The Southern Poverty Law Center now has nearly $190 MILLION tax-free donor-dollars available in its bloated Endowment Fund, and received just over $31 MILLION donor-dollars from its mostly elderly donor base last year.
Much of the financial success of this most profitable of non-profits must be attributed to the SPLC’s $143,000 donor-dollar-a-year Public Relations Guru, Mark Potok.
Mr. Potok, who has no legal or law enforcement background, earns his six-digit salary by maintaining an ongoing fear campaign that plays fast and loose with the facts, or in cases such as the SPLC’s infamous Hate Map, simply manufactures “facts” out of thin air.
Prior to coming to the highly lucrative Hate Industry, Mr. Potok was a part-time stringer for USA Today in the 1990s, a position that no doubt qualifies him as an eminent scholar on “hate groups.”
It might be informative to reflect on some of Mr. Potok’s more interesting comments to the media over the years, which speak volumes as to the beliefs of his employers at the SPLC:
On the SPLC’s own definition of “hate group.” (Since there is no legal definition, Mr. P just made one up.)
“…a “hate group” has nothing to do with criminality… [or] potential for violence…” Rather, as Potok put it, “It’s all about ideology.”
No crime, no violence, just “wrong thinking”
“The FBI does not monitor groups just because they have “hateful” ideology. There must be some evidence of criminal wrongdoing.“ (www.usatoday.com, May 17, 2002)
Fortunately, the “law center” has never been deterred by the petty legalities and Constitutional blather that hamper actual law enforcement agencies.
On the SPLC’s scrupulously high standards for consigning a “group” to its Hate Map:
“Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.”
Well, you can’t ask for much more “evidence of criminal wrongdoing” than that. Marches, speeches, publishing, no wonder the FBI was all over Martin Luther King. The guy was forever leading marches, giving speeches, handing out literature and all kinds of other tell-tale signs of “hate group” activity.
“Potok acknowledged that some of the groups may be small and said it is impossible for outsiders to gauge the membership of most of the groups.” (David Crary, Associated Press Online, March 10, 2008)
“Potok says inclusion on the list might come from a minor presence, such as a post office box.” (www.sanluisobispo.com, March 25, 2009)
On the impeccably high level of research that goes into each and every “report” churned out by Mr. Potok’s public relations minions:
“Mark Potok, who has directed the SPLC’s Intelligence Project for 12 years, said the report relies on media, citizen and law enforcement reports, and does not include original reporting by SPLC staff.” (www.postcrescent.com, July 6, 2009)
You say “po-tay-toh” and I say “glorified news clipping service”…
“The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., estimates more than 100,000 followers among the various hate groups, though a spokesman [Mark Potok] concedes that the tally – from periodicals, news reports and police – is approximate. (Arlene Levinson, “Hate Groups, Crimes Said Rare in US,” Associated Press, July 8, 1999)
“Approximate” indeed. In the Fall of 2011 we at Watching the Watchdogs actually got to ask Mr. Potok to his face about the wild discrepancies in his “hate group” figures and we got the entire exchange on video.
After graciously conceding that our query was “not an illegitimate question” and much hemming and hawing, Mr. Potok finally admitted that his “hate group” numbers were “anecdotal,” “an imperfect process” and “a very rough estimate.”
On the imminent threat of ever-growing numbers of “hate groups” (after all, the Hate Map doesn’t lie, right?):
“And I would say as a general matter, it is extremely unusual these days for an organization to plan and carry out a criminal act where mainly for the reason that they are so likely to get caught.
So what we really see out there in terms of violence from the radical right is by and large what we would call lone wolves, people operating on their own or with just one or two partners. As opposed to, you know, being some kind of organizational plan.” (www.npr.org, October 30, 2008)
“Still, [Potok] said the public should remain vigilant about the activities of hate groups, even though individuals are responsible for the majority of hate crimes in America.” (www.courier-journal.com, July 21, 2009)
And as early as 1999, Mr. Potok conceded:
“The numbers are absolutely soft,” said Mark Potok, a Southern Poverty Law Center spokesman. “We are talking about a tiny number of Americans who are members of hate groups – I mean, infinitesimal.” (Arlene Levinson, “Hate Groups, Crimes Said Rare in US,” Associated Press, July 8, 1999)
Potok’s expert advice to police on how to identify domestic terrorists:
“One of the warnings is strange license plates on vehicles,” Potok said, “something like ‘The Republic of Texas.” (www.katv.com, September 22, 2010)
Remember, it was the “experts” at the SPLC who warned the Missouri State Police to be on the look out for “dangerous” people with Ron Paul and Bob Barr bumper stickers on their cars.
Regarding the potentially violent, racist criminals who make up the “resurgent militia movement” reported in the SPLC’s Spring 2010 “Intelligence Report,” of which Mr. Potok is the chief investigator:
“Listing here does not imply that the groups themselves advocate or engage in violence or other criminal activities, or are racist.”
So, these people are not violent, criminal racists then? They’re law abiding citizens exercising their constitutionally protected civil rights, as disagreeable as some my find their beliefs?
In September of 2007, Mr. Potok conceded on video that these people were not monsters and that he respected their rights to their own opinions.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that these are human beings and it’s a mistake to regard them as just a bunch of sociopaths… though most of them are.”
“Let me say… our aim… sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate groups and so on. I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups. Completely destroy them.”
This paragon of civil rights makes these two telling comments within the first two minutes of the video below. Those with stronger constitutions should watch the entire ten minute clip to see just how the Maestro operates.
Of the ongoing threat posed by that perennial staple of all SPLC fear campaigns, the KKK:
“The Klan of today is small, fractured, impotent and irrelevant,” Potok said. (www.timesfreepress.com, September 12, 2010)
“The Klan is a sorry shadow of its former self. It’s common for the KKK to brag about big numbers, but usually they are largely outnumbered by the counter-protestors, Potok said. Even on the white supremacist scene, the Klan is seen as less important today, he said.
“They just don’t have the people to put on the street, no matter what they boast about,” Potok said. (www.chronicle.augusta.com, October 21, 2010)
A recent and extremely rare public retraction published by the SPLC for wrongly denigrating a scholar for his views on the Armenian genocide of World War I, though not directly attributed to Mr. Potok, must certainly have garnered the PR guru’s imprimatur, alludes to the SPLC’s trademark guilt-by-association tactics that have proven so effective in stifling open debate on any number of topics:
“Unfounded charges of this kind, we acknowledge, create a climate of intimidation and limit responsible inquiry in genuine historical controversies such as about what really happened in 1915.”
Unfounded charges never stopped them before. This time someone called them out on it.
So there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. With such candor and refreshing honesty, it’s little wonder why a “law center” like the SPLC would feel a part-time newspaper reporter like Mr. Potok is worth $143 grand a year.
Maybe they ought to give him a raise.