Archive for August, 2012

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.

The SPLC’s New Definition for “Hate Group”

August 20, 2012

In recent weeks we have noticed a significant uptick in the number of hits on one of this blog’s oldest posts; one explaining the Southern Poverty Law Center’s subjective and legally undefined “hate group” label.

This label, which has absolutely no legal basis, is the SPLC’s most profitable brand name, and has been discussed frequently in the media and on the Blogosphere lately.

Most recently, the wounding of a security guard in Washington, DC, who prevented a murderous shooting spree at the offices of a conservative lobbying group that has been labeled as a “hate group” by Mark Potok of the SPLC, demonstrates just how dangerous these kinds of dehumanizing and inflammatory labels can be.

While “hate group” is Mr. Potok’s most profitable marketing ploy, blood has now been shed due to the irresponsible use of a term that means absolutely nothing in the long run.

In an effort to update our examination of the “hate group” smear we have produced our first video blog post in a conscious effort to move into the world of Media 2.0 and to visually demonstrate just how simple it is to examine Mr. Potok’s numbers and expose them for the crude fundraising propaganda that they are.

Speaking of crude, like most first efforts, this video is admittedly unpolished, but the information is good. Polish will come with practice. Your comments are, as always, most welcome.

Another Excellent Analysis of the SPLC’s Propaganda Techniques

August 15, 2012

I just found this superb analysis of the classic propaganda techniques employed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and in particular, its $150,000 donor-dollar-a-year public relations guru, Mark Potok.

Written in 2010, Patrick Henningsen’s cogent post Textbook Doublethink: SPLC’s Latest Effort Attacks Constitutionalists examines the language and public relations techniques employed by Mr. Potok in his never-ending struggle to extract as many donor-dollars as possible from his mostly elderly donor base.

While I cannot affirm some of Mr. Henningsen’s conclusions regarding individual groups mentioned, his in-depth analysis of the techniques employed is spot on. Nowhere is he more prescient than in his observation that:

“Handlers of this organization may believe that the SPLC is working like a well-oiled machine, ever-effective at infecting the mainstream media with its own choice talking points. But like all tired institutions who rely on the traditional heavy and passive linear News 1.0 operating system…, they can only watch as their model of traditional propaganda distribution becomes increasingly outdated by the day, as millions of active web surfers embrace the more sophisticated News 2.0 model, a model which rewards the readers and viewers who choose to dig, research, corroborate and verify their information- as opposed  to accepting information(and obvious spin) on face value.”

The Internet and social media may bring in more cash to the SPLC’s coffers in the short run, but ultimately they will lead to the demise of “non-profit” vigilante groups like the SPLC and the other alphabet soup Hate Industry hucksters.

SPLC – “Domestic Terrorism” Watershed Moment

August 13, 2012

In the last few weeks a relatively new term has cropped up in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s media and fundraising fear campaigns: “Domestic terrorism.”

Long-time readers will no doubt note that the SPLC’s public relations guru, Mark Potok, never misses an opportunity to link lone-wolf nut jobs, regardless of how tenuous the links, to the Oklahoma City attack of 1995, a true case of domestic terrorism.

But lately, Mr. Potok and his minions, like Dr. Heidi Beirich, have been tossing the term around in an attempt to associate it with their most profitable brand name, the subjective and legally undefined term “hate group.”

The purpose of this is two-fold: First and foremost, “domestic terrorist,” like “hate group,” is what persuasion experts call a “devil term,” which is designed to evoke disgust, revulsion or fear, and ultimately, for the SPLC, donations. That the SPLC is trying to expand its market share and increase profits is nothing new and hardly surprising.

After all, they are down to their last quarter of a billion dollars.

It’s the second purpose that warrants greater scrutiny. Even Mr. Potok concedes that the FBI and law enforcement cannot “track” hate groups, because until they actually do something illegal they are doing absolutely nothing illegal. That pesky old “Constitution” thing is always getting in the way of Mr. Potok’s vigilantism and extra-judicial justice schemes.

In recent years, however, Mr. Potok’s boss, Richard Cohen, has insinuated himself onto a Dept. of Home Land Security advisory board, and SPLC fundraising rhetoric has since turned up in a number of D HS documents. Mr. Potok’s propaganda now has the weight of the highest law enforcement body in the land behind it, and one that hasn’t always been too picky about Constitutional formalities.

It’s bad enough that Mr. Potok designates hundreds of “hate groups,” something even the FBI cannot do, but by branding his arbitrary “hate groups” as “terrorists” Mr. Potok can inflict far more mischief on those whose beliefs and activities, while distinctly unpalatable to many, are nonetheless protected by the First Amendment.

Those who believe that such things cannot happen in a Democracy need only look back to Hitler’s Reichstag Fire Decree, which ultimately spelled the end of the Wiemar Republic:

Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State

On the basis of Article 48 paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the German Reich, the following is ordered in defense against Communist state-endangering acts of violence:

§ 1. Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom [habeas corpus], freedom of (opinion) expression, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications. Warrants for House searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

Compare it with the with the sweeping powers granted the D HS by the eerily similarly named Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, also known as the USA PATRIOT Act.

“Communist,” “Terrorist,” “Hate Group,” “Conservative,” “Christian,” really, what’s in a name, right? What’s the worst that can happen? Safety first. Stamp out “wrong thoughts” before they become wrong acts. “Nits make lice,” don’t they?

On the plus side, we hear that the winters in Gitmo are rather mild.

You heard about it here first, folks.

The Mysterious Case of Charlie Rogers

August 10, 2012

*** UPDATE *** 3/01/2015 – While we had hoped that our previous update had brought closure to this sad case, recent news reports indicate that Ms. Rogers was re-arrested in February for breaking the terms of her probation.

***  UPDATE*** 4/22/13 – Charlie Rogers was sentenced to one week in jail, two years of probation and 250 hours of community service in response to her hate crime hoax.

Lancaster County Judge Gale Porkorny also ordered Rogers to submit to a comprehensive psychological exam and allow her probation officer access to her medical records.

“The evidence is overwhelming that Charlie Rogers’ narrative of July 22, 2012, was an incredible and outrageous lie the second it passed her lips,” Pokorny said.”

With any luck, this will close out this bizarre, senseless story.

*** UPDATE ***12/19/12 – On December 10, Ms. Rogers entered a plea of “no contest” in regard to charges of filing a false police report and was found guilty of same. Sentencing to follow.

*** UPDATE ***11/29/12 – Ms. Rogers has withdrawn her request for a change of venue, to the consternation of the judge in the case, who had already rescheduled court business to hear the request.

“We set aside an entire afternoon,” [Judge Gale Pokorny] said to Rogers’ attorney, Brett McArthur.

Hopefully, Ms. Rogers isn’t paying for Mr. McArthur’s legal advice.

*** UPDATE ***11/20/12 – Ms. Rogers has requested a change of venue for her upcoming trial, citing concerns that the publicity surrounding her case could taint possible jurors.

*** UPDATE ***11/14/12 – Ms. Rogers released a YouTube video restating her claims that her story is true and that Lincoln police botched the investigation of her case.

Ms. Rogers urges her viewers to “be responsible.”

*** UPDATE ***9/30/12 – According to a report in the Omaha World-Herald, Ms. Rogers is sticking to her story and has waived her right to a speedy trial. A judge has set a November court date to review the status of the case. Ms. Rogers is facing a single misdemeanor charge for allegedly filing a false police report. Stay tuned for details as they emerge.

*** UPDATE ***8/22/12

Well, as mentioned, there really is no good outcome for this story. The media is reporting that Charlie Rogers turned herself in to Lincoln police on Tuesday in response to warrant issued for her arrest. The charge is filing a false police report and could carry fines and up to a year in prison.

Police listed a number of details they discovered in the course of their investigation that included some very damning evidence:

  • Rogers was identified as buying the zip ties, cotton gloves and box cutter used in the alleged attack, by a clerk at Ace hardware.
  • Rogers sent a photo of a cross-shaped cut on her chest to a friend a few days before the reported attack.
  • Rogers announced that she was planning a dramatic incident on Facebook, a few days before the attack: “So maybe I am too idealistic, but I believe way deep inside me that we can make things better for everyone. I will be a catalyst. I will do what it takes. I will. Watch me.”
  • Rogers said that the three men forced their way into her home and beat her, but there was no evidence of any forced entry and there were no bruises on Ms. Rogers.
  • Rogers said the men cut slurs into her stomach, arms and legs and then rolled her over on her bed in order to cut the backs of her legs, but police found no blood on the bed and described the bedspread as “undisturbed.”
  • Police say that the cut marks on Rogers’ body were too symmetrical to have been made during a violent struggle, all the cuts were made in areas Ms. Rogers could reach herself.
  • Media reports repeated used the term “carved” to describe the cuts on Ms. Rogers’ body, but police called the cuts “superficial” and believe that Ms. Rogers either made them herself or allowed an accomplice to make them.
  • The DNA found inside the white gloves belongs to Ms. Rogers. Rogers claimed that the gloves were worn by the men during the attack but no trace of male DNA was found. Rogers also said she had never seen the gloves before.

There are no “winners” here, beyond the Hate Industry vigilantes who claimed this attack actually happened before the police had even begun their investigation. Almost none of the media outlets carrying the story included the descriptor “alleged” in their reporting, and thus enjoyed a burst of lurid interest during the slow summer months.

A Lincoln tattoo shop was offering $50 dollar “NO H8” tattoos, with ten dollars from each sale going to the victim. At the time that story was written more than 50 people had gone under the needle in support of Ms. Rogers.

Now that news of the arrest is public, all reports on the case include “alleged” and the frothing comments that accompanied the early stories (and pilloried anyone who expressed doubts about the incident as a “homophobe” and “hater”) are now drinking deeply from the cognitive dissonance Kool-Aid.

“Well, if this is a hoax, she must have felt she had no other choice.”

“Things like this happen to LGBT people all the time, so she didn’t really do anything wrong.”

The coalition of Nebraska Gay Rights groups that originally called for the most severe charges possible to be brought against the three white monsters who committed this crime are saying that now is not the time to concentrate on the actions of any one person.

Again, it is important to recognize that Ms. Rogers has only been charged with a misdemeanor, and that she is presumed innocent until after she has her day in court.


[Original post — 8/10/12]

Several weeks ago, a very disturbing news story broke reporting a violent attack on a lesbian in Lincoln, Nebraska. The way the media has reported this story, the wording of these reports and certain details and conclusions make this a story of interest to those of us who study hate in America and the Hate Industry in particular.

According to police reports, in the early morning hours of July 22, three men wearing ski masks allegedly entered the home of the 33 year old woman, pulled her from her bed, stripped her naked and bound her hands and feet with zip ties. The men then allegedly proceeded to “carve” anti-gay slurs into the woman’s arms and stomach, spray-paint the same slurs on her basement walls and then poured a small amount of gasoline on her kitchen floor, which they ignited.

Because the woman was allegedly attacked because of her sexual orientation, Lincoln police are reportedly investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

NOTE: All violent crimes are attacks on the safety and liberties of individuals, and hate crimes are among the most serious, and so it is the job of law enforcement officials to investigate all claims thoroughly. As of this writing the Lincoln report is still being investigated by the Lincoln police and the FBI and no definite conclusions have yet been reached.

And while the benefit of the doubt always should go to the person reporting such incidents, the law enforcement agencies investigating this report have not ruled out the possibility of a false report, or hoax, as is the standard operating procedure in all criminal investigations.

As Will Rogers used to say, “All I know is what I read in the papers,” and in the 21st century news appears online simultaneously and in addition to being printed in the newspapers. All we really know is what has been reported on the Internet and in the Blogosphere and it’s these reports that warrant closer inspection.

One of the most striking features in the news reports of this case is the lack of the use of the standard qualifier “alleged” when describing events that have yet to be proven. You might expect this from bloggers, who are not professionally trained and some tend to have partisan views, but so-called Mainstream Media outlets ought to know better.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, the consensus of the Associated Press and New York Times style books is that the modifier “alleged” should never be applied to an accused person, but to an event that has yet to be proven to have taken place.

The Lincoln Journal Star made no such qualifying comments in its early reporting of the story:

Hundreds of people gathered with rainbow flags and candles outside the Capitol for a nighttime vigil sparked by a woman’s account of a violent, hate-fueled attack that spread rapidly over the Internet on Sunday.

The paper’s account gives the impression that events happened as described and that the motive was undoubtedly anti-gay hatred. The paper also left no room for the very plausible possibility that the report was false.

Omaha TV station WOWT responded likewise:

Police are looking for three men who bound and beat a woman, before setting her home on fire. It’s an attack that many in Lincoln are calling a hate crime; they say it was because of the victim’s sexual orientation.

It wasn’t until several days later, when the Lincoln police announced that they would be looking into the possibility of a false report, as a matter of course, that the media began to qualify its statements on the story, and even then it referred to the woman as “the victim of an alleged attack.”

Well, as the CJR and the aforementioned style guides point out, calling her an alleged victim is inaccurate, but can one be a victim of an attack that has yet to be proven? The choice of language leads the consumer to foregone conclusions. The media is leading the witness, your Honor.

Several stories describe the three men as “possibly white,” but otherwise police have no leads on them. It’s definitely unusual for the media to release such sketchy details regarding race, and it can be legitimately questioned if they would have done so if the perps had been of any other racial group. How many times have you read of police seeking a dangerous killer or rapist on the loose only to be given the useless information that “the suspect was last seen in blue pants and a dark cap”?

Another curious gaffe in the reporting of this story was that, while the woman requested anonymity and went into hiding after making her report to police, the local media gave all kinds of reckless information about the woman’s identity.

While WOWT had the common sense to limit its report on the location of the alleged attack as “the 1000 block of South 22nd Street,” the folks at the Journal Star blurted out that “officers were called to 22nd and E streets.”

If the woman was indeed in fear for her safety, thanks to the Journal Star, any boob with access to Google Maps could pinpoint her neighborhood and even obtain street view photos of the homes there.

Click image to enlarge

CNN went one better by reporting the name of the next-door neighbor to whom the bleeding, naked woman turned to for help after the alleged incident.

After the attack, the woman made her way to the home of a neighbor, Linda Rappl…

Other sources identified several close friends of the woman by name. So much for protecting the woman’s identity, or those who would help her. Doesn’t this kind of information invite copy-cat attacks on the woman and retribution attacks on her friends?

As it turns out, once the word came out that the police were investigating the false report angle, the woman came forward and revealed her identity as Charlie Rogers, a former women’s basketball star for the University of Nebraska.

Click image to enlarge

It’s at this point that other aspects of the story become mysterious.

According to media reports, the three perpetrators “barged in,” “burst in,” or even “broke down the door,” yet police could find no evidence of a forced entry.

The woman’s hands and ankles were bound with zip ties, which would be a fast way of doing it for three thugs in a hurry. It’s also a fairly easy way for Ms. Rogers to do it herself, even binding her own hands behind her back.

Police report that anti-lesbian slurs were found cut into the skin on Ms. Rogers arms and stomach, although the word “carved” is the most common descriptor. While “carve” is a relatively ambiguous term, it tends to imply cutting that is somewhat deeper than, say, scratches.

Carved implies that the flesh was cut through to the muscle, or possibly through the muscle itself. To date, no descriptions of the weapon have been given, or photos of the wounds, but there is evidence to suggest that carved is a bit inaccurate.

For one thing, as the photo of Ms. Rogers above shows, (as does the KETV interview footage), she’s sitting on a tall chair or stool and not showing any signs of discomfort for one who may have received deep cuts and possible stitches on her stomach and arms just days earlier.

Another factor that seems strange is that while Ms. Rogers claims she was stripped naked during the attack, and the “carving” of the slurs was seemingly meant to disfigure her, the perpetrators chose areas that were easily covered by clothing, rather than, say, her face, and did not disfigure her chest area, which seems incongruous with the nature of the attack.

Ms. Rogers’ arms and stomach are also areas she could easily reach herself. Her neighbor, Ms. Rappl, also states that Ms. Rogers was bleeding from the forehead after the incident, but close-ups of Ms. Rogers’ face show no scars or cuts on her forehead.

The key anti-lesbian slur referred to in the story is “dyke,” which can be a disparaging name for lesbians, but not necessarily between lesbians, just as certain unutterable racial slurs are frequently exchanged between members of certain groups.

The term “dyke” also turns up in the next phase of the attack, where at least one of the perpetrators spray painted the term and other remarks on the wall of her basementGiven the violent nature of the described incidents, wouldn’t the perpetrators choose a far more visible site for their hate slurs? Say, the living room walls or even an outside wall?

It just seems unusual that three men would commit to undertaking this crime, which almost certainly would carry the most severe penalties if they were caught, only to hide their dirty work where no one would see it.

Hopefully, police officials are also considering the actual writing itself to see if there are similarities between the lettering and the handwriting of known criminals, or even of Ms. Rogers herself.

And the final mystery is the use of a small amount of gasoline to start a fire in Ms. Rogers’ kitchen. Allegedly, the gasoline was poured on the kitchen floor and soon burned itself out, doing about $200 dollars in damage.

Why bother? For a lousy five bucks the perps could have pumped enough gas into an everyday, ordinary lawnmower gas can to set the entire house on fire, while attracting exactly zero attention at the gas pumps.

And why just a piddling puddle in the middle of the floor? If the intent was to burn the house down, and presumably kill Ms. Rogers in the process, why not pour it on the bed, the couch or anything that would maintain and spread the flames? Why not, God forbid, on the victim herself?

As hate crimes go, this one seems to have been designed to maximize outrage while causing the victim a minimum of discomfort in the aftermath. It certainly seems like an awful lot of risk for such little actual damage to Ms. Rogers and her property.

So what is the aftermath of this story? As the numerous media accounts cited show there was a large anti-hate rally held on the grounds of the state capitol building in Lincoln, with hundreds of people attending.

Several fundraising efforts have been made on behalf of Ms. Rogers, including dozens of people who got “NO H8” tattoos because a portion of the proceeds would go to the victim. Ms. Rogers says she will not accept a dime until police definitely rule out the possibility of a hoax.

And of course, all of the usual non-profits and special interest groups, like the Southern Poverty Law Center, jumped to denounce this crime before police have even determined that there was a crime committed. The legal brains at the SPLC did at least have the common sense to go back and add a proviso to their earlier statements, however:

Editor’s Note: Police subsequently said they had not ruled out the possibility that the attack was staged.

Perhaps even the SPLC has learned that, while hate crimes are all too real, there are some who make false claims to further their own agendas, as seen here, here, here and here.

Sadly, it’s because of craven hoaxers like these that there is a need to examine Ms. Rogers’ story. Several bloggers have performed statement analyses on Ms. Rogers’ interview statements and found them suspicious, though the accuracy of these analysts is anyone’s guess. Until the final police report comes out we have no way of knowing exactly what happened that night.

All we do know is that a crime was committed. Now it’s up to the police to determine who the victim or victims turn out to be.

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