The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) also defines and tracks groups they deem as hate groups around the country. In addition, the SPLC is involved in educating young people and educators in racial tolerance offering a wealth of information and resources to schools. The SPLC also maintains a hate map, which depicts the number and location by state of known hate groups. This map can be found on their website: splcenter.org
The report released this March shows the current growth and activities of not only major hate groups, but also the alarming growth in anti-government "patriot" groups. These groups believe the U.S. government to be their moral enemy.
Started in 1994, these groups became active as the repercussion of what they felt, as the report stated, "violent government repression against the group at Ruby Ridge, Idaho." However, by the year 2000, the groups numbered less than 150 and weren't reported as active. In 2008, the movement sprang back to life in part; the report goes on to say, due to the suffering economy and the appearance of a black presidential candidate.
By 2009, the number of groups jumped to 512; a year later there were 824. In 2011, the number of anti-government "patriot" groups leaped forward again going to 1,274. According to the SPLC, that's an unbelievable growth of 755% over a period of three years.
Out of the patriot movement, a subset group has emerged called the "Sovereign Citizens," which has drawn the attention of law enforcement and the FBI alike. The SPLC has estimated the numbers of members of this splinter group to be around 300,000. The SPLC goes on to say the group's ideology has aligned itself with that of the white supremacist movement. This subgroup doesn't believe its members are accountable for paying taxes, following laws in general, required to have a driver's license, or registering their vehicle with the DMV.
To demonstrate the misguided thinking of this group; they believe if they were to fill out "secret" documents, the government would blindly hand over millions of dollars. Furthermore, the SPLC's report went on to point out this type of thinking is attracting potential members hoping to cure their financial hardships. Member of the "Sovereign Citizens," who have been known to act out on their own rather as a group has been targeting police officers during routine traffic stops. The group has killed six police officers since 2000. The FBI has labeled the group in a bulletin to law enforcement officials calling them "domestic terrorists." To their credit, Terry Nichols, the man convicted in the Oklahoma City bombing was a member of the "Sovereign Citizens."
The SPLC report speculated about the reason behind the sudden explosion in membership in such groups. One reason being the anti-government conspiracy theorist spreading what they called demonizing falsehoods. Such as the belief, there is a plot to invoke Islamic Sharia in America, and the government is building secret camps to house Americans in. They have dubbed this type of language as propaganda to driving up membership in their words "conspiracy-minded group." In addition, another reason would be the suffering economy, with the president being an easy target of the cause.
SPLC senior fellow and author of the SPLC report, Mark Potok, stated people like Glenn Beck, former Fox News commentator, and now Internet news personality, are one of the main causes of the jump in membership in these groups. Mark went on to explain conspiracy theorists like Glenn Beck are spreading these falsehoods and exposing people to misinformation compelling them to seek out right-wing extremist groups.
The SPLC has predicted with the upcoming election, if President Obama is re-elected the action of these right-wing extremist groups will become even more unpredictable and dangerous.