The Last Word | March 05, 2013
>>> in the spotlight tonight, guns, paranoia, and hatred. according to a new report by the southern poverty law center , the crazies are on the rise. we now have more groups who believe that the federal government is conspiring to take american's guns and destroy their liberties as it paves the world for a global one world government . last year, the southern poverty law center counted 1,360 of these groups, an all-time high. only 149 existed when barack obama won the presidency in 2008 . today, the southern poverty law center sent a letter to homeland security secretary janet napolitano and attorney general eric holder , warning that the gun control debate itself may lead to even more such groups. the furious reaction to the obama administration's gun control proposals is reminiscent of the anger that greeted the passage of the 1993 brady bill and the 1994 ban on assault weapons . now, in the wake of the mass murder of 26 children and adults at a connecticut school and the obama -led gun control efforts that followed, it seems likely that that growth will pick up speed once again. joining me now, the author of that new report, southern poverty law center 's mark potok and msnbc's ari melber. mark, it's quite striking how the number explosion occurred, starting in 2008 , before we got into newtown, connecticut, or any talk of gun control at all.
>> it sure is. i mean, the growth has just been astounding over the last four years. you know, 813% growth. we've really never seen anything like this in any of the groups that we count. and as you suggested in your intro, what happened after that count was completed, as gun control talk began in the wake of the slaughter innewtown, is that the whole movement, tease gro groups out there have gone from sort of red heat to white heat . so we are in a skrr scary moment. it is very much reminiscent, at least to me, of the months leading up to the oklahoma city bombing .
>> and ari, the only thing that occurred in 2008 that you can link in our politics to this growth is the election of president barack obama .
>> right, i think the problem for a lot of the people who talk about common sense or reasonable gun control , when you look at this context of these patriot and hate groups and the election of obama , is that -- and this is difficult, i think, to say, but it has to be said -- that a lot of these groups aren't interested in self-defense weaponry. they actually see themselves, if you look at some of the literature and the text, they see their communities as actually having a buildup of the kind of weapons that would help them deal with any kind of uprising or clash with the government itself. and so they do want assault weaponry . they do want anything really big. they sometimes talk about the ar-15 as a quality weapon, because you can put a grenade launcher appendage on to it. that's the people, that's the face of the nra today.
>> mark, this one world government thing, do these people actually say this with a straight face? does anyone ever ask them if they really expect israel and saudi arabia and china to all agree to be part of the same one world government ?
>> well, no, i don't think any of them have tried to answer a question that specific and direct. i mean, look. it's probably worth saying that this idea of evil globalists goes way, way, way back to the league of nations and even before. so this is an idea that's been next to the radical right in the united states , at least, for a century or more. but, as you say, it's really very undefined. you know, somehow these people are going to come, they are going to force us to be socialist. you know, those of us who resist will be thrown into fema-constructed concentration camps, you know, and this is all some sort of plot to destroy the constitution. so, no, i don't think it's terribly well thought out. at the same time, i think the fears are very real. i think one other thing played into the enormous expansion of these groups in the last four years, aside from obama 's appearance on the political scene, and that, of course, is the economy, which began to collapse at the very same time as obama appeared running for president. so i think that added an element of real fear and anger and insecurity that made for a kind of perfect storm in terms of fostering the growth of these groups. now with the gun control talk, it's gotten even worse .
>> okay. ari, the only way you can think these things is that you have to be profoundly ignorant of what's happening in the world and the way the world works and the way the united nations doesn't work, and, so -- and we started the show tonight with a demonstration of bill o 'reilly's abject ignorance about what president obama has actually proposed by way of spending cuts. and there seems to be a straight line you can draw, from that o'reilly ignorance, which is on the innocence side of these things, all the way over to this stuff, which leads to utter dangerous madness.
>> it is dangerous. and while ignorance is a very old problem, i think the decline of certain institutions, including, quite frankly , the republican party itself, play a role, because there just isn't as much sanction for that kind of ignorance. and it's not just, of course, on these issues. many people have pointed out, including steve bennett of msnbc, that only 6% of the country is aware that under president obama , the deficit ratio is actually going down. if you don't know that, then you're going to have this whole debate in a vacuum. and when you talk about guns, the fact that this president, i think by any standard, has generally been very, very protective of broad second amendment rights. the things he's talking about have nothing to do whatsoever with taking people 's guns away from them in their homes. i like to mention, i grew up in a home with a gun. i'm not worried about that. i think background checks and these other proposals are common sense and work, if you're open to understanding how they work. when you have that blockage and you have a lot of institutional support for ignorance, because it's politically useful, then you get into these really bad feedback loops .
>> yeah, this phenomenon of believing that a one world government is going to take over depends on sealing yourself off from information. and that's the only point i was making about bill o 'reilly. he thinks these people are crazy too. i don't mean to in any way associate him with that. but he also has sealed himself off from information, as ezra klein showed, republican congressman have, about what president obama has proposed. and it seems to be this contagious phenomenon of sealing people -- people sealing themselves off from real, easily available information. mark potok of the southern poverty law center , thank you very much for the information you've delivered to us in this study and ari melber, thank you for joining us tonight also.
>> thanks, lawrence.