Posts Tagged ‘propaganda’

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.

 

Advertisements

SPLC — Cashing in on Charlottesville

August 19, 2017

While the violence and death at last week’s “Unite the Right” riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, was a national tragedy and a source of horror for most Americans, it follows as surely as the night follows day that the Southern Poverty Law Center would find a way to make money off it.

It was only a few weeks ago, in June, when the SPLC was writhing under some of the most negative media coverage it had possibly ever seen, in the wake of the GuideStar debacle. Reliable media allies such as Politico and the Wall Street Journal were openly criticizing GuideStar, a leading rating agency of non-profit organizations, for adding the SPLC’s spurious “hate group” label to dozens of its entries.

[The Politico article is one of the best exposés of the SPLC written in decades and well worth a read.]

Then came Charlottesville. The violent idiots on both sides of the fighting were right out of Central Casting and a godsend for the SPLC. Images of torchlight parades across the University of Virginia campus were tailor-made for the endless barrage of fundraising tweets, press releases, and, no doubt, fundraising letters. The cash has been pouring in ever since. The company will probably have to open several more off-shore bank accounts to house it all.

All of that paled in comparison to the tragedy of Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer’s death after being struck by a car that careered into a crowd on Saturday afternoon. Video footage of the incident gives little doubt that the act was intentional, and the driver of the car, James Fields, Jr., who was identified marching with white nationalists earlier in the day, is currently being held on charges of second-degree murder and several other counts.

Once Heyer’s name was released on the following day she was immediately canonized by the media and the Left, for their own financial and political purposes, but none of them could hold a candle to the Southern Poverty Law Center when it comes to monetizing murder.

Less than a week after Heyer’s death, the SPLC announced that it was “honoring Heather Heyer at Civil Rights Memorial Center.”

“Like the civil rights martyrs whose names are inscribed on the Civil Rights Memorial, Heather took a stand against hate and bigotry and made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Lecia Brooks, director of outreach for the SPLC, which built and maintains the memorial.”

Will Heyer’s name be immortalized on the SPLC’s “Martyr’s Monument,” a black granite disc designed by Vietnam Veterans Memorial artist Maya Lin? Well no, that monument cost the perpetually cash-strapped SPLC $5,000,000 in 1989 (nearly $10 million in today’s dollars.)

Instead, the SPLC is going to honor Heyer on its less-static and infinitely more economical “Wall of Tolerance.” Longtime Watching the Watchdogs readers may recall our 2016 investigation of the Wall of Tolerance fundraising scam. We found that, like the lucrative “Stand Strong Against Hate” map scam that preceded it, the Wall of Tolerance was little more than a fundraising tool designed to recruit new donors.

While invoking the names of the “civil rights martyrs,” the Wall of Tolerance scam is built solidly upon the age-old persuasion technique of “reciprocity,” in which an organization sends out free gifts to potential donors in the expectation that the recipients will feel obliged to make a donation. Many readers may remember receiving packs of return address labels from various veteran’s groups. It’s a simple, cost-effective method that has been around for decades.

In the Wall of Tolerance scam, prospective donors receive a suitable-for-framing certificate from the SPLC thanking them for joining the ranks of the civil rights martyrs by supporting the company in its never-ending “fight against hate.” In addition to the certificate, the recipient will be memorialized forever on the “Wall of Tolerance,” a 20-by-40-foot Jumbotron screen at SPLC headquarters, where hundreds of thousands of names drift autumn-leaf-like across the screen “as the gentle rain from heaven.”

Recipients, honored to be included among such auspicious company, feel obligated to send along a little something in appreciation. Others can add their names simply by passing along their personal contact information to the Fundraising Department.

As our report noted, at least one honoree, Marcus Epstein,  had the dual honor of having his own page on the SPLC website that denounced him as a racist. Oops!

SOFII, the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration, was hugely impressed by the elegant simplicity of the Wall of Tolerance:

SOFII’s view

The Southern Poverty Law Center, who launched this campaign, is a hugely impressive organisation with a long and well-deserved reputation for effective donor development.

Though we don’t have the results, we think we can presume that this direct mail capital appeal must have worked really very well.

Merits

This is one of the most moving and long-lasting donor involvement campaigns in the USA and represents some of the best that the direct marketer’s art can produce.

It cost the SPLC nothing to add Heather Heyer’s name to the Wall o’ Tolerance Jumbotron but the tax-free donor-dollars will be rolling in by the truckload for weeks and months.

Incidentally, Lecia Brooks, who is quoted above in the Heyer press release, holds two concurrent Directorships at the SPLC. One of the few African-Americans in the SPLC hierarchy, Double-Director Brooks has never been named among the company’s highest paid executives.

One wonders what Heather Heyer would have made of that?

 

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 — “200 Post-Election Hate Incidents”

November 14, 2016

UPDATE — As noted below, on November 11, 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center claimed on its website that it had “had counted 201 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation across the country as of Friday, November 11.”

On November 14, Watching the Watchdogs noted that the SPLC’s “count” included “reports” from a web page it had set up where people could report alleged incidents anonymously, with no verification whatsoever.

The very next day, on November 15, the SPLC updated its “count” to 437, this time adding the interesting note that:

“These incidents, aside from news reports, are largely anecdotal.”

This disclaimer is conveniently absent from the November 11 post.

Was the disclaimer a result of our reporting or simply coincidence? You be the judge.

The SPLC followed up its “anecdotal” admission with the claim that “The SPLC did follow up with a majority of user submissions in an effort to confirm reports.”

Really? Okay. Prove it. Show us your proof, SPLC. You didn’t simply include “a majority” of the alleged claims that no one but you have seen in your count; you counted ALL of them. If you’ve confirmed any of them, just show your proof on your website. Your word alone isn’t good enough. 

It’s not like you lack publicity. In fact, it will be interesting to see how many media outlets regurgitating your “437 incidents” claim will include your “they’re largely anecdotal” disclaimer.

You can read our original post below:

———————————————————————-

[Nov. 14] In the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the November 8 election, the Southern Poverty Law Center has been ramping up the fear-mongering rhetoric, and, right on cue, the media has been regurgitating the SPLC’s claims without performing even the most rudimentary fact checks.

Dozens upon dozens of mainstream and local newspapers, magazines and blogs have been quoting an unvetted USA Today claim that: “Since Election Day, there have been more than 200 incidents of hateful harassment and intimidation across the country, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

The claim has been picked up and repeated by such publications as Fortune, Time and the New York Times, all of whom should know better. As with most SPLC fundraising copy, it makes for lurid reading which is guaranteed to agitate certain sectors of the population, (donors), and, as with most SPLC fundraising copy, even the slightest investigation of the company’s claims ring hollow.

According to the breathless “Hatewatch” special report on the SPLC website the company has counted “Over 200 Incidents of Hateful Harassment and Intimidation Since Election Day.” And how did the SPLC come up with these “incidents”? “By pulling from news reports, social media, and direct submissions at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website.”

Let’s parse that out a little, shall we? Sadly, there have been a number of very real incidents reported in the media, which, as of this writing, are still under investigation. It is sincerely hoped that the perpetrators of these mindless acts are identified, charged and punished.

Until the police have finished their work on these cases, it is worth noting that some of them may be hoaxes perpetrated in the name of “advocacy” as we have reported in the past, here, here and here. If this turns out to be the case in any instance, it is even more sincerely hoped that the perpetrators of these mindless acts are identified, charged and punished. History has shown, however, that hate crime hoaxers are given far more leeway than your average idiot.

So what we’re left with, after the ongoing investigations listed in the media are social media accounts, meaning that anyone on the planet can submit whatever they want, and even more stringent, the “direct submissions” to the SPLC website.

If you click the “direct submissions” link above you will be taken to an SPLC web page where  you can report any instances of allegedly election-related “harassment,” which the SPLC conveniently fails to define. How do we know these accounts are rock-solid true? Because the SPLC insists that you include your first name, the date of the alleged incident and check off one of several locations for the event, such as school, place of worship, business, etc.

election-incidents

That’s all it takes, sports fans. An anonymous post from anyone on the planet and a new “election-related hate incident” is born.

Ironically, when the SPLC was running its spurious “Erasing Hate” campaign against symbols of the Confederacy last year if you wanted to report a school named for Robert E. Lee or a Stonewall Jackson street in your town, (all information the SPLC could easily get through Google or government websites), you had to give your full name and email address.

Of course, the point of that exercise was to get your contact information into the company’s fundraising apparatus.

erasing

Granted, even this form doesn’t provide any conclusive identification, but it’s a minor step up from absolutely anonymous “reporting.”

The company even has the chutzpah to cite its previous garbage statistics on the same web page, the so-called “Trump Effect” report it issued last April to even larger unvetted regurgitation that claimed that “hate incidents” were spiking in grade schools because of the negativity in the US Presidential debates.

That “report,” which the company itself labeled as “not scientific” because the “survey” underpinning it was not distributed randomly and the company had no idea if the people responding to it were even teachers to begin with.

“Our survey of approximately 2,000 K-12 teachers was not scientific. Our email subscribers and those who visit our website are not a random sample of teachers nationally, and those who chose to respond to our survey are likely to be those who are most concerned about the impact of the presidential campaign on their students and schools.”

Even more telling was the fact that same “report” claimed that Teaching Tolerance, the wing of the SPLC that created the “survey,” reaches more than 400,000 teachers a month, and yet the entire “report” was built on only 2,000 anonymous responses. Really?

Either 398,000 teachers ignored the email survey or the SPLC cherry-picked 2,000 reliable operatives who would give the “right” answers that would allow the company to agitate its mostly-Progressive donor base by invoking Trump’s name while narrowly skirting the strict IRS regulations that prohibit all 501(c)(3) non-profits from endorsing or denouncing political candidates.

And once again, the media and the Blogosphere cannot regurgitate SPLC fundraising tripe fast enough, even when the company itself comes out and says that their data is crap.

One last point, to the SPLC’s credit, it was entirely truthful when it reported “over 200 hateful incidents.” According to the website, the actual count was 201.

God bless America, people.

SPLC — Why is the “Hate Map” Static?

August 31, 2016

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

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

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

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

WLM.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AC skins

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

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

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

 

SPLC — Great “Wall of Tolerance” Scam

April 4, 2016

Last October, we first noted that one of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s most cynical fundraising gimmicks, its long-running “Stand Strong Against Hate” map was conspicuously absent from the company’s web site.

The gimmick was elegant in its simplicity. By simply clicking a link on the SPLC web site you could demonstrate your commitment to “stand strong against hate,” and to “stop the racist backlash from infecting your community.”

StandStrong

Click Image to Enlarge

In return for nothing more than your name, address and email address, you fought the good fight by becoming a digital pinhead on an interactive map. By moving the cursor over your pinhead your first name and last initial would pop up magically.

“Bob J., Chicago”

How exactly this “stood up to hate” was never explained. In the meantime, your personal contact information went into the SPLC’s massive database, where it would be added to the company’s mailing list and turned over to their growing team of professional fundraisers.

As mentioned, it was a simple but effective gag, and no doubt brought in a lot of new donors and donor dollars, but the company seems to have retired it in 2015.

Today we stumbled across a parallel SPLC fundraising ploy that is every bit as simplistic as the “Stand Strong Against Hate” ploy, but takes the game to a whole higher level.

In this morning’s RSS roundup of articles about the SPLC was a press release written by one of those “exclusive” public relations outfits that target individuals, usually professionals, offering to polish up and pad out their resumés, in exchange for an exclusive fee.

This particular gentleman is an attorney, practicing law somewhere Down South. We’re going to change his name here to protect his identity, but the final line of his press release reads:

“In 2005, Mr. Smith was awarded the Wall of Tolerance Certificate by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

We are embarrassed to admit that, even after “tracking” and studying all things SPLC for the past seven years, we had never heard of the company’s “Wall of Tolerance” and had to learn more about it.

Our first thought, quite naturally, was that, like most nonprofit fundraising ventures, which might feature a “Golden Circle” or “Leadership Club” tier for their top donors, the SPLC was simply recognizing Mr. Smith for handing over the big bucks year after year.

But we were wrong…

According to the SPLC website:

“The Wall of Tolerance digitally displays the names of more than half a million people who have pledged to take a stand against hate and work for justice and tolerance in their daily lives.  Their names flow continuously down the 20-by-40 foot wall within the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama.”

Wall of Tolerance

In order to get your name on this auspicious digital billboard you must first swear a solemn oath:

By placing my name on the Wall of Tolerance, I pledge to take a stand against hate, injustice and intolerance. I will work in my daily life for justice, equality and human rights – the ideals for which the Civil Rights martyrs died.

Half a million people have taken this pledge to honor “the ideals for which the Civil Rights martyrs died,” or did they?

While searching for information about the Wall of Tolerance we came across this blog post on the Democratic Underground website in which Mr. Joshua Allenberg expressed surprise to have received the same certificate of appreciation and had his name added to the wall, even though he’d never heard of the award and wasn’t even sure when, or even if, he had made a contribution to the SPLC. If he had, it wasn’t much.

At any rate, he never took a pledge, solemn or otherwise. Maybe getting on the wall is easier than it seems.

I just got an envelope in the mail addressed from author Toni Morrison. Enclosed was a form letter, a solicitation for a donation, and a Certificate of Appreciation. Now I typically donate 20 bucks here and there from organizations who send me mail, and I kind of lose track. So, what I got is:

Certificate of Appreciation
presented to 
Joshua Allenberg

In recognition of an important contribution to the ongoing fight against hatred and intolerance in America. The name shown above will be added to the Wall of Tolerance in Montgomery, Alabama, to provide inspiration to all of those who choose to take a stand against hatred.

Thank you for taking a stand.

Morris Dees, Founder
Southern Poverty Law Center

Does anybody know where this came from? 

The answer was swift in coming when several other posters figured out that the SPLC got Mr. Allenberg’s name from a mailing list purchased from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Mr. Allenberg’s certificate was signed by SPLC founder Morris Dees and author Toni Morrison. Earlier iterations of the document were co-signed by Rosa Parks.

The certificates are accompanied by several sheets of return address stickers bearing the honoree’s name and address, one of the oldest fundraising gimmicks in the book, but still quite effective among that segment of the population that still sends a lot of snail mail, i.e., the elderly.

Directly below Mr. Allenberg’s web post was a piece by SOFII, the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration, an organization that rates and reviews fundraising pitches. Here are a few of the more telling comments about the Wall of Tolerance campaign:

SOFII’s view

The Southern Poverty Law Center, who launched this campaign, is a hugely impressive organisation with a long and well-deserved reputation for effective donor development.

Though we don’t have the results, we think we can presume that this direct mail capital appeal must have worked really very well.

Merits

This is one of the most moving and long-lasting donor involvement campaigns in the USA and represents some of the best that the direct marketer’s art can produce.

“Some of the best that the direct marketer’s art can produce.” And why not, the man behind this PR campaign is none other than Morris Dees, who made millions in the direct mail-order business in the 1960s before opening the SPLC.

In 1998, Dees was inducted into the Direct Marketing Association’s “Hall of Fame,” not for his civil rights work, but rather for his prowess in direct mail fundraising. Mr. Dees is an undisputed master of the sales pitch.

We have to admit that it’s impressive to see and definitely as fine an example of a master-level fundraising tool as we’ve ever seen, as this short Youtube video demonstrates. You gotta admire the craftsmanship:

 

 

While the video notes how people can add their names directly to the wall from SPLC’s civil rights theme park, no mention is made of whether one’s contact information is a prerequisite for the honor, but if SPLC history is any guide, you can make book on it.

Another direct mail fundraising industry web site, DonorPowerBlog.com had this to say about the Wall of Tolerance “donor acquisition kit”:

“Can you overdo recognition of a donor? I don’t think so. There’s a donor acquisition kit out there that tries.”

One final example of just how cynical this marketing ploy is was demonstrated by one other web posting in our search results. Marcus Epstein posted on the VDARE website that he too had been honored by the SPLC for his “important contribution in the ongoing fight against hatred and intolerance in America”

Not only does the SPLC consider the VDARE website so heinous that it deserves its own page on the company’s website, but Mr. Epstein himself, that great benefactor and paragon in the “ongoing fight against hatred” was found worthy of an entire article by the SPLC’s own Heidi Beirich, for allegedly being an arch-racist, and yet he is eminently qualified to be enshrined for all time on the company’s Wall of Tolerance.

Apparently anyone with a postal address can receive a “Wall of Tolerance” certificate and get their name on the electronic billboard in the hope that they will make that crucial first donation.

So much for pledging to support the “ideals for which the Civil Rights martyrs died.”

What an exclusive honor.

Where is the “Center for the Study of Hate” on the San Bernardino Massacre?

December 8, 2015

One of the first posts Watching the Watchdogs made back in 2009 dealt with Prof. Brian Levin’s one-man “Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism” at California State University at San Bernardino.

We described how the “center’s” phone number went to a different department, how the “center’s” website hadn’t been updated since the 2001 World Trade Center attacks and how the “center’s” email address was Brian Levin’s own free AOL email account. We could find not one single academic article produced by the “center” that was not authored by “B. Levin.”

In short, there was no one at the “center” for the Director to direct. It was a classic case of a “letterhead” center that existed only on paper.

We even contacted the California State University at San Bernardino to ascertain how much funding the “center” received from the state and learned that it was merely in the hundreds of dollars. This was not “funding” but merely petty cash reimbursement.

As we stated in 2009, these facts in no way diminish Prof. Levin’s credentials as a researcher. His work on the plight of the homeless in the San Bernardino area is peerless, the man does not need a paper “center” to bolster his bona fides. Prof. Levin has the goods.

And yet, despite the recent horrific attacks in the man’s own back yard, there is absolutely NOTHING about this massacre on the “Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism” website.

Brian Levin mouths the usual platitudes in the local press, but as usual, the “center’s” website reflects nothing, even of a horrific “hate” event in its own back yard.

It should be duly noted, as we said in 2009, Prof. Levin, unlike his dubious mentors at the Southern Poverty Law Center, has in NO WAY attempted to make money from his paper “center.” The views expressed are solely those of Brian Levin.

Prof. Levin, Watching the Watchdogs has pleaded with you for years, give up this sham, this spurious “center” and address these very real threats on your own as a man. Tear up this paper “center” and speak up for yourself. You do not need this dubious crutch to bolster your sincere claims.

 

SPLC — Confederate Commodification

September 12, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Click Image to Enlarge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

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

Stay tuned, y’all…

Anti-Defamation League Outs SPLC “Hate Map”

April 2, 2015

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

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

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

Enter Mark Pitcavage of the ADL:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

Aryan Strikeforce: 18 out of 19 chapters are homeless.

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

Aryan Terror Brigade: 15 out of 16 gone missing.

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

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

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

Aryan Nations Ohio: 9 out of 11 are AWOL.

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

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

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

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

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

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

SPLC — Feel the Love

January 22, 2015

Yesterday, the Southern Poverty Law Center re-posted a news item on its “Hatewatch” blog.

Man Described as ‘Doomsday Prepper’ Dies in Fiery Standoff with Police,” reads the lurid headline.

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

The article describes a recent event where an apparently mentally unstable man allegedly went on a shooting spree from inside his mobile home after his girlfriend moved out on him earlier in the day.

Ted Lancer allegedly began shooting indiscriminately around 10:30 PM, police were called, and Lancer allegedly set his mobile home on fire and shot himself 45 minutes later.

A tragedy? Yes. A terrifying event for the neighborhood? Indisputably. A life-and-death situation for the police and other First Responders? Without a doubt.

A “hate incident” worthy of a place on the “Hatewatch” blog? Think about it.

There are no reports that Mr. Lancer made any racist remarks or threats against any groups, or that he was a Nazi, Skinhead or Klansman. His neighbors all appear to be white working class people in the news footage.

All we have is one neighbor claiming he was “a doomsday prepper,” which, if it is even true, is not a crime and certainly not a “hate crime.”

Another neighbor swears he heard “3,000 rounds of ammunition” cooking off in the subsequent fire. Shouldn’t law enforcement have an opportunity to examine the scene and present statements based on actual evidence?

“It’s not clear if the gunman, who was firing at his neighbors’ homes, actually fired at officers who responded, Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Dawson told Hatewatch.”

Despite author Bill Morlin’s hyperbolic claims of a “fiery siege,” it doesn’t look like the police even fired their weapons during the 45-minute standoff. They simply had to keep their heads down like everyone else until the fire consumed the last of the ammunition.

So where’s the “hate”?

We asked Mr. Morlin this question in the Comments section of his article, but apparently our post was found lacking by the moderators.

What’s really mind-blowing are the comments posted by the SPLC’s “anti-hate” preaching followers.

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

At least one SPLC follower had the humanity to lament the loss of the man’s dog.

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

According to the SPLC’s infamous “Hate Map” fundraising tool:

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

It seems pretty obvious to us that smarmy comments about “home-schooled” “chrischuns” are specifically designed malign entire classes of people, yet the moderators on the “Hatewatch” blog had no problem at all accepting this blatantly hate-filled vitriol.

Remember, every single comment on the blog is approved by the SPLC.

A sad, sick man is dead and, as usual, the fundraisers at the Southern Poverty Law Center want to peddle it to their “Progressive” donor base.

Vaya con dinero, SPLC. Whatever turns a dollar.


%d bloggers like this: