Posts Tagged ‘Anti-Defamation League’

ADL – Anti-Semitic Posts on Twitter

May 13, 2018

A recent report released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) claims that the organization tracked some 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets between January 2017 and January 2018. The Media, both traditional and social, repeated the claims widely, giving an impression that Twitter was a hotbed of anti-Semitism.

As with all matters concerning “hate,” in the Media, a closer look is warranted.

First off, anti-Semitism is a very real and a very dangerous social phenomenon. While even one hateful tweet is one too many, the definition of “hate” is nebulous at best and often tailored to the goals of the people defining it. To fully understand the reality on the ground it is imperative to review the definitions and methodologies used in creating  such reports. Let’s check the facts.

The ADL’s report, Quantifying Hate: A Year of Anti-Semitism on Twitter (no authors are named) claims that a review of English language tweets over 2017, using both computer algorithms and human review, yielded 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets and re-tweets by 3 million users.

“The current findings are based on a complex Boolean query designed to identify language frequently used by anti-Semites.

The query was broadly written to encompass obvious expressions of anti-Semitism, including classic anti-Semitic stereotypes; code words and symbols sometimes used in an anti-Semitic fashion; and also subtle references to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”

The query was indeed “broadly written” and was “designed to detect anti-Semitism in the following categories:

  1. Classic anti-Semitic stereotypes (e.g. references to Jews as greedy; controllers of banks, media, governments and academia; under-miners of culture and racial purity; cursed for killing Jesus; etc.)

  2. Positive references to or promotion of known anti-Semitic personalities, authors, books, articles, videos and podcasts

  3. References to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories (e.g. Jewish control of the Federal Reserve; the existence of a “Zionist Occupation Government,” etc.)

  4. Holocaust denial

  5. Epithets used for Jews (e.g. “kike”) and against Jews (e.g. “goddamn Jews”)

  6. Code words and anti-Semitic symbols such as the “echo symbol” (“((( )))”)

The current report includes criticism of Israel or Zionism when such criticism makes use of classic anti-Semitic language or conspiracy theories, or when it ascribes evil motivations to significant numbers of Jews. General criticism of Israel or its policies is not counted as anti-Semitism.

That covers a lot of territory, and, as the report’s Table of Contents indicates, includes several topics that may be, at best, tangentially associated with actual anti-Semitism.

ADL TOC

Including references to Harvey Weinstein, George Soros, Zionism and “globalists” will undoubtedly uncover many genuine anti-Semitic references but will also include many legitimate criticisms of cultural and political movements and players.

Let’s dig a little deeper:

  • As of 2017, Twitter had 330 million active users, of which 100 million were active daily
  • Over 500,000,000 tweets are sent every day, or 182 BILLION a year. A 2012 survey estimated that 38% of all tweets were in English, though this percentage has most certainly changed since then. The ADL study limited its sample to English language tweets only.
  • The United States makes up 21% of all Twitter users worldwide. Lacking demographic data later than the 2012 report referenced above, and excluding all tweets from other English speaking countries, (The UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) and tweets in English from other countries, a simple one-for-one extrapolation (21% of users accounting for 21% of tweets) would suggest that Americans sent more than 38 billion tweets in 2017.

    Obviously, not all American tweets were in English, but even 75% of this incredibly low-balled estimate would yield 28 billion tweets, of which the ADL found 4 million to be questionable, or .014%.

  • An ADL press release notes that, whatever the actual number of English tweets studied for 2017, only 55,000 “were manually reviewed for the presence of anti-Semitism.”
  • A 2017 peer-reviewed study estimated that between nine and 15% of all Twitter users were computer generated “bots.”

In short, the methodology used in the ADL’s Twitter report was, at best, “broad,” and at worst, unreliable. The report includes a disclaimer referencing “the rise of ‘QAnon’ conspiracy theories” that illustrates just how broadly the term “anti-Semitism” was interpreted:

“The vast majority of QAnon-inspired conspiracy theories have nothing to do with anti-Semitism. However, a small percentage of tweets referencing QAnon also referred to Israel, Jews, Zionists, Rothschilds … , or George Soros. 

This study’s methodology does not allow us to determine how many of the QAnon tweets containing those terms actually expressed anti-Semitic sentiment, but an impressionistic review revealed some troubling examples.”

“Impressionistic reviews” revealing “some troubling examples” are not the stuff of hard research. It should be noted that the Anti-Defamation League, like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), is a private “advocacy group,” which by its very definition means that the organization is “advocating” a particular point of view.

Online tax records indicate that the ADL averaged between $50- and $60 million dollars in donations a year between 2011 and 2016, with 2% to 2.5% of that money going to “program services,” such as this anonymous survey, and 40% to 45% going to “Executive compensation, other salaries and wages.”

With tens of millions of dollars in compensation at stake, a strong financial incentive to interpret anti-Semitism as broadly as possible cannot be ignored.

As we noted at the beginning of this post, the Media, in all its forms, gladly repeats the claims of the ADL and SPLC without performing any review. Lurid claims of “hate groups” everywhere and anti-Semitism on the rise make for profitable click bait. The Media also have an undeniable financial incentive for promoting such “reports” without ever asking to see the evidence.

Again, anti-Semitism is a very real thing and must not be tolerated in any way, but lumping criticism of George Soros’ political activities and re-tweets of anonymous QAnon conspiracy theories is not a legitimate method of documenting it.

Research for the report was allegedly performed by two ADL in-house organizations, the ADL’s Center on Extremism and Center on Technology and Society, with no external peer review or oversight.

If the data is good the results ought to be easily replicable independently. Anonymous reports generated by in-house organs simply do not meet basic research standards.

Big claims demand big proof and the ADL needs to show its work. A poorly estimated 4 million suspicious tweets out of tens of billions posted in 2017 is statistically insignificant.

Prove it or remove it.

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SPLC — One-Man”Groups”

January 6, 2017

More evidence of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s quiet transformation from “nonprofit civil rights organization” to “advocacy group” turned up today, serendipitously, as is so often the case.

A recent story in the Ashland (Oregon) Daily Tidings reminded us of the SPLC’s boilerplate claim that its lucrative “Hate Map” fundraising tool did not include one-man “groups” (or “one-person” groups, if you will). The legend on the 2015 map included the same standard phrase the company had used for over a decade: “Websites appearing to be merely the work of a single individual, rather than the publication of a group, are not included in this list.”

Thanks to the Daily Tidings piece about Radio Rense, a one-man online radio “network” run by Ashland resident Jeff Rense, we went to the latest iteration of the “Hate Map” to revisit the disclaimer, only to find it missing from the map’s legend.

We did find one last mention of the claim on a related “Active Hate Groups” page on the site, but the claim is no longer part and parcel of the “Hate Map” tool:

“Entities that appear to exist only in cyberspace are not included because they are likely to be individual Web publishers who likely to falsely portray themselves as powerful, organized froups [sic].”

Just before the November 2016 elections, SPLC Public Relations Guru Mark Potok admitted in  Esquire magazine that The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website and long-time “Hate Map” alumnus, was the “work of a single individual” and “existed only in cyberspace”:

“The Daily Stormer is mostly Andrew Angelin, his dog, and his computer,” says Potok.”

As usual, even the most casual perusal of the “hate group” list reveals several one-man bands at first glance, and would no doubt give up more at the hands of an actual journalist, if any still survive.

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When conservative blogger Daniel Greenfield, owner, operator and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer of the clearly labeled “Sultan Knish – A blog by Daniel Greenfield” realized that he had become an SPLC “group,” he was initially confused:

“My first response on finding out that I was now a hate group was to look around to see where everyone else was. A hate group needs the group part and one man and a cat don’t seem to be enough.”

Greenfield surmised that his “group” was found to be “active” because “I jogged a few miles yesterday…” Eventually, Greenfield came clean, throwing the rest of his “group” under the proverbial bus: “Even when the cat is a well known bigot who hates mice, birds, car alarms that go off in the middle of the night, the plumber and sudden noises.”

Our personal favorite “hate group,” (if such phraseology does not doom us to one-man groupdom), is Casa D’Ice, an Italian restaurant on the outskirts of Pittsburgh run by a curmudgeonly old crank who leaves idiotic and often outright-bigoted messages on the marquis sign outside his place.

Casa D'Ice

The threat to the nation has seldom been greater.

Of course, the SPLC has been padding its list with one-man bands for decades. As Laird Wilcox, one of the most respected researchers on the Hate Industry, noted nearly 20 years ago:

“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.”

More recently, in 2015, Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League repeated Wilcox’s findings in the South Jersey Times:

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 [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.”

Clearly, the removal of the one-man disclaimer releases the SPLC from any expectation that the “hate groups” they designate, for they are the sole designator of the term, will actually be composed of two or more individuals.

After all, why drag accuracy into the discussion and why leave good money lying on the floor?

Ironically, if it were not for the SPLC shining a nation-wide spotlight on these one-man “groups,” the vast majority of humankind would have no idea these websites even existed. Of course, that would include the almighty donors and so an existential threat is born.

We first noted the SPLC’s dropping all pretenses of being an organization with the mission of protecting civil rights as early as June, 2015. At the time, we noted that this move would free the SPLC to chase any headline grabbing law suit without having to go through the motions of pretending it was doing actual civil rights work, such as the copyright infringement case involving a gay New Jersey couple whose engagement photo was used in anti-gay fliers in a Colorado State Senate campaign in 2012.

Was the image used without the permission of the couple or the legal copyright holder, photographer Kristina Hill? Absolutely.

Does the SPLC have any legal experience whatsoever in pursuing copyright infringement cases? None whatsoever. The company isn’t even licensed to practice law in Colorado and so the suit was handled by local law firm Faegre Baker Daniels.

Were there any civil rights issues involved in the case? Apparently not. While the photo was doctored to make it appear it had been taken in snowy Colorado and included anti-gay commentary, the term “civil rights” appears nowhere in the complaint. Instead, the SPLC was claiming “mental distress and anguish” and “reputational harm.”

While we have no doubt that the couple did indeed experience anguish and reputational harm, there was no real need to “make a federal case” in U.S. District Court. The only thing the SPLC brought to the case was publicity, which it milked in its fundraising materials for more than a year.

In the end, the Federal Court threw out the couple’s “pain and anguish” claim and awarded photographer Hill $2,501 for the unauthorized use of her photo.

In short, the entire proceedings could have taken place in small claims court, and without any input from the Southern Poverty Law Center, but how would the donors ever hear about the case under those circumstances?

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s move to from civil rights organization to advocacy group is perfectly logical. There just aren’t enough Klansmen or neo-Nazis goose-stepping around to make a decent living anymore. As Mark Potok explained to Arlene Levinson of the Associated Press back in 1999:

“The numbers are absolutely soft,’ said Mark Potok, a Southern Poverty Law Center spokesman. ‘We are talking about a tiny number of Americans who are members of hate groups – I mean, infinitesimal.”

As an advocacy group, just like the National Rifle Association, Mr. Potok’s hands are untied and he can make any guilt-by-association allegations he deems profitable without regard to anyone’s civil rights, and of course, nobody in the media will bother to check out his claims. That might involve journalism.

And just like the NRA, Potok can “advocate” for his highly lucrative industry just like the Gun Lobby does. No wonder his company forgot to mention the change of mission to the donors. No sense is upsetting the blue-haired dears over semantics. They have enough to do just writing the checks

Anti-Defamation League Outs SPLC “Hate Map”

April 2, 2015

In an amazing display of internecine disunity, Mark Pitcavage, Director of Investigative Research at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), threw his opposite number, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, under the proverbial bus recently, claiming that the latter’s “hate group” numbers are “wildly inflated.”

Things have been getting scary enough at the SPLC, what with Mr. Potok’s lucrative but meaningless “hate group” tally dropping for the third year in a row, this time by a whopping 17%, but we never expected to see Mr. Potok outed by a co-captain of the Hate Industry. Strange days indeed!

In a March 23, 2015 article in the South Jersey Times, journalist Jason Laday laments that, according to the latest iteration of Mr. Potok’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool, New Jersey “has the fourth highest number of hate groups in the country.” Laday notes that of the 40 alleged “groups” Mr. Potok has assigned to the Garden State, more than half of them are “racist skinheads” and most of those belong to the AC Skins. And as usual, Mr. Potok offers absolutely nothing to back up his claims.

Enter Mark Pitcavage of the ADL:

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

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

Yow! We have to admit that while it is rewarding to see someone in Mr. Pitcavage’s position reaffirming what Watching the Watchdogs has been saying for years now, it’s a little unnerving to watch one Public Relations chief publicly de-panting another.

And if that were not weird enough, in the same article Mr. Potok pretty much admits that his “racist skinhead” numbers are crap:

“However, according to Potok, most racist skinheads aren’t part of any group, so the list is far from comprehensive.”

“Largely, it’s a bar and music scene,” he said. “In general, you do see, from time to time, some political plots, but most of the time it’s low-level interpersonal violence — infighting amongst themselves over women or drugs — or beating people up on the street.”

“By the time you’re 30, you’re aging out of it, by and large,” Potok later added. “You grow your hair out, even if you still have the same views.”

Comforting words, Mr. Potok, but you’re still pulling alleged groups out of your imagination to pad out your “Hate Map.”

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Aryan Strikeforce: 18 out of 19 chapters are homeless.

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Aryan Terror Brigade: 15 out of 16 gone missing.

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Creativity Alliance: 14 out of 15 chapters are pretty creative at hiding.

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Aryan Nations Ohio: 9 out of 11 are AWOL.

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White Boy Society: A perfect 8 out of 8! Really, Mr. Potok? Really?

And there we have it, 64 empty slots in this section of the “Hate Map” alone, despite Mr. Potok’s claim that “Only organizations and their chapters known to be active during 2014 are included.”

One has to seriously ponder exactly what Mr. Potok’s definition of “active” might be.

You did get one thing right, Mr. Potok… Your list is far from being comprehensive, or even comprehensible. Lucky for you and your fundraising machine, nobody in the Media will ever vet your “wildly inflated” claims.

Vaya con dinero, Mr. Potok. Go with the money.


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