|Maybe they’re not as obvious as they used to be because we don’t see as many uniforms or costumes that help us identify them.
Maybe, in keeping with the 21st century vogue of asymmetrical warfare, they work in loosely-knit networks instead of organizations with a clear-cut hierarchical structure.
They could be our neighbors, our co-workers, our fellow churchgoers.
But the Southern Poverty Law Center says there are more of them than ever before.
The Montgomery, Ala.-based organization formerly called its statistical analysis of hate groups in America “KlanWatch,” but it’s become broader and more varied than that.
SPLC’s latest report shows the so-called “patriot” extremist groups in America have increased 7 percent since 2011.
Senior Fellow Mark Potok describes these groups as believing that “the federal government is conspiring to take Americans’ guns and destroy their liberties as it paves the way for a global ‘one-world government.’”
Potok cites a letter that the United States Patriots Union claims to have sent to all conservative state legislators in the country last year. It reads, in part, “Our Federal Government is just a tool of International Socialism now, operating under UN agendas not our American agenda.
“This means that freedom and liberty must be defended by the states under their Constitutional Balance of Power, or we are headed to Civil War wherein the people will have no choice but to take matters into their own hands.”
The First Amendment guarantees these groups the right to express their views without government suppression. What alarms the SPLC is the groups’ apparent incitement of their followers to take up arms and start an insurrection.
It’s hard to know how far these types of groups can go before their ideologies will be thoroughly discredited by more reasonable people at their end of the political spectrum. The extremists certainly have more wiggle room these days.
Sen. Joe McCarthy’s campaign of self-aggrandizement through fear finally came to an end when he took on the U.S. Army.
The John Birch Society once claimed that fluoridating public drinking water supplies was a Communist plot to brainwash us all.
It stepped over the line when it accused Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander of the forces in the European theater during World War II, of being a Communist sycophant.
But the yardstick for determining just how much screwball rhetoric is required to be considered persona non grata by society at large keeps getting longer and longer.
I won’t follow the extremists’ lead by launching into hysterics, but it’s worth considering whether the new format of wacko talk just morphed out of the old racist palaver that is now socially unacceptable, at least in public.
In “Driving Miss Daisy,” when Miss Daisy asked Hoke if he knew who bombed the temple in Atlanta, he replied, “You know good as me, Miss Daisy, it always be the same ones.”
They might not be the same ones, but they might have more in common than we’d like to admit