In 2013, for the first time in a decade, the number of far-right hate groups in the United States fell significantly from the year before, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center. There were 1,007 radical right-wing organizations in the U.S. in 2012; by 2013, that number had dropped to 939. While that’s still a pretty high number by historical standards, at least the trend is moving in the right direction (or the “left” direction, if you will).
The SPLC chalks the change up to a number of different factors. A lot of hate groups have collapsed recently due to internal problems, usually relating to mismanagement, leadership struggles or petty financial scandals. In addition, the economy is improving, and law enforcement has started to crack down more on radical groups in the last few years.
Unfortunately, the SPLC also speculates that there are fewer right-wing organizations in the U.S. because, over the last couple of years, a lot far-right causes have been taken up by mainstream Republicans, thus diminishing the appeal of outside groups. For example, conspiracy theorists have long believed that Agenda 21, a non-binding United Nations resolution encouraging sustainable development, is actually a plot to overthrow governments and create a worldwide totalitarian state. While that “theory” used to be relegated to the fringe, it was adopted last year into the Republican Party’s official platform.Not surprisingly, far-right groups surged in numbers after Barack Obama’s ascension to the presidency. If history repeats itself, they’ll continue to drop in numbers as Obama’s second term progresses — that’s what happened during Bill Clinton’s presidency, when the number of right-wing organizations dropped from a peak of 858 in 1996 to a mere 194 in 2000.
The SLPC warned that the risk of violence emerging from such groups is still very real. Last year, white supremacists were arrested for killing a Colorado prison chief, taking out a hit on a federal judge and, in the case of KKK member Glendon Crawford, plotting the mass murder of Muslims with something referred to as an “X-ray weapon.”
“He called it ‘Hiroshima on a light switch,’ the report reads. “Crawford was arrested after trying to get financing from two Jewish agencies and another Klan group.”
If Crawford’s plot is representative of the general level of competency of far-right extremists, it’s no wonder their numbers are in decline.