At first glance, Timothy McVeigh and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have little in common. The former was a sexually frustrated American drifter driven by a perverted belief in liberty, the latter a polygamous Iraqi religious scholar motivated by fundamentalist Islam.
Yet both McVeigh and Baghdadi have entered the annals of infamy by orchestrating brutal lone-wolf attacks. McVeigh, in tandem with Terry Nichols, blew up the Murrah Federal Building on 19 April 1995, killing 168 innocent people. Baghdadi, the head of Islamic State (Isis), is waging a brutal reign of terror across Europe and the Middle East, his brainwashed minions carrying out a series of devastating lone strikes from Paris to Sydney.
In their very different ways, McVeigh and Baghdadi are waging a form of terrorism designed for the embittered loner, the marginalised non-entity desperate to be noticed, even if it means massacring innocent people. This form of terror can be traced back to a particularly gruesome book, written in the style of a trashy airport novel.
The Turner Diaries is about a thirtysomething all-American computer programmer, Earl Turner, who flips and embarks on a campaign of political assassination and race war, attempting to spark an Aryan revolution.
Written by Dr William Pierce, a former physics professor who became America's most influential Nazi, the book talks of secret cells waging acts of terror against multicultural communities, designed to trigger anarchy and create racial battle lines. It culminates in the systematic extermination of all black people, Jews and '"race traitors".
Pierce, who wrote under the pseudonym of Andrew MacDonald, has had several high-profile devotees; McVeigh is just one of a pack of American lone wolves to have read the book, the group including the white supremacists who murdered James Byrd in Texas in 1997. One can assume the book is not on Baghdadi's coffee table but there are clear parallels between the IS modus operandi and the white-power jihad espoused in the Turner Diaries.
Pierce elucidated his vision in a broadcast by the far-right National Alliance in 1997. He said that, when he started writing The Turner Diaries in 1975, "I wanted to take all of the feminist agitators and propagandists and all of the race-mixing fanatics and all of the media bosses and bureaucrats and politicians who were collaborating with them, and I wanted to put them up against a wall, in batches of a thousand at a time, and machine-gun them.
"And I still want to do that. I am convinced that we will have to do that before we can get our civilisation back on track, and I look forward to the day."
From Breivik to Isis
The book was published in 1978, and its first band of adherents were a group known as "The Order", who committed a spate of armed robberies and synagogue bombings in the early 1980s, even killing Jewish talk-show personality Alan Berg in Denver.
An FBI shootout trimmed the group's members but the quorum that remained mushroomed into a new organisation called the Aryan Brotherhood, a neo-Nazi gang sporting swastika tattoos. Byrd's three killers were all alleged members of the group.
Days before detonating his bomb in Oklahoma, McVeigh wrote a letter to his sister warning "something big is going to happen". A second letter contained clippings from The Turner Diaries.
When officers raided McVeigh's pick-up, they found a copy of the book, with several passages underlined, including sections providing graphic details of the terrorist attacks on the US Capitol and an airliner flying to Tel Aviv.
Since then we have seen Anders Breivik, whose attack on a Norwegian government building was almost a carbon copy of McVeigh's assault on the federal offices in Oklahoma City.
Reports in Sweden, published in the immediate aftermath of the attack, suggested Breivik was a member of a Nazi forum that frequently referenced The Turner Diaries; certainly, the fact that he attacked multiple targets and encouraged other extremist groups, including the EDL, to rise up in a wider campaign of hatred suggests Earl Turner's strategies had a profound effect.
The links between The Turner Diaries and 21st-century Islamist terror are more tangential but it is hard to dispute that the 9/11 attacks, a simultaneous orgy of violence that brought down planes and iconic buildings, bears the hallmarks of Pierce's blueprint for synchronised Armageddon.
Baghdadi's IS adopted similar tactics in Paris earlier in 2015 and the beheadings that have become its gruesome calling card are not dissimilar to the hangings carried out by Earl Turner's henchmen in an episode called "the day of the rope".
Pierce's vile creed was initially spread via America's prison network and the secret meetings of its furtive race hate groups. By the time McVeigh struck, the means of propagation had shifted; the internet enabled xenophobes to email passages of the book to each other and post them on forums.
The Anarchist cookbook and other bomb recipes were only a click away. In the late 1990s, the National Alliance was able to maintain relationships with overseas allies in cyberspace, its sophisticated website linking to far-flung ultra-nationalist groups, such as our very own BNP.
Now, of course, the focus of lone wolf terror has shifted again. Social media provides the circuitry for IS and other Islamist networks, which launch super-fast recruitment campaigns through the miracle of fibre optic broadband.
But the core message that zips back and forth across cyberspace is largely unchanged from that which spewed from The Turner Diaries; 40 years after Pierce began writing, his blueprint for a synchronised crusade of lone-wolf terror attacks continues to motivate the global hate brigade.