Monday, January 12, 2009

Recession and the Rise in Hate Groups

This isn't good news:

For 20 years, Bart McIntyre has tracked white supremacist movements, even spending two years undercover in Alabama to penetrate a violent young band of criminals who called themselves the Confederate Hammerskins.

Now, as McIntyre prepares to retire from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he and other analysts are warning that the threat from hate groups and splinter organizations connected to the Klan should not be underestimated, especially at a time of economic unrest.

Veteran investigators say they have advocated for increased attention to the problem since late September, when the nation's economic troubles widened, giving white supremacists a potent new source of discontent to exploit among potential recruits.

The number of U.S. hate groups has increased by 48 percent, to 888, since 2000, according to experts at the Southern Poverty Law Center, an independent organization that monitors racist movements.

And, as I wrote about last November following Barack Obama's election, there is some "change" people don't want to believe in.

Although questions persist about the ability of such groups to carry out violent plans, several recent national developments have combined to worry analysts, said Mark Potok, chief of the law center's Intelligence Project. In addition to the economic downturn, he cited rising immigration, demographic changes that predict whites will not be a majority within a few decades, and what some might see as "the final insult -- a black man in the White House."

The election of Barack Obama, who will become the first African American president when he is inaugurated Jan. 20, prompted a short-term burst of hateful incidents including racist graffiti, cross burnings and violence from New York to California, according to news reports and criminal indictments.
This shouldn't dampen the enthusiasm or festivities surrounding Obama's election or inauguration next week. Whether you supported him or not, the occasion is a time to celebrate the "peaceful transfer of power" in our democracy.

But the statistics in the article point up alarming trends in hate group activity. It should also give the contagion, big media, and new economic feudalism advocates pause. All of this recession hysteria may generate fear and sell soap, but we are creating a dangerous environment for those who hate (and who may be victims of this cold-bath recession) to actually act on that hate.

Publish your "it's going to get worse, much worse, before it gets better" platitudes at your own peril.

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