The number of antigovernment “Patriot” groups on the American radical right hit an all-time high in 2012, the fourth straight year of explosive growth, according to a report released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). As the new year began, serious talk of gun control, prompted by a Connecticut school massacre in December, fueled even more rage on the right, and the threat of violence loomed .
The new report, contained in the latest issue of the quarterly investigative journal Intelligence Report, found that the conspiracy-minded Patriot groups, which numbered only 149 in 2008, soared over the first four years of Barack Obama’s presidency to 1,360 in 2012 — an astounding 813% increase. At the same time, it found that hate groups remained at near-record levels of over 1,000 (see interactive map and state-by-state lists of 2012 hate groups here).
The resurgence of militias and other Patriot groups and an uptickover recent years in non-Islamic domestic terrorism caused SPLC President Richard Cohen today to write (letter pdf) U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to request the creation of a new interagency task force to assess the adequacy of federal resources devoted to the threat. “As in the period before the  Oklahoma City bombing,” Cohen wrote, “we are now seeing ominous threats from those who believe that the government is poised to take their guns.”
Patriot groups generally adhere to variations of a conspiracy theory that suggests that the federal government has secret plans to impose martial law on the United States, most likely with the aid of foreign troops; seize all guns held by American citizens; toss all those who resist into concentration camps run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency; and, ultimately, force the country into a kind of socialistic one-world government, commonly known as the “New World Order.”
The resurgence of the Patriot movement, which first rose and fell in the 1990s, has largely been a reaction to the election of the nation’s first black president in 2008 — and the demographic change, including the loss of the country’s white majority predicted for 2043, that he represents — as well as the difficult economy. The recent talk of gun control, which has sparked state legislative efforts to “nullify” any federal legislation and also a movement of rural sheriffs who promise to resist, is now adding fuel to a fire that was already burning at white-hot temperatures (see also my editorial).