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Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,081 ratings  ·  210 reviews
"Belew's book helps explain how we got to today's alt right."―Terry Gross, Fresh Air

The white power movement in America wants a revolution. Its soldiers are not lone wolves but highly organized cadres motivated by a coherent and deeply troubling worldview made up of white supremacy, virulent anticommunism, and apocalyptic faith. In Bring the War Home, Kathleen Belew gives
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 9th 2018 by Harvard University Press
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Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I remember reading a passage in The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President by Taylor Branch where he describes the behind-the-scenes befuddlement of Clinton (and others close to him) after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995; they couldn’t generate any willingness by Republican lawmakers to investigate violent, anti-government extremists. Even with blood in the streets, conservative lawmakers were instead committed to rallying behind the ant ...more
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So I've been reading a lot of books about the rise of white power groups and this was my favorite because it was a solid and serious historic book as opposed to just a journalist interviewing these groups or a memoir.

The book was excellent and I could talk about just this book all day, but I want to do something different and do a double review. I like to read several books at a time and it just so happened that I read the Looming Tower (about Al Qaeda) by Lawrence Wright at the same time as I
Mikey B.
Page 106 (my book) President Reagan’s inaugural address 1981

“In this present crisis government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”

Page 104
In 1983 the white power movement declared war on the state... white power activists now fought for a white homeland, attempted to destabilize the federal government, and waged revolutionary race war.

This book is about the rise of radical right wing groups (meaning white supremacists for the most part) in the United States. Up until
Jo Stafford
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Bring the War Home makes deeply disturbing reading. From the violent harassment of Vietnamese refugees in Texas to the Oklahoma City bombing, Kathleen Belew traces the increasing militarization of the white power movement back to the aftermath of the Vietnam War, when returning military personnel brought home the expertise they had developed in handling weapons and explosives and then used those skills in the service of racist ideology and a war against the U.S. government.

Murder, armed robbery,
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books ever written on the white power movement, essential for understanding how it crystalized into lone-wolf terror. A must read.
Joseph Stieb
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An urgent new book about the modern white power movement that reframes much of our understanding about racism, paramilitary violence, and the far right. Belew argues that the Vietnam War sparked the formation of a new white power movement that eventually drew in a revived Klan, neo-Nazis, skinheads, radical anti-tax protestors, a variety of conspiracy theorists and militiamen. The Vietnam War created a narrative in which soldiers felt betrayed by a country that "made them fight with one hand tie ...more
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Recently I was watching a Frontline episode on hate groups emerging from the shadows and heard the author of this book mention that there was a marked increase in these groups after every major war so I decided to check out the book. Have to admit I was a bit disappointed but that was probably more about my expectations than the book itself. I was hoping for a more comprehensive look at this trend but found the author spending the majority of the book discussing the post-Vietnam time frame.
David Bjelland
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, muckraking
Cons (minor):
- A bit dry and repetitive in places

Pros (major):
- Timely
- Chilling
- Dazzlingly well-researched

The killer paragraph, from the epilogue:

What was left unfinished, unexplained, and unconfronted about white power meant that it could resurge in the years following 1995. White power should have been legible as a coherent social movement but was instead largely narrated and prosecuted as scattered actions and inexplicable lone wolf attacks motivated not by ideology but by madness o
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Belew has written an important and groundbreaking history of the post-Vietnam white power movement. Her account differs from earlier studies because of its attention to the imperial dimensions of pot-Vietnam white power's imaginary and scope, as well as the central role of the US war in Vietnam in remapping how white supremacists understood the state, revolutionary violence, and whiteness. Equally important is how Belew historicizes the figure of the Lone Wolf in a deliberate strategy of "Leader ...more
kayla goggin
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Goddamn - this was good. Exceptionally well-researched and well-organized in its examination of the white separatist movement from Vietnam through the Oklahoma City bombing. This book really helped me understand the foundation of the alt-right and shed a ton of light on the methods and rhetoric used by white supremacists to operate as leaderless clandestine cells in America today.

There are some truly stomach-turning sections in this book but it's worth reading if you want to better arm yourself
David M
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Part 1, chapter 4: Ronald Reagan was subcontracting foreign policy to white power militias. This is worth remembering when both Democrats and Republicans claim that Donald Trump represents some unspeakable degradation of what came before.

This book shows that much that we have come to think of as features of a new or resurgent far right movement go back at least a few decades.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5/5. This is an important work. And an alarming one. Highly recommended.

We are sleep-walking through a prolonged campaign by the white power movement since the 1970's (roots go back much further) that largely operates at the fringes but occasionally, and quite violently, makes its presence felt. The seemingly unnatural amalgamation of long-standing racist, anti-communist groups like the various iterations/factions of the KKK (KKKK, CKKKK, etc) with neo-Nazi's and skinheads and tax evaders and
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Listened to this as audiobook, and it was absolutely riveting. Essential reading to understand the history of the White Power Movement starting right after the Vietnam War through the Oklahoma City bombing. It provides background for understanding the current Alt-Right, which is grown from the same soil.
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
In some ways this book covers the same ground as other books on this particular branch of the far right by such as authors as Leonard Zeskind, Daniel Levitas, Matthew Lyons, and Chip Berlet . What's different about Belew's account is the tight focus on the role of mythology of the Vietnam war in the foundations of the militant wing of the white supremacist right and the conciseness of her survey that covers the racist militant right in different locations from the 1970s through the Oklahoma City ...more
Oct 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Subjectively, I'm docking a star for not fully checking what this was going to be about. This is a fairly close overview of the militarized, militia white supremancy movement started by Vietnam War vets through the Ruby Ridge stand off, Waco, and climaxing, but not ending, in the Oklahoma City bombing if 1995. I would like to read Belew continue this history through the next 25 years and the internet age. ...more
Alice Lemon
This book was heavy and somewhat painful reading, but I think it was important to read. It's certainly well-done as an academic history of the White Power Movement / Militia Movement from the 1970's through the Oklahoma City Bombing.

I really hadn't understood just how badly the Vietnam War messed up American society, but it seems to have been very intertwined with the development of the White Power movement. Nor had I really understood the degree to which it was an integrated movement. It was de
Paige McLoughlin
In the post-civil rights era after Vietnam white supremacists groups were very active and operating and growing their ranks in the "colorblind" era after the Vietnam war. This book covers how these right-wing groups like the Order and Aryan Nations and Christian Identity movement went to war with the US federal government and murdered, kidnaped, robbed banks to raise war chests even used the new computer technology of the era to make message boards. They joined the military and infiltrated poli ...more
Buzz Andersen
I really struggle with whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars. 4 stars because it is an obviously well-researched account of the White Power movement since the 1970s, and it contains sporadic bits of fascinating forgotten history (e.g. the presence of American white supremacist mercenaries in Central American and Caribbean conflicts during the 80s). 3 stars because it has a strong “adapted from someone’s grad school thesis” feel and can often read like a recitation of archival data without enoug ...more
Rebecca Crunden
Jan 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
I've got about halfway through this during my last archive trip to DC, and haven't finished it yet because I got sidetracked with research, but it's a truly important book about the rise of white nationalism and the dangers of white supremacy. Kathleen is an incredible researcher and I highly recommend reading her work. ...more
Gayla Bassham
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well, _I'm_ terrified. ...more
Donna E
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very well written and extremely well researched. Powerful. insightful.
It connects the dots to the various home grown terrorist events in white nationalism.
May 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: america, non-fiction, 2018
This book was by turns depressing, frustrating, and scary. It focuses on the rise of the white power movement (and paramilitary culture) after the Vietnam war. I guess we all found out that this mindset is depressingly common during the 2016 election but she traces various threads that all knitted together. Also recounts the absolute lack of punishment the men (almost exclusively men, although the support roles played by women are also covered) got.

Definitely reinforces that the militarization o
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Kathleen Bellew’s [Bring the War Home] is the story of the rise of the modern “white power” movement. Although some groups had existed for much of American history, these groups and newer ones capitalized on the disappointment and distrust resulting from the aftermath of the Vietnam War. As time progressed the movement gained in strength and numbers and committed acts of violence and gradually gained the attention of law enforcement. However, the movement did not come under significant media and ...more
Diane Thomas
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Bring the War Home, by Kathleen Belew, is a must read for anyone seeking a deep understanding of our current political climate. It traces the white power movement from years immediately following the Vietnam War to the aftermath of the bombing in Oklahoma City. Meticulously researched (the author is a historian in the College at the University of Chicago), it is balanced, scholarly and a fascinating read. I commend it especially to historians, journalists, political scientists--and anyone puzzle ...more
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Highly recommended to anyone wanting to understand the foundation on which the modern "alt-right," and general fascist resurgence, is built upon. Written by a historian of the white power movement, Kathleen Belew writes clearly and persuasively of the links between state violence (war in particular) and increased para-militarism, how more mainstream racist ideas feed into and protect violent racist movements, and how understanding the movement's history is crucial to heading off future violence. ...more
Edward Sullivan
A thorough, deeply researched, and compellingly written history of white supremacy violence in late-20th-century and early-21st-century America. Belew convincingly argues that the white power movement emerged as a radical reaction to the Vietnam War and examines how various racist groups―skinheads, Klansmen, white separatists, neo-Nazis, militiamen, and others―united under common anti-government sentiment and took the movement in a violent and revolutionary direction.
Aaron Culley
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A disturbing but important and very thorough account of recent history that too few people are aware of, and which I suspect many people would rather not know about. If you think that the KKK died out or faded away in the 1970s, this book documents very clearly that they are still very active in our society.
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The narrative drags a little in the middle, with a somewhat repetitive tale of extremist compounds and intermarriage...but overall this book was fascinating to me as someone who was a child during the Oklahoma City bombing and it has drawn connections between individual events that I was never aware of before. It was terrifying.
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I often think my opinion of the US Criminal Justice System can’t get lower. Then I read a book like this that examines the history of white power groups and how they benefited from our failed system.

I also didn’t realize an entire chapter was devoted to the Greensboro Massacre and as a non-native Greensboro resident that was interesting and depressing history to learn more about.
Boyd Addlesperger
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Frightening....both the twisted ideology of the white power movement and the incompetence of federal authorities in dealing with the threat posed. Somehow it all leads in a straight line to Donald Trump.

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Kathleen Belew unearthed the lives of her white power militant subjects in previously classified FBI documents, newspapers published from Nicaragua to New York, and vivid personal testimonies, letters, and illustrations. Tracking the path of violence through thousands of pages of documents over more than a decade of research and writing, her work provides an insight and authority rarely seen in su ...more

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Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
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