Posts Tagged ‘Hate Map’

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 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.”

FBI Removes SPLC as “Resource”

March 26, 2014

In an unexpected and unannounced move, the FBI has apparently dropped the Southern Poverty Law Center from the list of “hate crime resources” on the Bureau’s web site.

Several news sources have speculated that the FBI’s decision was at least partly due to the SPLC’s role in a a recent case of domestic terrorism at the Family Research Council.

In 2012, gunman Floyd Corkins entered the Washington, DC offices of the Family Research Council intent on murdering as many staffers as possible. Fortunately, facilities manager Leo Johnson was able to subdue Corkins before he could embark on his rampage, despite having been shot by Corkins in the scuffle.

While in custody, Corkins admitted that he plotted the attack using SPLC public relation chief Mark Potok’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool.

“Asked by the FBI how he picked FRC to attack, Corkins stated, “It was a, uh, Southern Poverty Law, lists, uh, anti-gay groups. I found them online. I did a little bit of research, went to the website, stuff like that.”

Hopefully other law enforcement agencies will follow the Bureau’s example and purge their offices of all of Mr. Potok’s spurious fundraising propaganda.

Though long, long overdue, Watching the Watchdogs commends the Bureau’s decision.

Asked by the FBI how he picked FRC to attack, Corkins stated, “It was a, uh, Southern Poverty Law, lists, uh, anti-gay groups. I found them online. I did a little bit of research, went to the website, stuff like that.”
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/03/fbi-scrubs-key-hate-crime-partnership/#tcoxTIJm5i0izCW6.99

Asked by the FBI how he picked FRC to attack, Corkins stated, “It was a, uh, Southern Poverty Law, lists, uh, anti-gay groups. I found them online. I did a little bit of research, went to the website, stuff like that.”
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/03/fbi-scrubs-key-hate-crime-partnership/#tcoxTIJm5i0izCW6.99

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 – 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 bit 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.

A Tale of Two SPLCs

February 7, 2013

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “serendipity” as:

“The faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.”

In short, looking for one thing and finding something else that you weren’t expecting. It happens to everyone at some time or other and it can be quite rewarding when it does.

As long-time readers of this blog know, we get the vast majority of our information about the Southern Poverty Law Center from the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC’s web site is a treasure trove of information on the organization’s hiring, fundraising and public relations practices.

As long-time web surfers know, a fairly reliable shortcut to finding many web sites is simply to type in the name of an organization with a “.com” or “.org” appended to the end. If you try this trick with www.splc.org, however, you will be rewarded with a serendipitous trip to an entirely different SPLC web site.

In this case, you will be directed to the site of the Student Press Law Center, located in Northern Virginia. Apparently, these folks registered their domain name before their Alabama counterparts, who had to settle for http://www.splcenter.org instead.

Actually, “counterparts” is misleading as you would be hard pressed to identify two law centers with such diametrically opposite missions.

Since the primary mission of the Southern Poverty Law Center appears to be fundraising, we’ll call it the $PLC, for short, and use SPLC to refer to the Student Press Law Center, which operates on a fraction of the $PLC’s annual budget.

The primary mission of the SPLC, as you might imagine, is to serve as a resource and advocate for student publications from elementary school through to colleges and universities.

The Student Press Law Center is an advocate for student First Amendment rights, for freedom of online speech, and for open government on campus. The SPLC provides information, training and legal assistance at no charge to student journalists and the educators who work with them.

Did you catch the reference to First Amendment rights? This is the foundation and basis for all of the Student Press Law Center’s work. For those who are a little rusty on the First Amendment, as the Southern Poverty Law Center seems to be, it goes like this:

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.

Imagine, a law center dedicated to preserving the most fundamental civil rights in the U.S. Constitution. Compare that with the $PLC’s take on the First Amendment rights of those groups its donors find objectionable:

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

Instead of promoting and protecting the First Amendment rights of people to assemble peaceably and to speak, write and publish their own thoughts and opinions, the $PLC conflates those rights with “hate group” activities and “criminal acts.”

Even the entirely spurious term “hate group” is nothing more than a blatant attempt to silence people engaged in entirely legal and protected activities. Who, after all, would listen to anything a “hate group” has to say?

Those who would petition their own elected government for redress are smeared as “far right-wing, anti-government radicals.” Those concerned with their government’s response to the  millions of people who flaunt US law and enter the country illegally are “nativists” and those hold conservative religious beliefs are tarred as “radical traditionalists.” (As we recently noted, the $PLC contends that “Modern Americans” have abandoned Christianity…)

In short, if there is a Constitutionally protected civil right, the Southern Poverty Law Center has a smear for it.

The $PLC maintains a “Hate Map” fundraising tool a “Stand Strong Against Hate” map that also allows donors to “report hate incidents” directly to the $PLC for inclusion in the dossiers they compile and send to every law enforcement agency in the land. Note the term “hate incidents” as opposed to “hate crimes.” Watching the Watchdogs created a short video that uncovers the fast and loose accounting behind that scam:

The Student Press Law Center maintains an interactive map as well, only this one identifies areas where bigots have attempted to censor the press by stealing newspapers from newsstands. These are actual civil rights violations, (more than half a million papers stolen since 2000), in which the First Amendment rights of both the publishers and the readers were denied by ignorant vigilantes.

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So at the end of the day we have two law centers with the same initials but absolutely nothing else in common. The Student Press Law Center fights to preserve and protect people’s most fundamental First Amendment rights while the Southern Poverty Law Center is hell-bent on censorship and denying those same civil rights to those they designate as having “wrong thoughts” and smear with dehumanizing labels such as “hate group.”

While the mission of the Student Press Law Center is to protect all forms of expression, even those that some may find offensive, here’s what the $PLC’s $150,000-dollar-a-year Public Relations Chief Mark Potok had to say about the rights of all citizens to free speech and freedom of association back in 2007:

“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.”

These are American citizens engaging in entirely legal free speech activities and the “nation’s leading civil rights organization” wants to “completely destroy them.” You don’t have to agree with anything these groups have to say, most people don’t, but you cannot arbitrarily deny them their rights to free speech or it’s only a matter of time before the $PLC or some other self-appointed vigilante group decides that you have “wrong thoughts” and need to be “completely destroyed.”

Mark Potok, this veritable paragon of civil rights makes both of these telling comments within the first two minutes of the video below. What’s even more ironic is that Mr. Potok began his career as journalist back in the 1990s. Apparently, the $PLC pays better than USA Today. It’s amazing what people are willing to sell for a few pieces of silver.

 

 

The $PLC has nearly a quarter-billion dollars in cash on hand while the SPLC does actual good in the world on just over 1% of that bloated trove.

The Student Press Law Center also offers an online First Amendment quiz. that everyone should take, especially the would-be civil libertarians at the $PLC.

Mr. Potok, what was your score?

SPLC Media Guides

September 9, 2012

Longtime readers of Watching the Watchdogs, if their comments are accurate, have an appreciation of the information and analysis of Southern Poverty Law Center fundraising propaganda we provide here.

Oftentimes there is a lot of data to digest, at least in a written form, but as we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words. To that end, we have endeavored to create a series of short (to accommodate the attention-span-challenged) video clips to show just how really simple it is to find the SPLC’s raw data, almost all of it found on the SPLC’s own web site, so that the viewer can evaluate it for themselves.

We ask no one to take our word for it, but we do ask the viewer to go directly to the source, as we have, see the data for themselves and come to their own conclusions. If you think we’re way off base then please tell us so. All intelligent comments and criticisms are welcome.

These are nothing more than the simple fact checks any real journalist should make before blindly quoting Mark Potok’s press releases. This isn’t “hate,” this isn’t “domestic terrorism,” it’s Journalism 101. These are the basic fact checks the Media should make, but won’t. Check back for additional installments.

First off, Media Guide #1 is a brief examination of the fallacy of the “hate group” label, the bedrock foundation of all SPLC fundraising propaganda. There’s no legal definition for the term, so just what exactly is this “law center” tracking?

Media Guide #2 examines the bogus bookkeeping behind SPLC’s public relations chief Mark Potok’s “hate incident’ log.  Most of these “incidents” are so tenuous, from teenagers carving swastikas into park benches to 8-year-olds threatening the President. More than a third of them are nothing more than updates on earlier events. How thug vandals pleading “not guilty” in criminal court is a “hate incident” is beyond us, but the Media and the all-important donors swallow it hook, line and sinker.

Media Guide #3 examines the preposterous proposition that NOT ONE of the top executives at the “nation’s leading civil rights organization” is a minority, and that this has been the case since Morris Dees opened the doors to the SPLC in 1971. The Executive Suite at the SPLC, which overlooks Martin Luther King’s home church in Montgomery, the birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement, has been home to “whites only” for more than 40 years. Think about that…


Media Guide #4 explores the “ironic” fact that once one strips out all of the “homeless hate groups” discussed in the first video guide, it turns out that the largest single category of “hate group” in America is Black, according to Mark Potok’s bogus figures. The video also includes an excellent example of the Liberal Media’s inability to comprehend that the SPLC’s fundraising numbers are not based in reality.

Another Academic Outs the SPLC

August 29, 2012

Great blog post by Dr. Jack Feldman, a retired professor of Psychology and long-time SPLC donor.

Dr. Feldman touches on several of the key points regarding SPLC fundraising propaganda that we focus on here at Watching the Watchdogs.

Over the course of many years, Dr. Feldman observed how the SPLC moved away from its founding principles of defending the civil rights of the poor in the Deep South to the more lucrative business of creating “hate groups.”

You can find his post here.

SPLC data proves that Wal-Mart causes “hate groups”?

April 14, 2012

Well, friends, if you thought the title of this post was loopy… “you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!”

The April 2012 issue of the Social Science Quarterly, hardly a supermarket tabloid, sets out to prove conclusively that the presence of a Wal-Mart in a county provides a direct correlation to the presence of “hate groups” in that county, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s scrupulously researched data.

This study, “Social Capital, Religion, Wal-Mart, and Hate Groups in America,” written by Stephan J. Goetz, Anil Rupasingha and Scott Loveridge, bases its premise on numbers taken from the SPLC’s 2007 “Hate Map” fundraising tool.

Longtime readers of Watching the Watchdogs will instantly recognize that this “data” is inherently flawed from the get-go. Newer readers can discover why the SPLC numbers are garbage here and can watch the SPLC’s public relations guru, Mark Potok, admitting on camera that his numbers are “anecdotal,” “a very rough estimate” and “an imperfect process” in this exclusive WTW Youtube clip.

As if this wasn’t a show-stopper from the very beginning, these three geniuses compare the SPLC’s 2007 “hate group” numbers with the number of Wal-Mart stores in the US in 1998!! Really? We don’t claim to be academics here at WTW, but wouldn’t such a comparison be just a little more valid if they compared the SPLC’s spurious 2007 numbers with the number of Wal-Mart stores around in 2007?

According to Wal-Mart annual reports, there were 2,805 stores combined in the US in 1998, by 2007, this number had jumped to 3,910. THIS 40% gain doesn’t skew your calculations does it boys?

The number of “hate groups” designated by the SPLC grew by 351 between 1998 and 2007, but the number of Wal-Mart stores grew by more than 1,000 over the same span of time. Why are Goetz and Company comparing two decidedly different data sets?

Why not simply compare the 2007 “hate group” numbers with a map from 1907 so you can correlate the ratio of “hate groups” to livery stables and blacksmith shops?

Obviously, horses cause “hate groups.”

While the 2007 SPLC numbers are worthless, they claimed they had designated 888 “hate groups” that year, by their own subjective definition. Although Watching the Watchdogs has not yet analyzed those numbers, a look at the 2008 numbers is instructive. Of the 926 groups designated by Mark Potok that year, he wasn’t able to locate 127 of them on his own “Hate Map” fundraising tool.

Again, while we don’t have the individual data for 2007, these 127 homeless “hate groups” from the following year represent a discrepancy of more than 13%. By 2010, Mr. Potok had lost 26% of his “hate groups.” Is 13% statistically insignificant?

How exactly do these rocket scientists correlate decade-old Wal-Mart data with “hate groups” that aren’t even there?

Ordinarily, those who claim Mr. Potok’s ridiculous fundraising propaganda is factual are a relatively harmless lot. The SPLC does it because it scares tens of millions of dollars out of their mostly elderly, self-described “Progressive” donors and last year Richard Florida crunched Potok’s numbers into a map in The Atlantic that claimed that “hate groups” form chiefly in Republican areas, but these hucksters are preaching to the choir. People swallow this tripe as gospel, regardless of the fact that the underlying numbers are entirely fabricated, because they want to believe it.

The problem with this kind of garbage moving into academic circles is that it creates a patina of legitimacy. In fact, the Department of Home land Security has already picked up and regurgitated Mr. Goetz & Co.’s harebrained palaver as “fact” and this ought to scare the bejebus out of everyone.

The real villain here is the Social Science Quarterly, who, just like the national media, accept the SPLC’s spurious data because they want to believe it. If no one expects major news outlets to perform even the most rudimentary fact checks, (a process formally known as “journalism“), why should the editors of an academic journal resort to the scientific method of questioning and evaluating test data?

Watching the Watchdogs has already sent the SSQ its evidence that the Goetz, et al, paper is worthless because its underlying data is worthless, but don’t expect to see our claims published in the July issue, or any similar refutations from accredited scientists. It’s not what the audience wants to hear. What was the final conclusion of this impeccably researched document?

“However, our discovery of an association between Wal-Mart locations and hate groups could lead the corporation’s foundation to play a larger role in supporting the types of local groups that enhance the social capital index used in our analysis.”

There it is in a nutshell, friends… the “show-me-the-money” give-away.

SPLC — 2011 “Hate Map” — Another Year of Lies

March 9, 2012

The Southern Poverty Law Center has released its annual “Hate Map” fund-raising tool today. The SPLC claims it has designated 1,018 “hate groups” in the US in 2011.

Let’s have a look those numbers, but first, a few background facts are in order:

1. There is NO legal definition of “hate group,” which is why even the FBI does not, cannot, designate “hate groups.”

The SPLC uses the deliberately meaningless term “hate groups” in its fund-raising materials because it allows them to denigrate groups and individuals with which it disagrees without accusing them of any actual crimes, as noted in the last line of the “Hate Map” legend:

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

The fact of the matter is that the whole reason for a “Hate Map” is to imply that the “groups” on it are violent criminals. This has been the foundation of the SPLC’s ongoing fear campaign for more than 30 years. To this end, the “Hate Map” legend also states that:

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

Marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, etc. are all Constitutionally protected under the Bill of Rights. The SPLC deliberately conflates these basic civil rights with criminal acts and “hate group” activities because it frightens their mostly elderly donor base.

2. The SPLC provides no information on the exact location of these groups or their membership numbers. In fact, they don’t even bother to affiliate 247 of these “groups” with any known city or town. That’s 24% right off the top. In many cases, 60%, 80% and even an incredible 100% of the “hate groups” in a given state are homeless.

Watching the Watchdogs questioned the SPLC’s public relations guru, Mark Potok, about these wild discrepancies last fall. Potok, who is responsible for the “Hate Map” numbers, admitted on camera that his “Hate Map” numbers were “anecdotal,” “a very rough estimate,” and “an imperfect process.”

Sadly, the media cannot bother to vet Mr. Potok’s spurious claims and simply regurgitate his bogus numbers as fact. Fortunately, Watching the Watchdogs is very willing and able to examine the numbers, and, as usual, we find them sadly wanting.

See them for yourself. Judge them for yourself.

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Because the “Hate Map” is the keystone to SPLC fund-raising efforts, Mark Potok is forever making claims of “explosive growth” in the number of “hate groups” in his press releases and media interviews.

Last year his “hate group” count “exploded” from 1,002 to 1,017, or 1.5%. In 2009, the first year of the Obama Administration and the worst year of the Great Recession, the count “exploded by 6 groups, or six-tenths of a percent, the lowest increase in SPLC history.

In 2010, Potok bumped the number of “hate groups” up by 70, but the number of homeless “hate groups” actually increased by 99 for the same year.

True to form, Mr. Potok bumped his numbers up by 15 “groups” for 2011, including 20 entries for a new “group,” the Georgia Militia. Oddly enough, Mr. Potok can’t seem to locate 18 of those units.

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This is hard data? NPR, the New York Times and MS-NBC all seem to think so. Look for them to quote Potok’s figures in the coming weeks.

Last year Mr. Potok warned of “explosive growth” in the number of “hate groups” in the Northwest:

“Montana is developing into a hotbed,” said Mark Potok, director of the SPLC Intelligence Project (ABC News, June 22, 2011)

The number of “hate groups’ in Montana actually dropped by 23%, from 13 to 10. Overall, the number of “groups” in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho “exploded” from 59 to 61, and 25% of those ‘groups” are homeless.

Another Potokian “explosion” turns out to be a damp squib.

Even if Mr. Potok’s powers of prognostication are somewhat lacking, the one thing we can always count on is that the number of “hate groups,” like the millions of tax-free dollars in the SPLC’s “Endowment Fund,” will continue to rise.

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The more money the Southern Poverty Law Center makes, the more “hate groups” they seem to find.


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