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Hate groups, driven by extremist politics, on the rise in America

By SAM HALL - Capitol Hill Blue
& COLLEEN JENKINS - Reuters
March 9, 2012

Racism driven by hatred towards America’s current African-American president, ignorance fueled by bogus conspiracy theories and anger over economic hard times has spurred an alarming growth in the number of hate and anti-government groups, a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center reveals.

Spawned largely through the growth of the so-called “Patriot” movement, the rise in hate groups see the government as an enemy and talk of the need for a “race war” to correct what they see as a threat to perceived white supremacy in America.

“Hate is driven by these groups as a political tool and a means to stir up passions,” Samuel Rockwell, a historian who studies hate groups, militias and other hate groups, tells Capitol Hill Blue.  “It’s not just hatred towards Barack Obama.  It’s a widespread hatred towards government in general, a distrust of authority and a desire for revolution.”

Two of the four Republican contenders for President make liberal use of the word “Patriot” in their communications to supporters.  The Rick Santorum campaign begins each fundraising soliciation email with “Dear Patriot.”  Texas Congressman Ron Paul often refers to his campaign supporters at “Fellow Patriots.”

The Patriot movement reached a peak in 1996, a year after right-wing extremist Timothy McVeigh set off a truck bomb outside the Oklahoma City federal building, killing 168 people. McVeigh and a co-conspirator were convicted, and McVeigh was executed.

The number of Patriot groups, a largely rural phenomenon sometimes referred to as the militia movement, increased to 1,274 groups in 2011 from 824 in 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center report released on Thursday said.

The number of those organizations has swelled in recent years since the economy slumped into recession and Democratic President Barack Obama, the country’s first black president, was elected in 2008, said the law center, which has tracked extremist groups for three decades.

A backlash against federal bail outs of the bank and auto industries, and discredited allegations that Obama was not born in the United States and therefore disqualified to be president, provided believers with the rationale to join such groups, according to the report.

Heated political rhetoric from this year’s presidential campaign could attract more adherents, said Mark Potok, senior fellow at the center and editor of the report.

“The campaign season has simply added fuel to the fire,” Potok said. These groups vehemently oppose Obama and abhor the possibility that he could be re-elected to a second term in November. “To them, that’s a horror show,” Potok said. The center counted 1,018 hate groups in the United States last year, up from 1,002 in 2010. The number of groups have been increasing since 2000, when the center counted 602.

Research by Capitol Hill Blue into the web sites and literature from the Patriot movement groups show more than 70 percent openly support the Ron Paul campaign for President the remainder split going mostly for Santorum.

“It is easy to see how Ron Paul appeals to these groups,” Rockwell says. “He preaches distrust of government, espouses conspiracy theories popular to their followers and has a history of race-baiting when it serves his purpose.”

Santorum, Rockwell says, also appeals to the groups because of his staunch stands against gays and his anti-government rhetoric.

“Distrust and hate is at the core of the rise in political activist groups like the tea party,” Rockwell adds.

Potok said it was hard to gauge how many Americans are members of hate groups, but estimated the number was between 200,000 and 300,000 people.

The center also estimated that some 300,000 Americans were part of the so-called “sovereign citizens” movement who flout most laws, do not pay federal taxes and even refuse to obtain driver’s licenses.

The report’s findings echoed comments last month in Washington by the FBI about a growing threat of violence by members of these “sovereign citizen” groups.

Stuart McArthur, deputy assistant director in the FBI’s counterterrorism division, told a news conference that routine encounters with police can turn violent “at the drop of a hat.” He cited shootings of police officers after routine traffic stops in Arkansas and Texas the past two years.

Convictions of such extremists, mostly for white-collar crimes such as fraud, increased to 18 each in 2010 and 2011 from 10 in 2009, the FBI said.

Most members of hate groups and anti-government organizations have not committed crimes, Potok said. But the center’s report highlighted recent examples where authorities accused militia members of plotting violence.

In one case, authorities accused four Georgia members of a militia group of plotting to obtain explosives and produce the deadly toxin ricin, with which they intended to attack government officials.

In Michigan, seven members of a Midwestern militia group called the Hutaree are standing trial on charges that they plotted to kill police to spark a wider insurrection.

The law center also found the number of groups specifically targeting gays and lesbians rose to 27 in 2011 from 17 in 2010, and the number of anti-Muslim groups jumped to 30 from 10.

But the number of so-called “nativist extremist” groups who harass people they suspect of being illegal immigrants appeared to be in decline. The number of those groups dropped to 184 in 2011 from 319 the year before.

The center attributed the decline in part to the push in some states for laws aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants, the report said. “Nativist groups have lost the wind in their sails as their issue has been co-opted by politicians,” Potok said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center was formed in the early 1970s to defend the legal rights of African Americans following the civil rights reforms of the 1960s. It was instrumental in some convictions of members of white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan for civil rights abuses against blacks. It has broadened to other issues in recent years.

(Capitol Hill Blue researcher Anne Lawson contributed to this article)

(c) Copyright 2012 Capitol Hill Blue & Thomson Reuters

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11 Responses to Hate groups, driven by extremist politics, on the rise in America

  1. Sandy Price

    March 9, 2012 at 10:10 am

    This commentary is very true and will not end well for America. Americans have long list of what and who they hate. They always did but this time the rules of who can vote are now the result of a deep seated hatred for people of color, women, and now add poverty to the list of focusing our elections on white male straight Christians.

    Do we whine or act? If we feel no action is possible then throw the bastards out of office. That we can do!

    But are we really opposed to such actions that keep many from voting? I’m not certain many are opposed.

  2. Hal Brown

    March 9, 2012 at 10:54 am

    The so-called “greatest generation” beat the Nazis and the Japanese war machine. When Santorum uses that phrase and talks about losing our basic liberties (all of them presumably), as he did in his speech on Super Tuesday, he panders to these right wing extremists.

    When he goes back to the Founding Fathers and references the creator (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”) he is basically declaring war on Obama for taking away our God-given rights the way the Founding Fathers did in The Declaration of Independence. By inference Obama is anti-God.

    It is hard to believe Santorum has actually read this document carefully in order to suggest such a thing is justified, but whether he believes it or not isn’t relevant because those inclined to join hate groups do believe Obama is as bad as King George III (not that the majority of them know their colonial history all that well).

    Here are some quotes from his speech:

    That’s one of the reasons I’m so proud to have my mom and my father-in-law and mother-in-law up on stage with me. They’re a part of the greatest generation of America.

    (APPLAUSE)

    They preserved liberty by sacrificing immeasurably to keep this country free from despots. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a bit different battle that we’re engaged in today, but it’s no less a battle for the basic liberties that this country was founded upon.

    <em"later in the speech he revisited this:

    But the greatest generation was the greatest generation not because they had greater — greater character or courage or perseverance than those of us today. The greatest generation was great because, when freedom was at stake, they rose to meet the call to defend this country.

    (APPLAUSE)

    We’re at a time in this country when freedom is at stake and you are all blessed, as I am, to be here at a time when your country needs you, to be here at a time, like the original founders of this country, who signed that Declaration of Independence, to be here at a time when freedom was at stake and people were willing to go out and do heroic and courageous things to win that victory.

    We went on to move towards invoking God with using the word “creator”:

    will be looking always to those in charge, to those who now say to you that they are the allocator and creator of rights in America.

    (BOOING)

    Ladies and gentlemen, this is the beginning of the end of freedom in America. Once the government has control of your life, then they got you.

    Then we want on the say exactly what he meant:

    We are a great country because we believe that rights don’t come from the government, but as in our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, says, our rights come to us from our creator.

    Handily, Santorum misses the crucial “all men are created equal” in the declaration. Obviously to him and the right wing some men (and perhaps the majority of women) are not meant to be equal to the white men who make up the majority of the extreme right wing.

  3. woody188

    March 9, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Potok and the Southern Poverty Law Center always say this stuff when they start running low on funds.

    Mark Potok was a reporter before declaring himself and the SPLC as the Webster’s Dictionary of hate. The SPLC took in almost $45 million in 2006. Revenue had dropped off to nearly $35 million by 2009, but they are back on the rise by 2010 to nearly $39 million, with net assets totaling $238 million. Potok receives around $150 thousand per year for his services.

    By their own numbers, we are talking about a tenth of one percent of the population. We should be talking about the success of our racial integration.

    Sovereign citizens do not flout most laws other than laws requiring registration or personal property disclosure. They are not dangerous any more than any other citizen. Members of police forces have committed more violent crime than sovereign citizens, but Mark Potok isn’t warning about the number of police forces in America.

    18 convictions? Odd how they can find the “Patriot” white collar crime, but Wall Street gets off without even a charge in the largest fraud in the history of our nation.

    Most members of hate groups and anti-government organizations have not committed crimes, Potok said.

    So why are we even talking about this? If people prefer to stick with their own race or sexual orientation and don’t bother anyone else about it, who the heck cares?

  4. Hal Brown

    March 9, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Woody,

    I don’t quite get the point you are trying to make.

    Are you disputing the SPLC’s statistics that the number of hate groups rose to 1,274 in 2011 from 824 in 2010? Are you saying the statics are a bogus way to raise funds? If you believe the statistics are you blaming the messenger? Are you minimizing the meaning behind so many of these hate groups springing up since the nomination process began?

    I am well aware that the SPLC has been labeled by some a far left radical group. I am aware that in the course of their filing civil lawsuits, some resulting in large punitive fines, they have also been sued back. I know they have working relationships with the FBI and their CEO sits on an important Homeland Security board which some on the far right consider part and parcel of a government left wing conspiracy to take away their liberties.

    We should all understand just what the SPLC is, that their focus on civil rights has gotten them labelled “far left”. We should know what they have accomplished too, which is mostly in the area of filing lawsuits which have resulted in large damages against a number of hate groups rather than criminal charges.

    You say ” if people prefer to stick with their own race or sexual orientation and don’t bother anyone else about it, who the heck cares?” True enough, when the hate groups are just having barbecues and cross burnings.

    If you believe the reports, some are also heavily arming themselves, learning to make bombs, and engaging in paramilitary training. Is that of concern?

    As an addendum, I assume that when you say ” members of police forces have committed more violent crime than sovereign citizens” you mean members of the “sovereign citizen movement” considered “extremist anti-government group” by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    • woody188

      March 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      I’m saying the SPLC is monetarily and politically motivated and frequently groups political organizations together with violent extremists. It’s to the point where having a Ron Paul bumper sticker, or displaying the Gadsden flag is cited as a reason for getting pulled over on the freeway and being detained as a potential terrorist by TSA VIPR teams.

      Look at SPLC methods. They don’t count national groups as one. They list each local organization as a separate group to pad the numbers.

      No, I’m not concerned about reports of groups arming themselves, learning to make bombs, and engaging in paramilitary training. They have yet to commit any crimes. This whole idea of pre-emptive law enforcement is the exact opposite of our traditional system of laws. I am not afraid and will not make decisions concerning my liberty out of fear.

      Besides IRS, USDA, FDA, and Federal Reserve SWAT teams are probably more dangerous than any militia.

      Just look at the title of this story. What are you supposed to take away? That Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are driving a rise in racist hate groups. Absurd!

  5. Hal Brown

    March 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    By the way, I just did a web search to see whether the SPLC has a history of taking action against police officers and departments who violated civil rights. Google <em?splc action against police and you will find out that they have been active in this area.

  6. Sandy Price

    March 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    You are correct Hal! I cannot say more at this time.

  7. Sandy Price

    March 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Hal, I’m getting permission from the author and researcher for Sovereign Americans and I will send you the link as a private messsage on Reader Rant. I do not have your email address.

  8. Jon

    March 12, 2012 at 4:14 am

    The “greatest generation” was also happy with apartheid (Separate but equal(?)), back-alley abortions, and 70% maximum income tax rates.

    Strange, I don’t see those who espouse going back to those social values also insisting we go back to those tax rates.

    Jon

  9. Jim B.

    March 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    I’m late in getting this posted….Just wanted to say that I very much agree with Hal….The domestic terrorism movement is one of the gravest threats to America….Thank goodness the Southern Poverty Law Center is tracking as many as they can…Their efforts could save lives.

  10. DDearborn

    March 15, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Hmmm
    The problem with these lists starts with their definition of what a hate group is. Looking on their website their definition of a hate group is pretty much anybody that disagrees with them……

    For example: many of the groups listed as “hate groups” are in fact merely supporters of the Constitution. Does anyone really believe that those people insisting that the government abide by the the Constitution are part of a hate group? People this is a typical zionist response to all those groups at there that have woken up to the dangers of zionist controlling our government. Naturally the zionists will use the government and their control of the media in an attempt to silence these groups. SO in general when you hear the term “hate group” first look and see what message they are presenting. 9 times out of 10 these groups are merely demanding that the government abide by the Constitution and return their inalienable rights. Like the INALIENABLE RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH AND ASSEMBLY WHICH THE LIKES OF SLPC HAVE BEEN TRYING TO TAKE AWAY FROM EVERYBODY ELSE FOR DECADES. People in America have the right to assemble with whom ever they please speak their minds. Groups like the SLPG DON’T HAVE A RIGHT TO STOP PEOPLE!!!!