Reporter Kirk Johnson, who avidly seeks out signs of conservative political weakness in western states like Utah, had an interesting story on a local Michigan militia group that helped lead authorities to capture members of a would-be bunch of domestic terrorists, the apocalyptic Christian group Hutaree.
But Johnson went beyond straight reporting to promote the left-wing propagandists from the Southern Poverty Law Center, who emphasized that militias are particularly active during Democrat administrations.
From Johnson's Thursday story, "Militia Members Draw Distinctions Between Groups."
The Stone family, and the fiercely militant Christian group that revolved around them at a ramshackle homestead outside of town here, were best known by their neighbors for their active use of guns and their increasingly heated talk about fighting back violently against the government.
But their biggest and most surprising adversary was practically next door: the local branch of the Michigan Militia.
From a distance, the two might seem like peas in a pod: both wear fatigues or camouflage, train in the woods with heavy weaponry and believe in threats to liberty from Washington.
But here on the ground the distinctions were crucial. The Michigan Militia, which in past years had links to extremist groups with neo-Nazi flavorings, has moderated over the years, according to members and experts who track the organizations. Meanwhile, the Hutaree (pronounced Hu-TAR-ay), as the Stone group was called, was going the other direction, with increasing talk of violence.
Johnson treated the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center as an impartial font of expertise, with no ideological tint, relaying their research about dangerous right-wing groups versus Democratic presidents.
The Michigan Militia also changed over the years, Mr. Savino and other militia members said, especially since the early 1990s, when the name became associated with an earlier wave of antigovernment angst after the election of President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, in 1992.
Some militia groups in Michigan then had a strain of vehement anti-Semitism, in particular, that has mostly faded over the years as more radical members left, said Mark Potok, who tracks extremist groups at the Southern Poverty Law Center. People like Mr. Savino and his father, Jim Gulliksen, who is the local chapter's chief executive officer - and like his son, a Navy veteran said they have worked since then to distinguish the group from its past. Estimates of statewide Michigan militia membership range from several hundred people to 500 or more.
But people across the militia world, and people like Mr. Potok who study it, agree that anxiety within that world is rising - from economic frustrations growing out of the recession, or fear of the Democratic Party leadership in Washington, or both - and that small, outlier groups like the Hutaree are probably the ones to keep on eye on.
Would the selectively anti-surveillance writers at the Times be so eager about "keeping an eye on" left-wing environmental terrorists?
The Times also quoted Potok of the SPLC on the militia case on Tuesday, when Potok linked it to a rise in "new 'Patriot' movement groups, race-based hate groups, extremist anti-immigrant groups, Christian militants and other variations."