Two troubling polls were taken within less than a month of each other last March and April. The March poll by Public Policy Polling found that nearly one third of Americans think that there is a secretive, diabolical cabal out to rule the world through a "New World Order." The April poll by the Southern Poverty Law Center zeroed in on extremist groups in America. It found that the number of these groups had leaped during the past few years. The majority of these groups had a couple of things in common. They tracked to the fringe right, and they were hard core anti-government, meaning that in most cases the groups were terrified that the government was bent on stripping away their freedom and guns.
Even more troubling, more than a few of these groups were tagged as violence prone. The paranoid beliefs, fears, and mania of the legion of extremist groups and individuals apparently came together in a virtual perfect storm when alleged Los Angeles airport shooter Paul Anthony Ciancia went on his murderous rampage. In a note made public by the FBI, Ciancia explicitly lambasted the government and pilfered the common extremist language that talks of a New World Order conspiracy.
Ciancia and the growing handful of others who have wreaked havoc with their murderous attacks in nearly all cases fit a profile. That is of a withdrawn, often delusional, loner, who gave no sign of a propensity to violence, and no hint of any tie to a hate extremist group or of any history of making hate rants. This makes it easy for such an individual to pass under the radar scope of friends, family members, and authorities. It also makes it easy for the public and much of the media to instantly brand them as nut cases who are walking neon signs to ramp up mental health treatment and tougher gun control laws. They are indeed that.
But stopping there misses the equally great danger that these shooters are young men who, though they would never join any extremist group, are walking emotional time bombs. They are highly impressionable and susceptible to the drumbeat of anti-government vitriol that has been relentlessly churned out on websites, blogs, in texts, and on social media sites the past few years. The majority of the farthest-out of far right extremist groups will never engage in any overt violence, and the thousands of members, supporters, and fellow travelers of these groups likewise would not physically harm a fly. But it's the inflammatory rants from these groups that pollute the air of talk and thought that can and have had deadly consequences.
The seed for the extremist paranoia about an alleged New World Order that engages in population mind control to takeover world governments was planted three decades ago with the creation of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA quickly became the target of endless tracts that spewed venom against the agency charging that it was the first big step by the federal government in setting up an all knowing, all watching, Big Brother-type system that would control the thoughts, movements, and actions of Americans. The conspiracy theorists ran amok with this and alleged that executive orders signed by Reagan and George H.W. Bush on emergency management permitted the government to declare a national emergency and then take over local, state, and national governments and of course suspend constitutional guarantees.
There was more to the conspiracy paranoia. It also alleged that FEMA would create a national police force whose officers would wear black uniforms and be composed of selected military personnel, and police officers. Their task would be to impose martial law on the nation. The hate and conspiracy paranoia toward FEMA during the past decade was replaced in some of the extremist circles by the TSA. Anti-TSA websites quickly sprung up emblazoned with logos that blared, "New World Order," with the word "anti" in front of it and a red slash line across New World Order. This effectively wielded TSA and the New World Order conspiracy lunacy in the minds of thousands who spewed out a deluge of inflamed and violent rants against TSA on the sites and on their spin off Facebook pages.
The blasts at TSA and the cackle about New World Order conspiracies were probably in almost all cases a chance for the disgruntled to blow off steam anonymously against the federal government and the one agency that was the biggest symbol in their minds of a government agency that controlled the public's movement, and thus a threat to liberties. The likelihood of them taking the next step from verbal bluster to actual violence was remote. But the bitter and horrid reality was that of the thousands that fervently believed and pedaled notions of a sinister government conspiracy to control the lives of all Americans, it only took one loose-screwed individual out of the pack to take that step and ignite a reign of public terror. Ciancia may have been that one. If so, he'll sadly prove that he was more than just a lone nut.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson