New Report Says Right-Wing Extremism Growing in U.S.

By Matthew Harwood

The Southern Poverty Law Center has released its new report on the state of hate in the United States for 2007 and finds right-wing racist vitriol and violence increasing nationwide.

Here's its ominous introduction:

Sheriff's deputies gunned down by "Aryan" gangsters in Bastrop, La. Tax protesters with bombs arrested in New Hampshire. Gun-toting white supremacists marching in Jena, La. A police officer murdered in Salt Lake City. Nativist leaders demanding sniper teams and mines along the Mexican border. Calls for assassinating politicians, immigrants and Jews. Rapidly spreading racist conspiracy theories .... The latest annual count by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) found that the number of hate groups operating in America rose to 888 last year, up 5% from 844 groups in 2006. That capped an increase of 48% since 2000 — a hike from 602 groups attributable to the exploitation by hate groups of the continuing debate about immigration. And it comes on top of some 300 other anti-immigration groups, about half listed by SPLC as "nativist extremist," formed in the last three years.

Owing to the nation's immigration debate, Hispanics have faced a 35 percent increase in hate crimes between 2003 and 2006, SPLC reports. One group recently added to SPLC's list of hate groups, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), sparks xenophobia about Hispanics by stating that Mexico has joined in a secret plot to reconquer the American Southwest.

FAIR called the SPLC's report "misleading" and accused it of trying to stop the immigration debate.

It is calculated to be inflammatory, tarnish the reputation of leading immigration reform groups, and shut down meaningful public policy debate about immigration reform.

FAIR also charges the SPLC manipulated FBI hate-crime statistics to inflate hate crimes against Hispanics by using 2003 as its base year. FAIR says hate crimes against Hispanics in 2003 ranked as one of the lowest on record. By choosing 2003 to begin its analysis, the SPLC's numbers are not an accurate reflection of the hatred faced by Hispanics in the United States. In contrast, if the SPLC had chosen 1995 as their baseline, FAIR says, hate crimes trends against Hispanics increased by 17 percent rather than by 35 percent.

The SPLC report  also breaks down the radical right-wing movement and describes the various groupings' activities over the past year. Neo-nazi hate groups have proliferated according to the SPLC, but this has more to do with internal strife within the movement's largest organization, the National Socialist Movement. Internal divisions have led to break away organizations like the National Socialist Order of America. Other threats from hate groups include racist skinheads, the Ku Klux Klan, and black separatists among more general hate groups that revile gays, lesbians, and Jews.

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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