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Right-wing 'patriot' groups girding for actual class warfare, report says

The Southern Poverty Law Center says an 'explosive' growth in the number of antigovernment 'patriot' groups is tied to fears of economic cataclysm and civil war between rich and poor.

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Fears of a coming economic collapse that could spark widespread violence, even civil war, fueled the continued explosive growth of conspiracy-minded antigovernment “patriot” groups in 2011.

That's the conclusion of a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups in the United States. The organization's quarterly Intelligence Report, issued Thursday, found that the number of patriot groups grew from 824 to 1,274 between 2010 and 2011, up from 149 in 2008.

Earlier analysis by the SPLC, headquartered in Montgomery, Ala., found that the patriot movement was largely inspired by concerns that whites would become a minority in the US by mid-century – symbolized by the election of President Obama, the nation's first black president, in 2008. Now, however, the movement is also drawing energy from conspiracy theories about globalization, the loss of individual rights and opportunity, and economic doom.

Political vitriol ahead of the November presidential election also is fueling the fire, says Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report.

“The animus toward Obama and the government may be as much rooted in economic as racial anger,” Mr. Potok writes in the report, adding later at a press conference that, “This is largely a national reaction to things that are going on in the real world.”

The SPLC says it doesn't track political opposition groups, only those that espouse invalidated conspiracy theories in order to gin up fear and drive membership.

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