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Right-Wing Extremists Organize and Promote Violence on Facebook -- Should the Feds Bust Them Or Leave Them Alone?

From militias to white supremacists, right-wing groups are using social networking to organize and spread propaganda. Should the government do something?

With all the concern about the lack of privacy on Facebook, one would think that the online social networking site would be the last place that right-wing resistance groups would organize. But a wide range of groups, from patriot organizations to militias and even white supremacists, are using social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube to organize and even espouse illegal activities.

Take the American Resistance Movement, a network of militia groups that vows to take up arms against what it claims is an increasingly tyrannical government, should that government ever turn on its people. Its Facebook pages and those of its members are filled with conspiratorial news about the New World Order and impending martial law, information about semi-automatic weapons, announcements for meetings, links to YouTube recruitment videos, and information about boycotts and elections.

Clicking through ARM's profiles and walls offers a window into these groups. ARM member and Three Percenter  Bradley Clifford, who ran the ARM online forum, suggested that I check out Facebook, MySpace and YouTube rather than ARM's own Web site to get a better picture of the group. In fact, he eventually ended up taking down its Web site all together.

The photo pages are filled with shots of masked men holding semiautomatic weapons, some with the U.S. flag tied around their lower faces. There are photos of AR-15s, Palin signs, eagles and hot chicks with guns. There are American flags, Don t Tread on Me flags and Confederate flags. Images of the Founding Fathers sit next to those of Obama depicted as a socialist in front of the Russian flag. Favored Thomas Jefferson quotes like The Tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants and "When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny" litter posts and individual About Me sections.

Looking through pages for ARM as well as other groups members link to on Facebook like Sons of Liberty, (a peaceful group whose mission states, As John Locke said, it is not only the right, but the duty of the people to overthrow an oppressive government. In the future, if need be, the new 'sons of liberty' shall and will take back control of this nation. ) Three Per Centers, Right to Revolt, Rogue Nation and White Fang Revolution, linked YouTube videos range from footage of militia trainings, infomercials about the New World Order and hip hop videos promoting an armed revolution. There are tips on how to stockpile ammo and survival gear, and calls to impeach Obama and resist the New World Order.

It seems odd to see all this on Facebook, but in some ways it makes perfect sense. Any grassroots political movement from the Tea Parties to MoveOn to Obama s election volunteers has to maximize social-networking sites to be successful. Likewise, ARM and other groups realize that the reach and efficiency these sites offer can t be duplicated. They can reach members who are isolated in rural areas (or liberal pockets like San Francisco), link to like-minded organizations and quickly disseminate information far and wide. 

It s particularly essential for groups like ARM, which use the leaderless resistance model, in which organizations operate as a network of small dispersed independent yet interlinked groups and individuals, without one easily identifiable leader who can be easily targeted. It eliminates the weak link represented by a central leadership that has historically been targeted by the government and has proved vulnerable to internal disputes and struggles within movements. It allows individuals to take initiatives on a local level while still working together and sharing strategies and ideas. Popularized in 1962 by former Klansman turned Aryan Nationalist Louis Beam, it s a structure that is used by a variety of groups, from the Earth Liberation Front to the Tea Party movement.

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