Hate groups on the rise in Michigan

Mar 7, 2013

The number of hate groups in Michigan has been growing since 2008.  

The Southern Poverty Law Center says Michigan is fifth in the nation in the number of these so-called hate groups. Spokesman Mark Potok says that includes Neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan groups.

The law center is also tracking the rapid growth of "patriot" groups, which used to be called militia.

Potok says Michigan has a large number of those.
 
"Seventy-seven by our count, so that's much higher than most other Midwestern states," Potok says. "And you have a fairly high count of hate groups: 25.

"Two major things are driving the expansion of the radical right. First was the appearance of Barack Obama on the political scene, and second was the collapse of the economy in October 2008."

Potok says the hate groups' anger isn't just directed personally at Mr. Obama, but also at the changes in the country he represents.

"The Census Bureau says whites will lose their majority by 2043. There's lots of discomfort with that, not necessarily open racism, but a feeling that this isn't the country their forefathers built."

Potok says the groups range in size from three or four people  to 30 or 40 members.

"Certainly it's more of a working-class, lower middle-class phenomenon than a professional phenomenon. And yet we really do see some doctors and lawyers involved in those groups. So it varies."

Potok says just because a group is classified as a hate group doesn't mean it is involved in criminal activity or violence, and the law center is not making any estimate as to the potential of future violence of crimology.

"It's about ideology," Potok says. "It's when a group says that an entire group of human beings based on their class characteristics is somehow less than someone else."

He says the renewed debate over gun control has spurred "enormous" anger -- especially among militia groups. Potok says 20 states are considering laws that would nullify any federal gun control legislation. "Which is totally unconstitutional," he says.

These groups do have influence in the political mainstream, Potok says.

"It's not that the Klan or little radical group has a senator under their thumb, but what we are seeing is that many people, including congressmen and state officials, and television and radio pundits, have acted to bring ideas from the very far margins of our societies into the political mainstream."

The law center has been studying hate groups since 1991.

"We collect all sorts of information: newspaper and broadcast stories, we monitor the Internet," Potok says. "There are all kinds of forums and e-mail groups. There's also a whole world of hard copy stuff that never appears on the Internet. We monitor short-wave radio broadcasts and look at films they produce."

"We do a lot of training of law-enforcement officials -- 6,000 to 8,000 a year. And we have a staff of investigative reporters who collect information when they're working on other stories."

See the report at http://www.splcenter.org/home/splc-report-antigovernment-patriot-movement-continues-explosive-growth-poses-rising-threat-of-v