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The Quiet Retooling of the Militia Movement

This document is an archived copy of an ADL report originally published in 2004 and may not reflect the most current facts or developments related to its subject matter.

The original document stated:

Thought by many to have been in decline, right-wing militia groups in the United States have experienced a growth in activity in recent months that indicates a quiet attempt to revive the anti-government movement. These “new” militia groups operate more quietly and train more intensely than their 1990s counterparts, and have new, post-September 11 versions of the “New World Order” conspiracy theories that motivated their predecessors.

The militia movement burst onto the scene in 1994, in the wake of deadly standoffs at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 and Waco, Texas, in 1993. It garnered great publicity following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 (with which it was erroneously linked). At its peak, the movement had hundreds of groups and thousands of members.

However, the movement began to decline in the late 1990s, as some members dropped out in the wake of numerous militia-related arrests and others left the movement because it wasn’t radical enough. The non-event of Y2K – predictions that a series of technology failures would cripple the U.S. economy at the turn of the millennium – further spurred the movement’s decline, as militia members had heavily invested in Y2K conspiracy theories. The movement continued to be fairly active in some parts of the country, such as the Midwest, but elsewhere significantly declined.

With signs of growing activity in recent months, active groups or cells in at least 30 states, and continuing criminal incidents, the militia movement has proven that it deserves increased scrutiny. Ironically, efforts by the U.S. to fight foreign terrorism may have the side effect of spurring increased resentment and growth among domestic extremist groups.

Read the entire report, The Quiet Retooling of the Militia Movement (PDF).

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