It’s hard to imagine professors at such distinguished institutes of higher learning like Vanderbilt University medical school openly endorsing and embracing a novel written by a former hate group leader that features, as a central plot line, the graphic assassination of a character based on a prominent Southern Poverty law Center figure. But they have, and their comments and their presence in institutions designed to foster intellectual discourse show just how inculcated radical right-wing violence has become in our culture.
The novel, White Apocalypse, was written and self-published by Kyle Bristow, a former hate group leader and current law student at the University of Toledo. He’s the former campus director of the nationally recognized Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom where he associated himself with and promoted the ideas of the leader of the whites-only British Nationalist Party, Nick Griffin, among others. Bristow eventually gained notoriety after advocating a video game in which players earned points by shooting Mexican migrants at the border. He’s also appeared on Fox News Channel, including spots with Bill O’Reilley and Sean Hannity.
The novel not only focuses on the assassination of anti-hate group activists, but it elevates to the role of hero the conservative commentators that support the far-right characters in the book. In fact, most of the references are so thinly veiled that it’s hard to see it as anything short of an homage to those forces mainstreaming hate, including Pat Buchanan (the protagonist Samuel Buchanan reads The Suicide of the West, authored by Pat Buchanan), Samuel Francis and Michael Savage.
Now, bad hate fiction has a long tradition in this country, so the existence of the novel shouldn’t shock anyone, nor should the fact that these diatribes often inspire horrific acts of violence. For example, the race war fantasy novel The Turner Diaries, written by neo-Nazi William Pierce inspired both the Oklahoma City bombing and the domestic terrorist group the Order in the mid-1980s. But even then mainstream academia stayed pretty far away from the material.
Contrast that with reviews that call the book “an emotionally compelling account of Whites as historical victims of non-Whites–just the sort of thing we need to motivate a renaissance among our people” as Kevin MacDonald, professor of psychology at California State University at Long Beach wrote. MacDonald, a member of the openly white supremacist group, the American Third Position, writes frequently that Jews are driven by a genetically programmed evolutionary strategy to undermine Western civilization. Or how about a review that calls the book a “well-researched page-turner” by Virginia Abernethy, professor emerita at Vanberbilt University and another self-described white “separatist”.
So much for liberal academia, huh?
The story is disturbing enough, but given the visible increase in actual violence flowing from this elevated rhetoric of hate, these kinds of public positions at our nation’s universities should give us all great pause. Open, critical discourse is key in any culture of learning. But actively endorsing and embracing violent, racist and inherently uninformed positions cannot be allowed to masquerade as intellectual freedom.
photo courtesy of Image Editor via Flickr