Posts Tagged ‘fund raising’

SPLC — Mark Potok Interview

July 14, 2014

Recently, we discovered an extensive interview on the Internet Archive with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s public relations chief, Mark Potok, in which he discusses the origins of the SPLC, its mission and its tactics. You can find the audio files to the interview here.

We’d like to highlight some of Mr. Potok’s more interesting comments, but, as always, we remind the reader to not  simply take our word for it. Any time you select excerpts from a larger work you run the risk of cherry-picking, or taking things out of context, and we’re certainly not professional transcriptionists here at Watching the Watchdogs. Listen to the interview and come to your own conclusions.

As to the origins of the interview, it was recorded and posted on the Internet Archive by Bill Holiday, a high school teacher from Vermont. A number of students, and at least one other teacher, are asking Mr. Potok questions about his work. The interview apparently takes place at the SPLC’s Montgomery headquarters, and several references in the conversation seem to date it to the first half of 2008.

In Track One, Mr. Potok explains the origins of the name of the organization:

“In the 70’s… “poverty law” was actually the phrase… it was a phrase used that just applied to… essentially… civil rights law… to kind of human rights legal actions.”

“I know a couple years ago there was a big discussion internally [at the SPLC], ‘Should we change our name to something else?’ People think, you know, that it’s all about, sort of, defending poor people, and that’s not really, exactly what our mission is. By that time, people knew the name so well that, you know, we made, I think, the obviously right decision not to change the name.”

“People think, you know, that it’s all about, sort of, defending poor people, and that’s not really, exactly what our mission is.” Interesting. One wonders how many donors are under the impression that a “poverty law center” might actually be in the business of defending poor people, no? Why change the name just because the mission changed? You don’t just toss out a multimillion dollar brand name for the sake of accuracy. More on this to follow.

Track Two includes an astonishingly candid assessment of how some critics view the SPLC:

“I think a lot of people feel, ‘Oh, groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, they find, you know, the two hundred Nazis running around the country, they build them up into great big groups, they make a big deal about it and then ask for your money,’ right? In other words, it’s kind of a scam. You hype up this little tiny threat into something scary, uh, and then go and try to make money off of it.”

Well, Mr. Potok, you took the words right out of our mouth. Since 2009, Watching the Watchdogs has been documenting exactly this kind of behavior by the SPLC, and you have summed things up nicely. We have reported numerous times on the fact that there is no legal definition of “hate group,” and that you pretty much make them up as you go along.

Your “Hate Map” fundraising tool includes hundreds of alleged “hate groups,” (again, per your own definition), but you provide no information on these groups that researchers could use to verify their existence. In fact, you couldn’t even bother to make up locations for more than 200 of them. In 2012, you added 20 chapters of something called the “Georgia Militia” to that state’s “hate map,” but you couldn’t locate 18 of them!

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And the “Hate Map” is the keystone to all SPLC fundraising, Mr. Potok. You promote it widely in the Media as being factual and accurate, even after admitting directly to Watching the Watchdogs that your numbers are “anecdotal,” “a very rough measure” and the result of “an imperfect process.”

The donors believe your numbers, Mr. Potok, and that’s why they sent you nearly $37 million donor-dollars last year, and that figure does not include the nearly $36 million dollars in tax-free interest generated by the $281 MILLION in cash in the SPLC’s bloated “Morris Dees Legacy Fund.”

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And so, Mr. Potok, you really do hype up these minor threats, provide absolutely no documentation for your claims and then very successfully make a lot of money from it. I believe the term you used was “scam.” What would you call it?

In Track Five, Mark Potok relates the details of an event where a Klansman named Jeff Berry gives an interview to a news crew, then, thinking better of it, demands the tape of the interview from the crew at shotgun-point. Potok says the police did nothing in response to the reporter’s complaint and then makes an insensitive joke about gang rape.

“About a year later… well, we sued very quickly… well, it was shortly after that, and we easily won a judgment against Berry. You know, this was absolutely false imprisonment, right? I mean, it was a felony crime.”

A felony crime, Mr. Potok? Just for holding someone at shotgun-point? Oddly enough, On page 101 of his 1991 autobiography, A Season for Justice,  your boss, SPLC founder Morris Dees, writes with great relish about holding a man at shotgun-point. He even makes a little joke about it at the end.

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Was this not a felony crime too, Mr. Potok? Was this not also false imprisonment? Or are you willing to overlook the crime because the felonious perp signs your $3,000 dollar-a-week paychecks? Just a modicum of consistency would be SOOOO welcome here, Mr. Potok.

In Track Eight, Potok discusses what he labels “Nativist Extremist” groups and their failure to resort to traditional political means to achieve their objectives.

“These are groups that don’t merely say… that don’t target the policy… In other words, they don’t simply say ‘Immigration should be lower… because of whatever reason,’ right? ‘It’s bad for the economy or the environment or, you know, whatever… depresses wages in this country, therefore we’re going to write our congressmen or hold a rally or a parade or whatever.’ In other words, you know, engage in some kind of democratic action, right? Some kind of effort, you know, to have laws changed or whatever it is.”

The irony here, as we’ve pointed out time after time, is that while Mr. Potok denigrates these groups for allegedly not engaging in “some kind of democratic action,” the legend on his “Hate Map” fundraising tool clearly states that:

  “Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.”

 While we continue to be amazed that a so-called “civil rights group” would deliberately conflate six of the most fundamental democratic civil rights with “criminal acts” and “hate group activities,” here we find Mr. Potok damning people both for participating and allegedly not participating in these activities. No contradictions there, Mr. Potok.

Track Nine covers the SPLC’s criteria for designating its “hate group” brand name:

“Our criteria for a “hate group,” first of all, have nothing to do with criminality, or violence, or any kind of guess we’re making about ‘this group could be dangerous.’ It’s strictly ideological. So we look at a group and we say, ‘Does this group, in its platform statements, or the speeches of its leader or leaders… Does this group say that a whole group of people, by virtue of their group characteristics, is somehow less?’”

“It’s strictly ideological.” No crime, no violence, just “wrong thinking.” Even the most rudimentary reading of SPLC fundraising materials and press releases, (redundant, we know..), finds repeated examples of you lumping conservatives and Christians as part of a diabolical “radical right” and anyone who believes that this nation’s existing immigration laws should be enforced and respected is immediately smeared as a “nativist.”

Labeling and name-calling are one of the eight central pillars of the propagandists’ stock and trade, Mr. Potok, and you have mastered them all. 

And the suckers sent him over $100,000 dollars a day last year, every day. No wonder he doesn’t want to change the name of the company. “Civil rights” doesn’t get any better than this.

A slightly longer quote from Track Ten, but it really is telling:

“Let me just say one other thing while I’m thinking about things to say. A lot of our criticism… let me think about how to say this… If there were just… if these groups just operated on the margins of the margins of society and ran around saying, you know, ‘We should kill all the Jews, we should kill all the gay people,’ and that was sort of all there was to it, yes, they would be scary in the sense that, every so often one of them goes off and kills somebody, but, you know, but would it really be a huge or serious threat to the society? I think obviously not, right?

I mean, first of all, it’s not a message that flies very far…’Let’s kill all the Jews. Let’s, you know, build new gas chambers,’ or whatever. But the reality is, and especially since the immigration debate has become sort of the centerpiece of their world, is that their propaganda is getting out way beyond their little fringe world.”

“[W]ould it really be a huge or serious threat to the society? I think obviously not, right?” On this point, Mr. Potok, we can agree. We may find many of the messages produced by some of these groups to be patently offensive and despicable. The problem arises when self-appointed vigilantes like you and the SPLC come along and decide who gets to speak, based on your own extremely nebulous criteria.

Once you start abrogating the civil rights of one group simply because you don’t like what they have to say, it’s only a matter of time before all groups are threatened by this same lynch-mob mentality.

As for the nature of the threats these alleged groups pose, Mr. Potok, please remember that not very long after you gave this interview in your office you made the following statements:

“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.” (October 30, 2008, NPR.org,  Assessing White Supremacist Groups in the US)

“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 speaking of ideology, Mr. Potok, if your goal in life was simply to debate those people with whom you disagree, it would be one thing. But to rake in tens of millions of dollars a year in the process of stifling any discussion whatsoever is dubious, at best.

Potok continues:

“I think our more major concern has been, especially recently, is how this propaganda has been put into the mainstream and is now treated like fact.”

 

 And this, Mr. Potok, is precisely how your “Hate Map” and other fundraising propaganda work. You broadcast these spurious claims to the donors and the media, and everyone takes you at your word. Few, if any, will perform even the most rudimentary fact checks, not that you provide much for them to actually check.

Track Twelve deals with the origins of the SPLC and its mission; at least in the good old days:

“It started with two lawyers, Morris Dees and Joe Levin, and they came from here [Montgomery] and that’s why we’re here, and they are still… here. So, you know, it was a very, very small non-profit law firm and it did some of that… yes… defending people who were accused… black people who were accused of things they hadn’t done, and so on.

But, you know, the cases tended to be… I mean, they were classic civil rights cases. In one of our early cases, had as a tactic, we sued the Alabama Highway Patrol, right, the State Police here because it was a 100% lily-white police force. You can imagine what the thinking on that is, right, I mean it’s a bad thing in a society that is not all-white to have the people with guns be all white, right? I mean, I think it just makes it obvious to society who’s running the show and, you know, what’s behind it.”

“I mean it’s a bad thing in a society that is not all-white to have the people with guns be all white, right? I mean, I think it just makes it obvious to society who’s running the show and, you know, what’s behind it.”

And we agree with you wholeheartedly once again, Mr. Potok. It IS a bad thing when an organization that purports to serve a diverse population is run by all whites, especially in Montgomery, Alabama, the birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement. It really does send a message.

That being said, this year, once again, Watching the Watchdogs pointed out that for the 43rd consecutive year, the top leadership of your organization is as “lily-white,” to use your phrase, as it was on the day that Dees and Levin opened for business in 1971.

“So, it was very important to the lawyers here to desegregate the Alabama Highway Patrol, and in fact they won, like, a very important judgment that… they’re… I don’t know if this is still true, but at least a couple of years ago they were the most integrated police force in America. Right here in Alabama… twenty-five percent… which is, you know, something.”

Wouldn’t it be “something” if the SPLC’s Executive Suite was integrated and twenty-five percent of its highly paid top executives were from diverse backgrounds? Mr. Potok, just how thinly do you think we can spread the term “ironic” before it rightly morphs into “hypocritical”?

“I don’t know if that answered your question. We did a lot of different kind of cases that were all over the, kind of, civil rights map. There was a lot of death penalty defense work done here in the early years. We don’t do that, really, any more, because, basically, a lot of other lawyers got good at it and now do that work.”

“We don’t do that, really, any more, because, basically, a lot of other lawyers got good at it and now do that work.” That’s a rather dubious explanation, Mr. Potok. If anything, genuine civil rights groups like the Innocence Project, which actually do work with the poor, and on a fraction of your bloated budget, have demonstrated that the need for this kind of legal work has never been greater.

If you are no longer in the poverty law business, you really need to change the name of your company and just be honest with your donors.

And finally, from Track 13, Mr. Potok cuts to the chase and lays out what his company’s agenda really is:

“We see this political struggle, right? And it’s very different from what Teaching Tolerance does, right? I mean, we’re not trying to change anybody’s mind. We’re trying to wreck the groups, and we are very clear in our head, this is… we are trying to destroy them. Not to send them to prison unfairly or not take their free speech rights away… but as a political matter, to destroy them. And the way we learned to do it, I think personally is cool, is we use facts, and when we use their own facts… So, often, the battle is to make it stick, right?”

“We see this as a political struggle, right?” If that’s the case, Mr. Potok, and the SPLC is little more than another PAC, then stop hiding behind the sham that your company is somehow a civil rights organization. It’s doubtful your donations will decline, and they may even increase.

“I mean, we’re not trying to change anybody’s mind. We’re trying to wreck the groups, and we are very clear in our head, this is… we are trying to destroy them.”

So, Mr. Potok, you’ve already stated that the SPLC isn’t interested in criminality or potential for violence, it is, as you say, “all about ideology,” and yet you have the gall to claim that you’re not trying to take their free speech rights away?

If it’s all about ideology, Mr. Potok, and these groups aren’t advocating crime or violence, then isn’t what they’re saying, regardless of how offensive many people may find it, protected free speech? And yet, you’re dying to “destroy” them?

These groups aren’t breaking any laws, but you want to silence them because you don’t like what they say. Isn’t that textbook vigilantism, Mr. Potok? Taking the law into your own hands because you don’t like the way the democratic system works?

You said the exact same thing in 2007 at a luncheon in Michigan, in this grainy video. The crowd laughed and cheered. They’re all psychopaths, you said, and you can’t wait to “destroy” them.

 

“And the way we learned to do it, I think personally is cool, is we use facts, and when we use their own facts… So, often, the battle is to make it stick, right?”

Well, Mr. Potok, we cannot agree more about the efficacy of that technique. Watching the Watchdogs will continue to “track” your company, making meticulous notes of your comments, press releases and financial statements and report them to the public at large.

Unlike your office, though, we will continue to cite all of our sources and we will not take a dime for our efforts… as opposed to the nearly $2,000,000 donor-dollars you’ve earned for your efforts since 2001.

And rather than lead our readers to preconceived conclusions, which is, after all, the textbook definition of propaganda and the basis of your position at the SPLC, Mr. Potok, we will continue to urge people to look at the documentation for themselves and come to their own conclusions.

We’ll keep putting the evidence out there in the hope that someday we can make it “stick.”

SPLC 2014 — The “Hate Group” Bubble Pops!

March 9, 2014

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]

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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.

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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):

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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.

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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%.

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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:

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White Nationalists:

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And more Racist Skinheads than you can imagine:

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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:

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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:

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Mr. Wilcox even did something unthinkable, by Mr. Potok’s standards: He documented Progressive and left-wing groups as well as the Radical Right:

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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.

SPLC 2013 — Another Year of Record “Non-Profits”

February 24, 2014

Spring is in the air which means that the Southern Poverty Law Center is releasing its financial numbers for the previous year. This year is no exception and the first reports out of this venerable “non-profit” indicate that… wait for it… business has never been better.

According to the SPLC’s own bookkeepers, the SPLC’s bloated “Endowment Fund,” aka “The Morris Dees Legacy Fund” earned nearly $36 MILLION in tax-free interest in 2013. Don’t take our word for it. You do the math:

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Here, let’s do the math together:

   $281,123,473
-  $245,280,476
     $35,842,997

Let’s not be coy here, $35.8 MILLION is a sweet chunk o’ change for any outfit, especially for an alleged “non-profit.” This number does not include the $36,765,041 in tax-free donations the SPLC took in from well-meaning donors last year (roughly $4,200 every hour). In fact, last year’s $35.8 million is almost double what the bloated “legacy fund” generated in 2012.

So what exactly is the purpose of the “legacy fund”? According to the SPLC’s annual report, “The SPLC builds for the future by setting aside a certain amount of its income for an endowment, a practice begun in 1974 to plan for the day when nonprofits like the SPLC can no longer afford to solicit support through the mail because of rising postage and printing costs.”

Got that? The “legacy fund” was created to offset the costs of printing and mailing fundraising materials. Let’s take a closer look at those costs. First off, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that the advent of the Internet and email has greatly reduced the cost of sending a message to potential donors. Just ask the nearly-bankrupt U.S. Postal Service.

Next, let’s look at just how much of the SPLC’s annual budget goes toward fundraising. According to CharityNavigator.org, the white millionaires who run the SPLC spend about 31% of their annual budget on fundraising. For you donors, that means that for every $100 dollar check you send the SPLC, they spend $31 dollars getting you to send the next hundred dollar check.

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Click image to enlarge (Source: Charity Navigator)

For 2013, that 31% came to $12,379,629. Over all, the SPLC reports that its operating costs for 2013 were $39,678,300.

Subtract the SPLC’s fundraising costs from that and it cost them $27,298,671 to keep the doors open in 2013.

Subtract that $27 million from the $35.8 MILLION in interest the SPLC’s bloated “legacy fund” generated in 2013 and you’re left with a “non-profit” of $8,544,326.

If the purpose of the “legacy fund” is to generate funds in excess of annual operating costs it has achieved it’s goal in spades.

But the fundraising continues.

In 1995, SPLC founder Morris Dees promised his donors:

“The Law Center will continue to raise money until it reaches $100 million, Mr. Dees said.  The charity could then operate off the interest from investments.  “We believe that will make it so we won’t have to (stay) in this tough business of raising money to keep our programs going,” Mr. Dees said in a recent speech to a Montgomery civic club. In the meantime, Mr. Dees said he must raise money for current operating costs.”

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In 2002, the SPLC’s “Endowment Fund” neared the $100 million mark, but the fundraising continued. By 2007, the fund had topped $200 million, but the fundraising continued. In fact, Mr. Dees has spent the last few years hiring several high-priced fundraising professionalsto join our growing major gifts team.”

Mr. Dees  obviously has no intention of “living off the interest.” In 2013, the SPLC hired a new “Planned Giving Officer” tasked with the ghoulish job of getting the nearly-dead to sign over some of their assets to the SPLC. No wonder Mr. Dees calls it his “legacy fund.”

That same year, Mr. Dees advertised for a “Development Associate,” whose “primary job functions” included:

“Provides friendly and courteous customer service to SPLC’s best donors”

Really? Some SPLC donors are better than others? Those are Mr. Dees words, not ours. Our guess is your puny 3- and 4-digit donor checks don’t quite gain you access to the Winner’s Circle. What is it the guy said about “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth?”

It sure seems like Mr. Dees has every intention of staying in the “tough business” of gulling the gullible no matter how many tax-free millions his “legacy fund” generates.

Think about that the next time you cut a check to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Your donor dollars could do a whole lot more good closer to home. Do the math. We did.

SPLC — Anatomy of a Marketing Ploy

January 26, 2014

As mentioned in an previous post, the master fundraisers at the Southern Poverty Law Center have targeted the LGBT community in their latest marketing scheme. A little digging, very little digging, reveals just how flimsy this campaign really is from the get-go.

Visit the SPLC’s homepage and click on the “LGBT Rights” link on the left.

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The LGBT Rights page makes the following claim: “Our work on LGBT issues spans decades.” Really?

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If the SPLC has been fighting the good fight for the LGBT community “for decades,” why did they not even have an LGBT Rights page until 2011? Certainly there must be dozens of important LGBT cases to which the SPLC can point with pride.

Fortunately, the SPLC keeps a meticulous list of all of their court cases which one can access easily from their home page.

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They even provide a handy drop-down menu that sorts the cases by type.

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Sorting by LGBT Rights returns a total of 8 cases, which seems rather skimpy for a civil rights law firm that has been in business for nearly 43 years. Scrolling down to the oldest case, Hoffburg v. Alexander, we do indeed find that this case goes all the way back to 1980. Hoffburg, it turns out, wasn’t even the SPLC’s own case. It was an appeal filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Glancing up, however, we find that the next time the SPLC went to bat for the LGBT community was in 2011!

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Apparently, there were no cases of anti-LGBT civil rights violations worthy of the great institution’s note for 31 years!

In this case, the SPLC threatened to sue a high school if it didn’t allow two female students to march in a pep rally as the school’s Snow King and Queen. Fighting the good fight doesn’t come much harder than that.

Scrolling up the list, we find that it was only a few months after the pep rally case that the SPLC threatened to sue the same school district.

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The SPLC claims it was contesting a “gag policy” that prevented teachers from discussing LGBT issues in the classroom. The actual policy read that teachers could discuss LGBT issues at an age appropriate level, if the subject was germane to the class work and remained entirely neutral on the subject, neither endorsing or denigrating it.

Neutrality wasn’t good enough for the civil rights center, and so, having as much spare cash on hand as any other public school system facing a multimillion dollar law firm, Anoka-Hennepin simply gave in. Another hard fought legal battle that never went to court.

Higher up the list, we find Hill v. Public Advocate, the simple copyright infringement case of a New Jersey gay couple whose engagement photo was used in a Colorado political flier without their permission, or that of their photographer, who holds the copyright. None of the plaintiffs are indigent, the case is being handled by one of the premier intellectual property law firms in the business and the term “civil rights” never appears once in the complaint.

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Soon after Hill, the SPLC jumped on another non-civil rights case, Ferguson v. JONAH. In this case, a group of gay Jewish men in New York City are suing an organization that promised to “cure” their homosexuality.

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This is a classic fraud suit, no different than thousands of similar suits filed every day, and the case is being brought forward by one of the best fraud law firms in NYC, none of the plaintiffs are poor and, once again, the term “civil rights” never appears once in the actual complaint.

If there are no civil rights issues in these otherwise cut-and-dried civil suits that are being handled by some of the best lawyers in the business, what exactly does the SPLC bring to the table?

In a word: Publicity.

In return for this free publicity, the SPLC’s master Public Relations Guru, Mark Potok, can claim that his outfit is out there fighting for gay rights.

The most recent case, as of this writing and described in a previous post, is a perfect example of Mr. Potok’s cynical marketing ploy.

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In this case, Mr. Potok and Co. are suing a poor, mostly Black junior high school where a 16-year old 8th grader named Destin Holmes claims she was verbally and mentally abused because she is a self-described lesbian.

Let’s be crystal clear here, nobody, in any of these cases, deserves to be subjected to any form of discrimination by anyone at any time or any place. Those of us who have been through junior high are still all too well aware of the juvenile stupidity that goes on in those institutions, by both the students and the staff, and that in no way explains or justifies it.

Obviously, this is a bad situation that demands immediate investigation, but is bringing a federal law suit against one of the poorest performing schools in one of the poorest performing states the best way to fix the system?

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Or is it little more than another classic Potok-ian publicity stunt?

Ironically, the complaint against Magnolia Junior High makes no mention of the fact that, while 78% of the student body is non-white, and both the principal and assistant principal, who have been named as defendants, are African American, Ms. Holmes is white.

Can anyone imagine the SPLC overlooking those facts if the races were reversed?

Again, no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, but when you look the SPLC’s paltry LGBT cases, almost all of which only date back to 2011, how much bang are the donors getting for their donor bucks?

There was one major anti-gay organization that appeared to have flown below the SPLC’s radar for over a decade. In 2000, the Boy Scouts of America went to the U.S. Supreme court to protect their right to actively discriminate against gay Scouts and Scout Leaders (Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale), something it had done since its inception in 1910.

In 2002, the BSA issued a press release reaffirming its belief that “an avowed homosexual” lacked the “moral character” to be a Scout or Leader.

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The Southern Poverty Law center completely ignored this blatant anti-gay discrimination for over a decade. You will find no mention of the BSA’s discrimination on the SPLC’s web site until 2012, and, even then, that has to be possibly the most tepid response to a genuine “hate-group” in the SPLC’s entire history.

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SPLC co-founder Joe Levin was wheeled out of retirement to announce that “Twelve years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center stopped participating in the Montgomery, Ala., United Way Campaign because the organization chose to fund the Boy Scouts of America.”

That was it? One of the “largest youth-serving organizations in America,” whose primary mission is to build the characters and mold the minds of millions of American boys, actively discriminates against gay men and boys for a century, and the best the SPLC, that bastion of LGBT rights, can come up with is to stop donating to the United Way and say absolutely nothing about it for twelve years??

But wait… it gets even better… Joe Levin continues:

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“DOESN’T INTEND TO ENCOURAGE BIGOTRY”??? Mr. Levin, the BSA took its case to the Supreme Court of the United States precisely to preserve its perceived right to discriminate. It doesn’t get any more intentional than the US Supreme Court!

Notice the softball language Mr. Levin uses when dancing around the hard facts: “Embraces anti-LGBT prejudice” and “Doesn’t intend to encourage bigotry.” Where is the SPLC’s patented “Hate Group” brand? The term never even appears in Mr. Levin’s pathetic apologia. Where was the SPLC’s multimillion dollar public relations machine for all those years? Can you imagine the pressure that could have been brought to bear against the BSA’s blatant discrimination?

[Update: On May 15, 2014, Joe Levin explained to MSNBC why the SPLC still doesn't designate the Boy Scouts as a "hate group":

“We don’t list the Boy Scouts (as a hate group,)” said Levin. “We only do that if we have a group that’s propagating known falsehoods associated with a particular person or group – in this case, the LGBT community. The Boy Scouts haven’t really done that.”

Of course not, Joe. Apparently, the BSA simply smeared all gays as immoral by accident.]

As it turns out, the BSA did reverse itself on its gay Scout policy effective Jan. 1, 2014. That decision was made based entirely on the protracted negative publicity campaign carried on by dozens of real LGBT support groups and major media outlets. The BSA’s Supreme Court decision still stands, but they finally gave in when public opinion turned on them and said that enough was enough. It was a movement in which the Southern Poverty Law Center’s role was precisely and exactly nothing.

And yet the SPLC has been fighting for LGBT rights “for decades,” right?

Well, not so much. Thanks to the magic of the Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine,” anyone can wander back in time to view millions of websites as they appeared in the past, going back to the year 2000. It can be slow, and sometimes cantankerous, but it’s always free and a little patience can pay off big dividends.

In 2009, the SPLC issued a downloadable version of its latest “Hate Map” fundraising tool (Note: the “Hate Map” always reflects the previous calendar year):

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A closer look at the icon key reveals an astonishing fact. There were no anti-LGBT “hate groups” as late as 2009. Not one.

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In fact, the first anti-LGBT “hate groups” do not appear on Mr. Potok’s all-encompassing “Hate Map” until 2011, forty years after the SPLC opened for business.

Furthermore, while the Hoffburg case appears chronologically on the latest version of the SPLC’s case docket list, right between Brown and Wilkins

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Thanks to the Wayback Machine, we find Ms. Hoffburg’s case, the case that allows the SPLC to crow that its “work on LGBT issues spans decades” is conspicuously absent from the 2010 case docket!

2010 Case Docket

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Hoffburg never made the case docket list in more than 40 years because the SPLC didn’t even consider it worthwhile.

Once the white millionaires who run the SPLC decided to target the LGBT community though, Mr. Potok had to come up with something to show that they had not totally ignored the issue since opening shop in 1971. Hoffburg wasn’t much, but no one in the media will follow the simple steps outlined in this post, so no one would ever know the difference.

Well-meaning donors sent Mr. Potok more than $40 million donor dollars in 2012 because they believe him when he cries “hate group” and they believe him when he says how dedicated the SPLC has been to fighting anti-LGBT discrimination “for decades.” As usual, some simple, primary fact-checking of the SPLC’s own documents proves, once again, that Mr. Potok’s claims are meaningless.

Yet again, nobody should suffer discrimination due to their orientation, and any effort is better than none, but suing poor public school districts over pep rallies and yearbook pictures is pretty low-hanging fruit for an alleged “civil rights” law firm with nearly a quarter-billion dollars in cash on hand.

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If you want to contribute to a non-profit that has truly been in the fight against LGBT discrimination you need only do a little homework and ignore Mark Potok’s latest fundraising ploy.

SPLC — More LGBT Pandering

December 19, 2013

As the Southern Poverty Law Center’s traditional donor base grows older and fewer people buy into the SPLC’s perennial “hate group” hype, the fundraisers in Montgomery have set their sights on a younger, often-Progressive and often-affluent LGBT demographic.

Earlier this year, Watching the Watchdogs noted how the SPLC was involved in two ham-fisted publicity stunts featuring LGBT plaintiffs in New York and New Jersey.

One case was a simple copyright infringement case where a political group in Colorado used a gay couple’s engagement photo in its literature without permission from the couple or the photographer, who holds the copyright to the photo.

The other case involved former clients of counseling outfit that promised Jewish men that it could “cure” them of their homosexuality. Basically, a cut-and-dried malpractice suit.

In both cases, the plaintiffs were not indigent and the actual cases were being handled by two of the top copyright and malpractice law firms in the NYC area. The term “civil rights” does not appear in either complaint filed by the SPLC, which is not even licensed to practice law in either state.

All the SPLC brings to those cases is publicity, and they will spin that publicity into donor-gold by the hands of their long-time Public Relations guru, Mark Potok.

This week’s court filing continues the SPLC’s newest fundraising scheme, pandering to the LGBT community, as well as one its older favorites, suing impoverished school districts in the Deep South.

Pretty low-hanging fruit for one of the nation’s “leading civil rights organizations,” but the media, and therefore the donors, will lap it up, as usual.

On December 17, 2013, the SPLC filed a law suit against Magnolia Junior High and the Moss Point School District on behalf of Destin Holmes, a 17-year-old, self-described lesbian who claims she was bullied and harassed by students and staff at the school “on account of her gender expression and sexual orientation.”

Obviously, nobody deserves to be bullied or harassed for any reason in any setting, and just as obviously, nearly everybody DOES get bullied and harassed in the special corner of Hell known as junior high. That in no way makes Ms. Holmes’ ordeal any less painful, but it should be considered in order to keep the case in perspective.

Ms. Holmes states that she was harassed every day by students, faculty and even administrators, who would call her names like “dyke,” “dyke-ass freak” and “lesbian” and make comments about her clothing. It also did not help that Ms. Holmes was 15 or 16 when she began her 8th grade year, making her stand out even more.

Again, nobody should ever be bullied, but as junior high school fare goes, is this really a job for a multimillion-dollar law firm with more than a quarter-billion dollars in cash on-hand?

Magnolia Junior High School is typical of the kind of target the SPLC prefers to go after: Southern and impoverished.

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Interestingly, the SPLC is making no mention of the fact that Ms. Holmes is white, while the majority of her classmates, the assistant principal and principal, LaJuna and Durand Payton, (both of whom are named in the complaint as making repeated homophobic slurs against Ms. Holmes), are black.

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Can anyone seriously imagine the SPLC ignoring this fact if the races were reversed?

The law suit is already buzzing around the Blogosphere and is getting big press in the LGBT media, its intended audience. No doubt Mr. Potok is rubbing his hands in anticipation of yet another record donation year, one that will top the $40 million tax-free donor-dollars he ballyhooed last year.

Hopefully, the LGBT community will be savvy enough to figure out that it is being carefully targeted by the white millionaires who run the SPLC.

In the end, the school district will concede defeat. Scarce budget dollars will be reallocated to create sensitivity training for everyone and who knows, it may actually turn junior high students into rational human beings. It could happen.

Again, nobody should be bullied or harassed. We wish Ms. Holmes the best in her freshman year at high school, another teenage milestone that has never been known for its humanity.

SPLC – The Gospel According to Mark (Potok)

May 14, 2013

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s public relations chief, Mark Potok, is a paid spokesman whose primary function is to perpetuate the SPLC’s decades-long fear campaign in the Media. The SPLC gave Mr. Potok a $10,000 dollar raise in 2012, bringing his compensation package to $162,000 a year because of his great skill at convincing their mostly elderly donor base that “hate groups” were everywhere.

Potok is the Media’s “go-to” guy on “hate,” despite the fact that he has no legal or law enforcement experience, and so Mr. Potok spends a lot of his time giving his repetitious “hate” spiel, but every so often the “Senior Fellow” forgets to follow the “hate groups are everywhere!” script and it’s always informative to hear what he really thinks.

Most recently, as of this writing, Mr. Potok made an astounding admission to CNN  that nearly mirrors what Watching the Watchdogs has been telling readers for years about the SPLC’s lucrative “hate group” marketing tool:

“Mark Potok,  a center spokesman, says there’s no shared definition of what constitutes hate speech.

“There is no legal meaning. It’s just a phrase,” Potok says. “Hate speech is in the ear of the beholder.”
(May 5, 2013, CNN.com, “When Christians become a ‘hated minority‘”)

Mr. Potok, there’s no shared definition of a “hate group” either. No legal meaning. It’s just a phrase. A “hate group” is entirely in the eye of the beholder (or marketer).

And because the SPLC is the sole arbiter of the “hate group” label, a “hate group” is whatever they say it is and they can designate as many as they want for fundraising purposes. The SPLC receives no external review or oversight and the Media makes no attempt whatsoever to vet Mr. Potok’s claims.

And what exactly are Mr. Potok’s exacting standards when it comes to applying the lucrative “hate group” stamp of disapproval? According to Mark Potok:

“…a “hate group” has nothing to do with criminality… [or] potential for violence…” Rather, as Potok put it, “It’s all about ideology.”

Futhermore:

“Listing here does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.” (SPLC “Hate Map” legend, http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/hate-map)

No crime, no violence, just “wrong thinking.”  Potok further claims that:

“All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” (SPLC “Hate Map” legend, http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/hate-map)

Since Mr. Potok has already ruled out crime and violence, which would immediately be considered hate crimes and rightly turned over to the police, all of these malignant “attacks” must then be considered “hate speech,” which Mr. Potok so elegantly defined above.

Get the picture?

Potok also admits that even the FBI cannot monitor “hate group” based solely on their ideology (but somehow his private fundraising company can?):

“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)

Despite Potok’s feckless disclaimer that being listed on his “Hate Map” tool in no way implies violence or criminality, that is precisely what the map is intended to do . That’s why Mr. Potok created it in the first place. The “Hate Map” is a branding tool, in both the marketing and social senses of the term.

Much like Hawthorne’s scarlet A, Mr. Potok’s scarlet H is designed solely to demonize, dehumanize and stigmatize its targets, effectively stifling all discussion or debate. Who would want to talk to a hate group, after all?

So, if these people aren’t out there breaking laws left and right, what exactly are they doing to earn the “hate group” label?:

“Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.” (SPLC “Hate Map” legend, http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/hate-map)

Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere! Marches, speeches, meetings, publishing… there are laws regarding such things!:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (First of ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, a.k.a. The Bill of Rights)

Is it really right for an alleged “civil rights group” to deliberately conflate six of the most fundamental, Constitutionally protected civil rights with “criminal acts” and “hate group activities”?

If these groups are exercising their legal rights to Free Speech, regardless of how distasteful some may find that speech, what would you call someone who arbitrarily interprets the Laws of the Land by his own subjective standards?

Vigilante: noun : a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily (as when the processes of law are viewed as inadequate); broadly : a self-appointed doer of justice. (www.merriam-webster.com)

That pretty much sums up the SPLC’s M.O. in a nutshell. Too bad the IRS didn’t take a hint from the Feds…

Maybe Senior Fellow Potok knows things the rest of us do not? After all, the SPLC has paid the man more than $2,000,000 dollars since 2000 for his expertise, right?:

“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)

Well, okay, Mr. Potok’s Intelligence Report is based on second- and third-hand information, informants and hearsay, but at least he must have a solid handle on how many people are involved in these nefarious “hate groups,” no?:

“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,” eh? Hmmm. Mr. Potok claims there were 602 “hate groups” in the US in 2000, so that averages out to about 166 haters per group. That sounds a bit high to us. Would you care to qualify your estimate, Mr. P.?:

[Update, June 19, 2013: An article published in the Charleston (WV) Gazette dated March 5, 2013, quotes Mr. Potok claiming that "There could be 200,000 to 300,000 people involved in hate groups today." Given that Mr. Potok has designated just over 1,000 "hate groups" for 2012, that works out to 200 to 300 "haters" per group. Really...]

“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)

“Infinitesimal”?? How much is that in more monosyllabic terms?:

in·fin·i·tes·i·mal

adjective

1.indefinitely or exceedingly small; minute: 
2.immeasurably small; less than an assignable quantity: to an infinitesimal degree.
(www.dictionary.com)

Well, in all fairness, Mr. Potok made his “infinitesimal” estimate back in 1999 when he was still new on the job. Surely his powers of prognostication have improved with time:

“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)

The groups may be small? With over a hundred members each? How many members comprise a group, Mr. Potok? Especially a “hate group”?:

“Potok says inclusion on the list might come from a minor presence, such as a post office box.” (www.sanluisobispo.com, March 25, 2009)

When Watching the Watchdogs had the opportunity in 2011 to ask Mr. Potok directly about the accuracy of his “hate group” numbers, on camera, the Senior Fellow was amazingly candid in admitting that his figures were “anecdotal,” “an imperfect process” and “a very rough estimate.”

Too bad the tens of thousands of suckers who sent the SPLC $40 million donor-dollars last year, based on Potok’s “hate group” numbers, didn’t realize the fellow was merely guessing. Well, no harm done, we suppose.

The important thing to remember is that even though Mr. Potok assigned his “hate group” label to people who were breaking no laws, and, even though he’s not especially concerned over just exactly how many people (or P.O. boxes) make up a “group,” we can all rest assured that “hate groups” are the biggest threat to domestic tranquility today:

“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.” (October 30, 2008, NPR.org,  Assessing White Supremacist Groups in the US)

“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)

Well Mr. Potok, if “lone wolves” and individuals are the ones committing all these alleged hate crimes and acts of domestic terrorism, why do you focus solely on law abiding “hate groups”?? Why not just publish the names and addresses of these “lone wolves” in your next Intelligence Report and be done with it? It’s not like you don’t have enough third-hand gossip and self-appointed vigilante informants on the ground to get the information, right?

At the end of the day, Mr. Potok and his SPLC have no more power to identify the next mentally ill individuals to go on a murder spree than you do. That’s not the point of the exercise, however. Mr. Potok’s job is to perpetuate his endless fear campaign and convince his mostly-elderly, mostly-Progressive donor base to send him more money. They sent him more than $4,500 dollars every single hour last year and it did nothing to prevent Sandy Hook or Aurora, but it did contribute directly to a crazed “lone wolf” who used Mr. Potok’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool to select the target for his botched shooting spree at the Family Research Council.

These facts, these numbers, Mr. Potok’s own public contradictions will do little to dissuade the SPLC’s donors, because the Master Public Relations man knows how to play the con to the hilt. In a 2007 speech to an “anti-hate” group in Michigan, Mark Potok laid out his personal thoughts on these “wrong thinkers” and his views on their fundamental humanity and civil rights:

“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.”

The only thing more chilling than the sneering way in which Mark Potok deliberately dehumanizes people who are exercizing their Constitutional rights is the roar of laughter and thunderous applause it drew from the tolerant, inclusive and progressive “anti-haters.”

All facts to the contrary be damned, they came to hear what they wanted to hear… the Gospel according to Mark.

SPLC — 2013 — “The New Hate Map is Here!”

March 13, 2013

Watching the Watchdogs readers of a certain age may remember actor Steve Martin’s 1979 debut film, The Jerk. In one memorable scene, Martin’s character, the naive country boy, Navin Johnson, is ecstatic to find his name listed in the local telephone directory.

“The new phone book is here! The new phone book is here!!” shouts Navin, as he wildly leaps and prances about. Navin’s boss, played by deadpan comic Jackie Mason, observes, “I wish I could get that excited about nothin’.”

Navin counters breathlessly, “I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this thing every day! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity… your name in print… that makes people!!”

The parallels between this classic comedy scene and the latest iteration of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual “Hate Map” are manifold: Spontaneous publicity. Your name in print. Millions of naive people looking at this thing and getting excited about nothin’.

For the benefit of new Watching the Watchdogs readers, let’s take a moment to recap the key facts about the Hate Map that need to be understood before delving into what is, to borrow a phrase from another classic comedy, ” … a show about nothing.”

1. The Hate Map is compiled each year by the SPLC’s master Public Relations chief, Mark Potok, and purports to identify the number of “hate groups” across America on a state-by-state basis. Mr. Potok’s maps always refer to the previous calendar year.

2. There is no legal definition for “hate group,” which is why even the FBI does not, cannot, designate “hate groups,” yet somehow a private fundraising outfit can?

Mr. Potok has no legal or law enforcement background and admits that all of his data are second hand, at best, and that his infamous Hate Map “does not include original reporting by SPLC staff.” The SPLC is a private fundraising group run by white millionaires. It has no mandate, receives no outside oversight and has no authority, legal or moral, to designate anything.

In short, the SPLC has no more authority to designate “hate groups” than does the SPCA.

3. Mr. Potok provides absolutely NO evidence to prove that the groups he is designating actually exist. In many cases, Mr. Potok cannot even provide the name of a city or town where the alleged group is supposed to reside. Investigative journalist Laird Wilcox pointed out this lack of hard evidence as far back as 1998, in his seminal exposé of the SPLC and other so-called “civil rights” groups, The Watchdogs.

What [the SPLC] apparently did was list any group they could find mention of, including groups only rumored to exist. These included the large number of “post office box chapters” maintained by Klan and skinhead organizations. Some Christian Identity “ministries” consist only one person and a mailing list and many “patriot groups” consist of but three or four friends.

They also listed many groups whose actual affiliation is neither KKK nor neo-Nazi and who would argue with the designation of “white supremacy.” In short, they misleadingly padded their list. 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

Mark Potok admitted as much a decade later:

“Potok says inclusion on the list might come from a minor presence, such as a post office box.” (www.sanluisobispo.com, March 25, 2009)

4. As noted, in many cases, Mr. Potok does not even bother to provide a physical location for his alleged groups. Last year, 247 of his 1,017 alleged “hate groups” were homeless, or about one in four. This year, 195 of his 1,007 alleged groups are phantoms, or about one in five.

In 2011, Watching the Watchdogs actually got to ask Mr. Potok in person about these missing groups. As the video clip below shows, Mr. Potok was startled by the question at first, as no one apparently has ever bothered to vet his numbers before, and he then proceeds to stammer out that his “hate map,” the keystone of all SPLC claims and fundraising rhetoric, is “anecdotal,” “a very rough measure” and “an imperfect process.”

Sadly, the tens of thousands of well-meaning people who sent Mr. Potok and the SPLC more than $40 MILLION tax-free dollars in 2012, (that’s more than $4,600 dollars every single hour of every day) didn’t realize that his Hate Map numbers were just a wild guess. Those trusting folks took Mr. Potok at his word that his data were sound.

So now that we’ve established Mr. Potok’s credentials and the accuracy of his data, let’s take a closer look at his actual numbers, which again, is something no professional news outlet seems willing to do.

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In Point 4 above, we skimmed quickly over a monumental and wholly unprecedented event: For the first time in SPLC history… the number of “hate groups” designated by Mark Potok… actually DECLINED!

Yes. You heard it here first, folks. Something we never thought we’d see has come to pass and gives a very strong indication that the days of Mr. Potok’s primary fundraising tool, his much-lauded and oft-quoted Hate Map, are numbered.

This turn of events comes as a complete surprise, as Mr. Potok is the sole arbiter of the “hate group” label, and since no one ever checks on his numbers, why didn’t he just pad the numbers a little more as he has always done in the past?

Every March, Mr. Potok releases his new “hate group” numbers in the Spring edition of his flagship “Intelligence Report” publication. Mr. Potok ignored the fact that his numbers actually went down for the first time in history, “…the number of hate groups remained essentially unchanged last year…,” choosing to focus on his newest marketing ploy, evil “militia” groups. We’ll have a look at those numbers in a minute.

Potok provides a bar graph to illustrate his claim that the number of “hate groups” has increased by 67% since 2000:

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It’s worth noting at this point that the SPLC’s bloated “Endowment Fund” has increased by 147% in just the past decade, from $99,000,000 to over $245,000,000.

Comparing the two charts, a case could be made linking the increase of cash in the Endowment Fund to the increase in “hate groups.”

Or maybe it’s the other way around…

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Purely a happy coincidence, no doubt, but it must be getting tougher to sell “poverty” to the donors when you’ve got nearly a quarter-BILLION dollars in cash reserves. Last year, the Endowment Fund generated more than $18 MILLION dollars in tax-free interest.

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In November, 2008, immediately after the election of President Obama, Mr. Potok predicted “explosive growth in hate groups” due to “… the tanking economy and a Black man in the White House. Mr. Potok is still singing this same tune in 2013, but now he says it’s the evil militias that are upset:

“Capping four years of explosive growth sparked by the election of America’s first black president and anger over the economy, the number of conspiracy-minded antigovernment “Patriot” groups reached an all-time high of 1,360 in 2012…”

According to Mr. Potok’s own bar graph above though, we see that for 2009, the first year of the Obama Administration and the worst year of the current recession, the number of “hate groups” only rose by 6, or 0.6%. Until this year, that half a percent “explosion” was the smallest increase in SPLC history.

Mr. Potok added 70 new “hate groups” in 2010, as if to make up for his anemic performance the previous year, but at the same time, the number of homeless “hate groups,” those Mr. Potok can’t seem to locate on any map, including his own, jumped by 99, which really represents a net loss.

Mr. Potok was losing his “hate groups” faster than he could designate them.

In 2011, Mr. Potok’s list grew by only 12 new groups, for an increase of just over 1%. That year he added 20 chapters of something he called “The Georgia Militia” to that state’s Hate Map, but he couldn’t seem to locate 18 of them, so he simply added 18 empty slots marked “Georgia Militia” to pad out his numbers. No one in the Media ever called him on it.

In 2012, the number of “hate groups” actually dropped by 1%

Mr. Potok’s “explosive growth” has turned out to be a damp squib…

As for the Georgia Militia, Mr. Potok has revised his figures down to 14 chapters, one of which allegedly resides somewhere in Camden County, one is simply labeled “statewide” and the other 12 are nowhere to be found. Must be all that camouflage gear those good ol’ boys like to wear:

GA Militia 2012

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In all, 17 of the 53 “hate groups” Mr. Potok has assigned to Georgia are invisible. That’s one in three. No doubt the rest of Mr. Potok’s “militia” numbers are at least as accurate.

While we’ve already packed a lot of information into this one post, let’s crunch Mr. Potok’s numbers just a little more to see what his figures actually say.

Once again, when you strip out all of Mr. Potok’s homeless “hate groups” you arrive at the surprising conclusion that, according to Potok’s carefully researched data, the largest segment of “hate groups” are Black, outnumbering the KKK, Neo-Nazis, Racist Skinhead and White Nationalist groups respectively.

Black Groups 2012

Who knew? Mark Potok knows.

The Southern Poverty Law Center made its fortune by going after “hate groups” in the South, and Mr. Potok is always nattering about evil white Christians, who tend to live in the South, but according to his latest numbers there was a distinct drop in the number of these alleged groups last year:

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Mr. Potok also issues regular alarums about how the Northwest is a magnet for “radical white nationalists” but, once again, his numbers have dropped:

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Ironically, (we use that term a lot when dealing with Mr. Potok’s fundraising rhetoric), the traditionally more liberal Northeast actually showed a 6.25% increase in “hate groups” last year.

Northeast

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And finally, Mr. Potok has always claimed that the Republican Party is the root of all evil and represents the black heart of all hate-groupdom, but when you look at which states voted Republican in the 2012 Presidential election there are actually 12% more “hate groups” located in the Blue States even though the number of states in either camp was roughly even:

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So what are we to make of these capricious numbers at the end of the day? The short answer is: Not much. Mark Potok’s “hate group” numbers are a marketing ploy and an extremely lucrative brand name. Even Mr. Potok concedes on the legend of his hate map fundraising tool that these groups are doing nothing illegal:

“Listing here does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.”

No crime. No violence. Just “wrong thoughts.”

Admittedly, some of these groups do engage in what most people would consider inflammatory rhetoric, but as long as they’re not breaking any laws… they’re not breaking any laws and neither Mr. Potok nor any other “civil rights” vigilante groups have a right to silence anyone.

Mr. Potok uses his “hate group” smear because it allows him to incite his donor base, who were cultivated specifically for their political views, without having to accuse those groups of any actual crimes. His disclaimer may read “Listing here does not imply…” but that is precisely what it does and that’s why the donors sent Mr. Potok more than $110,000 tax-free donor-dollars each and every day last year.

And that, friends, is why Mr. Potok, who has no legal or law enforcement background, is compensated by this law firm to the tune of $150,000 a year. As Navin Johnson observed so many years ago, Mr. Potok’s “Hate Map” is the kind of spontaneous publicity that makes people.

SPLC – Some donors are “better” than others

February 6, 2013

**** Update, Feb., 23, 2013 **** A week and a half ago we noted the Southern Poverty Law Center’s continuing recruitment for its multi-million dollar fundraising juggernaut. A mere ten days has passed since the SPLC advertised for a “Development Associate” and now they’re looking for a “Planned Giving Officer” to scout out those elderly donors who are nearing death.

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Six months ago they were recruiting for an “On-line Fundraising Coordinator” and before that it was for a “Regional Advancement Director.”

If only the SPLC’s civil rights division grew as reliably as its massive fundraising machine. When’s the last time they advertised for a civil rights attorney or an advocate for the homeless?

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[Original post Feb. 13, 2013] As we’ve mentioned frequently on this blog, the primary business of the Southern Poverty Law Center seems to raising cash, especially as reflected by the rather paltry endeavors documented in the SPLC’s case docket. Lots of low-hanging cases dealing with illegal aliens, underfunded schools in Mississippi and now even a copyright infringement and a consumer fraud case.

For the most part, “fighting hate” it ain’t, but the donors don’t seem to realize it. In 2011 they sent the SPLC more than $4,400 tax-free donor dollars each and every hour.

That kind of money requires a bit of effort to solicit, collect and count and so the SPLC recently placed a help wanted ad for a “Development Associate.”

SPLC Best Donors

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The job description states that the successful applicant: “Under general supervision, receives, screens, answers correspondence, and updates donor gift records,” which is pretty standard fare. A couple of the “Primary Job Functions” are worth noting:

“Provides friendly and courteous customer service to SPLC’s best donors”

Best donors“? Some SPLC donors are better than others? Hmmm. Makes you wonder what the criteria are to make the cut? Is there a lower-level flunky who deals with the second-rate donors?

“Maintains and updates donor demographic and gift records using a sophisticated database system”

Well, many “non-profits” gather donor demographics to try to distill out the “best donors,” so that’s nothing new, though you wonder if the donors realize that they’re being sorted and classified at the SPLC by their potential donor-dollar value?

It is also encouraging to see that the SPLC has finally scraped up enough to get a “sophisticated database.” Such was not always the case. A couple anecdotes regarding  direct-mail millionaire and SPLC founder Morris Dees’ less sophisticated methods are as entertaining as they are instructive:

“Dees’s fundraising tactics are as varied as they are creative. In a 1985 fundraising letter to zip codes where many Jewish residents lived, he made conspicuous use of his Jewish-sounding middle name, Seligman, in his signature at the end of the document.”

“Attorney Tom Turnipseed, a former Dees associate, recounts how, on another occasion, Dees distributed a fundraising letter with “about six different stamps” affixed to the return envelope, so as to make it appear that “they had to cobble them all together to come up with 35 cents.”

At the time, the SPLC had more than $65 million in cash reserves on hand.

Speaking of cash reserves, most donors are equally ignorant of just how much money the SPLC already has over and above the $106,000 a day they take in by taking in the donors (of all quality levels). The SPLC’s annual report notes that:

The SPLC builds for the future by setting aside a certain amount of its income for an endowment, a practice begun in 1974 to plan for the day when nonprofits like the SPLC can no longer afford to solicit support through the mail because of rising postage and printing costs.

In 1999, Mr. Dees predicted that when the SPLC’s “Endowment Fund,” (Recently renamed the “Morris Dees Legacy Fund”), reached the $100,000 million dollar mark he would cease all of that expensive fund raising (about 19% of his annual budget, on average) and “live off the interest.”

The fund reached $100 million in 2002, but the fund raising machine kept chugging away. The fund reached $200 million in 2007 but Mr. Dees is only expanding his fund raising department, as this most recent job opening indicates.

Meanwhile, the costs of soliciting money have decreased substantially due to the advent of the Internet and e-mail, though studies show that at least one donor demographic, the elderly, still prefer stamp-and-letter snail mail. No doubt these folks make up a substantial, though actuarially dwindling, segment of Mr. Dees’ “best donors.”

At last count, Mr. Dees’ legacy stood at just under $224 million. The SPLC will release its financial records for 2012 in a few weeks. It’s always interesting to see how much poverty there is at the law center.

Stay tuned for those numbers as they become available.

The SPLC and the “Protocols of Ritual Defamation”

January 22, 2013

Below is an instructive treatise on the ways in which special interest groups, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and other so-called “civil rights” groups, control the conversation by denigrating and dehumanizing the “other.”

The SPLC uses terms like “radical Right,” “nativist,” “traditionalist,” the nonsensical “neo-Confederate” and its all-time money maker, “hate group,” (which got an innocent man shot in D.C. in 2012),  to fire up the donors without accusing the target groups of any actual wrongdoing.

Even the disclaimer on the legend on the SPLC’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool concedes the fact that: “Listing here does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.” What gets one on the “Hate Map” is not breaking laws, but rather, having wrong thoughts.

The SPLC certainly did not invent defamation and dehumanization. American military history is full of examples of the careful dehumanization of the enemy in order to make him easier to attack. “Towel-heads,” “Camel Jockeys,” “Gooks,” “Japs,” “Nips,” “Krauts,” and “Huns” have all entered the American lexicon over the past century. The SPLC has merely moved the technique from the battlefield to the “non-profit” bank vault.

The following brief essay, by Laird Wilcox, explains the propaganda techniques as neatly and succinctly as any we’ve seen and can be found online at http://www.overalltech.net/pub/Quotations-Propaganda.pdf   (See pages 118 – 121)

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The Protocols of Ritual Defamation: How values, opinions and beliefs are controlled in democratic societies.

By Laird Wilcox, 2002

“The critical element in political maneuver for advantage is the creation of meaning: the construction of  beliefs about the significance of events, of problems, of crisis, of policy changes, and of leaders. The strategic need is to immobilize opposition and mobilize support. While coercion and intimidation help to check resistance in all political systems, the key tactic must always be the evocation of meanings that legitimize favored courses of action…” MURRAY EDELMAN, “Political Language and Political Reality,” PS, Winter 1985.

“At the extreme, the process of stereotyping eventuates in dehumanization: the enemy is judged to be so inhumanly evil or contemptible that anything may be done to “it” without subjectively compromising one’s own humanity and sense of loyalty.” AUSTIN TURK, Political Criminality, 1982.

“Freedom of the mind requires not only, or not even especially, the absence of legal constraints but the presence of alternative thoughts. The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities.” ALAN BLOOM, The Closing of the American Mind, 1987.

Definitions: The term “protocol” refers to a set of rules or established method. The term “ritual” refers to a predictable, stereotyped pattern that embraces number of elements, as in a ritual.

The term “defamation” refers to the destruction or attempted destruction of the reputation, status, or standing in the community of a person or group of like-minded persons by deliberately unfair, false, misleading or hateful communication.

Defamation might be confused with mere criticism, opposition or expression of opinion, which is necessary for a free society. The essence of a democratic system depends on a large degree of freedom of expression and of give and take in the marketplace of ideas. It is only through the vigorous exploration of alternative explanations and sorting of conflicting facts and competing ideas that wise and reasonably just decisions can take place.

Hypersensitive individuals or groups often claim to have been unfairly defamed when they have merely been criticized or challenged with results unsatisfactory to themselves.

It is important to differentiate between deliberate ritual defamation on the one hand, and mere criticism and disagreement on the other.

For the purposes of this brief essay, the central element is defamation and the necessarily accompanying stigmatization in retaliation for the real or imagined attitudes, opinions or beliefs of the subject, with the intention of silencing or neutralizing his or her influence, and/or making an example of them so as to discourage similar independence and “insensitivity” or non-observance of taboos on the part of others.

Ritual defamation differs in nature and degree from simple criticism or disagreement in that it is aggressive, organized, premeditated and skillfully applied with the idea of neutralizing or eliminating an opponent rather than simply refuting or proving him incorrect. Ritual defamation is often performed by an organization or representative of a special interest group.

The elements of a Ritual Defamation are these:

1. In a ritual defamation the subject (hereinafter referred to as the “offender”) must have violated a particular taboo in some way, usually by expressing or identifying with a forbidden attitude, opinion or belief. It is not necessary that he “do” anything about it or undertake any particular course of action, only that they engage in some form of communication or expression. In some cases even that is not necessary, only that they are associated with or “linked” to a taboo idea or behavior in some way. It is largely directed against presumed attitudes, opinions or beliefs.

2. The primary method of attack in a ritual defamation is to assail the character of the offender, and never to offer more than a perfunctory challenge to the particular attitudes, opinions or beliefs expressed or implied. Any kind of debate with the offender is absolutely forbidden. The primary tool of ritual defamation is stigmatization through character assassination.

3. An important rule in ritual defamation is to avoid engaging in any kind of debate over the truthfulness or reasonableness of what has been expressed, only to condemn it. To debate the issue opens the issue up for examination and discussion of its merits and to consider the evidence or arguments that may support the forbidden views, which is just what the ritual defamer is trying to avoid. The primary goal of a ritual defamation is censorship and repression and marginalization of the offender.

4. The offender is often somebody in the public eye – someone who is vulnerable to public opinion – although perhaps in a very modest way. It could be a businessman, schoolteacher, public official, newspaper writer, scholar, or merely an outspoken citizen. Visibility enhances vulnerability to ritual defamation.

5. An attempt, often successful, is made to involve others in the ritual defamation. In the case of a public official, other public officials will be urged to denounce the offender. In the case of a student, other students will be called upon to reject and ostracize them, in the case of a teacher, other teachers will be recruited, and so on.

6. In order for a ritual defamation to be effective, the offender must be dehumanized to the extent that he becomes thoroughly identified with the offending attitude, opinion or belief, and in a manner which distorts it to the point where it appears at its most extreme. For example, a victim who is defamed as a “subversive” will be identified with the worst images of subversion, such as espionage, terrorism and treason. An offender defamed as a “pervert” will be identified with the worst images of perversion, including child molestation and rape. An offender defamed as a “racist” or “anti-Semite” will be identified with the worst images of racism or hatred of Jews, such as lynchings or gas chambers.

7. To be maximally successful, a ritual defamation must bring pressure and humiliation on the offender from every quarter, including family and friends. If the offender has schoolchildren, they may be taunted and ridiculed as a consequence of adverse publicity. If the offender is employed they may be ostracized or fired from their job. If the offender belongs to clubs or associations, other members maybe urged to expel them.

8. Ritual defamation is highly symbolic and emotional and is designed to largely bypass rational cognitive processes. In its modern form it is a relatively sophisticated method of focusing hatred through skillful (albeit unprincipled) manipulation of symbols, prejudices and ideas.

9. Any explanation the offender may offer, including the claim of being wronged or misunderstood, is considered irrelevant.
To claim truth as a defense for a politically incorrect value, opinion or belief is interpreted as defiance and only compounds the problem.

Ritual defamation, it must be emphasized, is not necessarily an issue of being wrong or incorrect about a matter, but rather of “insensitivity” and failing to observe social taboos.

An interesting aspect of ritual defamation as a practice is its universality. It is not specific to any value, opinion or belief or to any group or subculture. It may be used against any political, ethnic, national or religious group. It may, for example, be used by anti-Semites against Jews, or by Jews against anti-Semites; by right-wingers against left-wingers, or vice-versa, and so on.

The power of ritual defamation lies entirely in its capacity to intimidate and terrorize through the use of stigmatization.  It embraces some elements of primitive superstitious behavior, as in placing a “curse” or “hex” upon selected victims. It results in the tainting, labeling or marking of a person as “impure,” somehow less than human and as an outcast. It is a tool often used against rebels and dissenters. In totalitarian societies it is a primary means of control.

A literary example of ritual defamation is Nathaniel Hawthorn’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, where a young woman was forced to wear a large “A” on her clothing to indicate that she had committed adultery. A historical example might be the witch hunts that occurred in colonial America. A more modern example might be the McCarthy period of the 1950’s, where both Communist and non-Communist leftists were charged with disloyalty and subversion, and recent crusades for “political correctness” in American society have produced a large number of victims unfairly linked to ideas or beliefs they do not hold.

Ritual defamation plays into the subconscious fear most people have of being shunned, abandoned or rejected by the tribe or community and its accompanying psychological support systems. For some victims the experience can be terrifying. Only the strongest psyches can survive it undamaged. The weakness of ritual defamation lies in its tendency toward overkill and in its obvious maliciousness.

More analytical or reflective citizens might perceive it as bullying, harassment or mere cruelty. Occasionally a ritual defamation will fail because of poor planning and failure to correctly judge the vulnerability of the offender, or because its unprincipled viciousness generates sympathy for them.

It is important to recognize and identify the patterns of a ritual defamation. Like virtually all propaganda and disinformation campaigns it is accomplished primarily through the manipulation of meaning and the use of words and symbols that characterize, identify and stigmatize. It is not used to persuade an opponent or to promote an opposing viewpoint but to inflict public punishment and humiliation.

Dr. Edward Manner, professor of philosophy at Notre Dame University, observes that “stigmatization is one of the most oppressive, inhumane forms of punishment any group of human beings can inflict on one of its members.” He notes that it is “a form of social control a civilized society will use rarely, and only with the greatest of care.”

Permission to reprint What is Political Extremism? and/or The Protocols of Ritual Defamation in full is granted providing no changes are made.

Laird Wilcox
Email: lwilcox3@aol.com

SPLC — “There’s No Trial Like a Show Trial!”

December 7, 2012

**** UPDATE – 1/4/13 **** Once again, the best source of information on the SPLC’s ham-fisted fundraising tactics is the SPLC’s own website. Under the “Docket” tab on the SPLC’s home page you can find the actual complaint against JONAH, again, something that no Media outlet could bother to do.

According to the 28-page document, the actual lawyers handling the suit are Lite DePalma Greenberg of Newark, NJ, who bill themselves “…as the pre-eminent New Jersey firm for litigation of complex class actions in the areas of securities fraud, antitrust, and consumer fraud.” Sounds like they know what they’re doing.

The SPLC is listed on the complaint as having requested pro hac vice status, which “refers to the application of an out-of-state lawyer to appear in court for a particular trial, even though he/she is not licensed to practice in the state where the trial is being held.”

Now, why exactly would New Jersey’s pre-eminent fraud attorneys require the assistance of an Alabama civil rights law firm, who are not licensed to practice law in the Garden State, especially when you consider that the term “civil rights” does not even appear in the 28-page complaint??

(The same question can be asked of Faegre Baker Daniels, the law firm handling the copyright infringement case filed in Denver on behalf of the New Jersey gay couple. FBD is one of the highest ranked Intellectual Property law firms in the country, and again, the term “civil rights” appears nowhere in the actual legal complaint.)

The short answer, the blindingly obvious answer, is that neither law firm requires the services of the Southern Poverty Law Center of Montgomery, Alabama.  The SPLC brings nothing to these cases except publicity, and since that publicity is a) highly favorable to their clients’ lawsuits, and b) absolutely free, (The SPLC would never accept a dime in legal fees…), any sharp lawyer would take full advantage of the opportunity.

What’s in it for the SPLC? According to the American Bar Association, the application fees for pro hac vice status run to a maximum of $186 dollars a year in New Jersey, and $250 in Colorado. All of the attorneys assigned to the two cases are already on the SPLC payroll, and even if the pro hac vice fees apply to all four of them you’re looking at a cost of just $808 dollars.

Now Google the term SPLC gay lawsuit (the search works even better if you enclose it in parentheses) and see how many hits you get. We came up with 299,000 hits, but since Google tailors its results to specific users your results may vary. Check out who’s carrying the stories: “mainstream” media outlets like ABC, CNN, Twitter, as well as hundreds of local newspapers and television station web sites. Not surprisingly, the stories have been picked up by countless LGBT web sites and even a number of prominent Jewish sites, due to JONAH’s Jewish origins.

You try buying that much publicity for $800 bucks…

If you notice a certain “sameness” in the “reporting,” that’s just because almost every site is simply regurgitating the highly polished press releases issued by the SPLC’s Public Relations chief, Mark Potok. And all of them claim that the SPLC is somehow “fighting hate” by associating itself in these simple civil suits. The LGBT community includes a lot of financially well-off, Progressive-leaning members who are no more or less prone to investigating the SPLC’s claims than anyone else.

In short, they are the perfect demographic for Mr. Potok and his fundraising minions. The SPLC won’t take a dime in legal fees because they’d probably have to pay taxes on that income, but donations are exquisitely tax-free.

Vaya con dinero!

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[Original post] More “mission creep” from “the nation’s leading civil rights organization.” In October, we at WTW noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center was taking on the case of a New Jersey gay couple whose engagement photo had been appropriated by a conservative political group who used the image in campaign ads in Colorado.

The facts in that case are pretty straight-forward: The political group used the photo without the permission of the couple or the photographer, who holds the copyright to the photo.

It’s a copyright infringement case. Nothing more. The plaintiffs are not indigent and there is no shortage of qualified attorneys in New Jersey.

Fast forward to December and the SPLC are back in New Jersey, this time, going after a non-profit group that claims it can “cure” gay Jewish men of being gay. According to SPLC attorney Sam Wolfe, the group Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), deliberately duped a number of gay Jewish men into believing that their homosexuality was a mental aberration that could be “cured” through therapy. Wolfe made his case by stating:

“We found our plaintiffs’ experiences with JONAH to be compelling and even shocking in terms of the types of techniques and misrepresentations the defendants were luring these men into their programs with.”

Wolfe continues:

“People are paying for these services under false pretenses. They are believing and trusting that these counselors know what they are doing, but in fact, they don’t.”

What exactly does “the nation’s leading civil rights organization” propose to do for the plaintiffs in the case? Under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, Wolfe is “…seeking triple monetary damages to cover the cost of “legitimate therapy” and attorneys’ fees.” A case worth thousands of dollars, maybe tens of thousands.

So, were anyone’s civil rights violated here? Not so much. All of the plaintiffs enrolled in the JONAH program of their own free will. In at least two cases, the adult plaintiff’s fees were paid by their mothers, so these were not the isolated victims of some secretive cult. Again, none of the plaintiffs are indigent.

No civil rights violations. Can you call “antisemitism” when all the parties involved are Jewish? What you have is a cut-and-dried fraud suit, or possibly a malpractice case, but at the end of the day, there is no “hate” going on here, and damn little poverty.

So what does the Southern Poverty Law Center bring to this case and the copyright infringement suit? Publicity. Nothing more. As noted above, there is no shortage of qualified fraud attorneys in New Jersey. The SPLC brings in the publicity and their ace Public Relations guru, Mark Potok, will spin that publicity into gold. Donor gold.

Does the SPLC run any risks by suing a Jewish organization, considering how many of its top donors are Jewish? Again, not so much. JONAH is operated by conservative Orthodox Jews, who are far less likely to donate money to the SPLC than their progressive coreligionists. The rest of the donor base, especially wealthy gay donors, will see this as a gay issue first and a Jewish issue second, if at all.

SPLC founder Morris Dees made his first fortune in direct-mail marketing in the early 1960s. The Maestro, who was inducted into the Direct Marketing Association’s “Hall of Fame” for his fundraising prowess, knows an opportunity for cheap publicity when he sees it. Truly, there is no trial like a show trial for gulling the gullible donors.


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