Archive for August, 2020

Mark Potok Returns!

August 29, 2020

It was three years ago this week when we at Watching the Watchdogs first noted the departure of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s longtime Intelligence Director, Mark Potok, from the company that had made him rich and famous (and vice versa) over his twenty year career there.

We noted with astonishment, in 2017, that no formal press release of Mr. Potok’s departure from the SPLC had been issued nor had such a momentous occasion even been mentioned on the company’s website, which we monitor regularly.

It was simply incomprehensible that the media personality who had been the face and voice of the “nation’s leading civil rights organization” could vanish from the world stage after two decades of faithful and enormously lucrative service without so much as a “Fare-thee-well, Mark, and thank you for all you’ve done for us!”

In fact, while Potok’s professional biography blurb and his photo were still on the company website in February, 2017, by March his bio had been taken down and his photo airbrushed from the “Leadership” page. After 20 years, however, the SPLC couldn’t simply delete the hundreds of articles, papers and “reports” created by their star front man, so instead they changed his byline to “Mark Potok — Former Employee,” which didn’t bode well for a possibly amicable parting of the ways.

Potok Former Employee

For his part, Mr. Potok’s Facebook page bore only one stark line: “Left Job at Southern Poverty Law Center.” No mention of “retiring” or “exploring new opportunities.” Not even a “wants to spend more time with the family” fig leaf. After a brief exile from the SPLC website, Mr. Potok’s legacy was rehabilitated to the point where his biography blurb was returned to the site and his nonentity status has been upgraded to “Former Senior Fellow.”

Considering how many tens of millions of dollars Mark Potok brought into the SPLC’s coffers during his years of media interviews, print articles and especially through his magnum opus, the company’s annual “Hate Map” fundraising tool, the original “golden goose,” it was the very least the SPLC could do.

At the time, we wrote with great sincerity that we would very much miss seeing Mr. Potok at the SPLC, and we still do. Despite disagreeing with his opinions and tactics during more than a decade of research on the Hate Industry in general, and the SPLC in particular, we recognized that Mr. Potok is a self-made man who rose up from humble beginnings to control one of the most efficient public relations and fundraising machines of our day.

Few public relations practitioners have enjoyed such widespread and unquestioning access to the world media. The power and sheer rush of the experience must have been incredible. And then it was gone. The power, the prestige and the six-digit salary all evaporated overnight. Those of us who are only a very few years junior to Mr. Potok in age must wonder how you rebuild a career from scratch past the age of fifty. We commend his efforts.

One of the reasons Mark Potok was so important to our work at Watching the Watchdogs was his off-script candor, such as in 2011 when he freely admitted to us, on camera, that his insanely profitable annual “Hate Map,” the very keystone of all SPLC fundraising, was not the infallible document so often cited by the media, but instead was merely “anecdotal,” “a rough estimate,” and “an imperfect process.”

“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)

“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.” (www.npr.org, October 30, 2008)

“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 from a 2008 interview with some visiting high school teachers at SPLC headquarters, which now resides on the Internet Archive:

“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.” (Mark Potok Interview, Track 1)

And the delightfully candid:

“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.” (Mark Potok Interview, Track 2)

When you study the Hate Industry for years and one of the captains of that industry steps up and admits that the vast majority of the claims made by his company are baseless, the feeling can only be described as exhilarating.

But Mark Potok did not go quietly into that good night. Just this week an opinion piece by Potok appeared on the Rantt Media website. In a fiery article about an otherwise obscure Alabama politician who even Potok describes as a “clueless” Republican, “…from the white-flight Montgomery suburb of Prattville,” as opposed to, you know, Mr. Potok’s inner city tenement flat, shown below.

Casa Potok

Casa Potok

All of the classic Potokian elements are there. The guilt-by-association associations, the anonymous source quotes, the non sequitur anecdotes. Like many of the obscure, one-man “hate groups” designated by Mr. Potok in earlier times, most people on the planet would never have heard about this hapless racist from Alabama if not for Mark Potok. It was a truly nostalgic moment.

According to the website, “Rantt Media launched in October 2016 with one goal in mind — to combat disinformation and to help create a more informed and politically active society.” Their plan for doing so is “to analyze the news, shed light on injustices, and tell the stories that matter to you.” Mr. Potok’s comments and articles about how “The DNC Gave America the Unifying Vision it’s Crying Out For,” and “The Forgotten Hillary Clinton Voter: A Profile of the Not-So-Silent Majority,” give a good idea of the content.

Apparently, Rantt Media, based in Washington, DC, wants to help create a more politically active society in the US, as long as that society supports the “correct” party.

Nowhere is this irony greater than in a recent article found on the website, “Media Literacy 101: How to Identify Fake News & Media Bias,” written by Christina Ballard.

This is a very well-written article that should be read by all. Ms. Ballard makes several extremely cogent points:

  • If you are not sure of a source’s credibility, think about why the information is there and when it was put there. Is the source trying to sell something, to persuade or just inform?
  • Think about if there is another way you can verify what you are seeing. Is this news also available on other sites? Is it written to a general audience or a more specific one?
  • Think about the language being used. Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion? Do you see a lot of “tagging” or “labeling?”[Such as “hate group,” “injustices,” “Radical Right,” perhaps? WtW]
  • Is the source using extremes when just the basics will do?
  • Media Bias happens when the media is reporting the news in a partial or prejudiced manner. This occurs when the media appears to be pushing a viewpoint rather than reporting the news objectively, or just the facts.

Merely brilliant, Ms. Ballard! Bravo!

Rantt Media relies on a $10-a-month subscription fee, and “partnered contributors,” which the site assures us that “Rantt Media may receive compensation from the partners we feature on our site. However, this in no way affects our news coverage, analysis, or political 101’s.Really? More on one of these major “partners” to follow below.

Rantt’s byline for Mr. Potok was obviously written by Mr. Potok and turns up in various venues around the internet:

“Mark Potok is an expert on the American radical right who was a senior official at the Southern Poverty Law Center civil rights organization for 20 years and is now a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right.”

Well, we know Mr. Potok is an “expert” because it says so on his website. As for calling the SPLC a “civil rights organization,” that’s how the company referred to itself for much of Mr. Potok’s tenure, until quietly morphing into “an advocacy group, focused on civil rights” sometime in 2014 (without mentioning the shift in focus to the donors). This brings us to the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR).

We had not heard of CARR before learning of Mr. Potok’s affiliation with the group. As the spelling of the name indicates, the “Centre” is a European organization which appears to be located in the UK, though we could not find any reference to an actual location on its website.

Rantt Media’s “About” page singles CARR out as an important sponsored partner, touting two dozen CARR articles published on the site.

The oldest blog posts on the CARR site go back to March, 2018, so it would seem to be a relatively young undertaking, and a review of its leadership bio pages show most of them to be fairly young academics, as opposed to the septuagenarian lawyers and public relations men who ran the SPLC.

The blurb on the website states that “The Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR) is the leading information aggregator and knowledge repository on the radical right, past and present,” which would, no doubt, rankle some of the older hands at the SPLC, who have claimed that title for the past 40 years.

The blurb continues with “Above all, CARR intends to lead discussion on the development of radical right extremism around the world,” which, if the organization’s name didn’t already spill the beans, indicates that CARR’s mission is anything but neutral on the subject. Like the SPLC, CARR seems to be another “advocacy group” whose purpose is to “advocate” for a “correct” view of the world.

Above all, CARR intends to lead discussion on the development of radical right extremism around the world.” What was it Christina Ballard said about Fake News?

Is the source trying to sell something, to persuade or just inform?

Is it written to a general audience or a more specific one?

Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion? Do you see a lot of “tagging” or “labeling?”

[Media Bias] occurs when the media appears to be pushing a viewpoint rather than reporting the news objectively, or just the facts.

Interestingly, the website also includes the boilerplate disclaimer that “Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR).” This is interesting because all of the views expressed on the site are handpicked by the group’s leadership prior to being published and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of space given over to alternative points of view.

We were also unable to determine CARR’s source of financing. Unlike the SPLC and many other multi-million dollar “non-profit” organizations in the US, CARR does not seem to rely on public donations to keep its digital doors open.

The site does list several “partners,” though, including Rantt Media and the very-deep-pocketed Southern Poverty Law Center (with more than half a billion dollars in unrestricted cash on hand) and a London-based organization calling itself “Moonshot CVE,” as in “Countering Violent Extremism.”

Moonshot’s byline on the CARR site states:

Moonshot CVE is a social enterprise working to disrupt and ultimately end violent extremism. From digital capacity building to counter-messaging campaigns, we use data-proven techniques to ensure our clients respond to violent extremism effectively all over the world.

As part of our global programming on the violent far right, we have deployed bots to counter hate on social media and identified and engaged one-on-one with white supremacists.

All of our work aims to reach people at risk of violent extremism and offer them an alternative path. Our work is rooted in evidence, ethics and the fundamental belief that people can change.

While all Wikipedia entries must be taken with a grain of salt, the entry for Moonshot claims that the group “receives funding from technology companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter,” and “engages in paid work on behalf of governments such as the UK, Canada and Japan.”

Wikipedia also claims that “Moonshot engages in campaigns to direct users attempting to access extremist material to alternative sources,” which is an admirable goal at face value, but begs the question as to who exactly determines what is “extremist material”? Google? Facebook? Twitter?

The CARR site also lists more than 90 Senior Fellows (including Mr. Potok), Doctoral Fellows and Policy and Practitioner Fellows, noting that “Our Senior Fellows are academics at universities holding a PhD and higher.”

According to Mr. Potok, he received a bachelor’s degree (A.B.) in Political Science in 1978 from the University of Chicago but has never pursued a master’s degree, much less a doctorate, and has never worked or taught at any institution of higher learning.

No doubt he should be listed among the Policy and Practitioner Fellows, who are “policy makers, practitioners, or researchers at think tanks or non-profits.”

So in the long run, while it is good to see Mark Potok back in the game again (he also turned up in an interview on “far-right extremism” as we were writing this post) his return also bolsters our claims that there is a definite “Hate Industry,” consisting of private companies such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, that make hundreds of millions of dollars peddling fear, outrage and “hate” to Progressive donors, and other networked players, such as CARR, Rantt Media and Moonshot CVE, who also manipulate the “far-right” narrative for purposes other than financial gain.

There are no conspiracies here. This is simply the age-old quest for wealth and political power. Unlike the players listed above, we do not ask anyone to take our word for anything. Take five minutes and read Christina Ballard’s superb primer on fake news. You won’t be sorry.

 

SPLC — Business as Usual

August 13, 2020

On August 12, 2020, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s new president and CEO, Margaret Huang issued a press release commemorating the third anniversary of the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Huang replaced long-time SPLC president Richard Cohen in April of this year after the latter abruptly quit the company in disgrace in 2019. It was Cohen who kept SPLC founder Morris Dees on the company payroll despite decades of allegations of sexual harassment by female employees and who perpetuated Dees’ 48-year policy of not hiring minorities to senior SPLC positions of authority. Dees was just too popular with the donors to let go, it seems.

Huang had solid civil rights bona fides, including serving as executive director of Amnesty International USA, and showed great promise for leading the SPLC back to its glory days of doing actual civil rights work, the “poverty law” work for which the company was founded in 1971. It really looked like the new president would bring a new day to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Sadly, it was not to be.

As yesterday’s press release shows, Ms. Huang has merely picked up the company’s perpetual fear and outrage campaign right where Mr. Cohen dropped it in the dirt as he bolted for the door.

Perhaps this comes as no surprise, as Huang was hired by the same SPLC Board of Directors who kept Messrs. Dees and Cohen gainfully employed all those years and who even saw fit to pay the gentlemen their full six-digit salaries despite their bringing ignominy and shame upon the institution’s reputation. Most of those Board members are still on the job today.

“Three years ago today in Charlottesville, Virginia, our nation was forced to recognize an uncomfortable truth: hate is alive and flourishing in the United States. Since that day, we have seen white supremacists become more emboldened and vocal about their intentions for the future of our nation,” wrote Huang yesterday. 

Ironically, her company’s own fundraising propaganda paints a very different story.

2019 Hate Groups

The table above lists the number of alleged “hate groups” in the US over the past three years, as claimed by the SPLC’s insanely lucrative annual “Hate Map” fundraising tool. There is no legal definition for “hate group” so the company relies on its own intentionally elastic definition that essentially boils down to  “All hate groups say mean things about other groups.”

The numbers in red indicate an alleged increase in groups by category from the previous year. Those highlighted in yellow show a decline and those marked in blue indicate no change from the previous year.

The “Statewide” heading indicates those alleged groups for which the SPLC provides no corroborating information whatsoever, not so much as a known city or town that a donor or journalist could use to verify the company’s claim. “Trust us!”

“Statewide” does not include the dozens of other groups which have been pinpointed to locations such as “Southern California,” “Eastern Pennsylvania” or “Chickasaw County,” though it does, by necessity, incorporate over 100 online-only and one-man websites that the SPLC claims it does not count, except it apparently does.

Note the abundance of yellow cells in the table, indicating a steady decline in “hate groups” over the past three years, which ironically (there’s that word again) coincides with the Trump Administration, according to the experts at the SPLC. Note the number of “statewide” phantoms for the traditional white supremacist groups Ms. Huang claims are “flourishing”: Ku Klux Klan, 31 out of 47, neo-Nazis, 46 out of 59, and an incredible (literally) 44 out of 48 alleged skinhead groups (92%!!!).

Even the alleged increases in Anti-LGBT and white nationalist groups turn out to be little more than “creative accounting” on the part of SPLC fundraisers, with the latter category seeing far more “statewide” phantoms added in 2019 over 2018 than actual jackboots on the ground.

[Never heard of “neo-Volkish” groups before? Neither have most people on the planet. According to the SPLC, these evil souls worship Norse and traditional Germanic gods, and “while outward-facing violence rarely erupts from the Folkish,” these threats to humanity embrace “traditional gender roles,” unlike, say, Orthodox Jewry, the Amish or many Muslim and Hispanic immigrant groups. Be afraid… be very afraid.]

The one category of SPLC-designated “hate groups” that does seem to be “flourishing,” and is curiously overlooked by Ms. Huang and other commentators, are Black nationalist groups, which are roughly equal to all alleged KKK, Nazi and skinhead groups COMBINED, at 255 to 261, respectively.

Strip out the “statewide” phantoms from each column, and even throw in the handful of neo-Confederates, and Black “hate groups” outnumber their combined white counterparts by two-to-one, according to Margaret Huang’s own company.

Who is it Ms. Huang says we’re supposed to be fearing this year?

The SPLC’s annual “hate group” counts are spurious fundraising ploys which are backed by little to no verifiable proof and are never vetted by the media. Ms Huang is fully aware of this and is, presumably, the one person who can put a stop to this charade once and for all. Will that happen any time soon? Don’t bet on it.

SPLC profits

The numbers above were taken from the SPLC’s annual IRS Form 990 tax-exemption reports. They show a steady growth in revenues over the past decade, with record increases since 2017.

The SPLC’s staff has grown from 291 in 2016 to 441 in 2019, with a massive increase in “volunteers” from 16 to 440 over the same period, and yet the “law center” routinely spends eight to ten times more of its budget on fundraising over actual legal case work.

What business is the SPLC actually in?

Margaret Huang isn’t naive. She knows that selling fear and outrage brings in tens and even hundreds of millions of donor-dollars each year. Dees and Cohen have bailed out with their golden parachutes but the same cronies who kept them on the payroll are the same ones who hired Ms. Huang. Granted, the new figurehead isn’t a white male, but otherwise, its big business as usual at the SPLC.

The Mysterious Case of Althea Bernstein

August 1, 2020

[Spoiler Alert! The latest developments in the Bernstein case can be found here (October 4, 2020]

Early on the morning of June 24, 2020, 18-year-old Althea Bernstein claims she was stopped at a red light in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, when she was allegedly approached by four white men, (described by Bernstein as “classic Wisconsin frat boys”), who “shouted the N-word” at her and sprayed her face and neck with lighter fluid and “allegedly tossed a flaming lighter at her,” igniting the fluid. Bernstein claims that she then “patted out the flames and eventually drove home,” where her mother “encouraged her to go the hospital.”

Such an unprovoked attack would be heinous enough to begin with, but because Althea Bernstein is bi-racial the case is being investigated as a possible hate crime. Add in the fact that Bernstein’s father is Jewish and you have a hate crime two-fer on your hands.

Bernsteins

Althea Bernstein and her father in 2017

While we at Watching the Watchdogs are willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and take their allegations as true until proven otherwise, the Bernstein case has been exhibiting many signs of being a potential hate crime hoax from the beginning. Far from “blaming the victim,” a closer look at the claims and reporting of the incident are in order.

  1. The alleged attack took place at 1:00 a.m. in the morning during a violent BLM “protest” in downtown Madison.
  2. Bernstein says she was on her way to visit her brother in nearby Middleton at 1:00 a.m. on a Wednesday morning.
  3. Despite driving downtown in a large city in the middle of the night, during a riot, Bernstein reports that she had her driver side window down while stopped at the red light.
  4. When the “four white frat boys” approached the window of her car, one of them produced a “spray bottle” of lighter fluid and proceeded to spray Bernstein in the face, miraculously missing the young woman’s eyes.
  5. Bernstein says that one of the boys “threw a lit lighter” at her to ignite the fluid. Since disposable butane lighters go out when released, one must assume that this lighter must have been of an old-time Zippo-like design. The cheapest Zippo lighters on Amazon.com retail for $16.95 and tend to pick up the user’s fingerprints, making them both rather pricey and incriminating to be thrown away in an arson attack. No lighter was found in Bernstein’s vehicle.
  6. Bernstein says that despite being the victim of an alleged hate crime, she continued to her brother’s house and then went home, where her mother “encouraged her to go the hospital.” Bernstein finally called the police at 5:45 p.m., nearly 17 hours after the alleged attack, on the police department’s non-emergency phone line.You can listen to the full call here.
  7. Bernstein drove herself to the Emergency Room.
  8. After an initial spate of media reports, including an interview with Good Morning America, and a high-profile call of support and solidarity from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Bernstein and her family have been silent on the alleged attack ever since, on the advice of their family attorney.
  9. A GoFundMe site, approved by the Bernstein family, has raised nearly $10,000 for the victim, but the family has directed that the money be turned over to charity.
  10. Despite allegedly taking place within a block of the Wisconsin State Capitol building, during a “violent protest,” the four attackers, two dressed all in black and two in flowered shirts, have yet to appear on any security or surveillance camera footage, as of this writing.

Granted, all of the above is circumstantial evidence, neither proving nor disproving Ms. Bernstein’s claim, but there certainly is a significant amount of it.

Naturally, the Media, smelling a potential hate crime, jumped on the story with gusto, and, before the police investigation had even begun, had determined that every word of Bernstein’s allegations were true. Google “Althea Bernstein” and see how many times the word “alleged” appears in the hundreds of results. 

Interestingly, even Ms. Bernstein’s own mother seems to be in favor of exaggerating the story. While Bernstein’s appearance on Good Morning America clearly shows burn marks on the left side of her face, the side facing the driver’s window, a Facebook post by Rebecca Bernstein shows (identical) burns on both sides of Althea’s face!

 

althea-bernstein-gma2-1593448141

Bernstein on Good Morning America

Bernstein mother

Any 10-year old with a smart phone can reverse an image but you have to do it intentionally. Why would the mother of an alleged double hate crime attack deliberately alter photos of her daughter’s injuries?

In another interesting coincidence, also occurring at 1:00 a.m. in downtown Madison, a group of “peaceful protesters” were fire bombing the Madison City-County building just a few hundred yards from the intersection where Ms. Bernstein claimed she was burned by four racist frat boys.

Madison City-County building

Unlike Ms. Bernstein’s case, this arson attack was captured by surveillance cameras. Also captured sometime later was 26-year-old Marquon Clark, a “person of interest” in connection with the attack on the municipal building.

Madison Arson Suspect

REWARD: @ATFStPaul is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for info leading to the ID/arrest a man believed to be responsible for the fire-bombing at a downtown Madison government building early this morning. Call (608) 266-6014 @madisonpolice @MadisonWIFire @USAO_WDWI

[Update, 8/4/20. A June 24 tweet by the ATF included the closeup image of the “person of interest” spraying the Madison City-County building with what appears to be charcoal lighter fluid.]

Marquon Clark

Marquon Clark

Ironically, the Molotov cocktail lobbed into the building forced the evacuation of Madison’s 9-1-1 response center, so it’s probably a good thing Ms. Bernstein waited seventeen hours to report her attack on the non-emergency line and eventually drove herself to the hospital.

[During the “peaceful protests” that night, two statues were pulled down and a Wisconsin state senator, 60-year-old Democrat Tim Carpenter, was violently attacked by the mob.

Ironically, (there’s that word again…) one of the statues was a likeness of Col. Hans Christian Heg, a Norwegian immigrant and vocal abolitionist, who died leading his Union regiment into battle against evil Confederate troops in 1863.

The other statue, actually an allegory of Progress titled “Forward,” was of a woman, sculpted by a woman artist, Jean Pond Minor, and was paid for by local women’s groups.

Sen. Carpenter describes himself as a Gay Progressive. “Sad thing is I’m on their side for peaceful protests,” Carpenter later observed.

Apparently, they don’t make “social justice” like they used to anymore.

When Madison officials held a press conference on the afternoon of the 24th to decry the senseless violence and vandalism social media and the Blogosphere pounced, accusing them of caring more about statues than for Althea Bernstein. The press conference was held at 4:00 p.m. Ms. Bernstein didn’t get around to reporting her alleged attack until 5:45 p.m. (8/11/20)]

Again, this is more circumstantial evidence, and as we always remind our readers, correlation in no way implies causation. Just because youthful “protesters” were lobbing flaming liquids around in the vicinity does not necessarily mean that Ms. Bernstein got splashed there and made up the “frat boy” story to cover her actions, but it sure seems like we’ve heard this song before.

Of course, the Jussie Smollett case from 2019 comes to mind. The gay Black actor claimed that he was attacked at 2:30 a.m., on the coldest night of the year (in Chicago!), by two white men (pictured below), who beat him up, poured bleach on him and put a noose around his neck while shouting “This is MAGA country!” (in Chicago!). Smollett’s case is still pending as of this writing. Smollett was allegedly hoping to create some favorable, or at least sympathetic, publicity to bolster his acting career.

Smollett Brothers

Smollett’s confessed “attackers”

Also in 2019, 12-year-old Amari Allen swore that three white boys held her down on the school playground and cut off her dreadlocks, calling them “nappy,” except it never happened.

In 2017, 21-year-old Dauntarius Williams, of Manhattan, Kansas, reported to police that his car had been vandalized with racist slurs. It had been… by Dauntarius Williams.

In 2016, 18-year-old Yasmin Seweid told police she had been attacked on a New York City subway platform by three white men who yelled “Donald Trump!” while attempting to pull off her hijab head scarf. Seweid later confessed to making the whole story up to cover her late night out drinking with her Christian boyfriend. While the court sentenced her to counseling, her father, who apparently didn’t want his underage daughter drinking alcohol or dating Christians, forced her to shave her head.

Seweid

Seweid and her father appear in court, 2016

Long-time Watching the Watchdogs readers may recall our post concerning 20-year-old Sharmeka Moffitt from 2012, who claimed that she was walking alone in Louisiana park one night when three white men in hoodies doused her with a flammable liquid and set her alight, causing third degree burns on her body. Her car was vandalized with “KKK” and the “N-word” written on it… in toothpaste.

Moffitt

Ms. Moffitt

Police responded to Ms. Moffitt’s 911 call in less than a minute and found no suspects matching her description. After completing their investigation, police report finding only Ms. Moffitt’s fingerprints on a cigarette lighter and lighter fluid container. The toothpaste was determined to contain evidence of female DNA only. A year later, Moffitt pleaded guilty to one count of terrorizing and one count of false swearing, receiving a ten-year suspended sentence. No reason for the hoax was given.

Also from 2012, we reported on one of the most heinous hate crimes of the century. Michigan State University student Zachary Tennen, 19, was at a college party one night, minding his own business, when two white males, with shaven heads, approached him and asked him if he was Jewish. When Tennen replied that he was, the two bald men informed him that they were with the local Ku Klux Klan, then “made Nazi gestures” and proceeded to beat poor Zachary senseless, breaking his jaw in the process and… stapling his mouth shut after the attack! And the crowd of party-goers stood by and did nothing.

Tennen

Zachary Tennen

Naturally, the Media was all over this story. It had absolutely everything a news editor could wish for. Nazis, Skinheads, the KKK and anti-Semitism galore. Plus they stapled the boy’s mouth shut!  Tennen’s father threatened to call in high-powered lawyers from the Anti-Defamation League to help him sue MSU if the evil Nazi-Klan-Skinheads were not brought to justice immediately.

And then the real story came out. Young Mr. Tennen admitted to being “drunk and high” at the party that night. Several female students attending the party reported that Mr. T. was being obnoxious, making unwanted advances and “getting grabby” (every woman reading this description knows exactly what was going on). One of the women complained to a male friend, who explained to Mr. Tennen that if he did not cut it out he was going to regret it.

Mr. Tennen did not heed the advice. He put his hands on another woman and the other male, who was not a Nazi, or a skinhead, or with the KKK, kept his word and with one single punch knocked Zachary out cold, fracturing his jaw in the process. The crowd failed to intervene in “the beating” not because they were inherently anti-Semitic, they did not intervene because the whole thing was over in the blink of an eye.

To date, no explanation has been given for the piece of wire found in Tennen’s mouth, but it was most likely part of a retainer or other dental device. Zachary Tennen’s mouth was never stapled shut.

Like many teenage hoaxers who panic and play the hate card, Tennen found himself in over his head with no way out.  In the photo above, Tennen is shown in the hospital with his jaws wired shut, recounting the fictitious “attack’ in a television interview, literally lying through his teeth. Tennen stuck with his story until it finally collapsed under its own incredulous weight.

When Zachary Tennen finally came clean about the events of that evening the silence was deafening. Because he was actually punched in the face at the party, the Lansing Police Department still considered it an assault, regardless if the hate crime details were fabricated, yet no charges were filed against the student who punched Tennen.

Michigan State University decided that since the assault occurred off-campus that it suddenly had no role to play in the proceedings and the Tennen family called off the ADL lawyers at the last minute, stating that “…justice will be best served by closing this investigation at this time.” The end. Nothing to see here. Move along.

The point here is that hate crime hoaxes happen, and when they do happen the usual suspects rush in to capitalize on the initial claims and then going silent on the matter, as with the Althea Bernstein case, or making up some lame justification (“Yeah, well, it could have happened. Racists!”).

The Media and the Hate Industry players could care less if a story is true or not. They’ll make their money peddling the initial fear and outrage and there is a LOT of money to be made from that golden goose. After that, they will lie low until the next hoax comes along. It’s just business, folks. Very, very profitable business.

One final note, even the millionaires at the Southern Poverty Law Center, who have never met a “hate” claim they could not monetize, are staying clear of the Bernstein case. To date, the company has not said a word about the matter.

In all fairness, though, even the NAACP and Al Sharpton, who rose to fame propagating the Tawana Brawley hate crime hoax in 1987, have made no comments on the Bernstein story so far. Coincidence?

Stay tuned for updates on this mysterious case.

[Update — 9/22/20 — It has been 90 days since Ms. Bernstein claimed she was attacked by “four white frat boys” but Madison Police and the FBI have yet to turn up a single clue. No video. No witnesses. Nothing.

“As of Wednesday, [August 12, 2020], authorities confirmed that there is no new information to report concerning the alleged attack,” reported The Daily Wire website. “There is nothing new to release at this time,” [Madison Police spokesman Joel DeSpain] said, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Two weeks after those reports were published, Ms. Bernstein turned up at another Madison protest, doubling down on her attack claim and addressing the crowd. “Does my skin color offend you? Does my success scare you? Does the fact that I’m a Black woman make you worried that change in [sic] going to happen?”

That quote came from an unnamed Associated Press reporter who made the entirely unverified claim that “One of the demonstrators was Althea Bernstein, the 18-year-old Black woman who was lit on fire as she sat in her car at a Madison intersection…” The term “allegedly” never appears once in the report, and it was reprinted by US News and World Report, who really ought to know better. Such is the sorry state of “journalism” today.

The media madness spilled into September, with The Clarion, school newspaper for the Madison Area Technical College, using the same attack-as-fact language in a highly sanitized story about a September 2 student protest on behalf of Althea Bernstein. Apparently, Ms. Bernstein was otherwise engaged that day and unable to attend the march and fundraiser in her honor.

On September 11, the National Football League released a list of approved “names of victims of police violence and systemic racism…” that NFL players could wear on their helmets to signify their virtue. The second name on that list (no doubt because she’s a woman) is Althea Bernstein.

One final note, the GoFundMe fundraiser we mentioned earlier was mysteriously closed on August 18, by its organizer, Linda Rogalski, having stalled at $9,818 dollars, meaning that no one had contributed since July.

The mysteries are several:

  1. Despite requiring ongoing medical attention for Althea’s burns, the Bernstein family, who approved the fundraiser, did not want to use the money to pay for medical costs. Instead, they wanted the money to go to charity.
  2. Ms. Rogalski writes that the money will actually be used to help Althea Bernstein purchase a “farmette” where she can rescue animals. The farm will be called “Timberdoodle Meadows.”

    And this applies to Ms. Bernstein’s alleged hate crime status how?

  3. The fundraiser fell short of its $10,000 goal, but only by a fraction. They raised 99.2% of the money, but strangely, Ms. Rogalski has included a link on the site where donors can ask for their money back, “Since it did not reach the goal amount for the campaign.”

    Really? “You only raised 99.2% of the money earmarked for a hate crime victim so I want a refund,” said nobody, ever.

  4. GoFundMe donations are available to the beneficiaries almost immediately, even during ongoing campaigns, and there is no deadline for closing a campaign, so why would you close it at all, especially when you are within spitting distance of the goal line?]

“Curiouser and curiouser.”


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