If the American racist right has a bible, it may very well be The Turner Diaries, the 1978 novel by the pseudonymous Andrew Macdonald (William Luther Pierce, a physicist and founder of the white supremacist group National Alliance). The book is a rough read. Mostly because the writing is atrocious, but also because of its gleeful depictions of nuclear war and genocide. Pierce fantasized about triggering a nuclear war, after which the all-white militias would rise up and seize power amidst the chaos. It’s not exactly an original premise — Charles Manson based his “Helter Skealter” on a similar concept — but to a special type of racist cretin, it was an inspirational one. Probably the most infamous of the Diaries’ devotees was a 26-year-old veteran of Desert Storm named Timothy McVeigh.
McVeigh was among the first generation of rust belt kids. Born in 1968 and raised near Buffalo, New York, he was weird almost from the beginning of his brief life. After his parents divorced, the 14-year-old McVeigh coped by becoming a survivalist, stockpiling guns and other supplies in case the communists invaded western New York state. By the time McVeigh graduated high school, the auto industry had all-but left the area. His father worked in the same auto plant where his father had worked before him, but McVeigh couldn’t find anything as secure as a union job and enlisted in the Army when he was 20 years old.
McVeigh excelled in the service, quickly making Sergeant. Success in the military didn’t make him any less troubled, however. He earned a reputation as a racist, and in his spare time he continued to stockpile guns and food. McVeigh earned several commendations during the first Gulf War, including the Bronze Star, but when he failed the Special Forces test, he left the military in disgust.
A portrait has emerged of Timothy McVeigh as a rural Travis Bickle, wandering around the country in his military fatigues, complaining at one point that the Army was tracking him through a microchip they had injected into his ass. By 1992, his life had turned into one long radical right-wing road trip. He met Bill Cooper in Arizona and offered him one of the many copies of The Turner Diaries that he kept in his trunk, which Cooper turned down (to his credit, Cooper thought McVeigh was nuts). He also visited Waco to protest the ongoing siege of the Branch Davidian compound, and went to Area 51 to try and discover the truth about extraterrestrials and the New World Order.
In The Turner Diaries, the terrorists begin their campaign of genocide by bombing FBI field offices using a truckload of highly explosive fertilizer. McVeigh, inspired by the book, parked a Ryder rental truck containing almost 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate outside of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. The bomb was detonated at 9:02 a.m, killing 168 people total and injuring almost 700.
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McVeigh alone was sentenced to death for the crime. One of his accomplices, Terry Nichols, is serving life in prison for the bombing, while another, Michael Fortier served just ten years for his role in the plot.
The conspiracy subculture has a number of alternate theories of the bombing. Ted Gunderson blamed the FBI itself for the attack, claiming that it was part of the government’s plan to usher in the New World Order. Documentary filmmaker Linda Thompson points to McVeigh’s alleged microchip ass-implant to “prove” that he was a mind control government slave. (If he’d bother to ask McVeigh, the terrorist would’ve explained that his “ass implant” claim was a joke). In court, Timothy McVeigh took sole credit for the bombing, wishing for all the glory that he though future generations would bestow on him for committing such a heinous act. His fellow conspiracy theorists, however, couldn’t even give him that much.
McVeigh died by lethal injection on June 11, 2001 at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. He was 33 years old. Among the witnesses was his prison penpal Gore Vidal.
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