Conservatives have been working like mad to whitewash out of public view the existence of violent right-wing extremists, only to run into one problem: They keep popping back up again, time after time. Darned reality intrudes again.
So when the Southern Poverty Law Center recently confirmed what we've been reporting at C&L for awhile now -- that the far-right "militia" movement of the 1990s was roaring back to life -- it really wasn't a big surprise when Fox ran a story quoting a bunch of various right-wing officials dismissing it:
"I think it's utter nonsense to say it's racial," said Carter Clews, spokesman at Americans for Limited Government. Clews said Obama's "doctrinaire socialistic approach to government" has triggered a populist backlash, but "it's inappropriate to use the word militia."
The SPLC report came just four months after the Department of Homeland Security issued a controversial report on "right-wing extremists." That assessment carried many of the same themes and warnings as the new "militia" report, also warning that the election of the first black president could be exploited as a recruiting tool.
According to data ALG obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the DHS relied in large part on news articles, questionable Web sites and several already-public SPLC reports -- not official government sources -- in writing its "right-wing extremists" report.
William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, said the latest SPLC report suggests that DHS and the law center are relying largely on the same pool of information to make their claims about the rise in right-wing extremism.
"They are attempting to brand all right-of-center protesters as potential domestic terrorists or extremists," he said. "They are painting whole swaths of people as hate groups and extremists."
This is, of course, pure bunk of a sort: The report specifies that the key to considering someone under the influence of the Patriot movement is their willing adoption of the various conspiracy theories and provably false "facts" that form the bedrock of the movement's belief systems. Things like, for instance, believing Obama is actually a non-citizen born in Kenya.
So to the extent that the SPLC is branding "whole swaths" of people, that's only true as far as these kinds of far-right beliefs spread. Unfortunately, as we've seen with the adoption of "birther" beliefs by nearly half of all Republicans, that now includes a much broader swath of society than we'd heretofore suspected.
But that is not the SPLC's fault. Rather, all that point raises is serious questions about the direction that movement conservatism is now taking.
After all, all those Obama-hating crazies are not coming out of the woodwork in a vacuum.
Earlier this week, Keith Olbermann explored this in depth with the SPLC's Mark Potok. It's an enlightening discussion.