The Country's Booming Conspiracy Survivalist Movement Is Finally Being Surveyed

Pack your knapsack and meet me in the bomb shelter. The number of conservative-minded anti-government conspiracy groups is on the rise.

Greg Thomas

It came as a relief today to learn that someone is actually proactively tracking the number of anti-government survivalist groups popping up around the country. You'll occasionally see these conspiracists featured in news broadcasts or ranting on YouTube, but the movements of the culture are as much a mystery as the patriots themselves.

The group keeping an eye on the patriot landscape is the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group based in Alabama. The center released a report this week showing that the number of "conspiracy-minded antigovernment 'Patriot' groups on the American radical right" hit a record high in 2012. The count totaled 1,360 such groups that year, including 321 militias. That's a bit of a bump from the 1,274 in 2011 and a massive spike since 2008, when only 149 of the groups were in existence. 

This chart, dating back to 1995, shows the massive spike
in patriot groups and militias during the Obama administration.
Courtesy of Southern Poverty Law Center.

The law center supposes the surge is due to a confluence of factors that have been setting off rural gun owners since President Obama took office in 2009 -- including President Obama taking office. The patriot recipe looks something like this, the center says: two parts election (and re-election) of the first black president; one part congressional gun control discussions; and one part immigration reform. Mix that all in a big melting pot of economic slump, making sure to stir in the citizens on the far right. Before the mixture settles, you should be seeing a number of tiny fortifications sprouting up in the outer reaches of society, maybe flying little American flags.

In a March 5 letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the center's president warned about the potential for a violent retaliation from domestic terrorists -- presumably ones hell-bent on getting the country back on track by outlawing immigrants and condoms. 

"As in the period before the Oklahoma City bombing, we now are seeing ominous threats from those who believe that the government is poised to take their guns," wrote Richard Cohen, the center's president. "Because of the looming dangers, we urge you to establish an interagency task force to assess the adequacy of the resources devoted to responding to the growing threat of non-Islamic domestic terrorism." 

The freaky part is that the center issued such a warning to the federal government back in 1994 -- when former President Bill Clinton signed the into law a 10-year federal assault weapons ban -- and the prophecy came true six months later in Oklahoma City. In its treatise this time, the center notes that these patriot groups and militias have been caught ginning up some super heinous terrorism plots during the past several years, including plans to discharge poisonous ricin powder, murder federal judges, and attack federal institutions. With the letter, the center is putting the ball in the government's hands, but we'll have to wait to see if anything comes of it.