Hunt the Wizard! Race, Immigration, and British Tabloid Coverage of David Duke’s 1978 Tour

E. James West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing on a range of material from the British Newspaper Archives, the University of Northampton, the Institute of Race Relations, and other institutions, this article sheds new light on a widely overlooked British tour by American Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke in 1978. Duke’s arrival was a cause célèbre for the British press and for the British tabloids in particular, which eagerly kept readers up-to-date on police efforts to ‘hunt the wizard.’ While such coverage sought to cast Duke as an outsider and political extremist, it played directly into the Klansman’s talents for media manipulation and helped to disseminate his racist ideologies to a wide audience. As this article demonstrates, by focusing on Duke’s ‘good-for-a-laugh’ encounters with law enforcement, the tabloids minimised both longstanding efforts to establish a Klan presence in Britain and a more recent surge in Klan-inspired attacks. Duke’s arrival was not simply an isolated visit by an American extremist. It was connected to the broader emergence of a ‘post-war Anglo-American far right’ and can be understood as a direct response to heightened racial tensions in Britain—tensions that the tabloids themselves had helped to cultivate and exacerbate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalContemporary British History
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Mar 2021


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