Posts Tagged ‘hate groups’

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.

websites2

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

SPLC — Why is the “Hate Map” Static?

August 31, 2016

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

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

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

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

WLM.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AC skins

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

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

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

 

SPLC — Hate Map 2016 — Incredible… Literally

March 16, 2016

It’s March again, meaning that the Southern Poverty Law Center has released its latest “Hate Map” fundraising tool, and as always, Watching the Watchdogs is ready to have a look at the numbers, something nobody in the Media or government seems to want to do.

First, the usual warnings, definitions, provisos, etc.

  1. When the SPLC releases its Hate Map fundraising tool it refers to the alleged count for the previous year. In short, the 2016 Hate Map reflects the totals claimed for 2015.
  2. There is no legal definition for “hate group,” meaning that even the FBI does not, cannot designate “hate groups,” but somehow a private “advocacy group” can, and does, at will.
  3. Even the SPLC doesn’t have an actual definition for “hate group,” beyond the claim that “All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”In other words, “Hate groups say mean things about other groups.”

     

  4. The SPLC makes no linkage between “hate groups” and hate crime. Mark Potok, the company’s Public Relations guru has gone on the record repeatedly to say that “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.

That being said, let’s dig into the 2016 Hate Map. Fresh tripe, anyone?

All good things must come to an end and it is true of the Hate Map’s recent downward trend. Over the past few years the “hate group” count has been on a steep and steady decline, despite Mr. Potok’s dire predictions of “explosive growth” in the number of “hate groups” due to the election of President Obama and the tanking economy.

Hate Groups 2015

Source: SPLC

Initially, we attributed the drop to Mr. Potok’s successor at the helm of the Hate Map, Dr. Heidi Beirich, who is no doubt wise enough to realize that Potok’s ludicrous claims of ever-increasing “hate groups” were due to collapse under their own ridiculous weight. The recent rise, however, may point to other causes.

Endowment 2015

According to the SPLC’s most recent IRS Form 990, the company’s cash-on-hand Endowment Fund, which enjoyed an increase of 94% since the election of President Obama and despite the tanking economy, went flat last year, showing the first loss since Bernie Madoff moved into public housing.

It seems that the $8 million-dollar “non-profit” the company enjoyed last year, over and above operating costs, was nearly entirely consumed by an $8 million-dollar investment loss on the Endowment Fund, which actually contracted by a few thousand dollars.

What to do when profits are down? Goose the Golden “hate group” Goose, maybe? It has always brought home the bacon in the past, as the graph indicates.

We’ll speculate more on the Endowment Fund in an upcoming post. Let’s get back to the Hate Map.

Of the 892 “hate groups” the SPLC is claiming for last year, it provides exactly no information a journalist or researcher could use to verify the data. We know these groups are really, really out there because Mr. Potok tells us they are out there. Honest.

In fact, Potok and Beirich haven’t even bothered to come up with a location for 175 of the alleged groups, or 20% of the total. This embarrassing gap of “hate groups” unaffiliated with any known city or town is merely the latest in a very long history.

In 2011, 247 of Potok’s 1017 alleged groups were not affiliated with any known city or town, or 22% of the total. In 2012 it was 195 out of 1007, (19%), and 137 out of 784 groups in 2013, (17%). In 2014, 194 of the 734 alleged groups could not be located on any map, (26%). 

And yet, friends, the Media and the government swallow these “hard facts” as fast as Mr. Potok can whip them up.

And Mr. Potok doesn’t deny it. He doesn’t have to. 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 he was amazingly candid in admitting that his figures were “anecdotal,” “an imperfect process” and “a very rough estimate.”

Speaking of rough estimates, last year Potok attributed 40 “hate groups” to New Jersey, giving it the fourth highest total in the country and leading Mark Pitcavage, Mr. Potok’s opposite number at the Anti-Defamation League, to tell the newspapers that “The SPLC’s counts are wildly inflated. They claim groups where there are none, or just one or two individuals.”

It’s pretty sad when you own brother-in-arms calls you a liar, Mr. Potok.

But numbers don’t lie. Or do they? After being publicly outed by the ADL, Mr. Potok magically reduced New Jersey’s “hate group” total from 40 to 21 overnight, mostly by simply erasing 14 out of 15 chapters of the “AC Skins” off the chart with his shirtsleeve.

AC Skins

Not to worry. Mr. Potok loses “groups” all the time. In 2015, his Hate Map warned us that 8 chapters each of the Free America Rally and the White Boy Society were out to get us, not that he could identify a single city or town where these threats to society were lurking. By 2016, not so much.

Free America

Sixteen desperate “hate groups” magically disappeared overnight.

The Council of Conservative Citizens had a rough year, losing more than half of its chapters with the click of a mouse. Fortunately, St. Louis is still conservative enough to keep two distinct chapters up and running.

CCC

And while the number of known chapters of the Aryan Strikeforce “exploded” by a phenomenal 100% last year (from 1 to 2!!), the number of unaffiliated chapters dropped by 39%, from 18 to 11.

2016 Strikeforce

A similar tale for the Aryan Terror Brigade. “Explosive growth” of 100% in known locations (from 0 to 1), but “terror”-izing shrinkage in the number of unaffiliated groups from 16 to 2. A drop of 88%!!

2016 Terror

Things are a little better for the National Socialist Movement (though we still can’t get this one all in a single image). While the number of known chapters has dropped by three, the number of unaffiliated chapters is holding rock steady at 29.

NSM1

NSM2

Seriously, folks. Mr. Potok cannot locate 29 out of 46 alleged chapters of the NSM, that’s nearly TWO OUT OF THREE, friends, and yet Potok still counts ’em and the Media, and more importantly, the donors, still believe it.

In the same online interview in which Mr. Potok talks about ideology (linked above), he makes this comment:

“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’RE the guy who put a chapter of the NSM in nearly every state but cannot locate two-thirds of them on your own map. What are rational people supposed to think?

This is the same interview where Mr. Potok makes this telling statement:

“People think, you know, that it’s all about, sort of, defending poor people, and that’s not really, exactly what our mission is.”

Well, gee, Mr. Potok. Where in the world would people get that idea? It definitely didn’t come from us.

 Obviously, you can’t rack up loss after loss and still claim “a 14% increase” for this year, so let’s see where some of this growth occurred.

While Mr. Potok mislaid six of the Original Knight Riders chapters he had located previously, he made up for it by adding twice as many empty slots to the count.

Original

Thirty-one chapters of the United White Knights made their debut this year.

United

And the Texas Knights picked up 21 new chapters.

Texas

Interestingly, 13 communities picked up one of each. Maybe the Klan is getting into franchising. You open a McDonald’s on one street corner and before you know it, someone is building a Burger King across the street.

Both

Speaking of franchises, while the Blood and Honour skinhead organization took an 80% hit last year…

BloodAndHonour

…Thirteen chapters of the Blood and Honour Social Club popped up out of nowhere. Actually, it looks like 12 of those new chapters are still nowhere. Still, a “social club” has a real franchise chain ring to it, like an Applebee’s or a Hooters.

BandHSocial

The list goes on and on and these incredible gaps and gaffes are right out in the open where anyone with an interest can find them. All we did was copy the data from the Hate Map webpage and dump it into a spreadsheet. Rocket science this is not.

We’ll leave you with one last factoid that gets dutifully buried in every new iteration of the Hate Map fundraising tool, the breakdown of the threats to the nation by category:

BlackSeparatist

As we have noted here over the past few years, when you break the largest groupings down by category and strip out the unaffiliated phantoms, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the biggest category of “hate group” in the nation is once again Black.

How many donors realize that when they send in their money?

Not only do Black “hate groups” significantly out number every other category, respectively, according to Mr. Potok’s numbers, but 80 of those chapters are from the Nation of Islam, a decidedly Muslim organization, meaning that Muslim “hate groups” outnumber Anti-Muslim groups by more than two to one.

And if you look at Mr. Potok’s rag-tag bunch of Anti-Muslim groups they are almost entirely one-man websites, something the SPLC claims it doesn’t count. The one notable exception, and our personal favorite, is Casa D’Ice… which is actually an Italian restaurant on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. “Oh, the humanity!”

SPLC — 2015 “Hate Map” — Nothing Adds Up… As Usual

November 20, 2015

 

“Better late than never,” we always say. While the folks at the Southern Poverty Law Center released their annual “Hate Map” fundraising tool right on schedule last March, we at Watching the Watchdogs are just now getting around to having a peek under the hood. As usual, nothing adds up.

2015-Hate Map _ Southern Poverty Law Center

Longtime Watching the Watchdogs readers may want to scroll down to the numbers section of this post, but at this juncture, a recap for the benefit of new readers is in order:

There is no standard or “official” definition for “hate group.” There is no legal definition, which is why the FBI doesn’t designate “hate groups.” Even the SPLC doesn’t have a firm definition for the term, and what boilerplate language they do attach is contradictory and/or flat out false, and this, friends, is entirely intentional. Here’s what the company has to say on the subject:

“The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 784 active hate groups in the United States in 2014. Only organizations and their chapters known to be active during 2014 are included.

All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.

This list was compiled using hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports.

Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing. Websites appearing to be merely the work of a single individual, rather than the publication of a group, are not included in this list. Listing here does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.”

Let’s take a moment to unpack this content systematically.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 784 active hate groups in the United States in 2014. Only organizations and their chapters known to be active during 2014 are included.”

It should be noted that when the SPLC releases its annual “Hate Map,” usually in the month of March, it refers to the count for the previous fiscal year (with the accent on fiscal). For the past decade, the “Hate Map” tool was the work of the SPLC’s Public Relations Guru, Mark Potok, but in recent years the map has alluded to another hand at the wheel, Mr. Potok’s successor, Dr. Heidi Beirich.

Why the map should be static in the Age of the Internet has always been a mystery. For example, if a hundred new “hate groups” should spring up like mushrooms on April 1, the donors and the world at large would not know of the dire threat for an entire year.

There is no good reason why an online map cannot be dynamic, showing up-to-the-minute information every time you visit the website, other than the fact that the entire purpose of the “Hate Map” is not to inform, but rather, to persuade.

As for “only organizations and chapters known to be active,” we’ll have a look at that claim shortly.

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

This statement is as close as the SPLC comes to an actual definition for their lucrative “hate group” brand, as it is also as far as the company is willing to stick out its neck. The term “attack or malign” is deliberately vague and subjective, and pretty much what you’d expect coming from a company run by lawyers. The phrase is deliberately subjective, meaning whatever the SPLC intends it to mean, depending on the audience at hand.

And when you come right down to it, the SPLC’s entire “hate group” definition boils down to little more than “People who say mean things about other people.” It seems like a pretty slender thread upon which to hang a multi-million dollar operation, but the numbers don’t lie.

It’s worth noting that when the SPLC refers to entire classes of people as “right-wing,” “radical” or “extremist,” they are not attacking or maligning, merely informing.

“This list was compiled using hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports.”

Mr. Potok’s “hate maps” have never been what one could call “academically rigorous.” For the most part they seem to be the work of interns and paid newspaper clipping services, which is not nearly as problematic as one might imagine, as nobody in the Media has an interest in performing even the most rudimentary fact checks on Mr. Potok’s claims, even when he comes right out and undermines the maps’ credibility himself:

“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)

“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)

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

“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)

Easily the most disturbing claim Mr. Potok has made over the years is:

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

Back in the days when the SPLC was promoting itself as a “non-profit civil rights organization” it was incomprehensible how anyone could conflate six of the most fundamental, First Amendment civil rights with “criminal acts” and “hate group activities.”

Now that the company has dropped all pretenses of being a civil rights organization, the ploy makes perfect sense.

“Websites appearing to be merely the work of a single individual, rather than the publication of a group, are not included in this list.”

Even the most casual glance at the “Hate Map” shows how patently false this claim is:

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Above is just a partial list of one-man/woman websites, t-shirt and flag vendors and other “groups.” Daniel Greenfield has a field day on his one-man blog explaining “How I Became a Hate Group,” noting that, in all fairness, he often writes with the assistance of his cat, who admits to “hating” mice, birds, and the like.

Our personal favorite “group” is Casa D’Ice, an Italian restaurant and bar near Pittsburgh, famous for its marquee signs.

Casa D'Ice

Obviously, friends, the threat to the Republic has never been greater. Donate to the SPLC, early and often.

The final blurb on the “Hate Map” legend speaks for itself:

“Listing here does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.”

In fact, the whole point of the entire “Hate Map” marketing tool is precisely to imply that the people in the “hate groups” are doing something illegal. Otherwise, what interest would a “law center” possibly have in groups of people engaging in protected, though admittedly often offensive, free speech?

As Mark Potok has said on many occasions, and is quoted here from a 2008 interview available on the Internet Archive:

“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.

You’re not going to raise tens of millions of dollars a year defending the civil rights of the unpopular, but if you can turn it into a war of ideologies the donors will beat a path to your door.

Now that we’ve reviewed the “facts,” let’s have a look at the figures.

For as long as we’ve been reviewing Mr. Potok’s annual “Hate Map,” it has consisted of a pretty straight-forward map with numbers purporting to identify the number of “hate groups” in any particular state.

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It was a fairly clean design that was easy to read and just as easy to analyze. Sometime over the summer of 2015 the company came out with a new-and-improved website that deliberately obfuscates Mr. Potok’s numbers so that the readers and donors won’t ask a lot of questions. Behold the improved “Hate Map”:

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Much better, no? Fortunately, while the map itself is now completely incomprehensible, the company still provides a “list of active hate groups” that can be dumped into a spreadsheet and sorted, so that the donors can see first hand the number of “hate groups” in their home states.

If you are of a mind to create such a spreadsheet, the first thing you notice is that the latest “Hate Map” only contains 735 alleged “groups,” as opposed to the 784 advertised. A little “bait and switch” tactic, perhaps? Or, more likely, more blundering from the SPLC’s inept webmaster.

Even if we use the higher figure, it is worth noting that the totals haven’t been this low since 2004, dropping 27% in just the past three years. Since the SPLC is the sole arbiter of the lucrative “hate group” label, and since no one in the Media will ever vet their claims, why wouldn’t the numbers, and there for the perceived threat, continue to increase year after year?

The most logical answer is that it was becoming harder and harder to keep up the ruse in the Age of the Internet. The spurious “Hate Map” is simply collapsing under its own bloated weight. Now that Dr. Beirich is taking over as “Intelligence Director” she may have elected to do a little much-needed housekeeping.

Still, as with every “Hate Map” in the past dozen years, the spreadsheet reveals an embarrassing phenomenon with one simple fact that ought to tip off any thinking person. Of the 784, (or 735), alleged groups on his map, Mr. Potok cannot locate 195 of them in any known city or town. That’s 25% of the total right off the top.

Mr. Potok claims he knows of 22 chapters of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK, but can’t locate 18 of them, or 82% of the total.

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Of the 49 chapters of the National Socialist Movement Mr. Potok warns of, 29 are floating about in limbo, or 59%.

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The National Socialist Freedom Movement: 11 out of 12 are homeless, or 92% of the claim.

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Aryan Nations Ohio, 80% phantoms.

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Creativity Alliance: 14 out of 15.

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Every single chapter of both Free America Rally and the White Boy Society, or 100% of the total.

Really… 100%.

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White Boy

And the insanity goes on and on, for a grand total of 195 homeless “hate groups.” And yet the Media and the donors gobble it all down as “fact.”

As for the other groups, Potok provides nothing that researchers could use to verify his claims. In 1998, respected investigative journalist Laird Wilcox, who describes himself as a Liberal, pointed out this lack of verifiable evidence in his seminal work, The Watchdogs.

When the SPLC releases their list, either in print or on the Internet, it fails to contain actual addresses that might be checked by journalists or researchers. Several listings refer to “unknown group” and the name of a city or town.” — The Watchdogs, p. 79

 

Again, such incongruities would normally present obvious credibility issues for any other group making these claims, but Mr. Potok and the SPLC get a free ride from the Media and researchers year after year.

Except from us.

Sorry for the delay. We promise to be more on top of things when the next installment of the insanely lucrative “hate map” comes out next March.

SPLC — Confederate Commodification

September 12, 2015

The recent controversy surrounding the Confederate flag merely adds more evidence to the theory that the Southern Poverty Law Center has yet to meet a tragedy it could not somehow spin into gold. While the company is sticking to its tried-and-true methods of appealing to its largely progressive donor base’s sympathies, this most recent marketing campaign is part of a bigger shake-up that has been in the works for the past few years.

In the aftermath of the mindless murders of nine people in Charleston in June, a media frenzy ensued demanding the removal of the Confederate flag from all public property across the country.

Naturally, the professional fundraisers at the SPLC saw an opportunity to appeal to their largely progressive donor base by hopping on the media bandwagon.

One of the savvier moves was to set up an online “Erasing Hate” hot-line where people can report sightings of the flag, schools and streets named after Confederates, etc., so that, in the words of SPLC founder Morris Dees, the company could “put pressure on” local governments.

It comes as little surprise, though, that there is no option to report the offending sites anonymously. Just as with the company’s cynical “Stand Strong Against Hate” map, the ultimate goal is to add the names and addresses of potential donors into its enormous fundraising database.

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Otherwise, you could have all kinds of anonymous practical jokers submitting the names of locations that couldn’t possibly be verified, except, maybe, by Google…

The SPLC doesn’t need “tipsters” to compile a comprehensive list of Confederate-themed locations any more than they would for a list of Winn-Dixie grocery stores or MoonPie distributors, but the list isn’t the point of the exercise.

While this kind of marketing ploy is pretty standard by SPLC standards, the company appears to be undergoing a major re-branding in the hopes of mining new sources of revenue.

Watching the Watchdogs has previously documented the collapse of the bloated Hate Map “hate group” count, which simply could no longer stand up to close inspection in the Age of the Internet. Someone in the Head Office, (we surmise it was Heidi Beirich), began an ambitious campaign to thin out some of the more obvious “hate group” padding, reducing the spurious count by 27% over the past few years.

The company has even redesigned the layout of their lucrative Hate Map to further obfuscate their spurious numbers, but they still have a lot of fat left to trim. For example, of the 22 alleged chapters of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan listed, only four are affiliated with a known city or town. The rest merely float about in limbo, padding the count.

Perhaps the most astounding move occurred early in 2014, when the SPLC actually dropped the descriptor “non-profit civil rights organization” from its website and fundraising materials. It now refers to itself as “an advocacy group.”

This is a huge sea change for the company, which would no doubt alienate it from many of its traditional, blue-haired donors, (which is possibly why the SPLC has neglected to publicly announce the change), but the benefits going forward are manifold.

By re-branding as an advocacy group, the SPLC no longer has to tie any of its actions to actual civil rights. Now they can freely pursue such cut-and-dried civil suits as the copyright infringement case involving a gay couple’s engagement photo. No civil rights were violated, or even mentioned in the complaint, but the SPLC was able to lend publicity to the case as part of its ham-fisted marketing campaign aimed at the LGBT market.

The recent Confederate flag flap apparently got someone in the SPLC’s Advancement Office (read: Fundraising) to think more proactively. “Instead of passively waiting for the donor-dollars to roll in, what can we actually sell people?”

The answer was brilliant. On September 10, 2015, the SPLC issued a press release stating:

“Singer-songwriter Steve Earle has partnered with the Southern Poverty Law Center to take a stand against the Confederate battle flag and is urging Mississippi to remove the emblem from its state flag with the release of his new song, “Mississippi It’s Time.”

No doubt the term “has partnered with” actually means “was commissioned by,” which accounts for the next line in the release, which is obviously the most telling:

“The song is available for streaming here and for download on iTunes beginning Friday, September 11. All proceeds will go to the SPLC.”

And there you have it. The SPLC has found the perfect way to commodify, that is, to turn a buck from, the Confederate flag controversy.

If this scheme pans out, you can expect more commissioned songs, to be followed by t-shirts, books, smartphone apps and video games. “All profits will go to the SPLC.”

As we pointed out a week ago, the SPLC posted a $12 million dollar “non-profit” last year, over and above the $22 million in tax-free interest generated by its $302 million dollar cash endowment fund.

The SPLC needs more funding like a Mississippi catfish needs ugly lessons.

It’s probably no coincidence that the company chose to release its product on September 11, as they seldom miss an opportunity to cash in on symbolism.

Speaking of symbolism, however, nowhere in the actual text of the press release, (though there is a photo of the album cover), does the SPLC mention the name of Mr. Earle’s band… the Dukes.

No doubt the fundraisers wanted to avoid any potential association with former KKK leader David Duke, or more likely, those other, hate-filled, Icons of Evil…

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Whatever the reason, we’re obviously witnessing a major change in the way in which the Southern Poverty Law Center makes money. This bears watching and we at Watching the Watchdogs are more than happy to do so.

Stay tuned, y’all…

SPLC — “Hate Groups Are Very Hard To Track”

April 28, 2015

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

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

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

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

Mark Potok — Intelligence Director — Click image to enlarge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPLC — Black “Hate Groups” Outnumber The Klan

April 10, 2015

With the recent release of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s latest “Hate Map” fundraising tool, we’ve had a chance to crunch the numbers once again, and , once again, we find them lacking.

We’ve been making this point for several years now and inevitably we run into the same cognitively dissonant crowd who swear that “The SPLC said it. I believe it. That settles it.”

Since you can’t really fight that mentality, the best option is to go with it and agree with them. The disbelievers own these numbers and so this simple factoid is (still) their own:

According to the SPLC’s own “hate group” numbers, the largest single category of “hate group” in these United States is Black and/or Muslim. See it for yourselves.

If you go to the SPLC’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool and click on any state (pick a larger one for this exercise) and then scroll down, you’ll find an itemized list of which alleged “groups” reside in any given town, or, as it turns out, reside in no known location whatsoever, as with this stupidity that we documented in a previous post:

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Yeah. The SPLC claims 19 chapters of “The Aryan Strikeforce” but somehow cannot locate 18 of those chapters on any map, including their own.

Call us picky, but here at Watching the Watchdogs such wishful thinking simply isn’t good enough and so these homeless “hate groups” cannot be counted. 

It’s not like the SPLC provides any information about the alleged Strikeforce chapter in Somerville (although if you do click on the Somerville link the “Hate Map” will show you where in New Jersey Somerville is located. Big deal!), but if they cannot even be bothered to make up some backwoods hamlet to create a fig leaf of credibility, it’s not our fault.

And so, after adding up numbers for the four biggest categories of white “hate groups,” and stripping out the padding of the phantom groups, we come up with the following numbers:

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And so we see, according to the SPLC’s own numbers, minus the homeless “hate groups,” Black Separatist groups, composed mostly of the Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers and the Israelite Church of God, far outnumber the Klan, Neo-Nazis, Skinheads and White Nationalist groups respectively.

[*The SPLC’s list of White Nationalists includes five chapters marked “Statewide” and five marked “Incomplete,” which are meaningless terms so we stripped them out. Even if you leave them in, though, there are still more Black hate groups, according to the SPLC.]

This is nothing new, folks. We first reported this ridiculous finding in 2011 and nothing has changed in the intervening years since.

So for all of you die-hard Southern Poverty Law Center loyalists who simply cannot conceive that your beloved Champions of Justice could either:

A.) Possibly make an error regarding “hate groups,”

or

B.) Simply make up fundraising crap as they go along,

then you own this “statistic.”

These are your numbers, not ours.

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.

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.

The SPLC’s “Lone Wolf” Lunacy and the DHS

February 16, 2015

In its latest fear-mongering fundraising foray, the Southern Poverty Law Center has finally come out and stated the obvious: It’s not so-called “hate groups” that pose the greatest threat of violence today, it is the “lone wolf” lunatic.

As it turns out, an even greater threat to the American public is the extent to which the SPLC has insinuated itself into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as an alleged source of reliable data. More on this to follow.

First, let’s have a look at “Age of the Wolf,” a “report” written by SPLC staffer Ryan Lenz and edited by Public Relations Chief Mark Potok.

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The “report” is filled with the usual “may-might-could” fundraising alarums familiar in Mr. Potok’s writing and repeats a point he made as far back as 2008:

“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.” (www.npr.org, October 30, 2008) [Emphasis added]

And:

“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) [Emphasis added]

Individuals are responsible for the majority of hate crimes in America, but that has not prevented Mr. Potok from issuing his highly lucrative “hate group” “Hate Map” every year.

As we’ve demonstrated numerous times on this blog, and as Mr. Potok even admitted to us personally on video, the “Hate Map” is a fundraising tool and, in Mr. Potok’s own words, “anecdotal,” “an imperfect process” and “a very rough estimate.”

Potok continues to designate “hate groups” to populate his “Hate Map” because that is where the money is.

The media regurgitates his meaningless numbers without ever performing even the most rudimentary fact checks, Potok’s Progressive donor base gets agitated and out come the checkbooks. Works like a charm every time.

What is most troubling about “Age of the Wolf” is that it reinforces a dangerous trend we first reported on back in 2012. The report is full of soft, nebulous bogey-words such as “extremist,” “Right-wing” and “far right,” which are largely subjective terms intentionally skirting  legal definition as much as possible. They frighten the donors without risking litigation.

The problem comes with the frequent use of the term “domestic terrorist,” which actually does have a legal definition, even though Mr. Potok largely ignores it in his report.

While the FBI does not, cannot designate “hate groups,” the DHS has every right to investigate any potential source of “terrorism” and, as we’ve seen in the past, doesn’t necessarily bother with a lot of Constitutional niceties in the process.

Being branded a “hate group” by the SPLC carries a stigma. Being branded a “terrorist” has legal repercussions.

“Age of the Wolf” concedes the obvious repeatedly, with such provisos as:

 “Analyzing terrorism comes fraught with pitfalls. There is no hard and fast agreement on what constitutes a terrorist action. What if the attack has a political dimension, but is carried out by someone who is clearly mentally ill? [Emphasis added]

Is a rampage killing spree terrorism or simply an eruption of personal hatreds? Does the murder of three police officers responding to a domestic disturbance count, even if the killer does have a long history in the police-hating anti-government movement?”

 Obviously, to a veteran fundraiser and fear-monger like Mr. Potok, the answer to those questions is a resounding “Close enough!” to warrant inclusion in a list of incidents in the report.

The FBI has a rather more stringent, three-pronged definition:

“Domestic terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:

  1. Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;

  2. Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and

  3. Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.”

An event has to meet all three requirements before the FBI considers it a possible terrorist act, but the incidents on Mr. Potok’s list tend to focus mainly on the first and third criteria, while leaving the second characteristic pretty much up for interpretation.

Such broad interpretations are key to Mr. Potok’s standard M.O., whereby he breathlessly claims to have collected thousands of “hate incidents,” not hate crimes, most of which often do not pan out under closer examination. These are nothing more than standard Potokian fundraising hyperbole, designed to separate the donors from their dollars.

The serious part of “Age of the Wolf” comes at the end of the report in the “Related Studies” section.

To boost the credibility of his claims, Mr. Potok cites six recent studies that discuss domestic terrorism. Potok states:

“In recent years, a number of studies from sources inside and outside of federal government have warned of the threat of increased violence from the radical right, with many specifically addressing lone wolf attackers inspired by ideologies of hate and other extremism. What follows is a description of several of the studies.”

What Mr. Potok neglects to mention, however, is the incestuous relationship between the authors of these reports and his own Southern Poverty Law Center. Even more troubling is that several of them were funded by the DHS.

Before we delve into Mr. Potok’s reports, a quick word about a separate 2014 report Watching the Watchdogs stumbled upon two weeks ago.

In “The Relationship Between Hate Groups and Far-Right Ideological Violence,” published in the academic Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, JCCJ, (which you can download here), the four authors examine “whether the presence of hate groups increases the likelihood of serious ideologically motivated violence committed by far-rightists.”

That wording alone was enough to set off alarm bells, but reading further into the abstract, we read that:

“We test the relationship using data from the Extremist Crime Database (ECDB) for the dependent measure, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for the hate groups measure, and various other sources for additional variables.”

As Mark Potok has already explained to us in person, his “hate group” statistics are “anecdotal,” “an imperfect process” and “a very rough estimate.” How then, we wondered, could any serious study incorporate such shoddy data and come up with academically rigorous results?

After all, we had already reported on a similar “study” published by the Social Science Quarterly in 2012 that attempted to use Mr. Potok’s fundraising propaganda to prove the correlation between the presence of a Walmart in any given county with the subsequent appearance of a “hate group” on Mr. Potok’s “Hate Map” in that same county a decade later. This was junk science at its worst.

In the days before “Age of the Wolf” was posted, we had already emailed each of the four authors of the JCCJ report to ask them why they used SPLC numbers in their report. The wording to all four authors, Amy Adamczyk, Jeff Gruenewald, Steven M. Chermak, and Joshua D. Freilich, (remember these names), was identical and, we thought, quite civil and polite:

“Prof. _____, I have just read your 2014 article “The Relationship Between Hate Groups and Far-Right Ideological Violence,” in which you, Adamczyk, Chermak, et al, state in the abstract that you included data from “the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for the hate groups measure.”

Could you or one of your colleagues explain the methodology for vetting the SPLC’s data? I’m also interested in the working definition of “hate group” your team used for the study, as I was unable to find it within the text.

Thank you for your consideration,”

Ten days later and we’ve yet to hear anything from any of the authors. As we soon discovered, there seems to be a very good reason for the silence.

As for the funding for the article, “This research was supported by the Science and Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through START.”

START is the National Consortium for the Studies of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland, “established in 2005 as a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, tasked with utilizing state-of-the-art theories, methods, and data from the social and behavioral sciences to improve the understanding of the origins, dynamics, and social and psychological impacts of terrorism.”

START was funded by an initial $12 million grant from DHS to complete projects in the research areas of terrorist group formation and recruitment, terrorist group persistence and dynamics, and societal responses to terrorist threats and attacks.”

All four academics associated with the JCCJ report are members of the START team and therefore dependent on the DHS for much of their funding.

Of the six reports cited by “Age of the Wolf,” five of them were co-authored by Chermak and Freilich of the START team and four of the reports cite the SPLC as a principle source of “hate group” data.

As for the other primary source of data for the JCCB report, the Extremist Crime Database (ECDB)it was created by START members Chermak, Freilich and Gruenewald. And who financed this impartial resource? “Part of this research was supported by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS)… and …[START].”

So, at the end of the day, we have Mark Potok’s “Age of the Wolf” fundraising screed, which cites multiple reports by several START researchers, who cite Mr. Potok’s “Hate Map” hogwash in their reports to the DHS, which is the primary source of funding for START.

Just as Mr. Potok’s “hate group” label is worth millions to the SPLC, it certainly appears that DHS funding is worth millions to START. What would happen to that funding if the START researchers determined that Mr. Potok’s numbers were lacking in credibility?

Impartial? You be the judge. Incestuous? Cue the banjos.


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