Militia groups are shrinking, but Internet aids hate groups

Star Press/October 25, 2002
By Seth Slabaugh

Muncie -- The number of militia groups in America is shrinking, but thanks to the Internet, hate groups continue to flourish, according to Alabama lawyer Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center and a famous opponent of violent hate groups.

Since the Oklahoma City bombing, the number of militia groups nationwide has dropped from more than 600 to 50 or so, Dees said during an appearance at Ball State University Wednesday night.

"Indiana is a big militia state, but I doubt if you could muster up enough members] to fill that wall over there," Dees said in a speech at Emens Auditorium.

The talk was delayed 25 minutes while the audience filed into the auditorium through metal detectors, a routine occurrence at Dees appearances.

"There are people who want him dead," said Kathy Smith, associate director of leadership and service learning at Ball State. "He bankrupted the KKK."

Internet connections

Militia members became tired of spending cold weekends in the mud and rain, lugging backpacks and shooting at innocent pine trees, Dees said.

"It didn't prove anything, and when they saw that dying baby in the arms of a fireman in Oklahoma City, I think that told a lot of them that they didn't sign up for this," Dees said.

Probably the biggest hate group in the country today, Dees said, is a neo-Nazi group called The National Alliance, which asserts that multiculturalism is destroying America and supports "white living space."

The biggest danger today in terms of hate groups is the Internet, Dees said.

About 350 hate groups have Internet sites.

"I wanted to know how to wrap banana trees to keep them from freezing," Dees said. "I typed in, 'How to keep banana trees from freezing' on the Google search engine, and the next thing you know I'm e-mailing some guy in Georgia and another guy in Mississippi.

"It's the same way with hate groups," he added. "When you get six to eight Timothy McVeighs together, they find out, gosh, other people think like I do. And all of a sudden these people who are paranoid to start with feel if they don't do something, if they don't act, something tragic is going to happen. They have a distorted perception of reality. And what happens is, one goes out and commits a horrible crime."

Declining numbers

According to SPCL, the number of hate groups in Indiana declined from 18 to 13 between 2000 and 2001. Last year, the state was home to five Klan groups, four neo-Nazi groups, three racist skinhead groups and one Council of Conservative Citizens group.

The latter group is a reincarnation of the White Citizens Councils, which sprang up in the South in the 1950s and 1960s to oppose school desegregation.

SPLC classifies militias as "Patriot" groups, which include militias, common-law courts, publishers, ministries and other groups such as the John Birch Society that oppose the "New World Order" or advocate or adhere to extreme anti-government doctrines.

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