After Thriving in 2001, Radical Right is in Turmoil
The pall over most of the radical right also extends to "Patriot" groups, such as militias, which have been characterized less by race hatred than antigovernment ideology and anger over gun control and the Waco disaster.
As the 10th anniversary of the Feb. 28, 1993, Waco raid approached, the number of Patriot groups fell from 158 in 2001 to 143 in 2002 — the seventh consecutive annual decline reported by the Intelligence Project since 1996, when the militia movement peaked with 858 groups. At the same time, Patriot Web sites rose from 143 in 2001 to 175 last year.
Many Patriot groups simply disappeared, including the Connecticut 51st Militia, the Minnesota Militia and the Texas Unified Field Forces, often mocked by others in the movement as a "wannabe" militia. The Ohio Unorganized Militia Assistance and Advisory Committee, which had eight chapters in 2001, fell to a single chapter in 2002 — and announced that, "due to declining participation," it would be completely dissolved this Jan. 31.
Last November, United America Patriot Alliance leader Dennis Slatton called for a national meeting of militia groups; some of the responses he received said much about the state of the movement.
"There's nobody in Arizona left," said one. "Except me. Now what?"
"I tried to form a group in San Diego," lamented another. "Could not even get people to give me a call when they could not show up, let alone show up."
A symbolic moment came early this year when former Nye County, Nev., Commissioner Dick Carver died of brain cancer. Carver became an important early hero to the militia movement when, on July 4, 1994, he used a large, flag-draped bulldozer to lead armed marchers down a closed federal road in defiance of U.S. Forest Service rangers — landing him on the cover of Time magazine.
Members of the Patriot movement for years insisted that they were not racist or anti-Semitic and, indeed, those were not the predominant features of most such groups during the height of the militia movement in the 1990s. But to some extent, many of these groups simply hid their hatreds; in addition, other Patriot groups, cross-pollinated by race-based groups, have become increasingly anti-Semitic.
This was evidenced last year, when several major Patriot publications began publishing anti-Semitic screeds. Among other developments, Paul Hall, owner of the anti-Semitic Jubilee newspaper, bought the popular Patriot publication Media Bypass. Not long after, the magazine published an article by neo-Nazi leader Erich Gliebe.
Another indication of the same trend came with the secret initiation of the brother of Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols into the anti-Semitic theology of Christian Identity. The Intelligence Report revealed that James Nichols had taken the "soldier's ransom" oath to a religion that promises to eliminate Jews and others at an Oct. 5 ceremony in the back of a furniture store in rural Michigan. Attending with Nichols were some of the country's most rabid neo-Nazi leaders.
"The Jew's God is Satan," one of them said. "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living."
The apparent crackdown on hate groups this year has heightened paranoia in the already paranoid world of the radical right. After Ernst Zundel's arrest, a "snitch list" was circulated on the Internet that accused a long list of white supremacist figures — virtually every leader of note — of being agents or informers.
The arrests also produced fury. In January, federal prosecutor Michael Chertoff, who heads the Justice Department's Criminal Division, was singled out on the Internet as the main architect of the raids. One posting in a "racialist forum" on the Net gave a detailed history of Chertoff, including photos of and information about Chertoff's wife and young daughter. The posting informed readers where the girl attends school.
Unfortunately, this kind of reaction is not unexpected. Although the rash of arrests and other problems are clearly hurting the extreme right, experts worry that they may also provoke a violent backlash. In the past, major setbacks to hate groups have spurred some members to lash out, occasionally with extreme violence.
'The Last Roundup'
A few sectors of the radical right seemed to thrive. In particular, the world of academic racists — those who promote racial theories of intelligence and a return to the once discredited "science" of eugenics, or "race betterment" — is doing well. The Pioneer Fund, which funds such studies, has received new infusions of cash in the last two years.
Funding is also up for the New Century Foundation, which publishes the eugenicist American Renaissance magazine, whose circulation has now reached 6,000. The magazine's editor, Jared Taylor, has recently appeared on "The Donahue Show," in FrontPage Magazine and even on Black Entertainment Television.
Academic racists also added a new and important organization to their ranks. The Charles Martel Society, with its journal Occidental Quarterly, has an editorial board stacked with leaders of anti-immigrant organizations and hate groups like Taylor's New Century Foundation and the Council of Conservative Citizens. The society, which plans research on how government programs negatively affect white families, is partly funded by William Regnery II, heir to a publishing fortune.
In addition, anti-immigrant groups have benefited tremendously from worries about foreign terrorism that have some Americans wanting to shut down national borders. Several major vigilante groups are currently operating in Southeast Arizona, where they have participated in roundups of illegal migrants (see Open Season). The activities of these groups, as well as the recent murders of a number of Mexicans as they tried to cross the U.S. border, have many officials deeply worried.
Neo-Confederate groups, too, have been doing well, despite a small drop in their numbers. The takeover of the SCV was surely the plume in this sector's hat. But neo-Confederates also were particularly pleased with the election of Sonny Perdue as Georgia governor over incumbent Roy Barnes, who analysts said lost last year's election because of his opposition to the Confederate battle flag.
The League of the South hate group, which lost members in 2001 after president Michael Hill described the Sept. 11 attacks as a fruit of multiculturalism, is now leading an effort to create a new group out of the remnants of the Southern Party. The party collapsed into factions last year as the result of political infighting.
Another group that may become an important player is White Revolution, the organization formed by Billy Roper after he was ejected from the National Alliance. This Jan. 25, Roper managed to bring 66 white supremacists to a rally in front of the Southern Poverty Law Center (see related story, Preserving Racism). Although many of those demonstrators traveled long distances, Roper had hoped to get far more.
All in all, the last year has not been a good one for the radical right. Edgar Steele, in a February essay entitled "The Last Roundup," captured the desperate and angry mood of the movement well. "The time has come for every single American to speak out in protest," Steele wrote. "Trust me, this is our last chance."