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date: 03 March 2024

Right-Wing Literature in the United States since the 1960sfree

Right-Wing Literature in the United States since the 1960sfree

  • Carol MasonCarol MasonUniversity of Kentucky


Examining fiction and nonfiction written explicitly by and for members of right-wing movements provides a deeper understanding of points of affinity as well as contention in the midst of increased polarization in United States political culture. Primary materials include fiction penned by conservative politicians and pundits, fiction written by right-wing agitators, and nonfiction movement literature such as periodicals, advice books, and tactical instruction guides. Since the middle of the 20th century, right-wing literature has sustained and motivated an increasingly formidable political force that undermines democratic ideals and encourages reformatory or revolutionary action.

Comparing and contrasting fiction with movement nonfiction written by conservatives of the Cold War era illuminates how right-wing politics shifted away from pessimistic accounts of the supposed decline of Western civilization. In the 1960s, conservative book clubs advertised fiction in which heroes typically were ordinary white businessmen whose love of country led them to fight “un-American” foes, often depicted as sexual deviants, racialized immigrants, or a combination of the two. The fiction, then, presented a means of transcending abstract, erudite discussions of the presumed “suicide of the West” that preoccupied conservative intellectuals. Likewise, more radical nonfiction offered a hopeful, less fatalistic sense of right-wing plight. While an urgent tone characterized both fiction and nonfiction in the Cold War era, the fiction and some smaller political publications illuminated a difference between using doomsday rhetoric and deploying an apocalyptic narrative in which readers could see themselves taking action in social dramas and political conflicts. This rejection of fatalistic passivity corresponded with the postwar persistence of American anti-Semitism that coded communism as Jewish, with anti-integration efforts that framed racial concerns as parental ones, and with the rise of the New Right, which de-emphasized economic imperatives to thwart the supposed anticommunist evil that plagued America.

Instead of economic concerns, the New Right began politicizing social issues to inaugurate a cultural conservatism, which went beyond conserving and defending a right-wing version of the American way of life and went on the offensive in the 1970s and 1980s. Right-wing fiction of the Culture Wars not only reflected this shift but also ushered it in. In the midst of and after the Reagan Revolution, male protagonists in right-wing fiction were more socially outcast and persecuted than their Cold War counterparts and therefore more action-oriented from the start. Macho serial fiction and novels penned by right-wing provocateurs in the anti-abortion and white supremacist movements fomented militant insurgency and revolution.

Meanwhile, mainstream publishers created imprints specifically designed to cater to conservative readership, especially women. An industry boom in conservative Christian fiction emerged with orchestrated efforts to challenge educational curricula and with increased popularity in homeschooling. The trajectory of influential conservative women’s writing went from atheistic free-market novels and prim advice books on how to negotiate assertiveness and subservience in holy matrimony to political conspiracy books and increasingly vicious attacks on particular liberals presumed to be agents (not dupes) of the antichrist. In recent years, women and right-wing pundits have published commercially successful young adult and children’s literature expressly with conservative themes. In the post-9/11 era, narrating state power involved capitalizing on a sense of trauma by integrating feelings of imminent conflict with the daily rhythms of society. Right-wing literature in the United States reflected and promoted this disjointed temporality.


  • North American Literatures
  • 20th and 21st Century (1900-present)

The politics of writing and reading fiction have been an under-examined part of the story of the rise of the right since the 1960s. Recently an increasing number of historical studies have demanded that we see the ascendancy of the political right as something whose movement building extends back before World War II. So, too, it is necessary to understand the early 20th-century racial and political ideologies as they were incorporated in fiction as well as inspired by fiction penned by conservatives and more reactionary authors. This article focuses on the familiar trajectory of conservatism in the United States as it evolved, first from a pre-World War II Old Right, then the successive post-war intellectual focus on preserving economic and social hierarchies—which was itself a fusion of disparate ideologies—to a New Right that shaped electoral politics through cultural imperatives. The article occasionally reaches back to acknowledge earlier racial taxonomies and political philosophies that shaped not only political conservatism but also more reactionary right-wing formations often seen as extremism.

How did various right-wing groups rely on fiction and literary criticisms in addition to nonfiction movement literature such as serial tabloids and newsletters, organizing handbooks, tactical manuals, and various forms of social media? What follows is generic listing of primary materials followed by a chronological tour of Cold War novels, culture war reading, and post-9/11 narratives. These points of inquiry comprise not a comprehensive survey but a general trajectory using the late 1960s as a fulcrum with highlighted texts and figures as guiding examples. Resources listed at the end are suggested first stops for dissertators and other serious students of right-wing literature in the United States.

Key Books and Periodicals of 20th-Century Conservative Thought

Canonical Nonfiction

Conservatism was brought about through a love of and devotion to books. As a tripartite movement, conservatism of the first half the 20th century encompassed a laissez-faire penchant for market capitalism motivated by Social Darwinism and marked by libertarianism; an evangelical expression whose fundamentalist impulses inspired a fight against the Higher Criticism of biblical sources and waned after the 1920s Scopes Trial over evolution; and an antimodern traditionalism that fought against industrialization and greedy capitalism, upholding instead an organic, agrarian society.1 These tributaries of conservatism swelled into a river flowing more forcefully in the post-World War II period. Books served as material manifestations of particular ideas that emerged as conservative philosophy after World War II, according to the most comprehensive study of the subject, Michael Lee’s Creating Conservatism. Ten to fifteen titles comprise a canon of nonfiction writing through which architects of conservatism articulated cherished ideals.2 Prior to the 1960s, according to Lee, these included the following: Friedrich von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (1944); Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences (1948); Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952); William F. Buckley, God and Man at Yale (1953); Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind (1953); and Robert Nisbet, The Quest for Community (1953). Many of the works that “formed the underpinnings of the nascent conservative movement” were products of Regnery Publishing, one of the few publishing houses created to bypass “the editorial standards, tastes, and traditional market mechanisms of mainstream publishers” in the post-war period.3 William F. Buckley, who started publishing the National Review in 1955, closed out the decade with Up from Liberalism (1959).

Beginning with the watershed 1960 publication of Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative, the most influential conservative books of the sixties included In Defense of Freedom (1962) by Frank Meyer and Capitalism and Freedom (1962) by Milton Friedman. In these and other books, conservatives navigated many differences among shifting “emphases on small government libertarianism, social tradition and the establishment of a Christian moral order, and a forceful nationalism.”4 The conservative canon “created and managed the potential for symbolic fusion and fracture among conservatives” that persevered from the mid-20th century to today.5 Still touted as the intellectual backbone of conservatism, this canon is prescribed through reading lists and leadership/scholastic summits created for students even now. Second-order postwar books by James Burnham, Willmoore Kendall, Ludwig von Mises, Leo Strauss, and Eric Voegelin built on this core canon of texts prior to the innovations of the Christian right, the New Right, and neoconservatism.

Books that might be considered canonical nonfiction for the Christian Right throughout the 1970s and 1980s doubtless include Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth (1970), which is credited with popularizing eschatology for a new generation of politicized Protestants, and many works by Francis Schaeffer, including How Then Should We Live? (1976) and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? (1979). Schaeffer’s work as a theologian was seen both as intellectual and spiritual inspiration and as political instruction. The film version of Whatever Happened, for example, was a key tool in the 1980 election that ushered in Ronald Reagan. It toured churches and civic centers in an effort to mobilize evangelicals to vote. Timothy LaHaye’s books, such as Faith of Our Founding Fathers (1987), helped move readers away from positions advocated by the John Birch Society, which trained LaHaye in the 1950s, to those of the religious right. Conservative thought of the 1970s and 80s were influenced by these more apocalyptic analyses of political challenges in secular society.

The New Right and neoconservatives collected essays in a variety of important volumes such as The New Right: We’re Ready to Lead (1981), The New Right Papers (1982), and The New Right at Harvard (1983). Also, Paul Weyrich, who was bankrolled by his Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress co-founder Joseph Coors (of Coors brewery), commissioned a couple of influential books. Cultural Conservatism: Toward a New National Agenda was written by William Lind and William Marshner and “became the script for what has become known as the ‘culture wars’” in 1987.6 Lind and Marshner teamed up again to edit Cultural Conservatism: Theory and Practice (1991).

At the turn of the millennium, writers such as William Kristol, Peggy Noonan, Andrew Sullivan, and Dinesh D’Souza represented establishment conservatism. With the advent of Fox News (1996), a new generation of pundits and commentators wrote books for a booming new market in conservative publishing. In addition, writers of underground manuals and provocateurs on social media fueled the insurgent flames of the anti-government right. These developments are explored subsequently.


Identifying a canon of nonfiction movement literature in serial form is more difficult than determining a canon of books since the 1970s. Archivists, activist-scholars, watch groups, and journalists were among the first in the 1980s to conduct what they called “opposition research” or “resistance research,” offering reviews and collections of right-wing digests, tabloids, newspapers, newsletters, and more ephemeral print culture.7 Academic analyses that subsequently developed from these sources and reviews have provided insight into how right-wing communities and campaigns were built.8 The massive print culture can be divided into divisions of the secular right, religious right, and the xenophobic right.9

Influential mainstream conservative serials characterizing the secular right include Forbes, Reader’s Digest, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, National Review, Human Events, Conservative Digest, and The Phyllis Schlafly Report. Important publications for other secular conservatives, including economic libertarians and neoconservatives, are Reason, Liberty, Weekly Standard, First Things, Commentary, The Public Interest, Orbis, New Guard, American Spectator, Policy Review, Objectivist, Fragments, Libertarian Forum, New Individualist Review, and various serials from the Cato Institute. Among these, William F. Buckley’s National Review deserves special mention as the leading periodical of post-war conservative thought. The main accomplishment of National Review was not only its fusion of disparate elements of right-wing thought but also the way it drew a clean line of distinction between conservatism, which became understood as an ideology and not merely an area of political theory, and liberalism, which emerged as a monolithic “enemy” where once there had been many points of opposition.10

A variety of influential religious right-wing publications include Christianity Today, Freeman, Faith and Freedom, Christian Economics, The Christian Anti-Communist Crusade Newsletter, Christian Echoes, Christian Crusade, Pre-Trib Perspectives, Rutherford magazine, Human Life Review, The Wanderer, Crisis, Triumph, as well as some more theocratic venues such as Crosswinds and Chalcedon Report.

On the xenophobic right, periodicals include: Defender, American Opinion, The Rockwell-Rothbard Report, Citizens Informer, Occidental Quarterly, The Nationalist Times, Truth Crusader, Task Force, Citizen, WIRE Magazine, Christ Is the Answer, and various Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi publications such as The Cross and the Flag, The Councilor, Spotlight, The Insurgent, The Seekers, Campaigner, The Thunderbolt, National Vanguard, National Alliance Bulletin, White Power Report, The Liberty Bell, and Attack! Of course, throughout the decades, the wide variety of publications and ephemera has expanded beyond print media into electronic, digital, and social media, as will be considered in subsequent sections.

Literary Reviews

Less documented than the proliferation of right-wing serials in print, or the love of a conservative tradition of great nonfiction books, is how the reading of fiction and poetry compels right-wing movements. Five literary journals helped shape not only what to read but also how and why literature played a role in conceiving a conservative society. These literary reviews were heavily influenced by the Agrarians, a group of scholars trained at Vanderbilt University who promoted a radical conservatism.11 Beginning in 1930, with their manifesto, I’ll Take My Stand, the Agrarians responded to the rise of modernism as a challenge to Victorian values and to the modernization that rendered the Southern economy more industrial, forever changing society with it.12 Throughout the mid-20th century, writers such as Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson, Richard Weaver, and Paul Viereck presided over or engaged with the following five literary journals that were important to conservative thought.

The Sewanee Review (1895–present) provided cultural commentary prior to World War II and then shifted more toward high modernist literary figures when it came under the influence of one of the Agrarians. Also directed by members of the Agrarians were Southern Review (1935–1942) and Kenyon Review (1939–present). Southern Review attacked “left-wing and positivistic claims about literature, its origins and purposes, in the name of what purported to be a non-ideological form of critical analysis.”13 Kenyon Review “openly rejected the views of those they considered liberal, progressive, and forward looking,” but it was equally critical of big business and industrialization.14 Likewise, American Review (1933–1937) featured “an articulate antimodernism marked in particular by a trenchant opposition to industrial capitalism.”15 American Mercury (1924–1980) was especially libertarian and harkened back to 19th-century economic theories that avoided statism and favored “the forgotten man.” For conservatives, the forgotten man was seen as “the good citizen who minded his business and asked for no special favors.”16

These literary quarterlies forged aesthetic criteria and techniques for reading, such as the New Criticism, which turned a blind eye to political contexts to focus on close reading that downplayed authors’ intentions and the material or social conditions in which writers wrote or were published. These literary reviews also reflected a cultural conservatism that valued “duty, order, discipline, deference to elders and superiors, reverence for authority, and a ‘natural’ order of things.”17 Each of the journals is distinct in its own editorial style and evolution of thought, but all held in common a desire to cultivate reading as a particular cultural practice imbued, not always intentionally, with conservative ideals. Literary reviews, especially those directed by the Agrarians, sought to “reach an audience of cultivated, sensible, middle-class readers” who would see and share their vision of a society in harmony with nature.18 This meant recognizing the precarity of human life, a perspective without which there is, according to John Crowe Ransom, “no deep sense of beauty, no heroism of conduct, and no sublimity of religion.”19 Although scholars in higher education and intellectual traditionalists were most likely to engage directly with these literary journals, their notions of aesthetics, cultural values, and reading practices migrated from elite institutions to the masses.

Thus the post-World War II reading public had various ways to consume conservative thought. Nonfiction books, serials, and literary reviews provided rationales for conservatives for decades to come. In addition to this proliferation of prose essays and analyses, right-wing thinkers embraced fiction throughout the Cold War.

Novel Favorites of Cold War Conservatives

Reading fiction was a midcentury boon to the rise of conservatism in America after the 1960s. This section examines changes in conservative thought through the Cold War by considering book clubs, favorite authors, typical characters, and political paperbacks packaged as pulp fiction. Reinforcing overtly political publications from a variety of sectors of the right, fiction provided readers with immersive examples of how to understand challenges conservatives faced. Key Cold War conservative causes explored are anti-totalitarianism and anti-liberalism, as well as a more proactive populism that shaped the emerging New Right.


The organization of conservative book clubs in the 1960s sought to create a readership that understood the postwar conservative causes of anti-totalitarianism and anticommunism. Affiliated with Arlington House publishers, a company founded by the Buckley family, the Conservative Book Club was advertised throughout the 1960s in the National Review and boasted a membership of about 30,000 by the 1970s.20 The name of its offshoot organization, the Nostalgia Book Club, suggests the longing for times gone by in a rapidly changing world that routinely was depicted as a decline of western civilization. The deleterious secularism that William F. Buckley had bemoaned in the 1951 God and Man at Yale emerged in the 1960s and 1970s as cause for full-blown apocalyptic despair. The titles and tropes of some conservative nonfiction, such as James Burnham’s Suicide of the West (1964), John Lukacs’s The Passing of the Modern Age (1970), and Frederick Wilhelmsen’s Seeds of Anarchy (1969) conveyed this desperate nostalgia. Likewise, the dystopic tone of right-wing fiction bemoaned the waning of American exceptionalism. Novelist Ayn Rand, for example, proposed retitling Samuel Merwin and Henry Kitchell Webster’s Calumet “K” as This Was America.21 The antidote for such negativity was an awakened Conscience of a Conservative, which was the title of presidential candidate Barry Goldwater’s bestselling 1960 book.

Goldwater’s famous declaration that “extremism in defense of liberty is no vice” overshadowed another claim he made during his acceptance speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention, which was to caution the audience against “false notions of equality.” In the Conscience of a Conservative, adherence to constitutional sentiments, including a particular notion of equality, proves the backbone of modern conservative thinking. The book, unlike his famous speech, made clear that as Americans “we are equal in the eyes of God, but we are equal in no other respect.”22 The God-given equality is distinguished from the democratic aim of an egalitarian society. He continued to explain that “an egalitarian society [is] an objective that does violence both to the charter of the Republic and the laws of Nature.”23 Thus the anti-totalitarian thrust of the Conscience of a Conservative implied that any efforts, such as desegregation, that posited equality among Americans in terms other than spiritual were totalitarian themselves. This is the way that anti-totalitarianism of postwar conservatism dealt with racial strife: to discount it fundamentally as a matter of equality.

Novels that enjoyed a conservative readership reflect exactly this displacement of race in the postwar right-wing configuration of anti-totalitarianism. For example, Robert Heinlein’s science fiction writing was prolific, and his novels “mediate[d] between a particularist politics of ‘race war’ on the one hand, and a universalist politics of ‘defending humanity’ on the other.”24 His 1951 novel The Puppet Masters, for example, presents a Cold War model of power in which race is displaced from “the explicit scene of military confrontation,” which is characterized as a far more generalized conflict between “free and unfree ways of life.” Abstracted from overtly racial concerns about segregation or jobs, this fictionalized conflict reflected and reinscribed a deracialized view of civil rights struggle. As an operative in the U.S. secret service, the protagonist of The Puppet Masters prefigured the right-wing action heroes to come in the 1980s and beyond.

Meanwhile it was more often the case that conservative readers appreciated the frightening but reassuring tales of male protagonists who were ordinary businessmen—regular “organization men” and “the forgotten man”—who were compelled through circumstance rather than official duty to defend God and country. The conservative understanding of “the forgotten man” derived from William Graham Sumner, who coined the phrase in 1883, in a lecture explaining how some people bear the brunt of a charitable society and end up paying to support those in need at the expense of their own seemingly forgotten entitlements. Exemplars of the view promoted by the Agrarians’ editing of literary reviews, protagonists of novels distributed through book clubs often embraced living off the land in harmony with nature rather than conquering it.25 Writers such as John Dos Passos and T. S. Eliot were particular favorites. Judging from books offered through conservative book clubs and reviewed in conservative magazines and newsletters, readers admired protagonists who were “quiet peace-loving [men] and [women] satisfied to live in a great land, often in a pastoral setting, not the assertive, verbal, driven activist who wants a better world.”26


It is no wonder, therefore, that in various origin stories published to promote a triumphalist history of the rise of the conservative movement, key authors whose work contributed to the aforementioned nonfiction canon are portrayed as “lonely” and “intrepid” men, daring intellectuals whose eloquence and ideas saved America from liberalism.27 One such conservative was Russel Kirk. In response to Lionel Trilling’s lament in The Liberal Imagination that major literary figures had “no love of the ideas and emotions which liberal democracy . . . has declared respectable,” Kirk offered The Conservative Mind (1950). Proud that the New York Times Book Review classified The Conservative Mind as belles lettres, Kirk described his author-friends as the “literary party of order.” Kirk’s conservative authors “rejected or ignored the liberal ideology” and felt opposed to an “ill-sorted crew of nihilists, fanatic ideologues, and purveyors of violent sensations” that comprised the “disciplines of humane letters” and scholarly inquiry.28 Hemingway, for example, might be appreciated for his style, but “his refusal to acknowledge a transcendent power left his work empty.”29 Norman Mailer, Mary McCarthy, Philip Roth, Gore Vidal—not to mention a feminist like Erica Jong—all got panned in conservative reviews.30 The modernist antihero prone to exploring existential dilemmas was anathema to authors like Kirk as well as book clubbers whose conservatism opposed anything perceived to be so liberal as equivocation.31

The gender of authors made little difference in how conservatives disdained what they saw as relativistic deliberation. Disapproval of equivocation was especially apparent in the popular fiction by Taylor Caldwell, whose woman’s point of view translated that distaste of equivocation into more than a dozen novels that made anything but a by-the-bootstraps mentality disdained if not downright punished.32 Likewise with the work of Ayn Rand, whose books continue to be celebrated as free market manifestos despite her individual political stance that was critical of conservatism. Both authors reviled equivocation, and both shared the view that the “golden age” of America had lost its luster.33 The protagonists of these novels were usually men and women who, once provoked, not merely reacted defensively but also attacked with patriotic verve.34 Cold-war protagonists most recommended by conservative readers, according to Macel D. Ezell’s study, “cannot endure political irreverence” even if particular aspects of the federal government deserved criticism.35

Threats to American exceptionalism were personified by antagonists in Cold War novels. Ezell’s study reveals that most fictional villains and opponents were implicitly or explicitly racial stereotypes whose sexual predilections reflected longstanding defamations of immigrants and people of color forged through American eugenic discourses that flourished throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Exemplars of such novels include Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent (1959), Holmes Alexander’s The Spirit of ’76 (1966), William Campbell Douglass’s The Eagle’s Feather (1966), and H. L. Hunt’s Alpaca Revisited (1967).36 These works of fiction, which imagined individuals as unassuming but fierce defenders of an imperiled way of pastoral or well-disciplined American life, reflected the gloomy outlook of conservative nonfiction writers but provided models for prevailing beyond and despite the negativity. In this way, novels reflected the cultural values espoused by the Agrarian-influenced literary reviews and demonstrated the tensions between “a kind of Jeffersonian agrarianism and a more literary dream of an aristocratic, hierarchical culture.”37 Moreover, the racist depictions of villains in novels mirrored a turn to overt racist and anti-Semitic statements in American Mercury offered by editor H. L. Mencken. This was a turn against earlier accommodations of black and liberal writers in Mercury, and coincided with a denouncing of William F. Buckley for the sake of a more unapologetically racist and anti-Semitic populism. Mercury’s move to populism, if not its open embrace of bigoted views, was one harbinger of a new direction for conservatives.38

Near the end of the 1960s, indeed, some people were becoming less satisfied with their Yalie, buttoned-up reputation that the university-based literary reviews and Buckley’s magazine, National Review, had earned conservatives. Those profoundly disappointed at the defeat of Goldwater were gaining momentum, including the much-documented force known as the New Right, orchestrated by people based in Washington, DC, such as Paul Weyrich, Phyllis Schlafly, William and Connaught (Connie) Marshner, and Richard Viguerie. New Right leaders sometimes referred to Buckley and Burnham (among other midcentury writers) as the Old Right, to emphasize what was “new” about their rejection of fatalistic conservatism.39 Paul Weyrich, for example, singled out Burnham as the author of Suicide of the West, while lamenting how “the Old Right was not taken seriously as a political force in Washington. To some degree, that was the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy, since these conservatives viewed themselves as the last, futile fingers in the dike of rampaging liberalism. I emphasize the word futile.”40 Here it is important to note that Weyrich is not referring to the pre-World War II Old Right, but to Buckley and Burnham and their ilk. To distinguish an innovative departure from the futile and fatalistic established conservatives, Weyrich insisted, “We [the New Right] are not speaking abstractly of the decline of the West, but concretely about preserving values we know are revered by other middle class Americans.”41 Riding a wave of anti-intellectualism popularized in self-help books, the New Right advanced a more populist rhetoric aiming to appeal to the “blue collar” rather than relying on movement literature written by the “blue blood” of American society.42

Proactive Populism

Right-wing populism in the Unites States gained strength as the Old Right suffered the reputation of being more suited to the library or rotary club podium delivering oratory than to the pulpit, delivering fire and brimstone, or at a demonstration with outspoken dissidents. Defined by the anti-elitist “exaltation and appeal to ‘the people’” that characterizes all populist movements,43 American right-wing populism often adheres to a producerist narrative. Producerism narrates people as belonging to two groups, one said to produce American culture, food, or industry, and the other that presumably parasitically lives off of that production without contributing to it. This idea of “the makers and the takers,” as presidential hopeful Mitt Romney pithily phrased it during his 2012 campaign, is a longstanding ideology that structures much of populist thought.44 The more populism spread, the more emboldened the right became in the second half of the 20th century. Examples of movement literature that were harbingers of the New Right’s more proactive and populist posture are those produced by Billy James Hargis, an evangelical preacher, and L. Brent Bozell, a National Review editor who turned to radical, militant Catholicism.

Media produced by Billy James Hargis’ Anticommunist Christian Crusade for America was an evangelical iteration of right-wing populism based in Tulsa, Oklahoma.45 With influential conservative businessmen such as oil entrepreneur Fred C. Koch, spokespersons such as radio host Clarence Manion, and by-the-bootstraps novelist Taylor Caldwell serving on the Christian Crusade board of advisors, the gospel of the free market was broadcast through all Christian Crusade media, including LP records of music and sermons, television programs, and pulp nonfiction. Christian Crusade pumped out provocative paperbacks and tracts: The Far Left: The Real Extremists (1964); Communism, Hypnotism, and the Beatles (1965); Blackboard Power: NEA Threat to America (1968); The Sex Revolution in the United States (1970); “The Sinister Assault on the Family” (1972). According to Heather Hendershot, the story of the rise of conservatism should begin with Hargis because of Christian Crusade’s prolific output and because of how he masked his racism.46 Not only did Hargis prefigure the New Right’s displacement of racial concerns and zero in on campaigns that would later become central, but also it was Christian Crusade publications that first replaced communism with “secular humanism” as the right’s bogeyman.

Moreover, Hargis’s development in 1970 of the American Christian College foregrounded an evangelical focus and, more so than nearby Oral Roberts University or Bob Jones College, promoted a free enterprise curriculum. This curricular emphasis both reflected how contemporary Christian academies emerged to avoid desegregation and presaged the takeover of some institutions of higher education by corporate entities in the 21st century. Had Hargis himself not been caught sleeping with some of his students, men as well as women, his legacy may have been far more celebrated and recognized as shaping various sectors of the right with an oxymoronic upbeat fear mongering.47

Contemporary to Hargis’ media empire and educational endeavors, a clear harbinger of New Right optimism was the impact of a smaller publication, a minor magazine whose title heralded a new attitude: Triumph.48 Rife with apocalyptic language familiar to conservatives, Triumph amped up the fervor to translate fearful awareness of totalitarianism and communism into proactive demonstrations and organizing. Triumph was the brainchild of L. Brent Bozell, Goldwater’s ghostwriter for Conscience of a Conservative, and whose radical Catholicism informed his views of conservatism. Emboldened by a revolutionary theory of kairos, Bozell embraced a revolutionary time. Borrowing the concept from the Greeks, he translated kairos as a radical, disjointed temporality in which conservatives could take action: “For the Christian, the kairos is the time of salvation, when the outpouring of God’s loving grace transforms his life. It may come after a painful preparation; or suddenly; it may come only once; or again and again. It is the moment to be—not a moment to think and to argue, but to live, to affirm, to decide, to act.”49 Bozell’s radicalization of conservative disdain for equivocation encouraged militant action, specifically against abortion. Dubbing “the fight for life” as “America’s Armageddon,” Bozell organized a theatrical protest against medical facilities that provided “therapeutic” terminations and, in this way, prefigured antiabortion direct action and violence that would emerge later in the 1980s.50 While Bozell’s contemporaries disdained his militancy as manifestation of a presumed personal mental disorder, New Right conservatives and evangelicals nevertheless applauded his work.

Moreover, Bozell’s view of his tribe as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” and a “messianic people” corresponded with a Protestant millennialism concurrently on the rise with the mass publication of Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth and the wider reach of Christian television broadcasts that now comprised networks and not just programs.51 Lindsey’s book popularized eschatology as a political narrative, reading current events as signs of the End Times, which is what radio and televangelists such as Pat Robertson of The 700 Club did from their electronic pulpits. Like Bozell’s radical Catholic writings on revolutionary kairos, millennialist evangelicalism came to wrest a hopeful outlook from the midst of fatalistic apocalypticism.

Thus the publication of Late Great Planet Earth by Lindsey and the far less recognized publication of Bozell’s magazine of Catholic opinion signaled a quiet but significant shift from erudite analysis of challenges to the presumed white Western way of life to an inspired new approach to fighting. That is, it was a shift from Burnham’s feared occidental “suicide” to Bozell’s anticipatory “triumph.” Issues of spiritual urgency and political mobilization were merging in American apocalyptic narrative, which we might best understand as an articulatory practice in which right-wing language articulates readers who imagine themselves as actors in, rather than observers of, a Manichean social drama.52 The religious right was emerging with a new sense of revolutionary apocalypticism, but the secular New Right was also sloughing off a fearful fatalism that had long mired conservatives.

Publishing trends reflected this political and proactive hopefulness, especially among husband-and-wife teams of writers, many of whom self-published works. Duos such as Barbara and John C. Willke (career anti-abortionists), Beverly and Timothy LaHaye (prolific writers beginning with marriage manuals), and Norma and Mel Gabler (school curriculum monitors) authored newsletters and paperbacks that were cheap to produce and often blurred the line between opinion and fact. Sometimes these were, like the aforementioned Christian Crusade books, explicitly packaged to look like pulp fiction paperbacks. This was the case with Strike From Space, a “megadeath mystery” co-authored by Phyllis Schlafly and Chester Ward (not her husband but a retired rear admiral in the Navy) that was actually conspiracist political nonfiction. It is difficult to know whether these writing duos were formed to lend an air of parental concern and authenticity to the material, to give legitimacy to women authors, or to exploit women’s intellectual work. The gendered division of labor of writing these books is unclear and undoubtedly varied; who actually penned the words and typed the manuscripts? What we do know is that the age of paperback publishing provided right-wing individuals and outfits with cheap means to produce their narratives of political urgency.

But how were these narratives disseminated? Aforementioned literary reviews and nonfiction serials were available in libraries for intellectuals and scholars, who could also buy individual subscriptions to the periodicals. The well-heeled urban and suburban conservatives who could afford hardback fiction delivered by their mailman enjoyed their book club memberships, and they could also visit a favorite bookstore in the city. Mail order and specialty bookstores were especially important to readers whose addresses were not in metropolitan areas and whose tastes were to the right of National Review.

Right-Wing Reading during the Culture Wars

The 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s saw an overlapping of the Cold War, in which communism was presumed to be the primary enemy of the United States, and the culture wars,53 which focused more on domestic issues and a supposedly pervading secular humanism that ushered in racial desegregation, divorce, abortion, and supposed sexual deviance. Like feminists and leftists who created community in coffeehouses and alternative bookstores, right-wing readers could find common ground and their kind of bon mots in stores such as Suppressed Books of Shreveport, Louisiana; Boston’s Joe McCarthy Bookstore; or L.A.’s Patrick Henry Bookstore.54 Conservative bibliophiles also might frequent a local American Opinion Library and Bookstore. Set up by the John Birch Society as clearinghouses for their magazines and other like-minded movement literature, Opinion bookstores were gathering places as well as distribution centers. The story of one such bookstore and its owner provides entry into how reading—both the process and the material—changed for right-wing America throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Reading during the culture wars entailed racial politics, maternal politics, an increase in anti-government sentiment, and a commercial boom in publishing conservative authors that was part of a mainstreaming of right-wing narratives.

Racial Politics

The John Birch Society provided an alternative to well-heeled conservative contemporaries who seemed detached in their intellectual analyses of the problems that faced them. The John Birch Society rejected passivity and urged action not only to save souls or live moral, godly lives but also to fight against the forces that were perceived to threaten them. But as the 1960s moved into the 1970s, some Opinion bookstore owners splintered off from the John Birch Society because the “extremism” that Goldwater had defended didn’t go far enough. Such was the case with one Opinion bookstore proprietor in particular, George Dietz, who articulated for a new generation of activists just how far from Burnham’s feared “suicide of the west” right-wing politics should go.55 Throughout the 1970s, George Dietz produced as well as sold right-wing literature that ranged from John Birch Society’s Opinion magazines to his own creations, the Liberty Bell and, later, White Power Report. In addition to these periodicals, Dietz’s bookstore and mail order catalog included U.S. Army training manuals (including Booby Traps, Chemistry of Powder and Explosives, Explosives and Demolitions, and Unconventional Warfare Devices), writings by leading National Socialists and anti-Semites (including works by Adolf Hitler, Henry Ford, Revilo P. Oliver, Francis Parker Yockey, and George Lincoln Rockwell), classics of Western white literature and pantheistic legends (Ezra Pound, Jack London, Thomas Dixon among them, as well as Gods and Myths of Northern Europe), and multitudes of racist and anti-Semitic materials (such as Proud to Be a Racist, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, which denied the Holocaust, and the hoax publication Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion). Dietz was considered to be the most prodigious producer of anti-Semitic material by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith. His message that “Hitler was right—communism is Jewish” revealed the under- or un-stated idea motivating some American anticommunism, a motivation that dared not speak its name—Nazism—in the aftermath of World War II. But the farther right-wing Americans got from Hitler’s time of reign, the closer they dared to embrace his ideology openly. When Dietz broke with the John Birch Society in 1975, it was in the midst of a local dispute in Charleston, West Virginia, over a state-mandated multiracial language arts curriculum that highlighted the politics of reading and mobilized untold numbers of conservative parents locally and nationally.

The Kanawha County textbook controversy, as the conflict became known, successfully used reading literature as a way to shift conservative concerns away from economic issues to cultural issues. It also shifted the protest culture of coal country from issues of labor and poverty to issues of cultural identity, moral campaigns, and parental control. The protesters included different factions of the right, including overt white supremacists like Dietz, but also and far more prominently, Protestant evangelicals and “concerned parents” who became the chief idiom of cultural conservatism, architects of which responded to, shaped, and replicated the fight in Kanawha County on a national scale. The right-wing populism that was fomented in Kanawha County was carried into antibusing protests while parents denounced literature authored by the likes of Allen Ginsburg, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Malcolm X. The Kanawha County textbook controversy prompted conservatives not only to identify what “American” literature was and was not, but also to shift further away from the “blue blood” of the Old Right and embrace fully the cultural conservatism of the New Right.

Maternal Politics

The role of women was key in this shift as it would be for subsequent campaigns in favor of the family and against homosexuals, immigrants, and abortion. The media focused on one white Christian mother, Alice Moore, as a leader of the protests in Kanawha County. The focus on her helped mask some race-based reasons motivating arguments for community control of educational institutions and literary tastes. Women of the nascent right-wing think tank known as the Heritage Foundation, namely Connie Marshner and Onalee McGraw, used the Kanawha County textbook controversy as a model to argue on the national level for “school choice” and against government intrusion into family privacy. The Heritage Foundation served as a central hub for local parents groups that fought for “traditional” and “patriotic” literature in public schools, private Christian schools, and home-schooling. During Jimmy Carter’s White House Conference on the Family, Marshner in particular repeated from the Kanawha County textbook controversy a tactic of accusing her opposition of “stacking the deck” with liberal proponents, while herself ensuring that conservative Christian mothers were bussed in.56

Marshner and McGraw, who penned an influential document on school choice for Heritage Foundation, were some of the Washington elites who fanned the flames of the aforementioned Kanawha County textbook controversy, which began as a revolt explicitly against multiracial literature but became a debate over parental control over public schools or parents’ ability to home-school their children. This resulted ultimately in a whole industry of curricular materials for a “Christian home-schooling movement [that] project[ed] contemporary Christian conservative ideology backward to the founding period, finding there contemporary Christian evangelical beliefs and a political system founded, not on secular and Enlightenment ideals, but on the truths of the Bible.”57 In Blackboard Tyranny (1978), Marshner encouraged concerned Christian parents to drop conspiracist language from the John Birch Society and to insist on literature written by white, Western Christians—without owning up to it. She wrote: “Ours is an age of neo-ethnicity. Blacks are proud to be blacks, and want their public education system to foster that pride in their offspring; Chicanos want Chicano language, customs, and attitudes taught to their children. Middle-class whites do not agitate for ‘white studies’ courses; the equivalent demand is for traditional American and Christian values.”58 For the bourgeoning religious right and New Right, race-based arguments against curricula featuring authors representative of the multiethnic character of the United States proved less powerful than the maternal politics of promoting presumably more wholesome Christian or patriotic themes.

However, as Dietz’s involvement in the West Virginia curriculum dispute attests, for the ultra right the racial politics of literature became more pronounced as different factions of organized white supremacism merged in the 1970s. Klansmen were brought into the Kanawha County curriculum fight and there connected with neo-Nazis, such as Dietz and William Pierce. Often at odds with each other due to the Ku Klux Klan’s devotion to Christian Americanism and neo-Nazi’s penchant for pantheism, the two groups worked together during the textbook controversy in ways that prefigured the late 1970s’ emergence of the Aryan Nations, a national coalition of white supremacists. Aided in particular by transforming the practice of ham radio to a new medium called electronic bulletin boards (BBS), discussions across states proliferated. In 1983, Dietz reported that he had launched the first white supremacist BBS—the online precursor to websites.59 But more so than the media innovator Dietz, it was Pierce who was seen as the intellectual leader of this alliance, and his understanding of the power of narrative fiction was already manifested.

Anti-Government Fiction

Throughout the 1970s Pierce had been recruiting revolutionary readers with a serial story, The Turner Diaries, published over three years in the tabloid Attack! Later published as a novel, this fiction became notorious as the supposed blueprint for the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Situating the reader in a post-apocalyptic telling of a white supremacist revolution, The Turner Diaries drew from key themes in The John Franklin Letters (1959), which is “recognized as the first modern book in the genre” of so-called extremist fiction.60 Set thirty years into the future, The John Franklin Letters “expressed concern over standard mainstream conservative grievances of that [midcentury] era” and reiterated early 20th-century fears of race suicide.61 These fears also characterized Turner Diaries, which inspired a vigilante group named The Order, who carried out campaigns of terror and robbery to stoke race war in the early 1980s. The success of Turner Diaries in capturing the imagination of men inspired to insurgency prompted Pierce to write another novel, Hunter (1989), which featured a lone gunman who learns that shooting interracial couples is not enough to thwart the real threat to white America,62 presumed to be the Jews running the federal agencies, dubbed the Zionist Occupied Government. In these novels, overall strategy (leaderless resistance) and particular tactics (bombs fashioned from ammonium-nitrate-filled trucks) were dramatized and theorized. Pierce’s fiction offered readers a macho action-hero protagonist, the likes of which could be found in other fiction written by conservatives of the late 1970s through the 1990s.

In contrast to the saviors of the nation that populated Cold War novels, right-wing narratives of the culture wars featured anti-government as well as jingoistic sentiment. Unlike the cold war protagonists of the conservative literature, novels of the Reagan-era culture wars provided main characters who felt more socially outcast and persecuted. Even novels penned by the quintessential Cold War conservative, William F. Buckley, featured a protagonist who occasionally thumbed his nose at the federal government for which he worked. Blackford Oakes was first introduced in Buckley’s 1976 debut novel, Saving the Queen. Like his creator, Oakes attended Yale and worked for the CIA, and both are staunch conservatives. But by taking on the generic conventions of the spy novel at the time, Buckley’s fiction not only reflected the disdain for equivocation espoused by most Cold War novels but also reflected an increase in the critique of federal government. To some reviewers Blackford Oakes provided “relief from the unromantic superiority and disengagement of a James Bond” and came off as “a Rambo with a Yale degree.”63 A hypermasculine figure of anti-government rancor par excellence, Rambo was portrayed by Sylvester Stallone in the 1982 film First Blood and became an icon of vigilantism for disillusioned men who viewed defeat in Viet Nam as one of many ways America was emasculated in the last quarter of the 20th century.

Seeking to remasculinize America, men’s groups formed as paramilitary patriots, spiritual Promise Keepers, white supremacist compounds, gun rights militia, and antiabortion warriors.64 Conservative nonfiction reflected the efforts of these dissident groups to assert white American masculinity and to “mobilize misogyny.”65 Books such as Warren Farrell’s Why Men Are the Way They Are (1988) and The Myth of Male Power (1993) articulated a “male victimhood ideology” that meshed with conservative women’s nonfiction such as Christine Hoff Sommer’s Who Stole Feminism (1994), which accused feminists of lying about data on sexual assault.66 This disproven belief—that sexual assault statistics are false and pregnancy never results from rape—was standard among abortion foes, who also tried their hand at instructive fiction.

Several antiabortion novels emerged in the 1990s to rally the troops, some of whom were homicidal. Xinnis, Confessions of a Clinic Bomber, whose author was listed as Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, and Rescue Platoon, attributed to David Maccabee, were both available throughout the 1990s on the Life Enterprises Unlimited website run by David Trosch, a supporter of “pro-life” murderers who promoted the view that killing physicians and abortion clinic personnel is justifiable homicide.67 Oregon-based antiabortionist Paul de Parrie, who also defended antiabortion militant action and homicides, edited the Life Advocate magazine and published the novel Haunt of Jackals (1991). These fictional accounts of activists reflected the increased militancy of antiabortion groups (evident in military-style names such as the Army of God and Operation Rescue), which coincided with increased domestic terrorism against reproductive health clinic personnel and physicians, seven of whom were murdered throughout the 1990s. Advertising whom to murder on a website called “The Nuremberg Files,” antiabortionists were among the first right-wing groups to engage in doxing, a means of endangering adversaries by releasing their personal information without consent on the internet.68 “The Nuremberg Files” listed names and addresses of reproductive health care physicians and clinic workers, striking through names as they were murdered; the website functioned as a hit list. Simultaneously, underground publications, such as The Army of God Manual and Firestorm: A Guerrilla Strategy for a Pro-life America, laid out the tactical maneuvers, long-range plans, and narrative strategies for legislative and physical assaults on women, providers, and the constitutional right to abortion.69 Also around the same time, mainstream publishers were publishing antiabortion fiction aimed at a broader audience sympathetic to the cause.

Mainstreaming Right-Wing Narratives

Gideon’s Torch (1995) by Charles Colson is a good example of how fiction demonstrated tensions between, and potential cumulative effects of, establishment republican politics and direct action seen as being on the fringe not only of the conservative movement but also on the margins of society.70 Colson served as Richard Nixon’s advisor, was convicted of felony in the Watergate scandal, and then became a born-again Christian while serving his prison sentence. Gideon’s Torch features a variety of characters that run the right-wing gamut of good, God-fearing men reminiscent of Cold War conservative fiction as well as more militant activists with anti-government attitudes. One “pro-life” character guns down a physician who provides abortions, and his pastor brother must decide how to deal with this apparent contradiction of killing for life. Realizing that the federal government has set up “regeneration centers” meant to harvest fetal brains that supply a cure for AIDS, the pastor is moved to action and is martyred—but not before the reader is treated to courtroom demonstrations of antiabortion logic and dramatizations of the benefits of direct action. Like the self-published antiabortion novels, Gideon’s Torch’s portrayal of Christian white men in a persecuted light demanded a deft appropriation of oppressed peoples’ actual histories and a revisionism that ranged from outright Holocaust denial to comparisons that likened antiabortionists to abolitionists. Like the fiction of white supremacist William Pierce, Gideon’s Torch weighs the pros and cons of leaderless resistance: “The decentralized nature of the pro-life movement made it impossible for authorities to control it. Just when the government thought it knew all of the threats and had everyone identified, new groups emerged. It was like the French Resistance in World War II: an underground, spidery web of activists spun through every level of society.”71 Colson’s novel explains this leaderless activity is “absolutely providential.”

Gideon’s Torch, therefore, is an example not only of apocalyptic, antiabortion narrative but also of prophecy fiction that experienced a boom at the turn of the millennium. While the coincidentally published apocalyptic novels of the 1970s ranged from the kooky (Salem Kirban’s 666 [1970]) to the spooky (David Setlzer’s The Omen [1976]), prophecy fiction in the 1990s took off as part of a concerted effort to commercialize religious and conservative writing. Colson’s novel appeared in the midst of a publishing “cycle that began in the summer of 1987” with the “surprise mega-hit” of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind.72 Already ensconced in neoconservative circles as the co-director of the John M. Olin Center, Bloom converted an article he had written for National Review into a book proposal he sent to Erwin Glikes, a protégé of Irving Kristol.73 The unforeseen success of The Closing of the American Mind helped Glikes and other mainstream publishers embrace conservative writers and move them onto best-seller lists.

A proliferation of conservative publishers resulted, as well as new book clubs in the 1990s that “launched a slew of conservative best-sellers in the ’90s and early 2000s” including books by Robert Bork George Will, Dinesh D’Souza, William Bennett, Francis Fukuyama, and Charles Murray.74 Two of these were Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus (1991), which promoted the idea of campuses being oppressively “politically correct,” and The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (1994), which recycled pseudoscientific beliefs about race. Illiberal Education, “which might not have been written but for the support of the Olin Foundation,”75 repackaged for a new generation anti-academic sentiment and conspiracy theories that had previously circulated in books such as Blackboard Power: NEA Threat to America (1968), Trousered Apes: Sick Literature in a Sick Society (1972), and the aforementioned Blackboard Tyranny (1978). Simultaneously, The Bell Curve was promoted by a Milwaukee-based family foundation whose president, Michael Joyce, sought to curate a conservative book culture. Joyce said, “We have the conviction that most of the other media are derivative from books. Books are the way that authors put forth more substantial, more coherent argument. It follows that if you want to have influence on the world of ideas, books are where you want to put your money.”76 Conservatives—including right-wing think tanks, conservative publishing houses, and family foundations that funded authors through grants, faculty positions, and fellowships—were thus investing in book culture throughout the 1990s.77 It was “no exaggeration to describe this surge of conservative publishing as a paradigm shift,” according to one Wall Street Journal opinion piece.78

In the midst of this publishing boom, political Christians produced “alternate” history stories, such as Newt Gingrich’s novel 1945 (1995), and more prophecy fiction such as Pat Robertson’s novel The End of the Age (2002), Larry Burkett’s The Illuminati (1991), Paul Meier’s The Third Millennium (1993), and Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry B. Jenkins’ Left Behind series (1995–2007). “These thrillers,” noted one reviewer, “have all the plot points you’d expect” of apocalyptic fiction—“floods, famine, locusts, Satan’s return to earth. And one more: a liberal president” who turns out to be either a dupe of the antichrist or the anti-Christ himself.79 These page-turners allowed conservative and evangelical authors to capitalize on millennial fervor and prophecy, yielding a prophet profit that not only benefited individuals but also contributed to a “publishing gold rush” in which “corporate publishers launched a half-dozen imprints devoted entirely to producing, promoting, and selling books by right-leaning authors.”80

Recognizing a good thing when they saw it, some of those same publishers and politicians began to branch out into children’s books. William Bennet, for example, was the Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan and launched the genre of children’s conservative books with a bestselling collection titled The Book of Virtues (1993). The trend continued with kids’ books series by conservative commentators and politicians’ relatives such as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Lynne Cheney (wife of Vice President Dick Cheney), and Laura and Amber Bush (W’s daughters). Katharine DeBrecht’s book, Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under the Bed was so successful it warranted sequels. A highly lucrative spin-off series of LaHaye and Jenkins’ Left Behind novels was created for kids in 1998. William F. Buckley’s National Review Treasury of Classic Children’s Literature came out in 2003. Some imprints of large publishing houses that emerged around this time were Regnery Kids and Little Patriot Press.81

These books of right-wing children’s literature are bought and sold, but do children enjoy them? Is appealing to children the actual goal; are children the truly intended audience? Though conservatives may “use the children’s book form to convey political messages,” scholars question whether the books are “really for children.”82 Regardless, they demonstrate a range of conservative thought and mark an increase in corporate sponsorship of right-wing publishing. Such sponsorship of conservative kid lit “represents a dangerous trend in children’s literature more generally, as well as in education—blurring lines between corporations, conservative politicians, and cultural production.”83 These efforts to infuse kids’ lit with conservative values contributed to the overall boom in right-wing literature at the fin du siècle of 20th-century America.

Narrating State Power in a Time of Terror

A year into the 21st century, terrorist attacks on September 11 thrust the United States into a longstanding conflict dubbed the War on Terror. The military response to the attacks favored not only retributive violence but also preemptive strikes justified by presumed imminent harm; the Bush Doctrine was predicated on an epistemology of future threats. This military emphasis on prediction corresponded with a cultural emphasis on apocalyptic prophecy that resonated in secular as well as religious spheres. Some religious politicians blatantly saw the attacks of 9/11 as evidence of God’s lifting a veil of protection off a nation that had refused to adhere to policies deemed Christian.84 But even secular, everyday responses to 9/11 entailed the ineluctable sense of a before-and-after, a rupture in America’s sense of itself as a place and a people who are not on the receiving end of military or terrorist attacks.85 Citizens were immersed in a dual vision of then and now, of a time when terrorism was not a worry, and a time when it may strike again. National narratives of belonging reflected this traumatic double sense of time. Narrating state power after 9/11 had to contend with the sense of rupture that 9/11 wrought. Consequently, 21st-century right-wing literature—including official state narratives, revolutionary fiction, conspiracies spread through new media, and conservative women’s writing—integrated the temporal disruptions of 9/11. The result is a celebration of indeterminacy in which ambiguity and irony become features of right-wing writing and literati.

Temporality of State Narratives

Official state narratives of 2001, including The 9/11 Commission Report and seminal speeches, underscored a double temporality in which citizens were to all go about their daily business but also be attuned to the seemingly ever-present possibility of terror attacks. These texts, according to Justin Neuman in Fiction Beyond Secularism, deployed both “secular,” homogenous temporality—the regular workday schedules and standardized units of time that keep capitalism and government running like clockwork—and “sacred,” disjointed temporality characteristic of the spiritual sublime or of cataclysmic shock. The 9/11 Commission Report, for example “reads more like a political thriller than [a] bureaucratic white paper,” Neuman notes, while “Bush-era speeches and policy documents enmesh the terrorist attacks in a discourse of temporal rupture.”86

Consequently, state power ushered in what Neuman calls a kairotic governmentality that wove a sense of trauma and rupture into the state narratives. Neuman shows how popular narratives, such as the aforementioned prophecy fiction, as well as literary fiction such as Don DeLillo’s Falling Man (2007), Jess Walter’s The Zero (2006), and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005) reflected and reproduced this heightened attention to multiple temporalities. Thus, 9/11 underscored the kairotic sense of time that L. Brent Bozell had translated for Christian conservatives in the late 1960s with his aforementioned magazine, Triumph. Bozell’s time-bending radical call for disruptive revolutionary action, as well as the Cold War conservative disdain of liberal equivocation, emerged during the culture wars as a mandate for direct action. In the midst of 9/11, the temporal politics of conservatism aided the justification for preemptive war and shaped revolutionary fiction.

Insurgent Fiction

While state narratives were deploying a kairotic governmentality, right-wing populists were continuing forays into revolutionary fiction. Following the footsteps of Turner Diaries’ author and white supremacist leader William Pierce, felon David Lane wrote the underground novel KD Rebel (2002) while he was incarcerated for being part of a murderous criminal band of Pierce’s protégés. The novel envisions a kinderland based on actual white supremacists’ stated desire to colonize various geographies—often the Pacific Northwest—as a racially segregated “White American Bastion.” Polygamist sexual violence against women and homicidal attacks against people of color help transform a demographically dystopic fear of white genocide into a white supremacist utopia. Around the same time, Patrick J. Buchanan published nonfiction that echoed the idea of white genocide. The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Our Civilization (2002) evidenced a resurgence of anti-immigration animus that combined with pseudoscientific racism and white nationalism to repackage for a new century conspiracies about secular humanists, Jews, and The New World Order.87 Thus right-wing nonfiction at the time bolstered fears that white separatist fiction brought dramatically to life.

The vision for white separatist insurgency was sustained in a series of novels by H. A. Covington that began appearing in 2003. Rife with attacks on homosexuals as well as women and communities of color, these novels “helped forge a common narrative of an embattled White race on the brink of extinction whose salvation lies in revolutionary violence against governments controlled by a shadowy Jewish conspiracy.”88 However, the underground fiction of white supremacists not only disseminates a common narrative and demonstrates that “since the early 1980s, the American extreme right has evolved from a movement characterized by ultra-patriotism, to one increasingly characterized by a revolutionary outlook.”89 The novels also combine a dystopic vision of the supposed genocidal present with a utopic vision of a fully white future,90 thereby echoing the disjointed temporalities that state power also deployed in response to 9/11.

In addition to these underground novels, white supremacists also were attempting to establish “academic neo-Aryanism and internet expertise.”91 Kevin MacDonald, for example, is a tenured professor at California State University Long Beach whose three discredited books on Judaism have lent respectability to his editorship of the white supremacist journal The Occidental Quarterly, to his involvement in the “anti-immigrant and white nationalist American Freedom Party,” and to many reports posted on the ultra right website Stormfront that refer to his work.92 As with much racist writing on Jews that presume Holocaust denial, MacDonald’s books reflect a double temporality that displaces actual historical persecution with perceived apocalyptic conflict. “MacDonald adopts a historiographical organization to his books, while suggesting that history itself—the distinctiveness of its multiple stages—is irrelevant during a time of Manichaean struggle between cultures.”93 McDonald is but one white supremacist who aims to construct “self-validating scholarly subcultures that have a strong diegetic component with specific appeal to non-rationalist modes of discourse, while intersecting with larger communities of political action.”94

New Media Narratives Of Corruption and Conspiracy

This “appeal to non-rationalist modes of discourse” became au courant among right-wing dissidents who began experimenting with new media, in which revisionist histories, faux documentaries, and fake news all became predominant. Digital communications allowed for intensification and acceleration of what once was achieved through right-wing mail order catalogs and direct mail campaigns: an echo-chamber effect in which false narratives of conspiracy and corruption became more credible. Utilizing increasingly smaller video recording devices, right-wing activists created dubious sting documentaries purporting to expose morally reprehensible if not illegal operations of organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now or ACORN. ACORN was the target of relentless allegations of perpetuating voter fraud in Ohio especially; then a sting video showing two people posing as a pimp and a sex worker entrapped a few ACORN office workers into trying to help them, thereby making them accessories to illegal activity. The instigator of this video sting was James O’Keefe. He later denounced the prosecution of viral video makers who purportedly exposed Planned Parenthood physicians unlawfully selling fetal tissue and harvesting baby body parts. This ploy was an old antiabortion scare tactic evident in the aforementioned novel by Charles Colson as well as in earlier sting attempts spearheaded by Life Dynamics’s Mark Crutcher and his protégés such as Lila Rose.95

The faux ACORN and Planned Parenthood exposés, along with news of a purported left-wing anti-American conspiracy called the Cloward-Piven Strategy, were attempts to influence the 2010 elections with new media techniques.96 Widely circulated on alternative news outlets, such as, controlled by Andrew Breitbart, the “Cloward-Piven Strategy” was ostensibly a strategy developed by sociologists Frances Fox Piven and longtime collaborator Richard A. Cloward as a “blueprint for socialist/communist revolution.”97 In actuality, the Cloward and Piven article in question, published in The Nation in 1966, hypothesizes that “if all eligible beneficiaries demanded the assistance they were due [from social services], those demands would throw the welfare system into crisis.”98 Richard Nixon supported their policy suggestion of “wip[ing] out poverty by establishing an annual income.”99 Nevertheless, once circulated through the Tea Party, the so-called “Cloward-Piven strategy” was considered no less than evidence of “Shadow Party radicals working for ‘regime change.’”100 This conspiracy theory of the Cloward-Piven Strategy was circulated also through the storyline of Generation Zero, a film distributed in 2010 also, presumably, to sway potential voters.

Generation Zero provides three points of revisionist history.101 First, women who grew up in the Depression were both overprotective and overindulgent so their children, the anti-materialist Woodstock Generation of the 1960s, who became the corrupt financiers of the 1980s, had no moral compass. The film offers no research to support this totalizing blame-the-mother pop psychology. Second, the Civil Rights movement’s disparagement of redlining, in which African Americans were discriminated against in the real estate market, resulted in a free-for-all lending practice that became the subprime housing disaster. The film thus places blame on blacks instead of financiers for the 2008 recession. As Scott Krzych demonstrates, Generation Zero compounds this insinuation with as series of “suggested links between the Democratic Party and the Black Panther Party” by repeatedly providing “brief and out-of-context archival footage” of Panthers during a 1968 courthouse demonstration while withholding any concrete explanations for the historical event. The film thereby “avoid[s] any account of the historical world that might be susceptible to rebuttal or even debate.” Third, “the forgotten man” of the 1930s was not the man on the bottom of the economic pyramid as F. D. Roosevelt defined him at the time, but rather the “little guy who didn’t happen to be in the program for the government, the small business[man] who didn’t happen to fall into the favored groups of the New Deal, the little business who’s waiting for the government experiment and recession to end.” With this explanation, the film revived William Graham Sumner’s conservative version of the “forgotten man.” This conservative personage was, as earlier described, a frequent protagonist in Cold War novels that conservatives enjoyed. In 2007, Amity Shaels exalted this personage for a new generation in The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression. Shaels appears in Generation Zero to promote this revisionist history.

Moreover, Generation Zero deployed an apocalyptic narrative that sutured its viewers into the penultimate of four historical “turnings,” arguing both that an imminent “crisis” would occur as sure as the seasons but that it would be of “unprecedented” scope.102 With this urgent message, Generation Zero seemed geared toward inspiring millennials as a new voting bloc—in a very similar manner to how the 1979 film Whatever Happened to the Human Race? presented an apocalyptic tale that succeeded in convincing evangelicals to register to vote like never before. Some reviewers of Generation Zero suggest that it advocates bringing on the crisis of the fourth turning, and that the director, writer, and producer of the film, Steven K. Bannon, has intentions to do just that.

Be that as it may, these apocalyptic narratives of corruption and conspiracy were amped up in the 2016 election by new media techniques. The use of bots flooded social media with hearsay, for example.103 Also, declarations of voter fraud proliferated from Republican politicians despite that party’s success in gerrymandering voting districts and gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act to influence the outcome of local and national races.104

What once had been grist for anti-government mills such as Breitbart News became mainstream by the time of the 2016 election, which ushered into the White House not only a reality television actor and businessman, Donald Trump, but also the new media manipulator Steve Bannon. Bannon had promoted the so-called alt-right on Breitbart News as its editor. The alt-right, a small but influential group of online provocateurs, produced micronarratives known as memes, which repackaged sentiments that white supremacists and militant patriots groups had articulated in the 1990s and earlier. Memes circulated by the alt-right simultaneously parodied and reinforced extant ideas such as thwarting imminent “white genocide” by unleashing a “racial holy war.”105

Narrating Women in/as the State

Moreover, the alt-right proliferated a new emphasis on overtly misogynist attacks different from a baseline sexism that saturates American culture. An early indication was the campaign of GamerGate, in which women initiating discussion about sexist tropes in the video game industry were relentlessly harassed on social media. Anita Sarkeesian was targeted in 2012 with rape and death threats, which escalated and spread in 2014, when a former boyfriend accused Zoe Quinn of seducing men in return for positive game reviews.106 Members of 4chan and Anonymous, two venues associated with the alt-right, doxed the women by publishing their personal contact information, home address, social security number, and bank information on the Internet. Convinced that the women were feminists colluding purposefully to “undermine the video game industry,” the so-called gamergaters also targeted academics participating in gaming studies conferences.107 The specter of a conspiracy of women had haunted right-wing enclaves before, but digital culture allowed for swifter and more comprehensive misogynist attacks to offset the so-called feminist conspiracies.

This increased level of technologically enhanced misogyny also characterized the predominance of gender-based defamation in the 2016 presidential campaign. Donald Trump’s opposition to Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman” reflected his personal history of sexual harassment as evidenced by outtakes from old Access Hollywood segments and testimony from dozens of female employees. It also reportedly triggered stress in women who had been traumatized by sexual assault.108 The gender-based defamation deployed by Trump’s campaign also reflected and reinvigorated a populist narrative of “Big Sister Federal Tyranny” that emerged in the 1990s among white militants such as Texe Marrs, author of Big Sister Is Watching You (1993).

Marrs’s rendition of the narrative provides a “methodical assault, not only on Hillary Clinton, but on all the women of the first Clinton administration. The issue that most incenses Marrs is the monstrosity of gender confusion, and the most monstrous woman of all is the one who acts like a man.”109 That category included, according to Marrs, not only Hillary but also Clinton appointees Donna Shalala, Laura Tyson, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Carol Browner, and Janet Reno, Bill Clinton’s Attorney General. Reno was scapegoated for the disastrous outcome of the standoff between federal agents and militant apocalyptic believers at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993, and the retributive, white supremacist bombing in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. The defeat of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election can be seen in part as a culmination of decades of narrating women in/as the federal government.110 Female feds were presumed to seek total effeminate control over manly rights to limit women’s political capital and to control their bodies, as well as men’s prerogative to own guns, avoid taxes, diminish immigration, and segregate people of color.

Conservative Women’s Writing

Given this sustained deployment of misogyny as a means of narrating state power, it is important to sketch the trajectory of women as conservative authors. As mentioned earlier, novelists such as Ayn Rand and Taylor Caldwell tracked along with male Cold War conservatives’ ideas that equivocation is a liberal disease and narrated America as succumbing to its nefarious will. Rand enjoyed increasing popularity as conservatism grew, and she became a key author in particular for the Tea Party, that right-wing response to Barack Obama’s presidency. Her novels, especially The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, were didactic promotions of laissez-faire economics and conservative views of sexuality and gender. “Rand’s strenuous defense of the purest versions of unregulated market capitalism can be found today among Christian conservative elites who read the Bible as a brief for capitalism.”111 But the love affair among conservatives and Rand is limited to her philosophy of individualism and political economy; her stances for abortion and against any kind of religiosity did not find favor with conservatives after the Cold War.

A major concern for conservative women writers during the culture wars era was negotiating the roles of agitating for conservative causes in public while advocating submissive roles for women in private life. Beverly LaHaye, for example, wrote a variety of marriage advice manuals with her husband, Tim, while she founded Concerned Women for America. Her 1976 book, The Spirit-Controlled Woman, educated readers in the medieval concept of humors or, as she wrote, four “temperaments” of women, while advocating “wifely submission.” This latter focus was in line with a whole slew of popular paperbacks written by and for Christian women in the 1970s and 1980s that dealt with the problem of negotiating the biblical injunction to be submissive with the newer social injunction, ushered in by feminism, to acknowledge women’s roles in society and explore women’s sexuality. In The Total Woman (1973), for example, Marabel Morgan encouraged Christian women to embrace their sex appeal as a means of keeping their husbands happy and created a distinction between biblical submission and holy surrender, the latter of which allows women more latitude in assertive behavior in family and public life.112

A graduate of Morgan’s Total Woman training program, Anita Bryant was another famous Christian conservative writer whose maternal politics made waves in the culture wars era. Bryant was a Christian celebrity singer and commercial spokesperson who famously battled what she called “militant homosexuality” by opposing a human rights ordinance in 1977 in Florida. The rhetoric of her speeches and of her eight books, however, had roots in the political heritage of her native Oklahoma, where the gendered gospel of the free market combined with a reconfiguration of rural sexualities to posit gay life as anathema to national security and U.S.-based globalization.113 Bryant’s books may have been the product of prolific collaborators and ghostwriters, but packaging its antigay, pro-Christ narrative as Bryant’s voice paved the way for Christian women to wield conservative maternal politics in the 21st century.114

By the turn of the millennium, therefore, not only did female Christian conservative writers seem to have resolved the apparent contradiction of being both submissive, to Christ and husband, and assertive, as women activists. They also increased the ferocity of rhetoric and excelled in deflecting lies by accusing opponents of lying. The exemplar of this is Ann Coulter, who (more so than Christine Hoff Summers or Beverly LaHaye) attacked individuals rather than ideas or groups in her eleven New York Times bestsellers—a status reached by having the publishing house or conservative book clubs purchase most of the copies in bulk.115

Coulter’s first book was an inflammatory account of Bill Clinton’s impeachment and her second, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right, advanced a key strategy of accusing opponents of lying to deflect the fact of deploying their own falsehoods. Political satirist and former U.S. Senator Al Franken analyzed Slander as a case study in “how to lie with footnotes,” including the tactic of citing a source but misrepresenting what it says, attributing any words reported or quoted in a newspaper to the newspaper itself, and overloading academic search engines, such as LexisNexis, to generate absurd conclusions.116 David Brock situates Coulter’s success in the context of conservative efforts to force “right-wing books up the best-seller charts” and to “ensure that their messaging—once confined only to the readers of such extremist tracts—was injected into the wider media conservation.” Although the veracity of many claims made in Slander was discounted repeatedly, a new imprint inspired by tis success—Crown Forum—published exclusively conservative books that continued the “manifest dishonesty” of Coulter’s writing.117 This conservative media strategy found its ultimate take-down triumph in the aforementioned demonization of presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Women of the Trump administration rely on and advance this practice of deflecting falsehoods. Kellyanne Conway became famous for coining the phrase “alternative facts” when trying to explain a boldfaced lie that White house Press Secretary Sean Spicer told about the attendance at Trump’s inauguration. Moreover, installing Elizabeth DeVos as Secretary of Education suggested a desire to institutionalize the selective national memory of racial segregation of schools under the guise of “personal choice.”

Wife of AmWay entrepreneur Richard DeVos Jr., Elizabeth DeVos had no experience as a teacher, academic administrator, or even public school student prior to being selected to head the Department of Education. Her credentials, instead, were her family’s background in the politicized evangelical movement of the 1980s and beyond. She used her immense family wealth to promote only Christian education and to delegitimize public education. Elitist and presumptively entitled to shape educational landscapes according to her religious ideas, DeVos openly admitted that her donations were intended to garner political favors. She wrote, “I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right.”118 DeVos’s shamelessness and reputation as a “disruptor” were selling points to an administration devoid of apology or compromise.119 Her dominionist desire to infuse education with Christian points of view has its roots in the aforementioned works of Alice Moore, Norma Gabler, Connie Marshner, and Onalee McGraw. Women of the Trump administration are the culmination of conservative maternal politics practiced in decades past by suburban warriors, kitchen table activists, concerned mothers, and security moms for whom disruption has become a virtue.120

Embrace of Indeterminacy

The disruptions of 9/11 were integrated into how the right-wing narrated subjects of state power and of dissent. The kairotic governmentality created through official responses to terrorism, the underground novels written by white supremacists, the faux documentaries and fake news created through right-wing media, and the gender politics of the right all embraced an ethos of disruption in the twenty-first century. Rupture became the paradigm for narrating state power as well as dissent against the state.

The temporal distortions, therefore, that characterize the post-9/11 era are also evident in the most recent attempts to build a conservative literati for the Trump era. The founders of a new journal, American Affairs, reportedly lamented that conservatism “has become a spectacle of excess which has no sense of time, no logic of the future.”121 Returning to Buckley-era political theory by James Burnham, who railed against the “managerial elite,” American Affairs’ editor Julius Krein harkened back to Burnham’s Suicide of the West but not to reject its fatalism, as had New Right leaders. Instead, Krein seemed to revel in the indeterminacy and ambiguity of the current situation. “The essence of the promise of American life is the future which, together, Americans are building. I think there is a lot of truth to that. However, today, I don’t believe that we as Americans have any idea of what the future should be, and I think we have even less of an idea of how to build it together.”122 As a new journal, American Affairs is meant to provide intellectual blueprints for this construction called the future. Yet it looks “like a midcentury little magazine with its drab, perfect bound book, its cover engraved with a crowded, poorly kerned table of contents, and its logo lettered as either a tribute to or send-up of the austere Foreign Affairs.”123 The fact that Krein and his fellow editors had created prior to this an online forum called the Journal of American Greatness in February 2016 indicates a thoroughly 21st century sensibility in which parody and sober contemplation intermingle, and power is narrated through multiple temporal referents. Simultaneously serious and in jest, right-wing literature seems comfortable with the disruptions of not-yet knowing.

As 21st century Americans endure a presidency that will always be in flux due to the vast inexperience of the commander in chief, the epistemological anchors of national belonging have become unmoored. We drift in a sea of alternative facts, reversals of reversals, and penultimate ultimatums. Consequently, right-wing literature floats indeterminately in the 21st century, buoyed by new negotiations of time and tradition.


Right-wing writing provides the narrative forms through which conservatives and dissidents can arrive at and lead the so-called post-fact, post-truth, post-9/11 era. Canonical nonfiction, Cold War novels, culture war-era reading practices, post-9/11 fiction and media, all are narrative forms that have constructed a world in which the large variety of right-leaning Americans can exert political and social power. Right-wing literature in the United States shapes its readers, listeners, and watchers by “training them in new habits and practices, which amount to whole new subject-positions . . . [by producing] new categories of the event and of experience, of temporality and of causality, which also presides over what will now come to be thought of as reality.”124 Those who seize the means of representation—through literature broadly defined to encompass all manner of writing—are the ones whose reality rules.


The author extends her gratitude to research assistants Kyle Eveleth and Shawna Felkins, as well as Chip Berlet, Scott Krzych, and anonymous reviewers.

Links to Digital Materials

Further Reading

On Right-Wing Movement Literature, Non-Fiction
  • Berlet, Chip. “The Write Stuff: US Serial Print Culture from Conservatives Out to Neonazis.” Library Trends 56, no. 3 (2008): 570–600.
  • Danky, James P. “The Oppositional Press.” In A History of the Book in America: Volume 5: The Enduring Book: Print Culture in Postwar America. Edited by David Paul Nord, Joan Shelley Rubin, David D. Hall, and Michael Schudson, 269–285. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.
  • Lee, Michael J. “The Conservative Canon and its Uses.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 15, no. 1 (2012): 1–39.
  • Lee, Michael J. Creating Conservatism: Postwar Words that Made an American Movement. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2014.
  • Lora, Ronald, and William Henry Longton, eds. The Conservative Press in Twentieth-Century America. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999.
Media Studies
  • Brock, David. The Republican Noise Machine: Right-wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy. New York: Crown Publishers, 2004.
  • Hendershot, Heather. What’s Fair on the Air? Cold War Right-Wing Broadcasting and the Public Interest. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.
  • Kintz, Linda, and Julia Lesage, eds. Media, culture, and the religious right. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998.
  • Minnite, Lorraine C. “New Challenges in the Study of Right-Wing Propaganda: Priming the Populist Backlash to ‘Hope and Change,’” in New Political Science 34, no. 4 (2012): 506–526.
  • Simi, Pete, and Robert Futrell. American Swastika: Inside the White Power Movement’s Hidden Spaces of Hate, 61–86. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
  • Simpson, Patricia Anne, and Helga Druxes, eds. Digital Media Strategies of the Far Right in Europe and the United States. New York: Lexington Books, 2015.
Literary Analyses of American Fiction in Relation to Right-Wing Resurgence
  • Abate, Michelle Ann. Raising Your Kids Right: Children’s Literature and American Political Conservatism. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2010.
  • Douglas, Christopher. If God Meant to Interfere: American Literature and the Rise of the Christian Right. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2016.
  • Ezell, Macel D. Unequivocal Americanism: Right-Wing Novels in the Cold War Era. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1977.
  • Gribben, Crawford. Writing the Rapture: Prophecy Fiction in Evangelical America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Murphy, Paul V. The Rebuke of History: The Southern Agrarians and American Conservative Thought. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
  • Neuman, Justin. Fiction Beyond Secularism. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2014.


  • 1. Ronald Lora and William Henry Longton, The Conservative Press in Twentieth-Century America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999), 3–21.

  • 2. Michael Lee, “The Conservative Canon and Its Uses,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 15, no. 1 (2012): 1–39.

  • 3. Brock, David. The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy (New York: Crown Publishers, 2004), 347.

  • 4. Lee, “The Conservative Canon and Its Uses,” 3.

  • 5. Lee, “The Conservative Canon and Its Uses.”

  • 6. Chip Berlet, “Into the Mainstream,” Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center, August 14, 2003.

  • 7. These groups active in the 1980s and 1990s included the Southern Poverty Law Center, Center for Democratic Renewal, Political Research Associates, and People for the American Way.

  • 8. Academic studies of the Right have varied in trajectory and across disciplines. The monographs and works include Alan Brinkley, “The Problem of American Conservatism,” American Historical Review 99 (April 1994): 409–429, which is largely seen as setting off a revolution in the historical study of the Right. Following this trend is a study by Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002); and an article, Lisa McGirr, “Now that Historians Know So Much about the Right, How Should We Best Approach the Study of Conservatism?” Journal of American History 98, no. 3 (2011): 765–770. Especially important is Kim Phillips-Fein, “Conservatism: A State of the Field,” Journal of American History 98, no. 3 (December 2011): 723–743; and Kim Phillips-Fein Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan (New York: Norton, 2009), which serves as a core text in historicizing the rise of conservative nationalism. Also in this vein is Darren Dochuk, From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism (New York: Norton, 2011). These historians have become standard-bearers in history, but they have come under fire occasionally for not always recognizing preceding analyses of right-wing America, including Leo P. Ribuffo’s The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983). In response to Brinkley’s call for historians to take up conservatism as an area of study, Ribuffo wrote “Why Is There So Much Conservatism in the United States and Why Do So Few Historians Know About It?” American Historical Review 9, no. 2 (1994): 438–449; likewise, he provided “Twenty Suggestions for Studying the Right Now that Studying the Right Is Trendy” Historically Speaking 12.1 (2011): 2–6. Aside from these historians laying claim to the historiography of right-wing studies, interdisciplinary scholars contributed to analyses of conservatism and the right, dubbing their work resistance research or opposition research. Notable researchers of this vein are Jeanne Hardisty, Sara Diamond, Chip Berlet, Matthew Lyons, Pam Chamberlain, Leonard Zeskind, and Morris Dees.

  • 9. This list is derived from Lora and Longton, The Conservative Press in Twentieth-Century America (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999); Chip Berlet’s extensive compilations in the Online Archive of the Old; and from the article, Chip Berlet. “The Write Stuff: US Serial Print Culture from Conservatives Out to Neonazis,” Library Trends 56, no. 3 (2008): 570–600.

  • 10. Paul V. Murphy, The Rebuke of History: The Southern Agrarians and American Conservative Thought, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001), 133–138.

  • 11. Murphy, The Rebuke of History, 150.

  • 12. Murphy, The Rebuke of History, 8.

  • 13. Lora and Longton, The Conservative Press, 255.

  • 14. Lora and Longton, The Conservative Press, 264.

  • 15. Lora and Longton, The Conservative Press, 238.

  • 16. Lora and Longton, The Conservative Press, 245.

  • 17. Lora and Longton, The Conservative Press, 217.

  • 18. Lora and Longton, The Conservative Press, 244.

  • 19. Quoted in Lora and Longton, The Conservative Press, 265. The original is from an article John C. Ransom wrote, “The South-Old or New?” in Sewanee Review, 36, no. 2 (1928).

  • 20. Macel D. Ezell, Unequivocal Americanism: Right-Wing Novels in the Cold War Era (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1977), 124; Brock, Right-Wing Noise Machine, 348.

  • 21. Ezell, Unequivocal Americanism, 103.

  • 22. Barry Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative (Shepherdsville, KY: Victor Publishing, 1960): 62.

  • 23. Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative, 62.

  • 24. Leerom Medevoi, “The Biopolitics of the Long Cold War,” in American Literature and Culture in an Age of Cold War, Steven Belletto and Daniel Grausam, ed. (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2012), 171.

  • 25. Lora and Longton, The Conservative Press, 265.

  • 26. Ezell, Unequivocal Americanism, 99.

  • 27. Lee, “The Conservative Canon and Its Uses,” 15.

  • 28. Russell Kirk, The Sword of the Imagination: Memoirs of a Half-Century of Literary Conflict (Wilmington, DE: ISI Conservative Classics, 2002), 165–167.

  • 29. Ezell, Unequivocal Americanism, 79–80.

  • 30. Ezell, Unequivocal Americanism, 86–90.

  • 31. Ezell, Unequivocal Americanism, 98.

  • 32. Caldwell’s work spans the 1930s: Dynasty of Death (New York: Scribner, 1938), to the 1980s: Answer As a Man (New York: Putnam, 1980), but these themes were most pronounced during the Cold War and especially in the 1970s.

  • 33. Ezell, Unequivocal Americanism, 103.

  • 34. Ezell, Unequivocal Americanism, 98.

  • 35. Ezell, Unequivocal Americanism, 101.

  • 36. Ezell, Unequivocal Americanism, 27–77.

  • 37. Longton and Lora, The Conservative Press, 257.

  • 38. Longton and Lora, The Conservative Press.

  • 39. The term “Old Right” has been used to refer to two different generations of conservatives. Scholars often use “Old Right” to refer to pre-World War II political theories that favored isolationism. These right-wing thinkers were supplanted in national importance by the “new conservatives,” as Viereck refered to them in 1940; they included Bill Buckley and his National Review crew, whom Paul Weyrich, thirty years later, refers to as the Old Right.

  • 40. Paul Weyrich, “Blue Collar or Blue Blood? The New Right Compared with The Old Right,” in The New Right Papers, ed. Robert W. Whitaker (New York: St. Martins, 1982), 48–62.

  • 41. Weyrich, “Blue Collar or Blue Blood?”

  • 42. Weyrich, “Blue Collar or Blue Blood?”

  • 43. Margaret Canovan, Populism (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981), 294.

  • 44. Thanks to Chip Berlet for pointing out this quotation from Mitt Romney. For more on populism and producerism, see Chip Berlet and Matthew Nemiroff Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort (New York: Guilford, 2000); and Catherine McNicol Stock Rural Radicals: Righteous Rage in the American Grain (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996).

  • 45. This analysis is derived from Chapter 5, “Billy James Hargis: Sinister, Satanic Sex” in Carol Mason, Oklahomo: Lessons in Unqueering America. (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2015).

  • 46. Heather Hendershot, What’s Fair on the Air? Cold War Right-Wing Broadcasting and the Public Interest (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011).

  • 47. On this point I disagree with Hendershot, who argued that Hargis didn’t last because he couldn’t shift gears away from anticommunism. He very clearly did. See Carol Mason, Oklahomo: Lessons in Unqueering America (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2015), 92.

  • 48. This analysis of Bozell is derived from Carol Mason, Killing for Life: The Apocalyptic Narrative of Pro-life Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002), 130–157.

  • 49. L. Brent Bozell, “God and Woman at Catholic U,” Triumph magazine (1971): 21–22.

  • 50. For more on Bozell’s writings against abortion, see Carol Mason, “Making Time for American Armageddon,” in Killing for Life: The Apocalyptic Narrative of Pro-Life Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002): 130–157.

  • 51. Mason, Killing for Life, 130–157.

  • 52. Mason, Killing for Life, 9–45.

  • 53. While some scholars mark the onset of the culture wars with Pat Robertson’s 1992 speech at the Republican National Convention, others recognize the early skirmishes of the 1970s that also qualify.

  • 54. Brock, Republican Noise Machine, 348.

  • 55. This analysis is derived from Carol Mason, Reading Appalachia from Left to Right: Conservatives and the 1974 Kanawha County Textbook Controversy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009), 57–90.

  • 56. This analysis is derived from Mason, Reading Appalachia from Left to Right, 91–132.

  • 57. Cynthia Burack, Tough Love: Sexuality, Compassion, and the Christian Right, (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2014), 141.

  • 58. Connaught (Connie) Marshner, Blackboard Tyranny (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House, 1978), 264.

  • 59. Berlet and Mason, “Swastikas in Cyberspace,” in Digital Media Strategies of the Far Right in Europe and the United States, ed. Patricia Anne Simpson and Helga Druxes (New York: Lexington Books, 2015).

  • 60. George Michael, “Blueprints and Fantasies: A Review and Analysis of Extremist Fiction,” in Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 33, no. 2 (149–170): 150.

  • 61. Michael, “Blueprints and Fantasies.”

  • 62. Michael, “Blueprints and Fantasies,” 158.

  • 63. Buckley Jr., William F.William F. Buckley Jr., The Art of Fiction No. 146. Interviewed by Sam Vaughan,” Paris Review 38, no. 139 (1996).

  • 64. Susan Jeffords, The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989). See also James William Gibson, Warrior Dreams: Violence and Manhood in Post-Vietnam America (New York: Hill and Wang, 1994).

  • 65. Ideas pertaining to misogyny’s role in the right are deeply influenced by Alex DiBranco, “Mobilizing Misogyny,” Political Research Associates (2017): 11–23.

  • 66. DiBranco, “Mobilizing Misogyny.”

  • 67. Trosch’s website is now defunct, and most extant versions of Xinnis have been scrubbed from the Internet. Rescue Platoon remains circulated on alt-right websites.

  • 68. David M. Douglas, “Doxing: A Conceptual Analysis,” Ethics and Information Technology 18, no. 3 (2016): 199–210.

  • 69. Mason, Killing for Life, 46–71.

  • 70. This analysis of Colson’s novel is based on Mason, Killing for Life, 99–129.

  • 71. Charles Colson and Ellen Vaughn, Gideon’s Torch (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1995), 112.

  • 72. McKay Coppius, “Killing Conservative Books: The Shocking End of a Publishing Gold Rush,” Buzzfeed, March 21, 2014.

  • 73. Brock, Republican Noise Machine, 350.

  • 74. Coppius, “Killing Conservative Books.” Brock, Republican Noise Machine, 351.

  • 75. Brock, Republican Noise Machine, 353.

  • 76. Joyce quoted in Alexander Mihailovic “Hijacking Authority: Academic Neo-Aryanism and Internet Expertise” in Digital Media Strategies of the Far Right in Europe and the United States, ed. Patricia Anne Simpson and Helga Druxes (New York: Lexington Books, 2015).

  • 77. Brock, Republican Noise Machine, 350–353.

  • 78. Brock, Republican Noise Machine, 357.

  • 79. Joshua Green, “Apocalypse Now,” The American Prospect, December 7, 2001.

  • 80. Coppius, “Killing Conservative Books.”

  • 81. For more on this trend, see Michelle Ann Abate, Raising Your Kids Right: Children’s Literature and American Political Conservatism (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2010).

  • 82. Julia L. Mickenberg, “The Right Way to Read,” Children’s Literature 40 (2012): 314.

  • 83. Mickenberg, “The Right Way to Read.”

  • 84. Cynthia Burack, Tough Love: Sexuality, Compassion, and the Christian Right (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2014), 132–133.

  • 85. Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London: Verso, 2004).

  • 86. Justin Neuman, Fiction Beyond Secularism, (Easton, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2014), 115–118.

  • 87. Chip Berlet, “Into the Mainstream” in Intelligence Report, Southern Poverty Law Center, August 14, 2003.

  • 88. Michael, “Blueprints and Fantasies,”166.

  • 89. Michael, “Blueprints and Fantasies.”

  • 90. Edward K. Chan, “David Lane’s White Nationalism and the Utopian Future of the White Race.” Delivered at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association, Denver, CO, 17 November 2016.

  • 91. Alexander Mihailovic, “Hijacking Authority: Academic Neo-Aryanism and Internet Expertise,” in Digital Media Strategies of the Far Right in Europe and the United States, ed. Patricia Anne Simpson and Helga Druxes (New York: Lexington Books, 2015).

  • 92. Mihailovic, “Hijacking Authority,” 83–84.

  • 93. Mihailovic, “Hijacking Authority,” 89.

  • 94. Mihailovic, “Hijacking Authority,” 84.

  • 95. Kathryn Joyce. “Lila Rose: A Sweet Face to Accompany Extreme Anti-Abortion Claims. On the Issues magazine, 2012.

  • 96. Lorraine C. Minnite, “New Challenges in the Study of Right-Wing Propaganda: Priming the Populist Backlash to ‘Hope and Change,’” New Political Science 34, no. 4 (2012): 525.

  • 97. Minnite, “New Challenges in the Study of Right-Wing Propaganda,” 520.

  • 98. Minnite, “New Challenges in the Study of Right-Wing Propaganda.”

  • 99. Richard A. Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, “The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty,” The Nation 202, no. 18 (1966): 510.

  • 100. David Horowitz and Richard Poe, The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party (Nashville, TN: Nelson Current, 2006), 106. Quoted in Minnite, “New Challenges in the Study of Right-Wing Propaganda,” 521.

  • 101. Scott Krzych’s insights into this movie have shaped my response to it. See Scott Krzych “Beyond Bias: Stock Imagery and Paradigmatic Politics in Citizens United Documentaries.” Jump Cut 57 (Fall 2016). Retrieved from

  • 102. The film clearly draws from William Strauss and Neil Howe’s The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy—What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny (New York: Broadway Books, 1997).

  • 103. Gabe O’Connor and Avie Schneider, “How Russian Twitter Bots Pumped Out Fake News During the 2016 Election,” NPR: All Tech Considered, April 3, 2017.

  • 104. See these reports on gerrymandering in relation to conspiracy theories about voter fraud: John Nichols, “Donald Trump Intentionally Lies to Us, The Nation, January 24, 2017.

  • 105. Andrew Anglin, “A Normie’s Guide to the Alt-Right,” The Daily Stormer, August 31, 2016.

  • 106. Shira Chess and Adrienne Shaw, “A Conspiracy of Fishes, or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying About #GamerGate and Embrace Hegemonic Masculinity,” Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media 59, no. 1 (2015): 208–220.

  • 107. Chess and Shaw, “A Conspiracy of Fishes.”

  • 108. Ashley Welch, “Sexual Assault Survivors Struggle to Cope with Trump Election,” CBS News, November 17, 2016.

  • 109. Linda Kintz and Julia Lesage, Media, Culture, and the Religious Right, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 258.

  • 110. For analysis of the prolonged attacks on Hillary Clinton see Susan Bordo, The Destruction of Hillary Clinton (New York: Melville House, 2017). Reception of this book represents varied perspectives on who is to blame for Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential election. See Sarah Jones, “The Deification of Hillary Clinton,” New Republic, April 05, 2017; and Michelle SmithInventing the Wicked Witch: Review of Susan Bordo’s The Destruction of Hillary Clinton,” The Conversation, May 02, 2017.

  • 111. Cynthia Burack, Tough Love: Sexuality, Compassion, and the Christian Right (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2014), 117.

  • 112. Jennifer L. Heller, The Search for Something More: Evangelical Women, Middle-class Marriage, and ‘The Problem that Has No Name’ in Popular Advice Books of the 1970s (PhD diss., University of Kansas, 2007).

  • 113. Carol Mason, “Anita Bryant: Oklahoma Roots and National Fruits,” Oklahomo: Lessons in Unqueering America (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2015).

  • 114. See for example, the remarks of Sally Kern, detailed in chapter 1 of Mason, Oklahomo.

  • 115. On Coulter’s method of attacking individuals rather than ideas, see Alex DiBranco. For analyses of best-selling status, see John Iadarola, “Here’s the Scam that Creates Conservative ‘Best Sellers’ Like Ann Coulter,” YouTube, January 19, 2014. Also see Alex Pareene, “Why Are Bush’s Book Sales So Great?” Salon, December 28, 2010.

  • 116. Al Franken, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them (New York: Plume, 2004), 12–18.

  • 117. Brock, Republican Noise Machine, 360–363.

  • 118. Janet Reitman, “Betsy DeVos’ Holy War,” Rolling Stone, March 8, 2017.

  • 119. Betsy DeVos is advertised as a “disruptor” on her personal website,

  • 120. On kitchen-table activists, see Jean Hardisty, Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers (Beacon Press, 2000); and Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015). On concerned mothers, see Carol Mason, “Sweet Alice and Secular Humanism” in Reading Appalachia from Left to Right: Conservatives and the 1974 Kanawha County Textbook Controversy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011), 91–132; Michelle Nickerson, Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012); and Inderpal Grewal, “‘Security Moms’ in the Early Twentieth-Century United States: The Gender of Security in Neoliberalism,” Women’s Studies Quarterly 34, no. 1/2 (2006): 25–39.

  • 121. Gideon Lewis-Kraus, “The Knight’s Move: Can a New Trump-Inspired Intellectual Journal Transcend Its Contradictions?” The Nation, May 8–15, 2017, 27–32.

  • 122. Lewis-Kraus, “The Knight’s Move,” 30.

  • 123. Lewis-Kraus, “The Knight’s Move,” 28.

  • 124. Frederic Jameson is quoted in Justin Neuman, Fiction Beyond Secularism (Easton, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2014), 124.