A densely detailed account of the racist right in the last half of the 20th century.
Civil-rights activist Zeskind writes that he first encountered the white supremacist/nationalist movement in the South a quarter-century ago and immediately regarded it not as the lunatic fringe but merely the farther edges of the rising conservative movement. “I believed that racists could turn the wheels of history as well as antiracists could,” he writes matter-of-factly. Certainly some of the successes of the 1980s—when David Duke (who “rarely missed an opportunity to line his own pockets”), Bo Gritz (who imagined that Zionists ruled the world, with George H.W. Bush as their king), the Christian Identity movement and assorted other haters came to prominence—suggest that Zeskind’s concern was well-founded. However, many of the hard-core members of the right had a habit of splintering into factions whenever an alliance threatened to form, so that the ultrarightist contingent could never quite get it together. For instance, Willis Carto, a pioneer of the modern supremacist movement at the center of Zeskind’s narrative, could not abide Pat Robertson, though he might have been a natural partner on paper, since Robertson was pro-Israel. Certainly Carto’s reluctant endorsement when Robertson ran for president in 1988 was nothing Robertson welcomed—of Carto’s tabloid The Spotlight, he said, “one of the most rabid, vicious publications and unfortunately a number of well-meaning Christians think that it is the truth and buy it.” The heavily armed Bible-thumpers and aging skinheads who made up the racist right’s constituency overthrew Carto, but they never found a spokesperson to take his place—though in his Homeric catalog the author identifies plenty of other activists on the supremacist scene.
Zeskind offers a well-placed warning that the racist right still has plenty of causes left, many wrapped up in the long-simmering nativist, anti-immigration movement. Stay tuned.