Posts Tagged ‘public relations’

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

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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.

SPLC — Hate Map 2016 — Incredible… Literally

March 16, 2016

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

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

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

     

  4. The SPLC makes no linkage between “hate groups” and hate crime. Mark Potok, the company’s Public Relations guru has gone on the record repeatedly to say that “Our criteria for a “hate group,” first of all, have nothing to do with criminality, or violence, or any kind of guess we’re making about ‘this group could be dangerous.’ It’s strictly ideological.

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

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

Hate Groups 2015

Source: SPLC

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

Endowment 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Mr. Potok doesn’t deny it. He doesn’t have to. When Watching the Watchdogs had the opportunity in 2011 to ask Mr. Potok directly about the accuracy of his “hate group” numbers, on camera, the he was amazingly candid in admitting that his figures were “anecdotal,” “an imperfect process” and “a very rough estimate.”

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

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

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

AC Skins

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

Free America

Sixteen desperate “hate groups” magically disappeared overnight.

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

CCC

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

2016 Strikeforce

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

2016 Terror

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

NSM1

NSM2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original

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

United

And the Texas Knights picked up 21 new chapters.

Texas

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

Both

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

BloodAndHonour

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

BandHSocial

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

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

BlackSeparatist

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

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

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

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

SPLC — Confederate Commodification

September 12, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned, y’all…

SPLC — Out of the “Civil Rights” Business?

June 30, 2015

With all of the attention the Southern Poverty Law Center has been getting in the press lately over the simple JONAH fraud suit in New Jersey, we couldn’t help but notice that the term “civil rights organization” had mysteriously dropped from the SPLC’s press releases.

After consulting with the Internet Archives’ marvelous Wayback Machine, we discovered that the SPLC has dropped the term “non-profit civil rights organization” from its Who We Are webpage, sometime around March of 2014.
.

December 29, 2013, now you see it:

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March 11, 2014, now you don’t:

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Seems rather odd, one would think, but the SPLC actually got out of the civil rights business in 1981, when its founder, Morris Dees, discovered there was far more money to be made hawking “hate groups” than taking on Death Row cases.

All of this was presaged by the SPLC’s $155,000-donor-dollar-a-year PR guru, Mark Potok, who glibly explained to a group of visiting high school teachers and students in 2008:

“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.”

Why would they even consider changing their multimillion-dollar brand name? Because they had dumped the “civil rights law” aspect decades before.

And with more than $302 MILLION dollars in cash on hand, the term “non-profit” seems a little silly.

The SPLC may have stopped claiming it is a civil rights organization, but it has yet to correct anyone in the media who mistakenly identifies them as such.

Looks like it’s up to all of us.

SPLC — Anatomy of a Marketing Ploy

January 26, 2014

As mentioned in an previous post, the master fundraisers at the Southern Poverty Law Center have targeted the LGBT community in their latest marketing scheme. A little digging, very little digging, reveals just how flimsy this campaign really is from the get-go.

Visit the SPLC’s homepage and click on the “LGBT Rights” link on the left.

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The LGBT Rights page makes the following claim: “Our work on LGBT issues spans decades.” Really?

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If the SPLC has been fighting the good fight for the LGBT community “for decades,” why did they not even have an LGBT Rights page until 2011? Certainly there must be dozens of important LGBT cases to which the SPLC can point with pride.

Fortunately, the SPLC keeps a meticulous list of all of their court cases which one can access easily from their home page.

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They even provide a handy drop-down menu that sorts the cases by type.

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Sorting by LGBT Rights returns a total of 8 cases, which seems rather skimpy for a civil rights law firm that has been in business for nearly 43 years. Scrolling down to the oldest case, Hoffburg v. Alexander, we do indeed find that this case goes all the way back to 1980. Hoffburg, it turns out, wasn’t even the SPLC’s own case. It was an appeal filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Glancing up, however, we find that the next time the SPLC went to bat for the LGBT community was in 2011!

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Apparently, there were no cases of anti-LGBT civil rights violations worthy of the great institution’s note for 31 years!

In this case, the SPLC threatened to sue a high school if it didn’t allow two female students to march in a pep rally as the school’s Snow King and Queen. Fighting the good fight doesn’t come much harder than that.

Scrolling up the list, we find that it was only a few months after the pep rally case that the SPLC threatened to sue the same school district.

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The SPLC claims it was contesting a “gag policy” that prevented teachers from discussing LGBT issues in the classroom. The actual policy read that teachers could discuss LGBT issues at an age appropriate level, if the subject was germane to the class work and remained entirely neutral on the subject, neither endorsing or denigrating it.

Neutrality wasn’t good enough for the civil rights center, and so, having as much spare cash on hand as any other public school system facing a multimillion dollar law firm, Anoka-Hennepin simply gave in. Another hard fought legal battle that never went to court.

Higher up the list, we find Hill v. Public Advocate, the simple copyright infringement case of a New Jersey gay couple whose engagement photo was used in a Colorado political flier without their permission, or that of their photographer, who holds the copyright. None of the plaintiffs are indigent, the case is being handled by one of the premier intellectual property law firms in the business and the term “civil rights” never appears once in the complaint.

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Soon after Hill, the SPLC jumped on another non-civil rights case, Ferguson v. JONAH. In this case, a group of gay Jewish men in New York City are suing an organization that promised to “cure” their homosexuality.

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This is a classic fraud suit, no different than thousands of similar suits filed every day, and the case is being brought forward by one of the best fraud law firms in NYC, none of the plaintiffs are poor and, once again, the term “civil rights” never appears once in the actual complaint.

If there are no civil rights issues in these otherwise cut-and-dried civil suits that are being handled by some of the best lawyers in the business, what exactly does the SPLC bring to the table?

In a word: Publicity.

In return for this free publicity, the SPLC’s master Public Relations Guru, Mark Potok, can claim that his outfit is out there fighting for gay rights.

The most recent case, as of this writing and described in a previous post, is a perfect example of Mr. Potok’s cynical marketing ploy.

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In this case, Mr. Potok and Co. are suing a poor, mostly Black junior high school where a 16-year old 8th grader named Destin Holmes claims she was verbally and mentally abused because she is a self-described lesbian.

Let’s be crystal clear here, nobody, in any of these cases, deserves to be subjected to any form of discrimination by anyone at any time or any place. Those of us who have been through junior high are still all too well aware of the juvenile stupidity that goes on in those institutions, by both the students and the staff, and that in no way explains or justifies it.

Obviously, this is a bad situation that demands immediate investigation, but is bringing a federal law suit against one of the poorest performing schools in one of the poorest performing states the best way to fix the system?

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Or is it little more than another classic Potok-ian publicity stunt?

Ironically, the complaint against Magnolia Junior High makes no mention of the fact that, while 78% of the student body is non-white, and both the principal and assistant principal, who have been named as defendants, are African American, Ms. Holmes is white.

Can anyone imagine the SPLC overlooking those facts if the races were reversed?

Again, no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, but when you look the SPLC’s paltry LGBT cases, almost all of which only date back to 2011, how much bang are the donors getting for their donor bucks?

There was one major anti-gay organization that appeared to have flown below the SPLC’s radar for over a decade. In 2000, the Boy Scouts of America went to the U.S. Supreme court to protect their right to actively discriminate against gay Scouts and Scout Leaders (Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale), something it had done since its inception in 1910.

In 2002, the BSA issued a press release reaffirming its belief that “an avowed homosexual” lacked the “moral character” to be a Scout or Leader.

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The Southern Poverty Law center completely ignored this blatant anti-gay discrimination for over a decade. You will find no mention of the BSA’s discrimination on the SPLC’s web site until 2012, and, even then, that has to be possibly the most tepid response to a genuine “hate-group” in the SPLC’s entire history.

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SPLC co-founder Joe Levin was wheeled out of retirement to announce that “Twelve years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center stopped participating in the Montgomery, Ala., United Way Campaign because the organization chose to fund the Boy Scouts of America.”

That was it? One of the “largest youth-serving organizations in America,” whose primary mission is to build the characters and mold the minds of millions of American boys, actively discriminates against gay men and boys for a century, and the best the SPLC, that bastion of LGBT rights, can come up with is to stop donating to the United Way and say absolutely nothing about it for twelve years??

But wait… it gets even better… Joe Levin continues:

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“DOESN’T INTEND TO ENCOURAGE BIGOTRY”??? Mr. Levin, the BSA took its case to the Supreme Court of the United States precisely to preserve its perceived right to discriminate. It doesn’t get any more intentional than the US Supreme Court!

Notice the softball language Mr. Levin uses when dancing around the hard facts: “Embraces anti-LGBT prejudice” and “Doesn’t intend to encourage bigotry.” Where is the SPLC’s patented “Hate Group” brand? The term never even appears in Mr. Levin’s pathetic apologia. Where was the SPLC’s multimillion dollar public relations machine for all those years? Can you imagine the pressure that could have been brought to bear against the BSA’s blatant discrimination?

[Update: On May 15, 2014, Joe Levin explained to MSNBC why the SPLC still doesn’t designate the Boy Scouts as a “hate group”:

“We don’t list the Boy Scouts (as a hate group,)” said Levin. “We only do that if we have a group that’s propagating known falsehoods associated with a particular person or group – in this case, the LGBT community. The Boy Scouts haven’t really done that.”

Of course not, Joe. Apparently, the BSA simply smeared all gays as immoral by accident.]

As it turns out, the BSA did reverse itself on its gay Scout policy effective Jan. 1, 2014. That decision was made based entirely on the protracted negative publicity campaign carried on by dozens of real LGBT support groups and major media outlets. The BSA’s Supreme Court decision still stands, but they finally gave in when public opinion turned on them and said that enough was enough. It was a movement in which the Southern Poverty Law Center’s role was precisely and exactly nothing.

And yet the SPLC has been fighting for LGBT rights “for decades,” right?

Well, not so much. Thanks to the magic of the Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine,” anyone can wander back in time to view millions of websites as they appeared in the past, going back to the year 2000. It can be slow, and sometimes cantankerous, but it’s always free and a little patience can pay off big dividends.

In 2009, the SPLC issued a downloadable version of its latest “Hate Map” fundraising tool (Note: the “Hate Map” always reflects the previous calendar year):

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A closer look at the icon key reveals an astonishing fact. There were no anti-LGBT “hate groups” as late as 2009. Not one.

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In fact, the first anti-LGBT “hate groups” do not appear on Mr. Potok’s all-encompassing “Hate Map” until 2011, forty years after the SPLC opened for business.

Furthermore, while the Hoffburg case appears chronologically on the latest version of the SPLC’s case docket list, right between Brown and Wilkins

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Thanks to the Wayback Machine, we find Ms. Hoffburg’s case, the case that allows the SPLC to crow that its “work on LGBT issues spans decades” is conspicuously absent from the 2010 case docket!

2010 Case Docket

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Hoffburg never made the case docket list in more than 40 years because the SPLC didn’t even consider it worthwhile.

Once the white millionaires who run the SPLC decided to target the LGBT community though, Mr. Potok had to come up with something to show that they had not totally ignored the issue since opening shop in 1971. Hoffburg wasn’t much, but no one in the media will follow the simple steps outlined in this post, so no one would ever know the difference.

Well-meaning donors sent Mr. Potok more than $40 million donor dollars in 2012 because they believe him when he cries “hate group” and they believe him when he says how dedicated the SPLC has been to fighting anti-LGBT discrimination “for decades.” As usual, some simple, primary fact-checking of the SPLC’s own documents proves, once again, that Mr. Potok’s claims are meaningless.

Yet again, nobody should suffer discrimination due to their orientation, and any effort is better than none, but suing poor public school districts over pep rallies and yearbook pictures is pretty low-hanging fruit for an alleged “civil rights” law firm with nearly a quarter-billion dollars in cash on hand.

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If you want to contribute to a non-profit that has truly been in the fight against LGBT discrimination you need only do a little homework and ignore Mark Potok’s latest fundraising ploy.

SPLC — 2013 — “The New Hate Map is Here!”

March 13, 2013

Watching the Watchdogs readers of a certain age may remember actor Steve Martin’s 1979 debut film, The Jerk. In one memorable scene, Martin’s character, the naive country boy, Navin Johnson, is ecstatic to find his name listed in the local telephone directory.

“The new phone book is here! The new phone book is here!!” shouts Navin, as he wildly leaps and prances about. Navin’s boss, played by deadpan comic Jackie Mason, observes, “I wish I could get that excited about nothin’.”

Navin counters breathlessly, “I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this thing every day! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity… your name in print… that makes people!!”

The parallels between this classic comedy bit and the latest iteration of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual “Hate Map” are manifold: Spontaneous publicity. Your name in print. Millions of naive people looking at this thing and getting excited about nothin’.

For the benefit of new Watching the Watchdogs readers, let’s take a moment to recap the key facts about the Hate Map that need to be understood before delving into what is, to borrow a phrase from another classic comedy, ” … a show about nothing.”

1. The Hate Map is compiled each year by the SPLC’s master Public Relations chief, Mark Potok, and purports to identify the number of “hate groups” across America on a state-by-state basis. Mr. Potok’s maps always refer to the previous calendar year.

2. There is no legal definition for “hate group,” which is why even the FBI does not, cannot, designate “hate groups,” yet somehow a private fundraising outfit can?

Mr. Potok has no legal or law enforcement background and admits that all of his data are second hand, at best, and that his infamous Hate Map “does not include original reporting by SPLC staff.” The SPLC is a private fundraising group run by white millionaires. It has no mandate, receives no outside oversight and has no authority, legal or moral, to designate anything.

In short, the SPLC has no more authority to designate “hate groups” than does the SPCA.

3. Mr. Potok provides absolutely NO evidence to prove that the groups he is designating actually exist. In many cases, Mr. Potok cannot even provide the name of a city or town where the alleged group is supposed to reside. Investigative journalist Laird Wilcox pointed out this lack of hard evidence as far back as 1998, in his seminal exposé of the SPLC and other so-called “civil rights” groups, The Watchdogs.

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.

They also listed many groups whose actual affiliation is neither KKK nor neo-Nazi and who would argue with the designation of “white supremacy.” In short, they misleadingly padded their list. When the SPLC releases their list, either in print or on the Internet, it fails to contain actual addresses that might be checked by journalists or researchers. Several listings refer to “unknown group” and the name of a city or town. — The Watchdogs, p. 79

Mark Potok admitted as much a decade later:

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

4. As noted, in many cases, Mr. Potok does not even bother to provide a physical location for his alleged groups. Last year, 247 of his 1,017 alleged “hate groups” were homeless, or about one in four. This year, 195 of his 1,007 alleged groups are phantoms, or about one in five.

In 2011, Watching the Watchdogs actually got to ask Mr. Potok in person about these missing groups. As the video clip below shows, Mr. Potok was startled by the question at first, as no one apparently has ever bothered to vet his numbers before, and he then proceeds to stammer out that his “hate map,” the keystone of all SPLC claims and fundraising rhetoric, is “anecdotal,” “a very rough measure” and “an imperfect process.”

Sadly, the tens of thousands of well-meaning people who sent Mr. Potok and the SPLC more than $40 MILLION tax-free dollars in 2012, (that’s more than $4,600 dollars every single hour of every day) didn’t realize that his Hate Map numbers were just a wild guess. Those trusting folks took Mr. Potok at his word that his data were sound.

So now that we’ve established Mr. Potok’s credentials and the accuracy of his data, let’s take a closer look at his actual numbers, which again, is something no professional news outlet seems willing to do.

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In Point 4 above, we skimmed quickly over a monumental and wholly unprecedented event: For the first time in SPLC history… the number of “hate groups” designated by Mark Potok… actually DECLINED!

Yes. You heard it here first, folks. Something we never thought we’d see has come to pass and gives a very strong indication that the days of Mr. Potok’s primary fundraising tool, his much-lauded and oft-quoted Hate Map, are numbered.

This turn of events comes as a complete surprise, as Mr. Potok is the sole arbiter of the “hate group” label, and since no one ever checks on his numbers, why didn’t he just pad the numbers a little more as he has always done in the past?

Every March, Mr. Potok releases his new “hate group” numbers in the Spring edition of his flagship “Intelligence Report” publication. Mr. Potok ignored the fact that his numbers actually went down for the first time in history, “…the number of hate groups remained essentially unchanged last year…,” choosing to focus on his newest marketing ploy, evil “militia” groups. We’ll have a look at those numbers in a minute.

Potok provides a bar graph to illustrate his claim that the number of “hate groups” has increased by 67% since 2000:

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It’s worth noting at this point that the SPLC’s bloated “Endowment Fund” has increased by 147% in just the past decade, from $99,000,000 to over $245,000,000.

Comparing the two charts, a case could be made linking the increase of cash in the Endowment Fund to the increase in “hate groups.”

Or maybe it’s the other way around…

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Purely a happy coincidence, no doubt, but it must be getting tougher to sell “poverty” to the donors when you’ve got nearly a quarter-BILLION dollars in cash reserves. Last year, the Endowment Fund generated more than $18 MILLION dollars in tax-free interest.

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In November, 2008, immediately after the election of President Obama, Mr. Potok predicted “explosive growth in hate groups” due to “… the tanking economy and a Black man in the White House. Mr. Potok is still singing this same tune in 2013, but now he says it’s the evil militias that are upset:

“Capping four years of explosive growth sparked by the election of America’s first black president and anger over the economy, the number of conspiracy-minded antigovernment “Patriot” groups reached an all-time high of 1,360 in 2012…”

According to Mr. Potok’s own bar graph above though, we see that for 2009, the first year of the Obama Administration and the worst year of the current recession, the number of “hate groups” only rose by 6, or 0.6%. Until this year, that half a percent “explosion” was the smallest increase in SPLC history.

Mr. Potok added 70 new “hate groups” in 2010, as if to make up for his anemic performance the previous year, but at the same time, the number of homeless “hate groups,” those Mr. Potok can’t seem to locate on any map, including his own, jumped by 99, which really represents a net loss.

Mr. Potok was losing his “hate groups” faster than he could designate them.

In 2011, Mr. Potok’s list grew by only 12 new groups, for an increase of just over 1%. That year he added 20 chapters of something he called “The Georgia Militia” to that state’s Hate Map, but he couldn’t seem to locate 18 of them, so he simply added 18 empty slots marked “Georgia Militia” to pad out his numbers. No one in the Media ever called him on it.

In 2012, the number of “hate groups” actually dropped by 1%

Mr. Potok’s “explosive growth” has turned out to be a damp squib…

As for the Georgia Militia, Mr. Potok has revised his figures down to 14 chapters, one of which allegedly resides somewhere in Camden County, one is simply labeled “statewide” and the other 12 are nowhere to be found. Must be all that camouflage gear those good ol’ boys like to wear:

GA Militia 2012

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In all, 17 of the 53 “hate groups” Mr. Potok has assigned to Georgia are invisible. That’s one in three. No doubt the rest of Mr. Potok’s “militia” numbers are at least as accurate.

While we’ve already packed a lot of information into this one post, let’s crunch Mr. Potok’s numbers just a little more to see what his figures actually say.

Once again, when you strip out all of Mr. Potok’s homeless “hate groups” you arrive at the surprising conclusion that, according to Potok’s carefully researched data, the largest segment of “hate groups” are Black, outnumbering the KKK, Neo-Nazis, Racist Skinhead and White Nationalist groups respectively.

Black Groups 2012

Who knew? Mark Potok knows.

The Southern Poverty Law Center made its fortune by going after “hate groups” in the South, and Mr. Potok is always nattering about evil white Christians, who tend to live in the South, but according to his latest numbers there was a distinct drop in the number of these alleged groups last year:

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Mr. Potok also issues regular alarums about how the Northwest is a magnet for “radical white nationalists” but, once again, his numbers have dropped:

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Ironically, (we use that term a lot when dealing with Mr. Potok’s fundraising rhetoric), the traditionally more liberal Northeast actually showed a 6.25% increase in “hate groups” last year.

Northeast

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And finally, Mr. Potok has always claimed that the Republican Party is the root of all evil and represents the black heart of all hate-groupdom, but when you look at which states voted Republican in the 2012 Presidential election there are actually 12% more “hate groups” located in the Blue States even though the number of states in either camp was roughly even:

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So what are we to make of these capricious numbers at the end of the day? The short answer is: Not much. Mark Potok’s “hate group” numbers are a marketing ploy and an extremely lucrative brand name. Even Mr. Potok concedes on the legend of his hate map fundraising tool that these groups are doing nothing illegal:

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

No crime. No violence. Just “wrong thoughts.”

Admittedly, some of these groups do engage in what most people would consider inflammatory rhetoric, but as long as they’re not breaking any laws… they’re not breaking any laws and neither Mr. Potok nor any other “civil rights” vigilante groups have a right to silence anyone.

Mr. Potok uses his “hate group” smear because it allows him to incite his donor base, who were cultivated specifically for their political views, without having to accuse those groups of any actual crimes. His disclaimer may read “Listing here does not imply…” but that is precisely what it does and that’s why the donors sent Mr. Potok more than $110,000 tax-free donor-dollars each and every day last year.

And that, friends, is why Mr. Potok, who has no legal or law enforcement background, is compensated by this law firm to the tune of $150,000 a year. As Navin Johnson observed so many years ago, Mr. Potok’s “Hate Map” is the kind of spontaneous publicity that makes people.

SPLC- “Modern Americans” have abandoned Christianity??

February 3, 2013

When you have read the fundraising rhetoric of the Southern Poverty Law Center for as long as we have at Watching the Watchdogs it is quite understandable how one’s eyes can glaze over from page after page of imminent non-threats and ad nauseum guilt-by-association associations, but every once in a while you come across something that can still make your eyes pop.

Under the “Neo-Confederate” section of SPLC Public Relations chief Mark Potok’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool we find this astounding statement:

“…[N]eo-Confederacy claims to pursue Christianity and heritage and other supposedly fundamental values that modern Americans are seen to have abandoned.”

Did you catch that? Modern Americans have abandoned the supposedly fundamental values of Christianity. How ’bout that?

Granted, Mr. Potok earns his six-digit salary by tailoring his fundraising rhetoric to his audience, and many of his donors were never big adherents to the tenets of Christianity to begin with, but Mr. Potok’s company still takes in tens of millions of dollars every year from well-meaning and very devout Christian donors.

Will Mr. Potok begin cutting refund checks to those poor, misguided souls anytime soon? Don’t wait up.

Arguably one of Mr. Potok’s weakest “hate group” claims, the miniscule “Neo-Confederate” movement, (a term coined by PR man Potok), represents no threat whatsoever to anyone, but came in extremely handy a few years ago when Mr. Potok was desperately scrounging around for new “hate groups” to add to his Hate Map. In one stroke, the Maestro was able to add 25 chapters of “The League of the South” to the map so that the number of Potokian designated “hate groups” would go up once again.

If only the Confederacy would rise as predictably as Mr. Potok’s “hate group” numbers he might actually have a point. In the meantime, don’t expect much in the way of secessionist movements to catch on with the public. Bobby Lee and ol’ Jeb Stuart ain’t a-comin’ back anytime soon.

That the “Neo-Confederate” movement is microscopic and poses no threat to the Republic or even the Public is of no significance to Mr. Potok, however. As Potok has stated on numerous occasions: “A ‘hate group’ has nothing to do with criminality or violence or even the potential for violence. It’s all about ideology.” And ideology is Mr. Potok’s meat and potatoes.

Observe how, in one sentence, Potok presents an insignificant ideology as some sort of existential threat, links it to conservatives and the Republican Party, and then links Republicans with “white nationalists” and “other radical extremists.”

Overall, it [“Neo-Confederate” doctrine] is a reactionary conservative ideology that has made inroads into the Republican Party from the political right, and overlaps with the views of white nationalists and other more radical extremist groups.

As a long-time student of Communications, persuasion and public relations techniques, this writer tips his hat to a true master of the art. This one sentence is glorious in its simplicity, its clean, uncluttered language. “Has made inroads…” and “overlaps with the views…” Exquisitely implied associations without having to produce a single shred of verifiable evidence. Was ever there a sonnet or haiku poem so meticulously crafted out of so very little?

I’m tempted to write Mr. Potok a check, myself. Bravo, Maestro! Bravo!

The SPLC and the “Protocols of Ritual Defamation”

January 22, 2013

Below is an instructive treatise on the ways in which special interest groups, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and other so-called “civil rights” groups, control the conversation by denigrating and dehumanizing the “other.”

The SPLC uses terms like “radical Right,” “nativist,” “traditionalist,” the nonsensical “neo-Confederate” and its all-time money maker, “hate group,” (which got an innocent man shot in D.C. in 2012),  to fire up the donors without accusing the target groups of any actual wrongdoing.

Even the disclaimer on the legend on the SPLC’s “Hate Map” fundraising tool concedes the fact that: “Listing here does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.” What gets one on the “Hate Map” is not breaking laws, but rather, having wrong thoughts.

The SPLC certainly did not invent defamation and dehumanization. American military history is full of examples of the careful dehumanization of the enemy in order to make him easier to attack. “Towel-heads,” “Camel Jockeys,” “Gooks,” “Japs,” “Nips,” “Krauts,” and “Huns” have all entered the American lexicon over the past century. The SPLC has merely moved the technique from the battlefield to the “non-profit” bank vault.

The following brief essay, by Laird Wilcox, explains the propaganda techniques as neatly and succinctly as any we’ve seen and can be found online at http://www.overalltech.net/pub/Quotations-Propaganda.pdf   (See pages 118 – 121)

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The Protocols of Ritual Defamation: How values, opinions and beliefs are controlled in democratic societies.

By Laird Wilcox, 2002

“The critical element in political maneuver for advantage is the creation of meaning: the construction of  beliefs about the significance of events, of problems, of crisis, of policy changes, and of leaders. The strategic need is to immobilize opposition and mobilize support. While coercion and intimidation help to check resistance in all political systems, the key tactic must always be the evocation of meanings that legitimize favored courses of action…” MURRAY EDELMAN, “Political Language and Political Reality,” PS, Winter 1985.

“At the extreme, the process of stereotyping eventuates in dehumanization: the enemy is judged to be so inhumanly evil or contemptible that anything may be done to “it” without subjectively compromising one’s own humanity and sense of loyalty.” AUSTIN TURK, Political Criminality, 1982.

“Freedom of the mind requires not only, or not even especially, the absence of legal constraints but the presence of alternative thoughts. The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities.” ALAN BLOOM, The Closing of the American Mind, 1987.

Definitions: The term “protocol” refers to a set of rules or established method. The term “ritual” refers to a predictable, stereotyped pattern that embraces number of elements, as in a ritual.

The term “defamation” refers to the destruction or attempted destruction of the reputation, status, or standing in the community of a person or group of like-minded persons by deliberately unfair, false, misleading or hateful communication.

Defamation might be confused with mere criticism, opposition or expression of opinion, which is necessary for a free society. The essence of a democratic system depends on a large degree of freedom of expression and of give and take in the marketplace of ideas. It is only through the vigorous exploration of alternative explanations and sorting of conflicting facts and competing ideas that wise and reasonably just decisions can take place.

Hypersensitive individuals or groups often claim to have been unfairly defamed when they have merely been criticized or challenged with results unsatisfactory to themselves.

It is important to differentiate between deliberate ritual defamation on the one hand, and mere criticism and disagreement on the other.

For the purposes of this brief essay, the central element is defamation and the necessarily accompanying stigmatization in retaliation for the real or imagined attitudes, opinions or beliefs of the subject, with the intention of silencing or neutralizing his or her influence, and/or making an example of them so as to discourage similar independence and “insensitivity” or non-observance of taboos on the part of others.

Ritual defamation differs in nature and degree from simple criticism or disagreement in that it is aggressive, organized, premeditated and skillfully applied with the idea of neutralizing or eliminating an opponent rather than simply refuting or proving him incorrect. Ritual defamation is often performed by an organization or representative of a special interest group.

The elements of a Ritual Defamation are these:

1. In a ritual defamation the subject (hereinafter referred to as the “offender”) must have violated a particular taboo in some way, usually by expressing or identifying with a forbidden attitude, opinion or belief. It is not necessary that he “do” anything about it or undertake any particular course of action, only that they engage in some form of communication or expression. In some cases even that is not necessary, only that they are associated with or “linked” to a taboo idea or behavior in some way. It is largely directed against presumed attitudes, opinions or beliefs.

2. The primary method of attack in a ritual defamation is to assail the character of the offender, and never to offer more than a perfunctory challenge to the particular attitudes, opinions or beliefs expressed or implied. Any kind of debate with the offender is absolutely forbidden. The primary tool of ritual defamation is stigmatization through character assassination.

3. An important rule in ritual defamation is to avoid engaging in any kind of debate over the truthfulness or reasonableness of what has been expressed, only to condemn it. To debate the issue opens the issue up for examination and discussion of its merits and to consider the evidence or arguments that may support the forbidden views, which is just what the ritual defamer is trying to avoid. The primary goal of a ritual defamation is censorship and repression and marginalization of the offender.

4. The offender is often somebody in the public eye – someone who is vulnerable to public opinion – although perhaps in a very modest way. It could be a businessman, schoolteacher, public official, newspaper writer, scholar, or merely an outspoken citizen. Visibility enhances vulnerability to ritual defamation.

5. An attempt, often successful, is made to involve others in the ritual defamation. In the case of a public official, other public officials will be urged to denounce the offender. In the case of a student, other students will be called upon to reject and ostracize them, in the case of a teacher, other teachers will be recruited, and so on.

6. In order for a ritual defamation to be effective, the offender must be dehumanized to the extent that he becomes thoroughly identified with the offending attitude, opinion or belief, and in a manner which distorts it to the point where it appears at its most extreme. For example, a victim who is defamed as a “subversive” will be identified with the worst images of subversion, such as espionage, terrorism and treason. An offender defamed as a “pervert” will be identified with the worst images of perversion, including child molestation and rape. An offender defamed as a “racist” or “anti-Semite” will be identified with the worst images of racism or hatred of Jews, such as lynchings or gas chambers.

7. To be maximally successful, a ritual defamation must bring pressure and humiliation on the offender from every quarter, including family and friends. If the offender has schoolchildren, they may be taunted and ridiculed as a consequence of adverse publicity. If the offender is employed they may be ostracized or fired from their job. If the offender belongs to clubs or associations, other members maybe urged to expel them.

8. Ritual defamation is highly symbolic and emotional and is designed to largely bypass rational cognitive processes. In its modern form it is a relatively sophisticated method of focusing hatred through skillful (albeit unprincipled) manipulation of symbols, prejudices and ideas.

9. Any explanation the offender may offer, including the claim of being wronged or misunderstood, is considered irrelevant.
To claim truth as a defense for a politically incorrect value, opinion or belief is interpreted as defiance and only compounds the problem.

Ritual defamation, it must be emphasized, is not necessarily an issue of being wrong or incorrect about a matter, but rather of “insensitivity” and failing to observe social taboos.

An interesting aspect of ritual defamation as a practice is its universality. It is not specific to any value, opinion or belief or to any group or subculture. It may be used against any political, ethnic, national or religious group. It may, for example, be used by anti-Semites against Jews, or by Jews against anti-Semites; by right-wingers against left-wingers, or vice-versa, and so on.

The power of ritual defamation lies entirely in its capacity to intimidate and terrorize through the use of stigmatization.  It embraces some elements of primitive superstitious behavior, as in placing a “curse” or “hex” upon selected victims. It results in the tainting, labeling or marking of a person as “impure,” somehow less than human and as an outcast. It is a tool often used against rebels and dissenters. In totalitarian societies it is a primary means of control.

A literary example of ritual defamation is Nathaniel Hawthorn’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, where a young woman was forced to wear a large “A” on her clothing to indicate that she had committed adultery. A historical example might be the witch hunts that occurred in colonial America. A more modern example might be the McCarthy period of the 1950’s, where both Communist and non-Communist leftists were charged with disloyalty and subversion, and recent crusades for “political correctness” in American society have produced a large number of victims unfairly linked to ideas or beliefs they do not hold.

Ritual defamation plays into the subconscious fear most people have of being shunned, abandoned or rejected by the tribe or community and its accompanying psychological support systems. For some victims the experience can be terrifying. Only the strongest psyches can survive it undamaged. The weakness of ritual defamation lies in its tendency toward overkill and in its obvious maliciousness.

More analytical or reflective citizens might perceive it as bullying, harassment or mere cruelty. Occasionally a ritual defamation will fail because of poor planning and failure to correctly judge the vulnerability of the offender, or because its unprincipled viciousness generates sympathy for them.

It is important to recognize and identify the patterns of a ritual defamation. Like virtually all propaganda and disinformation campaigns it is accomplished primarily through the manipulation of meaning and the use of words and symbols that characterize, identify and stigmatize. It is not used to persuade an opponent or to promote an opposing viewpoint but to inflict public punishment and humiliation.

Dr. Edward Manner, professor of philosophy at Notre Dame University, observes that “stigmatization is one of the most oppressive, inhumane forms of punishment any group of human beings can inflict on one of its members.” He notes that it is “a form of social control a civilized society will use rarely, and only with the greatest of care.”

Permission to reprint What is Political Extremism? and/or The Protocols of Ritual Defamation in full is granted providing no changes are made.

Laird Wilcox
Email: lwilcox3@aol.com

SPLC — “There’s No Trial Like a Show Trial!”

December 7, 2012

**** UPDATE – 1/4/13 **** Once again, the best source of information on the SPLC’s ham-fisted fundraising tactics is the SPLC’s own website. Under the “Docket” tab on the SPLC’s home page you can find the actual complaint against JONAH, again, something that no Media outlet could bother to do.

According to the 28-page document, the actual lawyers handling the suit are Lite DePalma Greenberg of Newark, NJ, who bill themselves “…as the pre-eminent New Jersey firm for litigation of complex class actions in the areas of securities fraud, antitrust, and consumer fraud.” Sounds like they know what they’re doing.

The SPLC is listed on the complaint as having requested pro hac vice status, which “refers to the application of an out-of-state lawyer to appear in court for a particular trial, even though he/she is not licensed to practice in the state where the trial is being held.”

Now, why exactly would New Jersey’s pre-eminent fraud attorneys require the assistance of an Alabama civil rights law firm, who are not licensed to practice law in the Garden State, especially when you consider that the term “civil rights” does not even appear in the 28-page complaint??

(The same question can be asked of Faegre Baker Daniels, the law firm handling the copyright infringement case filed in Denver on behalf of the New Jersey gay couple. FBD is one of the highest ranked Intellectual Property law firms in the country, and again, the term “civil rights” appears nowhere in the actual legal complaint.)

The short answer, the blindingly obvious answer, is that neither law firm requires the services of the Southern Poverty Law Center of Montgomery, Alabama.  The SPLC brings nothing to these cases except publicity, and since that publicity is a) highly favorable to their clients’ lawsuits, and b) absolutely free, (The SPLC would never accept a dime in legal fees…), any sharp lawyer would take full advantage of the opportunity.

What’s in it for the SPLC? According to the American Bar Association, the application fees for pro hac vice status run to a maximum of $186 dollars a year in New Jersey, and $250 in Colorado. All of the attorneys assigned to the two cases are already on the SPLC payroll, and even if the pro hac vice fees apply to all four of them you’re looking at a cost of just $808 dollars.

Now Google the term SPLC gay lawsuit (the search works even better if you enclose it in parentheses) and see how many hits you get. We came up with 299,000 hits, but since Google tailors its results to specific users your results may vary. Check out who’s carrying the stories: “mainstream” media outlets like ABC, CNN, Twitter, as well as hundreds of local newspapers and television station web sites. Not surprisingly, the stories have been picked up by countless LGBT web sites and even a number of prominent Jewish sites, due to JONAH’s Jewish origins.

You try buying that much publicity for $800 bucks…

If you notice a certain “sameness” in the “reporting,” that’s just because almost every site is simply regurgitating the highly polished press releases issued by the SPLC’s Public Relations chief, Mark Potok. And all of them claim that the SPLC is somehow “fighting hate” by associating itself in these simple civil suits. The LGBT community includes a lot of financially well-off, Progressive-leaning members who are no more or less prone to investigating the SPLC’s claims than anyone else.

In short, they are the perfect demographic for Mr. Potok and his fundraising minions. The SPLC won’t take a dime in legal fees because they’d probably have to pay taxes on that income, but donations are exquisitely tax-free.

Vaya con dinero!

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[Original post] More “mission creep” from “the nation’s leading civil rights organization.” In October, we at WTW noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center was taking on the case of a New Jersey gay couple whose engagement photo had been appropriated by a conservative political group who used the image in campaign ads in Colorado.

The facts in that case are pretty straight-forward: The political group used the photo without the permission of the couple or the photographer, who holds the copyright to the photo.

It’s a copyright infringement case. Nothing more. The plaintiffs are not indigent and there is no shortage of qualified attorneys in New Jersey.

Fast forward to December and the SPLC are back in New Jersey, this time, going after a non-profit group that claims it can “cure” gay Jewish men of being gay. According to SPLC attorney Sam Wolfe, the group Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), deliberately duped a number of gay Jewish men into believing that their homosexuality was a mental aberration that could be “cured” through therapy. Wolfe made his case by stating:

“We found our plaintiffs’ experiences with JONAH to be compelling and even shocking in terms of the types of techniques and misrepresentations the defendants were luring these men into their programs with.”

Wolfe continues:

“People are paying for these services under false pretenses. They are believing and trusting that these counselors know what they are doing, but in fact, they don’t.”

What exactly does “the nation’s leading civil rights organization” propose to do for the plaintiffs in the case? Under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, Wolfe is “…seeking triple monetary damages to cover the cost of “legitimate therapy” and attorneys’ fees.” A case worth thousands of dollars, maybe tens of thousands.

So, were anyone’s civil rights violated here? Not so much. All of the plaintiffs enrolled in the JONAH program of their own free will. In at least two cases, the adult plaintiff’s fees were paid by their mothers, so these were not the isolated victims of some secretive cult. Again, none of the plaintiffs are indigent.

No civil rights violations. Can you call “antisemitism” when all the parties involved are Jewish? What you have is a cut-and-dried fraud suit, or possibly a malpractice case, but at the end of the day, there is no “hate” going on here, and damn little poverty.

So what does the Southern Poverty Law Center bring to this case and the copyright infringement suit? Publicity. Nothing more. As noted above, there is no shortage of qualified fraud attorneys in New Jersey. The SPLC brings in the publicity and their ace Public Relations guru, Mark Potok, will spin that publicity into gold. Donor gold.

Does the SPLC run any risks by suing a Jewish organization, considering how many of its top donors are Jewish? Again, not so much. JONAH is operated by conservative Orthodox Jews, who are far less likely to donate money to the SPLC than their progressive coreligionists. The rest of the donor base, especially wealthy gay donors, will see this as a gay issue first and a Jewish issue second, if at all.

SPLC founder Morris Dees made his first fortune in direct-mail marketing in the early 1960s. The Maestro, who was inducted into the Direct Marketing Association’s “Hall of Fame” for his fundraising prowess, knows an opportunity for cheap publicity when he sees it. Truly, there is no trial like a show trial for gulling the gullible donors.

The SPLC and “Mix it up Day”

October 4, 2012

It’s that time of year again when the Southern Poverty Law Center promotes its annual “Mix It Up At Lunch Day” extravaganza.

This event, promoted under the aegis of the SPLC’s laughably named “Teaching Tolerance” arm, is designed to promote diversity by pressuring school kids to sit at different tables in the cafeteria at lunch and to “mix it up” with kids they don’t usually hang out with.

The irony, (read: “hypocrisy”), of this program coming from the SPLC is stunning. As longtime readers of this blog are well aware, NOT ONE of the SPLC’s top executives is a minority.

In fact, despite being located LITERALLY in the back yard of Dr. Martin Luther King’s home church in Montgomery, the SPLC has NEVER hired a person of color to a highly paid position of authority in its entire 41-year history.

Even the  “Teaching Tolerance” program has been led by “whites only” for 20 of its 21 years.

Who exactly do the white millionaires who run the SPLC “mix it up” with at lunch? The landscaping crew? The cleaning staff?

Fortunately, not everyone is taken in by this crude fundraising ploy. Recently, an education blog, the Missouri Education Watchdog, (no relation to Watching the Watchdogs), posted a superb piece that examines the spurious claims behind “Mix it up Day,” even without getting into the decidedly “un-diverse” leadership of the SPLC.

Interestingly, SPLC’s page on Mix It Up At Lunch Day confirms their own bias. On it they state “Cafeterias are the focus of Mix It Up because that’s where a school’s social boundaries are most obvious. Breaking down these barriers can be an important step for students who don’t have many opportunities in school to interact with someone unlike them.”

Have these people ever stepped into a classroom? American education’s literal love affair with the collaborative process puts these kids in situations where they are forced to work with someone they are not like All The Time. The lunch room is one of the last bastions where they can hang out with their friends.

As with all SPLC promotions, the point of the exercise has little to do with social engineering and everything to do with fundraising.

This Kumbaya Initiative costs the white millionaires at the top very little, garners untold dollars in free publicity and allows the SPLC to make the claim to the donors that they are somehow “fighting hate.”

The last “Whites Only” sign in Montgomery hangs in the Executive Boardroom of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Maybe it’s time for them to end the hypocrisy and to actually practice what they preach.


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