The American radical right grew explosively in 2011, a third consecutive year of extraordinary growth that has swelled the ranks of extremist groups to record levels, according to a report issued today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The rise was led by a stunning expansion of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement.
“The dramatic expansion of the radical right is the result of our country’s changing racial demographics, the increased pace of globalization, and our economic woes,” said Mark Potok, senior fellow at the SPLC and editor of the new report.
“For many extremists, President Obama is the new symbol of all that’s wrong with the country – the Kenyan president, the secret Muslim who is causing our country’s decline,” Potok said. “The election season’s overheated political rhetoric is adding fuel to the fire. The more polarized the political scene, the more people at the extremes.”
Many Americans are enraged by what they see as America’s decline, and opportunistic politicians have done their best to stoke those fears and demonize President Obama in the process. For some, the prospect of four more years under the country’s first black president also is an infuriating reminder that non-Hispanic whites will lose their majority in this country by 2050.
The SPLC report details the growth of hate groups to a record 1,018 in 2011, up from 1,002 the year before and the latest in a series of increases going back more than a decade. But the dramatic growth came in the Patriot movement, which is composed of armed militias and other conspiracy-minded organizations that see the federal government as their primary enemy. These groups saw their numbers skyrocket for the third straight year in 2011, this time by 55 percent – from 824 in 2010 to 1,274 groups last year. In 2008, just before the Patriot movement took off, there were 149 Patriot groups, a number that metastasized to 512 in 2009.
In all, Patriot groups have increased by 755 percent during the first three years of the Obama administration. Their number has now surpassed – by more than 400 groups – the previous all-time high set in 1996, when the first wave of the militia movement peaked shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead. [Emphasis Added.]
The report is contained in the Spring 2012 issue of the SPLC’s quarterly investigative journal Intelligence Report. Readers will also find an interactive map showing where hate groups are located and comprehensive, state-by-state lists.
With the recent growth of the radical right has come what most experts agree is a rash of domestic terrorism, much of it aimed at President Obama and other authorities. In the last year, several examples have cropped up. In Michigan, members of the Hutaree Militia are currently on trial for planning to murder a police officer and then attack the funeral with homemade bombs in an effort to spark a war against the government. In Georgia, four militia members are facing charges of conspiring to bomb federal buildings and attack cities with the deadly ricin toxin. And four members of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia are accused of planning to murder judges and law enforcement officials as part of a plan to overthrow the federal government.
The continuing tough economy appears to offer the best single explanation for the expansion of a major subset of the larger Patriot movement – antigovernment “sovereign citizens.” Sovereign citizens generally believe they are not obliged to follow most laws or comply with requirements for driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations. They also typically believe that they don’t have to pay taxes, that they can stop foreclosures with ease, and that with the right procedure they can extract millions from the government – all of which makes the movement especially attractive at a time of general economic hardship.
The FBI considers the sovereign movement dangerous enough that it issued a special bulletin to law enforcement officials last September describing it as “domestic terrorist,” and reported that six officers have been murdered by sovereigns since 2000. Most recently, a father-son team of sovereigns shot to death two West Memphis, Ark., police officers during a routine traffic stop in 2010, a killing that drew international attention to the movement.
The hate groups listed in this report include neo-Nazis, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, Klansmen and black separatists. Other hate groups on the list target LGBT people, Muslims or immigrants, and some specialize in producing racist music or propaganda denying the Holocaust.
Phi Beta Iota: There is no doubt that extremist groups are growing fast. What this report does not address is the growth of the angry and often armed middle — non-extremists who consider the federal government and the federalization of state and local law enforcement to be extremist, unconstitutional, unaffordable, and not something to be tolerated for much longer. The problem lies in the lack of integrity of the two party tyranny and the electoral system. Right now law-abiding citizens who disdain what is done in their name have limited legal choice: 1) emigrate — this is happening, especially among the young move to Canada with fewer going the distance to New Zealand; 2) hunker down, don’t vote, save, get ready to jump ship; 3) blindly follow any of the loser third parties led by ego-maniacs, or Ron Paul (great on liberty, worthless on general welfare) and hope for the best; or — the choice favored by 18 veterans a day 4) commit suicide. America has been in this kind of crisis before — what is different is the Internet and the cognitive dissonance that the Internet makes possible, with a “network effect” impacting on both the extremists and the non-extremists. What has NOT happened is a network effect among the moderates and excluded third parties. We the People Reform Coalition was an attempt to bring those elements together for lawful non-violent action, but every single other “leader” (Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, Rocky Anderson, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Buddy Roemer) was on a me me me path and not at all interested in creating a non-partisan team, a coalition cabinet, and an alliance with Occupy and the Tea Party to demand electoral reform by 4 July 2012, in time for November 2012. Nullification and secession by the states remain on the table; states and cities should be planning for the collapse of the federal government and the loss of all federal grants, however devalued they might become over the next year or so. On our present course, regardless of who is elected as the notional president, both the economy and the global US military presence will explode in complex very painful ways.