Racists, xenophobes, conservative conspiracy theorists and vigilantes — the political right is gaining strength in the United States.
Obama is a Nazi. The U.S. government is planning to build concentration camps. The state only wishes the worst for individuals. Non-white immigrants are being given everything in America. Groups and associations advocating at least one of these viewpoints gained in strength and momentum over the past year. That’s the conclusion of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a leading U.S. civil rights organization.
There are currently thousands of so-called “hate groups” in the United States. They attack and vilify specific demographic groups because they are different. According to the SPLC, there are 932 such groups currently active in the nation. The SPLC maintains an online map identifying them by state and by particular bias. They run the gamut from the Nation of Islam in Alabama to the Ku-Klux-Klan in Wyoming.
Immigration, Recession and Obama
The number of active hate groups in the United States nearly doubled between the years 2000 and 2008. The increasing rejection of non-whites and a deteriorating economy are given as the principle reasons for the trend. The election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president has particularly fueled hatred on the political right.
Additionally, the growth of nativist extremist groups that oppose U.S. immigration policy grew by 80 percent within a single year. In 2009, 136 new anti-immigrant groups came into being, bringing the total of such organizations in the U.S. to 309.
Global Conspiracy and the Right to Bear Arms
The biggest gains, however, were made by so-called “patriot groups” that more than doubled last year. There are currently 512 such groups active across the country including 127 “militias” — armed vigilantes.
The patriot groups focus hatred on a federal government they claim has just one objective — the limitation of individual rights. These groups are also vulnerable to crude global conspiracy theories. Their inclusion on the SPLC’s list, however, does not necessarily mean that all such groups are violent, criminal or racist.
For example, the conservative-oriented John Birch Society (JBS), founded in 1958, is listed. The JBS originally resisted what they saw as communist infiltration into the United States and advocated America’s withdrawal from the United Nations, an organization they saw as incompatible with American sovereignty. Currently they oppose rising government intervention in individual matters and any restriction of the right to own weapons.
Anti-Concentration Camp, Anti-Government and Anti-Obama
One of the many new patriot organizations is the Oath Keepers, founded in 2009. This confederation of active military and veteran personnel along with high-level public officials accuses the federal government of planning to impose martial law in America and interning patriotic Americans in concentration camps. A video entitled “Declaration of Orders We Will Not Obey” may be viewed on their website. Order number 6 on their list states, “We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.”
Until now, these patriot groups have been primarily anti-government, but with Obama’s election some have taken on racist undertones. There has already been an increase in violent incidents aimed at blacks. Six black public employees have been murdered since Obama took office, and there have been arrests made of those who were planning Obama’s assassination.
The Tea Party and the Patriots
Patriot groups have been on the increase in the U.S. since the 1990s. The difference in the current growth of these anti-government groups is that their views are now becoming more widely spread in the American mainstream. Popular radio and television personality Glenn Beck spreads his views and central theses via the Fox News Network. The patriot ideology also finds resonance in the Tea Party movement. While not officially classified as “extremist,” segments of their movement do display racist tendencies and propagate conspiracy theories.