The steady growth in right-wing extremist groups is worrisome, says a civil rights organization that tracks hate and bigotry.
"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," writes Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In a report called "Rage on the Right" published in the SPLC's Spring Intelligence Report, Potok says the number of U.S. hate groups increased by 54 percent between 2000 and 2008. The trend continued into 2009.
The SPLC notes that there was a slight uptick in the number of neo-Nazi groups last year, even though the most powerful organization—American National Socialist Workers Party—fell apart after its founder was arrested for threatening his opponents. Anti-immigrant "nativist" groups grew by 79 percent. But the most dramatic growth in right-wing extremism came in the form of the wider Patriot Movement, antigovernment organizations that include the militia movement and oppose "one-world government."
"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," says the group.
The SPLC finds this growth "a cause for grave concern" because elements of the Patriot Movement were responsible for widespread violence during the 1990s, the most destructive example being the Oklahoma City terrorist attack by Timothy McVeigh that murdered 168 people. Current developments, the SPLC warns, portend a return to the 1990s. Since the inauguration of President Barack Obama, right-wing extremists have murdered six law enforcement officers and skinheads have been arrested in plots to assassinate Obama, the nation's first African-American to call the White House home.
While the SPLC report does not call the Tea Party Movement right-wing extremists, it does argue tea partiers "are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories, and racism." The SPLC also fears that ideas among different right-wing extremist groups have begun to cross pollinate as well as gained credence in mainstream political discourse through Fox News' Glenn Beck and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).
Potok explains the report in this video, via YouTube.com.
From the Archives: In 1997, Stefan H. Leader analyzed the risks U.S. financial institutions face from the growing threat of right-wing extremists. Read it here.
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