancellorship of Germany.)
John wrote this book in 1992, based on the output of a program he wrote in BASIC to simulate repeated cycles of history. It is based on the work of both Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee. John had a good sense of humor about the enterprise; he always took himself lightly. John knew that any attempt to pigeonhole history would be an oversimplification at best. Nonetheless, while history doesn't exactly repeat, it does seem to rhyme.
This is a report on the output of a computer program. The program was written to predict the future of the world, from a Western perspective, into the twenty-seventh century A.D. The program does not purport to predict specific events that will occur in time to come. Rather, it seeks to suggest events from many times and places in the past which could be analogous to what will be happening at designated points in the future. This is accomplished by using a simple cyclical model of the development of civilizations. The title of the report alludes to the fact that the model in question is an adaptation of the theory of history created by the German philosopher, Oswald Spengler, particularly as expressed in his great work, The Decline of the West.
Readers should note that Spengler never tried to "predict" the future in anything like the detail attempted here. The "future" outlined in this study can be said to really be Spengler's, in fact, only to the extent that some of it was implicit in his ideas. He can hardly be held responsible for most of what you will read here, since his philosophy was "adapted" for the program by being reduced to four lines of algorithms.
Although the program contains hundreds of data lines from various points in the histories of four civilizations, the output is no more self-explanatory than the hexagrams of the I Ching or a laying of tarot cards. To note that a battle occurred on such and such a date in a given civilization tells you almost nothing; you must know what part it played in the history of the culture in question for it to make any sense. Therefore, most of the text, like a good fortuneteller's patter, consists of the author's own interpretation of what the Delphic echoes from the past produced by the computer might someday represent. The method throughout, with the one exception described immediately below, is to look for harmonies and dissonances among the events from the past described in the output lines. The output lines themselves are given for each segment of the future to which they refer. The length of each segment was suggested to the author by apparent "themes" in consecutive groups of lines. (The temptation to edit them to make them fit better into their segments has been largely resisted.) Readers may therefore construct their own futures by seeing what these lines suggest to them.
An amusing feature of the output is that it attempts to "predict" the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (along with a cursory look at the last half of the eighteenth). The accompanying commentary attempts, with perhaps limited success, to treat these output lines in almost the same fashion as the lines dealing with the distant future are treated. However, it was not quite possible to avoid alluding to events in actual Western history which occurred during these centuries. Since the pattern has been established of using Western events as points of comparison, the commentary for future segments continues the procedure by mentioning imaginary future events of the author's devising. These are deliberately conservative suggestions, inserted for stylistic reasons. They should not be taken seriously.
As a matter of fact, these invented events do not closely resemble the future which the author himself anticipates. That future has far more in common with the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin (or at least Teilhard in his more Augustinian moments) than with those of Oswald Spengler. This book, indeed, can be taken as an attempt to exorcise a private ni.htmlare. At least in the author's mind, this is what will happen if Teilhard and similar optimists turn out to be wrong. Despite its fantastic elements, you will be looking at a "realist" version of the future, the one we will get if the future is like the past.
In the Introduction which follows, Spengler's system is discussed in more detail than the program uses. We also consider the more general question of whether a cyclical view of history can be seriously defended. Readers who are not much interested in this kind of question may confine themselves to reading just the highlighted passages in the Introduction, which simply reproduce the somewhat whimsical Instruction section of the program. Following the Introduction are the Antechronicles themselves (that is, chronicles written before the events they describe). As you will see, these are no more than fiction cobbled together from some historical analogies. They can be "right" only to the extent of being apt metaphors.
Finally, it should be understood that the program in question is a very crude piece of work (written in BASIC!) which really only saved the author a bit of simple arithmetic. It has no nifty graphics and will not be in the stores any time soon.
--John J. Reilly
Strauss and Howe took a slightly different approach in this book from their previous works. This book focuses on one generation, the Millennials, born after 1982. This book in particular gives us an opportunity to revist Strauss and Howe's predictions nearly 15 years later. Pew Research has a report on the tendencies of Millennials in Adulthood that proves interesting.
Strauss and Howe accurately predicted that school performance will improve due to increased focus on mastery of facts, in part due to the bad experiences of Boomer and GenX parents in schools that taught "how to think" without providing anything to think about. They also predicted that economic mismanagment could turn Millennials again the free market, which the Housing Bubble and subsequent recession demonstrated. They also predicted crime would fall. All of these things have indeed happened.
Some not-so-accurate predictions included that church attendance would rise. Strauss and Howe's model suggest that Millennials are especially likely to join institutions, but also that they are especially harsh judges of authority figures that break the rules. The rise of the Nones and a tendency to resist affiliation with either major American political party suggest that either Strauss and Howe were wrong about the supposed acceptance of the legitimacy of the major institutions of the world by Millennials, or that the major institutions of the world fall short in their eyes. There were some darker intimations in the book, pondering how the Millennial generation could be warped by a confluence of terrible events. The prior example Strauss and Howe cite is the Civil War, which should have produced something like a golden age after the successful resolution of the slavery and seccession crisis, but instead turned into a bloody war of brother against brother that left everyone worse off. We can only hope that 9-11 plus a major recession did not have a similar effect now.
Something we can only see the glimmerings at present, but that matches not only Strauss and Howe's model, but Spengler's and Toynbee's as well, is that compromise is becoming impossible in politics. Now, it is relatively harmless, but in the late Republican period of history, losing an election can mean losing your life. This will be worse if the Millennials turn decisively against the institutions that uphold public order. It was much easier to be an optimist in 2000 than 2014.
Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation
by Neil Howe and William Strauss
Vintage Books, 2000
415 Pages, US$14.00
Imagine that Hegel had written a baby-book for doting parents, and you will have the formula for this book. William Strauss and Neil Howe, a political scientist turned theatrical impresario and an economic historian respectively, have been promoting a cyclical model of American history since the appearance in 1991 of their first joint book, "Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069." "Millennials Rising" is rather different from that work and from their heavily theoretical "Fourth Turning." Both those books were characterized by complicated graphs and tables, covering all of American history and then some. Graphs and tables are present in great numbers in this book, too, but this time the information is mostly about a specific generation, the "Millennials," whom the authors say began to be born about 1982 and who should continue to appear for another few years. (There are also original cartoons, some of them quite witty.) According to the authors' system, this generation will be positioned to play a role like that of their grandparents, whom the authors call the GI Generation. In this year when the oldest Millennials turned 18, "Millennials Rising" is intended as a national family snapshot of this generation just as it begins its career as a historical actor.
Strauss and Howe are in a somewhat unusual position for long-term prophets: their predictions tend to be right. They were not, perhaps, the only social critics who forecast a decade ago that crime rates would fall and scholastic performance would rise, but few if any others had a general theory to explain these trends. The same theory made predictions for the cultural climate that are harder to verify but which seem consistent with current developments. (There is a two-frame cartoon in the book which illustrates what the authors call the "Culture Wars" phase of the current 90-year cycle. In the first frame, a hairy young baby-boomer writes "Unconditional Amnesty" on a blackboard in 1968. In the second, his balding older self writes "Zero Tolerance" in 1998. As a younger Boomer myself, I find this deeply embarrassing.) Oddly enough, they have performed least well in the area of economic forecasting, precisely because they have hewn closer to conventional wisdom. The intimations scattered throughout their books that the 1990s and early 2000s will be like the 1920s have not proven helpful. The current economic situation, based on the initial application of novel technologies, is probably much more like that following the Second World War.
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There was something magical and terrible about the end of the nineteenth century. The term coined to describe it, fin de siècle, itself accelerated the process already underway. Apocalyptic expectations can become feedback loops in certain situations. You might call it self-fulfilling prophecy, but in English this term carries a connation of self-deception. What I am describing is far more real. Sometimes, when you expect the world to end, it obliges you.
In John's book, The Perennial Apocalypse, he describes several civilizations that expected the end so fervently that they imploded when a reasonably close facsimile came along. The destruction of the Aztec Empire is a good example of this. What, you really thought 300 Spaniards conquered a highly militarized nation of millions of people?
The Fourth Turning is the book that predicted an American crisis sometime in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Hopefully the authors got better speaking fees afterward. They really got a double-whammy with 9-11 and the Housing Bubble together. John predicted it would start with an international issue, and end with a domestic one. Remember, this was written in 1997. However, it is also too soon to expect resolution. A turning lasts 20-25 years. We are only 13 years in, and 9-11 came a little early. Furthermore, we should expect something of a golden age of peace and prosperity to come after the successful revolution of the Crisis. Clearly, no one feels like that now.
John wanted to give this book another review in 2020. He is no longer with us, but I think it will make for an interesting retrospective in another 5-10 years.
The sense of impending wonder and catastrophe that began to percolate through western civilization toward the end of the nineteenth century did not come to an end when the century year arrived. Rather, in the decade and a half that followed the turn of the century, these intuitions evolved from fantasies in the minds of philosophers and millenarians to become concrete threats visible in broad daylight. When the First World War did break out, almost everyone was surprised by the actual sequence of events. Nevertheless, many people, from Hermann Hesse to H.G. Wells to the Jehovah's Witnesses, immediately knew that this was what they had been waiting for. If the evolution of apocalyptic expectation after the turn of the millennium follows the same pattern, this book could go down as one of the influences that made the sense of impending apocalypse reasonable.
The major reason it could do this is that the authors' theory of history really is reasonable, at least as theories of history go. "The Fourth Turning" expands on the cyclical interpretation of American history which the authors proposed in their 1991 book, "Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069." (Before the publication of that book, William Strauss was best known as a cofounder and director The Capitol Steps cabaret group. Neil Howe is an economist and senior advisor to the Concord Coalition. Now, of course, they are both best known as the authors of "Generations.") It has never been a secret that American history does show some striking periodicities. Most notable is the fact that the major "crises" of American history are all the same distance apart. That is, the Depression/World War II era occurred about as long after the Civil War as the Civil War did after the War of Independence, which in turn occurred about as long after the era of colonial disorders incident to King Philip's War and the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Similarly, there is a somewhat looser regularity to the peculiar episodes of spiritual and cultural ferment that characterize America history. The best known on these was "The Great Awakening" of the 1720s and 1730s. A similar or at least analogous era occurred just about a century later, in the "Second Great Awakening" or "Transcendentalist" period. This episode saw not just outbreaks of millenarian fervor, but the beginnings of such hardy perennials as the abolition and women's suffrage movements. Somewhat anomalously, another such period occurred in the final years of the nineteenth century, leaving as its permanent monuments the Fundamentalism of the Bible Belt and the Bohemianism of Greenwich Village. The last such episode was the period colloquially known as "The '60s," most of which, of course, actually happened in the 1970s.
Twelve years on, it really does seem that John, and also William Strauss and Neil Howe, were on to something when they predicted an American crisis occurring sometime around 2007. At the time, John was writing about 9-11, but then we had the Housing Bubble appearing as if on cue.
John in 2002 felt that George W. Bush did the right thing in response to 9-11. So did almost everyone else. Now, many have soured on the Global War on Terror, and W gets the blame for it. There is some truth in that, but one might also notice that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama exhibit a foreign policy oddly similar to George W. Bush. In all likelihood, President Gore would have invaded Iraq too, because that war was overdetermined. We would have just needed to find another motive to blame later.
There have been advances. President Clinton ineffectually bombed training camps with cruise missiles. Bush invaded Iraq. Obama went back to remote bombing, but our technology is a lot better now. The technology changed, but the goal is the same.
John was a judicious critic of FDR.; he preferred his cousin Teddy. John was always on the side of civilization, and so the New Deal gets praise because it restored public confidence despite its technical flaws. John always felt that civilization is fragile, and deserves our support. Wonkish details can be fixed later, but sometimes you just need an effective cheerleader rather than a capable bureaucrat.
One of John's criticisms of W was that he was fixated on a doomed domestic agenda rather than the looming civilizational crisis. In retrospect, it seems John was right here. John predicted that this crisis may have a strong beginning, and a weak middle, and that seems true. The War on Terror started off really popular, and now after a decade of war and a recession, everything is uncertain. John's final prediction, still to be verified, was that the end of the crisis period would see greater clarity about our national confusion. Here is what John had to say:
...the president's program of winning the clash of civilizations by spreading democracy to Islamic countries requires a rollback of American multiculturalism. American cultural leaders are ready for that emotionally, but a new consensus still has to be worked out in detail. Also, let us not forget that the war is putting many domestic inevitabilities on hold, from a national health insurance system to a reform of the electoral college. All these things will become issues again later in the Crisis, when the initial terrorist phase is concluded.
A national heath insurance system is indeed something we are now investigating, although I haven't heard much about the electoral college recently. I wouldn't agree that American cultural leaders are ready for a rollback of multiculturalism, then or now, but there is a certain humor in the recent support for "democracy" in places like Egypt and Syria, where a popular vote would be certain to enact everything that American cultural leaders find horrifying in American politics.
The great prophets, William Strauss & Neil Howe, may rightly claim to have predicted the phase of American history that began last year. There is real merit to their notion that there are periodic generations of crisis in American history, such as the Civil War-Reconstruction Crisis of the second half of the 19th century and the Depression-World War II Crisis of the first half of the 20th. The notable feature of the current Crisis, aside from the fact it arrived about five years earlier than Strauss & Howe's model predicts, is the vastly superior quality of the political response.
Contrast the coherence and broad popularity of George W. Bush's State of the Union address of January 29, 2002, with the confusion that attended the beginning of the last Crisis in 1929. The Hoover Administration had no idea what to do about the collapse of the national economy. Neither did anybody else, of course, but the administration took the blame. Chaos grew for almost four years. Only when Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president in1933 did a broad policy-consensus appear. Elements of that consensus would exacerbate the Crisis later on. The United States came very close to mothballing its military during Roosevelt's first term, and the administration's economic nationalism ensured that the United States and its trading partners would recover far more slowly than they would otherwise have done. Nonetheless, the New Deal did what governments are supposed to do during such a time; it restored confidence in public institutions.