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Coverstory: The Selling of The Turner Di...

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Coverstory: The Selling of The Turner Diaries -WÈhat Borders Doesnt Want You to Know continued from front page to instnict their managerial stafïon how to handle inquines from the press and public about The Turner Diaries. Part of the memo's introduction reads: "The __- Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors militia ties, has initiated a letter-writing paign to persuade bookstores not to carry the title . . . This is a hot media topic now and yoü'shoufd be ready to respond to reporters' quéstionson this issue. Here'sa Q & A which should assist you." Eight sets of questions and answers low, addressing in very general terms such issues as the book's publication date and controversial contents, criteria used by Borders in buying the book, and some very direct - ing campaign." The last part of the memo reads: vv . .(j,The Southern PovertyLaw Center 'has sfahed á letter-writing campaign to ask that stores not carry this title. Have you been contacted, and if so, will their campaign have any impact on your decisión? A. I'm not sure if we've been contacted. That would be something our corporate offices would know. I am certain that ders will consider the argument put forth by the SPLC, but to state that we won't carry the title because of their feelings flies in the face ofourbeliefincustomerchoice. Lotsofgroups ask us not to carry certain titles ranging from left wing political magazines to conservative titles. We stick with our commitment to our customers. Q. But the SPLC says that proceeds from the sale of the book will go to hate groups. What about that.' A. I 'm not aware of that. In fact it's been reported that some of the funds from the sale of the book will go to a gun control group. It's also been reported that the publisher wants to get this title out there so that people can understand the depth of the danger of the militia groups. Regardless, Borders will consider this title as any other and if we do sell it, it will be because we stand by our customers' right to choose. "That sounds like a lie to me," said Richard Cohén, Legal Director of the SPLC, in a phone interview, when read the last Q & A of the Borders' memo. A spokesperson for Borders, Inc., in a May 24 interview with AGENDA, disagreed with Cohen's assessment. "We're not out to decei ve anybody," said Marie Whisensant, acting corporate spokesperson for Borders, Inc. "We're Out to say.whatour position is, why we're carrying the book, and that is to provide the widest selection available . . . We are not here to make a political judgement about whether the book is a correct or incorrect thing." When pressed on the issue of whether the information Borders is passing on to their managerial staff was inaccurate or so incomplete as to be misleading, Whisensant responded: "We are not attempting to deceive the press or the public. We don't feel like what happens with the sale of the book in terms of the proceeds is what our employees shouldbetalkingwithcustomersandmediaabout . . . that's an agreement between the publisher and the author. That's not our business. We're here to carry the title, we're not here to get involved with the proceeds from the sale of the book." While Whisensant did not write the memo, she and her boss, Borders' vice president of marketing Marilyn Slankard, acted as liaisons for Borders, Inc. to produce the "Q & A" with a private public relations firm. Someone from that firm did the actual writing, but the language was ultimately approved by Slankard. In a May 28 interview with AGENDA, Slankard confirmed that the public relations firm had a copy of the Dees letter and said she assumed they had also read The New York Times article. Slankard also added that a second memo on the subject -"" was sent out on May 9, after Borders had officially decided to carry The Turner Diaries. Slankard said that much of the information had been revised, and though she would not make a copy of the entire memo available to AGENDA, she did confïrm - as first reported to AGENDA by Whisensant - that the last Q & A of the original memo was rewritten as follows: Q. We heard that $2 from the sale of each book will go to a hate group. We heard that $1 from the sale of each book will go to hand gun control. Is that true? A. We aren't privy to financial arrangements between the publishers and authors of any books we carry. Slankard stressed the hypothetical nature of the contents of both memos and said that the information in the Q & As "was deal ing with reports, not facts." "We do not, to this day, have confirmation that money is going to hate groups," said Slankard. Richard L. Flanagan, President of Borders, Inc. and the person to whom Slankard reports directly, officially responded to the SPLC in a three-paragraph letter on May 1 0. "You should know that Borders carefully weighed the relevant data before reaching a decisión on this very sensitive issue," Flanagan wrote. "Due to the national attention soon to be showered on this book, we anticípate enough customer interest to warrant making the title available in our stores . . . our actions are based on a consistent application of a philosophy of free speech and respect for our customer." SPLC: A Well-Grounded Position The SPLC wasted no time in responding to Flanagan's letter. Sent by fax the same day as the Borders letter, Dees responded: "lf Borders was asked to offer a book titled The Most Effective Way to Lure Childrenfrom School Yards and Kill Them, would you sell it? The Turner Diaries is a book about the most effective way to kill Jews. You shouldread it. Also, there are a lot of pomographic books that are popular, but are so gross that I doubt Borders would offer them 'based on a consistent applica tion of a philosophy of free speech and respect for [your] customers [demands] . '" The SPLC's seemingly hard-line po sition on the sel 1 ing of The Turner Dia riesis understandable given their nearly 25-year history of working to combat the causes and consequences of hate and racism in our society. The SPLC is probably most fai mous for its work in taking white supremacist groups to task for their roles in hate crimes through vati ve legal tactics. After 1 9-yearold Michael Donald was lynched in Mobile, Ala., in 1981 by two members trom the United Klans of America, Center attorneys , filed a lawsuit on behalf of nis mother. In 1987 they won an historie $7 million verdict, effecti vely bankrupting the Klan organization. In 1 988 SPLC attorneys won $ 1 2.5 million in damages from Torn and John Metzger's White Aryan Resis tance for their organization's role in theskinheadgangkillingofanEthioJ pian student in Portland, Oregon. _- - "" The pnncipal beneficiary of the settlement is the victim's son. Much of the SPLC's success has been achieved in the courtroom, particularly the U. S. Supreme Court. The SPLC has spearheaded long and costly legal battles which have resulted in landmark decisions such as Frontiero v. Richardson ( 1 973 ), in which the Court ruled that women in the military were entitled to the same benefits for their dependents as men. This was the first successful sex discrimination case against the federal government. The SPLC was also responsible for the desegregation of the Alabama State Trooper force. As the result of a lawsuit initiated by the Center in 1 972, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Ferguson (1987), that the Alabama State Troopers must hire two black troopers for every white trooper until black troopers made up 25 percent of the force. In addition to litigation activities, SPLC has over the years developed special projects. Klanwatch was created in 1 98 1 , originally to monitor the activities of the Klan but its mission has expanded over the years to include the gathering of information about hate groups and hate crimes. Klanwatch's files now contain over 15,000 photographs and 57,000 documented reports of bias incidents, making it the nation's largest repository of such information. The Klanwatch project includes the publication of Klanwatch Intelligence Report, distributed free of charge to over 6,000 law enforcement agencies across the country. The newsletter, as well as films and special reports, are made available to schools, churches, community tions, and human rights groups. The most recent special publication by Klanwatch, False Patriots: The Threat of Antigovernment Extremists, was circulated nationwide in early 1 996. In addition to fighting the consequences ofhate,theSPLCin 1991 launched Teaching Tolerance, a national education project committed to providing teachers with classroom materials aimed at combating the causes of hate. The project publishes the free magazine Teaching Toleranceanddistributes 150,000 copies of it to educators twice a year. The Teaching Tolerance project' s magazine and curriculum kits have won numerous awards and are used in all 50 states and many foreign countries, according to the SPLC. Realizing that there was a growing connection between white supremacist groups and various militia organizations, Klanwatch created The Militia Task Force in October 1 994 to track Patriot leaders and organizations. In a March 1996 SPLC report, Klanwatch's Militia Task Force identified 447 Patriot groups active in 50 states and found that 42 of these groups had racist ties. The Center will celébrate its 25th anniversary in July . It has 55 employees, whose work is supported by over 290,000 donors who contributed over $ 1 4 million last year. The Center provides its legal services free of charge. The Godf ather of the Patriot Movement The author of The Turner Diaries is no ordinary run-of-the mili neo-Nazi, according to SPLC literature. The formerphysics professornow runs what Klanwatch Director Joe Roy calis - in the May, 1996 Klanwatch Intelligence Report - not only the largest but the "most dangerous hate group operating in North America today." Pierce's National Allianceis a direct descendant of the now-defunct American Nazi Party. Pierce himself apprenticed under George Lincoln Rockwell, the ANP's founderand one of America's most-notorious neo-Nazis. "After Rockwell's assassination in 1 967, Pierce quickly rose to the top of the organization," the report says. "By the end of the 1 970s, he was leading a neo-Nazi splinter group - the National Youth Alliance - that became today's National Alliance." Pierce calis the New World Order the "Jew World Order" and once described Adolf Hitler as the "greatest manofourera." "Under Pierce' s leadership, the National Alliance is committed not only to a racist agenda, but to a fascist one as well," says Klanwatch. The report goes on to say that Pierce' s visión of an Aryan Utopia, in his own words, includes "a long-term eugenics program involving at least the entire populations of Europe and America ... all the homosexuals, race-mixers, and hard-case collaborators in the country who are too far gone to be re-educated can be rounded up, packed into 10,000 or so railroad cattle cars, and eventually double-timed into an abandoned coal mine in a few days time." Headquartered in rural Pocahontas County, W. Va., Pierce commands a vast network of resources for National Alliance recruiting and propaganda. His radio show, American Dissident Voices, which Pierce says has an audience of 1 00,000, is available via satellite, short-wave and AM radio. A publishingoperation, National Vanguard Books, prints pamphlets like the widely-distributed "Who Rules America" and distributes Pierce's three novéis: The Turner Diaries ( 1 9TèHunter{ 989), and Serpent 's Walk (1996). Pierce claims to have sold over 1 85,000 copies ofThe Turner Diaries, according to the SPLC. That figure has dramatically increased with the recent acquisition of reprint rights for the book by New York-based Barricade Books. Lisa Beek, director of publicity and subsidiary rights forthe publisher, informed AGENDA that Barricade Books is now ordering its third printing of the title, having already sold out of the first two press runs of 25,000 each. (Borders, Inc., accordingto Slankard, ordered "several hundred ... a few for all the stores, and some in the warehouse.") In addition to the airwaves and print media, National Alliance has more recently turned its efforts toward the Internet, establishing two World Wide Web sites and claiming a whopping average of 1,764 daily users, reports Klanwatch. Pierce has also initiated a campaign called "the militia project" designed to gain new members from the militia movement. "In the last two years, National Alliance membership has soared into the thousands," according to the report. "In 1 992, the organization had known chapters in only three states. Today, the National Alliance operates in more than a dozen states." The Turner Diaries has probably been Pierce's most effective recruiting tooi and has made him "widely revered among extremists as the ideológica! father of The Order and now, the Oklahoma City bombing," according to Klanwatch. It was no coincidence, they argüe, that in the early l980s a violent gang of racist terrorists calling themselves The Order - the same name as the underground terrorist group in the book - "tried to bring the book's race war scenario to life through a string of murders and robberies." The Order was led by National Alliance member Robert Mathews who died in a shoot-out with federal agents in 1984. "Eventually some two dozen members of his group were captured and sentenced to long prison terms," writes the SPLC. Klanwatch also points out that Timothy McVeigh often carried the book with him and sold it at gun shows. And it's widely known that the Oklahoma City bombing virtually mirrors a bombing described in the book. The First Amendment: The Other Side of the Coin "The right not to speak under our Constitution is as dear as the right to speak," said Richard Cohén, Legal Director of the SPLC in a phone interview. "'Publishers and book sellers have First Amendment rights like everyone else. They have the right to print and distribute books or the right not to. They don't have to be a warehouse or a repository for other people's books." "We made it clear that our request was based not simply on content but on where the money would go," Cohen said of the SPLC's attempt to dissuade Borders from selling The Turner Diaries."Mein Kempf might be a dangerous book but at least the profits don't go to Adolph Hitler. Unfortunately, proceeds from this book will go to Pierce." What if people are just plain curious to read the novel? "Borrow it from someone who already has it," suggested Cohen. Cohen added: "People should not be supporting a book or buying a book without understanding that proceeds go to support the largest neo-Nazi group in the country." It's a point that the SPLC can't seem to stress enough. And given Borders reluctance to mention it at all, neither can we. For more information about The Southern Poverty Law Center and its special projects, Klanwatch, TheMilitia Task Force, or Teaching Tolerance, write: 400 Washington Ave.,Montgomery, AL 36104. To register your opinión with Borders, write: Richard L. Flanagan, President Borders, Inc., 311 Maynard Street, Ann Arbor, Ml 48104. ■


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