Magazine article Newsweek

The View from the Far Right

Magazine article Newsweek

The View from the Far Right

Article excerpt

Secretive, paranoid, obsessed with guns and Waco, the militia movement may have 100,000 adherents

IT BEGINS WITH THE COHEN ACT, rammed through Congress by liberals bent on eliminating the private ownership of firearms. Jackbooted federal agents go door to door across the country, seizing weapons from law-abiding Americans. Facing what they see as imminent federal dictatorship, a band of white Christian patriots go underground to fight back. Their tactic is terror--building a bomb from ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, loading it in a delivery truck and setting it off outside FBI headquarters in Washington. Seven hundred people die--and minutes later, one of the terrorists calls The Washington Post. "White America shall live!" he cries.

This dark fantasy, with its chilling resemblance to the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City last week, is among the opening episodes of "The Turner Diaries," a wretched 1978 novel that has long had cult status on the gun-toting far right. Written pseudonymously by a former physics professor and sometime neo-Nazi named William Pierce, the book tells how a group of citizen-guerrillas started race war in America, overthrew the government, killed prominent Jews and launched a U.S. nuclear strike on Israel. "As soon as I heard what happened [in Oklahoma City], I just had this gut reaction," said John Nutter of Michigan State University, who follows the paramilitary right. "It's straight out of `The Turner Diaries'."

Pulp fiction--even rancidly anti-semitic pulp fiction--is only the beginning of America's crash course on homegrown terrorism. From experts like Nutter, from law-enforcement sources at the state and federal levels--and from right-wing extremists themselves--Newsweek correspondents have assembled a disturbing profile of a secretive, paranoid and profoundly alienated political subculture that may now constitute a threat to law and order. This subculture, whose political genealogy can be traced in part to notorious white-supremacist groups like Aryan Nations, The Order and the Ku Klux Klan, has spawned a nationwide movement of heavily armed "patriot" and "militia!" groups that are only loosely connected to each other. There are no reliable numbers on membership, which is unevenly distributed across more than 30 states, but some say up to 100,000 Americans are involved. And while no one says all -- or even most -- of these militiamen are turning violent, last week's bombing has clearly shattered the complacency of federal and state authorities. Terrorism, we have learned, is as American as crab grass--and just about as difficult to uproot.

We do not yet know, of course, whether the perpetrators of last week's attack ever read "The Turner Diaries." But we know a lot about the ideology of the patriot/militia movement, and about its tendency to take apocalyptic, deeply conspiratorial views of U.S. politics. The federal government and aH it seems to stand for is The Enemy. To some true believers, Washington is simply "the beast," while others, influenced by the anti-semitic strain in supremacist literature, call it ZOG, for "Zionist Occupation Government." Bill Clinton, Janet Reno and most Democratic politicians are liberal elitists who betray traditional American values. Multinationalism--and any U.S. cooperation with the United Nations--is anathema. The Federal Reserve Board, and possibly all banks, are financial oppressors; the G-7 economic summits, NAFTA and GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, are evidence of America's gradual surrender to a "New World Order."

But at bottom, the militia movement is about guns--and it is a point-blank rebellion against any form of gun control. To militiamen, the Brady bill and the 1994 federal ban on assault weapons are harbingers of totalitarianism. So is the bloody debacle of the federal crackdown on the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas, on April 19,1993. Waco is the militia movement's Alamo. …

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