Posts Tagged ‘Mark Potok’

SPLC — Hate Map 2019 — Prove It!

March 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even a cursory glance at the “Hate Map” shows numerous one-man websites. In 2015, Mark Pitcavage, Director of Investigative Research at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), stated publicly that the SPLC has a habit of counting single individuals as groups or chapters, which can give a skewed impression of hate groups in any given state.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statewide Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hate groups have reached RECORD HIGHS!!!”

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

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

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

2018 Hate Group Graph 1

2018 Hate Group Graph 2

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

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

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

“White “hate groups” are SURGING!!!”

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

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

Comparisons-2018-2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are they dangerous?

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

So why are they a “hate group” now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wildman's Kennesaw

Wildman’s One-Man “Group”

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

Black Hate Groups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amana Colonies

Amana, Iowa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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SPLC — Whither Lecia Brooks?

February 28, 2019

[Update: 6/01/19. The Return of Lecia Brooks! We have just discovered that Ms. Brooks is back to work at the SPLC in the role of “Chief Workplace Transformation Officer,” who “serves both the SPLC’s leadership and the staff to build a workplace culture of inclusiveness and ensure a sustainable infrastructure that supports the SPLC’s ongoing focus on diversity and equity.”

We wish Ms. Brooks well in this new position, with its title that only a Public Relations officer could love, though we have to worry about the sustainability of a job built around “transformation,” which by definition, ought to have a definite beginning and a quantifiable end point.

This is not an “ongoing focus.” Either the SPLC promotes minorities at the same rates and levels as its mostly white leadership or it does not.

On the other hand, such a temporary landing pad would serve nicely to segue Lecia Brooks into the role we first suggested back in 2018, as President of the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Time will tell.]

[Update: 3/23/19. Thanks to information provided by a reader, we now know that Lecia Brooks has relocated to the Equal Justice Initiative, (EJI.org), also of Montgomery, shortly before SPLC Founder Morris Dees was fired from the Southern Poverty Law Center. We wish her great success in her new endeavor.]

Has long-time Southern Poverty Law Center star Lecia Brooks left the auditorium? As we have noted on numerous occasions, Lecia Brooks was the only member of the company’s leadership staff to hold TWO concurrent directorships, one as Outreach Director and one as Director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center.

We have also noted that despite wearing two leadership hats, Ms. Brooks, who is Black and a lesbian, has NEVER been included among the company’s highest paid officers on annual IRS Form 990 tax reports.

A recent review of the SPLC’s “Leadership” page as of a week ago shows Ms. Brooks among the white millionaires who run the company:

Lecia1

February 20, 2019

And yet, one week later, Ms. Brooks is nowhere to be found, and her “About” page has been taken down as of this writing. Thanks to the magic that is the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine it is possible to find that page from a week ago, which notes that she had joined the company in 2004.

Lecia2

February 28, 2019

And a new face has appeared on the latest “Leadership” page, that of Tafeni English, who is now listed as the Director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center. No mention is made of a new Outreach Director as of this time, nor are there any press releases on the SPLC website or online media mentioning the retirement of Ms. Brooks, who was one of the SPLC’s premier ambassadors.

Tafeni1

[Update (3/15/19) In a surprising palace coup, SPLC Founder Morris Dees has been fired by company president Richard Cohen for “improper conduct.” Leaked internal emails hint that Dees may have engaged in sexual misconduct and racist hiring/promotion policies. A yet-unnamed Black female attorney left the company recently, citing similar complaints. At any rate, two weeks after Lecia Brooks was airbrushed from the “Leadership” page, the Old Man himself is now conspicuously absent from the Politburo portrait gallery and his “about” page has been closed. Stay tuned for more news.]

March-15-2019-Leadership _ SPLC

March 15, 2019

[Update: an article in the Mankato (MN) Free Press from February 21, 2019, identifies another new face, Kate Chance, as the SPLC’s “Outreach Manager.” Whether the “manager” reports to, or ultimately replaces, the “director” is unclear at this time.]

Kate Chance

Kate Chance, Outreach Manager

The last time we saw a Pravda-esque “unpersoning” of this magnitude was in mid-2017, when the SPLC’s long-time Director of Intelligence, Mark Potok, was unceremoniously dumped after 20 years of highly lucrative service to the company.

Because Mr. Potok had been the face and voice of the SPLC for so many years, and his name was on so many articles and press releases, the company could not easily air-brush him into the Memory Hole, so they simply replaced his “Director of Intelligence” title with “former employee” for many months. Considering how much money Mr. Potok had brought into the company’s coffers over 20 years, the SPLC didn’t seem especially appreciative.

And now Lecia Brooks seems to be gone, after nearly 15 years with the company with no mention of her departure whatsoever. We certainly hope that it wasn’t anything that we at Watching the Watchdogs might have said. Last November we posted an op-ed that suggested that maybe it was time for the SPLC’s senior (literally…) leadership to consider “passing the torch” to a new generation by retiring while at the top of their game.

Lecia Brooks, who most represents the people the SPLC purports to serve, seemed the perfect choice as new president of the company, at least to us.

Hopefully the geriatric white male millionaires who run the SPLC didn’t take out their displeasure at our suggestion on Ms. Brooks. Time will tell.

 

 

Lecia Brooks for President!

November 29, 2018

In his inaugural address in 1961, President John F. Kennedy spoke of a metaphorical torch being passed to a new generation and the benefits that such an infusion of new ideas and life experience would bring to the country. Sadly, JFK’s untimely murder in Dallas in 1963 cut short the promise, but not the premise, of such a bold proposal.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center draws ever closer to its fiftieth anniversary in 2021, and basks in the glory of its most profitable year to date (2017), we believe it is time for the company’s Old Guard to consider stepping aside to make room for its own “new generation.” To “go out at the top” of their game, as it were.

A recent article written in the Washington Post Magazine, by David Montgomery, noted that SPLC founder, Morris Dees, who is now 81 years old, “doesn’t come into the office regularly anymore…” Dees, who first became a millionaire in 1964 and lives in a 20-room mansion on a 300-acre compound with his fifth wife, still pays himself $358,000 donor-dollars a year.

It’s not as though a much-deserved retirement would leave Mr. Dees destitute. As his publicity agency notes, the “Legendary Civil Rights Activist” maintains a lucrative public speaking side-gig, charging between $10,000 and $20,000 a pop.

Dees Fees

One low-end speaking engagement a month, or even a high-end gig every other month, would certainly keep the wolves away from the doors of Casa Dees.

SPLC President, Richard Cohen, who presumably keeps the store open in the absence of Mr. Dees, turns 78 in a couple of months, has also had a very good run and is equally deserving of well-earned rest. Mr. Cohen has been making public speaking appearances more frequently in the past few years, and could certainly fall back on that in the unlikely event he has been frittering away his $350,000 donor-dollar annual paychecks.

The third, and by far the youngest member of the triumvirate of “old white guys” who have been running the SPLC for the past few decades, has already left the stage. Mark Potok, whose titles at the company have included Director of Intelligence and Senior Fellow, was the public face and voice of the Southern Poverty Law Center for twenty years, until he was quietly and unceremoniously pushed out in early 2017.

Mr. Potok has since embarked on his own public speaking and consulting career, though it’s doubtful his fees are making up for the $150,000-a-year he was making at the SPLC.

Potok was replaced as Director of Intelligence by Heidi Beirich, who also has a long career at the SPLC. Although Ms. Beirich holds a PhD and two Masters degrees, she doesn’t have the public presence of the Old Boys. Dr. Beirich’s voice doesn’t resonate indignation as well as her predecessor and she has been known to go off-script in public interviews. That being said, she excels at behind-the-scenes research and would continue to make money for the company in that regard.

This brings us to the most logical choice for a new president for the SPLC: Lecia Brooks.

lecia_brooks

Lecia Brooks

Lecia Brooks has been with the company since 2004 and has held two concurrent directorships at the SPLC for over a decade, a feat none of her colleagues can claim. Ms. Brooks is articulate, highly intelligent, and more importantly, Black, female and gay. She would bring a diverse world view and lived experience to the position far beyond anything Messrs. Dees and Cohen could conceive of.

In addition to her posts as Outreach Director and director of the SPLC’s Civil Rights Memorial Center, Ms. Brooks was once allowed to helm the company’s “Teaching Tolerance” unit, which purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom. After several months, Ms. Brooks was asked to yield the post to the highly-diverse, Maureen Costello.

Costello

Maureen Costello

Lecia Brooks’ lack of a law degree in no way diminishes her candidacy for SPLC president. As Morris Dees wrote in his 1991 autobiography, his choice of Civil Rights icon Julian Bond to be the company’s first president, had more to do with fundraising than hate-fighting.

“Before we could ask for money, we had to establish credibility. We needed a prominent figure whose presence would announce the center’s values and promise. Julian Bond seemed the perfect choice.”

“I had never met Julian Bond. My friend Chuck Morgan… working for the ACLU… arranged a meeting in Atlanta. When I told [Bond] about our hopes and plans, he agreed to serve as president of the Law Center, a largely honorary position.”

Not only did Bond lack a law degree, in 1971 he had only recently returned to college in Atlanta to resume his pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree in English, which had been long-delayed by his civil rights work during the 1960s.

In fact, Bond continued to live in Atlanta, some 200 miles from SPLC headquarters in Montgomery, throughout his “honorary” presidency. As the Julian Bond Papers collection at the University of Virginia indicate, all Bond had to do was sign the fundraising letters written in his name by Morris Dees. Documents in that collection refer to Mr. Bond’s monthly “fee,” rather than his “salary.”

Fast-forward 47 years and the SPLC finds itself in a very different financial situation. Not only was 2017 the company’s most profitable year to date, with receipts exceeding $136 million (compared to a meager $50 million for 2016), the SPLC’s cash-on-hand “Morris Dees Legacy Fund,” 98% of which is designated as “unrestricted” in use, bulged to more than $433 million.

As journalist Ken Silverstein noted in his November 2000 article for Harper’s magazine, The Church of Morris Dees, :

Back in 1978, when the Center had less than $10 million, Dees promised that his organization would quit fund-raising and live off interest as soon as its endowment hit $55 million. But as it approached that figure, the SPLC upped the bar to $100 million, a sum that, one 1989 newsletter promised, would allow the Center “to cease the costly and often unreliable task of fund raising. ”

The SPLC hit the $100 million mark in 2002, the $200 million mark in 2007 and the $300 million mark in 2010. Surely, with $433 million in cash in the bank, fundraising is the last thing President Brooks would need to worry about.

As we recently noted, the SPLC only spends an average of 4% of its annual budget on “legal case costs,” while spending up to 41% a year on fundraising. If you strip that 41% burden (as well as the very expensive supporting infrastructure) out of the annual operating budget, the SPLC could keep its doors  wide open for the next 17 years without asking for another dime.

Naturally, Progressives would continue to donate to the company, if for nothing more than the bumper stickers, coffee mugs and tote-bags that would allow them to signal their superior virtue, but President Brooks could focus her attention on the civil rights law, the “poverty law,” for which the SPLC was founded in the first place.

How about it, Mr. Dees? Mr. Cohen? Will you pass the torch to a new generation? To an eminently qualified candidate who not only shares your values and goals, but who also represents the very people you claim to serve?

You’ve done what you set out to do, gentlemen. Go out at the top.

SPLC — Crunching the Numbers — 2018

August 29, 2018

Have you received a donation request from the Southern Poverty Law Center recently? Do you ever wonder how your donations are spent? Thanks to ProPublica, you can review the SPLC’s IRS Form 990 tax returns all the way back to 2001.

With the exception of 2009 and 2012, the company has always taken in significantly more money than was needed to keep the doors open. Some may recall that 2009 was the year after Bernie Madoff’s investment scam was exposed, costing investors and many nonprofit organizations billions of dollars in losses.

To date, there is no evidence that the SPLC was involved with Madoff. It seems that 2009 was simply a bad year all around.

Legal Case Costs 2000-2017

While the SPLC claims that “During the last fiscal year, approximately 68% of our total expenses were spent on program services,” a closer look at the numbers raises some questions to the accuracy of that statement.

One of the biggest red flags is the annual fundraising costs. Each year the SPLC declares a sum directly spent on fundraising outright for the year, $12,626,830 for 2017, as well as a sum spent on “joint costs.” These came to $12,147,345 last year.

The SPLC’s auditor describes “joint costs” as “Activities and the production of materials which combine development, education, and management functions are allocated to the program and supporting services on the basis of the content of the material, the reason for its distribution, and the audience to whom it is delivered.”

In short, “joint costs” are fundraising costs (“development”) attributed to other departments. As the auditor notes: “The Center incurred joint costs of $12,147,345 for educational materials and activities as part of fund-raising appeals during the year ended October 31, 2017.”

For example, SPLC “Management” spent $1,022,000 on postage last year. Since the business of management is arguably to “manage” the company’s 302 employees, that works out nine pieces of first class mail to every employee every single day of FY 2017.

As the graphic above indicates, the SPLC spent 41% of its budget on outright fundraising and “joint costs” last year.

While joint costs accounting is not illegal, and is practiced by many of the largest nonprofits and charities in the country, it is ethically ambiguous, according to Charity Navigator, one of the leading industry watchdogs:

“Although the use of this accounting “trick” is often perfectly in line with the accounting rules for the reporting of joint solicitation costs (AICPA SOP 98-2) these rules allow for many interpretations and judgments that can produce questionable results.”

The graphic also indicates that the Southern Poverty Law Center has never spent more than 6% of its budget on legal case costs this century (and only in one single year, at that), something that the average donor might find surprising, and possibly quite alarming.

After all, shouldn’t the main business of a law center be the practice of actual poverty law?

Mark Potok, the SPLC’s Intelligence Director for 20 years, explained this confusing situation several years ago:

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 (Holiday, Track 1).

While the SPLC never did change its name, it did change its mission. In 2014, the company quietly removed the “non-profit civil rights organization” descriptor from its website, press releases and other fundraising materials,  replacing it with “civil rights advocacy group.”

While the two phrases sound similar, they are in no way the same thing. The National Rifle Association is an “advocacy group” for the gun lobby and few, if any, SPLC donors would ever accuse the NRA of being a “civil rights organization.”

It may be simple coincidence, but according to the graphic above, the SPLC has enjoyed some of its most profitable years since making the switch.

You can lead a horse to water, as they say, but putting the SPLC’s financial information in an easy-to-read graphic will probably do very little to dissuade the company’s millions of loyal donors, who believe they are getting great value for their money.

To them, getting the SPLC bumper sticker or lapel pin, or whatever thank you tchotchkies the company sends the faithful is what it’s all about.

Virtue signaling is far more important than doing actual work for civil rights.

SPLC — Cashing in on MS-13

May 28, 2018

When you have “tracked” the Southern Poverty Law Center for as long as we have, you take it for granted that the company will find a way to make money off the latest tragedy or controversy du jour. The SPLC now has more than 300 full-time employees, many of them involved in marketing, public relations and fundraising and they are not about to let an opportunity to cash in pass them by.

Just over a week ago, President Donald Trump ruffled feathers by referring to members of the violent and deadly Salvadoran gang MS-13, which has infiltrated many American cities and even smaller towns, as “animals.”

Considering the gang’s lengthy record of brutal murders, decapitation, torture and rape, “animals” is one of the kinder terms that could be used to describe them.

Naturally, Mr. Trump’s comments were clumsy and poorly articulated, as usual. Naturally, the SPLC and other Hate Industry players jumped on a chance to claim that the president was referring to all immigrants as “animals.”

Virtue signalers across the country couldn’t get their wallets out fast enough. Despite all the “outrage” and toga rending, Donald Trump has been a gold mine for these “advocacy groups.” The very mention of his name is guaranteed to agitate the donors and the money will soon follow.

According to its online tax records, the SPLC took in over $132 million in donations in 2017, up from $50 million in 2016. Its cash-on-hand endowment fund grew from $319 million to $432 million over the same period. Fully 98% of the endowment fund is designated as “unrestricted” in use.

Ironically (a term one uses so often when describing the company), the SPLC issued several statements declaring that: “Dehumanizing rhetoric — unacceptable from anyone — is especially dangerous when it comes from the mouth of the president.”

Considering the hundreds of millions of tax-free donor-dollars the SPLC has generated over the past decades specifically through the use of “dehumanizing rhetoric,” such as the ever-profitable “hate group” label, “domestic extremists” and “radical traditionalists” one has to wonder how the company avoids choking on its own hypocrisy.

“Unacceptable from anyone…”

Some readers may remember the SPLC’s longtime spokesman, Mark Potok, who was unceremoniously fired from the company in March, 2017, after 20 years of highly lucrative service, most of which was built squarely upon the use of “dehumanizing rhetoric.” Apparently, this usage was quite acceptable when Mr. Potok was channeling millions of donor-dollars into the company’s coffers.

One prime example can be found in a 2007 speech Mr. Potok gave before a hate crime conference in Michigan:

“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.”

That zinger drew a laugh from the assembled anti-haters, oddly enough. Potok continued with the statement:

“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!”

Feel the love. Donate early and often.

This brings us to the SPLC’s latest fundraising scheme. Just as the company found ways to cash in on the Confederate flag controversy in 2015 and the tragic death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville in 2017, the SPLC’s growing team of PR professionals have come up with another classic fundraising scam:

“TELL PRESIDENT TRUMP TO STOP USING RACIST AND DEHUMANIZING RHETORIC,” proclaims the page on the SPLC website. “This kind of rhetoric is unacceptable from anyone,” they remind us, in a brief statement that completely omits any reference to MS-13 whatsoever.

How best to do this? A link to the White House website? No. Mr. Trump’s personal Twitter handle? Nope. Maybe a useful email link to your senators or members of Congress? Not seeing any.

Instead, the SPLC has conveniently provided a short online form where you can enter your name, location and email address. That’s all you have to do.

Tell Trump

What happens to your personal information when you hit the blue button? The site doesn’t say. Maybe your name goes on a petition, though wouldn’t you’d think they’d mention that?

No. Just as with the SPLC’s brilliant, though now-retired, “Stand Strong Against Hate” map and its lucrative offspring, the “Wall of Tolerance,” your contact information will go directly to the company’s massive, in-house fundraising machine, and you put it there yourself, of your own free will.

Just as tens of thousands of SPLC donors, new and old, believe that they are “fighting hate” with their annual donations when their money actually goes to third party telemarketers, you haven’t “taken a stand against hate” any more than you have taken a solemn oath to “work for justice, equality and human rights.”

All you’ve done is given the Southern Poverty Law Center’s fundraisers your personal contact information.

Operators are standing by.

SPLC — 2018 Hate Map: Fake News Galore

February 25, 2018

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently released its 2018 “Hate Map” fundraising tool, and as usual, the Media is regurgitating the company’s claims without performing even the most rudimentary fact-checks.

Fortunately, that’s what we here at Watching the Watchdogs do best.

First, a little housekeeping:

  1. The 2018 “Hate Map,” as with all of its predecessors, refers to the number of alleged “hate groups” the SPLC designated for the previous fiscal year. The 2018 map refers to alleged groups from FY 2017.
  2. There is no legal or even universal definition for the term “hate group,” which is why even the FBI cannot, does not, designate “hate groups,” but somehow a private “advocacy group” can do so, early and often.
  3. Even the SPLC, which is the sole arbiter of the lucrative “hate group” label, does not have a firm definition for “hate group” beyond the nebulous and elastic claim that “All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”That “definition” is suitably vague enough to be applied to nearly anything. As we will soon see, a “group” need not even be an actual boots-on-the-ground “group” to be included on the list. The “Hate Map” is rife with one-man websites, online vendors and nearly 300 “Statewide” phantoms.
  4. As Mark Potok, the SPLC’s former longtime Intelligence Director, stated publicly on numerous occasions: “…a “hate group” has nothing to do with criminality… [or] potential for violence…” Rather, as Potok put it, “It’s all about ideology.”No crime. No violence. Just “wrong thinking.”

    According to the SPLC, “Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.” That any advocacy group could deliberately conflate six of the most fundamental First Amendment civil rights with “criminal acts” and “hate group activities” is beyond belief.

    Under this “definition,” Dr. King, the Freedom Riders and anyone even remotely associated with the Civil Rights Movement would be guilty of “hate group activities.”

With this background information in mind, let’s have a look at the 2018 “Hate Map.”

The latest “hate group” count is up from 917 to 954, which, in the wake of the very real racial tensions of 2017, including the Charlottesville riots, is a surprisingly low increase of only 4%

Keep in mind, when you are the sole arbiter of the “hate group” label, you can make up as many as you want. The Media, and more importantly, the almighty donors, would have swallowed nearly any number the company saw fit to claim.

As mentioned above, the SPLC cannot actually locate 297 of these groups on any map, including their own. This number includes 291 “Statewide” chapters, for which no information other than an alleged home state is provided, as well as two groups skulking in “Incomplete,” one each in “Eastern” and “Central” Pennsylvania and one each in “North” and “South” California.

Hard data doesn’t get any harder than this, folks. Fortunately, the Media and the donors aren’t all that big into facts.

It’s also worth mentioning that there were “only” 191 “Statewide” phantoms on last year’s map, for a surge of 51%, meaning the company is losing “groups” faster than it can designate them. That 4% increase must have come from somewhere.

The SPLC provides no information on these alleged groups whatsoever. It cannot provide a known location or any kind of headcount for the membership. We get to take the company’s word for it that these “groups” really, really exist.

That’s not good enough and it certainly isn’t good journalism. Big claims demand big proof, or any proof, for that matter.

This year, Watching the Watchdogs is launching the hashtag #ProveItOrRemoveIt to encourage the SPLC into showing its proof that any of its 954 alleged groups actually exist.

Well, surprisingly, despite coming off the most racist year in decades, the increase didn’t come from the reliable Ku Klux Klan bogeyman. According to the fearmongers at the SPLC, Klan groups actually decreased by 45% in 2017, from 130 to 72, tying the record low set during the Obama Administration.

The SPLC attributes the precipitous drop to the fact that today’s white supremacists are put off by the old fashioned image of the Invisible Empire. Today’s racists pine for a “hipper” image, they posit.

2018 Ku Klux Klan _ Southern Poverty Law Center

While homeless “Statewide” phantoms made up 23% of of the Klan groups on the 2017 map, that number has increased to 39% of the much smaller count for 2018.

Neo-Nazis seemed to be all the rage in 2017 and the “Hate Map” backs that up by claiming a 21% increase in Hitler wannabees from 99 alleged groups to 120 last year.

What the report doesn’t mention directly (you have to look for it, as we do) is that the number of “Statewide” Neo-Nazi phantoms “exploded” by 100%, from 45 to 91.

White Nationalists remained stagnant at 100 alleged groups last year, surprisingly. The number of WN “Statewide” phantoms barely inched up at all, from 30 to 35. Given the lurid media coverage of Charlottesville and other atrocities, one could be excused for predicting unprecedented growth in 2017.

Even the Racist Skinheads took a hit last year, down from 79 to 71 alleged groups, though the number of “Statewide,” “Central” and “Eastern” generalities grew from 60 to 63.

Say that last part out loud: The Southern Poverty Law Center cannot account for EIGHTY-NINE PERCENT of its alleged Racist Skinhead groups and yet the Media considers the numbers to be utterly reliable. Wow.

Considering that it was the removal of Confederate war statues that sparked the Charlottesville riots and at least a few other confrontations last year, readers may be surprised to learn that the number of “Neo-Confederate” groups designated by the SPLC last year dropped by an incredible 29%, from 43 to 31 alleged groups.

“Statewide” chapters celebrating the “Lost Cause” dipped slightly from seven to six, but on the plus side, Weogufka, Alabama, (Population: 282) joined Wetumpka, AL, and Waxahachie, Texas, on the list. (This really isn’t statistically relevant, but it is fun to say out loud.)

Anti-Immigrant, Anti-LGBT, Anti-Muslim and Christian Identity groups all remained largely unchanged for the year, so where exactly do we find any actual increases?

This year marks the debut of an entirely new “hate group” category, the Neo-Volkisch, which the SPLC describes thus:

“Neo-Völkisch adherents worship the Norse or Germanic gods, spirituality premised on the survival of white Europeans and the preservation of dead or dying cultures they presume to embody. Such individuals and groups use a variety of terms to describe their spirituality such as Odinism or Wotanism, Odalism, heathenism, Ásatrú or even paganism. Qualifiers like “Germanic” or “proto-Germanic” are sometimes attached to those terms. Other qualifiers like “Norse tradition” might also be used.”

Are they dangerous?

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

So why are they a “hate group” now?

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

Dear Freya! Not “traditional gender roles”! Oh, the humanity! What does that say about the Amish, Muslims, Orthodox Jewry and a large percentage of Latino immigrants? Will those hyper-masculine men make next year’s “Hate Map”?

So where are the 28 Neo-Volkisch groups located? Just where you’d expect to find Norsemen: Grand Rapids, Michigan, Brownsville and Grass Valley, California, Knoxville, Tennessee, Lynchburg, Virginia, and that perennial hotbed of hyper-masculine, horn-helmed hatred, Apache Junction, Arizona.

The other 22 alleged chapters? “Statewide.” Yes, friends, the SPLC has uncovered 28 chapters of a new species of “hate,” but they cannot tell you where 79% of them are actually located.

“That makes perfect sense to us!” quoth the Media. “Nothing to see here…”

In keeping with the man-bashing, the SPLC added a second new category last year, Male Supremacy. Calling it “the gateway drug to the Alt-Right,” (yes, someone was actually paid cash money to write that…), the two new “Male Supremacist” groups seem to be websites, rather than boots-on-the-ground groups that actually do things. The SPLC cites several blogs to prove their existence.

And, wait for it… 100% of these wimmin-hater “groups” are “Statewide.”

Last year, the SPLC counted 201 Black and Black Muslim groups in the land, the largest category by far.

(Even though this number included 68 chapters of the Nation of Islam and eight other Black Muslim groups tucked under the catch-all heading of “General Hate,” subsection, “Other,” none of these Islam-based groups have been deemed to be actual “Muslim hate groups” because the SPLC doesn’t track such things. Irks the donors, dontcha know, and that can run into money.)

This year the number of Black and Black Muslim “hate groups” has increased to 241, including the eight aforementioned “Other” groups, for an increase of 20%. The number of self-described Muslim groups rose from 68 to 94.

As the SPLC’s own chart indicates, these alleged Black “hate groups” have increased by more than 400% since the start of the century.

2018-Black Nationalist _ Southern Poverty Law Center

“Not to worry,” You may say. “The odds are that 8 out of 10 of these alleged “groups” are homeless “Statewide” phantoms.” Actually, only eight out of 241 are “Statewide,” up by a few pegs from last year.

Among the crimes attributed to these “Black Nationalist” groups are “forms of black nationalism [that] are strongly anti-white and anti-Semitic, and a number of religious versions assert that blacks — not Jews — are the Biblical “chosen people” of God.”

Yes, that is correct. The Southern Poverty Law Center has determined who the REAL “chosen people” of God are. Any other group claiming the mantle for themselves is practicing “hate.” Seriously.

Ah, but it plays well with many of the donors of the Fundamentalist Christian and Jewish persuasions.

And that, friends, is the whole purpose of the fantastically lucrative “Hate Map.” As shown, the numbers are not based in any kind of reality, the SPLC cannot identify how many people are actually in these alleged groups and makes no claim that the alleged groups are potentially violent or criminal.

“It’s strictly ideological,” said Mark Potok, and those ideologies, held by a pathetically minute portion of the US population today, are what agitate the donors and power the SPLC’s enormous money machine. Here are a few other things Mr. Potok has had to say about “hate groups” and the SPLC’s methodology:

“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).

“We see this political struggle, 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.”  (Holiday, 2008, track 13, https://archive.org/details/MarkPotok).

“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!” (Sept. 2007,  https://youtu.be/fnTz2ylJo_8)

Clearly, neither Mr. Potok, before he got the boot from the company about a year ago, nor any of the six-digit-salaried white millionaires who run the company, or any of the other 295 company employees have any desire or any intention of “destroying” any “hate groups” anytime soon. You don’t kill the Golden Goose.

The SPLC is a multimillion-dollar “advocacy group.” It’s product is “hate group” fearmongering and its loyal customers are the almighty donors, nearly all of whom self-identify as “Progressive.” The company sells the customers what they want and the customers cannot get enough of the product. It’s a business, folks, not a mission.

Charity Navigator says they could be looking at a cool Billion-with-a-B donor-dollars for Fiscal 2017. Those numbers are due out soon and we look forward to breaking them down thereafter.

Challenge Your Area’s SPLC “Hate Group” Designation

September 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SPLC — Whither Mark Potok?

August 31, 2017

It is a dark day at Watching the Watchdogs. A short while ago we were reading an article about a black musician who was fighting racism by befriending white nationalists when we read the following words: “Mark Potok, an expert on extremism formerly with the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

FORMERLY with the SPLC? WHEN did that happen? HOW could that happen? And why wasn’t it a major news item? For millions of people, Mark Potok has been the public face and voice of the Southern Poverty Law Center and the brains behind the insanely lucrative annual “Hate Map” fundraising tool for nearly two decades.

It would nearly impossible to estimate how many millions of donor-dollars Mr. Potok has brought into SPLC coffers over the years.

And now he’s gone? Without so much as a “So long, Mark. Thanks for everything!” from Morris Dees or Richard Cohen?

We immediately turned to our favorite sleuthing tool, the Internet Archives’ cantankerous Wayback Machine to see if we could pinpoint Mr. Potok’s untimely departure.

As of February 20, 2017, Mr. Potok was still listed as a “Senior Fellow” on the SPLC website.

Mark Potok _ Senior-Fellow-Feb-20-17

As of now, Mr. Potok’s biography page, if you can find it, refers to him as “Former Employee.” No “Former Senior Fellow,” or “Senior Fellow Emeritus,” as SPLC co-founder Joe Levin and the late SPLC celebrity spokesman Julian Bond got upon their retirements.

Potok Former Employee

Potok was still listed on the “Leadership” circle page on the site in February.

Feb-22-2017-Leadership _ Southern Poverty Law Center

Today, his picture has been removed from the page with all of the subtlety of an old-time Pravda airbrushing.

8-31_14-Leadership _ Southern Poverty Law Center

In fact, Mr. Potok’s bylines on the hundreds of hit pieces he wrote for the company now refer to him as “Former Employee.”

Potok-byline

Potok’s Facebook page has one cryptic note from March: “Left Job at Southern Poverty Law Center.” No mention of “retiring” or “exploring new opportunities.” Not even a “wants to spend more time with his family.”

Potok Left SPLC

Twenty years of faithful, profitable service and the man is kicked out without so much as a thank you or a Fare-thee-well. What happened?

Apparently Mr. Potok has his own website now, where he is offering his “expertise” on the open market. “I’m an expert on the radical right who spent 20 years at the SPLC.”

Potok Keynote Speaker

While there is no denying that Mr. Potok was a master craftsman of fear-mongering and the smear while at the SPLC, it seems unlikely that he will find another gig that pays anything near the six-digit salary Dees and Cohen have paid him for years.

Potok990

Potok’s website includes several testimonials regarding his career, but the only one from the SPLC comes from retiree Joe Levin. There is no sign of Dees or Cohen to be found anywhere.

Potok Testamonials

What a sad end to a brilliant career. Here was a man who could find unfettered access to every form of media and every leading news outlet with the snap of his fingers. Cut down in his prime at the very dawn of the company’s Golden Era.

With Donald Trump in the White House and Nazi-wannabees holding torchlight processions in Charlottesville, Mr. Potok’s best material ever would have all but written itself. The money is pouring into the SPLC so fast these days that there will no doubt be fat raises for all of the white millionaire proprietors.

Just last week alone, Mo Dees found a way to cash in on the death of Charlottesville protester Heather Heyer. Every tragedy has a silver lining at the SPLC.

It only goes to show the extent of the SPLC’s transformation from “civil rights organization” to “advocacy group.” There are tens of millions of donor-dollars at stake and it’s quite possible that veteran Mark Potok is no longer the “face” of the company that will best appeal to fickle Millennial donors. Maybe he was back-stabbed by ambitious co-workers or somehow crossed his overlords.

For now, we’ll just have to wait until somebody spills the beans. If anyone knows the story, and that includes Mr. Potok himself, please let us know.

There is an old German term, Schadenfreude, which translates more-or-less to “joy or happiness felt at someone else’s misfortune.” Let the record show that we at Watching the Watchdogs take no pleasure at Mark Potok’s departure. While we have spent much of the past decade chronicling his various fear and fundraising campaigns, as a life-long student of communication, rhetoric, persuasion and propaganda, you just have to admire the man’s mastery of the arts.

Though we’ll never agree on much, unless Mr. Potok has a tell-all book up his sleeve, we sincerely tip our hat to a true legend of the art of persuasion.

The man deserved better.

Even if your former colleagues have abandoned you, Mark Potok, we offer you a heartfelt “Fare-thee-well” and we look forward to writing about your work in the future.

“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.”

Mark Potok speaking to Bill Holiday in 2008, Track 2.

 

SPLC — The “Anti-Muslim” Scam

February 22, 2017

The Southern Poverty Law Center released its latest “Hate Map” fundraising tool a couple of weeks ago and its “Senior Fellow” Mark Potok has been making the usual media rounds and making the usual empty claims.

The “Hate Map” is a highly lucrative fundraising tool that claims to track the number of SPLC-designated (there is no legal definition for the term) “hate groups” in the country for the previous year. As such, the most recent 2017 map refers to the U.S. in 2016.

Here are some of the highlights from the latest map, according to Mr. Potok:

197-percent-hate-map-_-southern-poverty-law-center

We’ll be breaking down some of the other “hate group” claims in future posts, but let’s have a closer look at the big news for 2017:

“Anti-Muslim Groups have exploded by 197%!!”

Ah, Mr. Potok does love his percent sign. It makes the most mundane figures pop with alarm and that brings in the donor dollars. Mr. Potok has been breathlessly announcing that anti-Muslim groups have “nearly tripled” in the past year, by growing from 34 alleged groups to 101, but shies away from the actual details in his media interviews.

We’re not shy at Watching the Watchdogs. We’ll be happy to flip the flat rock and see what scurries away.

The vast majority of Mr. Potok’s alleged explosion, (69% in Potokian terms) comes from one single source. In 2015, Potok added one single instance of something called “ACT for America,”from Virginia Beach, Va., to his Hate Map.

For 2016, Potok counted ACT 45 times! A Potokian increase of 4,400%!!

The group itself has been around since 2007, though Potok only discovered it in 2015. Even more amazing is that the ACT website boasts of more than 1,000 chapters nationwide. That’s a huge discrepancy that Mr. Potok seems eager to avoid.

Another ten groups arrived for the first time in 2016 in the form of “The Soldiers of Odin,” an apparent American offshoot of a Finnish anti-Muslim outfit founded in 2015. Of the ten chapters claimed by Potok he can only put a known city or town to two. The other 80% is part of the 191 “groups” Mr. Potok cannot locate on any map, including his own. Instead, he papers them over with a catch-all label of “statewide.”

We know all 191 of those groups are really, really out there because Mark Potok tells us so.

Most of the remaining “groups” are a rag-tag collection of one-off, one-man websites, something Potok claims he doesn’t count, except when he does, which is frequently, such as the “Sultan Knish: A blog by Daniel Greenfield” “group,””Islamthreat.com” and a couple of yahoos peddling pork-tainted anti-Muslim ammunition online.

It is with great sadness that we witness the passing of our all time favorite Potokian “hate group,” Casa d’Ice Signs, which was actually an Italian restaurant and bar in a K-Mart strip mall on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.

It’s not that we agreed with the crude messages that owner Bill Balsamico would put on the marquee sign outside his bar each week, but Casa d’Ice was the ultimate poster child for just how far Mr. Potok would go to stretch his definition of “hate group.”

The good news, according to Daniel Greenfield, is that Balsamico sold the business and retired, undefeated.

In all fairness to Mr. Potok, though, he never claimed that Balsamico was guilty of anything but “wrong thoughts.” As the stalwart Senior Fellow has proclaimed on man occasions:

“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.”

And so, there you have it. The suits at the SPLC decided that anti-Muslim “hate groups” were going to be the featured flavor for 2017 and instructed Mr. Potok to show “explosive growth” thereof for fundraising purposes and overnight one “group” becomes 45.

Some may remember that last year Potok swore that “the Klan had more than doubled in size!!” in 2015 by claiming it had grown from 72 chapter to 190 overnight. Potok failed to mention that he himself had slashed his Klan count from 163 to 72 the year before.

This year, as the graphic above notes, the Invisible Empire shrank by 32% to a mere 130 chapters, 30 of which Potok cannot find. And as usual, nobody in the media called him on it.

The graphic does include one truly astounding number, besides the spurious “197%” malarkey. Mr. Potok claims there are 193 Black “hate groups” in the country today, far outnumbering the KKK and every other category, respectively, and he knows where every one of those chapters are but two.

But that’s a topic for our next post.

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


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