According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, Summer 2010, militias and anti-government "Patriot" groups have rapidly expanded over the last year and a half.
This spectacular growth (see timeline) is the result of several factors, including anger over major political, demographic and economic changes in America, along with the popularization of radical ideas and conspiracy theories by ostensibly mainstream politicians and media commentators.
The SPLC provides 35 profiles of the current movers and shakers: Christian fundamentalist Chuck Baldwin, black Tea Partier Chris Broughton who likes to strut his stuff while carrying guns to rallies, WorldNetDaily Founder Joseph Farah, Al Garza who wants to keep Mexicans out of the U.S., and the Russian ditz who's so silly she really shouldn't be taken seriously - but is - Orly Taitz.
One reason*** the resurgent intergovernmental "Patriot" movement is taking off so quickly is the support for many of its central ideas that comes from ostensibly mainstream figures in politics and the media.
Four men and one woman have been on a mission to spread Patriot - as opposed to Patriotic - nonsense:
President Obama is a Marxist; he and other elites in the government are pushing a socialist takeover; the United States plans secret concentration camps and so on. "Whether these people tell such tall tales because they believe them or simply because they are willing to shamelessly pander for votes or ratings, is any one's guess; but the noxious effect on the body politic is the same."
Who's Leading the Marching Band?
U.S. Representative Michelle Bachman, 54, Minnesota
"They used the U.S. Census information to round up the Japanese and put them in the internment camps," she said during an interview with Fox News' Glenn Beck last year. "Americans were told that they wouldn't have their information used against them. They did."
Re The AmeriCorps community service program: "The real concern is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward," Bachmann warned. Forget that her son joined an AmeriCorps program.
"'I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?' she said during an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews in 2008."
Glenn Beck, 46, Fox News Channel Host
He famously called President Obama a racist with a "deep-seated hatred for white people" and compared him to Adolf Hitler. He legitimized the right-wing conspiracy theory that FEMA was building concentration camps. After milking the theme for nearly a week, he then "proved" the theory false.
ColorofChange.org launched a campaign to persuade corporations to pull their commercials from the former radio shock jock's show. They did – in droves. At least 80 advertisers have abandoned Beck, leaving the host to personally hawk less-than-mainstream products like investments in gold.
Beck's 9.12 Project states that it caters to "like-minded Americans looking for direction in taking back the control of our country." In the same statement, Beck claims that "this is a nonpolitical movement." But the project has spawned dozens of loosely affiliated chapters.
Beck has downplayed his political influence, calling himself a "rodeo clown." Few clowns, however, earn more than $20 million a year from radio, television and print products.
U.S. Representative Dr. Paul Broun, 64, Georgia
Saying Broun is a fierce critic of the president would be an understatement. Broun has alleged that a civilian reserve corps that Obama proposed, and the Bush administration endorsed, might be used to establish a dictatorship. "We can't be lulled into complacency. You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany," Broun said in 2008.
A "birther," Broun has openly questioned Barack Obama's citizenship. When asked by a radio host whether Barack Obama was a U.S. citizen or a Christian, both established facts, Broun responded, "I don't know." Broun also calls Cuba's former dictator Fidel Castro Obama's "good buddy."
Andrew Napolitano, 59, Fox's "senior judicial analyst"
It seems the TV judge is vying to become a fixture on the far-right lecture circuit. He was also scheduled to address the 2010 New Hampshire Liberty Forum, a gathering of self-described "pro-liberty activists" who are striving to "cut the size and scope of government by about two-thirds or more."
Napolitano has joined other conspiracy theorists in falsely claiming that efforts to expand affordable housing through the Community Reinvestment Act were responsible for the crash of the economy in 2008. He called Sarah Palin's baseless accusation that Obama was trying to set up "death panels" a "legitimate concern." He falsely suggested that Obama bribed a congressman to change his vote on health care by appointing his brother to an appeals court.
Napolitano joined Fox in 1998.
Rep. Ron Paul (Dr. No and Father of Rand), 74, Texas
With his straight-shooting style and unwavering ideology, Paul represents an accessible brand of Patriot politics that helps validate and stoke fears of an overreaching government on the far right. Paul told Fox Business News earlier this year, for example, that the health care reform legislation "is immoral because it's based on government theft." On his congressional website, he warns that Census information has been used to intern Japanese Americans and find alleged tax evaders and draft dodgers. "It is not hard to imagine that information compiled by the Census could be used against people in the future, despite claims to the contrary."
Paul has encountered controversy over racially charged comments that surfaced during his 1996 congressional campaign. A March 15, 1993, issue of his newsletter, The Ron Paul Survival Report, included this nugget: "If there is one thing we don't need in this country, its [sic] more Haitians [sic] immigrants with AIDS. Congratulations to the Senate for stopping, at least temporarily, Clinton's plan to have the AIDSians move here to die at $100,000 a pop, courtesy of the taxpayers."
A May 15, 1995, newsletter delved into traditional Patriot paranoia, including an article about foreign troops training on American soil and President George H.W. Bush's "New World Order." An article about a botched raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is presented under the headline, "Jack-Booted Thugs."
Paul claimed in 2001 that ghostwriters had penned the newsletters that bear his name but acknowledged he bore "some moral responsibility." Paul, a physician who is often called "Dr. No" for his routine opposition to government programs, not only survived the controversy and won the election, he continues to build his popularity. He easily won the Conservative Political Action Committee's presidential straw poll this year.
While I'm certainly concerned with these propaganda ministers, I'm even more troubled that so many Americans accept this malarky as truth -- never questioning, never researching. If this is indicative of the state of education in our country, I shudder to think of the consequences after a year of Texas textbooks.
***This link isn't correct. Go to the main one under "35 profiles" in the third paragraph. On the right near the top is a link to The Enablers.
Thanks to BJ for sending me the FYI.