August 13, 2009

Well, well, well. Besides Lou Dobbs blatant hatred of immigrants, and his latest birther debacle, now he's decided to trash the Southern Poverty Law Center, and instead of bringing anyone from their organization on to attempt to defend themselves, he asks his guests Ron Christie, Hank Sheinkopf and Chris Stirewalt to weigh in on whether there has been a rise in right wing militia groups across the country instead. I'm not sure why he thought any of these people were qualified to debate the topic. If he'd wanted to have a fair argument on this, he'd have brought in our own Dave Neiwert, and Mark Potok from the Southern Poverty Law Center and debated both of them himself.

My friends John Amato and Dave Neiwert are both travelling to the Daily KOS event right now, but I hope when Dave gets some time, he can take on Dobbs himself on this one.

DOBBS: Let me turn to another story. The Associated Press publishing a story today about a report on anti-government militia groups brought to you by the southern poverty law center. The link to the story, if I may, and this is interesting, I won't read the whole thing. "Militia groups with gripes across the country are regrouping across the country and could grow rapidly, according to an organization that tracks such trends. The stress of a poor economy and a liberal administration led by a black president are among the causes for the recent rise." This is from the Associated Press. "The report from the Southern Poverty Law Center says, conspiracy theories about a secret Mexican plan --" blah, blah, blah. I ask each of you to take a look at the story for independent judgment. What is your opinion, first of the reporting of the Associated Press and the Southern Poverty Law Center?

SHEINKOPF: We need to be careful what we read to. The second paragraph taken as gospel, with no facts, frankly, is very dangerous. Now, this may in fact be a trend but there's nothing in there to skate any factual data. That's just wait it is. It's simple.


CHRISTIE: I agree with Hank. I think obviously there are a lot of people around the country that with the first African-American president and I think people are reacting to that. We need to make sure it's based in fact and not rhetoric. I think it's a very irresponsible report.

DOBBS: Chris?

STIREWALT: Well, look Southern Poverty Law Center has its own agenda to push. That's what they're supposed to do. They're supposed to pursue heir own interests. Part of that is scaring people and talking about these things. My beef is with the Associated Press. That's my concern here is that the main channel for what is supposed to be unbiased news in the United States is putting stuff out there. That's what gives me pause. Not the Southern Poverty Law Center.

DOBBS: Yes. And I think in the interest of free speech, exactly, the Southern Poverty Law Center has the right which we all support to do exactly as it feels it must. We may not agree with it. Empathically not in many cases. But the Associated Press, my god, an independent news organization, a storied news organization, not its brightest moment.

Gentlemen, thank you very much. Appreciate you all being with us. Thank you very much, Ron, thank you very much, Hank.

And here's Anderson Cooper's reporting on the very same network. CNN looks like they're as all over the map as MSNBC when they allow Joe Scarborough, Pat Buchanan, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow to share the same air space.

COOPER: That was Gary Tuchman reporting.

So if Scott Roeder was fueled by rage over a practice deemed legal under the law, as his ex-wife claims, he's certainly not alone. A new report out today from the Southern Poverty Law Center, details a sharp rise in anti-government, right-wing militias, with numbers growing rapidly, especially in the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, as well as the Deep South.

According to a new report, people drawn to these groups share a hatred of paying taxes, a suspicion of anything the government does, and deep outrage over the election of an African-American man as president.

So let's dig deeper with Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Mark, why do you think there's been this increase in militia activity since the beginning of the year?

MARK POTOK, DIRECTOR, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Well, I think, as you suggest in your intro, it really has a lot to do with the rise of the power of a black man.

You know, for these people, for this movement in general, the primary kind of enemy is the government, the federal government. That was true in the '90s, and it's true today. But the big difference today is that the federal -- the face of the federal government is the face of a black man.

So, you know, I'm not suggesting that all militias or all people involved in this movement or in this ideology, you know, are really Klansman secretly, but it is a far more racialized movement than what we saw in the '90s.

COOPER: So we did see a rise in the '90s. You're saying race is a much bigger factor this time around? And you're seeing that, what, in the rhetoric that they're using?

POTOK: Yes. In the rhetoric, in the conversation, the months themselves, and the kinds of issues they really take on. You know, it's really quite clear. You know, one thing you hear a lot -- again, not certainly from all people of this movement but for a great many of them -- is a lot of worry and angst over the idea that in 2042, as the Census Bureau has predicted, white Americans will lose their majority in this country.

So that's the, you know, very visible rise of power of Obama, the continuing relatively high rates of nonwhite immigration into this country, mainly Mexican and Central American. You know, all of those things are a part of this.

Certainly, there are other aspects that are much similar -- much more similar to what happened in the '90s. You know, a real worry about gun control, about sort of the new world order coming in and taking all Americans' freedoms away. You know, and even the kind of wacky stuff you hear from certain commentators about FEMA concentration camps and all the rest of it.

COOPER: We had a question from Text 360 from one of our viewers, LaserJamie (ph) in Miami. His question: "What democratic traits -- or excuse me, demographic traits do the militia members share?"

POTOK: Well, I think that militia members in the '90s were quite clearly from all classes of people. There were a number of academic studies that showed that pretty plainly. You know, it was not thick with lawyers and doctors and so on, but really, you had people from each kind of demographic.

I think that's probably less true today. I think that it is a more working-class phenomenon. But that is really only a sense. It's hard to say, you know, without doing a detailed study.

But you know, one thing I think that is clearly true is that we're talking, basically, about the rural population. We don't find these kinds of groups, with very few exceptions in urban areas and cities.

COOPER: And we're seeing more YouTube videos made by some of these groups.

POTOK: That's right. And the YouTube, of course, reflects the power of the Internet for these groups. And that is another piece of it. You know, while we look at this movement and we see, you know, a pretty disorganized movement of a lot of little different groups.

You know, the fact is that they are able to communicate, to sort of transmit ideology and, in fact, to make plans in terms of simply meetings and rallies and other events very easily. So that has been a great boost to them.

COOPER: And how many of these groups are just, you know, talkers? People who, you know, talk big, you know, love running around in forests dressed up in paramilitary gear, but ultimately, they don't amount to much?

POTOK: Well, I think that a lot of them are essentially just talkers, but talk is not always completely benign. I mean, I think we're seeing that right now in the town-hall meetings and so on.

And I think it is especially un-benign, if that's a word, malignant, you know, when the talk is coming from what I think are those really mainstream aiders and abettors. In other words, politicians and commentators who really reiterate and give some authority to the completely false ideas and propaganda theories of these groups.

So you know, what I'm saying is that there's a kind of poisoning of the mainstream political discourse. You know, instead of talking about health care, we're talking about death panels and that kind of thing. COOPER: Mark Potok, I appreciate it. It's an interesting report today out. Thanks very much.

POTOK: Thank you.

COOPER: You can go to for the full report on the rise of militias, including a fascinating, if twisted, list of plots, conspiracies, and racist rampages in America since the Oklahoma City bombing.

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