The report described a group called the "Oath Keepers," a military and police organization formed earlier this year, holding its April muster on the famed Lexington Green.
According to SPLC, "Members vow to fulfill the oaths to the Constitution that they swore while in the military or law enforcement. 'Our oath is to the Constitution, not to the politicians, and we will not obey unconstitutional (and thus illegal) and immoral orders,' the group says. Oath Keepers lists 10 orders its members won't obey, including two that reference U.S. concentration camps."
Intrigued, I googled "U.S. concentration camps," and I sure did get an education. The first Web site I visited listed Opelika as a site where FEMA and the U.S. government intend to intern Patriots opposed to the "New World Order."
At first, I thought this was an aberration. Then I scrolled through 16 more Internet pages listing scores of Web sites all repeating dire warnings about FEMA concentration camps, with one reported in Opelika. Some elaborated, suggesting the camp was located on the grounds of the old World War II internment camp for POWs.
I'll give credit to Stormfront.org, though. At least that site noted that the information had been received (from a source that couldn't be named) and they were looking for confirmation. Since I'm pretty sure that's a white supremacist Web site, I sure hope our new totalitarian government isn't tracking my Web habits.
I discovered something else that I found very disturbing. It turns out that a few months back, inflammatory Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck talked about the Internet concentration camp rumors, saying he "couldn't debunk them."
Huh? He should have come to Opelika. I'm sure somebody could have helped him out.
Apparently, the powers-that-be at Fox News thought Beck had gone too far, because soon afterwards he enlisted the help of Popular Mechanics editors to dissect the rumor.
Strangely enough, Popular Mechanics editor-in-chief James Meigs reported that, based on his magazine's independent investigation, videos on the Internet said to have been of FEMA concentration camps actually included footage of an Amtrak repair facility in Beach Grove, Ind.
The video reportedly comes from a woman tied to Timothy McVeigh's militia group.
"There is enough out there," Beck said. "We don't need to make stuff up."
So why did he fan the flames in the first place? Don't forget, he's the guy who reportedly called Obama a fascist, a Nazi and a Marxist before re-floating the militia conspiracy theories popular in the 1990s.
I'd like to just ignore this stuff and label these people "crazies," but I can't. If I swallowed some of the information out there whole, I'd probably be a conspiracy theorist, too.
I fear we're living in perilous times, and the need for real information is crucial. Where to get it, though?
I've never watched Glen Beck, but trust me�I'm going to start. According to a New York Times article about the concentration camps brouhaha, Beck connects with people who feel disenfranchised, even though he himself describes his persona as "a rodeo clown."
And like a rodeo clown, the article notes, "Mr. Beck incites critics to attack by dancing in front of them."
"There are absolutely historical precedents for what is happening with Beck," Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, told the newspaper.
"There was a lot of radio evangelism during the Depression. People were frustrated and frightened. There are a lot of scary parallels now."
The conservative writer David Frum told the New York Times that Beck's success "is a product of the collapse of conservatism as an organized political force, and the rise of conservatism as an alienated cultural sensibility."
"It's a show for people who feel they belong to an embattled minority that is disenfranchised and cut off," he said.
It's easy for me to stay all comfy and cozy in my secure little world, but there's stuff going on out there that makes me feel very uneasy. Last time the Patriots and the militias got rolling, Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City.
We can't let that happen again. We've got to have accurate information. Please.