Posts Tagged ‘Amana’

SPLC — Hate Map 2019 — Prove It!

March 3, 2019

Well, Friends, it’s that magical time of year again when the Southern Poverty Law Center unveils its latest annual “Hate Map” fundraising tool. The map purports to identify “hate groups” in the US over the previous fiscal year. As always, the map is filled with half-truths, untruths and every ham-fisted propaganda technique known to man.

And as usual, the Media has been reprinting the SPLC’s spurious claims without   even the most rudimentary fact checks.

Not to fear. We at Watching the Watchdogs are only too happy to run a fact checker over the “Hate Map,” and, unlike the SPLC, we will show our work. There’s a lot to unpack here, so pull up your hip boots, slip on your rubber gloves and let’s wade in.

Hate Groups: There is NO legal definition for “hate group.” Period. This is why even the FBI does not, cannot, designate “hate groups,” but somehow a private fundraising company can and the Media has no problem with it.* Think about that.

[*There does exist a single FBI document online that lists a number of violent, criminal groups by name. This is an internal training document, written in 1995 and reprinted a couple of years ago, verbatim. The designation of these groups as “hate groups” is solely the opinion of the author, not a description used under federal law.]

The fact is that a “hate group” is whatever the SPLC says it is. The company is the sole arbiter and designator of that insanely profitable label. They receive no external review or oversight. They control the world’s supply of “hate group” designations, and, like any monopoly, they are prone to abuse their power.

Physical Locations: If you are going to designate “hate groups,” then you need to provide hard evidence that a journalist, researcher or even a donor can use to verify your claims. That’s not too much to ask. In fact, it’s pretty much Journalism 101. “Trust, but verify.”

The SPLC does include a number of brick-and-mortar organizations on its “Hate Map,” such as the Family Research Council and the Center for Immigration Studies, but these make up a fraction of the overall total. Otherwise, all we have is the company’s word for it that there is a chapter of the League of the South in Weogufka, Alabama, (Pop. 282), and that’s not good enough. It certainly isn’t professional journalism.

On February 21, 2019, SPLC “Outreach Manager” Kate Chance told a crowd of 300 in Mankato, MN, that: “An online presence isn’t enough to be added to the list; a group has to meet at least once a year at a physical location.”

Even a cursory glance at the “Hate Map” shows numerous one-man websites. In 2015, Mark Pitcavage, Director of Investigative Research at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), stated publicly that 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.

“The [SPLC’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.”

Pitcavage’s statement confirms what veteran fringe-group researcher Laird Wilcox has been saying for decades: “There was another phenomenon I noticed. Several racist groups published large numbers of local post office box listings, as in local chapters.”

“When I tried to check these [SPLC “hate group” claims] out I found that many of them were false—the box was closed after one rental or that the mail was forwarded elsewhere. I think a lot of these never existed or were just some guy renting different post office boxes.”

In 2009, the SPLC’s own Director of Intelligence, Mark Potok, confirmed the P.O. box scam to the San Luis Obispo Tribune: “Potok says inclusion on the [“Hate Map”] list might come from a minor presence, such as a post office box.” (March 25, 2009)

If you claim there’s a “hate group” chapter in Weogufka, or any other known city or town, just show your proof. Prove to us that an alleged group on the “Hate Map” is not a one-man website or long-abandoned P.O. box. If the SPLC has done all of the research it claims it has, how hard can that be?

“Statewide” Chapters: This is the ultimate smoking gun when it comes to exposing the spurious nature of the “Hate Map” fundraising tool.

Of the 1,020 “hate groups” designated by the SPLC for 2018, fully 322 of them are simply marked “statewide,” meaning the company provides no verifiable information, not even a known city or town, whatsoever. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

That’s one-in-four alleged groups right off the top and nobody in the Media seems to have a problem with it. “Nothing to see here, folks…” Literally. As the graph below indicates, the SPLC simply makes up “statewide” groups out of thin air.

For 2017, the SPLC claimed that the number of “hate groups” rose by 37 chapters to 954. The number of “statewide” phantoms grew by 107, from 193 to 300, over the same period. The company is losing “groups” faster than it can create them.

Statewide Numbers

Fear and Outrage: The purpose of the SPLC’s annual “Hate Map” is to generate fear and outrage, which the company then deftly spins into cash donations and political power. For 2016, the SPLC reported tax-free donations of $50 million. For 2017, the year of the Charlottesville riots and Trump the Baleful, donations exploded to $132 million and the company’s cash endowment ballooned to more than $433 million, 98% of which is designated as “unrestricted” in use.

Clearly, the SPLC has a strong financial interest in keeping the number of alleged “hate groups” as high as the donor market will bear.

When the “Hate Map” was simply a tool to separate gullible donors from their hard-earned money it was bad enough, but those victims were self-selected. They didn’t care if the SPLC’s “facts” were bogus or not because they wanted (and still do want) to believe them with all their heart and soul. As far as SPLC donors are concerned, they’re getting what they are paying for.

The truly terrifying thing about the SPLC’s “Hate Map” scam is that it is now finding its way into the private realm, with social media giants such as Apple, Google and Twitter using this disinformation to decide who gets to speak and who gets banished to the Cyber-Gulag.

As Orwellian as that situation is, unfiltered, unvetted SPLC “hate group” propaganda has been finding its way into government discourse at all levels, from local to federal, for years.

Certain law enforcement agencies and think tanks regurgitate SPLC claims, knowing full well the numbers are meaningless, because the fear generated by them guarantees continued funding for another year.

2018: The Hype: Time to have a closer look at the SPLC’s hyperbolic claims for the 2018 “Hate Map.” This year the company was kind enough to provide a handy link on its “Hate Map” that allows you to download the data into a spreadsheet. This makes spotting the inaccuracies so simple that even a professional journalist could do it.

The company also provides a handy graph showing the steady growth, more or less, of alleged “hate groups” since 1999. That chart doesn’t really present well on WordPress, so we’ve enlarged a segment to make things a little clearer.

“Hate groups have reached RECORD HIGHS!!!”

It’s true. According to the map, “hate groups” reached 1,020 in 2018, the highest number ever designated by the SPLC; i.e., a “record.” We’re doomed!

What was the previous record? The SPLC designated 1,018 “hate groups” in 2011 as proof of an “explosive growth” due to the 2010 election of Barack Obama. Despite controlling the supply of “hate group” labels, the SPLC could only show “explosive growth” of 1.6% for the first full year of the Obama Administration, which was soon followed by “record-breaking” decline (in fact, the only series of declines in SPLC history) of a whopping 23% over the course of the president’s second term in office.

And while the number of alleged groups grew by 16, from 1,002 to 1,018, the number of “statewide” phantoms “exploded” from 148 to 247 over the same period, as shown by the chart above.

2018 Hate Group Graph 1

2018 Hate Group Graph 2

“Hate groups have GROWN BY 30% over the past four years!!!”

Propagandists absolutely adore percent signs. When you’re selling fear and outrage nothing stirs up the customer base like an empty statistic. Most Media articles will mention a 7% increase in the number of alleged groups from 2017 to 2018, but none of them will mention that the number of “statewide” phantoms grew at an identical rate last year. So what was gained?

The SPLC had to go back to its self-imposed 2014 trough to come up with a far more impressive sounding 30% increase. What the company fails to mention, and what nobody in the Media will tell you, is that the number of “statewide” phantoms grew by 84% over the same span.

“White “hate groups” are SURGING!!!”

According to the SPLC’s own numbers… not so much. The chart below indicates that one full year into the Trump-o-Caust, fully nine out the company’s fifteen “hate group” categories have DECLINED since 2017, (shown in yellow), and two others, marked in blue, have remained static, although even “Hate Music” is down from 2016 levels.

In fact, Ku Klux Klan is at an all-time record low of 51, according to SPLC records, far surpassing its previous all-time low set during… wait for it… the Obama Administration. Apparently, they don’t make “surges” like they used to.

Comparisons-2018-2017

That leaves the four categories, marked in red, that reflect an alleged increase over 2017 levels, but, as with all things SPLC, a closer look reveals a very different story.

General Hate: When you’re in the fearmongering game it is often helpful to have a nice, generic, catch-all phrase that allows you to designate the “other” without having to go into a lot of detail. This is why the SPLC’s “General Hate” category has been so important to the company over the years.

These groups espouse a variety of rather unique hateful doctrines and beliefs that are not easily categorized. Many of the groups are vendors that sell a miscellany of hate materials from several different sectors of the white supremacist movement,” says the SPLC website.

“Many of the ‘groups’ are vendors,” meaning that if you are a one-man website selling neo-Nazi music or Confederate t-shirts, you are a bona fide “group.” No matter that people have to actively seek you out in order to purchase your 100% legal wares, you are a “threat” and must be demonized and shut down by the thought police.

This is especially ironic as long-time SPLC frontman Mark Potok was claiming as late as February, 2017. that: “We make a big effort to separate a man, his dog and a computer from a group with on-the-ground activity.”

(Sadly, the following month, Mr. Potok was unceremoniously kicked to the curb by his employer of 20-odd years without so much as a “thank you” for his decades of highly lucrative service. Potok created the “Hate Map” out of thin air and used it to bring  hundreds of millions of tax-free donor-dollars into the SPLC’s coffers. Some gratitude.)

So what drove the increase in “General Hate”? For the most part, it can be tracked to the SPLC’s “creative accounting” techniques. In 2017, the company trotted out a brand new “hate group” category: Neo-Völkisch. Sounds Teutonic, no? The Nazis were German and so these Neo-Völkisch haters must be evil too.

Neo-Völkisch adherents worship the Norse or Germanic gods, spirituality premised on the survival of white Europeans and the preservation of dead or dying cultures they presume to embody.”

Are they dangerous?

…violence rarely erupts from the neo-Völkisch movement.”

So why are they a “hate group” now?

Hyper-masculine imagery fetishized within neo-Völkisch spheres reinforces misogyny and traditional gender roles.

Yes, folks, “traditional gender roles.” Not to be confused with the Amish, Muslims, Orthodox Jewry and a large percentage of Latino immigrants. No doubt their slogan should read “Me Tarzan. You Jane.” And the Media never said a word.

The SPLC has apparently abolished the neo-Völkisch brand and folded all of those organizations into “General Hate,” making up more than half of that category’s recent increase. One group, the Asatru Folk Assembly, even expanded from 11 chapters (10 of which were “statewide”) to 17 chapters (15 “statewide”).

The “American Guard,” which was already in “General Hate” limbo, expanded from 10 chapters/10 “statewide” to 17 chapters/17 “statewide.” The “Proud Boys” also showed a healthy increase by burgeoning from 3 chapters/ 1 “statewide” to 44 chapters/16 “statewide” overnight.

If the SPLC has vetted addresses for 30-plus new chapters, now would be a really good time for them to produce them. How hard could it be?

White Nationalist: The core cause of the increase in this category lies mainly with the SPLC’s own peculiar form of inflation.

“The Right Stuff” is a new addition to the “Hate Map,” and appears to be a blog, which begs the question as to how exactly the SPLC can designate 34 chapters of it (14 of which are statewide)?

This isn’t the first time the SPLC has franchised websites (which they make a “big effort to separate” from actual “groups,” remember?). In 2015, the SPLC recognized exactly one chapter of Daily Stormer, a one-man website out of Ohio that Mark Potok described as “mostly Andrew Angelin, his dog, and a computer.”

By 2016, the SPLC was counting 31 Stormer websites (30 “statewide”) which has declined to 22 chapters for 2018, 21 of which are “statewide.” How does a one-man website end up with multiple chapters, and how are websites, real or imagined, “groups”?

What was it that SPLC Outreach Director Kate Chance said about “a web presence alone” not being sufficient for a “hate group” designation? What was it that SPLC Intelligence Director Potok said about the company “making a big effort” to exclude one-man, one-dog websites from the list?

“The Patriot Front” went from 4 chapters/1 “statewide” to 16 chapters/15 “statewide” last year. “Identity Evropa” was another big winner in 2018, more than doubling from 15 alleged chapters/11 “statewide,” to 38 chapters/19 “statewide.”

The vast majority of Evropa’s increase seems to come from reports of posters and stickers for the “group” being found on lamp posts and college campuses. The only recent sighting of actual men-on-the-ground came a few weeks ago when 11 men were spotted on a hill overlooking the University of Utah unfurling a banner marked “End Immigration!”

Identity Evropa makes its propaganda posters available online, where any individual can download them and distribute them under the cover of darkness. While emotions run high on both sides of the debate, “End Immigration” is as valid and as legal an opinion as anything any Open Borders supporters could post. Immigration is a legal matter. You can be for it, against it or neutral on the issue, as you deem fit.

Once again, the SPLC is using the actions of lone-wolf individuals, just as it does with anonymous P.O. boxes, to pad out its lucrative “group” counts. If the the company has the proof, let them show it.

Neo-Confederate: One of the smaller categories on the “Hate Map,” neo-Confederate groups allegedly made modest gains from 31 chapters/6 “statewide” in 2017 to 36 chapters/9 “statewide” in 2018.

Not only were most of the gains made by “statewide” phantoms, but a new inductee, “Wildman’s Civil War Surplus” store, in Kennesaw, GA. has been added to the list. The sole proprietor, and apparently the one and only member of this new “group,” appears to be octogenarian Dent “Wild Man” Myers.

This cranky old hippie doesn’t seem to be much of a threat to the world at large (although he is reported to pack twin .45s). The important thing is that his appearance, attitudes and demeanor will outrage the SPLC’s donor base. Thanks to the fundraisers at the SPLC, Wild Man Myers has gotten more free publicity than he could ever have dreamed of. At least this “group” has a fixed physical address, which is more than can be said of most.

Wildman's Kennesaw

Wildman’s One-Man “Group”

Black Nationalist: According to the SPLC,” Black “hate groups” represent the largest single category of “hate group” on their “Hate Map” fundraising tool. If you strip out all of the “statewide” phantoms from the tool, Black “hate groups” are also the fastest growing category by far, according to the SPLC.

Black Hate Groups

In fact, at face value, Black “hate groups” outnumber ALL of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi and Racist Skinhead “groups” on the “Hate Map” COMBINED, at 264 versus 262. Strip out the “statewide” phantoms and Black “hate groups” outnumber the other four categories combined BY THREE-TO-ONE, at 252 versus 82.

Remember the narrative, folks: “White hate groups are on the rise!”

Naturally, these inconvenient facts wouldn’t sit well with the donor/customer base, so the SPLC has to make excuses: “The black nationalist movement is a reaction to centuries of institutionalized white supremacy in America.”

Insinuating that Blacks and other Persons of Color are somehow incapable of the very human traits of nationalism, tribalism, xenophobia and racism is the lowest form of soft racism. Thank goodness POC’s have the White Saviors at the SPLC to swoop in and protect them.

Still, there must be some reason for including them on the list: “Most forms of black nationalism are strongly anti-white and anti-Semitic.” Considering the lucrative rhetoric that pours forth from the SPLC, one can imagine that “anti-white” sentiments fall pretty low on the company’s list of offenses.

The most baffling charge leveled against Black “hate groups” is that “Some religious versions assert that black people are the biblical “chosen people” of God.”

Think about that. The SPLC is actually weighing in as to which religious sect has copyright on who are God’s “chosen people.” No pandering here. Move along.

It’s also worth noting that the 76 chapters of the Nation of Islam, plus a handful of overtly Black Muslim groups hidden under “General Hate, do not count as “Muslim hate groups,” even though their religion is their primary reason for being.

The SPLC pads out its 100 alleged Anti-Muslim “hate groups” with 47 individual chapters of “Act for America” and ten “statewide” chapters of the “Soldiers of Odin,” (out of eleven), so having nearly twice as many Muslim “hate groups” would confuse the customers.

Collateral damage: So what happens when the Southern Poverty Law Center sets its sights on your state, your town or even your own person? While the primary function of the “Hate Map” is to extract lucre from liberals, there are serious ramifications for real people on the ground.

At the state level, negative publicity generated by the SPLC’s spurious “hate group” numbers can dissuade individuals and corporations from moving to your part of the country. Who in their right minds would relocate the next Apple, Amazon or Facebook headquarters to a “hateful” state or city?

The quote from the Anti-Defamation League’s Mark Pitcavage, cited above, came in response to a headline in the South Jersey Times that claimed: “New Jersey has the fourth highest number of hate groups in country, says Southern Poverty Law Center.”

The SPLC had assigned 40 “hate groups” to New Jersey that year, including 14 chapters of the AC Skins (“AC” as in “Atlantic City”). As Pitcavage noted, the SPLC’s claims were “wildly inflated” with the company listing one or two individuals as “groups.”

By 2015, whether because of, or in spite of, Mark Pitcavage’s “outing,” New Jersey’s “hate group” count dropped from 40 to 21, largely by shedding 13 of the 14 alleged chapters of the AC Skins overnight.

Larger states, like New Jersey, California, Texas and Florida can absorb stupid “hate group” claims better than smaller ones, although the last thing New Jersey needs is another spurious groin kick to its reputation. This year’s “Hate Map” has introduced a new meaningless “statistic” that directly affects many states with smaller populations.

The 2018 “Hate Map” now identifies those states with the highest number of “hate groups per capita.” The company comes to this worthless designation by dividing the state’s population by 100,000 and then again by the number of alleged “hate groups.”

Predictably, those states with the smallest populations ranked highest on the list, with states like Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, New Hampshire and South Dakota making it into a “Top Ten States per Capita” Hall of Shame. What kind of numbers does it take to get into this elite club?

Alaska: 4 groups/3 “statewide”
Hawaii: 5 groups/3 “statewide”
Idaho: 10 groups/4 “statewide
New Hampshire: 10 groups*/6 “statewide
South Dakota: 7 groups/2 “statewide

(*Two of New Hampshire’s alleged “groups,” the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and its online publishing arm, IHM Media, are located in the same building in tiny Richmond, NH, population 1,155. The SPLC counts them twice to pad its numbers.)

The “per capita” designation is worthless and is designed only to spread fear and outrage among the donors. Under this warped measurement, these small population states have more McDonald’s, Burger Kings and Starbucks “per capita” than other states. So what? Do Whoppers and Big Macs cause “hate groups”? Is there a link between lattes and “extremism”?

(Don’t laugh. In 2012, the peer-reviewed academic journal, Social Science Quarterly, actually published a paper based on SPLC “data” claiming that Walmarts cause “hate groups.”)

For 2011, the SPLC assigned 20 chapters of the Georgia Militia to that state’s “hate map,” tucked under the “General Hate” catch-all. One chapter was pinpointed to somewhere in Camden County, another was at large in Blairsville (population 611) and locations for the remaining 18 chapters were simply left blank (in those days, the company didn’t bother with the “statewide” canard, it simply left locations for 25% of its locations blank. It’s not like anyone in the Media is going to say anything about it.)

Eighteen out of 20 locations left blank and yet the SPLC included every last one for the 2011 “hate group” count. By 2012 the count was one group in Camden County/13 blank, in 2013 they counted Camden County and 11 blanks, and by 2014 the “group” had vanished into thin air as quickly as it had appeared.

Georgia, like New Jersey, is already the butt of a lot of bad publicity. What happens when 27 out of the 63 “groups” the SPLC assigned to Georgia for 2011 are homeless phantoms? That’s 43% of the alleged total right off the bat. Remember, one-in-three Georgians are minorities. What does this needless, worthless negative publicity do for their economic opportunities? The only people profiting from the “Hate Map” are at the SPLC.

Let’s zoom in to the city/town level. Major cities can absorb “hate group” hits up to a point, but there’s a limit. Baltimore’s image is hardly burnished by the claim that it is home to 11 “hate groups,” seven of which are Black Nationalists, according to the SPLC. What does that even mean for the people on the ground there?

When the SPLC assigns “hate groups” to smaller municipalities the ramifications are even greater. Politico Magazine, hardly a right-wing rag, documented the plight of two small towns, villages actually, who were added to the SPLC’s “Hate Map” for 2017 on the flimsiest of evidence.

Tony Rehagen’s February 2018 article, “What happens when your town lands on the Hate Map?” ought to be required reading for every schoolchild, journalist and donor. As the article’s subtitle indicates: “You freak out. You try and clear your name. You get nowhere.”

Case in point, the village of Gurnee, Illinois, sits beside Lake Michigan and its economy relies heavily on lake-based sports tourism. With no warning whatsoever, the village found itself on the 2017 “Hate Map” with one chapter of the Ku Klos Knights of the KKK.

Horrified at the accusation, the mayor and police chief of Gurnee contacted the SPLC for more details about this group. According to Heidi Beirich, who replaced the cast-off Mark Potok as SPLC Director of Intelligence, someone at the company found a single post on a KKK website where an individual, claiming to be an “exalted cyclops” posted his name and the address “Gurnee, Il, 60031.”

As Rehagen notes in his article, that scrap of address isn’t even “enough information to get a letter properly delivered,” but it was more than enough to get Gurnee on the “Hate Map.” As further proof, Beirich claimed that she sent an email to the guy’s Gmail account and the fact that she allegedly received a reply from that anonymous account PROVED that there was a KKK group in Gurnee.

Think about that, SPLC donors. This is the kind of hard-hitting investigative research your dollars are funding.

When the Chief of Police informed Dr. Beirich that he had performed a thorough investigation and could find no evidence of anyone by that person’s name ever living in Gurnee, the Director of Intelligence told him the matter was out of her hands. Gurnee would remain on the “Hate Map” for all of 2017 until the new version was released in February 2018.

Think about that… Any 12-year-old can update a web page, but the SPLC’s online “Hate Map” is static and frozen in time forever. Really? We’ll explain the real reason for Beirich’s inaction directly, but first another tale from Rehagen’s article that is even more ludicrous than this one.

The village of Amana, Iowa, also known as home to the Amana Colonies, also found itself on the 2017 “Hate Map” as home to one of the “Daily Stormer” websites mentioned previously in this post. The problem was that the Amana Colonies were founded in the mid-nineteenth century by German Lutheran immigrants (who later founded the Amana Corporation of refrigerator, washing machine and Radarange fame) and is currently a historic landmark listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s populated by costumed “interpreters” demonstrating 19th century farm life.

Amana Colonies

Amana, Iowa

Assigning a “hate group” to Amana is about as logical as assigning one to Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg or Massachusetts’ “Plimoth Plantation.”

Never one to allow facts to get in the way of a juicy “hate group,” Heidi Beirich explained to Amana’s officials that she had solid evidence. As Tony Rehagen recounts:

“Someone at the SPLC spotted a chat thread on the Daily Stormer, in which someone with the screen name “Concerned Troll” had proposed a neo-Nazi “book club” meeting in an Amana café. No one in Amana was able to confirm to the SPLC whether or not the meeting actually took place, but that was enough to earn the corn-carpeted state its only swastika.”

That’s it, friends. The rock-solid evidence the SPLC uses to assign “hate groups” to known cities or towns. How many other localities have been tarred needlessly by such tissue-thin evidence? Why is Tony Rehagen one of the few professional journalists to actually question the SPLC’s claims?

Despite being in the same jam as Gurnee, Amana had a somewhat happier outcome. It seems that there is one editing loophole in the otherwise permanent “Hate Map” fundraising tool. Heidi Beirich was able to move Amana’s neo-Nazi “group” off the village and into the “statewide” category. Iowa still ended the year with four “hate groups,” because whatever number the SPLC cooks up each February goes on all of its press releases and other fundraising materials for the entire fiscal year. For that number to change would hint at fallibility.

Gurnee was not so lucky, though. Unfortunately, Heidi Beirich had already assigned a “statewide” chapter of the Ku Klos Knights to Illinois, and while it would not be unprecedented for the “Hate Map,” even the most ardent SPLC donors would have a hard time swallowing two “statewide” chapters in the same state. So Gurnee had no choice but to suck it up and wait a full year until the next “Hate Map” could be cobbled together to clear its name.

In 2008, the small town of Winchester, NH, (nextdoor neighbor to the aforementioned Richmond, NH), spent a year on the “Hate Map” because of an alleged KKK group, even though town selectmen and Police Chief Gary Phillips attested that there was no “group” in town. In the same article from the Keene Sentinel newspaper, Anthony D. Griggs, identified as an SPLC research analyst, described the difficulty in identifying “hate groups” and made an amazingly candid observation:

“In some instances, it could be just a guy and a couple of his buddies,” Griggs said.

The “hate group” smear attacks entire communities, as if they are somehow to blame for every nut who opens a P.O. box or posts some stupidity on a web site. Towns like Gurnee and Amana have very tourism-dependent economies. They did nothing wrong but were still held hostage to the whims of the SPLC’s fundraising machinery and, with very few exceptions, like Tony Rehagen, the media turn a blind eye to it because lurid tales of “hate groups” are solid gold click-bait.

And finally, what happens to individuals targeted as “extremists” by SPLC fundraisers?

When the SPLC created  “A Journalist’s Manual: Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists” in October, 2016, it included the names of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman born in Somalia who underwent forced female genital mutilation at the age of five, and Maajid Nawaz, a British-born Muslim of Pakistani descent. Both people are outspoken critics of Islamic extremism. Both have criticized violent Muslim fundamentalists and the doctrine that drives their actions.

Soon after being placed on the list, Nawaz explained the consequences to David A. Graham of The Atlantic magazine:

“They put a target on my head. The kind of work that I do, if you tell the wrong kind of Muslims that I’m an extremist, then that means I’m a target,” he said. “They don’t have to deal with any of this. I don’t have any protection. I don’t have any state protection. These people are putting me on what I believe is a hit list.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was already on a Muslim extremist hit list. As the SPLC piece explained. “While in the Netherlands, she wrote the script for a short and provocative film about women and Islam directed by the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was murdered in the street by a jihadist a short time after its release. The murderer left a note threatening to also kill Hirsi Ali pinned to his victim’s body with a knife.”

The SPLC piece put Ali, who moved to the United States for her own safety, on the same hit list as Maajid Nawaz. Unlike Ali, and most people who find themselves on SPLC lists, Nawaz had the wherewithal to sue the company for defamation and in mid-2018, the SPLC conceded defeat and entered into a settlement with Nawaz for $3.4 million.

While Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the other “extremists” were not compensated, the SPLC ultimately took down its online “field guide” altogether. In fact, the link we provided for it had to be routed through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. The same link on the SPLC website now redirects to an apology to Nawaz. The good news is that the SPLC’s $433 million cash reserves remained intact. The $3.4 million settlement was paid out by the company’s insurance carrier.

One final incident, which received a lot of publicity at the time but bears repeating here, in August 2012, LGBT activist Floyd Corkins walked into the Family Research Council’s (FRC) office in Washington, DC,  with a gun. Corkins later told investigators that his intent was to kill as many FRC personnel as possible because the SPLC listed the organization as anti-LGBT on its “Hate Map.”

Fortunately, the FRC’s security guard, Leo Johnson, who was unarmed, was able to subdue Corkins, in spite of being shot himself in the struggle. The SPLC, who are always quick to attribute the actions of every lone-wolf loon to the “far Right” or as being “emboldened by Trump,” were even quicker to deny that any Left-wing loons could possibly be influenced by its “Hate Map” propaganda.

It is our hope that the long-winded examples laid out above will give some people, especially professional journalists, pause when it comes to blindly accepting SPLC “Hate Map” propaganda as “fact.” To recap:

  • There is no legal definition for “hate group.” The SPLC is the self-appointed arbiter of that label and uses it to generate hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • If nothing else, the simple fact that the SPLC hides hundreds of its alleged “hate groups” under a meaningless “statewide” umbrella ought to cast doubt on the accuracy of its claims. If they have the proof, demand that they produce it.
  • The vast majority of the remaining “hate groups” are only identified by an alleged city or town. As the stories of Gurnee, Amana and Winchester show, those claims are often based on ridiculously flimsy evidence, such as an anonymous P.O. box or Tweet. Make the SPLC show its evidence.
  • Despite claims to the contrary, each year’s “Hate Map” includes dozens of one-man web sites and online vendors and booksellers. Make the SPLC explain how someone like Wild Man Myers constitutes a “group” and what real threat he poses to the community. “We don’t like it!” isn’t good enough.
  • Empty, meaningless “statistics” like the SPLC’s new “per capita” counts are worthless. They are intended solely for creating outrage and fear and pose real public relations problems for low-population states that can least afford it.
  • The SPLC’s spurious “hate group” and “extremist” claims create real economic and safety issues for communities and individuals. The whole purpose of the “hate group” label is to dehumanize people in order to agitate the SPLC’s donor base.

As of this writing, there are two civil law suits pending against the SPLC. The Center for Immigration Studies is pursuing a RICO-based racketeering suit against, the SPLC, Heidi Beirich and SPLC president, Richard Cohen, for repeating the claim that the Center is a “hate group.”

Maryland attorney Glen Allen is also pursuing a racketeering case against the SPLC, Beirich and Mark Potok. Allen contends that the SPLC purchased stolen documents which the company then used to get Allen fired from his post as an attorney for the City of Baltimore.

Both cases have merit, and both cases reference the SPLC’s “hate group” tactics, but neither actually address the demonstrable inaccuracies in the “Hate Map” tool that we have laid out above. It seems pretty apparent that the SPLC uses these claims, knowing full well that the information is bogus, in order to accrue hundreds of millions of dollars in tax-free donations.

If any journalist or attorney would be willing to pursue a fraud suit against the Southern Poverty Law Center in the future, we at Watching the Watchdogs will make all of our evidence available upon request.

As we have said many times, the SPLC’s “Hate Map” numbers are for fundraising, not for fact-finding. Make the company show its proof once and for all.

 

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Challenge Your Area’s SPLC “Hate Group” Designation

September 11, 2017

Two recent news events have brilliantly demonstrated just how unreliable and deceptive the Southern Poverty Law Center’s lucrative “Hate Map” really is. The SPLC releases this annual fundraising tool every February or March, to enormous media fanfare and the donor-dollars flow faster than the company can spend them.

Two small towns that were falsely smeared with “hate group” designations, Amana, Iowa, and Gurnee, Illinois, recently fought back and got the SPLC to rescind its spurious claims, though with very different results.

In the Amana case, the “town” is actually a collection of seven small villages known as the Amana Colonies. These villages were settled by German farmers in the 19th century and today the Colonies are on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. People take their families there to see the old farms, blacksmith shop and grist mill. Think: Colonial Williamsburg or Plimoth Plantation.

So how does a tourist destination like Amana get listed on the “Hate Map”? Simplicity itself. Someone at the SPLC found a single troll posting on the Daily Stormer website saying that several neo-Nazis got together on a single afternoon in an Amana coffee shop as a “book club” and they haven’t been back since.

There’s no indication of how many people actually showed up at the coffee shop, but the SPLC’s definition of “group” can mean one or fewer individuals.

Amana officials fought back, demanding that the SPLC’s new PR Guru, Ryan Lenz, remove the phony “hate group” designation from their town. Lenz, who replaces veteran SPLC “Former Employee” Mark Potok, initially refused. A local TV news team, KCRG out of Cedar Rapids, did the unthinkable and followed up on Amana’s complaint. You can see the report here (after a 30-second ad spot). On August 28, Lenz and the SPLC eventually relented and agreed to remove the hate group designation… sort of.

What Lenz did was to simply relocate the alleged Daily Stormer site from Amana to “Statewide.” “Statewide” is where the SPLC puts “groups” they cannot locate on any map, including their own. There are currently 191 “Statewide” groups on the most recent “Hate Map,” or nearly one-in-four. The SPLC provides no information whatsoever about the alleged groups and the media say “sounds good to us.”

Iowa still has four “hate groups,” (three of which are now “Statewide”), and the national “hate group” count remains at 917 for 2016.

In 2011, long before he was unthinkably kicked to the curb, we had the opportunity to ask Mark Potok directly about these phantom “groups.” At that time, Potok could not account for 262 of his 1,002 alleged groups, and though a small number of them were marked “Statewide” on the map, the vast majority were simply empty slots with no location whatsoever, other than a particular state.

After acknowledging that the question “was not illegitimate,” Mr. Potok sputtered along, making several astounding admissions, such as the “Hate Map” was based largely on anecdotal reports, was “… a very rough measure,” and “an imperfect process,” which is hardly the impression the SPLC gives in its annual “Hate Map” press releases.

In the end, Potok stated, “What those basically are, those are state-wide units… that’s what those groups are…” And with that, the interview was pretty much ended, but it confirmed Potok’s high standards for inclusion on the lucrative “Hate Map.”

On March 25, 2009, Potok had told the San Luis Obispo (CA) Tribune that “…inclusion on the [hate group] list might come from a minor presence, such as a post office box.”

On July 6, 2009, Potok told the Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent that, “…the [hate group] report relies on media, citizen and law enforcement reports, and does not include original reporting by SPLC staff.”

With such high standards and scrupulous research methods as that, it is a wonder that any “hate group” could wind up on the “Hate Map” in error, but this year it happened, twice. Or not.

The second location to fight back against the “hate group” smear was the village of Gurnee, Illinois. On September 8, 2017, the local paper, the Lake County News-Sun reported that:

“Gurnee police and village officials said they have been told by the law center that the village was included after the center found that someone who listed his address as Gurnee had registered on a KKK website.

Gurnee police said an investigation into the name concluded there is no record of anyone by that name having been a Gurnee resident.”

Once again we see how the SPLC spins any microscopic link it can scrape up into a full-fledged “group.” And despite being contacted by the mayor and local police on the scene, the SPLC made the demonstrably false claim that:

“Nonetheless, officials said they were told by a representative of the Law Center that they only review and revise the map once a year, and it will be reviewed again in January.”

It was less than two weeks earlier that the SPLC actually DID revise it’s “Hate Map” tool for Amana, sort of, so why won’t the company do the same for Gurnee? The simple fact of the matter is that they can’t.

The annual “Hate Map” is a fundraising tool, and, as shown above, has very little connection with reality (Mr. Potok’s “very rough measure”). Each winter the six-digit-salary executives at the SPLC come up with a “hate group” count upon which they will build all media and fundraising claims for the following year. Once a number is fixed, someone like Mark Potok or Ryan Lenz will get busy finding enough “groups” to match the prescribed quantity.

As we have noted in the past, the SPLC’s “Hate Map” tool is static. You can move a few deckchairs around, as they did with Amana, but you cannot change the magic number. As we pointed out in August, 2016, even though the SPLC announced that the rag-tag group “White Lives Matter” posed an immediate existential threat, they would not add them to the “Hate Map” for another six months.

(The company eventually conjured up three “White Lives Matters” “groups” for the 2017 map, all of which are… “Statewide.”)

In an age where any elementary school child can update a website in seconds, this makes no sense whatsoever, unless the “Hate Map” is a sham.

While Mr. Lenz can hide nearly 200 “groups” under the “Statewide” label, in the Gurnee case, he assigned a chapter of the Ku Klos Knights of the KKK to that location in addition to a second, “Statewide” iteration of the group to Illinois overall.

Even by SPLC standards, having two “Statewide” entries for the same “group” in the same state stretches credulity. Therefore, the village of Gurnee is stuck with it’s “hate group” until next year.

This brings us back to the point of of this post. The mayor of Gurnee is rightfully dissatisfied with the SPLC’s “tough luck” reply: “We’re going to continue to pursue it,” Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik said. “There is no reason to shame a whole community like that for no reason.”

Mayor Kovarik is completely in the right. There is no reason why any community or state should have to suffer the SPLC’s spurious “hate group” fundraising label. It unfairly smears the entire community based on nothing tangible whatsoever. The elected officials of Gurnee, Amana and every other locality falsely smeared have the reputation of their towns to protect and need to stand up against these unsubstantiated claims.

“Statewide,” governors, state and federal Senate and House members have the same, if not greater obligation to call out the SPLC and demand evidence. Serious claims require serious proof.

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

“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.”

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

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

If the ADL can call the SPLC out for its “wildly inflated” “Hate Map,” so can local, state and federal representatives. Millions of people swallow the SPLC’s annual “hate group” numbers each year and few in the media will challenge the claims.

Huge corporations like Apple and Google are already making business decisions based on these bogus numbers. What legitimate company would build a new plant in a state with record numbers of “hate groups”? Why would skilled workers move their families to such “hate-ridden” states to work there?

While the SPLC rakes in tens of millions of dollars each year from its fraudulent “Hate Map,” the consequences for local and state economies could run into the billions.

Hold the SPLC responsible for its claims. Demand to see the proof.

 


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