KU's collection of extremist literature contains scores of publications from right-wing groups, a focus of the news after the Oklahoma City bombing.
Militia groups, "patriots" and other far-right organizations -- thrust into the national spotlight after the Oklahoma City bombing -- have a niche for their bizarre paranoia close to home.
Scores of recent right-wing publications line the shelves of the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements in the Spencer Research Library at Kansas University.
Among the seemingly outrageous claims of such groups in their pamphlets and newsletters:
- There are four giant crematoriums with gas chambers and guillotines in the United States, one near Kansas City, Mo., that are being readied for the extermination of millions, according to "The American Freedom Network" of Canton, Mich. The group also claims that marks on the back of road signs will be used to lead foreign troops to the crematoriums and that unmarked black helicopters are monitoring hundreds of citizens.
- "For decades, the enemy (of America, Christianity and Western Culture) has controlled the major news media, the entertainment industry, numerous centers of education, the large foundations and 'think tanks' and many of our country's banking and financial institutions," writes a Dr. John Grady in "The Independent Newsletter" of Spencer, Mass.
- A book titled "America: Free, White and Christian," comes "highly recommended" by the staff of the "American Viewpoint Monthly" of Cleveland. That group also derides "Star Trek" because it promotes "a state of pacifism" and even calls the Rev. Billy Graham a "false shepherd."
- "We do not believe in physical confrontation just yet, but revolution is inevitable," predicts Dennis Hilligoss, national director of the "Minutemen" of Sepulveda, Calif. "If revolution is the only way the people of America can regain what once was, then so be it."
- "We are looking for more photos of prison camps, unusual military activity, foreign troops, U.N. equipment or anything connected with the conspiracy to undermine our Constitutional government," reads an editor's note from George Eaton of the "Patriot Report -- The Present Truth Ministry" of Uniontown, Ark.
The list of claims and allegations about conspiracies, foreign troops and a totalitarian government goes on and on. Many of the authors urge their readers to take up arms and read the Bible.
A mindset of distortion
Dr. William Svoboda, associate clinical professor of pediatrics who teaches courses on brainwashing at the KU Medical School in Wichita, said such groups "always have to find enemies. To create a power base, you've got to identify an enemy. Hitler used the Jews."
In the case of domestic, extremist anti-government groups, he said: "If you've got an enemy that's too far away, like Russia, then you need something local, like the law."
Indeed, many of the groups claim government leaders and local law enforcement authorities are working hand-in-hand with Russian and/or U.N. troops. Many are convinced there is going to be an "invasion" soon.
Most of the groups are not nationally connected, Svoboda said, "Mainly because it's a group of paranoid leaders that don't work together too well."
Laird Wilcox, who founded the KU extremist literature collection -- the largest of its kind in the country -- agreed that extremist groups will take an obscure fact and "exaggerate the hell out of it."
But he said the media blow the significance of right-wing groups out of proportion.
"'Patriots' -- that term's used by both" the left and the right, he said.
"I have not seen any evidence at all that the populous right is growing" since Oklahoma City, said Wilcox, who receives dozens of newsletters and pamphlets a month from extremist groups. He donates the materials to the collection.
"Groups fold constantly, and then a new groups pop up. Militias are a very small movement. These groups are always exaggerated."
But Svoboda, who became active in the anti-cult movement after his daughter was lured into one a few years ago, said that as the next century approaches, "the more and more we're going to see apocalyptic groups."
Many militia groups, he said, "retreat into a biblical base -- the Bible is used to justify what they do," he said.
Are they dangerous?
Wilcox said fringe groups on both the right and left have held to conspiracy theories -- sometimes strangely similar ones.
"In the 1960s, the leftists believed they (government officials) were setting up concentration camps for progressives ... and radical feminists," he said.
"All ideologies have some sort of conspiracy theories, if you really think about it," he said. "The more you know about them, the less strange they seem and the less dangerous they seem simply because they're so prevalent."
But Svoboda said the tactics of right-wing groups are not unlike cults.
"They take facts that have a little bit of truth and they distort them, then they can slip in a lie there," he said. "The people that they are attracting don't have the opportunity to check out whether it's true or not."