But last year, as noted in the SPLC’s August report, “The Second Wave: Return of the Militias,” a dramatic resurgence in the Patriot movement and its paramilitary wing, the militias, began. Now, the latest SPLC count finds that an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) — a 244% jump.
Ooh, doesn’t that sound scary? The SPLC report ties these Patriot groups and militias together with neo-nazi and other “extreme right-wing” hate groups, spouting hate, racism, and “anti-immigrant” rhetoric. Left-wing sources such as the Huffington Post have latched on to this story, going on to blame figures like Glenn Beck for fanning the flames of conspiracy theories which draw people to these groups.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the group, the Southern Poverty Law Center is an organization that tracks, monitors, and reports on the status and trends in “hate groups.” Their favorite targets are Neo-Nazi and KKK groups, and they extensively report the numbers and locations of such groups throughout the US. The problem with the SPLC is that they present a very obvious left-wing bias in their reports. Opposition to illegal immigration is conflated with rascist anti-immigration sentiment, conservative policy groups are conflated with anti-governmnet and racist groups, and left-wing racist and hate groups, such as the Black Panthers or Hispanic racist and revolutionary groups, are routinely ignored or downplayed. The SPLC also has a long history or regarding conservative political positions as inherently “hateful” or racist, simply because they’re right-wing.
Whether McCain had that in mind or not, I don’t know, but he was apparently skeptical of the report:
OK, so who are these dangerous “new Patriot groups” we are warned about? The SPLC’s roster includes 48 separate listings of a group called “We the People.” This a non-profit organization founded by Robert Schultz, a hyper-litigious critic of the Internal Revenue Service.
“We the People” appears to be generally libertarian in orientation: 2004 Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik addressed the group’s 2009 “Constitutional Convention,” and Schultz himself was a guest (along with libertarian figures like Reason magazine editor Nick Gillespie and Rep. Ron Paul) on an August 2009 broadcast of Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Fox News TV program.
After finding the Web site of the Alabama chapter of “We the People,” I phoned Huntsville resident Lesha Martin, one of the members listed on the site. Is “We the People” some kind of violent militia-type outfit?
“Good heavens, no,” said Ms. Martin, an admirer of Ron Paul who described herself as devoted to individual freedom and “resurrecting the Constitution.”
So a libertarian group devoted individual liberty and constitutional principles is a “Patriot group” equated with anti-government and racist militia groups, and is listed among hate groups. “Hate” doesn’t appear to have any meaning anymore other than “not left-wing.”