For the first time in several years, the number of hate groups and anti-government militia-style organizations in the United States is on a downswing, according to a newly released study from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The number of extremist groups rose considerably in 2008 following the election of President Barack Obama and the apex of the financial crisis, the report says. The number continued to rise over the past several years. However, in 2013, the number of hate groups fell 7 percent; the change within anti-government, or "patriot," groups was even more dramatic, falling 19 percent.
Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, wrote in the report, "The shrinking numbers of hate groups and, especially, antigovernment “Patriot” groups appear to be the result of a host of factors, ranging from the co-opting of their issues by mainstream politicians, to an improving economy, to law enforcement crackdowns."
While the decline of 1,007 groups to 939 is not insignificant, there are still many more extremist hate groups than the low of 457 recorded in 1999. Patriot groups were at their lowest in 2007, during the George W. Bush administration, with 131 observed by the law center.
Membership in the National Alliance, "long considered the nation's most important hate group," according to the report, is now less than 100 people. "The implosion has been driven by its new leader’s ineptitude and the SPLC’s exposure of a series of embarrassing secrets about the group and its leaders."
The report features many intriguing details, not the least of which is an explanation of the Ku Klux Klan's apparent decision to diminish its Web presence.
Via Southern Poverty Law Center:
Although the number of Klan groups held steady at 163 chapters, or klaverns, last year saw what may be the beginning of a trend: Klan groups moving off the Internet in an apparent bid to regain the secrecy that marked their heyday.
The report cites Obama's re-election as a possible reason for the dip in anti-government groups. Potok wrote, "The same groups that were galvanized by Obama's first election and swelled dramatically as a result, were demoralized by his re-election, which seemed to signal that their battle was lost despite enormous effort."
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Related: Number of hate groups declines in the Northwest.