“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.
“They tend to have the groups in there where people are either espousing really extremist rhetoric or they've got connections to illegal behavior,” says Carolyn Gallaher, author of “Fault Line: Race, Class and the American Patriot Movement.”
“But the patriot movement is a huge umbrella,” she says, “and there are many people that are in that movement that aren't engaged in illegal activity.”
In its report, the SPLC says that the normalizing of conspiracy theories, largely a result of the breakdown in traditional media and rise of the blogosphere, has played into the growth of patriot groups as their ideas have gained traction in the political sphere, including on many US city councils and county commissions.
Specific ideas include pushback to the United Nations Agenda 21 “smart growth” treaty; lingering questions about Mr. Obama's citizenship, highlighted last week by an independent investigation into Obama's eligibility by Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona; whispers about FEMA building concentration camps; rumors of covert plans by Mexico to repatriate parts of the Southwest; and concerns about Muslim Sharia law becoming part of the US court system.