Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Obama Effect: A Plague of Haters, Antigovernment "Patriots," and Militias

If one obtains a picture of the world as provided by our traditional media sources, one is likely to be unaware that there are organizations out there training for the day when they have the opportunity to attack minorities, do battle with our police forces, and to bring down our government by force. The ignorant, the violent, and the bigoted have always been among us, but now they are receiving encouragement from national political figures. Economic uncertainty, immigration, growth of minority groups, the declining number and influence of whites, and the election of a black president seem to have been more than these people could handle.

We should thank the people at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for trying to keep track of these fringe groups and counter them with legal challenges wherever possible. We should also be sending SPLC donations so that they can continue their good work. This is how the SPLC describes itself:

"The Southern Poverty Law Center is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society."

"Founded by civil rights lawyers Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr. in 1971, the SPLC is internationally known for tracking and exposing the activities of hate groups. Our innovative Teaching Tolerance program produces and distributes – free of charge – documentary films, books, lesson plans and other materials that promote tolerance and respect in our nation’s schools."

This is what they intend to accomplish:

"The SPLC was founded to ensure that the promises of the civil rights movement became a reality for all. Since our founding in 1971, we’ve won numerous landmark legal victories on behalf of the exploited, the powerless and the forgotten."

"Our lawsuits have toppled institutional racism in the South, bankrupted some of the nation’s most violent white supremacist groups and won justice for exploited workers, abused prison inmates, disabled children and other victims of discrimination."

One of SPLC’s tasks is to keep track of hate groups, antigovernment "patriot" groups, and armed militia movements. You can find here an interactive map (the Hate Map) that will allow you to select the list of all the hate groups in your state. Every state has them; it seems everyone is hated by somebody.

"The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 1,007 active hate groups in the United States in 2012. Only organizations and their chapters known to be active during 2012 are included."

"All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."

"This list was compiled using hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports."

"Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing."

An article in The Economist provided this chart of the growth in number of "patriot" and militia groups and labeled it "The Obama Effect."

Isn’t it curious how comfortable the ignorant, the violent, and the bigoted are when there is a Republican president in office—and how riled up they get when a black Democrat enters office?

"Since 2000, the number of hate groups has increased by 67 percent. This surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president."

"These factors also are feeding a powerful resurgence of the antigovernment "Patriot" movement, which in the 1990s led to a string of domestic terrorist plots, including the Oklahoma City bombing. The number of Patriot groups, including armed militias, has grown 813 percent since of the Obama was elected – from 149 in 2008 to 1,360 in 2012."

An SPLC article written by Larry Keller, The Second Wave, provides a history of these "patriot" groups and how they have evolved during the current resurgence.

"Almost 10 years after it seemed to disappear from American life, there are unmistakable signs of a revival of what in the 1990s was commonly called the militia movement. From Idaho to New Jersey and Michigan to Florida, men in khaki and camouflage are back in the woods, gathering to practice the paramilitary skills they believe will be needed to fend off the socialistic troops of the ’New World Order’."

"One big difference from the militia movement of the 1990s is that the face of the federal government — the enemy that almost all parts of the extreme right see as the primary threat to freedom — is now black. And the fact that the president is an African American has injected a strong racial element into even those parts of the radical right, like the militias, that in the past were not primarily motivated by race hate. Contributing to the racial animus have been fears on the far right about the consequences of Latino immigration."

Here is an example of the kind of nonsense these people tell each other in order to inflame their hatreds.

"In Pensacola, Fla., retired FBI agent Ted Gunderson tells a gathering of antigovernment ‘Patriots’ that the federal government has set up 1,000 internment camps across the country and is storing 30,000 guillotines and a half-million caskets in Atlanta. They're there for the day the government finally declares martial law and moves in to round up or kill American dissenters, he says. ‘They're going to keep track of all of us, folks,’ Gunderson warns."
This type of thinking has entered the mainstream with Republican politicians and conservative media personalities lending credence.

"A remarkable aspect of the current antigovernment movement is the extent to which it has gained support from elected officials and mainstream media outlets. Lawmakers complaining about the intrusiveness of the federal government have introduced 10th Amendment resolutions (reasserting that those powers not granted to the federal government remain with the states) in about three dozen states. In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry raised the prospect of secession several months after Obama's inauguration — a notion first brought up there in the '90s by the militia-like Republic of Texas. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she feared that the president was planning "reeducation camps for young people," while U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), evoking memories of the discredited communist-hunter Sen. Joseph McCarthy, warned of 17 "socialists" in Congress. Fox News host Glenn Beck, who has called Obama a fascist, a Nazi and a Marxist, even re-floated militia conspiracy theories of the 1990s alleging a secret network of government-run concentration camps."

Keller fears that these fringe groups may begin to collaborate.

"Militiamen, white supremacists, anti-Semites, nativists, tax protesters and a range of other activists of the radical right are cross-pollinating and may even be coalescing."

Let’s hope Keller is wrong.

If anyone still believes these people are not worth worrying about—remember Oklahoma City.

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