United States of Lyncherdom

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Patriot movement and other far-right hate groups have continued to multiply and expand over the past year:

The radical right grew explosively in 2011, the third such dramatic expansion in as many years. The growth was fueled by superheated fears generated by economic dislocation, a proliferation of demonizing conspiracy theories, the changing racial makeup of America, and the prospect of four more years under a black president who many on the far right view as an enemy to their country.

The number of hate groups counted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) last year reached a total of 1,018, up slightly from the year before but continuing a trend of significant growth that is now more than a decade old. The truly stunning growth came in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement — conspiracy-minded groups that see the federal government as their primary enemy.

Apparently the Patriot movement declined under President Bush, but rose again after the subprime collapse and the election of Obama. I had always known that this was the case, but the actual numbers are frightening:

The swelling of the Patriot movement since that time has been astounding. From 149 groups in 2008, the number of Patriot organizations skyrocketed to 512 in 2009, shot up again in 2010 to 824, and then, last year, jumped to 1,274. That works out to a staggering 755% growth in the three years ending last Dec. 31. Last year’s total was more than 400 groups higher than the prior all-time high, in 1996.

It’s almost a rule of history that every revolution sparks a counter revolution, and every advance creates a backlash. The SPLC is blaming that for the rise in the number of Anti-Gay hate groups:

The LGBT community made significant advances in 2011, with the repeal of the “Don’t Act, Don’t Tell” policy on gay men and lesbians in the military, the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage by Americans and the legalization of such bonds in New York state. But it was precisely these advances that seemed to set off a furious rage on the religious right. [...] Overall, the number of anti-gay hate groups in the United States rose markedly, going from 17 in 2010 to 27 last year.

  • Custador

    Does anybody else think that “Patriot Group” is a flattering misnomer for these people? I don’t think what they’re doing is patriotic at all.

    pa·tri·ot/ˈpātrēət/
    Noun:

    1. A person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.

    I don’t see anything in there about “except for the parts that aren’t affluent and white” or “except if the guy who a clear majority elected as president is a black guy”.

    In fact, it seems to me that these people explicitly don’t love their country – They hate it so much that they fight and threaten and bully to try to turn it into something that they might love. That’s not patriotism. Considering what they’re trying to turn it into, it’s arguably sociopathic.

    • FO

      “Patriot Act”

      • UrsaMinor

        Officially, it’s the PATRIOT Act. You’re supposed to shout, because that makes it true.

        • Michael

          Actually it’s the USA PATRIOT (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act of 2001.

    • vasaroti

      “except for the parts that aren’t affluent” I’m not so sure they like the affluent, either. Note that membership shot up after the market crash. This mentality has been around since the Civil War, when Yankees actually did take away resources. The most paranoid people I’ve met seem to have the least to lose, yet are convinced that somebody is coming after their collection of rusted-out cars on blocks.

      • drax

        I’m not so sure it’s those with the least to lose. I’d be more inclined to think it was those that had something to lose (real or imaginede) and have lost something, real or imagined. Don’t forget that the US still has pretty high unemployment.

        Besides, guns aren’t cheap.

        • vasaroti

          I’m going with ‘lost something imagined,’ in this case.

          Guns, packs of coon hounds, and trucks never used to generate income are indeed not cheap. There ought to be a special home econ class for guys, so they understand that hundreds of dollars worth of hunting gear to fill a freezer with deer meat, or a weekend spent catching $5.95 of fish is a waste.

          In my part of Virginia we have what we call “scroungers.” Even when the economy was pretty good, these guys spent their time bugging people to let them take out damaged trees that could be sold as firewood and similar pursuits. They put a lot of effort into avoiding learning marketable job skills, while their wives actually support the family.

          • Brian K

            Having a traditional job and working in an office at the beck and call of a tyrranical boss is over-rated. Give the scroungers a little credit LOL

      • Bill

        If you are living on the edge of poverty, only have access to crappy healthcare and education, and live someplace where the culture has taught you “others” are responsible for your plight. The loss of anything seems like a major loss.

        Of course the system is deliberately set up that way by many of those who actually have the most to lose. It helps to encourage those with little to act against their own interests.

    • Yoav

      These guys love their country, unfortunately said country is not the united states but Real America™, a magical place created 6000 years ago by Jesus out of the wet dreams of Torquemada, Walt Disney and Ayn Rand.

    • Nathan

      Patriotism is only a step away from racism and bigotry. Plenty of “patriots” also attack (murder), not just defend, in the name of patriotism.

      • Brian K

        Patriotism (and its cousin nationalism) should be questioned and doubted as vigorously as religion. Especially when it is demanded one do evil things (or unthinkingly obey) in the name of the State.

  • Rayceeya

    “Patriot Group” reminds me of the “Patriot Movement” we had back in the Clinton years.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriot_movement

    Yeah, these guys.

    They didn’t go away, they just STFU for a decade or so when things were going their way.

    Fact #1: These people won’t go away until they die.

    Fact #2: They’re ten years older now and ten years closer to death.

    I say F#@* ‘em.

  • Christopher

    My family consists of moderate gun owners who hunt and target shoot on occasion, so we are not generally around the Patriot-Militant types. My first window into this world was in December of 2008. My grandfather had passed and I had inherited a pair of old guns that were more suited to decorative use than actual shooting, so I took them to a gunsmith to have the firing pins removed. He told me that he was in Colorado the day Obama was elected, and withing 48 hours every AR-15 (civilian version of the M-16) in the state had been sold. No small feat, given that a “cheap” AR-15 runs about $800, with prices typically around $1,500.

    My father subscribes to several gun magazines and reading the editorial and reader response columns post 2008 has been a reality check. The gun lobby has pushed the fear of government to the degree where it is hard to tell if I am reading an actual submission, or if a writer for The Onion is spending his downtime writing gun editorials.

    The latest jaw-dropping experience came from the magazine Gun Tests. Generally very dry – think Consumer Reports for guns – the latest issue included reader responses to the question “Have you added guns and ammo to your sage during the current regime?” (Interesting to note the word choice of ‘regime’ versus the typical use of ‘administration’) Here are some highlights:

    Sean (Austin, Tx):
    DMPS LR-308 (AR-15 style weapon), stockpiled up to 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
    Glock 19 Gen 4 with Crimson Trace laser sight, several hundred rounds of ammo.
    Three pocket carry pistols – two Sig Sauer P238′s and one Taurus 380 ACP. Will likely be adding another Sig Sauer soon.

    Reasoning?
    “The main reason we have built up our inventory is extreme distrust of our current administration. When Obama was running for president and adding a civilian paramilitary force equal in strength to the U.S. military, we interpreted that as him wanting to build up a fascist paramilitary force answerable to him. The reason Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and other fascists were able to succeed was due to the disarming of the civilians, leaving only armed forces that answered to the fearless leader. We are prepared to fight such a scenario”

    Bill (Branson, Mo):
    “Since the Comrade Chairman weaseled his way into the Pink House, I have purchased one AK-47, one Kel-Tec Sub 2000, four Ruger handguns (Mark III Standard, LCP, LCR 38 and LC9), a Ruger 10-22 in tactical dress, a Walther P-1, a Beretta Bobcat and several hundred rounds of assorted ammunition in 7.62×39, 40 S&W, 45 ACP, 9mm, 22 LR and 12 gauge. I’m not finished. Why do I do this? Because I can. I’m an American!”

    It is amazing to see the fear persist to this degree. From 2008-2010 the Democrats controlled the House, Senate and the Executive branch. They had free reign to pass any legislation they wanted, and yet no gun restrictions were passed into law.

    Evidence that the fears were unfounded? Of course not! It just means that the socialist conspiracy runs deeper than we could have ever imagined! (Cue dramatic drums)

    • Yoav

      I’ve seen an interview with some NRA bigwig some time ago where he was asked about the discrepancy between the OBAMA IS COMING FOR YOUR GUNS rhetoric from his organization and the lack of any gun restrictions passed by the Obama administration. According to him it’s a cunning plan by Obama to look like he’s not planing to restrict gun ownership so he can TAKE AWAY YOUR GUNS.

      • Christopher

        Classic conspiracy theorist thought. Lack of evidence is the strongest evidence there is.

        • DMG

          I came across a great article on that very point recently:

          http://lesswrong.com/lw/ih/absence_of_evidence_is_evidence_of_absence/

          It talks about the fears of Japanese-Americans acting as saboteurs during WWII, where the absence of sabotage was actually claimed as evidence for an organized “Fifth Column timing its activities.”

          The author then takes this idea apart from a mathematical perspective. I rarely see math used to dissect rhetoric, so this made for a pretty cool read. :)

          • UrsaMinor

            Sadly, I don’t think this sort of analysis has any effect at all on the thinking of conspiracy theorists.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Great. Now all we have to do is convince these whackos that elections are a Communist plot.

  • Mahousniper

    Nothing says “God is love” like spreading fear and hate.

  • Dale

    This article mentions the ‘right’ pretty often. Where can the number of those groups counted that state allegiance to a sky-being be found?

  • exfundy

    I own one old rifle for hunting, but some of these extreme gun nuts seem like useful idiots for the gun and ammo makers. I wonder if these companies don’t secretly finance Obama and his ilk, because they know it’s good for business.

  • Anonymous-Sam

    You know, somehow, I don’t think our founding fathers were counting on the kinds of weaponry we have available today. During their era, firearms were slow, clumsy, and warfare consisted of lining up on opposite sides of the battlefield and taking turns firing at each other (oversimplifying it to a degree, but bear with me). Who knows how easy it was to get ahold of firearms either, or how expensive they were?

    I don’t think any of them had ever conceived of the notion that one day, the public would have access to relatively cheap weapons which could be used to kill dozens of people without reloading. When I hear about gun control, I have to seriously wonder what people are defending. What use does something like an AR-15 have? It’s inappropriate, if not illegal, to hunt with it. Would you ever really use it for home defense, it being relatively bulky and overpowered, or would you rather have a compact handgun?

    Now consider the AR-15 now that its once-banned “extra” features have been unbanned. An AR-15 can now be furnished with a bayonet lug, a collapsible stock, a flash suppressor and a scope. Are any of these features useful on this weapon for a purpose other than a massacre, an assassination attempt, or fundamentalist crazies?

    Somehow I don’t think this is what they were referring to when they said Americans have a right to bear arms.

    • Mahousniper

      I think one of the problems is with how “gun control” is viewed. I think people should be allowed to buy whatever weaponry they want, so long as they do it through the proper channels. The problem is that people can just walk in, buy up ridiculous weapons, then go shoot up a school because the laws for buying guns are stupidly lenient. What I want from gun control is more restrictions on who is allowed to buy them, more thorough background checks, and perhaps a grace period or some kind of wait so they can really check you out. If someone is in therapy for psychotic urges, that should red flag them.

      If gun control was viewed less as “take away guns from people” and more as “stop crazy-ass loonies from being able to buy all of the guns” then perhaps there’d be more support.

      • Anonymous-Sam

        Too bad it’s the crazy-ass loonies who seem to be driving the industry. Anyone can buy a handgun, but it takes a true patriot to buy a gun with an attached grenade launcher and nitro slugs!

        • drax

          I can’t really buy a handgun legally. In NY, you need a pistol permit to own a handgun. In order to get a pistol permit you must fill out an application, which requires references. If you don’t have references like a judge or police officers you likely don’t get approved. I don’t personally know anyone in those positions. Also, they want to talk to people you know and have known, like ex-wives. I can’t imagine mine would have nice things to say about me, but it might be fun to see exactly what she might say.

          • Anonymous-Sam

            Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, you can get a handgun even if your spouse has recently filed a domestic abuse report against you and you now have a restraining order against you. Even if you’ve violated it recently!

      • Steve

        Finally, truth about gun control!

      • UrsaMinor

        @Mahousniper:

        Clearly, you are not an American if you do not fall to your knees and worship the notion that crazy-ass loonies should have the unrestricted right to bear arms.

        • Mahousniper

          Uh, I mean GIT YER HANDS OFF MY SNIPER GUN, OBAMA! MURICA!

          <__>


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