If you’re a member of a libertarian group, you may unknowingly be participating in a dangerous extremist organization, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The rise of American “patriot” extremist groups has reached a record high, and their experts are warning of “a wave of anti-government violence.” Domestic terrorism will be on the rise.
There are some groups that SPLC has listed that have a history of violence. These include Ku Klux Klan groups in California, neo-Nazi groups in Texas, and white supremacist groups involved in recent hate crimes. I have no problem grouping these historically violent groups together into the “hate” or “extremist” group category.
What I do have a problem with is including the Tenth Amendment Center, the John Birch Society, and Infowars.com getting sorted into the same violent category. Call me paranoid, Southern Poverty Law Center, but this seems like you’re labeling members of these organizations as “terrorists.” Methinks you haven’t done your research.
Due to the very muddled data (I could only find a list from 2011), it was difficult to tease out which groups were think tanks, advocacy groups, militias, political parties (they included every chapter of the Constitution Party), and hate groups. That every organization’s label is indistinguishable from “hard-core hate groups” is troubling at best.
SPLC also noted that there is a rise in these groups since Obama’s inauguration, as seen in their graph:
Why has there been such a rise? According to the Center, “the election of America’s first black president symbolizes the country’s changing demographics, with the loss of its white majority predicted by 2043,” which drives racist white people to anti-federal government groups, in addition to the fear of “changing immigration laws” and “gun control proposals.”
I think there’s more to it.
SPLC is conflating free market groups with terrorist organizations (heck the Tea Party is on their list!). If you look at their graph, the rise in “patriot groups” starts to climb in 2008, right when the recession hit (it jumped 13%, before Obama was in office). By 2010, when the Tea Party really started to take hold in American politics, the number of patriot groups had quintupled.
I suspect that the recession has more to do with these groups than blind racism. These people do not trust their governments or like how it is manipulating the economy and have begun to organize with like-minded individuals. Jesse Walker of the Reason Foundation responded, “It’s dubious to assume growth in numbers is related to violence.” I agree. The rise of these groups do not necessitate imminent violence and may be suggestive of a movement that political scientists are already acutely aware of.
These kinds of labels are intentionally damaging to the liberty movement. Almost every libertarian that I know (and, by extension, Constitutionalist or Tea Partier) would never commit a violent act against the government, even if their safety was imminently threatened. These studies have been poorly conducted and need better heuristics for labeling violent domestic extremist groups. Until then, the data is worthless.