The major themes espoused by right-wing groups are conspiracies, such as the New World Order and gun-control laws, apocalyptic views stemming from the approach of the millennium, and white supremacy. Many right-wing extremist groups also articulate antigovernment and/or antitaxation and anti-abortion sentiments, and engage in survivalist and/or paramilitary training to ensure the survival of the United States as a white, Christian nation. A convergence of ideas has occurred among right-wing white supremacist groups.
Hate crime tends to generate a degree and type of fear that is significantly different from other types of crime. The potential for serious, long-term emotional damage is great. The FBI’s Training Guide for Hate Crime Data Collection explains that victims of hate crime have experienced a violation of the Constitutional protections guaranteed to all Americans for no reason other than, “the color of their skin, the religion they profess, the heritage of their parents, the disability they possess, or their sexual orientation” (1996, p. 4). Such violations prove to be extremely unsettling to the victim because there is nothing that can be done to change the identity for which they are being persecuted. It should also be noted that bias-motivated crimes are often more likely to involve the element of physical assault and tend to result in more serious injuries than non-bias crimes.
While white supremacist organizations used to be segmented into two populations: those who wanted to attain power through violent revolution and those who wanted to attain power nonviolently through public persuasion; however, the distinction has recently blurred. Many supremacist groups will now couch their message in mainstream language but privately condone terrorist acts. Supremacist groups have even found their way into local government. Efforts have been made by these groups to reduce openly racist views in order to appeal to a broader segment of the population and to focus more attention on antigovernment rhetoric and resistance to anti-Christian court decisions.
Many extremist right-wing organizations generally operate through political involvement within the established system. Most activity is verbal and is protected by the First Amendment right of free speech. Adherents of extremist organizations are generally law-abiding citizens who have become intolerant of what they perceive to be violations of their constitutional rights. Certain extremists, however, such as members of the “militia” or “patriot” movement are unable to work within existing structures of government. These activists wish to remove federal involvement from a host of issues. For example, some militia members do not identify themselves as U.S. citizens and refuse to pay federal income taxes.
Membership in a militia organization is not an illegal activity in the United States. FBI interest in the militia movement is based upon the rise of violence or potential for violence or criminal activity stemming from the militia movement.
Militias are typically loose knit in nature. Adherents often are members of multiple groups, and because leaders of these groups tend to greatly inflate membership levels, actual group size is difficult to determine. In the 1980s, a number of new, more sinister, and more militant extremist groups such as the Aryan Nations, the Covenant, the Sword, the Arm of the Lord; and The Order surfaced and engaged in robbery, assault, bombing, and murder to advance their white-supremacist agenda. Though the leadership of these groups was decimated by arrests and suc cessful prosecutions, their "Christian Identity" movement survived and continues to sow the seeds of racial hatred.
The most ominous aspect of the militias is the conviction, openly expressed by many members, that an impending armed conflict with the federal government necessitates paramilitary training and the stockpiling of weapons. Some militia members believe that federal authorities are enacting gun-control legislation in order to make it impossible for the people to resist the imposition of a “tyrannical regime” or a “one-world dictatorship.” Many militia supporters believe that the conspiracy involves the United Nations as well as federal authorities.
The growth of the militia movement is traced, in part, to an effective communications system. Organizers promote their ideology not only at militia meetings, but at gun shows, patriot rallies, and gatherings of various other groups espousing antigovernment sentiments. Video tapes, computer bulletin boards, and networks such as the Internet are used with great effectiveness by militia sympathizers.
Exploiting yet another medium, in the 1990s pro-militia fax networks disseminated material from well-known hate-group figures and conspiracy theorists. Another phenomenon related to militias is the establishment of so-called “Common Law Courts.” These courts, which have no legitimate legal basis, have self-appointed judges and juries, and have issued nonbinding “indictments” or “warrants” against law enforcement and government officials who have investigated or served them legal papers.
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