It’s no secret that America has witnessed a decline in manufacturing over the decades. Apparently the Southern Poverty Law Center’s manufactured “hate groups” are no longer immune to market forces either. Their latest “Hate Map” fundraising tool, purporting to identify the SPLC’s list of “hate groups” for 2013 indicates a 6.6% decrease from the previous year.
While 6.6% may not seem like much in the real world, it is nearly unprecedented in the history of the SPLC. Considering the fact that there is no legal definition for “hate group,” the SPLC’s Public Relations Chief, Mark Potok, has simply manufactured as many as he needed each year to maintain the organization’s ongoing fear campaign. Last year he lowered his “hate group” count by half a percent voluntarily and now a second, much larger cut. What gives?
Since the “supply” of hate groups has never been a problem for Mr. Potok, we can only assume that the recent downward trend represents a collapse in “demand” for his dubious product.
[NOTE: In the spirit of full disclosure, last year we remarked that the 2012 decline in "hate groups" was the first in SPLC history, but as Mr. Potok's own graph below indicates, there was a mysterious, and short-lived, 14% drop recorded in 1999. We stand corrected. WTW]
Mr. Potok acknowledges the drop in his annual “Year in Hate and Extremism” screed, but as we’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, his claims of “spectacular growth” since the election of President Obama have never held much water.
“After four years of spectacular growth driven by the 2008 election of President Obama and the nearly simultaneous collapse of the economy, the radical right in America saw its first significant decrease in 2013.”
2009: The first full year of the Obama Administration and the worst year of the Great Recession returned “spectacular growth” of .6%
2010: Mr. Potok adds 70 new “hate groups” to his map, but at the same time the number of “homeless hate groups,” those Mr. Potok cannot locate on any map, including his own, jumped by 99, for a net loss of 2.9%
2011: Mr. Potok adds 16 new “hate groups” to his Hate Map for a mighty increase of 1.6%. That same year Mr. Potok states: “But Potok said the [Ku Klux] Klan has disintegrated. “There is no Klan now,” he said, only a collection of squabbling organizations. (www.sanluisobispo.com, March 23, 2011)
Doesn’t it seem a little odd that Mr. Potok would proclaim the disintegration of the KKK at the height of his alleged “hate group” boom? Or maybe “bubble” is a more accurate term. After a “spectacular growth” of -.6% for the first Obama Administration, Mr. Potok’s “hate groups” went into the visible decline of the past two years. The market can only absorb so much.
“Ah, well,” will say the Faithful, “There are still 939 “hate groups” on the Hate Map, [940, by our count, there's one skulking in Alaska-- WTW], which obviously proves that Mr. Potok and the SPLC are on to something!” Well, not so much.
If you paste Mr. Potok’s “hate group” data into a spreadsheet, which you can download here, you’ll find some glaring “irregularities.”
If you sort the spreadsheet by Location (Column C), you find that Mr. Potok has no idea where 220 of his 940 groups are hiding. We know they are really, really there because Mr. Potok says they are really there. That’s 23% right off the top. THIS is “hard data”?
Let’s take New England, for example, sorted by State (Column D):
Mr. Potok designated 32 “hate groups” for New England but he has no idea where 20 of them are hiding. That’s 33% off the top for Massachusetts, 66% for Vermont and New Hampshire (IHM and the Immaculate Heart of Mary are located in the same building in flyspeck Richmond, population 1,100 and change), 80% for Connecticut, and an incredibly ridiculous 100% for Maine and Rhode Island.
Again, friends… THIS is hard data?
Observant readers will note that while Mr. Potok fastidiously assigned every New England state its own chapter of the Klan, he doesn’t seem to know where any of them are located.
In all fairness to Mr. Potok, it should be noted that the Loyal White Knights are an entirely new Klan group and the problem of locating them goes far beyond the rocky shores and granite hills of New England. Of the 51 chapters of the Loyal White Knights Mr. Potok has assigned to the entire United States, he is not able to locate 36 of them, or 70%.
No wonder they call themselves “The Invisible Empire.”
Granted, it’s not just new Klan groups that are hard to find. Mr. Potok has misplaced entire groups of Neo-Nazis:
And more Racist Skinheads than you can imagine:
And even when Mr. Potok does assign a city or town to one of his designated “hate groups” it still gives us absolutely no evidence that most of these groups even exist.
In 1998, respected investigative journalist Laird Wilcox, who describes himself as a Liberal, pointed out this lack of verifiable evidence in his seminal work, The Watchdogs.
“When the SPLC releases their list, either in print or on the Internet, it fails to contain actual addresses that might be checked by journalists or researchers. Several listings refer to “unknown group” and the name of a city or town.” — The Watchdogs, p. 79
Mr. Wilcox set the standard for identifying Conservative and right-wing groups through a series of guides he published through the 1990s:
Mr. Wilcox engaged in actual research and fact-checking, something no one in the modern media will bother to do, to provide usable information that could be cross-checked, verified or debunked:
Mr. Wilcox even did something unthinkable, by Mr. Potok’s standards: He documented Progressive and left-wing groups as well as the Radical Right:
The Southern Poverty Law Center doesn’t really see much of a problem with the Radical Left. As Mr. Potok explained to Madeleine Morgenstern a couple years ago, “We’re not really set up to cover the extreme Left.”
And why would they be? There’s not nearly as much money in it.
Granted, many of the entries in Mr. Wilcox’ guides give little more than a P.O. box, but even that information is useful in helping the public and the Media judge the real potential threats of Mr. Potok’s alleged “hate groups.”
If Laird Wilcox could come up with this much information working on a shoe-string budget and using 1991 technology, why can’t Mark Potok do the same using the Internet and the SPLC’s hundreds of millions of cash on hand?
The simple fact is that he doesn’t have to. Visit your favorite online news aggregator and do a simple keyword search for “hate groups” and you’ll receive hundreds of recent hits, all referring to Mr. Potok’s Hate Map fundraising tool and very, very few contesting his spurious claims.
Last year, well-meaning donors believed Mr. Potok’s phony numbers and sent the SPLC $37,503,858 donor-dollars, or just over $103,000 every single day. This is why Mr. Potok, who is a public relations guy and not an attorney, received an annual compensation package in excess of $163,000 last year.
It makes no difference if Mr. Potok designates 800, 900 or 1,200 “hate groups” in a given year. His gullible donors will swallow any line he feeds them and Media will never say a word.