Friday, March 05, 2010

Domestic Terrorism

Once again I had to go to a foreign newspaper to get information on this country. This time the article is from England's The Guardian. The article is a summary of a report on right wing extremist groups prepared by the Southern Poverty Law Center, so I went to the primary source.

The radical right caught fire last year, 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.

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.

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" or even "fascist" — 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.
[Emphasis added]

I suppose there are several reasons why I didn't see much on this latest report from SPLC. First, the growth of these groups detailed in the report isn't exactly breaking news. We've seen still photos and videos of the "patriotic groups" on the front pages and across the internet, nearly all of which show men (mostly) proudly wearing their sidearms or hoisting rifles and shotguns. No paper of record or television news site, however, mention the increase in potential for violence by the numbers. That's why the SPLC report is so useful.

Second, and even more revealing, is the fact that at least one news group, Fox, has been openly promoting the Tea Partiers and their events. While I agree that tagging the Tea Party with the label "extremist" is unfair, many of their ideas and ideals come from extremist rhetoric:

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 and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn). Beck, for instance, re-popularized a key Patriot conspiracy theory — the charge that FEMA is secretly running concentration camps — before finally “debunking” it.

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. A good example is the upcoming Second Amendment March in Washington, D.C. The website promoting the march is topped by a picture of a colonial militiaman, and key supporters include 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.
[Emphasis added]

I don't know which disturbs me more: the fact that these groups are on the rise and cooperating with each other, or the fact that we have lost an objective media which would inform the public on just what is happening in this country.

I do know this, however: we are in for some dangerous times.

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