SPLC — Hate Map 2020 — Trump Crushes “Hate Groups”!!!

Recently the Southern Poverty Law Center released its annual “Hate Map” fundraising tool, which purports to identify “hate groups” in the US from the previous fiscal year. As usual, it’s full of unvetted claims and outright obfuscations, but like its thirty predecessors, going back to 1990, the “Hate Map” tool is guaranteed to bring in tens of millions of tax-free donor dollars.

The SPLC will be releasing its latest IRS Form 990 shortly, so we’ll get to see how much 2020’s haul from the donors was soon enough. If recent totals are any indication, it should be another hefty year for the company’s coffers:

2019: $117 million
2018: $122 million
2017: $133 million
2016: $53 million*

Before we get into the latest numbers we need to repeat some boilerplate information for our many new readers.

  1. There is no legal definition for a “hate group,” which is why even the FBI does not, cannot designate “hate groups.” There isn’t even a universal definition for “hate,” so what exactly is the SPLC allegedly tracking?
  2. The SPLC’s own spurious definition, “All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics” essentially boils down to “All hate groups say mean things about other groups,” is so intentionally elastic that it can be applied to almost anyone.
  3. In 2019, Senior US District Court Judge Myron Thompson ruled that the SPLC’s “hate group” label is merely the company’s “opinion,” and therefore protected by the First Amendment.
  4. The Southern Poverty Law Center, Inc. is a private 501(c)3 tax-exempt corporation. It has no mandate, no authority, legal or moral, to designate anyone as anything. Again, such designations are merely the company’s “opinion.”

    The company receives no external review or oversight
    . In 1994, the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, ran a 10-day exposé of the company which revealed that its Board of Directors was packed with cronies and employees of SPLC founder, Morris Dees. Some of these rubber-stampers were still on the Board some twenty-five years later, at the time of Dees’ firing under allegations of long-term sexual harassment of female employees.
  5. Mark Potok, the SPLC’s Intelligence Director for twenty years and the creator of the “Hate Map” tool has stated repeatedly that:

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

    “…a “hate group” has nothing to do with criminality… [or] potential for violence…” Rather, as Potok put it, “It’s all about ideology.”

    Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.” (Seriously. The SPLC deliberately conflates six of the most fundamental civil rights protected by the First Amendment with “criminal acts” and “hate group activities.”)

    Websites appearing to be merely the work of a single individual, rather than the publication of a group, are not included in this list.” (SPLC Hate Map, 2015)

    “An online presence isn’t enough to be added to the list; a group has to meet at least once a year at a physical location.” (SPLC Outreach Director Kate Chance, Feb. 21, 2019)

    Let me first of all say, that we do the “hate group” map and the counts, and so on, as a very rough measure… It’s 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).

    “We see this political struggle, 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.”  (Holiday, 2008, track 13, https://archive.org/details/MarkPotok).

    “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!” (Sept. 2007,  https://youtu.be/fnTz2ylJo_8)

    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.”

And there you have it, right from the experts at the SPLC themselves. By the way, we know that the SPLC is staffed by “experts” because it clearly says so on the company’s website and fundraising literature. Let’s wade in and have a look at this latest “report.”

First off, 2020’s “hate group” count is down by 11% from 2019, from 940 to 838. Ups and downs like this are not unusual for the SPLC. As the sole arbiter of the insanely lucrative “hate group” label, the company can set the level anywhere it pleases and nobody in the Media will ask to see any proof whatsoever.

In 2011, the SPLC designated 1,018 alleged “hate groups,” an all-time record high which they naturally attributed to “A Black Man in the White House.” By 2014, halfway into President Obama’s second term, the number mysteriously plummeted to 784, a loss of 23%.

How can this be? It’s simple. The SPLC is keenly aware of “donor fatigue,” which is why they stopped taking Death Row appeal cases in the 1970s. The donors will gladly swallow claims of 1,018 “hate groups,” but it’s hard to keep the hysteria alive from year to year. Therefore, the SPLC will voluntarily cut back its “hate group” totals so that in a year or two it can sound the alarums about “explosive growth in hate” when they jack the numbers up again in some future campaign.

In 2018, “hate groups” allegedly set a new “all time record high” under President Trump. What the company neglected to mention was that, at 1,020, the new “record” was only two groups higher than President Obama’s numbers in 2011. The donors didn’t remember and the Media didn’t care. The excuse for 2020’s decline was exactly the same as for 2014, “hate groups are going online.”

The sheer beauty of the “online” canard is that there is no possible way to prove or disprove it. This is the same logic behind the SPLC’s oft-repeated claims that Donald Trump somehow “emboldened hate groups.” It’s a throwaway claim that perpetuates the company’s Fear and Outrage campaign with absolutely no risk that anyone in the Media is going to ask to see the evidence (not that anyone in the Media ever would).

Another HUGE fact to remember about the “Hate Map” is what the SPLC likes to designate as “Statewide” groups. “Statewide” simply refers to alleged groups for which the SPLC provides no corroborating information whatsoever. Not so much as a known city or town, or anything that a donor or journalist could use to verify the claim. Nothing.

The SPLC has been using “statewide” phantoms to pad out its numbers for decades. It’s a brilliant fundraising strategy. For example, the SPLC claims 42 alleged chapters of the Patriot Front for 2020, with one in Washington, DC, and the other 41 parceled out as “statewide” entities across various states. No evidence, no proof required. Thirty-five of the SPLC’s 36 Racist Skinhead groups are “statewide” phantoms! That’s 97% of the claim and nobody in the Media will challenge it.

Better still, when compared from year to year, the percentage of “statewide” phantoms in any one category continues to increase. As the chart below indicates (click to enlarge) in 2017 “only” 39% of alleged Ku Klux Klan chapters were “statewide” phantoms, but by 2020 they accounted for nearly half. In 2017, 35% of alleged White Nationalist “groups” were homeless. By 2020 the number had jumped to 61%. The company is losing its “hate groups” faster than it can designate them.

“Statewide” phantoms since 2017 – Click to Enlarge

While the SPLC would prefer that people (donors) forget about previous claims, we like to keep track of such things. You never know what the experts at the SPLC are going to tell you over time. For example, in the chart above, alleged group counts in red indicate an increase from the previous year. Those highlighted in yellow indicate a decline and those in blue indicate no change at all from the previous year. Since 2017 the decreases have outnumbered the increases significantly, and even the increases are fairly minor compared to the previous year, with one glaring exception.

For 2020, the SPLC stopped counting Black and Black Muslim “hate groups” as “Black hate groups.” While it’s perfectly acceptable, even righteous, to count White Nationalist “groups” because they believe that whites are superior to non-whites, and Christian Identity “groups” because they believe that Christians are superior to heathen non-believers, you can’t draw attention to your 70-odd Nation of Islam chapters as “hate groups,” even though their racial and religious identities form the entire bases of their association. It confuses the donors, which is bad for business.

You see, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Black people aren’t like other human beings and must be treated differently. Black “hate” isn’t really hate and the fact that Black “hate groups” are the largest single and fastest growing category on the map was proving to be problematic.

As with previous years, 2020’s 264 alleged Black “hate groups” outnumbered all 252 of the SPLC’s KKK, neo-Nazi, racist skinhead and white nationalist groups for that year COMBINED.

When you strip out the homeless “statewide” phantoms from both sides, that ratio jumps to 3.5-to-1, or 252 to 82. What were the donors to make of that?

The solution was simplicity itself. If “Black hate groups” are the problem, simply call them something else, otherwise you’d have to erase another 32% of your groups from the map.

So for 2020, the SPLC’s 264 alleged “Black hate groups” and 7 alleged Holocaust Denial “groups were shoved into the delightfully generic “General Hate” category. They are still the same groups, with a few extras thrown in, but they’re not Black anymore. Get it?

This creative accounting brings up another fascinating factoid: According to the SPLC’s own dire numbers, and despite five straight years of hysterical claims that “Donald Trump empowers hate groups!!!,” it turns out that nearly every single category of SPLC-designated “hate group” has DECLINED since 2017, i.e., during the Trump administration. Behold!

“Hate Group” declines under Trump – Click to Enlarge

Granted, claiming that all Black and Holocaust denial “groups” simply evaporated during Donald Trump’s watch is inherently disingenuous, but while the Holocausters remained steady at seven alleged chapters, Black “hate groups” actually increased by 4% in 2020 and when those numbers are returned to their traditional categories the bloated General Hate category actually decreased by 21% over the previous year.

Remember folks, these are the SPLC’s own impeccable numbers, not ours.

Speaking of numbers, how many hate-filled individuals does it actually take to compose a “group”? Obviously, the SPLC isn’t going to come right and say “X-number or more” because that would require, you know, proof. Let’s see what the experts have to say, starting off with Mark Potok again:

“Potok says inclusion on the list might come from a minor presence, such as a post office box.” (www.sanluisobispo.com, March 25, 2009)

“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)

In 2015, Mark Potok assigned 40 “hate groups” to New Jersey, (a state that doesn’t get enough negative publicity as it is…), giving that state the fourth highest total in the land and causing Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League to publicly denounce the SPLC’s bogus counts.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center’s list is wildly inflated,” said Pitcavage. “They list skinhead groups in places where there are no organized groups, but instead it’s just a couple of individuals.”

After being publicly outed by the ADL, the SPLC slashed New Jersey’s count from 40 to 21 on the next “Hate Map,” which was not issued until a full fundraising year later.

In 2017, Mr. Potok’s successor as Intelligence Director, Heidi Beirich, read a single online post on a Klan website by an individual who said he lived in the town of Gurnee, Illinois. That was all it took for Gurnee to earn its very own Scarlet H “hate group” designation.

That same year, Ms. Beirich read another anonymous blog post by an individual who opined that Amana, Iowa would be a great place to hold a neo-Nazi meeting and… wait for it… Amana had a “hate group.” That’s all it took. In fact, no meeting of neo-Nazis ever took place in 2017 or since.

What makes the Amana case even more ludicrous is that the village was founded by German Pietist immigrants in the 1840s, who later formed the Amana appliance corporation in the 1930s. The Amana Colonies exist today as a popular tourist destination listed on the US National Register of Historic Places. Amana is populated by costumed interpreters who demonstrate 19th century farm life.

Both Amana and Gurnee are heavily dependent on tourism, with the latter employing some 3,000 people at its Six Flags location. Who would take their family to a town with an “SPLC-certified hate group”? According to Politico, when the mayors of both villages complained to the SPLC they were met with indifferent shrugs and informed that the company’s “hate group” numbers are fixed and cannot be changed until the new map comes out the following year.

Amana did receive a reprieve of sorts, when Ms. Beirich reluctantly agreed to move the fictitious neo-Nazi group-of-one from Amana to “Statewide,” but Iowa maintained all four of its alleged “hate groups” for the entire year.

Not only is the “Hate Map” populated by numerous one-man “groups,” the list is also rife with one-man websites, something the company categorically states that it does not count. Remember their claim, “Websites appearing to be merely the work of a single individual, rather than the publication of a group, are not included in this list“? Some past and current examples:

Rense Radio Network (Since 2015)
carolynyeager,net (Since 2013)
Casa D’Ice Signs (2010-2015)
Free Edgar Steele (2010-2015)
Christ or Chaos (Since 2011)
Bob’s Underground Graduate Seminar/BUGS (2013-2017)
Sultan Knish a blog by Daniel Greenfield (2011-2016)
White Rabbit Radio (Since 2013)
Bomb Islam (Since 2016)
Wildman’s Civil War Surplus and Herb Shop (2018)

While these are only a few of the many one-man web groups the SPLC has claimed over the years, the top prize has to go to The Daily Stormer, which, to be absolutely clear, was a bona fide neo-Nazi blog, make no mistake about it. The sheer marketing genius of this claim deserves a closer look.

In 2015, Mark Potok told the OC Register “We make a big effort to separate a man, his dog and a computer from a group with on-the-ground activity.”

Also in 2015, Mr. Potok described The Daily Stormer to Esquire magazine as “mostly Andrew Angelin, his dog, and a computer,” with one single, one-man “group” based in Ohio.

In 2016, Potok counted 32 iterations of The Daily Stormer one-man website, including the ridiculous “hate group” Heidi Beirich assigned to Amana, Iowa, and one “statewide” phantom in New York State.

By 2017, there were still 32 alleged Stormer “groups,” only now all but the Ohio home base were “statewide” phantoms.

2018 saw the list shrink to 22 iterations, with all but the Ohio “group” listed as “statewide,” and by 2019, the lucrative franchise (at least for the SPLC) collapsed to a mere ten chapters, and even the Ohio iteration had gone AWOL.

As of 2020, The Daily Stormer has morphed back into the one-man blog it has always been and is counted among Ohio’s 21 alleged “groups,” even though Mr. Angelin fled the country to parts unknown in 2016 and the website now sports a .su domain name, which would seemingly put it somewhere in the Soviet Union.

You really have to tip your hat to such marketing ingenuity. Since 2015, the SPLC has counted a single one-man blog, something Mark Potok swore that the company does not count, 98 times and the Media never once questioned it.

And so, there we have it. Another year and another SPLC “Hate Map” fundraising tool. In the aftermath of the near collapse of the company in 2019, with the scandalous firing of its founder, Morris Dees, and the suspiciously hasty resignations of SPLC President Richard Cohen and Legal Director Rhonda Brownstein just one week later, we briefly toyed with the idea that the company might have turned a corner and was heading back to its civil rights roots. It had, after all, finally diversified its Executive Suite after a 49-year “whites only” policy set in place by Dees and rigorously enforced by Cohen and the company’s Board of Directors.

Sadly, it was not to be. While the same Board that had kept Dees and Cohen in power for decades quickly named one of its own, Karen Baynes-Dunning as interim president until it could hire the equally diverse Margaret Huang, the company still saw fit to reward Dees, Cohen and Brownstein with more than a million donor-dollars in severance pay in 2019, despite the shame and ignominy they brought to the brand name.

The simple fact is that the annual “Hate Map” fundraising tool brings in too much money to walk away from, even though the SPLC has more than half a billion dollars in cash reserves. It’s no conspiracy. Like everything else about the Southern Poverty Law Center, the spurious “hate group” designations are simply part of the business of selling fear.


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