Archive for the ‘2. Public Relations Techniques’ Category

SPLC — Cashing in on Charlottesville

August 19, 2017

While the violence and death at last week’s “Unite the Right” riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, was a national tragedy and a source of horror for most Americans, it follows as surely as the night follows day that the Southern Poverty Law Center would find a way to make money off it.

It was only a few weeks ago, in June, when the SPLC was writhing under some of the most negative media coverage it had possibly ever seen, in the wake of the GuideStar debacle. Reliable media allies such as Politico and the Wall Street Journal were openly criticizing GuideStar, a leading rating agency of non-profit organizations, for adding the SPLC’s spurious “hate group” label to dozens of its entries.

[The Politico article is one of the best exposés of the SPLC written in decades and well worth a read.]

Then came Charlottesville. The violent idiots on both sides of the fighting were right out of Central Casting and a godsend for the SPLC. Images of torchlight parades across the University of Virginia campus were tailor-made for the endless barrage of fundraising tweets, press releases, and, no doubt, fundraising letters. The cash has been pouring in ever since. The company will probably have to open several more off-shore bank accounts to house it all.

All of that paled in comparison to the tragedy of Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer’s death after being struck by a car that careered into a crowd on Saturday afternoon. Video footage of the incident gives little doubt that the act was intentional, and the driver of the car, James Fields, Jr., who was identified marching with white nationalists earlier in the day, is currently being held on charges of second-degree murder and several other counts.

Once Heyer’s name was released on the following day she was immediately canonized by the media and the Left, for their own financial and political purposes, but none of them could hold a candle to the Southern Poverty Law Center when it comes to monetizing murder.

Less than a week after Heyer’s death, the SPLC announced that it was “honoring Heather Heyer at Civil Rights Memorial Center.”

“Like the civil rights martyrs whose names are inscribed on the Civil Rights Memorial, Heather took a stand against hate and bigotry and made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Lecia Brooks, director of outreach for the SPLC, which built and maintains the memorial.”

Will Heyer’s name be immortalized on the SPLC’s “Martyr’s Monument,” a black granite disc designed by Vietnam Veterans Memorial artist Maya Lin? Well no, that monument cost the perpetually cash-strapped SPLC $5,000,000 in 1989 (nearly $10 million in today’s dollars.)

Instead, the SPLC is going to honor Heyer on its less-static and infinitely more economical “Wall of Tolerance.” Longtime Watching the Watchdogs readers may recall our 2016 investigation of the Wall of Tolerance fundraising scam. We found that, like the lucrative “Stand Strong Against Hate” map scam that preceded it, the Wall of Tolerance was little more than a fundraising tool designed to recruit new donors.

While invoking the names of the “civil rights martyrs,” the Wall of Tolerance scam is built solidly upon the age-old persuasion technique of “reciprocity,” in which an organization sends out free gifts to potential donors in the expectation that the recipients will feel obliged to make a donation. Many readers may remember receiving packs of return address labels from various veteran’s groups. It’s a simple, cost-effective method that has been around for decades.

In the Wall of Tolerance scam, prospective donors receive a suitable-for-framing certificate from the SPLC thanking them for joining the ranks of the civil rights martyrs by supporting the company in its never-ending “fight against hate.” In addition to the certificate, the recipient will be memorialized forever on the “Wall of Tolerance,” a 20-by-40-foot Jumbotron screen at SPLC headquarters, where hundreds of thousands of names drift autumn-leaf-like across the screen “as the gentle rain from heaven.”

Recipients, honored to be included among such auspicious company, feel obligated to send along a little something in appreciation. Others can add their names simply by passing along their personal contact information to the Fundraising Department.

As our report noted, at least one honoree, Marcus Epstein,  had the dual honor of having his own page on the SPLC website that denounced him as a racist. Oops!

SOFII, the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration, was hugely impressed by the elegant simplicity of the Wall of Tolerance:

SOFII’s view

The Southern Poverty Law Center, who launched this campaign, is a hugely impressive organisation with a long and well-deserved reputation for effective donor development.

Though we don’t have the results, we think we can presume that this direct mail capital appeal must have worked really very well.

Merits

This is one of the most moving and long-lasting donor involvement campaigns in the USA and represents some of the best that the direct marketer’s art can produce.

It cost the SPLC nothing to add Heather Heyer’s name to the Wall o’ Tolerance Jumbotron but the tax-free donor-dollars will be rolling in by the truckload for weeks and months.

Incidentally, Lecia Brooks, who is quoted above in the Heyer press release, holds two concurrent Directorships at the SPLC. One of the few African-Americans in the SPLC hierarchy, Double-Director Brooks has never been named among the company’s highest paid executives.

One wonders what Heather Heyer would have made of that?

 

SPLC — Why is the “Hate Map” Static?

August 31, 2016

This week has seen repeated online headlines reading that “White Lives Matter has been designated a ‘hate group'” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), broadcast from a number of media sites, some of them major players, here, here, here, here, here and here.

What most news outlets, from the New York Times to Time magazine to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution neglect to mention is that is that the SPLC won’t actually get around to adding White Lives Matter to its “Hate Map” fundraising tool until February, 2017. But six months from now, WLM is going to have a place on the Wall of Shame, by golly.

This raises the question, and admittedly, such heresy borders on flagrant “journalism,” as to why the SPLC’s “Hate Map” is static in a world of dynamic websites?

The oft-repeated photo accompanying the SPLC’s polished press releases, dutifully reprinted in online media sites across the board, shows a handful of neo-Nazi wannabes desperate to get a rise from the media, as the local populations have shown little interest in WLM’s blather.

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There they are, America, the existential threat that ought to keep your eyes wide open at night and your checkbook wide open by day. Think about it.

So to get back to the uncomfortable question, why IS the SPLC’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool static when every media website, social media outlet or even private blog, such as our own Watching the Watchdogs dynamic? It makes no sense, unless you follow the money.

The SPLC releases its annual “Hate Map” every spring, purporting to identify all “hate groups” across the nation on a state-by-state basis from the previous year. Oddly enough, there is no legal definition for “hate group,” so the “groups” listed are purely at the whim of the SPLC, which receives no external oversight or review.

In short, we KNOW the “groups” listed on the SPLC’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool, which include t-shirt shops, one-man blogs and an Italian restaurant outside Pittsburgh, really, really are “hate groups,” because they tell us so.

If knuckleheads like White Lives Matter are such a threat, why won’t the SPLC post them on the “Hate Map” today? Why wait six months?

Well, it’s like this. The “Hate Map” is a fundraising tool, and as such it always refers to the previous year. The current SPLC “Hate Map” actually refers to existential threats from 2015. A little late to take up arms against the outrageous slings and arrows from last year, the “Hate Map” serves an important fundraising purpose. Media outlets from the New York Times, NPR, Time Magazine and the BBC will pick up the SPLC’s bogus “hate group” numbers and repeat them verbatim, ad nauseum, without ever performing even the most preliminary fact checks on the company’s claims.

If the SPLC were actually to create a dynamic tool the company would have to deal not only with scrutiny when it added “groups” to the “Hate Map,” but when they just as arbitrarily removed “groups” from the tool.

Case in point: In February, 2015, the SPLC designated 40 “hate groups” to New Jersey, giving it the fourth highest total in the land. This unsubstantiated claim led Mark Pitcavage, Intelligence Director for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to publicly challenge the reliability of the the numbers his brothers-in-arms at the SPLC were putting forth.

“According to Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the SPLC has a habit of counting single individuals as groups or chapters, which can give a skewed impression of hate groups in any given state.” [Emphasis added]

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.” [Emphasis added]

After being publicly humiliated by the ADL, the SPLC reduced its “hate group” count for New Jersey from 40 to 21, due largely to the arbitrary removal of 13 chapters of the AC Skins skinhead group that the company swore was a threat to all that we hold dear in 2015.

AC skins

The beauty of the “static map” system is that even though the ADL debunked the SPLC’s New Jersey claims in March of 2015, the reduction to the “Hate Map” didn’t come until February, 2016, resulting in a full year of fundraising. That one year delay resulted in uncounted donor-dollars wafting their way into the SPLC’s already bloated coffers.

If the “Hate Map” served any purpose beyond agitating the company’s mostly elderly, mostly Progressive donor base, it would be accurate up to the minute.

This friends, is why the SPLC’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool only comes out once a year. It’s not about identifying “threats,” it’s about gulling the gullible. Give early and often and we’ll tell you all about it next year.

 

Where is the “Center for the Study of Hate” on the San Bernardino Massacre?

December 8, 2015

One of the first posts Watching the Watchdogs made back in 2009 dealt with Prof. Brian Levin’s one-man “Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism” at California State University at San Bernardino.

We described how the “center’s” phone number went to a different department, how the “center’s” website hadn’t been updated since the 2001 World Trade Center attacks and how the “center’s” email address was Brian Levin’s own free AOL email account. We could find not one single academic article produced by the “center” that was not authored by “B. Levin.”

In short, there was no one at the “center” for the Director to direct. It was a classic case of a “letterhead” center that existed only on paper.

We even contacted the California State University at San Bernardino to ascertain how much funding the “center” received from the state and learned that it was merely in the hundreds of dollars. This was not “funding” but merely petty cash reimbursement.

As we stated in 2009, these facts in no way diminish Prof. Levin’s credentials as a researcher. His work on the plight of the homeless in the San Bernardino area is peerless, the man does not need a paper “center” to bolster his bona fides. Prof. Levin has the goods.

And yet, despite the recent horrific attacks in the man’s own back yard, there is absolutely NOTHING about this massacre on the “Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism” website.

Brian Levin mouths the usual platitudes in the local press, but as usual, the “center’s” website reflects nothing, even of a horrific “hate” event in its own back yard.

It should be duly noted, as we said in 2009, Prof. Levin, unlike his dubious mentors at the Southern Poverty Law Center, has in NO WAY attempted to make money from his paper “center.” The views expressed are solely those of Brian Levin.

Prof. Levin, Watching the Watchdogs has pleaded with you for years, give up this sham, this spurious “center” and address these very real threats on your own as a man. Tear up this paper “center” and speak up for yourself. You do not need this dubious crutch to bolster your sincere claims.

 

SPLC — Out of the “Civil Rights” Business?

June 30, 2015

With all of the attention the Southern Poverty Law Center has been getting in the press lately over the simple JONAH fraud suit in New Jersey, we couldn’t help but notice that the term “civil rights organization” had mysteriously dropped from the SPLC’s press releases.

After consulting with the Internet Archives’ marvelous Wayback Machine, we discovered that the SPLC has dropped the term “non-profit civil rights organization” from its Who We Are webpage, sometime around March of 2014.
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December 29, 2013, now you see it:

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March 11, 2014, now you don’t:

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Seems rather odd, one would think, but the SPLC actually got out of the civil rights business in 1981, when its founder, Morris Dees, discovered there was far more money to be made hawking “hate groups” than taking on Death Row cases.

All of this was presaged by the SPLC’s $155,000-donor-dollar-a-year PR guru, Mark Potok, who glibly explained to a group of visiting high school teachers and students in 2008:

“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.”

Why would they even consider changing their multimillion-dollar brand name? Because they had dumped the “civil rights law” aspect decades before.

And with more than $302 MILLION dollars in cash on hand, the term “non-profit” seems a little silly.

The SPLC may have stopped claiming it is a civil rights organization, but it has yet to correct anyone in the media who mistakenly identifies them as such.

Looks like it’s up to all of us.

SPLC — “Hate Groups Are Very Hard To Track”

April 28, 2015

In a recent news report, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s latest “Director of the Intelligence Project,” Dr. Heidi Beirich, admitted that her company screwed up in reporting an alleged “hate group” in Little Falls, New York.

On April 23, 2015, staff reporter Stephanie Sorrell-White of the Times of Herkimer, NY,  tossed Dr. Beirich a fig leaf with a headline of a “Computer glitch to blame for hate group misinformation,” but the fact is that the SPLC’s “Hate Map” is nothing more than a blatant fundraising tool.

Dr. Beirich, a long-time SPLC alumna, has only recently taken over the dubious position of “Director” from her predecessor, the arch-PR guru, Mark Potok.

Mark Potok -- Intelligence Director --  Click image to enlarge.

Mark Potok — Intelligence Director — Click image to enlarge.

Mr. Potok, who has ridden his “Hate Map” to a fortune well in excess of a million dollars, was pretty sloppy when it came to applying his patented “hate group” label. To wit, in 2012, Mr. Potok designated some 20 chapters of something he called “the Georgia Militia” on that state’s “hate map.” The only problem was that Mr. Potok couldn’t seem to locate any of those chapters on any map, including his own.

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Instead, Mr. Potok merely added 18 empty slots marked “Georgia Militia” to his “Hate Map” and assigned one chapter to somewhere in Camden County and another as “Statewide.” This, friends, is “hard evidence”?

In 2013, Mr. Potok reduced the number of homeless Georgia Militia chapters to 12, again, with 10 empty slots.

In 2014, after the accession of Dr. Beirich to the dubious throne, the first thing she did was to toss out the Georgia Militia malarkey out of hand. You will not find a single incidence of it on the current Georgia “hate map.” The position is simply untenable. Bravo, Dr. B. for your courage to clean house, at least partially.

Despite Ms. Sorrell-White’s regurgitation of Dr. Beirich’s spurious claim that a non-existent “hate group” was lurking in Little Falls, the truth is that the SPLC’s “Hate Map” is anything but accurate.

In 2011, Mark Potok admitted to this reporter, on camera, that his “hate group” numbers were “anecdotal,” “a rough estimate,” and “an imperfect process,” and last month, no less of an authority than Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League stated publicly that Mr. Potok’s claims were “wildly inflated.”

Yet the Media lapdogs continue to lap up these steaming bowls of fundraising tripe without performing even the most rudimentary fact checks.

The SPLC makes big claims and yet nobody in the Media is willing to vet them whatsoever.

Sadly, in an effort to perpetuate the highly lucrative “Hate Map” theme, Dr. Beirich offered the following lame excuses to Ms. Sorrell-White, who naturally gobbled them down without question:

“Hate groups are very hard to track,” she [Beirich] said, noting some groups were listed on the website by county or region.”

“In the case of those hate groups, where there was no city specified, our new system automatically populated the city field,” she [Beirich] said.”

Dr. Beirich, if you don’t have any information on the location of an alleged “hate group,” why in the world are you claiming its existence? The obvious answer is to pad your enormously lucrative “Hate Map,” but you seemed to be cut of a higher quality cloth than your “Vaya con Dinero” predecessor, Mr. Potok.

“We’re angry and embarrassed,” said Beirich, about the error.”

And well you should be, Dr. Beirich. The SPLC is paying you in excess of $150,000 donor-dollars a year to catch these gaffes before they become public. You really dropped the ball on this one.

Dr. Beirich, unlike Mark Potok, you are highly educated, with two Masters degrees and a PhD, in comparison to his BS in Political Science. Naturally, we expect more from you, which is why we applaud your determination to cut some of the fat from Potok’s laughable “hate map” by some 17 percent this year. Obviously, you cannot cut out all of the garbage in a single year or the entire scheme collapses, we “get it,” but you really need to distance yourself from Mr. Potok’s legacy.

Potok knew that nobody in the media would question his fundraising propaganda, but sadly, Dr. B., you do not have that luxury. The Internet will spell the demise of Potok’s pitiful “hate map,” as this example proves, and it will do so on your watch.

While you commended the people of Little Falls for calling you out on this blatant fabrication, inside you must be seething. Mr. Potok, it seems, has sold you a lemon. You’ve been promoted to Captain of the Titanic.

Worse yet, a real journalist might catch on to the SPLC’s “Hate Map” scam. Heaven knows that Watching the Watchdogs has been sharing its information with every news outlet it can reach in just such a hope.

Sooner or later, somebody is going to smell a Pulitzer.

The Many (White) Faces of the SPLC

January 24, 2015

It’s always informative to peruse the Southern Poverty Law Center’s web site, as you never know what you’ll find. Here’s what the Senior Program Staff page of the Who We Are tab looks like:

Senior Staff1Senior Staff2Senior Staff3

We found it a bit odd that there were so many missing photos, as it sure left a lot of white space on the page. Just out of curiosity we simply Googled the names and found photos for everyone.

So here, in no particular order, are the missing faces of the SPLC’s Senior Program Staff, click on any image to enlarge it:

MissingStaff1MissingStaff2MissingStaff3

As it turns out, if the web designers at the SPLC actually had filled in all the missing photos there would still be a lot of white space on the page.

No doubt even the most die-hard donors would catch on if all of the photos were published.

Twenty-one of the SPLC’s Senior Staffers are white, or about 88% of the team. Seems a bit odd for “the nation’s leading civil rights organization,” especially since its headquarters are located LITERALLY in the back yard of Dr. Martin Luther King’s own Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, the birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement.

When you account for the fact that four of the Senior Staffers, including two of the three blacks on the team, live out-of-state, the percentage of white staff in Montgomery jumps to 95%. The sole exception is Lecia Brooks, who works as a fundraiser. Ms. Brooks joined the SPLC in 2004 and has never broken into the ranks of highest paid officers, even when the list included salaries as paltry as $70,000 a year.

Still and all, as dismal as the diversity of the Senior Staff is, it’s better than the makeup of the SPLC’s executive officer team, which is composed 100% of white millionaires, just as it has been for every year since the SPLC opened for business in 1971.

Even the SPLC’s “Teaching Tolerance” program, which purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom, is led by whites, as it has been since its inception in 1991.

“Diversity,” like taxes, it seems, is for the little people. No hypocrisy here, SPLC.

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 — Anatomy of a Marketing Ploy

January 26, 2014

As mentioned in an previous post, the master fundraisers at the Southern Poverty Law Center have targeted the LGBT community in their latest marketing scheme. A little digging, very little digging, reveals just how flimsy this campaign really is from the get-go.

Visit the SPLC’s homepage and click on the “LGBT Rights” link on the left.

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The LGBT Rights page makes the following claim: “Our work on LGBT issues spans decades.” Really?

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If the SPLC has been fighting the good fight for the LGBT community “for decades,” why did they not even have an LGBT Rights page until 2011? Certainly there must be dozens of important LGBT cases to which the SPLC can point with pride.

Fortunately, the SPLC keeps a meticulous list of all of their court cases which one can access easily from their home page.

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They even provide a handy drop-down menu that sorts the cases by type.

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Sorting by LGBT Rights returns a total of 8 cases, which seems rather skimpy for a civil rights law firm that has been in business for nearly 43 years. Scrolling down to the oldest case, Hoffburg v. Alexander, we do indeed find that this case goes all the way back to 1980. Hoffburg, it turns out, wasn’t even the SPLC’s own case. It was an appeal filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Glancing up, however, we find that the next time the SPLC went to bat for the LGBT community was in 2011!

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Apparently, there were no cases of anti-LGBT civil rights violations worthy of the great institution’s note for 31 years!

In this case, the SPLC threatened to sue a high school if it didn’t allow two female students to march in a pep rally as the school’s Snow King and Queen. Fighting the good fight doesn’t come much harder than that.

Scrolling up the list, we find that it was only a few months after the pep rally case that the SPLC threatened to sue the same school district.

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The SPLC claims it was contesting a “gag policy” that prevented teachers from discussing LGBT issues in the classroom. The actual policy read that teachers could discuss LGBT issues at an age appropriate level, if the subject was germane to the class work and remained entirely neutral on the subject, neither endorsing or denigrating it.

Neutrality wasn’t good enough for the civil rights center, and so, having as much spare cash on hand as any other public school system facing a multimillion dollar law firm, Anoka-Hennepin simply gave in. Another hard fought legal battle that never went to court.

Higher up the list, we find Hill v. Public Advocate, the simple copyright infringement case of a New Jersey gay couple whose engagement photo was used in a Colorado political flier without their permission, or that of their photographer, who holds the copyright. None of the plaintiffs are indigent, the case is being handled by one of the premier intellectual property law firms in the business and the term “civil rights” never appears once in the complaint.

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Soon after Hill, the SPLC jumped on another non-civil rights case, Ferguson v. JONAH. In this case, a group of gay Jewish men in New York City are suing an organization that promised to “cure” their homosexuality.

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This is a classic fraud suit, no different than thousands of similar suits filed every day, and the case is being brought forward by one of the best fraud law firms in NYC, none of the plaintiffs are poor and, once again, the term “civil rights” never appears once in the actual complaint.

If there are no civil rights issues in these otherwise cut-and-dried civil suits that are being handled by some of the best lawyers in the business, what exactly does the SPLC bring to the table?

In a word: Publicity.

In return for this free publicity, the SPLC’s master Public Relations Guru, Mark Potok, can claim that his outfit is out there fighting for gay rights.

The most recent case, as of this writing and described in a previous post, is a perfect example of Mr. Potok’s cynical marketing ploy.

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In this case, Mr. Potok and Co. are suing a poor, mostly Black junior high school where a 16-year old 8th grader named Destin Holmes claims she was verbally and mentally abused because she is a self-described lesbian.

Let’s be crystal clear here, nobody, in any of these cases, deserves to be subjected to any form of discrimination by anyone at any time or any place. Those of us who have been through junior high are still all too well aware of the juvenile stupidity that goes on in those institutions, by both the students and the staff, and that in no way explains or justifies it.

Obviously, this is a bad situation that demands immediate investigation, but is bringing a federal law suit against one of the poorest performing schools in one of the poorest performing states the best way to fix the system?

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Or is it little more than another classic Potok-ian publicity stunt?

Ironically, the complaint against Magnolia Junior High makes no mention of the fact that, while 78% of the student body is non-white, and both the principal and assistant principal, who have been named as defendants, are African American, Ms. Holmes is white.

Can anyone imagine the SPLC overlooking those facts if the races were reversed?

Again, no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, but when you look the SPLC’s paltry LGBT cases, almost all of which only date back to 2011, how much bang are the donors getting for their donor bucks?

There was one major anti-gay organization that appeared to have flown below the SPLC’s radar for over a decade. In 2000, the Boy Scouts of America went to the U.S. Supreme court to protect their right to actively discriminate against gay Scouts and Scout Leaders (Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale), something it had done since its inception in 1910.

In 2002, the BSA issued a press release reaffirming its belief that “an avowed homosexual” lacked the “moral character” to be a Scout or Leader.

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The Southern Poverty Law center completely ignored this blatant anti-gay discrimination for over a decade. You will find no mention of the BSA’s discrimination on the SPLC’s web site until 2012, and, even then, that has to be possibly the most tepid response to a genuine “hate-group” in the SPLC’s entire history.

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SPLC co-founder Joe Levin was wheeled out of retirement to announce that “Twelve years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center stopped participating in the Montgomery, Ala., United Way Campaign because the organization chose to fund the Boy Scouts of America.”

That was it? One of the “largest youth-serving organizations in America,” whose primary mission is to build the characters and mold the minds of millions of American boys, actively discriminates against gay men and boys for a century, and the best the SPLC, that bastion of LGBT rights, can come up with is to stop donating to the United Way and say absolutely nothing about it for twelve years??

But wait… it gets even better… Joe Levin continues:

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“DOESN’T INTEND TO ENCOURAGE BIGOTRY”??? Mr. Levin, the BSA took its case to the Supreme Court of the United States precisely to preserve its perceived right to discriminate. It doesn’t get any more intentional than the US Supreme Court!

Notice the softball language Mr. Levin uses when dancing around the hard facts: “Embraces anti-LGBT prejudice” and “Doesn’t intend to encourage bigotry.” Where is the SPLC’s patented “Hate Group” brand? The term never even appears in Mr. Levin’s pathetic apologia. Where was the SPLC’s multimillion dollar public relations machine for all those years? Can you imagine the pressure that could have been brought to bear against the BSA’s blatant discrimination?

[Update: On May 15, 2014, Joe Levin explained to MSNBC why the SPLC still doesn’t designate the Boy Scouts as a “hate group”:

“We don’t list the Boy Scouts (as a hate group,)” said Levin. “We only do that if we have a group that’s propagating known falsehoods associated with a particular person or group – in this case, the LGBT community. The Boy Scouts haven’t really done that.”

Of course not, Joe. Apparently, the BSA simply smeared all gays as immoral by accident.]

As it turns out, the BSA did reverse itself on its gay Scout policy effective Jan. 1, 2014. That decision was made based entirely on the protracted negative publicity campaign carried on by dozens of real LGBT support groups and major media outlets. The BSA’s Supreme Court decision still stands, but they finally gave in when public opinion turned on them and said that enough was enough. It was a movement in which the Southern Poverty Law Center’s role was precisely and exactly nothing.

And yet the SPLC has been fighting for LGBT rights “for decades,” right?

Well, not so much. Thanks to the magic of the Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine,” anyone can wander back in time to view millions of websites as they appeared in the past, going back to the year 2000. It can be slow, and sometimes cantankerous, but it’s always free and a little patience can pay off big dividends.

In 2009, the SPLC issued a downloadable version of its latest “Hate Map” fundraising tool (Note: the “Hate Map” always reflects the previous calendar year):

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A closer look at the icon key reveals an astonishing fact. There were no anti-LGBT “hate groups” as late as 2009. Not one.

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In fact, the first anti-LGBT “hate groups” do not appear on Mr. Potok’s all-encompassing “Hate Map” until 2011, forty years after the SPLC opened for business.

Furthermore, while the Hoffburg case appears chronologically on the latest version of the SPLC’s case docket list, right between Brown and Wilkins

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Thanks to the Wayback Machine, we find Ms. Hoffburg’s case, the case that allows the SPLC to crow that its “work on LGBT issues spans decades” is conspicuously absent from the 2010 case docket!

2010 Case Docket

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Hoffburg never made the case docket list in more than 40 years because the SPLC didn’t even consider it worthwhile.

Once the white millionaires who run the SPLC decided to target the LGBT community though, Mr. Potok had to come up with something to show that they had not totally ignored the issue since opening shop in 1971. Hoffburg wasn’t much, but no one in the media will follow the simple steps outlined in this post, so no one would ever know the difference.

Well-meaning donors sent Mr. Potok more than $40 million donor dollars in 2012 because they believe him when he cries “hate group” and they believe him when he says how dedicated the SPLC has been to fighting anti-LGBT discrimination “for decades.” As usual, some simple, primary fact-checking of the SPLC’s own documents proves, once again, that Mr. Potok’s claims are meaningless.

Yet again, nobody should suffer discrimination due to their orientation, and any effort is better than none, but suing poor public school districts over pep rallies and yearbook pictures is pretty low-hanging fruit for an alleged “civil rights” law firm with nearly a quarter-billion dollars in cash on hand.

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If you want to contribute to a non-profit that has truly been in the fight against LGBT discrimination you need only do a little homework and ignore Mark Potok’s latest fundraising ploy.

SPLC — 2013 — Still No Minorities at the Top After 42 Years

March 22, 2013

Last week, Watching the Watchdogs examined the Southern Poverty Law Center’s latest “hate map” fundraising tool and broke the amazing, astounding, unprecedented news that for the first time in history the number of alleged “hate groups” designated by the SPLC’s Public Relations chief, Mark Potok, (something even the FBI cannot do…), actually DECLINED!!

While this inconceivable turn of events left many investigators gasping in amazement, a quick head-count of the SPLC’s top executives reveals a caucus as Caucasian as it was the day Morris Dees opened the doors of the company in 1971. There are still some unbroken traditions that one can count on in this mad, mad world.

This seeming incongruity was brought to the attention of Mr. Dees 19 years ago by journalists Dan Morse and Greg Jaffe in their week-long exposé in the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, in 1994.

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Dan Morse noted in his article, “Equal treatment? No blacks in center’s leadership“:

“Inside, no blacks have held top management positions in the center’s 23-year history, and some former employees say blacks are treated like second-class citizens.”

Last week the SPLC released its IRS Form 990 tax return for 2012, listing the names and compensation packages for its top executives (see pages 7-8). And the winners are:

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Richard Cohen — President/CEO — $340,923
Morris Dees — Founder and Chief Trial Counsel — $344,771
Joseph Levin — Director and General Counsel — $185,102
Mary Bauer — Legal Director — $168,819
Teenie Hutchinson — Secretary — $162,644
Wendy Via — Development Director — $166,760 (+$19,582)
Mark Potok — Senior Fellow — $162,206  (
+$10,814)
David Utter — Director — Miami — 
$158,013

And a new (white) face for 2013:
Sheila Bedi — Deputy Legal Director —  $129,893

Not shown is Michael Toohey, the SPLC’s Former COO, $234,309 (+$4,428).  If anyone knows of a public photo of Mr. Toohey, please pass the info along to Watching the Watchdogs.

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And what was Morris Dees’ response to Morse and Jaffe’s observations? “It is not easy to find black lawyers. Any organization can tell you that.” Not to get nit-picky, Mr. Dees, but lawyers make up only about half of the SPLC’s highest paid executives. Apparently, it’s not easy to find black accountants, administrators, computer experts or public relations people in 2013, either.

Conspicuously absent from the latest monochromatic rogue’s gallery, yet again… is Dr. Heidi Beirich, the SPLC’s new “Intelligence Director.” Dr. Beirich replaces “Senior Fellow” Mark Potok as the chief fundraiser and go-to media “expert.” Beirich and Potok both started working at the SPLC in 1999, both are public relations pros, though Dr. Beirich boasts two Masters degrees and a Doctorate to Mr. Potok’s B.S. in Poli-Sci, yet Dr. B has yet to be paid as much as her male counterpart.

Beirich

Also missing from the list is Lecia Brooks, the SPLC’s Outreach Director and highest paid minority, though not as highly paid as her white colleagues. In fact, when the Form 990 included salaries as paltry as $70,000, (they are a “non-profit” after all), our Ms. Brooks was nowhere to be found. As Outreach Director, Lecia Brooks’ primary concern is fundraising and she has no influence over the running of the company.

Hopefully, she got a 5-digit raise like the SPLC’s other prime fundraisers, Mark Potok and Wendy Via. It was a record-breaking year, after all.

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Lecia Brooks does hold one unique distinction, though. She was allowed to serve as “Interim Director” of the SPLC’s “Teaching Tolerance” program for several months. As Dan Morse noted in his 1994 “Equal Treatment” article:

“The Law Center’s ambitious new project, Teaching Tolerance, which is designed to promote racial and cultural justice throughout America’s schools, is produced by an eight-member all-white staff according to the Law Center.”

“Teaching Tolerance” continued to be led by “whites only” until 2009, when Ms. Brooks was tapped to keep the seat warm during the interregnum until her successor could be selected, the highly diverse Maureen Costello:

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No report on the all-white nature of the SPLC’s leadership would be complete without mentioning the company’s first president, Julian Bond, and its diverse Board of Directors. As Dan Morse pointed out in his 1994 article, “Friendly board: friends, associates fill board,” the SPLC’s board consists of friends and cronies of Morris Dees who rubber-stamp whatever is put before them by Dees. Some of the board members Morse mentioned in 1994 are still on the board today, as is at least one lingerie mogul.

All of the board members are unpaid, which is not unusual in the so-called “non-profit” sector, and almost all of them are located hundreds or thousands of miles from Montgomery. In short, they may be diverse on paper, but they are not highly paid and they have no influence on the day-to-day operations of the SPLC. It’s a classic case of “brownwashing” to dupe the donors.

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And as we’ve mentioned numerous times, Morris Dees wrote in his autobiography, A Season For Justice, that he only offered Julian Bond the “largely honorary position of president” in exchange for the use of Bond’s name on the SPLC’s first fundraising letters. Last year, Watching the Watchdogs produced short video for Youtube that describes the history of the all-white leadership of the SPLC, Teaching Tolerance, the Bond paid endorsement and the rubber-stamp Board of Directors.

The only thing more difficult to believe than the fact that an alleged “civil rights” group headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, sitting literally in the back yard of Dr. Martin Luther King’s own Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, could remain lily-white at the top for more than 40 years is the incredible fact that well-meaning people sent the SPLC more than $40 million donor dollars last year.

What could that money have done for real charities closer to home?

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.


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