Detroit News

Experts Cite Resurgence of Radical Militias

By Paul Egan and Doug Guthrie, The Detroit News

Terrorism experts say recent conservative political unrest has fueled resurgence of radical militias, even though their popularity had declined after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

Experts blame the recession and the election of an African-American president with a perceived liberal agenda for the growth.

The long debate over health care reform, labeled as a victory for socialists, fueled new conspiracy theories with some old themes that play on political and religious fears.

“They see themselves kind of losing control of their country and their religion,” said Jim Corcoran, chairman of the communications department at Simmons College in Boston and an author of books on U.S. militia groups. “This isn’t the face of the America they remember or want.”

Carolyn Brown, an assistant professor of communications at American University in Washington, D.C., who has done extensive research on the Minutemen and other militia groups, said fundamentalist Christian beliefs are a common trait among such groups.

“There’s definitely been a resurgence,” and “you really have to take them seriously,” Brown said. Militias came into the national spotlight in 1995, after the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
Timothy McVeigh and Michigan native Terry Nichols were convicted in the bombing, which killed 168. Nichols and McVeigh attended some Michigan Militia events, but the group denied Nichols and McVeigh were members.
Militia popularity declined during the administration of President George W. Bush, but the Southern Poverty Law Center said the number of groups espousing anti-government doctrines and political conspiracy theories is again rising.

The report identified 512 groups throughout the country, including 47 in Michigan, behind only Texas, with 52.

The Hutaree’s Web page contained at least one forum conversation from March 2009 in which police were called “the enforcement arm of the enemy” who “wear the uniform of the New World Order.” The posts are attributed to the group’s leader, David Brian Stone Sr., under his Hutaree name, RD Merzonik.

Professor Jeff Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at the St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, also is a retired lieutenant colonel and former senior legal adviser in the Army Special Forces.

“This is the first far right wing, anti-government terrorism case since the 1990s. That’s at least 15 years,” Addicott said.

“We’ve had, by my count, 13 convictions for Islamic terrorist plots in that time. That is still the No. 1 threat, but this is a strong warning that threats can come from anywhere.”