Pierce, a physicist who grew up in Texas, was radicalized in the 1960s, and he joined the American Nazi Party. He later formed his own group, the National Alliance, which called for an all-white homeland and the genocide of Jews and other races. Pierce led the organization until his death in 2002, but his lasting influence took hold through his fiction.
He began publishing “The Turner Diaries” in 1975, as a serial in the group’s newspaper, “Attack!” The narrative, presented as found diary entries, follows white people who form terrorist cells and start a race war. The attacks they launch include a bombing of F.B.I. headquarters, a mortar attack on the Capitol and “the Day of the Rope,” in which “race traitors” are lynched, including “the politicians, the lawyers, the businessmen, the TV newscasters, the newspaper reporters and editors, the judges, the teachers, the school officials, the ‘civic leaders,’ the bureaucrats, the preachers.” Eventually, the group takes control of the United States and carries out genocide on a global scale.
Pierce published the chapters as a full novel in 1978, under the pen name Andrew Macdonald, and right-wing organizations seized on the story’s message that violence was a necessary means to protect whites.
Since its publication, the book has been sold at gun shows and circulated online, and it has frequently been tied to domestic terrorist attacks and racist violence. In the 1980s, a white supremacist group called itself the Order, and was closely modeled on an organization in the novel.
Timothy McVeigh, one of the architects of the Oklahoma City bombing, had pages of the novel in his truck. One of the men who carried out the murder of a Black man in Texas in 1998 cited “The Turner Diaries.” So did a terrorist in Britain who targeted Black people and gay people in 1999 with shrapnel bombs, killing three and injuring some 140.
More recently, the book has cropped up online in messages posted by far-right groups like the Proud Boys and has been referenced by extremists who sought to overturn the presidential election. A man in Staten Island was arrested in November after posting violent messages that referenced “The Turner Diaries,” including an anti-Semitic threat directed at Senator Chuck Schumer and a message about his desire to “blow up” an F.B.I. building.
Scholars and historians have expressed concern about the book’s availability in the United States. As more social media networks crack down on hate speech and calls to violence, some extremists may turn to books as a way to spread their ideology.