Editor's Note: According to a new report issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the number of extremist groups in the United States exploded in 2009 as militias and other groups steeped in wild, antigovernment conspiracy theories exploited populist anger across the country and infiltrated the mainstream. We're looking into the report tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET. Read the full report below and don't miss Anderson's conversation tonight.
Southern Poverty Law Center
The radical right caught fire last year, as broad-based populist anger at political, demographic and economic changes in America ignited an explosion of new extremist groups and activism across the nation.
Hate groups stayed at record levels — almost 1,000 — despite the total collapse of the second largest neo-Nazi group in America. Furious anti-immigrant vigilante groups soared by nearly 80%, adding some 136 new groups during 2009. And, most remarkably of all, 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 anger seething across the American political landscape — over racial changes in the population, soaring public debt and the terrible economy, the bailouts of bankers and other elites, and an array of initiatives by the relatively liberal Obama Administration that are seen as "socialist" or even "fascist" — goes beyond the radical right. The "tea parties" and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups, but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism.
The growing level of hatred and dissension among Americans in the past few years been startling and worrisome. I don't remember this level of hate and anti-government feelings since the 1960s with its race riots, civil rights marches, and the people's abhorrence of the Vietnam war. I hope that wherever we as a country are headed we do it in the framework of our Constitution and in the spirit of making our country stronger and more representative of everyone and not just a few. President Lincoln referred to our country as a "more perfect union" – I sincerely hope that we improve upon what we have and not blow it asunder.
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