Rage on the Right
By Mark Potok
Right-wing militia groups at the Mexican border.
The radical right has caught fire, as broad-based populist
anger at political, demographic and economic changes in America
ignited an explosion of new extremist groups and activism across
the nation. [Please see our article, "The
Coming Bubba Revolution.";]
Hate groups stayed at record levels — almost 1,000 —
despite the total collapse of the second largest neo-Nazi group
in America. Furious anti-immigrant vigilante groups soared by
nearly 80%, adding some 136 new groups during 2009. And, most
remarkably of all, so-called "Patriot" groups —
militias and other organizations that see the federal government
as part of a plot to impose "one-world government"; on liberty-loving
Americans — came roaring back after years out of the limelight.
One must carefully bear in mind that when radical-right
groups speak of the "GOVERNMENT,"; they are speaking of
a government dominated by the so-called liberal-elites;
RIGHT-WINGERS appear totally unable to comprehend the
fact that the very people with whom they are working to
"return the nation to Christ and the church"; –
people like the Koch Brothers – are the very people
most responsible for the globalist economic policies that
have transformed the nation into the economic nightmare
they have come to hate, and have robbed them of the means
of making a decent living.
Christopher John Farley, writing in Time Magazine
says, "Patriots ... fear that foreign powers, working through
organizations like the United Nations and treaties like the
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (now the World Trade
Organization), are eroding the power of America as a sovereign
nation." Specifically, militia members assert that the
United States is being subverted from within by a clandestine
and sinister cabal of multicultural, multi-racial, "one
world" New Age elitists dedicated to the destruction of
Western Civilization and the Christian religion.
According to militia members, the cabal operates out
of the United Nations and has been secretly stationing
UN troops in isolated areas throughout the country in
preparation for the takeover - and some speak in hushed
whispers of actually seeing secret highway signs meant
to guide UN forces. In addition, members believe that
the appearance of mysterious formations of "black
helicopters" in the sky over certain areas of the
country is a prelude to the takeover; and that the Federal
Emergency Management Agency (F.E.M.A.) is the cabal's
principle coordinating agency in the country charged with
the responsibility for managing the seizure.
to note in this connection that an Associated Press release
in June of 1997 has confirmed the fact that there is substance
to "black helicopter" sightings; according to
the AP, the "black helicopters" are associated
with secret Special Forces training designed to prepare
U.S. forces for urban warfare. The training has from time
to time been carried out on a clandestine basis in the
continental U.S. The AP revelation came as a great embarrassment
to liberal critics of conservative conspiracy theorists
who had ridiculed militia outrage over this matter.]
Many "establishment" observers,
of course, are tempted to write the militia movement off
as the product of an unsophisticated "redneck"
and "blue collar" paranoia. But if that's so,
it's a paranoia that the "establishment's" own
proven lies and deceit have helped to fashion over the
last thirty years:
Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, the Contra fiasco, Irangate,
the MIA controversy, etc. - deliberate government fabrications
(and recognized as such by most civil libertarians)! -
lies which have over the years eaten like an acid at the
historic trust most "redneck" and "blue
collar" Americans have had for their government.
As a result, there exists today a basic notion in "blue
collar" communities throughout the country that the
government is simply incapable of telling the truth, and
that, therefore, its heated denials regarding F.E.M.A.,
the "black helicopters," the stationing of UN
troops in remote areas, etc. cannot be taken seriously.
The plain fact of the matter is,
an aura of deceit now surrounds the government and bathes
it in a light which is not conducive to engendering trust.
The anger seething across the American political landscape
— over racial changes in the population, soaring public
debt and the terrible economy, the bailouts of bankers and other
elites, and an array of initiatives by the relatively liberal
Obama Administration that are seen as "socialist"
— goes beyond the radical right. The "tea parties"
and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot
fairly be considered extremist groups, but they are shot through
with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism.
"We are in the midst of one of the most significant right-wing
populist rebellions in United States history,"; Chip Berlet,
a veteran analyst of the American radical right, wrote earlier
this year. "We see around us a series of overlapping
social and political movements populated by people [who are]
angry, resentful, and full of anxiety. They are raging against
the machinery of the federal bureaucracy and liberal government
programs and policies including health care, reform of immigration
and labor laws, abortion, and gay marriage."
[Please see our article, "Teaching
Americans to Hate: Beginning a Crusade against the Gay and
Sixty-one percent of Americans believe the country is in decline,
according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Just
a quarter think the government can be trusted. And the anti-tax
tea party movement is viewed in much more positive terms than
either the Democratic or Republican parties, the poll found.
The signs of growing radicalization are everywhere:
- Oath Keepers, a Patriot outfit formed last year that suggests,
in thinly veiled language, that the government has secret
plans to declare martial law and intern patriotic Americans
in concentration camps.
Doing the Numbers
The number of hate groups in America has been going up for
years, rising 54% between 2000 and 2008 and driven largely by
an angry backlash against non-white immigration and, starting
in the last year of that period, the economic meltdown and the
climb to power of an African American president.
According to the latest annual count by the Southern Poverty
Law Center (SPLC), these groups rose again slightly in 2009
— from 926 in 2008 to 932 last year — despite the
demise of a key neo-Nazi group.
The American National Socialist Workers Party, which had 35
chapters in 28 states, imploded shortly after the October 2008
arrest of founder Bill White for making threats against his
groups believe that Obama and his "liberal cohorts" want
to impose multiculturalism and a "brown / black" society
on the United States through unchecked immigration from
non-European societies, particularly from Mexico and Latin
At the same time, the number of what the SPLC designates as
"nativist extremist" groups — organizations
that go beyond mere advocacy of restrictive immigration policy
to actually confront or harass suspected immigrants —
jumped from 173 groups in 2008 to 309 last year. Virtually all
of these vigilante groups have appeared since the spring of
But the most dramatic story by far has been with the antigovernment
Patriots. The militias and the larger Patriot movement first
came to Americans' attention in the mid-1990s, when they appeared
as an angry reaction to what was seen as a tyrannical government
bent on crushing all dissent. Sparked most dramatically by the
death of 76 Branch Davidians during a 1993 law enforcement siege
in Waco, Texas, those who joined the militias also railed against
the Democratic Clinton Administration and initiatives like gun
control and environmental regulation.
Although the Patriot movement included people formerly associated
with racially based hate groups, it was above all animated
by a view of the federal government as the primary enemy, along
with a fondness for antigovernment conspiracy theories. By early
this decade, the groups had largely disappeared from public
Almost a decade after largely disappearing from public
view, right-wing militias, ideologically driven tax
defiers and sovereign citizens are appearing in large
numbers around the country. "Paper terrorism" - the
use of property liens and citizens' "courts" to harass
enemies - is on the rise. And once-popular militia conspiracy
theories are making the rounds again, this time accompanied
by nativist theories about secret Mexican plans to "reconquer"
the American Southwest. One law enforcement agency has
found 50 new militia training groups - one of them made
up of present and former police officers and soldiers.
Authorities around the country are reporting a worrying
uptick in Patriot activities and propaganda. "This is
the most significant growth we've seen in 10 to 12 years,"
says one. "All it's lacking is a spark. I think it's
only a matter of time before you see threats and violence."
A key difference this time is that the federal government - the entity that almost the entire radical right views as its primary enemy - is headed by a black man. That, coupled with high levels of non-white immigration and a decline in the percentage of whites overall in America, has helped to racialize the Patriot movement.
-- Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)
But last year, as noted in the SPLC's August report, "The
Second Wave: Return of the Militias," a dramatic resurgence
in the Patriot movement and its paramilitary wing, the militias,
began. Now, the latest SPLC count finds that an astonishing
363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going
from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them
militias) — a 244% jump.
That is cause for grave concern. Individuals associated with
the Patriot movement during its 1990s heyday produced an enormous
amount of violence, most dramatically the Oklahoma City bombing
that left 168 people dead.
Already there are signs of similar violence emanating from
the radical right. Since the installation of Barack Obama,
As the movement has exploded, so has the reach of its ideas,
aided and abetted by commentators and politicians in the ostensible
mainstream. While in the 1990s, the movement got good reviews
from a few lawmakers and talk-radio hosts, some of its central
ideas today are being plugged by people with far larger audiences
like FOX News' Glenn Beck [who left Fox News a year ago] and
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn).
Last year also experienced levels of cross-pollination
between different sectors of the radical right not seen in years.
Nativist activists increasingly adopted the ideas of the Patriots;
racist rants against Obama and others coursed through the Patriot
movement; and conspiracy theories involving the government appeared
in all kinds of right-wing venues.
Our network of associations with one another - whether
civic, religious, social, or personal - forms an integrated
system of arteries down through which notions of all
sort journey - sometimes to our benefit, and sometimes
to our detriment. It's through this kind of "network"
that heresies become infectious; indeed, it's here that
we can speak of the CONTAGION of heresy;
if left unchecked within a community, heresy, like a
vicious cancer, has a treacherous way of using the network
of our social, political and religious relationships
to spread it's venom throughout the entire body; of
using the bands which connect us together as channels
A good example was the Second Amendment March in Washington,
D.C. The website promoting the march was topped by a picture
of a colonial militiaman, and key supporters included Larry
Pratt, a long-time militia enthusiast with connections to white
supremacists, and Richard Mack, a conspiracy-mongering former
sheriff associated with the Patriot group Oath Keepers.
What may be most noteworthy about the march, however, is its
date — April 19. That is the date of the first shots fired
at Lexington in the Revolutionary War. And it is also the anniversary
of the fiery end of the government siege in Waco and the 1995
Oklahoma City bombing.
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