March 2010

I’ve heard rumors on the net that this was happening, as a result of the mega-fringe right’s terror over there being a black dude in the White House, but now it’s official:

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The number of extremist groups in the United States 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 a report issued today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Antigovernment “Patriot” groups – militias and other extremist organizations that see the federal government as their enemy – came roaring back to life over the past year after more than a decade out of the limelight. 

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. 

The report, “Rage on the Right,” is the cover story in the Spring 2010 issue of the SPLC’s quarterly investigative journal Intelligence Report.

The report is here:

Since the installation of Barack Obama, right-wing extremists have murdered six law enforcement officers. Racist skinheads and others have been arrested in alleged plots to assassinate the nation’s first black president. One man from Brockton, Mass. — who told police he had learned on white supremacist websites that a genocide was under way against whites — is charged with murdering two black people and planning to kill as many Jews as possible on the day after Obama’s inauguration. Most recently, a rash of individuals with antigovernment, survivalist or racist views have been arrested in a series of bomb cases.

As the movement has exploded, so has the reach of its ideas, aided and abetted by commentators and politicians in the ostensible mainstream. While in the 1990s, the movement got good reviews from a few lawmakers and talk-radio hosts, some of its central ideas today are being plugged by people with far larger audiences like FOX News’ Glenn Beck and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn). Beck, for instance, re-popularized a key Patriot conspiracy theory — the charge that FEMA is secretly running concentration camps — before finally “debunking” it.

Now, I know the left has not been 100% squeaky clean historically, but this is just…nuts. It’s completely unprecedented, at least as far as it has gone in my lifetime. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues over the course of the next year, or if the movement fizzles out. God have mercy on us all if it’s the former. First we had Texas talking about secession from the Union, and now Tennessee, too. It seems just so over the top absurd you can’t help but laugh, but my god. These people really are crazy. Scary crazy. Maybe it’s not funny at all.

They’re not that crazy, are they? I mean, of course, some of them are, but the really crazy ones are fairly rare, right?



Are we really one of the most miserable cities?

Doesn’t that depend on who you ask?

I got an email from AC asking me to write Forbes and explain that Memphis is a city of joy. I didn’t do it.  I’m not sure it’s true. I find it quite plausible that Memphis really is one of the most miserable cities in the US. Maybe not if you’re part of the political elite, or if you’re white and living in Cooper Young or midtown…

Here around Summer and Tillman, there’s a lot of misery and a lot of joy.  The tales of misery are too personal for me to tell. The tales of joy are beautiful. Suffice to say, everyhouse  BBQ is a block party. If you light up your grill, you will meet your neighbors, and should be prepared. If you’re walking down the street just looking to get some exercise, be prepared to be offered a free hotdog. 🙂 People are really, really friendly. 🙂

It’s “that bad” and “ain’t so bad” at the same time. A vast majority of folks around here are ok, at least in their own way, if not bona fide good people.

So here’s to the spring block parties to come, where our kids will play in front yard pools and sprinkers, and we’ll eat hot dogs and sausages. Yes, someone will be shot on the street probably sometime this year, but it won’t be random. So be a good neighbor but keep safe.

Here’s to spring in majority Memphis.