The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has reported an alarming rise in the number of American anti-government militia and anti-immigrant groups, which have remained largely dormant since their heyday in the mid-1990s.
The number of extremist groups exploded in 2009 as "militias and other groups steeped in wild, antigovernment conspiracy theories exploited populist anger across the country and infiltrated the mainstream," according to the SPLC annual report titled "Year in Hate and Extremism."
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. Founded by civil rights lawyers Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr. in 1971, the SPLC is internationally known for tracking and exposing the activities of hate groups.
The SPLC documented a 244 percent increase in the number of active Patriot groups in 2009. Their numbers grew from 149 groups in 2008 to 512 groups in 2009, an astonishing addition of 363 new groups in a single year. Militias - the paramilitary arm of the Patriot movement - were a major part of the increase, growing from 42 militias in 2008 to 127 in 2009.
Hate groups also grew slightly, from 926 to 932, continuing what the SPLC said was a trend that began around 2000, and rising 54 percent in the decade.
Generally, Patriot groups define themselves as opposed to the "New World Order," engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing, or advocate or adhere to extreme anti-government doctrines.
Patriot groups have been fueled by anger over the changing demographics of the country, the soaring public debt, the troubled economy and an array of initiatives by President Obama that have been branded "socialist" or even "fascist" by his political opponents, the report said.