Bring the War Home
The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America
Harvard University Press 2018
After the U.S. presidential election in 2016, discussions about white nationalism, supremacists, and neo-Nazis went from being a niche topic to mainstream news. For those who hadn’t been keeping tabs on what we’re now calling the “alt-right,” it was as though they simply burst on to the national stage with the election of Donald Trump. The reality of course was that white power groups had been organizing for a long time, though many of their followers were dismissed as cranks, or if they acted violently, lone wolves. Much of the media coverage that they received actually helped them to remain under the radar by treating their activities as isolated and unique.
Kathleen Belew’s new book, Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America (Harvard University Press, 2018), traces the evolution of a paramilitary movement and the effect it had on white power advocates in the United States. The Vietnam War was particularly transformative in this regard. It culturally alienated many returning veterans from their government and left them feeling that they had been betrayed, but it also provided a certain amount of tactical instruction about how to organize their groups in an effective way. Groups became decentralized and organized around paramilitaries as their relationship with the U.S. government became increasingly hostile, eventually becoming committed to violent revolution. This new method of organizing into small cells went unrecognized in part by the government and segments of the press, which were inclined to treat violent incidents as isolated. This allowed the movement to grow in scope, culminating in part with the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
Zeb Larson is a PhD Candidate in History at The Ohio State University. His research is about the anti-apartheid movement in the United States. To suggest a recent title or to contact him, please send an e-mail to [email protected].