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Extremism on the rise

Written by Dick Pryor on Friday May 1, 2009

(Left to right: Host Dick Pryor, David Cid, Kerry Pettingill)

Oklahoma is no stranger to extremism and the violence that can result. But now, just over fourteen years after the Oklahoma City bombing, a new report indicates that our state is one of the top three national hotspots for radical extremist activism. The report, issued on Tuesday by the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, warns that rightwing extremism is on the rise, due to factors such as the slumping economy, anger about the government, the election of the nation’s first black president, and fears over gun control.

A couple of weeks ago, some veterans groups complained that a new assessment published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security put veterans in a bad light by claiming that some disaffected military personnel with combat training could be susceptible to recruitment by rightwing extremist groups. The assessment concluded that those veterans are valued in radical organizations and could become leaders. The MIPT assessment reached the same conclusion, and its Acting Executive Director, David Cid, told me there is a concern that empowered “lone wolves” could turn to violence.

Kerry Pettingill, Director of the Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security, said the DHS report left the wrong impression about veterans. (DHS Director Janet Napolitano apologized to the American Legion and admitted the report was issued prematurely.) However, Pettingill is also aware of the influence of “hate groups” in Oklahoma. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are nineteen locations in Oklahoma that are home to various radical organizations. The SPLC’s latest report also indicates that the number of extremist groups in the nation is growing.

Pettingill and Cid also discussed leftwing extremism, the subject of another less-discussed DHS report issued in January of this year. It’s clear that after a few years of declining influence, extremism is moving back to the same levels as the 1990’s, and perhaps beyond.

Sunday’s show again illustrates that while much of our concern is about foreign terrorists, the enemy sometimes comes from within.

Watch Sunday - and let me know what you think.

Until next time,
Dick Pryor

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