Archive for April, 2010

The Turner Diaries (1978) by Andrew Macdonald

Henry Gibson played a Neo-Nazi in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers.  Standing in front of his brownshirted buffoons, he uttered the following speech:

“White men! White women! The flag is calling you. The sacred and ancient symbol of your race, since the beginning of time. The Jew is using The Black as muscle against you. And you are left there helpless. Well, what are you going to do about it, Whitey? Just sit there? Of course not! You are going to join with us. The members of the American, National Socialist, White Peoples’ Party. An organization of decent, law-abiding white folk. Just like you!”

Unfortunately, the Turner Diaries has much the same content.  Make no mistake; the book is not a comedy, at least not intentionally.  The rigid seriousness of the narrator, one Earl Turner, and the pedestrian writing style left this reader rolling his eyes and saying to himself, “Oh come on!  Seriously?”  Before ridiculing the author, one has to realize that this scary little book is a product of its times.  What was he thinking?  Why did he think that?  Why is he constantly blaming the Jews and the Blacks for all his troubles?

In the Seventies, the United States faced a combination of crises in the economy, in foreign policy, and in politics.  The US support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War resulted in the OPEC-sponsored economic warfare commonly known as the oil embargo.  Decades of fighting a foreign war in Vietnam resulted in a crumbling infrastructure, a divisive chasm unleashed by domestic protests, the Civil Rights movement, and the heavy-handed tactics used to quash domestic dissent.  The Watergate scandal led to President Nixon to resign in disgrace and a foreign policy that shrank away from the challenges of foreign engagements.  Runaway inflation, gas rationing, and losing a decade-long war fueled paranoia and resentment.  In these dark times, Andrew Macdonald (the nom de plume of William Luther Pierce) wrote The Turner Diaries.

Pierce founded the white supremacist organization the National Alliance in 1970 with a Neo-Nazi ideology that is “explicitly genocidal” (according to the group profile on the Southern Poverty Law Center website).  Writing under another name, Pierce wrote a fictional account of a revolution that violently overthrew the government of the United States.  In the novel, we follow the clandestine exploits of one Earl Turner: gun owner, racist Christian, and Anti-Semite.

Pierce relishes in the violence and mass murder with a sociopathic glee.  The ruthlessness of the main characters pales the misdeeds and atrocities of the Marquis de Sade’s characters.  The Turner Diaries is also, in its own perverse way, family-friendly.  The novel has very little sex and not that much vulgarity (Cf. Sade’s novels).

What makes this book far worse than the usual saber-rattling thriller or ideological screed masquerading as fiction?  The “good guys” do some pretty disgusting things.  Murder, assassination, bombing government buildings, and hanging “race-defilers” are only a few things Earl Turner does in the name of White empowerment.  In the novel, Turner belongs to the Organization and wages a campaign of domestic terrorism against The System.  The System is Big Government personified to the brink of self-parody.  The novel opens with Turner and pals hiding their weapons due to the passage of the Cohen Act.  The repressive government has sent machete-wielding Negroes to seize their weapons.  (Come on!  Seriously?)

Make no mistake, Pierce casts aspersions at the usual suspects (liberals, Jews, Blacks, Communists, Israel, homosexuals, feminists, etc.), but this is also a novel that espouses Neo-Nazi revolutionary rhetoric.  Turner unleashes bile against conservatives, since they do not want to overthrow the System.

Unlike other works by fascist authors, Pierce is not a good writer.  Lyle Stuart writes in the Introduction that the book was a favorite on the gun show circuit.  One could facetiously classify the Turner Diaries as “gun nut fanfiction.”  Gun shows appeal to a certain fandom and Pierce writes for them.  One does not look for the technical precision of someone like Vladimir Nabokov or Samuel Beckett.  For gun owners with a serious beef against the Federal Government, this book was probably a gripping read.  To this reviewer, the novel offered an implausible plot slathered in sub-standard prose.  Louis-Ferdinand Céline for all his vile Anti-Semitism and misanthropy could at least craft a decent sentence.  Ezra Pound, even while recording radio broadcasts as Benito Mussolini’s cheerleader, had the capacity to write some of the finest poetry in the English language.  Ironically, it is the vilest sections, the parts dedicated to the most heinous racist ideology that the prose reveals a talented writer.  The novel itself has cardboard cutouts (the “heroes”) fighting racist caricatures.  It is like Blazing Saddles minus the jokes.

“I have great respect for human life. My decision to take human life at the Murrah Building – I did not do it for personal gain. I ease my mind in that…I did it for the larger good.” — Timothy McVeigh


Upcoming Events: Atlas Summer, starting June 21st

Atlas Shrugged (1957): 1368 pages of pure pro-capitalist ranty awesomeness.  The Battlefield Earth of Objectivist tracts.

Atlas Shrugged (2011?): The Battlefield Earth of Objectivist tracts.

Now that we got your attention — Angelina Jolie with firearms has that effect on people — Coffee for Closers is proud to announce its upcoming reading event: Atlas Summer.  Based on the popular Infinite Summer of last year, we will read Ayn Rand’s popular pro-capitalist novel, Atlas Shrugged, offering trenchant commentary, economic analysis, and comparative critique.  (How does the work stack up against the writings of Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and others?)  What better time to critique a work of free market fundamentalism than during the Great Recession?

Teabaggers and the Dark Carnival

April 14, 2010 2 comments

Every knucklehead with an internet connection has seen the latest video from hip hop pioneers Insane Clown Posse, but in case you’ve been living in a cave for the past week in a futile attempt to cleanse your mind of idiotic web videos, here it is!

What’s amazing about this video is how eerily synced ICP’s mindset is with that of your average teabagging militant reactionary: a violently willed ignorance in the face of all evidence.  In this little diddy, horror-core visionaries Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope express a dumbstruck wonder at the natural world more appropriate for medieval serfs than two guys in the 21st century who presumably know how to operate a cellphone (a pelican tried to eat his!).  These noted scholars view a whole array of natural phenomena, from rainbows to magnets to the existence of giraffes as “magic.”  Now, it is true that, as Arthur C. Clarke once noted,  that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, but we’re not talking about nanobots or time travel.  Scientific concepts like light refraction, magnetic fields and (gasp!) evolution are things that most kids should pick up by middle school.   However, there’s no way to show ICP that these supposed “miracles” are all easily explainable without shrugging our shoulders and calling “magic.”  The only people qualified to explain these things to ICP are the dreaded “scientists,” who, we learn from the song, ICP doesn’t “wanna talk to,” because “motherfucker’s lyin, makin’ me pissed.”  This really is the key lyric, where ICP basically admits that all of their “miracles” do, indeed, have natural explanations, but rather than accept them, they defiantly cling to ignorance in order to maintain their childlike wonder.  In this way, ICP, as anti-social and “urban” as they might seem to the great silent majority, is channeling the denialist worldview currently being pimped to an over-awed mass of the carbuncular elderly by Glenn Beck and similar charlatans.  The only way to maintain rapturous belief in a magical sky ruler is by denying thousands of years of scientific understanding, including evolution, which religious folks rightly see as the biggest threat to a religious view of the universe.  They do this by simultaneously denying the validity of science as a discipline, while also creating parallel pseudo-sciences to muddy the epistemic waters.  So, if the overwhelming evidence for evolution turns your blood cold, you can either wave a copy of the bible and yell real loud, or wave something you printed off from the Discovery Institute website and yell real loud.  If the notion of man-made global warming seems like a socialist plot to make Al Gore the iron-fisted ruler of the planet, you can simply make a jerk-off gesture at the foolish hubris of trying to understand something as mysterious as weather, or bust out the obfuscatory bullshit ground out daily by oil company funded “think tanks.”  This dual track strategy bespeaks a certain unspoken hypocrisy, a silent recognition of the power and validity of scientific understanding that they try to deny and manipulate at once.  Behind it all is a timeless drive to prop up religiously justified social and economic hierarchies.

This hypocrisy is not usually shared by the foot soldiers of the army of reaction: for them, the cherished mysteries of a world haunted by demons and angels must be protected at all costs, even at price of looking like a pie-eyed moron in public, like the Insane Clown Posse.  The very fact that Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope felt confident enough in their caveman cosmology to put it on the Youtube speaks to the enduring power of the Juggalo army and the purity of their convictions.  These gentlemen are truly people of the land, the common clay of the New West…you know, morons.

Communist Cars and Commodity Fetishism

“A commodity appears at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.” – Karl Marx, Das Kapital (1867)

“See the USA in your Chevrolet
America is asking you to call
Drive your Chevrolet through the USA
America’s the greatest land of all.”

Theme song of the Dinah Shore Chevy Show (1957 – 1962)

The Top Gear clips bring up an important question: Why were Communist countries unable to manufacture a decent car?  Consumers face a unique historical moment in 2010.  Free market capitalism is taking a heavy drubbing from the Great Depression, yet Communism has also failed.  Both economic systems, along with their fanatical adherents, believe each to have messianic qualities.  The Classless Society or the Invisible Hand will save humanity!  (And the troops will be home by Christmas.)

Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson and James May have a grand time driving the cars of Communist regimes, calling each other “decadent capitalists” and yukking it up.  While Clarkson and May have their yobtastic good time, the historical and cultural ramifications of such an exercise need not go unexamined.  The Soviet Union, while their cars were rather terrible, were the first in space, excelled at military weapons development, and had a hand in beating the Wehrmacht to a pulp.  At the end of World War 2, they, along with the United States, ascended to the position of superpower.  During the same time, the United States excelled in engineering and science.  The halcyon days of the Fifties brought with it prosperity and stability (provided you were white, suburban, and Protestant).  Communist regimes built the Trabant, an automobile that spawned a thousand jokes.  The United States built the Mustang.  In 1964 it was marketed as the “secretary’s car,” because of its affordability.

A car for the Joan Holloways of the world.

When comparing economic systems, one should not neglect the “fear factor.”  In soviet regimes, criticism and dissent were quashed while corruption and the black market thrived.  Solzenitsyn’s novel The First Circle examines the lives of inmates in a scientific laboratory that is also a prison.  Posh by gulag standards, the fear and repression posed a challenge to the scientists used to working in an environment of free inquiry.  By the same token, the Great Recession has spawned its own culture of fear.  Employees fear getting fired and job seekers fear the inability to get hired if they “speak up” or espouse unpopular ideas.  While there is little fear of getting sent to Gitmo or some other government black site, the fear has created an atmosphere where innovation, invention, and honesty remain rare commodities.

The forces of demand created the impetus for American car companies to produce affordable, reliable, stylish vehicles.  When they became too big to fail, outsourced labor, and fell back on Nativist excuses for shoddy craftsmanship, the US government bailed them out.  Buying a Japanese car (made in a non-union factory somewhere in the South) is not un-American.  Buying a Honda simply proves the market phenomenon of cash flowing to the commodities with the best value.  Honda at least has a Formula 1 team.  Conversely, American cars are made in Mexico.  (While technically true — Mexico is part of North America, thus making the cars “American”, QED — workers in the United States face a giant sucking sound.)  The very term “Buy American” (at least when applied to complex commodities like automobiles) falsely renders a complicated socioeconomic and highly politicized set of processes into a black-and-white choice.  In both cases, the American consumers loses.

Can we take those billions and buy Honda instead?

In this age of authoritarian capitalism ascendant (see: China), it is worth noting who makes the best commodities and why.  Affordability and reliability are key.  Other important factors include performance, styling, and marketing.  GM and Ford still worship at the Altar of High Horsepower.  Oil will not last forever.  Building cars that appeal to the average consumer, yet perform better than a golf cart, will represent a quantum leap in engineering every bit as monumental as the Bugatti Veyron.

The FT-HS Hybrid Sport Concept by Toyota: Runs on electricty, costs $35K, and looks awesome.  Also, it goes 0 – 60 in 4 seconds.