Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
From SPLC’s “The Year in Hate & Extremism 2010″ (Illustration by Sean McCabe)
A new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center on “hate groups” warns of the explosive growth in 2010 of extremist, “patriot” organizations, among them the Constitution Party, Oath Keepers and WorldNetDaily.
In the Spring 2011 issue of its Intelligence Report, titled “The Year in Hate & Extremism,” the SPLC identifies 824 “patriot” organizations it says “define themselves as opposed to the ‘New World Order,’ engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing or advocate or adhere to extreme antigovernment doctrines.”
“Hate groups topped 1,000 for the first time since the Southern Poverty Law Center began counting such groups in the 1980s,” writes the SPLC’s Mark Potok in the issue’s lead article. “But by far the most dramatic growth came in the antigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement – conspiracy-minded organizations that see the federal government as their primary enemy – which gained more than 300 new groups, a jump of over 60 percent.”
“Taken together,” he continues, “these three strands of the radical right – the hatemongers, the nativists and the antigovernment zealots – increased from 1,753 groups in 2009 to 2,145 in 2010, a 22-percent rise.”
The SPLC describes itself as a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to “fighting hate and bigotry,” but takes a clearly left-leaning political bent – criticizing in its spring issue alone the tea parties, “anti-gay” groups like the Family Research Council, anti-abortion activists, radio host Glenn Beck, elected Republican officials and, of course, “patriot” groups.
Joseph Farah, founder and CEO of WND, takes exception to the SPLC lumping “patriot” groups in among its hate groups, domestic terrorists and “extremists”:
“How strange it is in a land founded through the courage and convictions of patriots 230 years ago that the word ‘patriot’ can now be used as an epithet by people like the SPLC,” Farah said. “What does this say about them? And what does it say when the worst thing conspiracy mongers like SPLC can find to say about you is that you are ‘conspiracy minded’?
“The federal government has indeed become a primary enemy of freedom because it has abrogated the rule of law and shredded the Constitution,” he continued. “This is not a hateful thing to say. It’s a loving and truthful message – if you believe in liberty and restoring America to its promise. I know SPLC does not fit into that category. It seeks only to divide Americans over race, class and religion – for profit, by the way.”
While the report does make the distinction that listing WND, the Constitution Party, Oath Keepers and various militia groups and organizations “does not imply that the groups themselves advocate or engage in violence or other criminal activities, or are racist,” Potok’s article hints more than once that these modern day “patriots” are motivated by bigotry.
“Like the year before, it was the antigovernment Patriot groups that grew most dramatically, at least partly on the basis of furious rhetoric from the right aimed at the nation’s first black president,” Potok writes. “What seems certain is that President Obama will continue to serve as a lightning rod for many on the political right, a man who represents both the federal government and the fact that the racial make-up of the United States is changing, something that upsets a significant number of white Americans.”
As WND reported, the SPLC issued similar accusations last year about “so-called ‘Patriot’ groups” in a report titled “Rage on the Right”:
“The ‘tea parties’ and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups,” Potok wrote then, “but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism.”
The report even went so far as to warn the rise of “patriot” groups “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.”
But Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers, told WND accusers like SPLC only try to link “patriot” activists with extremists such as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, because their accusations have no substance.
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 that 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.