Whenever I read about the fringe wack job survivalists, skin heads and other organized hate groups over at Dave Neiwart's Orcinus, it gives me the chills. There's nothing funny about these folks. In his latest piece, Dave covers the increased anxiety among the gun-crazed loons afraid of Barack Obama taking away their guns are gearing up...for something. In November of last year the number of background checks was 42 percent greater than in November 2007.

These fears are becoming widespread on the ground, particularly in the rural areas where gun rights have been a favorite bugaboo since the days of gas-station attendants and Beaver Cleaver. I know about this somewhat from personal experience; the fear that "Obama is gonna take our guns away" is certainly commonplace when I spend time in the rural West.

...On those fringes, what we're seeing is a reformation of the militia movement of the 1990s, which organized in large part over hysteria ratcheted up by Bill Clinton's gun-control measures, particularly the assault-weapons ban that passed in 1994. But there are a couple of twists this time around -- Barack Obama does not appear eager to push any gun-control measures through Congress for the time being, so the fear and paranoia required are even more ephemeral in their basis than in the '90s; and more importantly, the new militia is being constituted of a different base -- younger, more militant, more paranoid, and more likely to have an actual military background.

A lot of this organizing is happening quietly, and the Internet is playing a key role. Among the more common places you'll find militiamen networking is at Web social-networking platforms like MySpace.

Much of the networking is going on at private pages that you need permission to access, but others are public. For instance, there's this site, run evidently by an ex-Marine from Colorado, which features discussion of such subjects as "Training a Survival of Militia Group, Part 1."