U.S. Now More Extreme Than Ever, Not In The Good Way

Look, it’s true: haters gonna hate. For a while.

According to a recent study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of extremist hate groups in America has grown “explosively.”

I didn’t know exactly how to break this to you, so here are some more facts:

The study (which you can read in full here!) counted hate groups across the United States – and has found over 1,000. The number of groups has rapidly increased since 2008. These “active extremist groups” are often militias that “think the federal government is their enemy.” This may sound familiar, or in fact like a fairly legitimate political party. AHEM.

Also in news today: militias still exist.

Most of the groups counted believe that the federal government is conspiring to “take away their freedom.”

The explosive growth seen in 2009 continued into 2010, and now the count is higher than it has ever been. The SPLC focuses on extremism and cites the following reasons for this alarming increase in angry people in the U.S.:

  1. The fact that the economy sucks
  2. The changing racial identity of the U.S.
  3. THE INTERNET!!!!!

For most of us, I’m sure the idea of an extremist group isn’t new…

This is what an extremist's family looks like.

But this report means people will finally be talking about it – even people who never listened last time. Hopefully this report will open eyes about hate groups. NEW EYES.

So, actually in news today: people are finally pulling hateful extremists out of the shadows. (Oh my god, 1,000 groups? Where do they even find the space to hide?)

And maybe more heartening: in general, organized hate groups are a reactionary response to social change. [See “changing racial identity of the US,” above.] The similarly explosive growth of the KKK in the 1860s was tied directly to Emancipation; no one’s arguing that the KKK’s existence is a good thing, but the lasting effects of the end of slavery have been better for America than the lasting effects of the KKK have been bad.

This isn’t the beginning of a new era of militant social conservatism in America; despite what the House of Representatives is trying to tell you, this is its death throes. So be careful, and get out of the way so you don’t get hit by a flailing limb, but don’t get too worried either. There are more of them, but they’re also sloppier and more desperate: for instance, take the Westboro Baptist Church’s weirdo ideas like protesting Lady Gaga concerts. Extreme, yes, and bizarre, but more pathetic than dangerous. The bottom line: militant extremists are always motivated by fear. Let’s make sure they’re more scared of us than we are of them.

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. Thanks, Carmen!

    BTW. Factoid. The fine facility those wee WestBoros are protesting in front of? My high school. WBC caught wind of a violent hazing scandal that our football team was involved in, and they decided to come on down.

    Another factoid. Said scandal was covered up, lied about and preventable by our school administrators.

    Final fact. WC Mepham High School students were warned that if they joined the peaceful counter-protest that was gathering to admonish the WBC we would be suspended/expelled. No explanation provided.

  2. Yup, I drew the same conclusions. This is the Conservative movement’s gasping breath, their last, desperate attempt to stay relevant but social progress is coming, and will keep doing so forever.

  3. The extremists are certainly getting desperate (but haven’t they always been a little desperate?) but I’m not yet convinced that this means they will stop. Fear that leads to hatred is a powerful feeling and unless someone has a personal experience that takes the fear away they are not incredibly likely to change. I almost want to take this article as a call to action. Is now, perhaps, the best time to thoughtfully engage with extremists? Will they listen to reason in their desperation?

  4. That picture is so sad. It really bothers me that people do this to their children, because those kids don’t have a chance. We all thought our parents were superheroes when we were little, so obviously their beliefs are correct in every facet. Believe whatever you want to believe when you have the experience to back it up, I may think you are an idiot, but at least you are an idiot by choice. Children see the world in a very black and white structure, good guys vs. bad guys and to be raised in such a hate fueled environment is dangerous. Children growing up without compassion is terrifying.

    • did you see the documentary on this family? the part where they interviewed the children was disturbing, you could see, they’re brainwashed basically and its the scariest thing.

      there was one part where they were protesting on the street corner, kids and all, and someone throws a slushie at them, and it hits one of the little boys straight in the face. he doesn’t have to be on a street corner getting hit by things because he’s being forced to push a hateful, vile message. he can be home reading dr.seuss

  5. We should start extremist love groups. We could gather and find out everyone that is not exactly like us, and we’ll shower them with homemade oatmeal raisin cookies and kittens!
    Problem solved.

  6. It’s very sad to watch how children are raised and their innocence corrupted by their own parents and family. No one this radical is able to question or use basic logic. Even non radical people lack logic and still blindly follow the herd. Once you start to question them, they just repeat what they’re told and have no way to answer or understand.

    A God of love, according to basic belief, knew what each person would become and every choice they would make in life before making the person…if He is a God of love, then why make a person just to damn them?

    • Oh, and the WBC? Since they are against free speech, they are a target. and they made some fake BS to draw members out for an attack just to sue them….they fail troll’d themselves. As it’s been said “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Attacks are halted for the moment due to other matters. Website godhatesfags on the other hand has suffered greatly….

      We are Anonymous.
      We are Legion.
      We do not forgive.
      We do not forget.
      Expect us

        • @ Carmen

          maybe I am, maybe I am not- hard to tell yes?

          but for you dear Carmen- I’m never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye, never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.

          *disclaimer disclaimer: why yes i am. Everywhere you look is Anonymous. You may not see them yet. Look closer. There we are…with a power level over nine thousand.*

          • *disclaimer disclaimer: why yes i am. Everywhere you look is Anonymous. You may not see them yet. Look closer. There we are…with a power level over nine thousand.*

            please don’t troll me IRL. it would be really hard on me / make me sad

            but you can rickroll me — sometimes.

            (i love you internet)

  7. What I like about this SPLC report is how they define hate and why that has the Tea Party extremists’ knickers twisting (most boring party dance ever):

    “Its [the SPLC’s] definition of a hate group and “ideologues” includes groups and people who suggest that an entire group of human beings are, by virtue of class characteristics, “somewhat less,” says Mark Potok, the editor of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, which published its findings Wednesday.

    “We’re not in any way suggesting that these groups should be outlawed or free speech should be suppressed … but it’s a kind of calling out the liars, the demonizers, the propagandists,” says Mr. Potok. While the groups themselves may not advocate violence, he says, such speech has “driven people and will continue to drive people to murder.””

    The SPLC has a long history of holding the leaders of extremists groups accountable even though they argue that just because they fomented hate, provided weapons and training, and suggested targets, they weren’t culpable because they didn’t actually pull the trigger/drag the body/set the house on fire. While we wait for the Democrats to figure out where they stashed their big boy and big girl underpants and start behaving in a similarly non-cringing fashion, I’m glad the SPLC is out there.

  8. ok so, i might have a skewed view of things here but i can’t help thinking that all this extremism seems partly due to america’s historical identity as ‘the land of the free’ and thus anyone can be free to expouse any kind of discriminatory view and still staunchly inextricably pride themselves on ‘american values’. and not just now, but always, in politics and everything else.

    is this just a given? or something not talked about at all. i don’t mean to offend or anything, i have no idea of the sensibility one should have towards this.

  9. This is awesome. Thanks for sharing this study. I agree that it is not necessary to respond with fear, but I also think it is a mistake to dismiss these groups. A militia is a military force, meaning they have weapons, and lots of them, and usually legally owned. Ignoring or dismissing the whole of these groups as a non-threat is what lead to the virtually unpunished vigilante murders in New Orleans after Katrina. However small and insignificant before the storm, those extremists were knocking off brothers as they saw fit after the storm. We need to consider that we may not always have the safety net of the police to protect us from the crazies.

    I’m opting for weapons training.

    • I’ll address your final point concerning weapons training and give some useful links.

      I hate the NRA for a variety of reasons, but their weapons training course offerings are the most widespread, and they will tell you the basics of what you need to know:


      A group called AWARE (Arming Women Against Rape and Endangerment) offers weapons training. It was started by a woman who was attacked. And the classes aren’t watered down like a lot of shit aimed at women is – they just take into consideration issues that are of concern to many women when it comes to personal safety (stalking, being targeted for sexual violence, etc). You don’t have to be a woman to attend the classes though. All are welcome.


      If you have any more specific questions on this topic, you can email me at northatlanticdiver1 [at] {hotmail}.

  10. I understand that the children are being indoctrinated from very young, and that it’s hard to fault them. But, concerning this kind of argument, where does the blame end and responsibility begin? Couldn’t the same be said for some of the very people who are now teaching these children to hate? Maybe they were children at one time, too, so why is it okay for us to damn them? At what age can we say, “You know what, you need to decide for yourself now?”

    Just to be clear, I’m not advocating for them. This is an honest-to-Jeebus question.

  11. The hypocritical part of this is I bet plenty of conservative/ christian/anti-gay “straight” men have lesbian porn stashed in their closets to watch…or if they’re anything like my step-dad…he will also have GAY porn…but still sit on the couch in the living room every weekend and spew “faggot dyke n***er beaner” etcetcetc…. takes every fiber in my being not to go grab that box I found and dump it in front of him and walk off. I can’t imagine what he could possibly say yknow.

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