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In the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing there are now acrimonious exchanges between one side that holds that the strident language of the right-wing talk show hosts inflames the public and supports the right-wing militias, and the other - the talk show hosts themselves - who contend that they do not intend to egg on the militias and that, after all, they are exercising their constitutional rights. Well, they are - but with such sleaze.

They and the hate groups say that they are there to protect the Constitution. Really? Let's take Oliver North: He drew up a plan to suspend the Constitution. And J. Gordon Liddy: He subverted the constitutional electoral system and earned himself a prison term. And analysts have reported that many of Rush Limbaugh's facts are untrue, making suspect his devotion to a fair political system.These purveyors of hate rely on slogans, buzzwords and innuendo, rather than on a searching reasoning. Unfortunately, much of the public buys that because it is too busy with its recreation and electronic toys and focuses endlessly on sports and entertainment personalities instead of engaging in original and constructive thought.

For those who think this is a tempest in a teapot, that hate groups have come and gone without lasting effect, I would argue that much hatred has had very long-lasting effects. I would say you ought to listen to various analysts, even respectable Republican ones, who point out that these surges of hate are coming closer and closer together, just as the tremors before a volcanic eruption. Furthermore, present hate groups have a quality of weaponry not possessed by earlier groups.

To the argument that the militias compose only a small fraction of our population, I say there are a lot of fellow travelers who would come out of the woodwork should the militias decide their move. One need only remember that Hitler's movement started small and trained with wooden rifles, yet their propaganda seduced not only formerly good Germans but also many Americans, British, Italians and others, and they became the military and racist scourge of the Earth. The lesson has not been lost on the hate groups. Let it not be lost on us.

Stewart C. Harvey

Salt Lake City