The Resurgence of Hate Groups

It is difficult to identify one particular source of fear. Some of these groups have nativist theories about secret Mexican plans to “reconquer” the American Southwest. Some fear that the country will be overtaken by non-white immigrants. Others fear that the government is going to take away their guns and put them in concentration camps. This hysteria has been fueled by mainstream pundits. Glen Beck, for instance, re-popularized a key Patriot conspiracy theory — the charge that FEMA is secretly running concentration camps — before finally “debunking” it. It is ironic that these groups protest gun right and taxes when Obama has actually expanded gun rights and cut taxes. Obama has actively resisted calls by gun control groups while signing legislation allowing open and concealed weapons to be carry in National Parks and Wildlife Refuges as well as allowing firearms on Amtrak trains. In fact, the pro-gun control Brady Campaign is so up upset with President Obama that they rated him an ‘F’ on their annual report card. In a report issued on January 18th of this year, they noted that in just one year, President Obama has “signed into law more repeals of federal gun policies than in President George W. Bush’s eight years in office.” (Read the report.)

There are undoubtedly countless conspiracy theories that exist in the mind of these hate groups. But these imagined conspiracies have real consequences. In addition to the activities cited above, right-wing extremists have murdered six law enforcement officers in the past year. This is what happens when politicians and pundits fuel the violent emotions of domestic extremists. There are many recent example of this kinds of rhetoric. Former Republican congressman from Colorado, Tom Tancredo, told a convention: “People who could not spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House — [his] name is Barack Hussein Obama.” We get this kind of rhetoric from most of the right-wing punditocracy, from Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, to Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.

Bill Clinton recently warned: “[W]hat we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or that we should reduce our passion for the positions we hold, but that the words we use really do matter because … there’s this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious, alike; they fall on the connected and the unhinged, alike…[T]here is a difference between criticizing a policy or a politician and demonizing the government that guarantees our freedom and the public servants who implement them. And the more prominence you have in politics or media or some other pillar of life, the more you have to keep that in mind.”

Clinton added: “[R]emember, words have consequences as much as actions do, and what we advocate, commensurate with our position and responsibility, we have to take responsibility for. We owe that to Oklahoma City.”

At the time of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, a USA Today poll found that fully 39% of Americans agreed with the proposition that the federal government was “so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.” This March, a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll asked precisely the same question and found that 56% of Americans now agree with that statement. A Rasmussen Report poll found that that 88% of “mainstream voters” were angry at the policies of the federal government.

Words do have consequences. A growing federal government may be a legitimate concern, but people are not being informed about the aspects of government that promote freedom and democracy, and which aspects diminish our freedoms. Those involved in politics and power grabs have become a primary source of citizen education. The outcomes are anti-government sentiment, movements based on misinformation, and sometimes with violent methods of pushing social change.

What can we do? We have to fight false democracy with real democracy. We can push back against the angry rhetoric, and communicate our disapproval of this kind of discourse to our elected representatives. We can look at history and try to understand the forces that lead to politically motivated violence. And we can stop forwarding those crazy right-wing conspiracy e-mails–because far too many people are getting their information from these sources. Instead, check out some of these sources.

Watch this great documentary, The McVeigh Tapes:

Or this interesting radio program on the same topic (hate groups): KUER: 5/13/10: The Return of the Militia Movement (2010-05-12).

Also, read about how terrorists can easily purchase firearms and explosive.

See also: “Blood and Politics,” by Zeskind