Archive for the ‘2. Public Relations Techniques’ Category

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.

The SPLC and the “Protocols of Ritual Defamation”

January 22, 2013

Below is an instructive treatise on the ways in which special interest groups, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and other so-called “civil rights” groups, control the conversation by denigrating and dehumanizing the “other.”

The SPLC uses terms like “radical Right,” “nativist,” “traditionalist,” the nonsensical “neo-Confederate” and its all-time money maker, “hate group,” (which got an innocent man shot in D.C. in 2012),  to fire up the donors without accusing the target groups of any actual wrongdoing.

Even the disclaimer on the legend on the SPLC’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool concedes the fact that: “Listing here does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.” What gets one on the “Hate Map” is not breaking laws, but rather, having wrong thoughts.

The SPLC certainly did not invent defamation and dehumanization. American military history is full of examples of the careful dehumanization of the enemy in order to make him easier to attack. “Towel-heads,” “Camel Jockeys,” “Gooks,” “Japs,” “Nips,” “Krauts,” and “Huns” have all entered the American lexicon over the past century. The SPLC has merely moved the technique from the battlefield to the “non-profit” bank vault.

The following brief essay, by Laird Wilcox, explains the propaganda techniques as neatly and succinctly as any we’ve seen and can be found online at http://www.overalltech.net/pub/Quotations-Propaganda.pdf   (See pages 118 – 121)

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The Protocols of Ritual Defamation: How values, opinions and beliefs are controlled in democratic societies.

By Laird Wilcox, 2002

“The critical element in political maneuver for advantage is the creation of meaning: the construction of  beliefs about the significance of events, of problems, of crisis, of policy changes, and of leaders. The strategic need is to immobilize opposition and mobilize support. While coercion and intimidation help to check resistance in all political systems, the key tactic must always be the evocation of meanings that legitimize favored courses of action…” MURRAY EDELMAN, “Political Language and Political Reality,” PS, Winter 1985.

“At the extreme, the process of stereotyping eventuates in dehumanization: the enemy is judged to be so inhumanly evil or contemptible that anything may be done to “it” without subjectively compromising one’s own humanity and sense of loyalty.” AUSTIN TURK, Political Criminality, 1982.

“Freedom of the mind requires not only, or not even especially, the absence of legal constraints but the presence of alternative thoughts. The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities.” ALAN BLOOM, The Closing of the American Mind, 1987.

Definitions: The term “protocol” refers to a set of rules or established method. The term “ritual” refers to a predictable, stereotyped pattern that embraces number of elements, as in a ritual.

The term “defamation” refers to the destruction or attempted destruction of the reputation, status, or standing in the community of a person or group of like-minded persons by deliberately unfair, false, misleading or hateful communication.

Defamation might be confused with mere criticism, opposition or expression of opinion, which is necessary for a free society. The essence of a democratic system depends on a large degree of freedom of expression and of give and take in the marketplace of ideas. It is only through the vigorous exploration of alternative explanations and sorting of conflicting facts and competing ideas that wise and reasonably just decisions can take place.

Hypersensitive individuals or groups often claim to have been unfairly defamed when they have merely been criticized or challenged with results unsatisfactory to themselves.

It is important to differentiate between deliberate ritual defamation on the one hand, and mere criticism and disagreement on the other.

For the purposes of this brief essay, the central element is defamation and the necessarily accompanying stigmatization in retaliation for the real or imagined attitudes, opinions or beliefs of the subject, with the intention of silencing or neutralizing his or her influence, and/or making an example of them so as to discourage similar independence and “insensitivity” or non-observance of taboos on the part of others.

Ritual defamation differs in nature and degree from simple criticism or disagreement in that it is aggressive, organized, premeditated and skillfully applied with the idea of neutralizing or eliminating an opponent rather than simply refuting or proving him incorrect. Ritual defamation is often performed by an organization or representative of a special interest group.

The elements of a Ritual Defamation are these:

1. In a ritual defamation the subject (hereinafter referred to as the “offender”) must have violated a particular taboo in some way, usually by expressing or identifying with a forbidden attitude, opinion or belief. It is not necessary that he “do” anything about it or undertake any particular course of action, only that they engage in some form of communication or expression. In some cases even that is not necessary, only that they are associated with or “linked” to a taboo idea or behavior in some way. It is largely directed against presumed attitudes, opinions or beliefs.

2. The primary method of attack in a ritual defamation is to assail the character of the offender, and never to offer more than a perfunctory challenge to the particular attitudes, opinions or beliefs expressed or implied. Any kind of debate with the offender is absolutely forbidden. The primary tool of ritual defamation is stigmatization through character assassination.

3. An important rule in ritual defamation is to avoid engaging in any kind of debate over the truthfulness or reasonableness of what has been expressed, only to condemn it. To debate the issue opens the issue up for examination and discussion of its merits and to consider the evidence or arguments that may support the forbidden views, which is just what the ritual defamer is trying to avoid. The primary goal of a ritual defamation is censorship and repression and marginalization of the offender.

4. The offender is often somebody in the public eye – someone who is vulnerable to public opinion – although perhaps in a very modest way. It could be a businessman, schoolteacher, public official, newspaper writer, scholar, or merely an outspoken citizen. Visibility enhances vulnerability to ritual defamation.

5. An attempt, often successful, is made to involve others in the ritual defamation. In the case of a public official, other public officials will be urged to denounce the offender. In the case of a student, other students will be called upon to reject and ostracize them, in the case of a teacher, other teachers will be recruited, and so on.

6. In order for a ritual defamation to be effective, the offender must be dehumanized to the extent that he becomes thoroughly identified with the offending attitude, opinion or belief, and in a manner which distorts it to the point where it appears at its most extreme. For example, a victim who is defamed as a “subversive” will be identified with the worst images of subversion, such as espionage, terrorism and treason. An offender defamed as a “pervert” will be identified with the worst images of perversion, including child molestation and rape. An offender defamed as a “racist” or “anti-Semite” will be identified with the worst images of racism or hatred of Jews, such as lynchings or gas chambers.

7. To be maximally successful, a ritual defamation must bring pressure and humiliation on the offender from every quarter, including family and friends. If the offender has schoolchildren, they may be taunted and ridiculed as a consequence of adverse publicity. If the offender is employed they may be ostracized or fired from their job. If the offender belongs to clubs or associations, other members maybe urged to expel them.

8. Ritual defamation is highly symbolic and emotional and is designed to largely bypass rational cognitive processes. In its modern form it is a relatively sophisticated method of focusing hatred through skillful (albeit unprincipled) manipulation of symbols, prejudices and ideas.

9. Any explanation the offender may offer, including the claim of being wronged or misunderstood, is considered irrelevant.
To claim truth as a defense for a politically incorrect value, opinion or belief is interpreted as defiance and only compounds the problem.

Ritual defamation, it must be emphasized, is not necessarily an issue of being wrong or incorrect about a matter, but rather of “insensitivity” and failing to observe social taboos.

An interesting aspect of ritual defamation as a practice is its universality. It is not specific to any value, opinion or belief or to any group or subculture. It may be used against any political, ethnic, national or religious group. It may, for example, be used by anti-Semites against Jews, or by Jews against anti-Semites; by right-wingers against left-wingers, or vice-versa, and so on.

The power of ritual defamation lies entirely in its capacity to intimidate and terrorize through the use of stigmatization.  It embraces some elements of primitive superstitious behavior, as in placing a “curse” or “hex” upon selected victims. It results in the tainting, labeling or marking of a person as “impure,” somehow less than human and as an outcast. It is a tool often used against rebels and dissenters. In totalitarian societies it is a primary means of control.

A literary example of ritual defamation is Nathaniel Hawthorn’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, where a young woman was forced to wear a large “A” on her clothing to indicate that she had committed adultery. A historical example might be the witch hunts that occurred in colonial America. A more modern example might be the McCarthy period of the 1950’s, where both Communist and non-Communist leftists were charged with disloyalty and subversion, and recent crusades for “political correctness” in American society have produced a large number of victims unfairly linked to ideas or beliefs they do not hold.

Ritual defamation plays into the subconscious fear most people have of being shunned, abandoned or rejected by the tribe or community and its accompanying psychological support systems. For some victims the experience can be terrifying. Only the strongest psyches can survive it undamaged. The weakness of ritual defamation lies in its tendency toward overkill and in its obvious maliciousness.

More analytical or reflective citizens might perceive it as bullying, harassment or mere cruelty. Occasionally a ritual defamation will fail because of poor planning and failure to correctly judge the vulnerability of the offender, or because its unprincipled viciousness generates sympathy for them.

It is important to recognize and identify the patterns of a ritual defamation. Like virtually all propaganda and disinformation campaigns it is accomplished primarily through the manipulation of meaning and the use of words and symbols that characterize, identify and stigmatize. It is not used to persuade an opponent or to promote an opposing viewpoint but to inflict public punishment and humiliation.

Dr. Edward Manner, professor of philosophy at Notre Dame University, observes that “stigmatization is one of the most oppressive, inhumane forms of punishment any group of human beings can inflict on one of its members.” He notes that it is “a form of social control a civilized society will use rarely, and only with the greatest of care.”

Permission to reprint What is Political Extremism? and/or The Protocols of Ritual Defamation in full is granted providing no changes are made.

Laird Wilcox
Email: lwilcox3@aol.com

Another SPLC Show Trial?

September 27, 2012

The Blogosphere is all a-buzz with the latest news that the Southern Poverty Law Center is filing a federal law suit on behalf of a New Jersey gay couple whose engagement photograph was used in an anti-gay political flier, without their knowledge or consent.

By now, most people have seen the photo of Brian Edwards and Thomas Privitere holding hands and kissing in a park overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge, so we won’t reprint it here. Apparently, the photo was picked up by a group called Public Advocate of the United States, who replaced the Manhattan skyline and iconic bridge in the background with evergreens and snow, to be used in a political flier in Colorado.

Public Advocate did not obtain permission to use or alter the photo from Edwards and Privitere or the photographer, Kristina Hill, who holds the copyright to the photo. The flier was distributed in Colorado as part of a campaign against State Senator Jean White because of her support for upcoming gay marriage legislation in that state.

This much we know. What we don’t know is what this has to do with the Southern Poverty Law Center? What are the actual legal issues in this case?

Was the photographer’s copyright violated by the unauthorized use of the photo? Absolutely and without a doubt.

Was Messrs Edwards’ and Privitere’s privacy violated by the unauthorized use of the photo? Most likely, though no doubt a good scuzzy lawyer could water down that argument in court.

Did Sen. White lose her primary race because of the fliers? She says she did, but the gay union bill wasn’t a major issue in the campaign.

Does any of the above add up to a ‘hate crime” worthy of the attentions of “the nation’s leading civil rights group”? Not so much.

When you get right down to it, the actual crime here is a simple copyright infringement case. The SPLC could go through the motions of making claims of libel, since the couple’s image was used in a derogatory fashion that clearly goes against their core beliefs, but libel cases are notoriously difficult to win in this country.

Undoubtedly a sleazy ploy by Public Advocate, even by political campaign standards, but “hate” it ain’t.

Will the SPLC play up this simple copyright infringement case in their never-ending fundraising propaganda as “proof” that they are “fighting hate” by “bringing these anti-gay bigots to their knees”? You betcha!

Will this dubious claim prompt the SPLC’s self-described Liberal donor base to send in millions of donor dollars over the course of the case? It’s always worked in previous SPLC show trials. Why wouldn’t it work again?

Will the New Jersey couple see one red cent of that money? Not a dime. They may receive some damages from a finding against Public Advocate, as will photographer Hill, but it will pale in comparison to the huge, tax-free windfall the SPLC is likely to gull from their gullible donors.

Time will tell.

SPLC Media Guides

September 9, 2012

Longtime readers of Watching the Watchdogs, if their comments are accurate, have an appreciation of the information and analysis of Southern Poverty Law Center fundraising propaganda we provide here.

Oftentimes there is a lot of data to digest, at least in a written form, but as we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words. To that end, we have endeavored to create a series of short (to accommodate the attention-span-challenged) video clips to show just how really simple it is to find the SPLC’s raw data, almost all of it found on the SPLC’s own web site, so that the viewer can evaluate it for themselves.

We ask no one to take our word for it, but we do ask the viewer to go directly to the source, as we have, see the data for themselves and come to their own conclusions. If you think we’re way off base then please tell us so. All intelligent comments and criticisms are welcome.

These are nothing more than the simple fact checks any real journalist should make before blindly quoting Mark Potok’s press releases. This isn’t “hate,” this isn’t “domestic terrorism,” it’s Journalism 101. These are the basic fact checks the Media should make, but won’t. Check back for additional installments.

First off, Media Guide #1 is a brief examination of the fallacy of the “hate group” label, the bedrock foundation of all SPLC fundraising propaganda. There’s no legal definition for the term, so just what exactly is this “law center” tracking?

Media Guide #2 examines the bogus bookkeeping behind SPLC’s public relations chief Mark Potok’s “hate incident’ log.  Most of these “incidents” are so tenuous, from teenagers carving swastikas into park benches to 8-year-olds threatening the President. More than a third of them are nothing more than updates on earlier events. How thug vandals pleading “not guilty” in criminal court is a “hate incident” is beyond us, but the Media and the all-important donors swallow it hook, line and sinker.

Media Guide #3 examines the preposterous proposition that NOT ONE of the top executives at the “nation’s leading civil rights organization” is a minority, and that this has been the case since Morris Dees opened the doors to the SPLC in 1971. The Executive Suite at the SPLC, which overlooks Martin Luther King’s home church in Montgomery, the birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement, has been home to “whites only” for more than 40 years. Think about that…


Media Guide #4 explores the “ironic” fact that once one strips out all of the “homeless hate groups” discussed in the first video guide, it turns out that the largest single category of “hate group” in America is Black, according to Mark Potok’s bogus figures. The video also includes an excellent example of the Liberal Media’s inability to comprehend that the SPLC’s fundraising numbers are not based in reality.


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