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The number of antigovernment “Patriot” groups on the American radical right hit an all-time high in 2012, the fourth straight year of explosive growth, according to a report released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). As the new year began, serious talk of gun control, prompted by a Connecticut school massacre in December, fueled even more rage on the right, and the threat of violence loomed .
The new report, contained in the latest issue of the quarterly investigative journal Intelligence Report, found that the conspiracy-minded Patriot groups, which numbered only 149 in 2008, soared over the first four years of Barack Obama’s presidency to 1,360 in 2012 — an astounding 813% increase. At the same time, it found that hate groups remained at near-record levels of over 1,000 (see interactive map and state-by-state lists of 2012 hate groups here).
The resurgence of militias and other Patriot groups and an uptick over recent years in non-Islamic domestic terrorism caused SPLC President Richard Cohen today to write (letter pdf) U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to request the creation of a new interagency task force to assess the adequacy of federal resources devoted to the threat. “As in the period before the  Oklahoma City bombing,” Cohen wrote, “we are now seeing ominous threats from those who believe that the government is poised to take their guns.”
Patriot groups generally adhere to variations of a conspiracy theory that suggests that the federal government has secret plans to impose martial law on the United States, most likely with the aid of foreign troops; seize all guns held by American citizens; toss all those who resist into concentration camps run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and, ultimately, force the country into a kind of socialistic one-world government, commonly known as the “New World Order.”
The resurgence of the Patriot movement, which first rose and fell in the 1990s, has largely been a reaction to the election of the nation’s first black president in 2008 — and the demographic change, including the loss of the country’s white majority predicted for 2043, that he represents — as well as the difficult economy. The recent talk of gun control, which has sparked state legislative efforts to “nullify” any federal legislation and also a movement of rural sheriffs who promise to resist, is now adding fuel to a fire that was already burning at white-hot temperatures (see also my editorial).
Other articles in the new issue of the Intelligence Report (table of contents is here) include:
- An investigative story looking at women in the white supremacist movement and the sometimes explosive secrets they keep.
- A broad look at the comeback of the John Birch Society, once exiled from the respectable conservative movement, and its role in furthering a leading conspiracy theory about the United Nations sustainability plan known as Agenda 21.
- An account of the way that Warren Jeffs, the racist polygamous leader now serving time for sex crimes against young girls, continues to rule two towns on the Arizona-Utah border from his cell.
- A piece about the nation’s largest “sovereign citizens” group and its apparent weakening in the aftermath of the arrest of its leader.
- An interview with an Iowa politician who left mainstream politics to take up as a “senator” with a major sovereign citizens group.
- An account of the sputtering rage and name-calling of the radical right that was prompted by President Obama’s re-election last November.
- A description of the rapid decline of the once-powerful movement of hard-line citizen border patrol and other nativist groups.
- An examination of the troubles besetting Stormfront, the world’s largest white supremacist online forum.
- A look at Christian extremists who have moved from worrying about the War on Christmas to launching their own War on Krishna.