Will Blythe. Rolling Stone. Issue 842. June 2000.
Up here on his West Virginia Mountain, dr. William Pierce—novelist, provocateur, perhaps the world’s most influential white supremacist—likes to look out and imagine the end of America as we know it. First, the economy will sour. There will be riots in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Detroit. Men and women will be dragged from their cars; there will be atrocities. Whites and blacks will savagely battle each other in the streets. Forced to protect itself, the white middle class will at long last become radicalized around its Aryan heritage and rebel against the Jewish-controlled central government. Led by patriots who have studied Pierce’s works, whites will establish their own temporary homelands, perhaps in Southern California or the Pacific Northwest. From there, they will mount the final campaign. Enemy collaborators will swing from lampposts and telephone poles.
In a last spasm of power, the Jews and their minions will launch nuclear weapons against the whites. The whites will retaliate with their own. Goodbye, Washington. So long, Tel Aviv. Pierce and his men will be underground, perhaps on this very mountain, down into the limestone caverns below. When they come back up, they will seize control of the smoking ruins and build a new country for whites only.
In the first few decades of the new America, the land will be racially cleansed. Aryan values will prevail. Young men and women will gather to revel with polkas or waltzes, reels or jigs. They will listen to popular music minus Barry Manilow, stroll through art galleries minus Marc Chagall. There will be no blacks in America those who survive the racial holy war will be returned to Africa. Mexicans will be sent back to Mexico, Asians to Asia, and as for the Jews, they will be exterminated, this time for good. People will come to understand that regardless of how many died during the World War II, it was not enough.
“Yy vey!” Pierce cries, raising his hands heavenward. “You can’t even look at these guys crossways and they start smelling the gas!” He is ranging around his office inside a prefab corrugated-steel building on the side of the mountain. Disdainfully, Pierce is dangling an article from the Forward, a weekly Jewish paper, attacking Pat Buchanan for having complimented Hitler on his “extraordinary gifts,”
“This is where the Jews really let their hair down,” he says. He subscribes to nearly all the leading Jewish publications; they take up space on shelves next to copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, within sight of a painting inscribed to Pierce by Arno Breker, the Fuhrer’s favorite artist. In nearby rooms, a handful of his followers—a few of whom also live on the property—are busily stuffing envelopes with literature and pecking away on computers.
Despite his rant, Pierce gives off an amiable, rumpled impression. A gaunt and gangly six feet four; wearing wire-rim glasses and the same denim jacket, green pants and white socks that he’s had on the last three days, the former physicist looks as if he were up all night scribbling equations on the magnetic effects of solid-state physics, his former specialty.
On his desk sits the shiny red membership handbook of the National Alliance, the white-supremacist group that Pierce founded in 1974 with the intent of reversing the “the racially devolutionary course of the last few millennia.” The manual vows, “We will do whatever is necessary to achieve this White living space and to keep it White. We will not be deterred by the difficulty or temporary unpleasantness involved, because we realize that it is absolutely necessary for our racial survival: The National Alliance has an estimated 1,500 members in thirty-five chapters—cells, in the lingo—from coast to coast, and according to Pierce, it has grown almost fifty percent in the last year. Although the Alliance is small, the Anti-Defamation League calls it “the single most dangerous organized hate group in the United States today,” largely because of the savvy of its founder.
At sixty-six, William Pierce is the courtly elder statesman and undisputed intellectual godfather of the white-supremacist movement. He is admired equally by teenage skinheads and such veteran rabble-rousers as David Duke. “He’s a brilliant writer, a true political dissident,” Duke says. “We take turns being named the most dangerous man in America by the Anti-Defamation League.”
Pierce is so venerated and feared in part because he is tireless in promoting his vision of white supremacy. To do this, he says, it has been necessary to circumvent “Jewish control of the media.” He is methodically establishing beachheads for his racist agenda through independent channels—on the Internet at natvan.com and nattall.com, over the radio with a weekly half-hour broadcast called American Dissident Voices that reaches more than 100,000 listeners and through his National Vanguard Books.
The Alliance’s pubfishing arm produces a number of its own works and also markets more than 600 other titles, including audiotapes and videocassettes. It sells the expected canon—Mein Kampf, for instance but in an effort to educate its readers in the ways of the enemy, it also distributes Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities (“A masterful depiction of life in the Great Satan,” reads the catalog blurb. “Sure enjoyment”), James B. Stewart’s Den of Thieves (“The purse carrying [Ivan] Boesky is the epitome of the Jew”) and Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan of the Apes (“An Aryan baby is raised by an ape in the jungles of Blackest Africa”), among other well-known books.
But Pierce says he also wants to reach an audience that “doesn’t read that much.” To that end, he recently acquired Resistance Records, the premier white-power rock-music label in the world, for $250,000. While Pierce can’t abide rock (“I detest it,” he says, grimacing. “Give me Beethoven or Strauss or Mozart”), he regards white-power music as the best way to recruit young racists: “I’m going to give skinheads a rationale for their anger.” With the recent purchase of Nordland, a racist Swedish label, Pierce is able to offer customers 250 titles, including records by such popular hatecore bands as Skrewdriver, No Remorse, Bound for Glory, Max Resist and the Blue Eyed Devils. He’s also become publisher of Resistance, a glossy magazine devoted to white-power music. Resistance Records grossed $300,000 in 1998, Pierce says, and close to %i million last year. He estimates that the label will rake in %3 million annually within a couple of years.
Pierce’s expanding mail-order empire has prompted the Washington Post to describe him as running an “Amazon.com of hate.” But for all his multimedia ambitions, Pierce’s most substantial and abiding legacy will likely be as the author of The Turner Diaries, a novel he self-published in 1978 that gleefully describes the bloody overthrow of the U.S, government by white revolutionaries, the subsequent resettlement of blacks, and the final extermination of Jews and “race traitors.”
Among the readers who have found inspiration in its apocalyptic vision is Timothy McVeigh, who was known to sleep with a copy under his pillow, pushed the book on friends and sold it at gun shows. Eventually, he emulated the book’s protagonist by exploding a massive truck bomb outside a federal building, killing 168 of people. When police stopped him seventy-five miles north of Oklahoma City on April 19th, 1995, an envelope in the car contained photocopied passages from the novel. McVeigh had underlined this one: “The real value of all our attacks today lies in the psychological impact, not in the immediate casualties.” The passage continues, “For one thing, our efforts against the System gained immeasurably in credibility. More important, though, is what we taught the politicians and the bureaucrats. They learned today that not one of them is beyond our reach.”
Investigators determined that several days before the bombing, McVeigh phoned the National Alliance hot line seven times. He apparently reached a four-minute recorded message about the Alliance and an answering service. “Why anyone would call more than once, I don’t know,” Pierce says. “I never had any contact with him.” Federal prosecutors contend that The Turner Diaries was a virtual blueprint for the Oklahoma City bombing, the single most destructive terrorist incident ever on American soil.
“Innocent people get killed in a war,” Pierce says, sighing. “Just think about the Allied carpet-bombing of German cities during World War II. That doesn’t change the strategic or tactical planning behind it. Oklahoma City was son of inevitable. You can expect more of these things as the population becomes more alienated.”
But does he feel any responsibility for the bombing? “McVeigh was upset about Waco,” he parries. “I can’t say what effect my book had on him. Anyway, the Bible has probably gotten people to do more things than The Turner Diaries.”
To date, The Turner Diaries has sold more than 350,000 copies, according to the Washington Post, primarily through mail order and at gun shows, and, to a very small extent, through bookstores. On a recent day on Amazon.com, the novel held the sales rank of 3,146 out of z.5 million books, with an average customer evaluation of three and an half stars out of five.
The book raises an unsettling question: Can a novel be responsible for murder? The Turner Diaries is a true underground classic, graphically reminding readers that before the “underground” was the spawning place for next season’s fashions and musical tastes, it was the hideout of hardened revolutionaries. As Mao’s Little Red Book inspired the Red Guards to rampage during the Cultural Revolution, as Uncle Tom’s Cabin aroused the abolitionists against slavery, so has Pierce’s fiction sparked the white-supremacy, anti-government movement to a firestorm of political violence over the last two decades.
In its literally incendiary effect, The Turner Diaries presents a curious twist on the notion that novelist Don DeLilto presented in Mao II: that the terrorist is the supreme novelist of the twentieth century for having captured the popular mind more completely than any writer. With William Pierce, we may have the more intriguing twenty-first century case of the novelist as terrorist.
“William Pierce doesn’t build bombs,” says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group. “He builds bombers.”
Besides the Oklahoma City bombing, the list of crimes to which the book or the Alliance has been linked is striking, as if some readers decided that the best way to praise the novel they loved was to live it:
1984-1985 In the Pacific Northwest, a group calling itself the Order and the Silent Brotherhood, intent on emulating The Turner Diaries almost chapter by chapter, goes on a two-year crime spree that includes murder, bombings and robberies.
1994-1995 A Midwestern gang known as the Aryan Republican Army commits twenty-two bank robberies across the Midwest. Its members are urged to read The Turner Diaries.
APRIL 1996 In Jackson, Mississippi, Larry Wayne Shoemake, a devotee of The Turner Diaries, breaks into an abandoned PoFolks Restaurant and goes on a sniping spree, killing one black and injuring seven others before taking his own life. An ex-wife told police that Shoemake wasn’t the same after reading the novel.
APRIL, 1997 When a bomb being constructed by National Alliance member Todd Vanbiber accidentally explodes in his face, he is arrested in Orlando, Florida. He is sentenced to six and a half years in prison for building and possessing explosives. He once purchased $700 worth of National Alliance literature.
MAY 1995 National Alliance member Brian Pickett and others are arrested in Tampa, Florida, for allegedly planning to explode pipe bombs throughout the state’s central region as a diversion for bank robberies.
That Pierce might in some way have inspired so much destruction doesn’t exactly sadden him. He won’t debate the nature of his influence so much as quibble legalistically with the details. This afternoon, for instance, he takes exception to the notion that The Turner Diaries is an exact blueprint for the Oklahoma City bombing. “McVeigh used a bomb in which the two essential ingredients were nitromethane and ammonium nitrate set off by a detonating cord,” he says. “My bomb was ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, set off with a dynamite initiator:’ He detailed these differences to Stephen Jones, McVeigh’s defense attorney, who employed them, to little effect, in the trial.
That’s not to say you couldn’t use Pierce’s novel as a bomb-making manual
“Oh, no,” he readily admits. “You really could build a bomb from reading the book. Just not the one Timothy McVeigh built.” Pierce says he admires McVeigh as a “true patriot and a good soldier.” His sole objection to the Oklahoma City bombing is tactical. “I probably would have gone to Washington, gotten myself a job,” Pierce says. “Maybe made myself a silencer pistol. And then 1 would have stalked congressmen. I’d have picked them off, maybe two or three of them, before it got too hot.”
That sounds a lot like the plot of Pierce’s second novel, Hunter, published in 1989, in which a serial killer attempts to rid America of its “sickness” by executing interracial couples, Jews and elected officials. Pierce has compared his protagonist to Joseph Paul Franklin, now on death row in Missouri for murder, who is suspected of having shot seventeen other people between 1977 and 198o in an attempt to start a race war.
Given the boyish enthusiasm with which Pierce delivers his murderous fantasies, there’s something openly Walter Mitty-ish about him. He seems to view himself as the prince in a fairy tale that might have been written by Joseph Goebbels. And yet, every so often, the real world intrudes. Not long ago, Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center won an $85,000 judgment against Pierce and the National Alliance in a suit tied to the murder of a black man in Florida. The killer had belonged to a racist group that transferred real estate to Pierce in an attempt to avoid losing it in a civil action. Pierce had hoped to live out his old age on the proceeds from the property.
“I try not to be obsessed with how much I dislike Morris Dees,” he says, “and what I would like to do to him if I could ever get him alone.”
Dees and Pierce enjoy a perversely symbiotic relationship. Dees raises money for the Southern Poverty Law Center by demonizing Pierce; this in turn confers upon Pierce added credibility among his potential donors. “‘This is the most dangerous man in America!’ That’s what Morris Dees says about me,” crows Pierce. “He says, ‘I’m gonna put him out of business, if you will help me.’ He raised $10 million on me! And yes, it is flattering to me. I love it!”
The bad publicity—and there’s really no such thing for Pierce—helps attract new recruits to the National Alliance. At least twice a year, Pierce hosts a conference of potential leaders he has selected from among the rank and file of the National Alliance membership, gatherings that the proprietor of a local business refers to as “Dr. Pierce’s proms.”
“These fellows show up wearing golf shirts that have the National Alliance symbol on them,” says Pocahontas County Sheriff Jerry Dale, who is Pierce’s official hometown nemesis, and has shadowed him for fifteen years. “Last year they ended up at a local establishment called Huckleberry’s, partying a little. And whenever one of them would run across a gal with blond hair, they’d ask her if she’d like to have an Aryan baby.”
The Alliance is often described as a neo-Nazi organization, but Pierce, knowing the reflexive connotations of the word Nazi, prefers to use the expression “National Socialist.” He actually disdains those “hobbyists” who dress up in storm-trooper regalia, flex biceps tattooed with swastikas and march around screaming “nigger” this, “Jew” that. He wants an Alliance composed of successful professionals, the kind of folks who might otherwise head Boy Scout troops in their spare time—hence the golf shirts.
“The general image of racists,” he says, “are these 400-pound women and guys who are missing teeth at a Klan rally. The National Alliance has never tried to appeal to those people. We can’t have a howling mob outside the city gates. We need people inside to open the gates! We want CPAs, high school teachers, engineers.”
It’s time for Pierce to drive down the mountain to the post office to pick up the mail and his wife, Sevdalina, who’s just returned via bus from the mall in Lewisburg, an hour away. As Pierce shuts off the computer, his cat, Hadley, a bluepoint Siamese, picks his way across the desk, growling as he goes and starting a landslide of insurrectionary documents. The animal, whose portrait graces the wall in a mini-gallery of cat shots, is the fourth incarnation of a Siamese named Harold, who kept Pierce company during the lonely days when he lived and worked in a cramped apartment, eating supermarket pizzas and writing The Turner Diaries. “I have almost a spiritual communion with cats,” says Pierce, who in i99o was fined for trying to smuggle a mountain lion from Florida onto his property. “They’re graceful, they’re beautiful, and they forgive me for everything.”
He reaches down to stroke Hadley, who arches his back. “Goodbye, son,” Pierce tells the cat. “Daddy’ll see you later.”
With one hand on the wheel, Pierce casually steers his white Chevy Blazer through the hairpin turns of West Virginia State Highway 219. He seems preoccupied. He’s been married five times. The last three wives have been from Eastern Europe. He sighs. “I can’t really live alone,” he says. “I really do need to have a woman. I mean, I get depressed, I get antsy if I don’t have a woman. But what causes my marriages to break up? It’s because of my work. I’ve never been able to find a true soul mate.”
He expected the women from Eastern Europe, raised in hardship, to be different. But it turns out they like shopping as much as their American predecessors. “Sevdi would like to go out to dinner,” says Pierce. “She would like to stay in motels. She would like to go to Washington, to the White House. I don’t want to go to the White House—the goddamned Secret Service would stop me at the front door!” He laughs, his spirits lifting at the thought.
In the lobby of the tiny post office in Hillsboro, Sevdi is waiting, flipping through a clothing catalog. She’s a pretty woman from Bulgaria who looks decades younger than Pierce. They met via a National Alliance supporter who runs a mail-order-bride business. Most of their two-year marriage has been spent on the side of the mountain, where they live in a trailer that embarrassed Pierce’s previous wife Susan—who, though Hungarian, knew what mobile homes represent in the eyes of most Americans.
“I had to wait forty-five minutes!” Sevdi scolds her husband. “You didn’t tell me it was not a quarter to call. It is now thirty-five cents!”
“You could have used the postmistress’s phone,” Pierce says, riffling through two boxes of mail. There’s a copy of the Jerusalem Post, a Manila packet from a sympathizer in Zagreb, Croatia, and several stacks of letters, ten or fifteen to a bundle. “It’s the highlight of my day, seeing the membership applications arrive,” he says.
“I kept putting the quarter in eight times to try to call, and it wasn’t the possibility,” Sevdi says.
Pierce doesn’t seem to hear. While he does a little business with the postmistress, Sevdi reveals the precise distance between her hometown in Bulgaria and her new home. “It’s 11,000 kilometers exactly, that’s what Bill says.” And then, in a confidential tone, she whispers, “I paint landscapes. I would like to do an exhibition, but my husband does not agree.”
“His wives just hang around until they get a green card, and then they’re out of there,” says Jerry Dale. “Women are just a step above ‘mud people’ blacks, Hispanics and Jews. They’re there to wait on him hand and foot, and call him ‘sir’ and ‘Dr. Pierce.’ “ Dale arrested Pierce in 1990 for beating up his volunteer bookkeeper. Charges were later dropped because the woman left the state and did not return to testify.
“It’s true I was arrested, but I didn’t do anything,” Pierce says. “When this woman talked to the police, she accused me of holding her as a sex slave, beating her up, stealing her purse, threatening her life. She had worked for me only four days. One day we had a big blowup. I grabbed her purse and just hung it on the doorknob so she would leave. The magistrate didn’t seem very excited about the whole thing.”
The men of the National Alliance “cannot find women,” says Kirsten Kaiser, the ex-wife of Pierce’s one-time lieutenant, Kevin Alfred Strom. “They can’t get an American wife. These women come over from Europe, and think they’re going to New York. The guys marry them right away, and then they’re enslaved—no English, no Social Security card, no driver’s license. These people drove me barking mad, and I’m an American.” She begins to weep over the phone. “They get you to agree that Hitler was the greatest man who ever lived. I had to name my darling daughter Klara, after Hitler’s mother. Kevin wanted her to grow up and bear an Aryan superman.” Kaiser’s ex-husband calls these allegations “fictional.”
On the drive back to the mountain, the Pocahontas County landscape spins by. This rural region astride the Allegheny Mountains in southeastern West Virginia is sparsely populated, with just 9,000 residents—of whom only sixtyeight are minorities, mainly blacks. Pierce moved here in 1985 from the suburbs of Washington, D.C. “I didn’t like the changing demographics. I decided I had to get out of there or I was going to do something that would get me locked up—you know, a Benjamin Smith or a Buford Furrow,” he says, chuckling, referring to two white supremacists who went on shooting sprees this past summer. Pierce searched for cheap land up and down the East Coast and finally found the kind of property he was looking for here, outside of Mill Point, West Virginia, for $150 an acre.
He turns back onto the rutted drive leading up the side of his mountain, Sevdi becoming silent as they near home. At the Alliance headquarters, husband and wife go their separate ways, Sevdi trudging up to the trailer, Pierce shambling back to work, hunched over a carton of mail.
When he began writing “The Turner Diaries” in 1975, William Pierce was a forty-two-year-old former physicist who had just exiled himself from academia and the aerospace industry. He did so in order to be the self appointed head of a new racist organization called the National Alliance and the solitary staffer of a neo-Nazi journal called Attack!
He set up shop in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Crystal City, Virginia, living on fifty dollars a month in his office above a real estate agency. The telephone hardly ever rang. By day, he scrawled his jeremiads. At night, he shared the bed with his epileptic cat, Harold. When not working, Pierce was a soul adrift, wandering through embassy parties at the invitation of a friend who worked in government, blending into the crowd at demonstrations, reading politics and sociology in the Library of Congress. He’d pore over racialist tracts published in the Twenties and Thirties, notice how they’d been checked out once every two decades, and think, “My God—is this what I’m going to give up my career for?” He was invisible, unanchored by domestic responsibilities, a spy with subversive ambitions at loose in the grand mansion of history.
After almost twenty years of marriage, he was estranged from his first wife, Pat Holmes. She and their two sons were living fifty miles to the south in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where she taught math at Mary Washington College. Pierce’s Nazi activities were becoming embarrassing for Pat, he says. “She was concerned about things like, ‘Do we have $400 to buy a new sofa?’ I was concerned about things like, ‘How can I do what I plan to do this weekend without getting arrested?’”
Not necessarily the sort of question by which Pierce had expected to be troubled. He had grown up in—as he puts it—an “all-white world” throughout the South: Georgia, Virginia, Alabama and finally Texas. His father, a former merchant marine, sold insurance. He died in a car crash when Pierce was eight. His mother prided herself on being a direct descendant of Thomas Henry Watts, who served in the Confederacy under Jefferson Davis. Watts’ stern face stared down at the Pierce household from a framed twenty-dollar Confederate bill.
In those years, Pierce revealed no signs of the vitriolic racist he would become. His older brother Sanders remembers him as a “gentle” child: “When he was eight and another kid knocked his glasses off, Billjust got up and put them back on.” Pierce disliked it when his fellow cadets at Allen Military Academy in Bryan, Texas, went “coon conking”—driving past black pedestrians and knocking them down with a pole.
When he arrived at Rice University in 1951, he studied physics and chemistry, a scholarship student among oilrich frat boys. What he really wanted, however, was to be an astronaut. Growing up in the Thirties and Forties, he had become enamored of space travel even before it was a realistic possibility. He longed to see himself as a storybook hero, an outsider accomplishing great deeds against long odds—and incidentally winning the girl. As the first step in becoming an astronaut, he inquired about joining the Air Force but was told that his poor vision would prevent him from being a pilot.
So instead of outer space, the would-be adventurer took off for graduate school—first to Cal Tech, then to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he often slept in the lab on a folding cot next to the electromagnet. By the time he acquired his Ph.D. in physics in 1962, Pierce could look forward to a solid, even brilliant career as a physicist. He was hired as a junior faculty member by Oregon State that same year. “He came and gave a collegial talk at the department and bowled us over,” says David Burch, a former colleague.
In the early Sixties, Corvallis, Oregon, was not an especially diverse place. But in Pierce’s view, he might as well have fallen from a cloud into a smoky Harlem den of jazz and miscegenation. One of his colleagues in the physics department was a young professor named Cliff Fairchild. Having been hired the same year, “he and I were naturally thrown together,” Pierce says. “We invited each other over to our houses. We drank together and so on.” To Pierce, there was only one exceedingly odd fact about Fairchild: He was married to a black woman.
“I couldn’t understand why a white guy would pick a nonwhite woman, because to me they weren’t attractive. Still, my idea at the time was that marriage was a strictly private matter. But then they began having kids, and these kids were horrible-looking things. I said, ‘Jesus. Why should anybody deliberately have kids like that?’ I couldn’t have told you why I didn’t like this. Some people, they look at a piece of art and they say, ‘God, that’s ugly.’ But they don’t have a theory to fit the art into.”
His sense of aesthetics violated, Pierce became intolerant of the Fairchilds’ marriage. “I just slowly withdrew from them,” he says. “I didn’t have enough self-confidence to say to him, ‘What are you doing married to a nonwhite woman?’ “
Now, thirty-eight years after he joined the faculty with Pierce, Cliff Fairchild is shocked to hear of this virulent reaction to his marriage. “Neither my wife nor I felt any animosity,” he says. “Bill Pierce never told a racist joke, and we’ve heard a few in Corvallis. We played bridge together, went camping with our families. There’s a photograph of us on top of a mountain in eastern Oregon with the Pierces, with me carrying my son in a back ack.” Pained by Pierce’s description of his now thirty-seven-year-old child as ugly, Fairchild pauses and then adds, “You know, our son is very handsome.”
“That’s what started it,” Pat Holmes says of her exhusband’s disdain for the Fairchilds’ interracial marriage. “He wasn’t that way when we married. It happened so suddenly.”
One night in the mid-sixties, Pierce watched a speech on television by George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party. “All these Jews and liberal activists in the audience were throwing tomatoes and pop bottles and trying to drown him out,” Pierce says. He was impressed by Rockwell’s cool as he dodged the debris and continued to speak: “He was facing an early example of political correctness.” He began a correspondence with Rockwell that led to friendship. “Rockwell was a very sane guy,” Pierce says. “No ego problems. Intelligent. An artist.”
Pierce was taken as much by Rockwell’s ideas about white power as he was by his manner. It occurred to him that he, too, might like to try his hand at writing about race. He left Oregon State in 1965 after three years on the faculty and moved his wife and sons to the East Coast, accepting a job in North Haven, Connecticut, as senior research scientist for the Pratt and Whitney aerospace laboratory.
It was an entirely mercenary move. His new, more lucrative position would allow him to set aside enough money so that he could someday write full time. He was staking everything on his conviction that history was with him, that he would become a brave pamphleteer in the footsteps of Thomas Paine prior to the first American Revolution. Eventually, Pierce decided that he would publish a journal of ideas. Rockwell said he had been thinking the same thing. He suggested that Pierce become the editor of such a journal—The National Socialist World. The position would be unpaid.
“Oh, boy, that was a big jump,” Pierce says, “giving up a paycheck for a leap into the unknown.” He uprooted his family once again, settling in Virginia. When Rockwell was assassinated by one of his own storm troopers in 1967, Pierce asked himself, “What am I to do with my life now?” He decided, he says, to devote himself “to the service of the life force, as George Bernard Shaw would have said. Or, as Nietzsche would have said, to help prepare the way for the coming of the Superman.”
But by the mid-Seventies, Pierce was convinced that the polemics he was publishing in a new journal, Attack!, were having no effect. “I thought what I was saying was profound, earthshaking,” he says, laughing. “My God—it didn’t even make a ripple.” His dreams of inciting a white uprising seemed about as realistic as his old fantasy of going into space as an astronaut.
His friend Revilo Oliver, then a classics professor at the University of Illinois—and a longtime racist—suggested that he try disseminating his views through fiction, as was done in didactic novels such as Jack London’s The Iron Heel; an account of a working-class revolt against the wealthy.
And so, writing in longhand, Pierce began composing the fictional diary of Earl Turner. The novel opens portentously, with an odd echo of vintage leftist rhetoric:
“September 16, 1991: Today it finally began! After all these years of talking—and nothing but talking—we have finally taken our first action. We are at war with the System, and it is no longer a war of words.”
The writing came easily. Pierce had finally tapped into perhaps his greatest capacity: his ability to daydream. But the fantasies were vicious. “I wanted to take all the feminist agitators and propagandists and all of the race-mixing fanatics and all of the media bosses and all of the bureaucrats and politicians who were collaborating with them,” Pierce says, “and I wanted to put them up against a wall, in batches of a thousand at a time, and machine-gun them.”
He portrays the protagonist, Earl Turner, as a soldier in an underground white army called the Organization that is fomenting a race war to bring down the Jewish-controlled federal government. Turner steals gasoline, conducts hit-and-run raids, teaches bomb making, helps establish a white homeland in Southern California and eventually, heroically, sacrifices himself by flying a crop-duster armed with a nuclear warhead into the Pentagon. For his kamikaze attack, Turner is enshrined in the Record of Martyrs, his name memorized by grateful white schoolchildren and his diaries made available to the general public in a special edition issued zoo years after the Great Revolution.
There’s a pulpy, Hollywood-disaster-movie feel to the novel that Pierce has tagged a “handbook for white victory.” Imagine Armageddon as engineered by middle-management white guys in short sleeves who just can’t take it anymore. From 1975 to 1978, he serialized the narrative in Attack! and its successor, the National Vanguard, both of which he often sold himself for twenty-five cents while walking around suburban shopping centers and the streets of Washington, D.C. Embarrassed by the fact that he wrote nearly everything in the Vanguard, Pierce ran The Turner Diaries under a pseudonym, Andrew MacDonald. “I didn’t want readers to think I was a one-man band,” he says.
Their response astounded him: “I mean, people would call up the office, desperate. They’d say, ‘I missed the last issue—you know, installment fourteen. I gotta have it. I don’t know what happened: And I said, ‘Sorry—sold out: And the guy would be ready to kill himself.” Here’s the sort of thing readers were craving:
“August r, 1993: Today has been the Day of the Rope—a grim and bloody day, but an unavoidable one. Tonight, for the first time in weeks, it is quiet and totally peaceful throughout all of Southern California. But the night is filled with silent horrors; from tens of thousands of lampposts, power poles and trees throughout this vast metropolitan area, the grisly forms hang … The first thing I saw in the moonlight was the placard with its legend in large, block letters: I DEFILED MY RACE. Above the placard leered the horribly bloated, purplish face of a young woman, her eyes wide open and bulging, her mouth agape … There are many thousands of hanging female corpses Like that in this city tonight, all wearing identical placards around their necks. They are the White women who were married or living with Blacks, with Jews or with other nonwhite males.”
Published as a 320-page paperback book by the National Alliance in May 1978, The Turner Diaries went out into the world like a ghost telegram from Adolf Hitler, summoning all the disgruntled loners who were watching their lily-white America disappear. The novel thrilled its partisans with an utter disdain for the ethos of tolerance. It offered the sacrilegious spectacle of blacks, Jews, feminists, liberals and the entire country of China being ground under the hobnailed boots of rampaging white guys.
One of The Turner Diaries’ earliest and most passionate readers was Robert Mathews, a tax resister and discontented zinc miner from Metaline Falls, Washington. As it would other anxious whites, the novel convinced Mathews that a small band of determined fighters could spark an uprising among the white middle class that would result in the overthrow of ZOG, the Zionist Occupation Government. The novel catalyzed his desire to become “the Robin Hood of the radical right,” as Kevin Flynn and Gary Gerhardt put it in The Silent Brotherhood, a thoroughly reported account of Mathews’ saga. As boyishly romantic as his hero Pierce but far more impetuous, he wanted to turn the Pacific Northwest into a “White American Bastion.” Mathews formed an “action group” modeled after the Order, the secret inner sanctum of revolutionaries in The Turner Diaries. At meetings, he discussed the plot of the novel and pushed copies on anyone who hadn’t read it. He even had black robes made for members like those worn during induction ceremonies in the book.
Mathews became a favorite of Pierce’s; Pierce still speaks of him with bemused affection. “Bob Mathews basically was a real decent guy,” he says. “The main thing about him, he was serious. Doesn’t mean he couldn’t laugh. But he took his responsibilities seriously—his responsibilities as a member of his race, to his ancestors and to his descendants. If he said to you, ‘SOB, I’m gonna get you,’ you better make out your will. He was the kinda person I wanted to have in the Alliance.”
In 1983, at Pierce’s invitation, Mathews delivered a fiery anti-Semitic address at a National Alliance convention in Arlington, Virginia. “My brothers, my sisters,” Mathews began. “From the mist-shrouded, forested valleys and mountains of the Pacific Northwest, I bring you a message of solidarity, a call to action, and a demand for adherence to duty as members of the vanguard of an Aryan resurgence and, ultimately, total Aryan victory.” It ended, “We have broken the chains of Jewish thought … Stand up like men and reclaim our soil! Kinsmen, arise! Look toward the stars, and proclaim our destiny! In Metaline Falls, we have a saying: Defeat, never! Victory, forever!”
Afterward, Pierce—ever the tactician—buttonholed Mathews. “I said, ‘Bob, people were really affected by your talk. But I guess I must disagree with you about the time for revolution being ripe, because I think most people are not ready to respond to a call to arms.’ But Bob disagreed with me. And then shortly after that, he dropped out of the Alliance and began doing his thing.”
“Doing his thing” meant attempting to live out the plot of The Turner Diaries. Mathews obviously did not anticipate ending his days in a rest home. On April 1st, 1984, he attempted to purchase a $50,000 life-insurance policy, naming as beneficiaries William Pierce and John Ireland, another National Alliance official. The policy was rejected by the insurance company.
By 1984, the Order was a loose confederation of two dozen men devoted to robbery, counterfeiting and murder, all in the interest of inciting and financing a race war. They started small, robbing a porno shop in Spokane, Washington, humiliated by their grand take of $369.10. But Mathews and his band soon graduated to Brinks armored trucks, stealing $3.8 million in cash from one during a daylight robbery on a mountain highway near Ukiah, California, in July 1984. A month before, Mathews and a few others had murdered Denver radio talkshow host Alan Berg, whom they considered a Jewish agitator. The killing inspired Talk Radio, the Eric Bogosian play that was made into a movie by Oliver Stone.
“The Turner Diaries was their textbook,” says Ron Howen, the state attorney general of Idaho who prosecuted the Order. “They went chapter by chapter, in an attempt to create a nationwide revolution. Everyone had to read it. In fact, all the FBI agents we had on the case had to read it.”
Mathews chose Pierce as one of his pet charities, according to several sources, including a government informant within the Order, and supposedly traveled to Virginia to deliver a bag of cash to his idol in August 1984. Pierce confirms the meeting but denies that any money changed hands. Mathews’ donation, if indeed it took place, would have been one of his last acts of rebellion. In December 1984, he was incinerated alive in his hideout on Whidbey Island, Washington, during a shootout with FBI agents, who mockingly wore baseball caps with ZOG emblazoned on them.
Since his death, Mathews has become a martyr to the racist cause here and in Europe. He is commemorated in songs such as “True Heroes,” by the popular hatecore band Nordic Thunder (“He fought off ZOG, the best he could/For he was the Aryan Robin Hood”).
Soon after his meeting with Mathews in Arlington, Virginia, Pierce purchased 36 acres of property outside Hillsboro, West Virginia, for $95,ooo in cash. He claims the money came from an unnamed benefactor. He took up residence there in August 1985.
“It’s not true,” Pierce says of the charge that the money came from Mathews. “It seems to me that if the government believed that story, they would have tried to find some evidence that it was true, and I would have been in trouble.” Asked if he ever received money from Mathews, Pierce jokes, “He paid his dues before he dropped out of the Alliance.”
In fact, federal prosecutors say that they do believe Mathews gave Pierce the money but that they can’t prove it. Thomas Martinez, an Order member who became a government informant, says he heard Mathews say that he’d given money to Pierce, but this was hearsay testimony and thus inadmissible in a trial. Certainly, the timing of Pierce’s purchase was consistent with that of Mathews’ putative donation.
“They joked among themselves that the money came from Bob Mathews,” says Kirsten Kaiser. “Who has $95,000 in cash?”
Pierce decides to close up shop for the day and ride up to the top of his mountain. It takes a few minutes, the four-wheel drive bucking over the rugged road as dusk comes on. He passes the trailer where Sevdi is waiting with his supper. She called his office not long before. “Yes, Sevdi, seven o’clock, as always,” Pierce answered.
“Women don’t like to live here,” he says. “They like malls, shopping.”
Sheriff Dale believes that Pierce selected this property because it is honeycombed with limestone caverns. “My personal opinion is that the caves were one of his most important criteria,” says Dale. “It all fits into his philosophy of a race war, and nuclear weapons, and the atmosphere being contaminated. And he and his survivalists, who have been trained, will go underground and live until the atmosphere clears up.”
Pierce acknowledges that there are a couple of caves below his land but is evasive about the question of bomb shelters. “It’s a misallocation of resources,” he says, “to have people out here digging foxholes. You can’t beat the military now. They could come in here with just one of their high-tech jets, drop a bunch of bombs and wipe us out in ten minutes.”
By the time Pierce reaches the mountaintop, it’s twilight, the air crisp and still. The countryside spreads out below, as homey as a Grandma Moses landscape. A few farmhouse lights gleam in the distance. A roadway winds its blue way across the valley. “You didn’t used to see lights when I first moved here,” Pierce says.
He stares out into the valley, sighs. “People cannot, imagine what it’s gonna be like twenty-five years from now,” he says. “They can’t imagine how bad it’s gonna be—groups of five, all armed with machine guns, to get from here to the corner grocery store, where they’ll have to open up a slot to see whether they’ll let you in.” He speaks now like a boy with sci-fi dreams. “If we don’t do something, we’re gonna be gone as a race.”
In the time he has left, he says, he hopes to “build a strong organization of fully committed lifelong revolutionaries.” But he concedes that most whites today have no interest in his cause—despite the fact that he’s doing it just for them. “They’re mostly yuppies, couch potatoes,” he says. “Just interested in how much shiny stuff they can buy at the mall.”
He wants to write a couple of more books. One, he says, will be “a practical guide on how to change the course of history.”
Does he believe he has changed the course of history?
“No,” he admits. “Well, I mean, every sparrow that falls, every blade of grass changes history, but …” He pauses. It’s as if he suddenly sees himself, at this moment, not as a worldhistorical figure but as an old man atop a mountain, his wife down below in a trailer, waiting for him to come home for supper.
“Maybe I’m that Roman soldier who stayed at his post while Mount Vesuvius was erupting,” he says. “Nobody came to relieve him, so he just stayed there.”
Then he turns to head back down the mountain.