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Radical right-wing is growing in the US, warns expert

September 24, 2012 11:29 IST

There has been an "enormous growth in the radical right" in the United States over the last three years, believes Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Centre, a much-respected non-profit civil rights organisation based in Montgomery, Alabama.

The Centre monitors white supremacist and other hate groups in America and has been named by the FBI as a resource in this agency's fight against hate crimes.

Potok said, "The attack in Wisconsin and many other attacks around the country are occurring in the context of an enormous growth in the radical right of this country over the last three years."

Potok is undeniably one of the country's leading experts on the world of domestic extremism, who heads up SPLC's intelligence unit. He noted, "It has been to us, at the Southern Poverty Law Centre, absolutely stunning to see the eight-fold growth over the last three years of anti-government, so-called patriot groups, which were called militias in the 1990s."

He had been invited by a coalition of civil rights and inter-faith organisations to participate in a post-hearing news conference last week.

"Along with this astounding growth from something like 149 groups to 1,274 groups -- between 2008 and 2011 -- has come an upsurge of this very kind of domestic terrorism," he said.

Potok, after the horrific massacre of Sikh worshippers at a gurudwara in Wisconsin, had said in an interview with that he was convinced white supremacist and neo-Nazi Wade Michael Page targeted them, believing they were Muslims.

"To us, I am sad to say, the attack in Wisconsin was not much of a surprise -- everybody, knew that something like (right-wing mass murderer) Anders Behring Breivik's attack in Norway was coming to this country soon, and this may have been that very occurrence," he said last week.

Reiterating that "these groups are growing," he warned, "It is very importance to understand what is really behind -- what is happening now."

Potok said this exponential growth was due to three principle reasons and argued that "the main driver behind the growth of these groups is the changing racial demographics of this country as represented in the person of Barack Obama."

"Since this President has taken office, we have seen an enormous upsurge in these kinds of groups," he said. "Obama's appearance on the scene, of course, coincided with the collapse of the economy, which has added further anger, frustration -- the kinds of resentments that lead to this kind of terror and hatred."

Potok said, "The last piece of it is the way that we have seen demonisation and propaganda and conspiracy theories pushed into the mainstream by people like (New York Republican Congressman and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee) Peter King, who did not only hold hearings into the so-called Radicalisation of Domestic Muslims, but preceded those hearings by talking about how most Muslims will not cooperate with the police, how most Muslims mosques are led by radical jihadists -- things which were flatly untrue and which has the affect of demonising a very large group of people in this country."

Aziz Haniffa In Washington, DC