A new attack by the Southern Poverty Law Center charges the tea-party movement is “shot through” with radical ideas and tied with “hate groups,” “furious anti-immigrant vigilante groups” and “so-called ‘Patriot’ groups.”
The SPLC report, “Rage on the Right, The Year in Hate and Extremism,” assails Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn., for “plugging” anti-government ideas and Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt for daring to promote Second Amendment gun rights.
The SPLC’s Mark Potok warns “so-called ‘Patriot’ groups – militias and other organizations that see the federal government as part of a plot to impose ‘one-world government’ on liberty-loving Americans – came roaring back after years out of the limelight.”
The report echoes themes in a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report last year that characterized “right-wing extremists” as opponents of abortion and illegal immigration and supporters of gun rights and third-party political candidates.
The SPLC said the “radical right” “caught fire last year.”
“The ‘tea parties’ and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups,” Potok wrote, “but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism.”
The report cited an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll that affirmed only one-quarter of the nation thinks government can be trusted and the “anti-tax tea party movement is viewed in much more positive terms than either the Democratic or Republican parties.”
“The signs of growing radicalization are everywhere. Armed men have come to Obama speeches bearing signs suggesting that the ‘tree of liberty’ needs to be ‘watered’ with ‘the blood of tyrants,'” the SPLC report said.
The quote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” is from Thomas Jefferson.
The report noted the Conservative Political Action Conference last month was co-sponsored by groups such as the John Birch Society, “which believes President Eisenhower was a Communist agent,” and Oath Keepers, “a Patriot outfit formed last year that suggests, in thinly veiled language, that the government has secret plans to declare martial law and intern patriotic Americans in concentration camps.”
Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers,
told WND such accusers try to link activists with terrorists such as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, because their arguments have no substance.
The SPLC did just that, stating in its report that there are “an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups” that appeared last year.
“That is cause for grave concern. Individuals associated with the Patriot movement during its 1990s heyday produced an enormous amount of violence, most dramatically the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead,” the report said.
Oath Keepers, Rhodes said, “has nothing whatsoever to do with terrorists like Timothy McVeigh.”
He said his group doesn’t advocate the overthrow of the government, “whether local, state or national.”
“We want our government to return to the constitutional republic which the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution defined and instituted,” he said.
Oath Keepers are members of law enforcement or the military who have sworn – again – to uphold the U.S. Constitution against any illegal orders that might be given.
“We hope for a return to a constitutional republic free from fear and hatred. We hate only tyranny. We are Oath Sworn Americans who want the Constitution returned to its legal and rightful place, intact, as the ultimate Law of the Land,” his website said.
Rhodes said officers naturally presume orders to be lawful and follow them, but they also must be aware that there have been instances of unlawful orders.
After Hurricane Katrina, for example, he said law enforcement officers in New Orleans illegally disarmed members of the public en masse. Also, some residents were not allowed to leave some areas as they wished, he said.
World War II history also reflects the detention by the U.S. government of thousands of innocent Japanese-Americans.
“All we’re talking about is history,” he said. “How is that a conspiracy?”
He continued, “If I’m paranoid, then so were those who advocated for the Bill of Rights.”
The SPLC also warned about “politicians pandering to the antigovernment right” who have introduced “Tenth Amendment Resolutions” already in 37 states. The resolutions essentially warn the federal government not to adopt unconstitutional measures.
The report said “hate” groups have been rising for years – up 54 percent from 2000 to 2008 – and blames part of the growth on “the climb to power of an African American president.”
“Nativist extremist” groups also have jumped from 173 in 2008 to 309 in 2009.
“But the most dramatic story by far has been with the antigovernment Patriots,” the report said. Those groups, called “Patriot,” “paramilitary wing,” and “militia,” have gone up from 149 to 512 – a jump of 244 percent.
The report said “right-wing extremists” have murdered six law enforcement officers since Obama was inaugurated, and another defendant was accused of murdering two blacks.
“As the movement has exploded, so has the reach of its ideas, aided and abetted by commentators and politicians in the ostensible mainstream. While in the 1990s, the movement got good reviews from a few lawmakers and talk-radio hosts, some of its central ideas today are being plugged by people with far larger audiences like FOX News’ Glenn Beck and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.,” the report said.
Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America was cited as an example of a promoter of “conspiracy theories” at “all kinds of right-wing venues.”
“A good example is the upcoming Second Amendment March in Washington, D.C. The website promoting the march is topped by a picture of a colonial militiaman, and key supporters include Larry Pratt, a long-time militia enthusiast with connections to white supremacists, and Richard Mack, a conspiracy-mongering former sheriff associated with the Patriot group Oath Keepers,” the report said.
Pratt told WND the SPLC report was little more than “fundraising, trying to scare a bunch of little old ladies to cough up money.”
“It’s a typical argument that the left resorts to,” he said, “since they really have trouble with the fact that, until Obama was elected, they had been pretty successful at concealing that liberalism really is socialism.”
He said he was honored to be criticized alongside Bachmann.
Last year, the state of Missouri issued a report linking conservative groups to domestic terrorism and warned law enforcement to watch for vehicles with bumper stickers promoting Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin. It also warned police to watch out for individuals with “radical” ideologies based on Christian views, such as opposing illegal immigration, abortion and federal taxes.
Ultimately, Chief James Keathley of the Missouri State Patrol said the report caused him to review the procedures through it was released and withdrawn.
The Missouri situation was just the tip of the iceberg, however. WND reported only weeks later when a Department of Homeland Security report warned against the possibility of violence by unnamed “right-wing extremists” concerned about illegal immigration, increasing federal power, restrictions on firearms, abortion and the loss of U.S. sovereignty and singled out returning war veterans as particular threats.
The report, “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” dated April 7, stated “threats from white supremacist and violent anti-government groups during 2009 have been largely rhetorical and have not indicated plans to carry out violent acts.”
However, the document, first reported by talk-radio host and WND columnist Roger Hedgecock, went on to suggest worsening economic woes, potential new legislative restrictions on firearms and “the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.”
The report from DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis defined right-wing extremism in the U.S. as “divided into those groups, movements and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups) and those that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”
Most notable was the report’s focus on the impact of returning war veterans.
“Returning veterans possess combat skills and experience that are attractive to right-wing extremists,” it said. “DHS/I&A is concerned that right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize veterans in order to boost their violent capacities.”