Posts Tagged ‘Freedom of Speech’

The Other SPLC: (The Civil Rights One)

February 23, 2015

It was just over two years ago that we first wrote about the outstanding work done by the other SPLC, the Student Press Law Center, which, unlike the fundraising company with the same monogram (differentiated here as the $PLC), is actually interested in preserving civil rights for everyone.

The Student Press Law Center’s mission statement is very simple, but it covers points that the $PLC could never begin to fathom:

“The Student Press Law Center is an advocate for student First Amendment rights, for freedom of online speech, and for open government on campus. The SPLC provides information, training and legal assistance at no charge to student journalists and the educators who work with them.”

A perfect example of the Student Press Law Center’s devotion to First Amendment rights can be found on a recent podcast, Protecting Off-Campus Speech on Social Media, which includes an interview with an attorney who recently fought for the free speech rights of a high school student.

The student, Taylor Bell, created a rap video that was critical of two coaches at his school who Bell alleged were engaging in inappropriate behavior with female students. Bell claims the behavior was widely known around school but the administration was ignoring the situation.

Bell’s lawyer, Scott Colom, admits that there was vulgar and offensive language in the video, but notes that Bell “…wrote the song away from the school, he recorded it in a studio away from the school, he never played it at the school, he never talked about the song at the school, he never did anything to bring the song to the school.”

In fact, the school blocks Facebook, Youtube and cellphones on school property, and so was entirely out of the purview of the school authorities. Nonetheless, Bell was expelled for the remainder of the school year.

When the case finally reached Mississippi’s 5th Circuit District Court of Appeals, it became evident that the sole basis for the school’s disciplinary action against Bell is that they simply didn’t like what he had to say in a video that he had created on his own time. The 5th Circuit ruled that Bell’s speech, as offensive as many would find it, was protected.

SPLC Executive Director, Frank LoMonte, summed it up nicely:

“Certainly the way the Westboro Baptist Church people make themselves heard is every bit as offensive as Taylor Bell’s rap song, and yet that was found to be fully protected by the First Amendment, and so the majority two-to-one ruling by 5th Circuit correctly focused in on the nature and the intent of the speech, which is the kind of speech that is most in need of First Amendment protection.

If the First Amendment doesn’t exist to allow people to blow the whistle on government wrongdoing, then it has no purpose at all.”

You’d be hard pressed to find any references to the First Amendment or freedom of speech in any form on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s web site. In fact, the $PLC makes its money by smearing anyone engaging in free speech as a “hate group,” anyone expressing their religious beliefs as a “radical fundamentalist,” and anyone seeking to petition the government as a “far-right-wing extremist.”

In fact, the $PLC’s Public Relations guru, Mark Potok, has stated publicly numerous times that his patented “hate group” smear is based entirely on offensive speech:

“All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” (SPLC “Hate Map” legend)

“Our criteria for a “hate group,” first of all, have nothing to do with criminality, or violence, or any kind of guess we’re making about ‘this group could be dangerous.’ It’s strictly ideological.” (2008 Potok interview)

Strictly ideological. Our donors don’t like what you have to say, regardless of your Constitutional right to say it, so we will simply smear you as a “hate group” in our fundraising materials and the donors will do the rest.

Mr. Potok’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool is so far removed from reality that it makes this unbelievable claim:

“Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.”

Think about that. An alleged “civil rights group” deliberately conflating six of the most fundamental First Amendment civil rights with “criminal acts” and “hate group activities.”

Congress cannot abridge people’s right to speak, to write and publish, or to assemble peacefully, but somehow a private, multimillion dollar fundraising company can?

And yet the media will never question the $PLC’s frequent press releases, or vet them for accuracy, and the donors keep sending Mr. Potok tens of millions of dollars a year.

The whole thing would be bad enough if it was simply the fact that Mr. Potok’s company deceives tens of thousands of its donors out of their money every year, but he also has the ear of the Department of Homeland Security, which seems every bit as gullible as the donors.

If you simply cannot resist writing out a donation check to the SPLC, make it the Student Press Law Center, the one that a) genuinely could use your donation, and b) is actually fighting for your civil rights.

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SPLC — Mark Potok Interview

July 14, 2014

Recently, we discovered an extensive interview on the Internet Archive with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s public relations chief, Mark Potok, in which he discusses the origins of the SPLC, its mission and its tactics. You can find the audio files to the interview here.

We’d like to highlight some of Mr. Potok’s more interesting comments, but, as always, we remind the reader to not  simply take our word for it. Any time you select excerpts from a larger work you run the risk of cherry-picking, or taking things out of context, and we’re certainly not professional transcriptionists here at Watching the Watchdogs. Listen to the interview and come to your own conclusions.

As to the origins of the interview, it was recorded and posted on the Internet Archive by Bill Holiday, a high school teacher from Vermont. A number of students, and at least one other teacher, are asking Mr. Potok questions about his work. The interview apparently takes place at the SPLC’s Montgomery headquarters, and several references in the conversation seem to date it to the first half of 2008.

In Track One, Mr. Potok explains the origins of the name of the organization:

“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.”

“People think, you know, that it’s all about, sort of, defending poor people, and that’s not really, exactly what our mission is.” Interesting. One wonders how many donors are under the impression that a “poverty law center” might actually be in the business of defending poor people, no? Why change the name just because the mission changed? You don’t just toss out a multimillion dollar brand name for the sake of accuracy. More on this to follow.

Track Two includes an astonishingly candid assessment of how some critics view the SPLC:

“I think a lot of people feel, ‘Oh, groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, they find, you know, the two hundred Nazis running around the country, they build them up into great big groups, they make a big deal about it and then ask for your money,’ right? In other words, it’s kind of a scam. You hype up this little tiny threat into something scary, uh, and then go and try to make money off of it.”

Well, Mr. Potok, you took the words right out of our mouth. Since 2009, Watching the Watchdogs has been documenting exactly this kind of behavior by the SPLC, and you have summed things up nicely. We have reported numerous times on the fact that there is no legal definition of “hate group,” and that you pretty much make them up as you go along.

Your “Hate Map” fundraising tool includes hundreds of alleged “hate groups,” (again, per your own definition), but you provide no information on these groups that researchers could use to verify their existence. In fact, you couldn’t even bother to make up locations for more than 200 of them. In 2012, you added 20 chapters of something called the “Georgia Militia” to that state’s “hate map,” but you couldn’t locate 18 of them!

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And the “Hate Map” is the keystone to all SPLC fundraising, Mr. Potok. You promote it widely in the Media as being factual and accurate, even after admitting directly to Watching the Watchdogs that your numbers are “anecdotal,” “a very rough measure” and the result of “an imperfect process.”

The donors believe your numbers, Mr. Potok, and that’s why they sent you nearly $37 million donor-dollars last year, and that figure does not include the nearly $36 million dollars in tax-free interest generated by the $281 MILLION in cash in the SPLC’s bloated “Morris Dees Legacy Fund.”

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And so, Mr. Potok, you really do hype up these minor threats, provide absolutely no documentation for your claims and then very successfully make a lot of money from it. I believe the term you used was “scam.” What would you call it?

In Track Five, Mark Potok relates the details of an event where a Klansman named Jeff Berry gives an interview to a news crew, then, thinking better of it, demands the tape of the interview from the crew at shotgun-point. Potok says the police did nothing in response to the reporter’s complaint and then makes an insensitive joke about gang rape.

“About a year later… well, we sued very quickly… well, it was shortly after that, and we easily won a judgment against Berry. You know, this was absolutely false imprisonment, right? I mean, it was a felony crime.”

A felony crime, Mr. Potok? Just for holding someone at shotgun-point? Oddly enough, On page 101 of his 1991 autobiography, A Season for Justice,  your boss, SPLC founder Morris Dees, writes with great relish about holding a man at shotgun-point. He even makes a little joke about it at the end.

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Was this not a felony crime too, Mr. Potok? Was this not also false imprisonment? Or are you willing to overlook the crime because the felonious perp signs your $3,000 dollar-a-week paychecks? Just a modicum of consistency would be SOOOO welcome here, Mr. Potok.

In Track Eight, Potok discusses what he labels “Nativist Extremist” groups and their failure to resort to traditional political means to achieve their objectives.

“These are groups that don’t merely say… that don’t target the policy… In other words, they don’t simply say ‘Immigration should be lower… because of whatever reason,’ right? ‘It’s bad for the economy or the environment or, you know, whatever… depresses wages in this country, therefore we’re going to write our congressmen or hold a rally or a parade or whatever.’ In other words, you know, engage in some kind of democratic action, right? Some kind of effort, you know, to have laws changed or whatever it is.”

The irony here, as we’ve pointed out time after time, is that while Mr. Potok denigrates these groups for allegedly not engaging in “some kind of democratic action,” the legend on his “Hate Map” fundraising tool clearly states that:

  “Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.”

 While we continue to be amazed that a so-called “civil rights group” would deliberately conflate six of the most fundamental democratic civil rights with “criminal acts” and “hate group activities,” here we find Mr. Potok damning people both for participating and allegedly not participating in these activities. No contradictions there, Mr. Potok.

Track Nine covers the SPLC’s criteria for designating its “hate group” brand name:

“Our criteria for a “hate group,” first of all, have nothing to do with criminality, or violence, or any kind of guess we’re making about ‘this group could be dangerous.’ It’s strictly ideological. So we look at a group and we say, ‘Does this group, in its platform statements, or the speeches of its leader or leaders… Does this group say that a whole group of people, by virtue of their group characteristics, is somehow less?'”

“It’s strictly ideological.” No crime, no violence, just “wrong thinking.” Even the most rudimentary reading of SPLC fundraising materials and press releases, (redundant, we know..), finds repeated examples of you lumping conservatives and Christians as part of a diabolical “radical right” and anyone who believes that this nation’s existing immigration laws should be enforced and respected is immediately smeared as a “nativist.”

Labeling and name-calling are one of the eight central pillars of the propagandists’ stock and trade, Mr. Potok, and you have mastered them all. 

And the suckers sent him over $100,000 dollars a day last year, every day. No wonder he doesn’t want to change the name of the company. “Civil rights” doesn’t get any better than this.

A slightly longer quote from Track Ten, but it really is telling:

“Let me just say one other thing while I’m thinking about things to say. A lot of our criticism… let me think about how to say this… If there were just… if these groups just operated on the margins of the margins of society and ran around saying, you know, ‘We should kill all the Jews, we should kill all the gay people,’ and that was sort of all there was to it, yes, they would be scary in the sense that, every so often one of them goes off and kills somebody, but, you know, but would it really be a huge or serious threat to the society? I think obviously not, right?

I mean, first of all, it’s not a message that flies very far…’Let’s kill all the Jews. Let’s, you know, build new gas chambers,’ or whatever. But the reality is, and especially since the immigration debate has become sort of the centerpiece of their world, is that their propaganda is getting out way beyond their little fringe world.”

“[W]ould it really be a huge or serious threat to the society? I think obviously not, right?” On this point, Mr. Potok, we can agree. We may find many of the messages produced by some of these groups to be patently offensive and despicable. The problem arises when self-appointed vigilantes like you and the SPLC come along and decide who gets to speak, based on your own extremely nebulous criteria.

Once you start abrogating the civil rights of one group simply because you don’t like what they have to say, it’s only a matter of time before all groups are threatened by this same lynch-mob mentality.

As for the nature of the threats these alleged groups pose, Mr. Potok, please remember that not very long after you gave this interview in your office you made the following statements:

“And I would say as a general matter, it is extremely unusual these days for an organization to plan and carry out a criminal act where mainly for the reason that they are so likely to get caught.

So what we really see out there in terms of violence from the radical right is by and large what we would call lone wolves, people operating on their own or with just one or two partners. As opposed to, you know, being some kind of organizational plan.” (October 30, 2008, NPR.org,  Assessing White Supremacist Groups in the US)

“Still, [Potok] said the public should remain vigilant about the activities of hate groups, even though individuals are responsible for the majority of hate crimes in America. (www.courier-journal.com, July 21, 2009)

And speaking of ideology, Mr. Potok, if your goal in life was simply to debate those people with whom you disagree, it would be one thing. But to rake in tens of millions of dollars a year in the process of stifling any discussion whatsoever is dubious, at best.

Potok continues:

“I think our more major concern has been, especially recently, is how this propaganda has been put into the mainstream and is now treated like fact.”

 

 And this, Mr. Potok, is precisely how your “Hate Map” and other fundraising propaganda work. You broadcast these spurious claims to the donors and the media, and everyone takes you at your word. Few, if any, will perform even the most rudimentary fact checks, not that you provide much for them to actually check.

Track Twelve deals with the origins of the SPLC and its mission; at least in the good old days:

“It started with two lawyers, Morris Dees and Joe Levin, and they came from here [Montgomery] and that’s why we’re here, and they are still… here. So, you know, it was a very, very small non-profit law firm and it did some of that… yes… defending people who were accused… black people who were accused of things they hadn’t done, and so on.

But, you know, the cases tended to be… I mean, they were classic civil rights cases. In one of our early cases, had as a tactic, we sued the Alabama Highway Patrol, right, the State Police here because it was a 100% lily-white police force. You can imagine what the thinking on that is, right, I mean it’s a bad thing in a society that is not all-white to have the people with guns be all white, right? I mean, I think it just makes it obvious to society who’s running the show and, you know, what’s behind it.”

“I mean it’s a bad thing in a society that is not all-white to have the people with guns be all white, right? I mean, I think it just makes it obvious to society who’s running the show and, you know, what’s behind it.”

And we agree with you wholeheartedly once again, Mr. Potok. It a bad thing when an organization that purports to serve a diverse population is run by all whites, especially in Montgomery, Alabama, the birthplace of the American Civil Rights Movement. It really does send a message.

That being said, this year, once again, Watching the Watchdogs pointed out that for the 43rd consecutive year, the top leadership of your organization is as “lily-white,” to use your phrase, as it was on the day that Dees and Levin opened for business in 1971.

“So, it was very important to the lawyers here to desegregate the Alabama Highway Patrol, and in fact they won, like, a very important judgment that… they’re… I don’t know if this is still true, but at least a couple of years ago they were the most integrated police force in America. Right here in Alabama… twenty-five percent… which is, you know, something.”

Wouldn’t it be “something” if the SPLC’s Executive Suite was integrated and twenty-five percent of its highly paid top executives were from diverse backgrounds? Mr. Potok, just how thinly do you think we can spread the term “ironic” before it rightly morphs into “hypocritical”?

“I don’t know if that answered your question. We did a lot of different kind of cases that were all over the, kind of, civil rights map. There was a lot of death penalty defense work done here in the early years. We don’t do that, really, any more, because, basically, a lot of other lawyers got good at it and now do that work.”

“We don’t do that, really, any more, because, basically, a lot of other lawyers got good at it and now do that work.” That’s a rather dubious explanation, Mr. Potok. If anything, genuine civil rights groups like the Innocence Project, which actually do work with the poor, and on a fraction of your bloated budget, have demonstrated that the need for this kind of legal work has never been greater.

If you are no longer in the poverty law business, you really need to change the name of your company and just be honest with your donors.

And finally, from Track 13, Mr. Potok cuts to the chase and lays out what his company’s agenda really is:

“We see this political struggle, right? And it’s very different from what Teaching Tolerance does, right? I mean, we’re not trying to change anybody’s mind. We’re trying to wreck the groups, and we are very clear in our head, this is… we are trying to destroy them. Not to send them to prison unfairly or not take their free speech rights away… but as a political matter, to destroy them. And the way we learned to do it, I think personally is cool, is we use facts, and when we use their own facts… So, often, the battle is to make it stick, right?”

“We see this as a political struggle, right?” If that’s the case, Mr. Potok, and the SPLC is little more than another PAC, then stop hiding behind the sham that your company is somehow a civil rights organization. It’s doubtful your donations will decline, and they may even increase.

“I mean, we’re not trying to change anybody’s mind. We’re trying to wreck the groups, and we are very clear in our head, this is… we are trying to destroy them.”

So, Mr. Potok, you’ve already stated that the SPLC isn’t interested in criminality or potential for violence, it is, as you say, “all about ideology,” and yet you have the gall to claim that you’re not trying to take their free speech rights away?

If it’s all about ideology, Mr. Potok, and these groups aren’t advocating crime or violence, then isn’t what they’re saying, regardless of how offensive many people may find it, protected free speech? And yet, you’re dying to “destroy” them?

These groups aren’t breaking any laws, but you want to silence them because you don’t like what they say. Isn’t that textbook vigilantism, Mr. Potok? Taking the law into your own hands because you don’t like the way the democratic system works?

You said the exact same thing in 2007 at a luncheon in Michigan, in this grainy video. The crowd laughed and cheered. They’re all psychopaths, you said, and you can’t wait to “destroy” them.

 

“And the way we learned to do it, I think personally is cool, is we use facts, and when we use their own facts… So, often, the battle is to make it stick, right?”

Well, Mr. Potok, we cannot agree more about the efficacy of that technique. Watching the Watchdogs will continue to “track” your company, making meticulous notes of your comments, press releases and financial statements and report them to the public at large.

Unlike your office, though, we will continue to cite all of our sources and we will not take a dime for our efforts… as opposed to the nearly $2,000,000 donor-dollars you’ve earned for your efforts since 2001.

And rather than lead our readers to preconceived conclusions, which is, after all, the textbook definition of propaganda and the basis of your position at the SPLC, Mr. Potok, we will continue to urge people to look at the documentation for themselves and come to their own conclusions.

We’ll keep putting the evidence out there in the hope that someday we can make it “stick.”

SPLC – The Gospel According to Mark (Potok)

May 14, 2013

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s public relations chief, Mark Potok, is a paid spokesman whose primary function is to perpetuate the SPLC’s decades-long fear campaign in the Media. The SPLC gave Mr. Potok a $10,000 dollar raise in 2012, bringing his compensation package to $162,000 a year because of his great skill at convincing their mostly elderly donor base that “hate groups” were everywhere.

Potok is the Media’s “go-to” guy on “hate,” despite the fact that he has no legal or law enforcement experience, and so Mr. Potok spends a lot of his time giving his repetitious “hate” spiel, but every so often the “Senior Fellow” forgets to follow the “hate groups are everywhere!” script and it’s always informative to hear what he really thinks.

Most recently, as of this writing, Mr. Potok made an astounding admission to CNN  that nearly mirrors what Watching the Watchdogs has been telling readers for years about the SPLC’s lucrative “hate group” marketing tool:

“Mark Potok,  a center spokesman, says there’s no shared definition of what constitutes hate speech.

“There is no legal meaning. It’s just a phrase,” Potok says. “Hate speech is in the ear of the beholder.”
(May 5, 2013, CNN.com, “When Christians become a ‘hated minority‘”)

Mr. Potok, there’s no shared definition of a “hate group” either. No legal meaning. It’s just a phrase. A “hate group” is entirely in the eye of the beholder (or marketer).

And because the SPLC is the sole arbiter of the “hate group” label, a “hate group” is whatever they say it is and they can designate as many as they want for fundraising purposes. The SPLC receives no external review or oversight and the Media makes no attempt whatsoever to vet Mr. Potok’s claims.

And what exactly are Mr. Potok’s exacting standards when it comes to applying the lucrative “hate group” stamp of disapproval? According to Mark Potok:

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

Futhermore:

“Listing here does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.” (SPLC “Hate Map” legend, http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/hate-map)

No crime, no violence, just “wrong thinking.”  Potok further claims that:

“All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” (SPLC “Hate Map” legend, http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/hate-map)

Since Mr. Potok has already ruled out crime and violence, which would immediately be considered hate crimes and rightly turned over to the police, all of these malignant “attacks” must then be considered “hate speech,” which Mr. Potok so elegantly defined above.

Get the picture?

Potok also admits that even the FBI cannot monitor “hate group” based solely on their ideology (but somehow his private fundraising company can?):

“The FBI does not monitor groups just because they have “hateful” ideology. There must be some evidence of criminal wrongdoing. (www.usatoday.com, May 17, 2002)

Despite Potok’s feckless disclaimer that being listed on his “Hate Map” tool in no way implies violence or criminality, that is precisely what the map is intended to do . That’s why Mr. Potok created it in the first place. The “Hate Map” is a branding tool, in both the marketing and social senses of the term.

Much like Hawthorne’s scarlet A, Mr. Potok’s scarlet H is designed solely to demonize, dehumanize and stigmatize its targets, effectively stifling all discussion or debate. Who would want to talk to a hate group, after all?

So, if these people aren’t out there breaking laws left and right, what exactly are they doing to earn the “hate group” label?:

“Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.” (SPLC “Hate Map” legend, http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/hate-map)

Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere! Marches, speeches, meetings, publishing… there are laws regarding such things!:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (First of ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, a.k.a. The Bill of Rights)

Is it really right for an alleged “civil rights group” to deliberately conflate six of the most fundamental, Constitutionally protected civil rights with “criminal acts” and “hate group activities”?

If these groups are exercising their legal rights to Free Speech, regardless of how distasteful some may find that speech, what would you call someone who arbitrarily interprets the Laws of the Land by his own subjective standards?

Vigilante: noun : a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily (as when the processes of law are viewed as inadequate); broadly : a self-appointed doer of justice. (www.merriam-webster.com)

That pretty much sums up the SPLC’s M.O. in a nutshell. Too bad the IRS didn’t take a hint from the Feds…

Maybe Senior Fellow Potok knows things the rest of us do not? After all, the SPLC has paid the man more than $2,000,000 dollars since 2000 for his expertise, right?:

“Mark Potok, who has directed the SPLC’s Intelligence Project for 12 years, said the report relies on media, citizen and law enforcement reports, and does not include original reporting by SPLC staff.” (www.postcrescent.com, July 6, 2009)

Well, okay, Mr. Potok’s Intelligence Report is based on second- and third-hand information, informants and hearsay, but at least he must have a solid handle on how many people are involved in these nefarious “hate groups,” no?:

“The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., estimates more than 100,000 followers among the various hate groups, though a spokesman [Mark Potok] concedes that the tally – from periodicals, news reports and police – is approximate. (Arlene Levinson, “Hate Groups, Crimes Said Rare in US,” Associated Press, July 8, 1999)

“Approximate,” eh? Hmmm. Mr. Potok claims there were 602 “hate groups” in the US in 2000, so that averages out to about 166 haters per group. That sounds a bit high to us. Would you care to qualify your estimate, Mr. P.?:

[Update, June 19, 2013: An article published in the Charleston (WV) Gazette dated March 5, 2013, quotes Mr. Potok claiming that “There could be 200,000 to 300,000 people involved in hate groups today.” Given that Mr. Potok has designated just over 1,000 “hate groups” for 2012, that works out to 200 to 300 “haters” per group. Really…]

“The numbers are absolutely soft,” said Mark Potok, a Southern Poverty Law Center spokesman. “We are talking about a tiny number of Americans who are members of hate groups – I mean, infinitesimal.” (Arlene Levinson, “Hate Groups, Crimes Said Rare in US,” Associated Press, July 8, 1999)

“Infinitesimal”?? How much is that in more monosyllabic terms?:

in·fin·i·tes·i·mal

adjective

1.indefinitely or exceedingly small; minute: 
2.immeasurably small; less than an assignable quantity: to an infinitesimal degree.
(www.dictionary.com)

Well, in all fairness, Mr. Potok made his “infinitesimal” estimate back in 1999 when he was still new on the job. Surely his powers of prognostication have improved with time:

“Potok acknowledged that some of the groups may be small and said it is impossible for outsiders to gauge the membership of most of the groups.” (David Crary, Associated Press Online, March 10, 2008)

The groups may be small? With over a hundred members each? How many members comprise a group, Mr. Potok? Especially a “hate group”?:

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

When Watching the Watchdogs had the opportunity in 2011 to ask Mr. Potok directly about the accuracy of his “hate group” numbers, on camera, the Senior Fellow was amazingly candid in admitting that his figures were “anecdotal,” “an imperfect process” and “a very rough estimate.”

Too bad the tens of thousands of suckers who sent the SPLC $40 million donor-dollars last year, based on Potok’s “hate group” numbers, didn’t realize the fellow was merely guessing. Well, no harm done, we suppose.

The important thing to remember is that even though Mr. Potok assigned his “hate group” label to people who were breaking no laws, and, even though he’s not especially concerned over just exactly how many people (or P.O. boxes) make up a “group,” we can all rest assured that “hate groups” are the biggest threat to domestic tranquility today:

“And I would say as a general matter, it is extremely unusual these days for an organization to plan and carry out a criminal act where mainly for the reason that they are so likely to get caught.

So what we really see out there in terms of violence from the radical right is by and large what we would call lone wolves, people operating on their own or with just one or two partners. As opposed to, you know, being some kind of organizational plan.” (October 30, 2008, NPR.org,  Assessing White Supremacist Groups in the US)

“Still, [Potok] said the public should remain vigilant about the activities of hate groups, even though individuals are responsible for the majority of hate crimes in America. (www.courier-journal.com, July 21, 2009)

Well Mr. Potok, if “lone wolves” and individuals are the ones committing all these alleged hate crimes and acts of domestic terrorism, why do you focus solely on law abiding “hate groups”?? Why not just publish the names and addresses of these “lone wolves” in your next Intelligence Report and be done with it? It’s not like you don’t have enough third-hand gossip and self-appointed vigilante informants on the ground to get the information, right?

At the end of the day, Mr. Potok and his SPLC have no more power to identify the next mentally ill individuals to go on a murder spree than you do. That’s not the point of the exercise, however. Mr. Potok’s job is to perpetuate his endless fear campaign and convince his mostly-elderly, mostly-Progressive donor base to send him more money. They sent him more than $4,500 dollars every single hour last year and it did nothing to prevent Sandy Hook or Aurora, but it did contribute directly to a crazed “lone wolf” who used Mr. Potok’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool to select the target for his botched shooting spree at the Family Research Council.

These facts, these numbers, Mr. Potok’s own public contradictions will do little to dissuade the SPLC’s donors, because the Master Public Relations man knows how to play the con to the hilt. In a 2007 speech to an “anti-hate” group in Michigan, Mark Potok laid out his personal thoughts on these “wrong thinkers” and his views on their fundamental humanity and civil rights:

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that these are human beings and it’s a mistake to regard them as just a bunch of sociopaths… though most of them are.”

“Let me say… our aim… sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate groups and so on. I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups. Completely destroy them.”

The only thing more chilling than the sneering way in which Mark Potok deliberately dehumanizes people who are exercizing their Constitutional rights is the roar of laughter and thunderous applause it drew from the tolerant, inclusive and progressive “anti-haters.”

All facts to the contrary be damned, they came to hear what they wanted to hear… the Gospel according to Mark.

A Tale of Two SPLCs

February 7, 2013

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “serendipity” as:

“The faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.”

In short, looking for one thing and finding something else that you weren’t expecting. It happens to everyone at some time or other and it can be quite rewarding when it does.

As long-time readers of this blog know, we get the vast majority of our information about the Southern Poverty Law Center from the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC’s web site is a treasure trove of information on the organization’s hiring, fundraising and public relations practices.

As long-time web surfers know, a fairly reliable shortcut to finding many web sites is simply to type in the name of an organization with a “.com” or “.org” appended to the end. If you try this trick with www.splc.org, however, you will be rewarded with a serendipitous trip to an entirely different SPLC web site.

In this case, you will be directed to the site of the Student Press Law Center, located in Northern Virginia. Apparently, these folks registered their domain name before their Alabama counterparts, who had to settle for http://www.splcenter.org instead.

Actually, “counterparts” is misleading as you would be hard pressed to identify two law centers with such diametrically opposite missions.

Since the primary mission of the Southern Poverty Law Center appears to be fundraising, we’ll call it the $PLC, for short, and use SPLC to refer to the Student Press Law Center, which operates on a fraction of the $PLC’s annual budget.

The primary mission of the SPLC, as you might imagine, is to serve as a resource and advocate for student publications from elementary school through to colleges and universities.

The Student Press Law Center is an advocate for student First Amendment rights, for freedom of online speech, and for open government on campus. The SPLC provides information, training and legal assistance at no charge to student journalists and the educators who work with them.

Did you catch the reference to First Amendment rights? This is the foundation and basis for all of the Student Press Law Center’s work. For those who are a little rusty on the First Amendment, as the Southern Poverty Law Center seems to be, it goes like this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Imagine, a law center dedicated to preserving the most fundamental civil rights in the U.S. Constitution. Compare that with the $PLC’s take on the First Amendment rights of those groups its donors find objectionable:

Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.

Instead of promoting and protecting the First Amendment rights of people to assemble peaceably and to speak, write and publish their own thoughts and opinions, the $PLC conflates those rights with “hate group” activities and “criminal acts.”

Even the entirely spurious term “hate group” is nothing more than a blatant attempt to silence people engaged in entirely legal and protected activities. Who, after all, would listen to anything a “hate group” has to say?

Those who would petition their own elected government for redress are smeared as “far right-wing, anti-government radicals.” Those concerned with their government’s response to the  millions of people who flaunt US law and enter the country illegally are “nativists” and those hold conservative religious beliefs are tarred as “radical traditionalists.” (As we recently noted, the $PLC contends that “Modern Americans” have abandoned Christianity…)

In short, if there is a Constitutionally protected civil right, the Southern Poverty Law Center has a smear for it.

The $PLC maintains a “Hate Map” fundraising tool a “Stand Strong Against Hate” map that also allows donors to “report hate incidents” directly to the $PLC for inclusion in the dossiers they compile and send to every law enforcement agency in the land. Note the term “hate incidents” as opposed to “hate crimes.” Watching the Watchdogs created a short video that uncovers the fast and loose accounting behind that scam:

The Student Press Law Center maintains an interactive map as well, only this one identifies areas where bigots have attempted to censor the press by stealing newspapers from newsstands. These are actual civil rights violations, (more than half a million papers stolen since 2000), in which the First Amendment rights of both the publishers and the readers were denied by ignorant vigilantes.

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

So at the end of the day we have two law centers with the same initials but absolutely nothing else in common. The Student Press Law Center fights to preserve and protect people’s most fundamental First Amendment rights while the Southern Poverty Law Center is hell-bent on censorship and denying those same civil rights to those they designate as having “wrong thoughts” and smear with dehumanizing labels such as “hate group.”

While the mission of the Student Press Law Center is to protect all forms of expression, even those that some may find offensive, here’s what the $PLC’s $150,000-dollar-a-year Public Relations Chief Mark Potok had to say about the rights of all citizens to free speech and freedom of association back in 2007:

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that these are human beings and it’s a mistake to regard them as just a bunch of sociopaths… though most of them are.”

“Let me say… our aim… sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate groups and so on. I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups. Completely destroy them.”

These are American citizens engaging in entirely legal free speech activities and the “nation’s leading civil rights organization” wants to “completely destroy them.” You don’t have to agree with anything these groups have to say, most people don’t, but you cannot arbitrarily deny them their rights to free speech or it’s only a matter of time before the $PLC or some other self-appointed vigilante group decides that you have “wrong thoughts” and need to be “completely destroyed.”

Mark Potok, this veritable paragon of civil rights makes both of these telling comments within the first two minutes of the video below. What’s even more ironic is that Mr. Potok began his career as journalist back in the 1990s. Apparently, the $PLC pays better than USA Today. It’s amazing what people are willing to sell for a few pieces of silver.

 

 

The $PLC has nearly a quarter-billion dollars in cash on hand while the SPLC does actual good in the world on just over 1% of that bloated trove.

The Student Press Law Center also offers an online First Amendment quiz. that everyone should take, especially the would-be civil libertarians at the $PLC.

Mr. Potok, what was your score?

The SPLC’s New Definition for “Hate Group”

August 20, 2012

In recent weeks we have noticed a significant uptick in the number of hits on one of this blog’s oldest posts; one explaining the Southern Poverty Law Center’s subjective and legally undefined “hate group” label.

This label, which has absolutely no legal basis, is the SPLC’s most profitable brand name, and has been discussed frequently in the media and on the Blogosphere lately.

Most recently, the wounding of a security guard in Washington, DC, who prevented a murderous shooting spree at the offices of a conservative lobbying group that has been labeled as a “hate group” by Mark Potok of the SPLC, demonstrates just how dangerous these kinds of dehumanizing and inflammatory labels can be.

While “hate group” is Mr. Potok’s most profitable marketing ploy, blood has now been shed due to the irresponsible use of a term that means absolutely nothing in the long run.

In an effort to update our examination of the “hate group” smear we have produced our first video blog post in a conscious effort to move into the world of Media 2.0 and to visually demonstrate just how simple it is to examine Mr. Potok’s numbers and expose them for the crude fundraising propaganda that they are.

Speaking of crude, like most first efforts, this video is admittedly unpolished, but the information is good. Polish will come with practice. Your comments are, as always, most welcome.

SPLC – “Domestic Terrorism” Watershed Moment

August 13, 2012

In the last few weeks a relatively new term has cropped up in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s media and fundraising fear campaigns: “Domestic terrorism.”

Long-time readers will no doubt note that the SPLC’s public relations guru, Mark Potok, never misses an opportunity to link lone-wolf nut jobs, regardless of how tenuous the links, to the Oklahoma City attack of 1995, a true case of domestic terrorism.

But lately, Mr. Potok and his minions, like Dr. Heidi Beirich, have been tossing the term around in an attempt to associate it with their most profitable brand name, the subjective and legally undefined term “hate group.”

The purpose of this is two-fold: First and foremost, “domestic terrorist,” like “hate group,” is what persuasion experts call a “devil term,” which is designed to evoke disgust, revulsion or fear, and ultimately, for the SPLC, donations. That the SPLC is trying to expand its market share and increase profits is nothing new and hardly surprising.

After all, they are down to their last quarter of a billion dollars.

It’s the second purpose that warrants greater scrutiny. Even Mr. Potok concedes that the FBI and law enforcement cannot “track” hate groups, because until they actually do something illegal they are doing absolutely nothing illegal. That pesky old “Constitution” thing is always getting in the way of Mr. Potok’s vigilantism and extra-judicial justice schemes.

In recent years, however, Mr. Potok’s boss, Richard Cohen, has insinuated himself onto a Dept. of Home Land Security advisory board, and SPLC fundraising rhetoric has since turned up in a number of D HS documents. Mr. Potok’s propaganda now has the weight of the highest law enforcement body in the land behind it, and one that hasn’t always been too picky about Constitutional formalities.

It’s bad enough that Mr. Potok designates hundreds of “hate groups,” something even the FBI cannot do, but by branding his arbitrary “hate groups” as “terrorists” Mr. Potok can inflict far more mischief on those whose beliefs and activities, while distinctly unpalatable to many, are nonetheless protected by the First Amendment.

Those who believe that such things cannot happen in a Democracy need only look back to Hitler’s Reichstag Fire Decree, which ultimately spelled the end of the Wiemar Republic:

Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State

On the basis of Article 48 paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the German Reich, the following is ordered in defense against Communist state-endangering acts of violence:

§ 1. Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom [habeas corpus], freedom of (opinion) expression, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications. Warrants for House searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

Compare it with the with the sweeping powers granted the D HS by the eerily similarly named Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001, also known as the USA PATRIOT Act.

“Communist,” “Terrorist,” “Hate Group,” “Conservative,” “Christian,” really, what’s in a name, right? What’s the worst that can happen? Safety first. Stamp out “wrong thoughts” before they become wrong acts. “Nits make lice,” don’t they?

On the plus side, we hear that the winters in Gitmo are rather mild.

You heard about it here first, folks.

SPLC — Memorial Day, Civil Rights and “Criminal Acts”

May 28, 2012

On this Memorial Day we are supposed to pause to remember the sacrifices of the men and women who have served this country, many of them giving their very lives in that service, in order to protect our most basic freedoms.

Chief among those freedoms are those laid out by the Founding Fathers in the Bill of Rights as the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States. The first of those amendments reads thus:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Enter the Southern Poverty Law Center, a self-proclaimed “civil rights organization,” according to their never-ending stream of press releases and fundraising requests. For a group of alleged civil rights lawyers, the SPLC seems to have a serious problem with the most fundamental civil rights identified in the First Amendment.

On the legend of the SPLC’s Hate Map™ fundraising tool, you will find the following dire warning:

Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.

What kind of “civil rights group” would deliberately conflate six of the most cherished civil rights in the Constitution with “criminal acts” and “hate group activities”?

This one repulsive statement, this desecration of the very things that so many veterans fought and died for, the very things that brought Dr. Martin Luther King the civil rights victories that ultimately cost him his life, the very same activities that brought Barack Obama to the White House, goes far beyond mere irony.

This “civil rights organization” that has never had a single top executive of color in its entire 41-year history is an insult to every man and woman who has ever fought to preserve and protect the very basic civil rights that have made America truly unique in the world.

Remember this the next time you receive a fundraising e-mail from Morris Dees or watch the SPLC’s public relations guru Mark Potok being interviewed in the so-called media. Keep in mind that this kind of black propaganda now brings more than $106,000 tax-free donor-dollars into the SPLC’s coffers each and every day.

About $4,400 an hour…

About $150 dollars in the time it took you to read this post.

And thank a veteran for protecting those precious rights, the ones the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed “criminal acts.”


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