The Montana Human Rights Network evolved out of communities' concerns about radical right activists setting up shop around Montana. What this activity looked like varied from place to place. In the Northwestern corner of the state, it was white supremacists literally moving to local towns from Aryan Nations' headquarters in Idaho. On the Flathead Reservation, it was groups opposing tribal initiatives across the board. In Billings, it was neo-Nazi skinheads terrorizing the local Jewish community.
One of the Network's primary objectives is to help Montanans understand the anti-democratic forces that show up in their communities. The Network commits significant resources to conducting opposition research and making this information available to local citizens, the media, and law enforcement. The Network believes that, in order for communities to respond to the radical right, they need to have the resources to understand what is going on in their communities.
It would be bad enough if hardcore white supremacists and other radical right activists only impacted the communities in which they live. However, over the last decade, the Network has documented how extreme right-wing ideas increasingly find their way into the political mainstream. During the early 1990s, groups like the Militia of Montana and Montana Freemen used gun rights and anti-tax diatribes to recruit from the mainstream. By the end of the decade, Congressmen had brought the militia's "New World Order" conspiracies to the floor of the U.S. House, and conservatives sounded alarmingly like Freemen in speeches advocating cuts in income taxes and abolishment of the IRS. Currently, this same dynamic is happening in the debate surrounding immigration reform. The margins definitely influence the political mainstream, and combating this dynamic has to start at the community level.