A blog exploring the intersection of dystopian fiction and radical politics

Monday, April 17, 2017

When? A Prophetical Novel of the Very Near Future

The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming paper for the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism--The Hague's Strategic Counter-Terrorism Communications project. The paper examines the evolution of the white supremacist ideology Christian Identity from its roots in British-Israelism, a historical theory claiming that Anglo-Saxons are descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel. The excerpt has been lightly edited to remove first references. The paper is expected to publish this week, and this post will be updated with a link. 


In 1944, the British-Israel association of Greater Vancouver published When? A Prophetical Novel of the Very Near Future under the pseudonym H. Ben Judah.[1]

When? is a dystopian/apocalyptic novel about the End Times as seen from a nominally British-Israelist perspective, but in fact, “the work stands as one of the first statements of what was to define Christian Identity doctrine, the belief that the Jews are the offspring of Satan,” according to Michael Barkun.[2]

The book opens with a stipulation from the author:
Do not let the reader be deceived into believing that this book is anti-Semitic. Actually it is just the opposite, the writer himself being of Semitic Judah, and therefore wishing to point out that there are two types of so-called Jews, the real Semitic Jew and the Ashkenazim so-called Jew who is a convert to Judaism only, ostensibly by religion, but not by blood.

When the reader understands these points, he will realize that this book is not anti-Semitic, but rather pro-Semitic, as it warns only of the Ashkenazim and their plans for world control, and endeavors to point out that the true Semitic Jew is not responsible.[3]
The protagonist of When? is Brian Benjamin, a British secret agent of Sephardic Jewish descent, engaged in spying on Magog, an enemy state led by Gog, whose intelligence apparatus has infiltrated the West and who is now preparing to wage war for the Holy Land. Benjamin makes the mistake of asking his superior officer questions about who the real Jews are, resulting in an epic amount of exposition that one of the characters even concedes is a “long rigmarole and not very much to the point.”

In the style of other political dystopias, When? features lengthy Socratic dialogues at the expense of plot,[4] in this case including extensive bibliographies from the voluminous output of past British Israelists, as well as race theorists and anti-Semites.

Published in 1944, When? is overwhelmingly concerned with discrediting the legitimacy of the Jewish claim to Palestine on the grounds of race, religion and politics. It does so by citing a torrent of British-Israelist authors—the characters at times literally read books to each other—and the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, which moves in this text from being an influence on British-Israelism to being a primary source.[5]

When? introduces a new and important thread to British-Israelist thought. The author reiterates previous claims that Ashkenazi Jews are descendants of Esau/Edom, but adds two crucial new elements to the story—first, that the Edomites are descended from Cain, the Bible’s first murderer, and second, that Cain is not the son of Adam, but rather the son of Eve and the serpent from the Garden of Eden story—Satan himself. Thus, the author argues, Ashkenazi Jews are the “seed of the serpent,” literally Satanic in their origin.[6]

The author’s argument states definitively that Cain is “spiritually” the son of Satan, and leaves open the strong implication that there is more to the story.
“…Who do you think was the father of Cain?”

“Why, Adam of course,” Brian replied.

“That is the generally accepted conclusion, I know,” replied his cousin, “but I do not think that it is correct. Adam may have been the physical father of Cain, but he was certainly not his spiritual father.”[7]
The When? author stops short of unambiguously stating that Cain is the genetic son of Satan, but he strongly implies it and documents biblical accounts of interbreeding between “fallen angels” and Cain’s progeny.[8] Whether or not Cain was Patient Zero for the demonic seed, the phrase “seed of the serpent” has literal, genetic meaning here.

The theory that Cain was the son of the serpent (whether physically or spiritually) was not new. It had originated in Jewish and Gnostic writings in antiquity,[9] and enjoyed somewhat of a revival in the 19th and 20th centuries.[10] The When? author combines this idea with British-Israelist genealogies to create the foundational claim of Christian Identity—that modern Jews are descended from Cain and from Satanic supernatural beings. The author further claims Satan’s conspiracy against Anglo-Israel— explicitly referencing the Protocols—originated with Cain, who is cast as the founder of the “synagogue of Satan.”

The argument mounted in When? incidentally opened the door to designating all non-white races as the progeny of Satan, as Identity ideologues would later do, but the author did not press that claim directly. And despite their demonic bloodline, the author leaves open the possibility of redemption for the serpent’s seed: If Jews accept Christ, they can still join the kingdom.

After almost 100 pages of dialectic exposition in the pages of When?, the battle of Armageddon finally takes shape, as the armies of Gog take Jerusalem.[11] In an inexplicable narrative choice, the author inflicts a concussion on protagonist Brian, who literally sleeps through the apocalypse, waking up weeks later to have events described to him by another character.

While Brian slept, the forces of British Israel formally prayed to God for deliverance, and Gog’s forces were immediately struck down at their moment of triumph by a supernatural “holocaust” that kills thousands of enemy soldiers, swallows their leaders whole, and destroys the Dome of the Rock and other Muslim structures. [12]

The Second Coming follows. After the earlier success of prayer, the King of England broadcasts a statement to the British Commonwealth and America acknowledging their true identity as the nation of Israel, urging all subjects to give thanks and pray for the return of the kingdom. Fire falls from the sky to destroy the “synagogue of Satan,” as well as any Nazi, Fascist or Communist sympathizers.[13]

Christ returns as king of an Anglo-Saxon empire on earth. This kingdom is explicitly millenarian, again advancing ideas that had mostly been left implicit by earlier British-Israelist authors. When? concludes with the beginning of Christ’s 1,000-year kingdom on earth, after which the Final Judgment would eventually be carried out.[14]

This millenarian utopia is described at some length. Christ racially purifies the United States and Canada by “removing” (through unspecified means) the “seed of the serpent” races. These races are not exterminated, but they lose all of their military and political might. Christ takes up the post of King of Israel and restores “Natural Law,” while reforming man’s banking, currency and tax laws, which are discussed in some detail. Many of these seemingly irrelevant details would become doctrinal tenets in later iterations of Christian Identity.[15]

From start to finish, When? reflects and illustrates the challenges facing contemporary British-Israelism. In addition to his primary focus on rebutting Zionism, the author repeatedly lashes out at the historians and theologians who undermined British-Israel theories, bemoaning the fact that “British-Israel theory is scoffed at by most people.”

When Christ returns and smites the seed of the serpent, he also vengefully strikes down “those who rejoiced the pride of their scholarship and had taught that the Bible was not true.” Among those blamed for leading Israel astray are the Roman Catholic proponents of replacement theology,[16] perhaps the oldest thorn in the side of British-Israelist doctrine.[17] Critically, the author reclassifies many Christian critics from being misguided members of the in-group to vilified members of the out-group – dupes or willing participants in the Protocols conspiracy, spreading the “Zionist scholarship” of the “seed of the serpent.”[18] Those who reject the truth of British-Israelist teaching are repeatedly deemed “apostates.”[19]

While presented as a work of British-Israelism, When? is instead the start of something new—a full-fledged extremist movement, Christian Identity. 


[1] Judah, H. Ben. When? A Prophetical Novel of the Very Near Future. British Israel Association of Greater Vancouver. 1944.

[2] Barkun, Michael. Religion and the racist right: The origins of the Christian Identity movement. UNC Press Books, 1997. p 51. 

[3] Judah, op. cit., p 3.

[4] Berger, J.M. “The Turner Legacy: The Storied Origins and Enduring Impact of White Nationalism’s Deadly Bible”, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague 7, no. 8 (2016). pp 14, 19, 23, 33.

[5] Judah, op. cit., pp 21-31.

[6] Judah, op. cit., 69-75.

[7] Judah, op. cit., 68-69.

[8] Judah, op. cit., 72-74.

[9] Stroumsa, Gedaliahu A. Guy, and Guy G. Stroumsa. Another Seed: Studies in Gnostic Mythology. Vol. 24. Brill Archive, 1984. pp 48-51.

[10] Barkun, op. cit., 171-174.

[11] Judah, op. cit., 90.

[12] Judah, op. cit., 88-113.

[13] Judah, op. cit., 118-121.

[14] Judah, op. cit., 155-156.

[15] Judah, op. cit., 122-132. Berger, J.M. Without Prejudice: What Sovereign Citizens Believe. George Washington University, Program on Extremism. June 2016. pp 8-10.

[16] Replacement theology holds that the covenants between God and Israel described in the Old Testament were fulfilled by Christ, thus concluding their validity, or that they were replaced by a new covenant established with the coming of Jesus. Vlach, Michael J. "Various forms of Replacement theology." The Master’s Seminary Journal 20.1 (2011): 57-69.

[17] Judah, op. cit., 85, 154-155.

[18] Judah, op. cit., 12.

[19] Judah, op. cit., 19, 57, 116, et al.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Turner Diaries on PBS American Experience

I spoke with PBS American Experience about the impact and origins of The Turner Diaries, as part of their recent series on right-wing domestic extremism, including films on the Oklahoma City bombing and Ruby Ridge.

For more about The Turner Diaries, check out The Turner Legacy: The Origins of White Nationalism's 'Bible', a major research paper I wrote as part of the Counter-Terrorism Strategic Communications project at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism--The Hague.

Related to that paper, I also penned an article for The Atlantic on how The Turner Diaries shaped the direction of white nationalism in the United States, starting an evolution that has culminated in alt-right movement.

And if you're interested in how dystopian fiction interacts with radical and extremist politics more broadly, click around this site, including some "director's cut" material expanding on works that inspired The Turner Diaries, with additional detail that didn't fit into the paper:


Friday, December 23, 2016

Logan's Run

Before The Giver, before The Hunger Games, before Divergent, there was Logan's Run.

Most people remember Logan's Run from the extremely silly 1976 movie adaptation, in which Michael York played the titular Logan, a "Sandman" who hunts "runners" in a dystopian future society. The premise of the movie is that everyone gets to live until they're 30 in a hedonistic paradise, and when they turn 30, they are sent for "renewal," meaning euthanasia. Those who don't want to be "renewed," run, which Logan himself decides to do in the course of the story.

This scenario was presented as a solution to overpopulation, a popular dystopian theme in the 1970s, most memorably addressed in Soylent Green, which will no doubt be the subject of a future post on this site. But Logan's Run is more memorable for its role in pioneering the genre it arguably spawned, young adult dystopia.

The relationship is clearer in the 1969 book version of the story, which differs substantially from its better known cinematic counterpart. The terminal age is 21 in the book, more squarely framing the story and the dystopian society around children and teenagers.

In the sense that its protagonists are all young adults, or younger, the book is a predecessor to the current wave of YA dystopian novels burning up the best-seller lists. It is not necessarily a book for young adults, however, given that it deals with sexuality among minors in a way that is uncomfortable at best and would probably create a challenge in getting the book accepted by a major publisher today. (tl;dr version, it turns out if you kill off all the adults, very young people get very busy.)

While I am not going to get into a deep analysis of this topic here and now, it is worth comparing the politics of Logan to The Hunger Games -- namely the former has some, while the latter largely does not. The Hunger Games is smarter and more sophisticated than Logan's Run, but it is very much a blank slate as far as a political message.

The Hunger Games never explains exactly what happened to the previous society, our society. A cataclysm is described in very general terms, and sketchy information about the origins of the Games themselves is provided. But the philosophy of the Capitol is not explored in detail, except for its authoritarian nature. There is a strong implication throughout the series that the 12 districts are segregated along racial lines, but this topic is never explored, and it does not feature as a grievance for the rebellion.

Suzanne Collins has stated that The Hunger Game is intended to convey an anti-war message, and this is somewhat visible by the end of the third book, but much less so in the early going. The cruelty of the Capitol is abundantly clear, as is the social stratification of the nation it oversees, but the particulars do not send an especially clear message.

To a greater or lesser extent, this problem plagues many other contemporary YA dystopias as well, to a greater or less extent. Here, it's worth considering the impact of Logan's Run, the movie, versus Logan's Run, the book.

The book is a classical dystopian novel, meaning it's very political. Although the book and the movie are both silly and campy, the book gingerly steps into some analysis of the social dimensions of a society predicated solely on youth. It also explores "the Little War," the crisis that led to the emergence of this dystopian society. While the answers provided are not entirely satisfactory or convincing, they are answers. While its politics are simplistic, they are coherent. Overpopulation plus youth bulge equals purge of the old.

Most of this nuance is lost in movie, which does not provide a backstory in any robust way and instead presages modern young adult dystopia by casting conflict as the young fighting back against the system. What the movie misses is that the system was created by the young, for the young, in revolt against the admittedly terrible adult society described in the book's backstory.

Logan's Run, the book, is a critique of the youth culture and sense of youthful entitlement that produce the dystopian regime in the first place. The progenitor young adult dystopian novel is about the extremism of youth, rather than the power of the young to save us all.

A postscript: Logan's Run spawned a number of sequels, which are on my reading list, but not near the top. But eventually, I will have some more to say on this universe.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dystopian Robo-Call

My colleague Jonathon Morgan shared the following on Medium:
This week I got another robocall from a white nationalist group, this time claiming to be from the year 2029. Seriously. It describes a world where Hillary Clinton’s actions have led to mass starvation and a world government run by the Jews.
The text of the call, as shared by Jonathon, can be found here. This is a startling testimony to the pervasive power of dystopian fiction -- even in short form -- as a radical political propaganda tool, and one with a long history in white nationalism specifically.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Spook Who Sat by the Door

One of the more interesting questions raised in my new paper, The Turner Legacy, is whether neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce was inspired to write his infamous racist dystopian novel, The Turner Diaries, at least in part, by a black nationalist novel and movie.

The Spook Who Sat by the Door, by Sam Greenlee, bears more than a passing similarity to The Turner Diaries. Both books describe a racially motivated guerrilla insurgency rising up in the United States, and both books include an element of practical advice in how to make that happen. The blueprints for revolution presented in each book are very similar.

Greenlee’s book is not as clearly documented to have inspired violent actors, but that prospect raised alarms with law enforcement. For a time, The Spook Who Sat by the Door was reputedly required reading for FBI trainees.

William Pierce was directly inspired by The John Franklin Letters, but he began writing The Turner Diaries soon after the film adaptation of The Spook Who Sat by the Door was pulled from movie theaters amidst a national controversy. Although Franklin uses a similar narrative conceit (the "found document" format), Turner is in many ways more similar to The Spook Who Sat by the Door in terms of its action-packed pace and high level of violence, although Turner ups the ante to a genocidal and apocalyptic scale.

For more on the relationship between The Spook Who Sat by the Door and The Turner Diaries, check out The Turner Legacy, my new research paper for the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism -- The Hague. And click here for a list of related articles and posts on this site.


Friday, September 16, 2016

The Turner Legacy

My new paper for the International Centre for Counter Terrorism -- The Hague was published today: The Turner Legacy. The abstract:
The Turner Diaries, the infamous racist dystopian novel by neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce, has inspired more than 200 murders since its publication in 1978, including the single deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, the Oklahoma City bombing.
The book is arguably the most important single work of white nationalist propaganda in the English language, but it is not a singular artifact. The Turner Diaries is part of a genre of racist dystopian propaganda dating back to the U.S. Civil War. This paper will document the books that directly and indirectly inspired Turner and examine the extensive violence that the novel has inspired.
By comparing and contrasting The Turner Diaries to its less-remembered predecessors, this paper analyses the reasons for the novel’s lasting impact, including its focus on rational choices over identity choices, its simplification of white nationalist ideology, its repeated calls to action, and the powerfully persuasive nature of dystopian narratives, which can be understood as a secular analogue for religious apocalyptic texts.
This paper is a milestone in the topic of this blog, which explores the relationship between dystopian fiction and radical politics. While this subject goes well beyond right-wing extremism, the importance of race to the dytopian genre is extraordinary. The earliest modern dystopian novel I could identify was a racist screed against the abolitionist movement, and anti-abolition dystopias helped fuel the genre's popularity. Dystopia is also important to racist extremism, and in a companion piece for The Atlantic, I discuss the role of The Turner Diaries in shaping what we know today as the alt right.

I will be posting more related to these themes over the next week or two, and follow me on Twitter @intelwire for more discussion. In the meantime, here are some related posts from this site:


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Racism and Radiophones

Tomorrow, ICCT -- The Hague will publish my new paper, "The Turner Legacy," which traces the use of dystopian fiction as racist propaganda from the 1830s through the publication of the infamous racist tract, The Turner Diaries. The paper analyzes the impact of Turner by comparing it to the works that directly or indirectly inspired it. 

Dystopian fiction and racism go hand in hand. In fact, the earliest example of a modern dystopian novel I could identify was vituperatively racist anti-abolitionist tract, discussed in the paper. There are so many racist dystopias that I couldn't fit them all into the paper. Here's a look at two of the outtakes: 

The Red Napoleon

William Pierce told his biographer that he had studied library books about race from the 1920s and 1930s, during the period of his radicalization. One notable entry from that era was The Red Napoleon, a 1929 dystopian novel by renowned Chicago Tribune newsman Floyd Gibbons. The novel was well-known in racist circles, and Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler fondly remembered discovering it at the age of 11.

In the book, the Soviet Union is seized in a coup by a mixed-race Mongol named Karakhan of Kazan, who proceeds to conquer America and most of the world, before finally being defeated by the author himself, who is also fictionalized as the book’s protagonist and first-person narrator. Many of the book’s characters are drawn from the real world, including fictionalized (and generally unflattering) renditions of Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, Alfred E. Smith, Herbert Hoover and Douglas MacArthur.

Karakhan is not simply a megalomaniac. Behind his quest to take over the world lies another goal – racial equality, which he believes can only be accomplished by forcible miscegenation. His army’s policy is “conquer and breed.” Although Karakhan’s army is eventually defeated, he achieves his goal, as his forces sweep through North America carrying out a campaign of mass rape before being driven back. Gibbons writes:

…the thousands of Eurasian, mulatto, mestizo children, half-yellow, half-black, half-brown, or half-red, born to white women in the wake of his conquering armies in Europe and the Americas, he holds that they constitute the lasting mark he has made upon the population of the world and calls them the first step toward the "deliverance of mankind from the curse of race prejudice."

I looked at the Red Napoleon in more detail here.

Sown in Darkness 2000 A.D. 

Another obscure entry in the annals of racist dystopias, this one from 1941, is Sown in the Darkness, 2000 A.D., a bizarre airships-and-radiowaves sci-fi novel about white nationalists reclaiming America from oppressive non-white domination.Written by William Twiford, a frustrated inventor whose love for speculating about future technology was superseded only by his fears of miscegenation, as he explained in the forward:
Two FORCES now at work are certain to result in the downfall of the white race unless checked at once and combated until overcome. The greater of these two menacing developments is the abject failure of our intellectual classes to adequately reproduce their kind as against the tendency of people of low mentality to overproduce their kind through the rearing of large familics. Western civilization is slowly but surely breeding out its brains. The statistical proof of this is overwhelming. 
The other menace is "the rising tide of color" resulting from the subtle interbreeding of the white with the yellow, brown and black races which already outnumber the Caucasian peoples of the earth more than two to one. In other words, Oriental civilization is now in the ascendancy while Occidental culture is on the retrograde.
The book's characters are Gatsby-like white socialites known as Separatists, trying to achieve a political victory over the multicultural Cosmocrat party that rules America in the year 2000, while navigating their complicated social lives, including a romance between the leader of the white nationalists, Robert Truman, and Niza Malay, who hides her gypsy parentage as the two fall in love, later tearfully confessing it, and still later revealed to be a pure-blooded white foundling who had merely been raised by gypsies, allowing for a racially pure happy ending. After winning various challenges against the Cosmocrats, including a beauty contest and a national election, the Separatists are forced to take up arms against the corrupt system. 

The book includes several illustrations and a lengthy appendix detailing the author's various ideas about the future, including "radiophones," a futuristic alphabet, an "interest-free" currency, a revised calendar system, and ideas for wind and hydro power systems. 



The Turner Diaries, the infamous racist dystopian novel by neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce, has inspired more than 200 murders since its publication in 1978, including the single deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, the Oklahoma City bombing.

The book is arguably the most important single work of white nationalist propaganda in the English language, but it is not a singular artifact. The Turner Diaries is part of a genre of racist dystopian propaganda dating back to the U.S. Civil War. A new paper from J.M. Berger documents the books that directly and indirectly inspired Turner and examine the extensive violence that the novel has inspired.




When? A Prophetical Novel of the Very Near Future

The Turner Diaries on PBS American Experience

Logan's Run

Dystopian Robo-Call

The Spook Who Sat by the Door

The Turner Legacy

Racism and Radiophones

The Unparalleled Invasion

The John Franklin Letters

Coming Friday: The Turner Legacy


J.M. Berger is an author, consultant and analyst studying extremism. He is an associate fellow with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism -- The Hague and a fellow with George Washington University's Program on Extremism. For more about Berger, click here.


"...smart, granular analysis..."

ISIS: The State of Terror
"Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, "ISIS," should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group." -- Washington Post

  • Foreign Affairs: Best books of 2015
  • Wall Street Journal: Must-reads on terrorism
  • Washington Post: Notable nonfiction of 2015
  • New York Times: The top books of 2015

    More on ISIS: The State of Terror

    "...a timely warning..."

    Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
    "At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective." -- New York Times

    More on Jihad Joe