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.