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.”
“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!:
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?:
adjective1.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.