For fans of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, the thrilling true story of a would-be terrorist attack against a Kansas farming town’s immigrant community, and the FBI informant who exposed it.
In the spring of 2016, as immigration debates rocked the United States, three men in a militia group known as the Crusaders grew aggravated over one Kansas town’s growing Somali community. They decided that complaining about their new neighbors and threatening them directly wasn’t enough. The men plotted to bomb a mosque, aiming to kill hundreds and inspire other attacks against Muslims in America. But they would wait until after the presidential election, so that their actions wouldn’t hurt Donald Trump’s chances of winning.
An FBI informant befriended the three men, acting as law enforcement’s eyes and ears for eight months. His secretly taped conversations with the militia were pivotal in obstructing their plans and were a lynchpin in the resulting trial and convictions for conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.
White Hot Hate will tell the riveting true story of an averted case of domestic terrorism in one of the most remote towns in the US, not far from the infamous town where Capote’s In Cold Blood was set. In the gripping details of this foiled scheme, we see in intimate focus the chilling, immediate threat of domestic terrorism—and racist anxiety in America writ large.
White Hot Hate is a true crime book that utilizes recordings, interviews, and court documents to tell the story of a small rural militia’s plot to kill Muslim refugees. The campaign and election of Donald Trump added fuel to the fire of hatred among a group of gun-toting, self-proclaimed patriots. And an unlikely, everyday man pairs up with the FBI to stop the plot and save Somali refugees.
Dick Lehr begins the book by providing context on national events and then dives into the the story. He also sets up the narrative with enough details for readers to have a solid frame of reference to refer back to for the rest of the book. For example, Lehr explains how a small town in the middle of nowhere Kansas attracted a significant Somali refugee population (meatpacking plants).
I found White Hot Hate to be an easy read that held my attention from beginning to end. I would not go as far as to call White Hot Hate super compelling. Lehr writes a straight-forward narrative without commentary on the people, place, or events. He is faithful to the source documents and provides an unbiased account. I appreciated his dedication to providing a neutral portrayal that did not glamorize violence, hate, or the terrorists.
Despite owning a physical copy, I ended up reading White Hot Hate on audio. The narrators did a decent job, but I did feel like it was not necessary to have two of them and that they could have made the audio more exciting with additional inflections, tones, etc.
For me, there was a big component I hoped White Hot Hate would cover that was not included. As someone who does not share the opinions of the book’s subjects, I wished the narrative had explored more of the psychological aspects of those involved. Lehr did not provide readers with an understanding of where or how the men’s hatred originated. This felt like a vital component of the story was skipped over. Despite all the details about plotting and planning, I was left grasping to comprehend the story’s very foundation. In addition, I would have been interested in learning more about the experience of being an FBI informant. Although Lehr included how being an FBI informant weighed on Dan Day, other details were absent.
Overall, White Hot Hate is a solid true crime novel that highlights that the biggest terrorist threat to America is white supremacists and bigotry. I recommend this piece of narrative nonfiction, especially if you do not have firsthand knowledge of rural life and how domestic terrorist threats arise.
White Hot Hate: A True Story of Domestic Terrorism in America’s Heartland
Nonfiction – Narrative; Social Issues; True Crime
November 30, 2021