Christian Identity:Racism and the Word of God

This essay examines the phenomena of Christian Identity, a little known or understood variant of the Christian faith that interprets the Bible as an inherently racial document. It is the faith of many of those in the racist right, and consequently is central in shaping their political beliefs. I will attempt to answer three main questions: What are the theological roots of Christian Identity? What are the core beliefs of the faith? And how do these beliefs influence the actions of the faithful?
Christian Identity sprung directly from British-Israelism, an eccentric interpretation of Christianity that first emerged in Great Britain in the mid 1800’s. Traditional Christian thought holds that when the original kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the two southern tribes of Israel became the people we know today as the Jews, while the ten northern tribes were lost, intermarrying and disappearing into the communities of their conquerors. British-Israelism teaches that these tribes were in fact not lost, but migrated across Europe, eventually settling in the British Isles. Thus, the people of Britain are direct decedents of the Hebrews of the Old Testament, and will play a central role in the final days foretold in the Book of Revelations. It is important to note that British-Israelism is not an anti-Semitic belief system. In fact, it regards the Jews as being long-lost relatives of the British people. But once brought to America in the late 1800’s, it rapidly transformed into Christian Identity, the racist religion of the far right.
This transformation was brought about largely due to the efforts of two American British-Israelites, Howard Rand and William Cameron. In the early 1930’s, Rand founded the Anglo-Saxon Federation of America, which grew to become the largest British-Israelite organization in the United States (Barkun p.30). That Rand was an anti-Semite is clear; he believed that the Jews had intermarried with other races, making them impure in the eyes of the Lord (Ibid. p.127). But this anti-Jewish bias was not central to his belief system; in Rand’s eyes, the Jews were no better or worse than those of other lower races. However, Rand’s personal distain for Jews made it acceptable for him to associate with men like Cameron, who fused British-Israelism with a virulent racism, laying the groundwork for the emergence of Christian Identity.
William Cameron was a trusted advisor to Henry Ford; from the mid 1920’s to the mid 1940’s, he was Ford’s personal media spokesman (Barkun p.31). He also worked as the editor of the Dearborn Independent, a rabidly anti-Semitic Ford-owned newspaper. As the most well known member of Rand’s Anglo-Saxon Federation, Cameron introduced many British-Israelites to anti-Jewish beliefs. At the same time, his notoriety drew persons with previously established racist views into the Federation. Although Rand’s organization collapsed in the 1940’s, a new generation of preachers, such as Wesley Swift and William Gale, took British-Israelism and transformed it into Christian Identity, a theology that remains basically unchanged today.
This new theology called Christian Identity, which emerged in the 1950’s, differed from British-Israelism in ways other than just its racial outlook. British-Israelism had always stressed obedience to the secular government, believing it to be a legitimate extension of the “Hebrew” people (Barkun p. 7). Christian Identity holds that almost all the governments of the world are under the control of the “Zionist Occupational Government” (ZOG), and must be resisted by white Christians. As we shall see, this often brings them into confrontation with government agencies. Also, British-Israelism was never a religion unto itself. Persons of any Protestant denomination could maintain their British-Israelism while keeping their membership in a mainstream church (Ibid. p. 14). Christian Identity, by comparison, is comprised of small, tightly knit sects. Associations with mainstream churches would be unthinkable, given that Identity regards then as heretical. This religiously withdrawn stance promotes a cult-like feeling among Identity parishioners, and can serve to strengthen member’s theological commitment to the group.
Christian Identity presents a revisionist view of the Bible that would appear very strange to a mainstream Christian. This alternate interpretation begins with the book of Genesis. Identity theology holds that Adam and Eve were the originators of only the white (non-Jewish) race. Persons of African and Asian decent where created before Adam, at the same time the Lord created the other animals. To put it more plainly, Identity holds that these pre-Adamic people are in fact not people at all, but animals. Hence, Identity adherents refer to non-whites as “mud persons” or “beasts of the field” (Walters p.12). Many preachers in the movement hold that the flood brought by the Lord upon the ancient Hebrews was in fact a punishment for the crime of intermarrying with non-whites (Ibid. p.20). Like British-Israelism, Christian Identity teaches that the decedents of Adam and Eve (the true chosen people of the Lord) eventually settled in northern Europe. If for a moment we accept this unusual interpretation of the book of Genesis, it leaves us with an obvious question: who are the people who claim to be the Jews in contemporary times if they are not descended from the Hebrews of old? Identity provides three answers, each one denying the authenticity of the claimed lineage of the Jewish people, while exalting the role of Gentile Europeans in God’s ultimate plan.
The first theory explaining the origins of the Jews to be concocted by Identity thinkers was by comparison to later theories rather mild. It acknowledged that modern day Jews are indeed the decedents of the two southern tribes of Israel. But it maintains that between the destruction of the Hebrew nation and the dispersion by the Romans in the first century A.C.E., these southern tribes had intermarried with “mud people”, namely the Hittites (Barkun p.127). This explains the dark, Semitic complexion found among the Jews. These Hebrews were no longer racially pure, and therefore ceased to be counted among God’s chosen people. This theory, while obviously insulting towards the Jews, was not particularly anti-Semitic; it merely lowered them to the level of the other non-white races. The second theory of Jewish origins portrayed them in a much more sinister light.
This second theory holds that the two southern tribes of Israel migrated through Russia after the Roman dispersion. They eventually intermarried with and disappeared into the general population. Those people called Jews who eventually came to Europe were not Hebrews at all, but were in fact Asiatics: “The specific form this took was the accusation that Jews from the czar’s empire were decedents of the Khazars, a people that had once lived near the shores of the Black Sea, and whose leadership stratum and an unknown portion of its populace had converted to Judaism in the seventh century.” (Barkun p.136) These imposters then used their false title as the “chosen people” to carve a niche for themselves in European society. They continue to maintain their deception in order to gain the sympathy of Christians, who erroneously regard them as the descendants of the Old Testament Hebrews. This theory never gained a large number of supporters, as most Identity devotees prefer a more overtly racist explanation of Jewish origins.
To understand the final (and most extreme) Identity explanation of the lineage of the Jews, we must once again return to the book of Genesis. While in the garden, Eve was tempted by the serpent. This temptation, the theory holds, was not only intellectual, but also sexual. Eve mated with the serpent (who may have been either Satan himself or one of his minions). The child brought forth from this union was Cain. “Hence Cain and all his progeny, by virtue of satanic paternity, carry the Devil’s unchanging capacity to work evil.” (Bakun p. 150) Eve then introduced sex to Adam. Able was the legitimate child of Adam and Eve. Cain slew Able, then fled into the wilderness, where he became the leader of a tribe of pre-Adamites. Cain’s tribes, the Canaanites, settled in Palestine, near the eventual location of the Hebrew nation (this explains the animosity between the two groups, as one was the tribe of the Lord, the other the tribe of Satan). When Israel was divided, the ten tribes of the north migrated to Europe, keeping their racial purity intact. However,
Identity writers assert that while in Babylonian captivity the people of the southern two-tribed Judah did not maintain their racially integrity. The serpent’s seed [via the Canaanites] made successful intrusions into Adam’s seed line…The changes that took place within Judaism as a result of the Exile are taken as proof of satanic influences on Israel’s culture and religion; Judaism became the religion of ”Israel’s ancient pagan enemy.” The Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) is said to have been abandoned by these people for the Babylonian Talmud, “the very heart and soul of the serpent race.” The synagogue, generally speaking, replaced Jerusalem Temple worship, and the prophets and priests became rabbis and scribes. (Walters p.38)

The Jews therefore became something worse than a racially despoiled people or a group of Khazar imposters: they became the literal decedents of Satan himself.
It should be clear by this point that in Identity theology, only those of pure white ancestry can be “saved”. Converting “beasts of the field” to Christianity is pointless, as they are not human beings and will never be accepted by God into into His kingdom. Identity adheres to the “one drop” rule, believing that having even a single non-white ancestor makes one racially impure (Barkun p.158). Thus those of a mixed racial background are also ineligible to receive salvation. And Jews, as a result of their satanic heritage, can of course never become Christians. This is of course just the opposite of conventional Protestant thought, which holds that any person may achieve salvation by accepting Jesus as their personal savior. This conflict has led some mainstream Christian thinkers to declare Identity a “message fundamentally opposed to the Christian gospel.” (Walters p.97) Predictably, Identity preachers dismiss conventional Christian churches as being hopelessly corrupted by Jewish influences (Barkun p.105). This distain for mainstream Christianity among those of the racist right has a long history. Father Charles Coughlin, a racist, pro-fascist priest declared in 1931: “Those of us who are acquainted with the activities of communistic doctrines in this country have long since breathed rather nervously at the activities of certain officials in The Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America in abetting the program of Lenin and of advocating the ideals of bolshevism.” (Coughlin p.237)
Christian Identity sees the universe as being at war. The two sides are diametrically opposed to one another:
Identity constructed a Manichean universe, divided into realms of light and darkness. The central figures of each, God and Satan, are in combat. Each is aided by coalitions made up not only of allies but of literal descendants, white Aryans who are the children of God and Jews who are the children of Satan. (Barkun p.249)

In such a dualistic world, there can be no compromise with the forces of darkness. The war must end with the total victory of either God or the Devil. So Identity rejects the concept of compromise that forms the basis of modern democracies, and embraces an “us-or-them” perspective when dealing with the perceived enemies of the Lord.
Christian Identity, like mainstream fundamentalism, teaches that we are living in the last days, and that the second coming of Christ is eminent. But unlike the fundamentalists, Identity preachers hold that there will be no rapture to whisk away Christ’s followers:
“…Identity’s rejection of the rapture is linked to a distain for anything that promises to rescue the saved from the rigors of the Tribulation. The rapture, as most Fundamentalists understand it, will remove the saved from the earth at the beginning of the Tribulation, sparing them the dangers associated with the Tribulation’s seven years of persecution, war, and violence that are to precede the Second Coming. Identity, however, far from wishing to avoid this period of tumult, yearns for an opportunity to engage the forces of evil in apocalyptic battle. Hence the rapture to them smacks of cowardice and retreat.” (Barkun p.104)

This militaristic view of the apocalypse has led many Identity believers to take on a survivalist lifestyle, secreting themselves and their families in the wilderness, stockpiling the food and weapons they believe they will need to survive the coming race war. This isolation can lead to even greater alienation from society, reinforcing the paranoid mindset of the Identity practitioner.
Another key difference between mainstream fundamentalism and Christian Identity is the perceived outcome of the final war. Conventional Christianity holds that resistance to the ultimate power of God is futile, and the outcome of the last battle will undoubtedly be victory for the forces of light. Some Identity doctrines teach that this may not be the case: “[the] Devil is no mere pesky upstart or insubordinate underling; he is an adversary with the resources potentially to unseat his master.” (Barkun p. 116) This more pessimistic viewpoint is consistent with Identity’s militant message. If God’s victory is assured, then Christians need do nothing but contently wait for the rapture to arrive. But if the outcome of the great battle is in doubt, then all Christian soldiers must bear arms in the service of the Lord, lest the forces of darkness prevail.
The far right has long held a distain for pacifism: “It has been part of the conspiracy against patriotism to belittle our soldiers with the preachments of cowardly pacifism.” (Coughlin p.146) Identity is no different, in that it believes physical warfare against the forces of Satan will be required in the last days. More ominous is the belief, common in Identity circles, that a Christian is under no obligation to obey civil laws which contradict Biblical teachings:
“Any man or group of men who seek to plunder under the cloak of law, or who seek to negate the Law of God, forfeit their authority, and becomes a despot and tyrant. They are ‘terror to good works’, and must be exposed and resisted by whatever means Heaven has provided us.” (Barkun p.203)

Violent acts against law enforcement and civil authorities are thereby justified, and warfare against ZOG can be considered a holy crusade.
It is clear to those in the Identity movement that the United States government is under satanic control. Why else would it allow ungodly activities such as race mixing, homosexuality, and immigration to occur? While it is acknowledged that some low-level government employees may be unaware if this infiltration, the system itself is considered to be irredeemably corrupted. Gordon Kahl, a prominent Identity figure who eventually died in a shoot-out with F.B.I. agents, described the true purpose of the Federal government:
We are a conquered and occupied nation; conquered and occupied by the Jews, and their hundreds or maybe thousands of front organizations doing their ungodly work. They have two objectives in their goal of ruling the world. Destroy Christianity and the White race. We are engaged in a struggle to the death between the people of the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of Satan. (Walters p. 65)

Given this worldview, should not be surprising then that many Identity adherents refuse to pay their federal income taxes. Kahl’s conflict with the government began in 1967, when he sent a letter to the IRS informing them that he would no longer “pay tithes to the Synagogue of Satan” (Ibid.). Many of the conflicts that have occurred between law enforcement agencies and reclusive Identity groups have begun over the latter’s refusal to pay taxes. Given the tendency of Identity churches to advocate violence against “unlawful” authority figures, these confrontations have often led to tragic results.
Christian Identity churches can be roughly divided into two categories: those that withdraw from the corruption of the grater society, and those who directly confront it. An example of the first type is Dan Gayman’s Missouri-based Church of Israel. Gayman, while acknowledging Jewish control of the government, advocates avoiding confrontation with legal authorities (Barkun p.232) He and his parishioners are content to live inside their closed community and await the apocalypse. Richard Butler’s Church of Jesus Christ, Christian, based in Idaho, takes a more aggressive stance. They engage in as many public demonstrations as possible in the hope that the ensuing controversy will attract new members. They are also much quicker to embrace violence as a legitimate means to achieve social change. After Robert Mathews, the leader a neo-Nazi terrorist group called the Order, was killed in a gun battle with federal agents, Butler’s church publication printed a eulogy:
One hundred keys to heaven and they were all yours! Yahweh has surely Blessed thy above thy brothers and sisters! Now thou art in His arms, thy battle fought and thy race won! Hallelujah!…We shall bring forth the Kingdom you so longed for, and we shall sit with thee in it! (Barkun p. 232)

Of these two theologies, the second is obviously the more dangerous, as it promises martyrdom to those who give their lives in the service of the racial holy war. But as previously mentioned, we should not ignore the danger posed by congregations such as Gayman’s. Their isolation from the outside world may make them progressively more paranoid, increasing the risk that they may someday lash out against the system in an act of perceived self-defense.
Some in the Identity movement, such as the aforementioned Pastor Gayman, might defend themselves against these charges by pointing out that they do not advocate the use of violence, but in fact encourage their followers to obey civil law. In this, they are correct. But as Walters notes, Gayman
holds in common with his Identity kinsmen the belief that Satan has literal children in the form of the Jews, people of color are inferior beasts, and the Bible was written for the white race exclusively…undergirding the Order, the Freemen, Aryan Nations, and the Church of Israel is the violently dehumanizing Identity doctrine. (Walters p.71)

Although some Identity churches preach a non-violent message, the moral justification for murder is implicitly present. This justification might be incorporated into their stated theology if changing circumstances seemed to support it.
If for a moment we accept the Identity interpretation of Genesis as being the correct one, then it becomes easy to see why the religion is so vehemently opposed to sexual contact between whites and non-whites. Lev. 20:15-16 states:
“If a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death; and ye shall slay the beast. And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shall kill the woman, and the beast.”

If all non-whites are considered to be animals, then sex with them becomes bestiality, a crime which is punishable by death. What is ironic in this is that an undetermined but significant number of Christian Identity believers possess some non-white ancestry. During his research, Jerome Walters discovered that one of his Identity interview subjects was part American Indian (Walters p.7). The subject of course kept this fact a secret from his congregation. If Identity churches are unable to effectively determine the racial backgrounds of their own members, how can they hope to reestablish segregation in the general population? Many of the people involved with the movement may have engaged in “bestiality” without being aware of it. Even more significantly, they may unknowingly be the product of interracial breeding themselves.
Identity practitioners are also quite unlikely to embrace democratic reform as a means of changing the system. Many refuse to vote at all, fearing that the act of casting a ballot amounts to acknowledging the legitimacy of the current “Jew controlled” government. And even if this were not so, Identity preachers point out that white Christians could never hope to outvote the masses of non-whites and deluded Aryans who make up the bulk of the population (Walters p. 74). With the belief that change will not come democratically, but through the intervention of God, Christian Identity removes itself from the process of policy formation, further alienating it from the mainstream. It also discourages Identity groups from adopting strategies of compromise, an essential tactic for any group that wants to enact reform in American society.
Christian Identity can be considered a monist belief system. This means that Identity believers consider their interpretation of the world to be the only correct one. Therefore, they seek to suppress all dissenting faiths. Why, after all, should other religions be allowed to exist if they are objectively incorrect? This monist attitude extends into the legal sphere as well. Many Identity adherents advocate revamping the civil code so as to bring it into compliance with Biblical law (Barkun p.200). This would, among other things, mean inflicting the death penalty on homosexuals and persons who engage in interracial sex. It would also limit voting rights to white males. While the fate of non-whites is left unclear, one can assume that these “beasts” would be returned to their “natural” state: slavery.
But the most frightening element of Christian Identity theology is its demand that the spawn of Satan (read: the Jews) be violently removed from the earth. It is the ultimate focus of Identity, making it a religion of hatred:
…there is no sympathy for the devil. And in the Identity world there is no future for Satan’s kids. Identity’s incarnational dualism will not be relieved until Satan’s kids are no longer incarnate; salvation necessitates the extermination of the seed of the serpent. (Walters p.45)

When attempting to make a balanced assessment of the threat posed by the Christian Identity movement, is it important to keep in mind that we are examining a small movement that is unlikely to experience significant growth:
…guesses have placed [Christian Identity’s] maximum size at no more than one hundred thousand, and it may be less than half of that. Further, there is no evidence Identity can attract large numbers of new members, although it has proselytized among small populations of the alienated (e.g., skinheads and white prison inmates). Consequently, it cannot look forward to a foreseeable future as a mass movement. (Barkun p. 119)

But before we dismiss Identity as a fringe movement of no real importance, we should remember that both the Oklahoma City bombing and the attacks of September 11th were carried out by small groups of fanatical persons. Though few in number, Identity adherents may pose a real danger to society in the form terrorist activities.

Works Cited

Barkun, Michael. Religion and the Racist Right: the Origins of the
Christian Identity Movement. Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1994.

Coughlin, Father Charles. Father Coughlin’s Radio Sermons October
1930-April 1931, Complete. Baltimore: Knox and O’Leary,

Walters, Jerome. One Aryan Nation Under God: How Religious Extremists
Use the Bible to Justify Their Actions. Naperville: Sourcebooks,

The Racist Right: Theory and Motivations

This essay attempts to address three issues concerning the American racist right. First,what are the basic tenets of its belief system? How do the members of this subculture view the world around them, and how do they see themselves in relation to it? Second, what causes a person to choose to become a part of this subculture? What was its initial appeal? And what causes a person to remain attached to the movement after they have joined? And finally, what causes a person to leave this subculture? Some members remain true to their cause until their deaths. Others eventually drift (or are pushed) out of the group. Why does this happen? By examining these issues, we will come to have a deeper understanding of the racist right as a whole, and be better prepared to counter its opposition to democratic institutions.
All extremist movements, whether right or left in orientation, share a central belief in a distain for pluralism. This core ideology is referred to by Lipset and Raab as monism:
…the operational heart of extremism is the repression of difference and dissent, the closing down of the market place of ideas. More precisely, the operational essence of extremism, of monism, is the tendency to treat cleavage and ambivalence as illegitimate. (Lipset and Rabb p.6)

The thinking behind this outlook is simple enough. Unlike many modern intellectuals who work under the assumption that all value systems are man made and therefore relative, monists hold that there is in fact a clearly discernable “higher truth” to the universe, a truth that can be plainly seen by any intelligent person who examines the world around them. If this simple truth were to be applied to our society, virtually all of the social discord and want we see in our current culture would disappear. The nature of this ultimate solution, of course, varies greatly from one extremist group to another. For one, it may be the establishment of a worker-controlled economy. For another, the formation of a stateless society. And for some, the complete separation of the races is seen as the key to our final happiness. Extremist movements are marked by a political simplism, a failure to grasp the complex problems of the modern world. 62% of right-wing letter writers surveyed by Lipset and Rabb agreed with the statement “the answers to our country’s problems are much simpler than the experts would have us believe.” (Ibid p. 8) This central truth is unchanging and eternal, making the ideologies of extremists inflexible and unresponsive to an evolving environment. This helps to explain the decline of Marxism, as it found itself ideologically incapable of adjusting itself to a post-industrial economic structure. Whether the American far right can adjust itself to a rapidly changing America remains to be seen.
In the monist mindset, there can be few if any gray areas in moral decision-making. As the extremist believes that their vision of the new order is flawless, anything that works against their program must be seen as wrong. The world can be viewed as being divided into two camps: those who are working for the new order and those who are working against it. In this we can easily see the source of the monist’s hostility towards an open marketplace of ideas. All other ideologies are objectively incorrect, so why should we allow them to be expressed? Dissent from the monist’s position will be viewed in two ways. Either the critic will be dismissed as hopelessly ignorant as to the reality of the situation, or they will be accused of possessing a deliberately evil intent, usually involving self-gain. The monist perspective also tends to create a siege mentality among those in the group, as almost the entire outside world will be viewed as being persecutors of those who possess the scared truth.
If for a moment we grant the utopian vision of the extremist as fact, a basic question emerges. Why has humanity not adopted this ideology, if it will clearly end the majority of our social problems overnight? The answer given is one that forms another central plank of extremist thought: the existence of a worldwide conspiracy. It is this evil conspiracy that has held back the progress of the human race. The conspiracy is comprehensive:
The typical conspiracy theory extends in space: it is international in scope: it extends in time: it stretches back in history and promises to stretch ahead interminably…William Guy Carr, a modern conspiracy theorist, writes: “History repeats itself because there has been perfect continuity of purpose in the struggle which has been going on since the beginning of time between the forces of Good and Evil to decide whether the Rule of Almighty God shall prevail, or whether the world shall literally go to the Devil. The issue is just as simple as that.” (Lipset and Raab p. 14)

If we go further and assume that this is an accurate representation of human history, them we must ask why the conspirators have been so successful in hiding the truth from the masses. For we must assume that the majority of persons are ignorant of this truth, or else we would give up all hope that they could be “saved”. The answer lies in the control of popular culture and government by the conspiracy. This control allows the conspirators to use the media to spread their deceitful messages to the general public. Media reports will be controlled to extol the system while dismissing extremists as “crackpots”. In some cases, the conspiracy will use its power to bring baseless criminal charges against those active in the movement. This leads many extremists to see themselves as heroic figures, deifying the powers of the all-encompassing conspiracy in an effort to spread the truth to the unenlightened masses.
To lend credence to their theories, extremists will sometimes quote scientific publications they feel support their positions. But many groups, such as white supremacists, are very selective in regards to which research they choose to make use of:
The reliance on science is spotty…The only science deemed legitimate is that which supports their racist assumptions; all other science is dismissed as biased propaganda, the work of a liberal, Jewish elite. White supremacists assure themselves they know the Truth when they see it. According to this circular logic, whether or not research is valid depends on its conclusions-if it supports the white supremacist message, it is good, “objective” science (Ferber p.74).

So when attempting to scientifically promote their beliefs, racists will quote extensively from The Bell Curve, while ignoring the vast majority of sociological research which finds no linkage between race and biological intelligence. And the academic ostracizing suffered by The Bell Curve’s authors can be seen as further proof of the conspiracy’s desire to silence anyone who challenges the system’s version of reality.
Extremists present their ideology as being not just another way to view the world, but as the objective truth. As such, their beliefs, according to them, are based in the natural order of the universe. For instance, those in the racist right maintain that
…any attempt to integrate the races runs counter to the natural course of evolution and is bound to fail. Genetic difference and evolution, as the path of increasing differentiation, are constructed as rooted in nature, reifying inequality as a natural, permanent fact of life (Ferber p.71).

This gives the extremist hope even when the situation looks bleak for the movement. For even if race-mixing appears to be the norm, in the end it will lead to chaos, as racial separation is the “natural” order of the universe. This chaos will lead to the eventual acceptance of the separatist position. By the same token, those who struggle against a perceived satanic conspiracy can take heart in even the darkest hour. For what conspiracy, no matter how entrenched, can withstand the wrath of the Lord?
We now turn our attention to the racist right, the group with which we are primarily concerned. Persons within this subculture believe the white race is the most biologically fit in humankind. Some maintain God has selected the Aryan race as his “chosen people”. Others believe that whites are the most evolutionarily advanced form of humankind. Irregardless of the details of their ideologies, the racist right is unified in its desire for the maintaining of separation between the races.
White supremacists see themselves as warriors fighting for the formation of an all-white nation. And, it logically follows,
The warrior needs an enemy. Without one there is nothing against which to fight, nothing from which to save the world, nothing to give his life meaning. What this means, of course, is that if an enemy is not ontologically present in the nature of things, one must be manufactured (Ferber p.26).

But it is not enough to know that there is a vague, evil force operating in the world. Thus defined, the hero has no concrete target to project his righteous anger against. One of the problems experienced by Senator Joseph McCarthy in rallying long-term support for his anti-Communist campaign was the faceless, secret nature of the conspiracy he described (Lipset and Rabb p.490). An enemy must be given corporate form if it is to be accepted as a legitimate threat. To serve the role of the puppet masters of the conspiracy, white supremacists have chosen the Jews. This anti-Semitism, of course, has its roots in ancient European history. The Jews have historically kept themselves separated both religiously and sexually from the greater population. Being the “outsiders” in Europe (along with the gypsies, who have faced similar persecution), it is easy to see how they became targets for the suspicions of their neighbors. Legends of Christian babies being sacrificed in Jewish rituals, along with the accusation that the Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Christ were commonplace. Current white supremacist theory holds that all Jews have a strong, clannish loyalty to their race, and seek to forward its interests at the expense of all other races. The Jews are, depending on the racist in question, described as a mongrel race that originated in the Caucuses, or as literally the spawn of Satan himself. It is interesting to note that the qualities ascribed to the Jewish race by those on the racist right are the same ones they champion for whites: a strong commitment to their ethnic group, discouragement of inter-racial marriages, etc. One would think this would lead to some level of respect among racists for the Jews. Apparently, it has not.
By what means do the Jews hope to defeat the white race? Their main weapon, according to those in the racist right, is race-mixing:
In white supremacist discourse, mongrelization is depicted as leading to the genocide of the white race. A typical article describes it as “the genocide of the White race by irreversible downbreeding with a hopelessly inferior race.” Mongrelization, the result of interracial sexuality, is synonymous with genocide…because it means the loss of the illusion of purity upon which whiteness is predicated (Ferber p. 115).

So by causing interbreeding among the races, the Jewish conspiracy will destroy the purity of the white race, which will de facto destroy the race itself. A mongrelized population will lack the intelligence and strength of character of the white race, and will be more easily manipulated by the conspiracy. According to white supremacists, the conspiracy will accomplish this end by using their control of the media to encourage interracial relationships, most particularly relationships between white women and black men. In fact, racist writers seem obsessed with the idea of a white woman being “defiled” in this way. This reveals both a morbid fear of the sexual potency of African-American men, and a condescending protectionist attitude towards white women, who must be defended against the ravages of black males. As Ferber puts it, “Interracial sexuality between white women and black men symbolizes the ultimate threat and insult to white masculinity.” (p.105)
If a person believed that his or her own race was superior to all others, and strove to spread that viewpoint while separating themselves from other racial groups as much as possible, we might dismiss them as an annoying feature of our pluralistic nation. But what is disturbing about the racist right, and why law enforcement should be vigilant in monitoring its activities, is the moral justification for violence it provides to its adherents. Actions such as cross-burnings and assaults may be rationalized by the need to keep the neighborhood “all white”. Bank robberies, drug distribution, and counterfeiting may be morally acceptable to white supremacists if the acquired funds are used to support racist organizations. And even acts of terrorism may be excused if it is thought they will hasten the downfall of the system. When an organization crosses the line from dissent into the avocation of violence, it becomes criminal in nature, and should be looked at as such by the civil authorities.
At this point, we move on to another question concerning the racist right. Why would any American, having been raised in a democratic society that emphasizes diversity, allow themselves to be drawn into such an anti-democratic, monist movement? We can begin to come to an answer by noting that Linset and Raab’s research found that only about one American in ten has what could be described as a comprehensive set of political beliefs (p.429). Although this research was carried out more than thirty years ago, there is little reason to think the situation has improved much. If the large majority of Americans have no strong political viewpoints, we might expect that it would be easier for an extremist group to step in and fill the void.
There are also social factors in an individual’s background which may make him or her more likely to embrace monist thought. Lipset and Raab found that “The lower the education, income, and occupational status of persons interviewed in diverse studies, the more likely they are to oppose integration and to harbor prejudices of various sorts against Negroes.” (p.433) They also discovered a strong correlation between racist thought and a conspiratal worldview. (p.291) I would seem to be rational to assume that those persons who hold racist and conspiratal beliefs to begin with would be more likely to join white supremacist organizations. One might therefore be tempted to think of education as a “magic bullet” with which to counter the threat of racism and extremism in American society. But as we shall see, the factors which cause a person to join a monist group are complex, and education alone is unlikely to make a an individual impervious to extremist thinking.
An extremist group can organize itself in two ways. The first is to portray itself as a broad-based, populist movement, which seeks only to express the true will of the “silent majority”. It will attempt to recruit as many members as possible, and directly affect the political process. The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920’s is a good example. Most contemporary extremist groups in the U.S. have taken the approach of the vanguard party. In this model, the organization does not seek a broad membership, nor does it hold any illusions of coming to power through political means. It seeks to recruit the “exceptional” individuals of society, and form them into a tightly knit, well-disciplined group. Their program is one of education and indoctrination of the masses. Once the common man and woman have been properly educated as to the truth of the current situation, these groups see themselves as the leaders of a revolution which will usher in the new order.
As might be expected, these two methods of organization will attract two different sorts of recruits. The broader based populist movements will draw some true extremists, but the majority of its membership will be made up of persons who could be described as “fellow travelers”. These persons may agree with some of the anti-system rhetoric of the group, but will distance themselves from the more extreme points of the party platform. A survey taken of the supporters of Father Charles Coughlin (an anti-Semitic, pro-fascist priest popular in the 1930’s) found that only 20% could be described as overtly hostile towards Jews (Lipset and Rabb p.495). Vanguard groups, in comparison, will demand ideological loyalty to all the basic tenets of the group’s belief system as a prerequisite for membership. As most organizations of the current racist right can be described as vanguard parties, we should expect to find a high level of ideological commitment among its members.
If we accept that many Americans are raised in environments that foster racist attitudes, we are still left with a question: why would they join an extremist vanguard organization that isolates them from mainstream society? We can begin to understand their choice by considering the atomized nature of our current post-industrial society. In previous eras, institutions such as the churches, the unions, and ethnic organizations provided a sense of community to the population as a whole. Today, mass media delivers entertainment to the people in the privacy of their own homes. Our highly mobile society inhibits the formation of close ties with one’s neighbors or co-workers. What the vanguard party gives to its members is something they do not receive from the mainstream culture: a sense of belonging.
Along with providing a sense of community, the extremist subculture sometimes portrays itself as being a good place to meet members of the opposite sex. As bizarre as this statement may initially seem, one can find evidence that some far right groups use sex appeal in an attempt to recruit new membership, particularly lonely males. Resistance Magazine, a neo-nazi publication aimed at a skinhead audience, features a “Proud Aryan Women” section. It contains pictures of attractive young skinhead women, often sporting racist t-shirts and giving seig hail salutes. Ferber quotes a Klan leader as saying: “In order to bring in the men, the men will follow the women.” (p.60) As we have seen, extremist ideologies appeal most to those who feel alienated from the mainstream. It is perhaps not surprising then that some racists would use the suggestion of meeting women as a tool of enticement.
Most persons involved with the racist right, however, were not brought in as a result of sexual desire. And, contrary to popular belief, exposing a person to extremist propaganda is an ineffective way to recruit new membership. Aho found that “It is not uncommon to meet dedicated neo-Nazis who when they first read or heard of the group’s doctrines were shocked, morally revolted, incredulous, or simply amused by what they took to be patent absurdities.” (p.126-127) Instead, most monists were brought into the organization through a close friendship: “The prototypical candidate for neo-Nazism first ‘joins with’ an agent and then begins subtly altering his beliefs so as to maintain this relationship: in some cases a love bond, in others a valued friendship, and in still others a work partnership, a school tie, a marriage, or a family relationship.” (Ibid p.126) This is not to say that persons never join extremist groups of their own accord. Numerous examples can be found of individuals who sought out racist groups after reading their materials. I would hypothesize that these rare persons are the “true believers”, the most likely to remain lifelong members of the group and to attain leadership positions. But the large majority of extremists initially came into the movement through a personal relationship that preceded their interest in the racist right.
If we accept that membership in extremist groups almost always comes about through social connections, then it should not be surprising to discover that those groups which lack strong ties to the community will have a difficult time attracting new members from the local population. In his study of the racist right in northern Idaho, James Aho described the failure of the Aryan Nations to effectively recruit in Coeur d’Alene, the location of their headquarters. At the same time, the Kootenai County Human Relations Task Force (KCHRTF), a Coeur d’Alene based civil rights organization, enjoyed notable success:
…we can now grasp sociologically why the KCHRFT enjoyed the success it did in Coeur d’Alene while the hate groups did not. In short, it was because the KCHRFT was inspired and organized by the institutionally pivotal opinion leaders of the city. Most of these individuals were either northern Idaho natives or in some way deeply invested occupationally, religiously, and familially in Coeur d’Alene. By contrast, the Church of Jesus Christ Christian (Aryan Nations)…were…just recently imported from out of state, mostly in the person of retirees from southern California. Having few community connections, their efforts to solicit support from the local citizenry were repeatedly frustrated. (p.172)

Once again, we should note that most people would not join an extremist group unless someone they trust brings them into it. Newcomers to the community are unlikely to have this bond with their new neighbors.
The implications of these conclusions are of monumental importance to those who study the racist right. If in fact most persons join the movement out of a need for social interaction rather than an initial attraction to its ideology, then the act of conversion becomes a sociological rather than political phenomenon. Many civil rights organizations expressed fears in the early 1990’s that the internet would open new doors for extremist recruitment. Whereas before white supremacists could only spread their message by means of low-circulation publications and word of mouth, now any curious person could log onto an extremist group’s website and find a plethora of information on the organization. The expected increase in hate group membership, however, failed to materialize. Given what we have learned here, this is not surprising. Exposure to extremist ideas, without an accompanying social contact, is unlikely to entice a person to join a monist group.
Now that we have examined the mechanism by which an individual joins an extremist group, we will turn our attention to what motivates a person to leave. While some extremists spend their whole adult lives in the service of the cause, many will drift away from (and sometimes dramatically flee from) the monist group they are attached to. How does this happen? Aho is of the opinion that the abandonment of the extremist group by the individual can be explained using a simple rational choice model:
Seeking to enhance their sense of worth in the world, as well as other public and private goods, hate-group members weigh social relationships both inside and outside hate groups in terms of their reward potential…Apostates have come to believe that social relationships outside the hate group have more promissory value at the moment, than do relationships inside the group. (p.128)

Given the perceived social rewards that motivate most persons to join a monist group, it is logical to expect they will hope to attain the same rewards when they leave. But what forms the first seed of doubt in an extremist’s mind? What initially causes him or her to question their organization’s value? Often times, the extremist comes into contact with an individual of a racial minority who does not fit into the stereotype propagated by the group. For instance, Aho describes the experiences of a young neo-nazi named John who, while working a summer job for the city parks department, came into contact with an intelligent girl of Japanese ethnicity and her white friend who used drugs. Both befriended him: “Faced with glaring inconstancies between his racially pure, morally puritanical fantasy society and two real human beings who displayed a fondness for him, ‘I realized I would have to make exceptions…’” (p.132). Once an extremist discovers that not all persons of other races can be fit so neatly into negative caricatures, he or she may begin to realize that some of them might be able to provide the emotional support previously found only within the extremist community. After that realization occurs, the monist’s commitment to their organization will be much less powerful.
The extremist’s realization that they must make “exceptions” to their rigid racial belief system also has the effect of undermining monism in general. Once they accept that there might be a few “good” Jews, blacks, Asians, or homosexuals, they must question the dualistic prism through which they view the world. If not all Jews are bad, then it stands to reason that not all whites are good. The clear line of demarcation between evil (minorities) and righteousness (Aryans) must be questioned. And if these minority groups contain individuals of some worth, than those individuals should be allowed to express their views. Monism, we recall, is the negation of plurality; the belief that there can be only one truth, and that only that truth should be expressed. Once the extremist acknowledges that other versions of the truth might hold some validity, he or she may find it hard to remain in the intellectually stiffening environment of the racist right.
Once a white supremacist has begun to waiver in their commitment to the cause, two forces can strongly influence the final outcome of their defection. The first is the reaction of the community to the repentant extremist. In a touching story related by Aho, a local Jewish man befriended a former Klansman by the name of Larry Trapp. Trapp was invited to dinner at the home of his new friend:
The occasion of the engagement was to provide Trapp the opportunity to carry out his promise to formally apologize to those individuals and groups in Lincoln who had suffered firsthand his demeaning epithets. Included among those present were representatives of the NAACP, CARP, and the Interfaith Coalition. At first the situation was tense. Once the apology was offered, however, words of forgiveness were expressed. Larry Trapp was readmitted into the community, acknowledged as a member in good standing. The enemies on both sides had been deconstructed. (p.145)

If the monist discovers that the community is willing to forgive past transgressions and offer them an open hand of friendship, the process of defection from the racist subculture will be accelerated.
Another strong influence on a potential extremist defector is the reaction of the hate group itself to the monist’s wavering loyalty. In this respect, monist organizations often unwittingly finalize a member’s decision to quit. Rather than counseling the disillusioned person and offering them logical arguments in favor of remaining with the group, monists often turn on any member who publicly expresses doubts as to the validity of the group’s ideology as a “traitor” or a “sellout”. The offending person is usually shunned by their former friends and vilified in the party organ. Seeing that they no longer have any social reason to stay in the movement, the former extremist will move even more quickly into the outside world, in the hopes of establishing new friendships.
It would appear to be very difficult to formulate a program to discourage persons from joining white supremacist groups. The exclusion of racist materials from mainstream culture may be desirable for reasons of taste, but is unlikely to negatively impact extremist recruitment. Increased childhood education in the value of plurality might be helpful, but what really needs to be attacked is the prevalence of racism in modern society, as these subtle prejudices often make it easier to accept the teachings of the racist right. More modestly, we can see some ways to encourage persons involved with racist organizations to leave the movement. Taking a confrontational attitude towards monists only seems to harden their negative view of mainstream culture. If it is at all possible, someone in the local community must attempt to make personal contact with the racist in question, and convince them that a more rewarding social life awaits them in the outside world. This strategy requires bravery and patience; more, I admit, than I may have myself. But if we are serious about disarming the extremist threat, we may have search for the moral courage within ourselves.

Works Cited

Aho, James A. This Thing of Darkness: A Sociology of the Enemy. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.
Ferber, Abby L. White Man Falling: Race, Gender, and White Supremacy. Lanham:
Rowman and Littlefield, 1998.
Lipset, Seymour Martin and Rabb, Earl. The Politics of Unreason: Right-Wing
Extremism in America, 1790-1970. New York: Harper & Row, 1970.

William Pierce, The National Alliance, and the Dream of an All-White World

Chapter 1 The Enduring Influence of William Pierce

William Luther Pierce, the founder and leader of the National Alliance (NA), died at his mountain home on July 23rd, 2002. His death was noted by many. Those in the white supremacist community mourned the loss of an important theoretician and leader. Victor Gerhard, an NA member writing for the racist skinhead group Hammerskin Nation, called Pierce “America’s most famous and influential pro-White activist” (Gerhard 1), and noted that “ The [National] Alliance became known for its professional approach to White activism, for energetic recruiting and innovative ways of spreading the Alliance’s message” (Ibid. 4). Billy Roper, Pierce’s main spokesperson, idolized his deceased leader: “Although he died of natural causes, I am convinced that if there is a Valhalla, there is a bench waiting for him there.” (Roper 1). Others in the white racist movement for the most part voiced similar sentiments.
Civil rights organizations, as might be expected, were not as admiring in their reports. Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center declared: “He was an evil man. This is a man who made mass murder dinner conversation. He created a group that over the last 25 years has left a trail of blood across this country. The National Alliance is an organization that has spawned bombings, mass murder, and all matter [sic] of mayhem” (Teaching Tolerance 1). The Anti-Defamation League released a press report voicing a similar opinion, saying, “Pierce’s legacy is one of anti-Semitism, racism, and terror that reaches beyond the membership of the National Alliance” (ALD Obituary 1).
The mainstream news organizations attempted to remain somewhat more objective, concentrating their obituaries on the predicted effects of Pierce’s passing rather than examinations of his character. The New York Times observed that “[Pierce] died as the leader of another racist group, Richard Butler of the Aryan Nations, is seriously ill, leaving a leadership void in the small but violent world of racist organizations” (Johnston 1). The Washington Post quoted a Southern Poverty Law spokesperson as saying: “Mr. Pierce’s death is a significant development because the group has no clear heir apparent…The problem for this group is that it is a group that is built around one man, William Pierce” (AP 2).
Some might consider it ironic that for all the attention given to him, William Pierce was a rather unassuming figure. He was a tall man, standing at six feet three inches, but was gangly and bookish in appearance. He wore thick glasses, and his unkempt hair gave him a disheveled look. He was by all accounts a poor orator, speaking in a monotone that would occasionally spike into a shrill pitch when he attempted to hammer home an important point. Pierce was also known as an introvert. His biographer, Robert Griffin, related a story in which he and Pierce were invited to dinner at the home of a young couple. About halfway through the meal, Griffin became annoyed at the silence of his friend, and turned to give him a reproachful look. Griffin said Pierce looked “shrunken and vulnerable”, unsure of how to take part in the conversation (Griffin 2002 9). This hardly seems to be the type of man described by Pierce’s supporters: a heroic, astute figure leading the white race to its inevitable victory. Nor does it gel with the picture of Pierce as a screeching demagogue, inciting his followers to acts of hatred and violence. Pierce lacked the charisma of his idol, Adolph Hitler. In fact, he could be a difficult person to relate to on a personal level. But his writings had a logical, consistent, and almost academic tone about them. These are rare qualities in the world of the American far right.
The most influential of Pierce’s written works is by far The Turner Diaries, a tale of race war and the coming apocalypse. The novel has served as a blueprint for many white supremacist groups’ violent activities, and its influence on the American racist right can hardly be overstated. In particular, one NA member took The Turner Diaries as a literal manual for action, with ultimately fatal results.
In the early 1980’s, a young man of some promise made himself known in the ranks of the NA. This man, Robert Mathews, was handsome, physically fit, and possessed a forceful personality that drew in those around him. He quickly became one of the NA’s top recruiter’s in the Pacific Northwest, and caught the attention of Pierce. Mathews addressed the NA annual conference in 1983, receiving the only standing ovation given to a speaker that year (Flynn and Gerhardt 95). Mathews was particularly drawn to The Turner Diaries, and came to feel that the time was ripe for the beginning of a racial war in the United States. In late 1983, Mathews began to assemble a team of men from the ranks of the NA, the Aryan Nations, the John Birch Society, and various Ku Klux Klan groups. Mathews dubbed his new organization the Order, after an elite group of racial warriors depicted in The Turner Diaries. Over the next several months, the Order would carry out a series of robberies. Most spectacularly, the group mounted several successful armored car heists, netting approximately four million dollars in cash. A portion of the robbery loot was allegedly distributed to various white supremacist groups, including the NA (Ibid. 272). The Order was also responsible for a murder. A Jewish radio talk show host from Denver, Alan Berg, was killed apparently because of anti-racist statements he made on the air. Mathews himself was killed during an F.B.I. raid on his hideout in late 1984. The Order then rapidly collapsed. Today, those in the American neo-Nazi movement look at Mathews as a martyr and hero. The Order came closer than any other organization to literally fulfilling the racist fantasy of The Turner Diaries. But others have also taken inspiration from the book, and with much more devastating consequences.
While serving as a soldier in the U.S. Army, Timothy McVeigh became engrossed with The Turner Diaries. He poured over the book constantly, and often tried to get other soldiers on his base to read it (Michel-Herbeck 59). After his discharge from the army, McVeigh was drawn into the shadowy world of the militias. He absorbed the paranoid anti-government teachings of the movement, and was enraged at the incineration of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, a tragedy he blamed on the federal government. After hatching his plan to destroy the federal office building in Oklahoma City, McVeigh made three phone calls to a NA representative in Arizona. He was planning to ask the NA for refuge after the attack. But the NA member was not at home at the time of McVeigh’s calls, and he was unable to make contact with the group (Ibid. 205). Many investigators have speculated that a passage in The Turner Diaries in which F.B.I. headquarters is destroyed with a fertilizer-based bomb directly inspired the bombing in Oklahoma City. Pierce himself denied such a link, pointing out that the bomb described in his book is of a different construction than the one McVeigh used, and that the fictional bombing in the novel is committed in an attempt to destabilize the government, not as an act of retribution (Griffin 2001 168). When McVeigh was pulled over and arrested shortly after the blast, an envelope containing several photocopied pages was found lying on the front seat of his car. Among them were excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, the writings of Samuel Adams, and The Turner Diaries. This, of course, brought quite a lot of attention to Pierce and the NA. Pierce denied any link to the bombing, and publicly distanced himself from the crime (Ibid. 170). But one wonders if he was not secretly pleased with the media attention his group received, along with the opportunity to further spread his message of racial separation.
A more recent act of murder that made national headlines can also be linked to Pierce’s writings. On June 7, 1998, three white men picked up a black hitchhiker, James Byrd, in Jasper, Texas. Two of the three white men were former convicts who had been associated with white supremacist gangs while in prison. After driving to a secluded road just outside of town, the three men beat Byrd, taunted him with racial slurs, and spray-painted his face black. They then chained him to the back bumper of their pick up truck, and proceeded to drag him to death along an asphalt road. The next day, Byrd’s remains were discovered, strewn out along several miles of the road. Police soon picked up the three killers, who confessed to the crime. One of the men, John William King, was sentenced to death. During the trial, one of King’s co-defendants mentioned a statement King had made to him just before the commission of the crime: “We’re starting The Turner Diaries early” (SPLC 1999 2).
The atrocities described above are only the most well known of the crimes Pierce’s writings have inspired over the years. Countless acts of vandalism, assault, and occasionally murder have been inspired at least partially by The Turner Diaries or other works of Pierce’s. His books and articles are considered to be essential reading by many in the far right, even by those who may disagree with some elements of Pierce’s ideology. Members of the Aryan Republican Army, which committed a string of bank robberies and bombings across the Midwest in the mid-1990’s, were required to read The Turner Diaries as part of their initiation into the group (CNC 24). In March of 1998, Federal authorities in East St. Louis, IL, raided the homes of members of a group calling themselves “The New Order”. The government claims that the men had made contact with both the Aryan Nations and the NA, seeking support for a planned string of robberies and bombings (Ibid. 23). If one combs the online bulletin boards of white supremacist organizations, they will find common references made to the “Day of the Rope”. This is an event depicted in The Turner Diaries in which Jews, judges, civil rights activists, and other “race traitors” are hung from lampposts by the thousands in areas that have been occupied by white supremacist forces. Racist skinheads seem to be particularly drawn to this image, as it fulfills the brutality and violent tendencies of their subculture.
Pierce maintained that the NA was a legal, non-violent organization. From the early 1980’s on, he publicly discouraged illegal acts by his members, saying that the time was not yet right for such action (Griffin 2001 223). In fact, the NA bars persons serving time in prisons or jails from joining the NA, except in “extraordinary circumstances” (NA recruitment flyer 2). However, some NA members have not followed Pierce’s advice and have violated the law in their efforts to forward their political ideals. As already mentioned, Robert Mathews and several other members of the Order were also members of the NA. Todd David Vanbiber was invited to attend a leadership conference for NA members in 1996. The next year, police arrested Vanbiber after a pipe bomb he had been working on exploded in his face, seriously injuring him. While it is unclear what exactly Vanbiber intended to do with his bombs, authorities believed he was associated with a shadowy group called The League of the Silent Soldier, which intended to wage a guerrilla campaign against the government (SPLC 1997 [1] 4-5). NA members are regularly arrested for minor crimes associated with their political activities. For instance, on December 7, 2001, two NA members were arrested and charged with ethnic intimidation, vandalism, and several other misdemeanors after they were caught placing NA stickers on public and private property (CNC 26).
Before preceding any further, we must address the question of the relevance of Pierce’s writings and activities. It might be at first tempting to dismiss him as a crank, so far removed from mainstream discourse as to render him irrelevant. The lengthy list of crimes detailed above is meant to convince the reader that many persons have in the past taken the writings of William Pierce quite seriously, and have committed horrendous offenses in attempts to turn his ideological visions into reality. To understand why these crimes have been committed, and to gauge the likelihood of similar crimes being committed in the future, we must first try to understand Pierce’s worldview. We must understand what goals he worked towards, and how he intended to achieve them. We must also consider how individuals in the white supremacist subculture will interpret and attempt to implement these goals. In the course of this examination, I intend to substantiate the following statement: William Pierce believed that contemporary Western society was irredeemably corrupt, and sought to create an all-white world through the use of terrorist and genocidal means.

Chapter 2: Pierce’s Life and Accomplishments

Before we attempt to comprehend William Pierce’s ideology, it is probably necessary to have some understanding of the man’s life: How he was raised, how he was educated, and what dominate forces shaped his political beliefs. Pierce was a unique specimen in the white supremacist movement: He was highly educated, and at one time a tenured college professor. These experiences gave Pierce an intellectual background that most of his contemporaries lacked.
William Pierce was born on September 11, 1933 in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the first child in his family, having a single sibling, a brother. When Pierce was eight years old, his father, an insurance salesman, was struck and killed by an automobile. Pierce had to help his mother make ends meet as a child, and he later claimed that these hard times helped him to develop a tough, self-motivating attitude that greatly influenced his development: “I think this external discipline; this external control—being forced over a long period of time to do things I didn’t want to do but that were necessary to do—helped me develop self-discipline. A lot of children these days never learn that. It’s amazing how many adults can’t do that. They can’t stick at a job they don’t want to do” (qtd. in Griffin 2001 29). Pierce was shuttled around to the homes of various relatives across the South during his childhood. He mentioned that his family, being southern, was segregationist, and that he often saw African-Americans performing menial tasks around his neighborhoods (Ibid. 28). Pierce had an early interest in science, particularly chemistry. He claimed to have done well in school throughout his childhood. For his last two years of high school, Pierce was sent to a military academy in Texas. He described it as a maturing experience that further enhanced his self-discipline (Ibid 33). After graduating from school, Pierce was accepted to Rice University in Houston, Texas. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in physics in 1951. After working a series of jobs in the field of physics, Pierce returned to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder. In 1957, he married Patricia Jones, a mathematician whom he had met while in Los Angeles. It was to be the first of five marriages for Pierce. Pierce received his PhD in physics from the University of Colorado in 1962. That same year, he accepted a job at Oregon State University as an assistant professor of physics. He was granted tenure three years later (Ibid. 38).
During his career as a college professor, Pierce for the first time began to examine the issues of politics and race. It remains unclear what exact event (or events) sparked his interest in racial politics. Pierce saw several things on his own college campus that dismayed him. By the mid 1960’s, the civil rights movement was in full swing, with the accompanying relaxation of attitudes towards interracial associations and dating. This new openness may have been offensive to Pierce, who had been raised in a segregationist culture. Pierce’s background had also given him a strongly anti-Communist outlook; he mentioned that the emerging anti-war movement, along with its occasional pro-Communist statements, was deeply troubling to him (Griffin 2001 62).
During this time, Pierce read two works that were to have a profound effect on his political attitudes. The first was a short play by George Bernard Shaw entitled Don Juan Goes to Hell. In the play, the title character travels to hell and has a long discussion with the Devil (who appears in the form of a Jewish man). The Devil tries to tempt Don Juan into a life of personal gratification. Don Juan refuses, arguing that all men should devote themselves to the great purpose of the universe. Pierce later said that this play inspired him to reject individualism and embrace an ideology of self-sacrifice (Griffin 2001 51). This same work would also provide the basis for Cosmotheism, a pantheist religion created by Pierce. Cosmotheism would provide the ideological backbone for Pierce’s political ideals.
The second book that greatly influenced Pierce in this period of his life was Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Pierce first admired Hitler’s character: He believed that some great personal force must have indeed been at work for a disabled, homeless veteran to rise in the space of twenty-five years to the position of Chancellor of Germany (Griffin 2001 64). The book also provided Pierce with the basis for his political outlook. He embraced the National Socialist position on elitism and the failure of democracy. He also adopted Hitler’s obsession with race, and the protection of the purity of white blood. And Hitler provided Pierce with a collective enemy to which all of the problems of the white race could be ascribed: the Jews.
Pierce’s first move into organized political activity came in 1962 when he joined the local chapter of the John Birch Society. The Society, which still exists today, is a far right organization that focuses itself on vast conspiracy theories, usually involving Communist plots. Although a small organization today, in the early 1960’s it was still a powerful force in the American Right. The Society has often been accused of harboring subtle racist and anti-Semitic dogmas (Lipset and Rabb 266-67). Apparently, these dogmas, if they existed, were entirely too subtle for Pierce: “If the Bircher’s were going to stress the communist aspect of the civil rights movement, why were they unwilling to look at exactly who these communists were? I said to them, ‘Why don’t we deal with the fact that so often these people are Jews?’...Why, I asked them, are the columnists in the newspapers who are sympathetic to the civil rights agenda so often Jewish?” (qtd. in Griffin 2001 85). Disgusted with the lack of racial consciousness within the Society, Pierce quit the organization after only a few months (Ibid.).
Later in 1962, Pierce saw a news broadcast which covered a tumultuous speech given by George Lincoln Rockwell, the head of the American Nazi Party (ANP). Impressed with Rockwell’s brazen presentation of National Socialist ideals in the face of jeering crowds, Pierce wrote him a letter. Several weeks later Pierce received a response, and the two men began a lengthy correspondence (Griffin 2001 87). In 1964, Pierce attended a convention of physicists in Washington, D.C. The ANP’s headquarters was in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, and Pierce traveled there to meet Rockwell in person. The next year, 1965, Pierce made the decision to leave academia and pursue his political activities. He resigned his tenure at the University of Oregon and moved his family to Connecticut, where he took a job as a senior research scientist at an aerospace firm. His wife found work as a math teacher. Pierce made weekly trips to Alexandria to observe how Rockwell ran the ANP, although he claimed he never officially become a member (Ibid. 113).
Rockwell was himself an interesting figure. He had founded the ANP in the late 1950’s, after a long career in the military and a failed effort at working as an independent graphic designer. Brash and quick-witted, Rockwell seemed to thrive on controversy and media attention. The ANP often held public demonstrations in which Rockwell and his men would wear brownshirts and swastika armbands while waving Nazi flags. Rockwell seemed to enjoy addressing hostile crowds, verbally sparing with the audience while attacking the civil rights movement and the supposed Jewish control of the media. His headquarters in Alexandria was usually occupied by several of his “storm troopers”, who acted as his personal security force and worked on ANP projects.
Pierce remarked that he was not greatly affected by Rockwell’s ideology (Griffin 2001 101). While he admired Rockwell’s bravery, Pierce felt that the ANP was far too sensational to ever become a serious political force in the United States. In 1966, Pierce approached Rockwell with the idea of publishing a scholarly journal of National Socialist thought. Rockwell approved of the idea, and suggested the title National Socialist World (NSW). Using ANP printing equipment, Pierce edited and released the first issue of National Socialist World in the summer of 1966. The journal was interesting in that it was clearly modeled after professional academic journals. Pierce described it as an intellectual journal of National Socialism (NSW vol.1 1). The journal contained a letters column, featured articles, and book reviews. It certainly bore a striking difference to the thuggish image put forth by the ANP’s public demonstrations. Meant as a quarterly, six issues were published, the last in 1968.
National Socialist World was a unique publication. No American white supremacist group, before or since, has attempted to publish a journal that was intended to be taken seriously as a tool of academic research. Its uniqueness was reflective of its editor, a man with a strong academic background who attempted to bring an intellectual element into the normally semi-literate field of American National Socialist thought.
Pierce’s push for a more professional ANP may have had some impact on Rockwell. In early 1967, the group changed its name to the less confrontational National Socialist White People’s Party (NSWPP). Around the same time, Pierce wrote that the new organization would shift its focus from publicity seeking to cadre building (NSW 5 33). Rockwell himself would not live to see the new organization develop. On August 25, 1967, he was shot to death in a laundry-mat parking lot by a disgruntled former member of the NSWPP (Griffin 2001 112).
Control of the organization passed to Rockwell’s second in command, Matt Koehl. After Rockwell’s death, Pierce officially joined the NSWPP and contributed a colum to the Party’s newspaper entitled “Lessons from Mein Kampf”. But friction soon developed between Pierce and Koehl. Pierce continued his push to change the Party into a professional National Socialist organization. Koehl was something of a Nazi fundamentalist, preferring to dress in Third Reich regalia while basing his political decisions almost wholly on what he read in Mein Kampf (Griffin 2001 115). Pierce may have also grown tired of working under the direction of others. He quit the Party in 1970, and became associated with an organization called the National Youth Alliance (NYA), which would eventually be transformed into the NA.
In 1968, Willis Carto, leader of the ultra-conservative (and most would say anti-Semitic) Liberty Lobby founded Youth for Wallace, a group aimed at mobilizing support for George Wallace’s presidential campaign on college campuses. In 1969, Carto rechristened the group as the National Youth Alliance, and turned its operations over to Louis Byers, a young man from the Washington, D.C. area. The stated goal of the NYA was to oppose the activities of subversive leftist groups on college campuses, particularly the Students for a Democratic Society (FBI #1 8). Many of the group’s members quit after Byers’ took the NYA in a more overtly white supremacist direction (Ibid. 14). Byers showed himself to be an ineffective leader, and by 1970 the group was $40,000 in debt (FBI #3 20). Pierce, having recently left the NSWPP, made contact with Byers and took over the publishing of the NYA organ, Attack! Pierce quickly became the primary leader of the organization, and Byers had ceased active participation in the NYA by 1972 (FBI #4A 29). Pierce severed the group’s connection to Carto, but took Carto’s mailing list for his own use. Carto sued both Pierce and Byers for the alleged theft, though the case was eventually dismissed (FBI #10 92).
In these early years, Pierce’s writings had a violently revolutionary tone, reflecting the insurrectionist feeling common among young persons in the tumultuous period of the late 1960’s. He ran a series of articles in Attack! entitled “Revolutionary Notes”, in which he detailed subjects such as urban guerrilla tactics and the manufacture of explosives. This brought the NYA to the attention of the FBI, who began monitoring the group in 1970 (FBI #2B 17). By this time, Pierce had quit his regular job to devote himself completely to the NYA. He lived off of his wife’s income, plus the donations from the group’s supporters and revenues generated by the sales of Attack! Pierce slept at the NYA headquarters in Washington, only driving home to see his family on the weekends (Griffin 2001 119).
In 1974, Pierce decided that he should move away from a youth-oriented approach and attempt to build a solid, professional adult organization. To that end, he shortened the group’s name from the National Youth Alliance to the National Alliance and opened it to adult membership. He also toned down the militant rhetoric of the group, adopting a strategy of cadre building in the hopes of eventually assembling a solid core of men and women who could function as disseminators of NA propaganda. In 1978, Pierce changed the name of the NA organ from Attack! to National Vanguard (NV) to reflect his continuing move away from sensationalist, vigilante rhetoric. The NA had been a small group to begin with, but throughout the 1970’s its membership steadily dropped. By 1977, the group was estimated to have approximately 100 members. Given the small size of the group and its move away from the advocacy of immediate armed revolution, the FBI closed its investigation of the NA in that same year (FBI #12A 10).
The one event that gave Pierce some level of fame in far right circles in this period (as well as much-needed funds) was the publication of The Turner Diaries in 1978. The book (written by Pierce under the pseudonym of Andrew Macdonald) was originally published in serial form in Attack! and National Vanguard. Pierce later said he felt the story was written in a rush, and that it did not represent his best writing (Griffin 2001 147). Regardless, it proved to be a seminal work for the American far right. The book details the exploits of the Organization, a group of white Americans who secretly organize themselves against the perceived Jewish-controlled government in Washington. The Organization launches a campaign of terrorism meant to disrupt the lives of white Americans and force them to chose sides. In the end, the Organization’s worldwide revolution is a success, and an all-white world is created. The book is written in rather pedestrian prose, but those who study military topics will probably take interest in the detailed descriptions of bomb manufacturing and urban warfare tactics. The Turner Diaries remains Pierce’s best-known work, and its popularity gave him a level of respect in the white supremacist community that few others could rival.
In the late 1970’s, Pierce began to formulate his own set of religious beliefs, which he called Cosmotheism. The NA held weekly political discussion meetings in Washington, D.C., and Pierce noticed that some of the attendees seemed to be searching for a spiritual basis for their political ideology. He began to hold separate meetings for these persons, and the twenty or so individuals involved began to refer to themselves as the Cosmotheist Community Church (Griffin 2001 187). Pierce was always quite careful to keep his religious and political activities separate, at least in public. No mention was made of Cosmotheism in the pages of Attack! or National Vanguard, and the Cosmotheist pamphlets Pierce wrote in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s were published anonymously.
In 1982 Pierce’s long-suffering wife, Patricia, divorced him, taking their two sons with her. Pierce said he had very little contact with his children after the divorce (Griffin 2001 39). Pierce quickly remarried, to a NA member named Elizabeth Prostel. The marriage lasted three years. After his second divorce, Pierce began to write to women who had placed classified ads in Eastern European magazines, a system sometimes referred to as “mail order brides”. He would marry three of these Eastern European women. Each marriage would last a couple of years before the women would grow tired of Pierce’s unusual lifestyle and leave him. (In addition, one must wonder if their achievement of full U.S. citizenship may have made their marriages to Pierce unnecessary.) Pierce’s fifth wife left him shortly before his death in 2002 (Griffin 2002, 9).
In 1984, Pierce purchased approximately 350 acres of land near Hillsboro, West Virginia, and moved the NA’s headquarters there the next year. Pierce paid $95,000 in cash for the property. Many persons have maintained that the money used for the purchase of the land was given to Pierce by Robert Mathews, and had come from the armored car robberies committed by the Order (CNC 18). Pierce denied this, claiming the money had been donated by a wealthy anonymous member (Griffin 2001 216). Pierce intended the new headquarters to function as an intentional community, a place where persons could come to live free of the corrupting effects of modern society: “There will actually be a place which we may think of almost as a very small country, less than a square mile in size, where some of our people can begin living in accord with our values and our principals 24 hours a day, every day; where children can be raised in accord with those values and principals. We’ll have a little country which is ours spiritually as well as physically” (qtd. in ADV 11/30/02 2). Pierce intended the new community to be a Cosmotheist one: “Our community on the mountain, on our little island, will be governed by the spiritual values that it is our mission to preserve. So it will be, essentially, a religious community” (Ibid. 5).
This attempt at constructing an intentional religious/racial community failed. As Pierce noted: “I thought people would come out here with me, or if not that, they would come along later...But it turned out that the rest of the world was not as ready for the move as I was, so the population has remained small out here” (qtd. in Griffin 2001 226). Rather than functioning as a small village for white supremacists, the property became the home of the five or six persons who formed the central core of the NA. The buildings on the property initially consisted of several small houses and trailer homes, as well as an office building and meeting hall. There have been allegations that paramilitary training has occurred on the site, but no strong evidence has been produced to back up these claims (Whitsel 126).
Buoyed by the popularity of The Turner Diaries and the increasingly sophisticated operation at the NA’s headquarters, the group experienced significant growth throughout the late 1980’s: By 1992, total NA membership was estimated at 1,000 persons (ADL 1988 1). In 1989, Pierce published his second novel, entitled Hunter. The book describes the exploits of Oscar Yeager, a vigilante who stalks and murders interracial couples in the Washington, D.C. area. Yeager eventually makes contact with a white supremacist group called the “National League”. Through the League, Yeager works towards the racial consciousness-raising of the white public through peaceful means, while still carrying out his terrorist campaign with the help of a racist FBI official. At the end of the book, Yeager learns of a nationwide plot by black militants to carry out a pogrom against the white population. Yeager does nothing to stop the attacks, knowing that the thousands of white deaths that will result will help to ignite racist feelings among white Americans, and thus help to hasten the coming race war.
Hunter is a difficult book to get through. Unlike The Turner Diaries, which for the most part functions as an military adventure novel, Hunter is mostly comprised of long-winded speeches given by the characters on the proper course the white revolution must take. Given Pierce’s unremarkable prose, the resulting work is quite tedious. (Pierce, however, felt that it was a much better written book than The Turner Diaries [Griffin 2001 247].) Hunter has never achieved the great popularity of Pierce’s first novel. But in some respects it is more chilling, in that it seems to advocate the random murder of interracial couples and other “undesirables”, as opposed to complex schemes of revolutionary terrorism. It is perhaps telling that Pierce dedicated the first edition of the book to Joseph Paul Franklin, a racist serial killer (and former NSWPP member) who is currently on death row in Missouri (Teaching Tolerance 1).
Although he saw the NA as being the only organization capable of leading the white people of the world to their proper destiny, Pierce would occasionally work with foreign and domestic groups whose aims he felt were compatible with those of the NA. This trend became more noticeable as the 1990’s wore on. David Duke, the prominent former Klansman from Louisianan, addressed several NA meetings (ADL 1998 17). The NA hosted rock music events in partnership with the Hammerskin Nation, a violent skinhead group based in Springfield, MO (CNC 20). Pierce had even friendlier relations with some overseas white supremacist groups, particularly the British National Party (BNP) in the United Kingdom and the National Democratic Party (NPD) in Germany. Both of the group’s web sites are listed on the NA’s site’s links page. In November of 1995, Pierce traveled to England to address a BNP gathering. Approximately 150 persons attended the event. After the trip, Pierce was officially banned from entering the United Kingdom (Ibid. 19). In 1999, Pierce traveled to Germany to attend a NPD conference and discuss business arrangements with the group (Ibid.). It is also worth noting that Pierce’s anti-Zionist writings have been popular in some circles in the Muslim world. Apparently unaware of Pierce’s wish for the destruction of all non-white cultures, his speeches are portrayed by these groups as being an honest American’s description of Jewish influence on culture and governments around the world. Hezbollah, the Shiite guerilla army operating in southern Lebanon, has posted several of Pierce’s speeches on its web site (ADL Update 1).
In 1999, Pierce purchased the struggling white power music distributor Resistance Records. It was a shrewd move on several levels. Together with NA member Eric Gliebe, who acted as Resistance’s manager, Pierce built the label into the largest distributor of white power music in the U.S. (CNC 10). In 2002, the Resistance catalog offered 610 different CDs (Ibid.). It provided a large, steady source of income, something the NA had never had before. In 2002, Resistance was estimated to have made $1.3 million in after-tax profit (Ibid. 9). Resistance deals mostly in “oi” music, a variant of the punk rock genre aimed at skinheads (Resistance also sells some folk, heavy metal, and country western CDs). The label’s companion magazine, also called Resistance, caters to a skinhead audience as well. This gave Pierce quite a bit of influence among the skinheads, a group the NA had little contact with before. And finally, Resistance gave Pierce another medium by which to introduce young persons to the white supremacist movement. While a teenager might be put off by the theoretical writings common in NA propaganda, he or she would be much more likely to accept a rock CD that contained white supremacist themes.
Pierce got off to a rocky start with the skinhead audience he was trying to woo with his acquisition of Resistance. The NA has always prided itself on being the most professional National Socialist organization in the United States. NA members favor suits and ties, rather than the robes of the Ku Klux Klan or the fascist uniforms of the World Church of the Creator. In the first issue of Resistance Magazine to be published under NA ownership, an article penned by an NA member had some harsh words for skinhead culture:
If Skinheads as they currently exist are the future of White resistance to Jew inspired barbarization of the Aryan race then we are doomed. You could best help the rest of us by committing suicide, thus putting you out of our misery. We don’t need you. You are useless latecomers and ignorant pretenders. Either join us grown-ups and accept adult supervision, or go away and quit screwing us over. Your current “help” is killing us (Peiper 9).
There was a predictable uproar in the skinhead community over these remarks, and Eric Gliebe eventually published an editorial apologizing to his readers, noting “Skinheads are a bright hope for the confused youth of today and we are here to help steer todays’ kids in the right direction” (Gliebe 2).
The incident was indicative of a dilemma Pierce faced throughout his career as a political organizer. Pierce clearly believed that the NA was the only group in the United States capable of saving the white race from the plots of the Jews. In addition to the ideological differences he had with other American white supremacist groups, Pierce felt that they were uniformly unprofessional and in many cases counterproductive to the cause. He maintained that the failure of the ANP (and Rockwell’s assassination itself) was the result of the “defective” persons that had been allowed to join the group (Griffin 2001 109). Shortly before his death, Pierce gave a speech at the NA headquarters during which he allegedly stated:
... the Alliance has no interest at all in the so-called “movement”. We're not interested in uniting with the movement, and we're not interested in competing with the movement for members. If anything, we should be grateful that the movement is out there to soak up a lot of the freaks and weaklings who otherwise might find their way into the Alliance and make problems for us. In this regard, I was sorry to note Aryan Nations and the Church of the Creator have, for all practical purposes, died in the last few weeks. I hope one or two replacement groups spring up to draw away from us the defectives (qtd. in SPLC 2003 1).
But despite his personal low estimation of other organizations in the American white power movement, Pierce occasionally found it advantageous to partner himself with some of them. As has been noted, the NA has worked with individuals such as David Duke for publicity purposes, and has associated itself with the Hammerskin Nation for logistical help in organizing rock concerts. To maintain these alliances, Pierce was forced to restrain his public criticisms of the white supremacist movement in public, while privately holding that his group was the only one capable of true victory.
In the spring of 2002, Pierce noticed that he was feeling weaker and more fatigued than he had in the past, and those around him commented that he looked thinner and more drawn than usual (Gerhard 4). A trip to a hospital in early July found that Pierce had developed cancer of the liver. He was admitted to a hospital in Beckley, West Virginia, where he underwent surgery and other treatments (Ibid. 1). After a brief period of improvement, it was discovered that the cancer had spread into his kidneys. Pierce decided to spend the last days of his life at his compound, and returned there on July 20th (Ibid.). He spent his remaining time composing a final will and testament, and advising other members of the NA on how he would like the group to proceed after his passing. Pierce died on July 23rd. There was some question as to whether the group would be able to avoid factional splits after the death its founder and only leader (ADL Obituary 1). Possible successors included Kevin Strom, a longtime NA member and friend of Pierce’s; Billy Roper, the NA’s media spokesman; and Eric Gliebe, the manager of Resistance Records. After a private funeral on July 29th, a tribunal of NA leaders selected Gliebe as the new director of the group (CNC 7). The predictions of the disintegration of the NA upon Pierce’s death seemed to have been premature: the group, at least initially, rallied around its new leader (Roper 1).
Today, the NA is a well-organized and well-financed group. Total membership in 2002 was estimated to be between 1,500 (SPLC Fall 2002 3), and 2,500 (CNC 4) persons. There are active “units” or “proto-units” in forty-three cities in the U.S., with five more in Canada (Ibid.). The demographic make up of the Alliance is varied. While obviously all white, the membership reflects a multitude of age groups and economic classes. Robert Griffin described the leadership of the NA as being predominantly persons in their thirties and forties, working class (often independent contractors), soft-spoken, introverted, and about 90% male (Griffin 2001 395-396). It is more difficult to get a clear picture of the makeup of the rank-and-file membership, but it appears that young persons are represented in greater numbers there. Pierce claimed that approximately 20% of NA members are women (Ibid.). Since the NA acquired Resistance Records, skinheads have been joining the group in larger numbers.
The NA enjoys an annual after-tax revenue of well over a million dollars (CNC 9). In 2002, the group employed twenty-one persons full-time, as well as a few part workers (Ibid. 12). With the increase in available monies as a result of the acquisition of Resistance Records, the infrastructure of the compound in West Virginia has been considerably expanded. There are currently eight main buildings on the site: four homes, a storage building, two office buildings, and a warehouse for Resistance Records, complete with a loading dock (Ibid. 8). One of the office buildings is equipped with a full recording studio, a video production room, and video duplicating faculties (Ibid. 10). There are also apparently several smaller structures on the property that serve as temporary lodgings for visitors to the compound (Whitsel 126). In addition to the previously mentioned Resistance Magazine, the NA continues to publish National Vanguard, an irregular journal detailing the Alliance’s ideology. The NA also maintains websites for Resistance, the Cosmotheist Community Church, and the Alliance proper. The NA website contains basic membership information along with an extensive collection of articles taken from National Vanguard. Pierce recorded a weekly radio show entitled “American Dissident Voices ” (ADV), consisting of Pierce’s own commentary. Today, the weekly addresses are handled by Kevin Strom of the NA, and are broadcast over short-wave radio as well as a few AM stations (SPLC 2001 4). Current ADV broadcasts are also archived on the NA website. Using these sources, as well as the older methods of flyers and public rallies, the NA has a wide variety of ways to expose the public to its racist message.

Chapter 3: The Nature of the Universe and Human History

William Pierce constructed an encompassing worldview that was unusual in the white supremacist movement both for its complexity and its comprehensiveness. This discussion will, for the sake of clarity, be divided into three chapters. The first (chapter three) will deal with Pierce’s understanding of the nature of the universe, and how human history has fit into it. The second (chapter four) will describe Pierce’s understanding of the contemporary Western world, and his strong objections to its mores. The third (chapter five) will describe Pierce’s proposed methods to purify the corruptions of the modern world, and the utopian existence he foresaw for the white race after this purification had been achieved.
The basis for all of Pierce’s ideological concepts can be traced back to his self-created religion, Cosmotheism. Cosmotheism, as previously mentioned, was based to a large extent on a play by George Bernard Shaw, and its tenets were set down in writing by Pierce in the 1970’s and 1980’s (though he had been developing its concepts since at least the mid-1960’s). It is a pantheist religion, holding that an animating force connects all life in the universe, and that that force has a definite purpose. There is no external God in the universe, only this force. Pierce wrote in one of Cosmotheism’s holy texts: “There is but one Reality, and that Reality is the Whole. It is the Creator, Self-created. The Material manifestation of the Creator is the tangible Universe, with all its non-living and living things, including man. The spiritual manifestation of the Creator is the Urge towards the One Purpose. The Urge lies at the root of all things and is manifested in the relations between all things” (qtd. in Cosmotheist 1 1). In this religion, evolution is not an accidental occurrence; the development of progressively more advanced forms of life serves a deliberate purpose. Pierce described that purpose in a speech given at a NA meeting in 1976: “ is the task, the one task, assigned to us by the creator. That is the task of achieving full consciousness and oneness with the whole, achieving full consciousness that we are part of the creator and our destiny is to achieve the single purpose for which the universe exists—the self-realization of the creator” (qtd. in ADV 7/27/02 9).
So the entire universe exists to fulfill this one purpose, the self-realization of the Creator. Pierce believed that the white race has shown itself, through its technological advances and cultural complexity, to be the most advanced species on earth. Therefore, it is the pinnacle of evolutionary progress, and the only race on earth capable of advancing to the next stage in the process (Griffin 2001 196). When the white race, through purification and education, becomes fully aware of its oneness with the Creator, the Creator itself will become self-aware. At that point, the white race will transcend its physical form and become gods (Whitsel 186). Hence the Cosmotheist affirmation:
My purpose is the Creator’s purpose. My path is the Path of the Creator’s self-realization. My path is the Path of Divine Consciousness. My destiny is Godhood (qtd. in Cosmotheist 1 13).
Cosmotheism remains a somewhat vague religion. Pierce wrote only three short pamphlets on the faith, and dedicated a few speeches to the subject. We are therefore left little material from which to gain a deeper understanding of the religion. This vagueness may have been at least partially intentional. Pierce apparently did not see himself as a religious prophet privy to great spiritual enlightenment; rather, he formed his Cosmotheist believe system from his readings of George Bernard Shaw and his own logical deductions regarding the nature of the universe (Griffin 2001 202). Although clearly reflecting a spiritual view of the world, Cosmotheism existed in Pierce’s mind primarily as an ethical basis for his political beliefs. Thinking of himself as a political theorist rather than a religious leader, Pierce may have felt that his time was better spent organizing the NA rather than attempting to launch a religious movement.
At this point, it might be useful to try to determine to what extent Pierce actually subscribed to these religious beliefs. Pierce at one time attempted to claim the entire NA compound as church, thus gaining tax-exempt status for the property. The government rejected the claim (CNC 8). This has led some to speculate that the entire Cosmotheist religion was designed as a tax shelter (Kaplan 249). It is the position of this paper that Pierce was in fact a devoted believer in his self-created faith. If one examines Pierce’s writings as a whole, one sees the tenants of Cosmotheism often expressed, though sometimes not explicitly. For instance, in The Turner Diaries, the title character is inducted into and elite group of white revolutionaries called the Order. As a part of this induction, Turner is given a religious text to read that is simply called “The Book”. After reading it Turner is awestruck, and comments that “We are truly instruments of God in the fulfillment of His Grand Design” (Macdonald 1990 71). Although here the word “God” is substituted for “Creator”, the underlining theology of Cosmotheism is quite apparent. And although Pierce produced no significant Cosmotheist writings after the mid 1980’s, the NA continues to maintain the Cosmotheist Community Church website, and in 1998 Pierce expressed interest in writing a book on the subject of Cosmotheist theology (Griffin 249).
Despite his apparent adherence to Cosmotheism, Pierce downplayed the religious elements of his belief systems when composing his political writings, and never mentioned Cosmotheism by name in them. There are probably several reasons for this. Many of the persons Pierce wanted to attract to the NA were Christians, and he probably saw no reason to offend their religious sensibilities and risk alienating potential members. As he put it, he did not want “a war with the Christians” (qtd. in Griffin 143). Also, if the NA was known as a religious organization, it might have taken on the appearance of a cult to outsiders. It was safer to portray the NA as a secular political organization rather than one based on strong religious teachings. Pierce apparently believed that after the success of the social revolution (which did not necessitate the conversion of the masses to his religion), the tenants of Cosmotheism could be more successfully transmitted to the white population.
If we look at William Pierce as not just a political man, but as a religious one as well, we can better understand the extremism and rigidity of his ideology. Pierce did not believe that the political platform of the NA was the best one by default; he believed in fact that it was the only one that could fulfill the purpose of the universe. This belief system, monism, is characteristic of extremist ideologies (Lipset and Rabb 12). If Pierce had thought that there might be more than one way to serve the Creator’s purpose, he might have been more willing to work with other like-minded persons or organizations. He might have even been willing to moderate his own positions in the interests of gaining some additional converts. But Pierce was a fanatically religious man. He felt that any deviation from his core system of beliefs would have been a betrayal of the purpose of the universe itself.
This monism extended into Pierce’s political writings as well. The Cosmotheist website features a question and answer section that contains the following exchange: “Q: With what single aim should men who are members of the Cosmotheist Community shape their institutions and structure their society? A: Their single aim should be service of the Creator’s purpose. Every other thing which men may consider desirable in their society—justice, tranquility, security, happiness, wealth, liberty—must all be subordinated to this aim” (qtd. in Cosmotheism Q&A 1). This total abandonment of a moral code outside the satisfaction of the Creator’s purpose gave Pierce an ethical license to commit any atrocity, no matter how egregious, in its pursuit.
Pierce’s monism also gave his writings a very high level of internal consistency, making his core beliefs relatively easy to grasp once the tenants of Cosmotheism are understood. Political theorist Michael Freeden noted that all political ideologies incorporate both rational and non-rational elements, reflecting the mental processes of the humans who created them (Freeden 29). Cosmotheism, with its faith-based promise of Godhood, is clearly based on emotional, non-rational appeals. From this non-rational base, Pierce was able to construct a logical and comprehensive description of the past, present, and possible future of the human race.
We might also note that like many extremist ideologies, Cosmotheism (which functions here both as a religion and a program for political action) promises a utopian world after the old one has been burned away. The fictional character of Earl Turner describes the post-revolutionary world as being idyllic:
My most profound impression comes from the fact that every face I saw in the fields was White: no Chicanos, no Orientals, no Blacks, no mongrels. The air seems cleaner, the sun brighter, life more joyous. What a wonderful difference this single accomplishment of our revolution has made!
All the workers feel different too, whether they are ideologically with us or not. There is a new feeling of solidarity among them, of kinship, of unselfish cooperation to complete a common task. (Macdonald 1990 171).
And beyond the end of strife and petty selfishness, Cosmotheism offers a final reward that few other utopian ideologies can match: Godhood itself.
As should be obvious by now, Pierce believed that racial differences among humans were much more than skin deep. In opposition to contemporary scientific research findings, he held that the various ethnic groups of humanity constituted sub-species, with vastly different characteristics and talents: “Only the fool or the mischief-maker can claim that the same soul dwells in the breast of the Negro, the White, and the Jew. Body and soul are interdependent, and the face more often than not reveals the essence of the inner nature. Every man instinctively knows this, but the false propaganda of racial equality has confused and misled many Americans” (qtd. in Strom 157). Pierce felt that these racial differences were unalterable: “One fundamental [truth] is that people do not change their nature, any more than the leopard changes its spots” (Resistance 16 24). Given these inherent differences, people will naturally choose to associate with others of their own kind, only mixing with other ethnic groups if they are forced to (Griffin 2001 326).
In Pierce’s worldview, miscegenation (inter-racial sexual relations) is the greatest crime a human being is capable of committing. The reason is two-fold. First, as described above, the purpose of the Creator can only be achieved by the continuing evolution of the white race. An impure, racially corrupted white population will be unable to make the transition (Cosmotheist 1 12). Secondly, each of the racial variants of humanity constitutes a separate, unique species. When one disappears, it is a tragedy: “There are no worse bigots than the advocates of miscegenation. It is ironic that these are the very bigots who raise the cry of ‘genocide’ whenever any proposal is made for dealing more strictly with Negro rioters or even for cutting back on welfare handouts. What could be more genocidal than interracial marriage?” (Attack! 20 6). However, Pierce clearly believed that the preservation of the white race was of the up most importance, and the welfare of the other races was a secondary consideration at best.
This obsession with racial defilement and the maintaining of the purity of the race can of course be traced back to the writings of Hitler himself: “Blood sin and desecration of the race are the original sin in this world and the end of a humanity that surrenders to it” (Hitler 249). Political ideology aside, there may be deeper psychological issues involved. Researcher Abby Ferber has suggested that the unusual amount of attention given by white supremacists to this topic may be a reflection of their own fear of the sexual potency of black males. She observes that in almost all of the negative depictions of interracial sex given by these groups, the image is of a black male “defiling” a white female. The subject of white men having sex with black woman is rarely, if ever discussed (Ferber 103). The reasons for this are two-fold. First, white woman are considered to be the most attractive females on earth to these groups. Women of other races are not as alluring, and therefore it is logical that more black men will be drawn to white women than vice-versa (Ibid. 108). Second, the image of the potent, muscular, and overall more anatomically impressive black male is a threatening image to many white men, and their pathological fear may be expressed in a rage towards this perceived violation of “their” women.
In considering the phenomena of racism in general, we might note that persons who become involved in racist groups always seem to be members of that organization’s perceived master race. Even if the NA allowed Jews to join its group, it is difficult to imagine they would (except perhaps in a few cases involving mental illness). The reason is obvious: It would be quite detrimental to one’s self-esteem to belong to a group that preached your own wretchedness. Whether consciously or not, groups such as the NA probably play a self-affirming role in their members’ lives. No matter how bad life seems to have become, one can still be proud of being a member of the only race destined for Godhood.
In their model of political extremism, Seymour Lipset and Earl Raab suggest that in addition to monism, one of the key elements of any extremist doctrine is the perceived existence of a an evil, worldwide conspiracy (Lipset and Raab 14). The identity of the persons behind the conspiracy varies from one extremist group to the next. For some it is the Bavarian Illuminati, for others, the Catholic Church. In more recent times many American far right groups have placed the blame for societies’ ills on a vast Communist conspiracy. For William Pierce, the great villains of the world are undoubtedly the Jews. He sees their influence in almost every part of Western society. They are the great enemy of the white race, and therefore the enemy of the Creator himself. It is the Jews that Pierce described as his main adversaries, and he saw their destruction as the key to fulfilling the white races’ destiny.
Pierce used the same evolutionary approach to describe the origins of the Jews as he did the other races of the earth. According to Pierce, the Jews were originally a large tribe of nomads, roaming the deserts of the Middle East, with no set home of their own. They mixed with the other tribes they came into contact with, giving them an unsavory mongrel bloodline (ADV 11/30/02 2). They also came to have a bad reputation among the other tribes in the region on account of their dishonest business practices. The Jewish people were driven out of many areas by other tribes because of their duplicity. When the ancient nation of Israel was founded, the Jews for the first time possessed their own country. It was here, Pierce claimed, that the Jews developed the one trait that guaranteed their survival as a people: Their strong sense of racial pride, along with its accompanying refusal to mix with other tribes and the urge to support one another regardless of the circumstances (Ibid. 3). Even after the Roman Diaspora, the Jews kept this strong sense of identity. They continued to work for the interests of their own race, though now they relied on guile and manipulation rather than military force to achieve this end (Ibid. 4).
Given the above description of the Jewish people, one might think that Pierce would have had at least a grudging respect for them. After all, they embody much of what Pierce aspired to: They have a strong sense of racial loyalty, do not engage in miscegenation, and put the welfare of their own people above all else. Pierce’s hatred of the Jews stemmed from the way in which they sought to forward their interests, not those interests themselves. In an article published in Attack!, Pierce described the Jews as being analogous to the parasites found in the insect world:
Thus, one never sees a Jewish bricklayer or a Jewish pipefitter, a Jewish lumberjack or a Jewish dirt farmer. Jews do not create—they consume; they manipulate; they buy and sell; they pander; they peddle pills; they mimic; they scheme and shuffle their papers; they sit in their office and give advice (for a price); they advertise; they strut and prate before the TV camera (their TV cameras); they scribble lies for the newspapers; they flood our libraries and book stores with worthless or poisonous books (which we foolishly praise to the skies); they sicken our children’s minds in the schools; they whisper advice into the ears of the politicians; they incite riots and lead demonstrations for “equality”; they judge us in our courts; they reveal our military secrets to our enemies; they own; they rent; they lead; they undermine; they subvert; they destroy (qtd. in Strom 81).
So the Jews do not honorably seek to forward their interests by competing fairly with other groups; they survive only through the manipulation and exploitation of other races.
This need for an overreaching conspiracy theory also explains why Pierce (and other American white supremacists) chose to make the Jews the main focus of their criticisms, rather than a more obvious target such as African-Americans. White Americans might be more personally afraid of blacks than Jews, but it would be much more difficult to construct massive conspiracy theory which claimed the black population secretly controls the functioning of the United States government.
Although he believed the white race still has the potential to achieve a higher state of evolutionary development, Pierce felt that the race as a whole has been in decline for quite some time. A part of this decline can be traced to the elimination of the process of natural selection that occurred as civilization emerged:
I think we reached our peak sometime around 10,000 B.C. when we moved into the Neolithic Age and lived a settled existence and farming became the basis of our subsistence rather than hunting and gathering...[Then] we built more permanent dwellings and started living in settled communities and there was a much more elaborate division of labor and we began to see large-scale social and governmental structures and we accumulated surpluses. The result of all of that was that those who simply would not have survived in Paleolithic times could now stay alive and breed. So I think that we began to see some dysgenics around that time, and evolution slowed down (qtd. in Griffin 2001 351-352).
Pierce believed that a system of eugenics implemented by the state would ultimately be required to speed the evolutionary process back up again (Ibid.).
In addition to the detrimental effects of modern civilization in general, Pierce saw Christianity as being one of the key historical factors that has stood in the way of the progress of the white race. One of his objections was the perceived non-Aryan origin of the religion. In a critique of the American conservative movement, he wrote: “The root of the that the religion of the Moral Majority is of alien origin. It grew out of a Jewish sect, and it was exported to Europe and Asia” (qtd. in Strom 203). Given Pierce’s belief in the parasitic and manipulative nature of the Jewish race in general, it is easy to understand why he would be distrustful of any faith that sprang from Judaism. It is safe to assume that Pierce would have also objected to whites practicing any religion that was not Aryan in origin; he would for example have likely criticized any white person who adhered to Buddhism or Islam.
In addition to its suspect origin, Pierce objected to Christianity on the basis of its theological precepts as well. Pierce, being a supporter of eugenics, found Christianity’s acceptance of the weak to be distasteful. He noted this disturbing element of the faith in his description of the Allied liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau:
To be sure however, in addition to the effects of the specific anti-SS propaganda concocted for indoctrinating the troops, there was a certain predisposition on the part of the Americans to identify with the inmates at Dachau rather than with the SS guards; both democracy and Judeo-Christianity inclined them that way...those who have taken to heart the Sermon on the Mount...are bound to value the homely and botched over the handsome and fit, the petty and mediocre above the noble and accomplished, the mongrel above the purebred, the mean-spirited above the idealistic (qtd. in Resistance 12 27).
The Biblical prediction of the last being first in the final days did not appeal to Pierce; in his worldview the strong will rule the earth, and the weak will disappear under the strict law of eugenics.
Pierce also felt that Christian theology contained elements that were inherently anti-racist:
And then there is the universalistic message of Christianity. That we are all alike, that fundamentally there is no difference among people, that the only thing that counts is whether you are in or out of Jesus’ flock. It’s the “we are all one in Christ Jesus” [sic] idea—man and woman, white and black, Greek and Jew...All of that is fundamentally opposed to the evolutionary view that I have and which I think is necessary to progress (qtd. in Griffin 2001 261).
Pierce, being a pantheist, also disagreed with the monotheist conception of reality. In Pierce’s view, we are all connected to the universe itself, and therefore have a responsibility to try to improve the great whole we are a part of. Pierce believed that monotheism, with its separate God and its promise of a great reward in the afterlife, encouraged persons to withdraw from the physical world and prepare themselves for heaven (Ibid.). This clearly contradicted Pierce’s activist ideology, which stresses action to change the world, rather than waiting for the Almighty to set things right in the final days.
Although Pierce was clearly quite anti-Christian in his views, he downplayed the issue in his writings and speeches. He did not dedicate entire columns to the dangers of the Christian faith, as he did for issues such as liberalism or democracy. One can only assume that Pierce realized that a large number of Americans still consider themselves to be Christians, and that he would only succeed in alienating them immediately if he strongly attacked their faith. In fact, Christians are allowed to join the NA. Pierce claimed that approximately twenty to twenty-five percent of NA members are Christians (Swain and Nieli 273). If this is true, one can only assume that these members are unaware (or perhaps willing to excuse) Pierce’s obvious anti-Christian bias.
Pierce held that with the modernization of Western society and the increased luxury that came along with it, another defect emerged in the white race: individualism. As he put it: “...whereas 50 years ago most persons at least felt obligated to accept and pay lip service to society-centered, nation-centered, or race-centered mores, today there is often no comprehension or even awareness of any viewpoint but one of extreme individualism. Society, in the eyes of far too large a portion of the current generations of Westerners, exists to serve the needs of the individual, and that is all” (qtd. in Strom 191). Pierce further believed that this trend was not only damaging to society, but showed a lack of maturity on the part of the person in question: “There is in each of us a combination of infantile urges and more mature desires and needs. The infant seeks only to gratify himself and avoid pain. The well-developed man or woman has a more inclusive concept of ‘self’ than that of the infant. He is concerned not only about his own needs but also about the needs of his family, his community, his clan, his nation, and his race” (qtd. in Free Speech 2). Given the tenants of Cosmotheism and the political demands of National Socialism, it is perhaps not surprising that Pierce would strongly reject individualism. In his post-revolutionary world, there would be no room for self-gratification at the expense of the needs of the Creator.
Those who favor the simple left/right dichotomy as a means of classifying political ideologies might be surprised to learn that William Pierce was a strong critic of the capitalist system. Pierce acknowledged that capitalism had done much to forward the technological advancement of the West (Strom 14). But he suggested that capitalism would be an unsuitable economic system in a post-revolutionary world, given that it placed the self-interest of the individual businessperson above the well being of the race: “The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker, of course, also have the all-too-human tendency of viewing the world in the light of their own parochial interests. The butcher’s feelings about what the price of pork chops ought to be are not half as likely to be based on what’s good for the community as they are on what’s good for his own pocketbook” (Ibid.). Pierce was of course also a rabid anti-Communist, but not out of economic concerns:
The evil in communism was not that it took property away from those who had earned it or inherited it and gave it to those who had not; the evil was not that it discouraged individual initiative or that it eventually made an economic basket case out of every nation on which it was imposed. The evil of communism was that it preached egalitarianism. It denied the differences in human quality among individuals and among races. Worse, it inverted the natural rankings of human beings. It appealed to the worst to bring down the best (qtd. in ADV 7/14/01 5).
Although Pierce (consistent with his fascist roots) considered a corporatist system to be ideal (Strom 15), he clearly believed that any economic system would suffice so long as it was made to serve the interests of the white race. He was not so much concerned with the material well being of the population, but with creating an economy that would be conducive to their racial purification and spiritual awakening.
Given Pierce’s adoration of Hitler, whom he once referred to as “the greatest man of our era” (qtd. in Resistance 11 23), it should come as little surprise to discover that he felt the Second World War had been won by the wrong side. The Third Reich, Pierce believed, had offered humanity its best hope for achieving the purpose of the Creator (Ibid.). Pierce saw the destruction of Nazi Germany as a turning point in human history. After the war, racial ideologies in general fell into disrepute, and National Socialism in particular was received with almost universal repugnance. Despite this defeat, Pierce felt that Hitler’s memory would live on to provided a positive role model for future whites: “...what will count in the long run in determining Adolph Hitler’s stature is not whether he won or lost the war, but whether it was he or his adversaries who were on the side of the Life Force, whether it was he or they who served the cause of Truth and human progress. We only have to look around us today to see that it was not they” (Ibid. 27).
Clearly, Pierce felt that the current state of human affairs was not tenable, and that the Third Reich’s political and racial policies would some day be vindicated.
In the world of the American far right, extreme patriotism is still the norm. Across the spectrum of the movement, from the Ku Klux Klan to the John Birch Society, the American flag is waved proudly, and America is held up as being the greatest of the word’s nations. Pierce set himself apart from most of his far right contemporaries by rejecting the historical image of America as being a paragon of moral virtue. He took the risk of alienating many potential supporters when he made statements such as the following, which described America’s involvement in the Second World War:
There were a lot of decent Americans who fought in the war in Europe, anti-Communist Americans, and many of them don’t want to think about the fact that they fought on the wrong side...I believe that knowing the far more important than protecting our carefully nurtured belief that we were on the side of righteousness. I believe that understanding how we were deceived in the past is necessary if we are to avoid being deceived in the future (qtd. in Griffin 2001 274-275).
Pierce did not see the U.S. as being the potential leader of a new, bright future, but looked to the white race worldwide for his inspiration.
While he may have differed with many of his far right colleagues on the issue of patriotism, Pierce agreed with them on a point of historical interpretation that is almost universally accepted in the movement: Holocaust denial. Pierce acknowledged that large numbers of Jews were executed during WWII by the Nazi regime in retaliation for acts of sabotage or insurrection. But he steadfastly denied that there had been any organized program to systematically murder the Jews of Europe (Griffin 2001 282). He wrote extensive articles explaining how the labor camp of Auschwitz was designed to process oil and rubber from coal, and that the deaths among the prisoners that did occur there were mainly caused by disease (Strom 158). Pierce also alleged that The Diary of Ann Frank was a forgery, and in fact had been written by the girl’s father after the war (Ibid. 198). Pierce believed that the false account of the Holocaust had been concocted by the Jews for three reasons. First, it helped to provide a moral rationale for the formation of the state of Israel. Second, it gave the Jews grounds to request large reparation payments from governments and companies who were allegedly involved in the atrocities committed against them. And finally, the memory of the Holocaust could be used to grant the Jewish people a victim’s status, deflecting attention away from their dishonest and manipulative practices (Griffin 2001 284).
Of course, the great irony in Pierce’s denial of the Holocaust is that even if he had acknowledged it to be a historical fact, he would have had no moral objection to it. Pierce believed that any act, no matter how horrific, was morally correct if it was necessary to forward the purpose of the Creator. Pierce saw the Jews as being the main impediment to the white race’s progress in modern times; their extermination would have therefore been quite permissible. Writing about the concentration camp at Dachau (which confined Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and other “undesirables”), Pierce noted:
It is to be regretted that Dachau was not really the “extermination camp” Jewish propaganda claimed it to be, and that the staff had not exterminated the 32,000 vermin incarcerated there before the Americans arrived to turn them lose on the world again (qtd. in Resistance 12 27).
In William Pierce’s mind, traditional history and morality were inverted. The Holocaust did not happen. But it should have.