Jan 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Racist novels skyrocket in price as views get forced off social media

Illustration of a book with a "no" symbol on the covering casting a dollar-sign shadow.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Two notorious white nationalist novels are seeing their online values surge as social media companies remove white supremacists and far-right activists continue to use popular online venues to sell racist material.

Why it matters: The $200 asking price of the 1973 "The Camp of the Saints," a book that sold for $40 six months ago, shows the demand for white nationalist literature remains high as the Department of Homeland Security warns of the potential for violence following President Biden's inauguration.

  • "The Turner Diaries" has been removed from many platforms but regularly resurfaces on others and sells online for double its normal price.

Details: "The Camp of the Saints" is a French dystopian novel that uses racial stereotypes and calls for violence in depicting the fall of white Western civilization because of migration from South Asia and Africa.

  • "The Turner Diaries," by neo-Nazi author William Luther Pierce, details a violent revolution in the U.S. followed by a race war where white residents face extermination. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls it the "bible of the racist right."
  • Both books had long existed on the fringes, but in recent years their popularity has grown as white nationalist groups become more visible.

Where it stands: Amazon has "The Camp of the Saints" listed from third-party sellers for around $200 to $1,000.

  • Faceboook Marketplace has the book listed for $200, as do used book sites like Alibris.
  • "The Turner Diaries" also is listed on a number of sites for around $40 when a few months ago it ran for less than $20.
  • "This shows that the indoctrination of racist extremists continues and newbies are being targeted," Center for Countering Digital Hate CEO Imran Ahmed told Axios.

Yes, but: The bump in prices for the books could also mean the material is out of print and white nationalists have been deplatformed, said Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism.

  • "It used to be you had to get these books at gun shows or by direct mail from white nationalist publishers, but then the Internet made it easier for a while. It could be that these books are going back (to being) hard to get."

Flashback: Leaked emails in 2019 showed that Donald Trump's future senior White House adviser, Stephen Miller, in 2015 encouraged the far-right website Breitbart to promote white supremacist ideas and referenced "The Camp of the Saints."

What they're saying: "The fact that Amazon and others are profiting from the indoctrination of extreme racists is beyond disgusting. These platforms are morally complicit," Ahmed said.

  • Amazon said in a statement that the company has policies that outline what products may be sold on its platform and is also concerned about the history of censorship.
  • "We invest significant time and resources to ensure our content guidelines are followed, and remove products that do not adhere to our guidelines," Amazon said in a statement.

The big question: Anti-racist activists are debating whether advocates should read the novels to understand and better counter white nationalism or pressure private companies from carrying the materials.

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