Posts Tagged ‘Southern Poverty Law Center’

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 and “Disqualified Persons”

February 12, 2017

Is there a tax doctor in the house? Last week the Southern Poverty Law Center released its IRS Form 990 tax returns for Fiscal Year 2016. The Form 990 is always an informative read because it contains so much useful information.

Page 1, Line 15 notes that the company paid $20,291,678 in “salaries, other compensation, employee benefits,” (11% of which went to the top 9 execs, leaving the other 282 employees to split the rest for an average of $64,000 each.)

We get that. What we don’t get is the entry on Page 10, Line 6 that reads: “Compensation not included above, to disqualified persons.”

disqualified

Who exactly are these “disqualified persons” and are they being paid outside of the $20 million dollar pot listed on Page 1?

Naturally, the IRS website was virtually incomprehensible on the subject, but several other sources defined disqualified persons as:

  • “Disqualified persons” are those who are in a position to exercise substantial influence over the affairs of the organization, during the five years before the excess compensation was made.

  • “Disqualified persons” would include, for example, voting members of the governing body, and presidents, chief executive officers or chief operating officers, treasurers, and chief financial officers.

  • Also included as “disqualified persons” are certain family members of a disqualified person, and 35% controlled entities of a disqualified person.

  • Other people could also be considered “disqualified persons,” depending upon the relevant facts and circumstances that show substantial influence over the organization, such as a founder, substantial contributor, or manager of a substantial portion of the organization’s activities.

So, apparently, for a 501(c)(3) public charity like the SPLC, “disqualified persons” include founders, presidents, and other top executives, who are already got paid on Page 1, Line 15.

It can also include members of the Board of Directors, who, according to Page 10, receive no compensation for their efforts.

Or, it may include family members of all of the above.

Sadly, the Form 990 does not disclose the identities of the people who are receiving that $14.4 million compensation. Surely somebody has this information. Perhaps the Freedom of Information Act could help?

We ask these impudent questions because the SPLC has a habit of hiding expenditures from the donors. For example, the company routinely makes the claim that “During the last fiscal year, approximately 68% of our total expenses were spent on program services.”

History has shown that this figure relies on the use of legal but ethically dubious gymnastics on the part of the bookkeepers. For example, Page 1, Line 16b of the Form 990 states categorically that “total fundraising expenses” for the year came to $9,689,461, or 21% of expenses for 2016.

Page 10, Line 26, however, notes “joint costs” of $6,989,987. What are “joint costs”? According to the SPLC’s own auditor: “The Center incurred joint costs of $7,983,475 for educational materials and activities as part of fundraising appeals during the year ended October 31, 2016.” (p. 14) Note that the auditor’s figure comes in at nearly a million dollars more than the Form 990.

Translation: “Joint costs are fundraising costs assigned to other departments.” For example, “Management” spent $737,711 on postage last year. That’s more than 1.6 million first-class stamps. Don’t the employees have email? Who else would “Management” need to contact on such a scale?

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

Add the auditor’s joint fundraising costs to the fundraising costs listed on the Form 990, ($17,672,936) and we’re already looking at 38% of last year’s budget, not the 32% claimed by the SPLC.

As it turns out, compensation to disqualified persons is also spread out across several departments, including another $2 million to fundraising, not listed above. That brings Fundraising’s grand total to $19,834,444, or 43% of the budget, not the 32% claimed by the SPLC.

disqualified2

Long story short, if the Southern Poverty Law Center is willing to obfuscate its fundraising numbers to hide reality from the donors, why wouldn’t it use the same kind of accounting prestidigitation concerning what it pays its all-white executive suite?

Does anyone out there know how Watching the Watchdogs can obtain the names of these mysterious “disqualified persons”? If so, please contact us as soon as possible.

SPLC — 2017 Telemarketing Scam

February 4, 2017

The Southern Poverty Law Center has released its IRS Form 990 and Audited Financial Report for F/Y 2016, and as predicted, it was a very profitable year for the company.

Part of of that success comes from the SPLC’s use of third-party telemarketers who convince first-time donors that their money will be used to somehow “fight hate.” In reality, their money, and that of thousands of existing SPLC donors, will be used to fight poverty — for the telemarketers, that is.

As we’ve reported in years past, the SPLC pays these telemarketers far more than they raise over the phone. Last year the company paid telemarketers $2,266,887 donor-dollars to raise only $1,271,287 donor-dollars, for a net loss of $955,600 (p. 40).

2017-telemarketing-numbers

As usual, the big winner was Grassroots Campaigns who were paid $1.8 million to raise just over $600,000. Telefund only pocketed 62% of the $340,000 it raised, while Harris Marketing kept 83% of the $256,800 it took in.

Since 2011, the SPLC has paid Grassroots  $5,828,603 more than they received in donations. While it seems incongruous that a company like the SPLC, which is forever sending out fundraising letters, as “the need has never been greater,” would be able to survive such financial hemorrhaging, the truth is they’ll make a fortune from it.

In essence, the SPLC is paying the telemarketers for the personal information of thousands of proven first-time donors, which they will feed into their own uber-efficient in-house fundraising machine. They take a loss on the first year but make it up with years, or even decades of successive donations down the road, at a sweet 100% profit.

The company isn’t even taking that much of a hit, as all of the first-time donations go straight to the telemarketers and any deficit is made up out of the existing donor pot, without any of the donors being the wiser.

How many long-time donors does it take to make up a $955,600 “shortage”? At $100 a pop, just under 10,000 donors. At a more reasonable $25 donation rate, just under 40,000 well-meaning suckers.

Granted, the use of third-party telemarketers for such purposes is not illegal and is practiced by many of the largest non-profits in the country. It’s up to the potential donor to ask the solicitor how much of their money will actually reach the SPLC.

Since Grassroots is paid a flat fee, they can even tell Grandma with a straight face that all of her donation will go to “fight hate.” That the SPLC is only going to triple the amount and send it back to Grassroots is merely a minor detail.

We’ve only just made our first pass over the SPLC’s latest financials. Stay tuned for more information on where the money goes.

SPLC — One-Man”Groups”

January 6, 2017

More evidence of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s quiet transformation from “nonprofit civil rights organization” to “advocacy group” turned up today, serendipitously, as is so often the case.

A recent story in the Ashland (Oregon) Daily Tidings reminded us of the SPLC’s boilerplate claim that its lucrative “Hate Map” fundraising tool did not include one-man “groups” (or “one-person” groups, if you will). The legend on the 2015 map included the same standard phrase the company had used for over a decade: “Websites appearing to be merely the work of a single individual, rather than the publication of a group, are not included in this list.”

Thanks to the Daily Tidings piece about Radio Rense, a one-man online radio “network” run by Ashland resident Jeff Rense, we went to the latest iteration of the “Hate Map” to revisit the disclaimer, only to find it missing from the map’s legend.

We did find one last mention of the claim on a related “Active Hate Groups” page on the site, but the claim is no longer part and parcel of the “Hate Map” tool:

“Entities that appear to exist only in cyberspace are not included because they are likely to be individual Web publishers who likely to falsely portray themselves as powerful, organized froups [sic].”

Just before the November 2016 elections, SPLC Public Relations Guru Mark Potok admitted in  Esquire magazine that The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website and long-time “Hate Map” alumnus, was the “work of a single individual” and “existed only in cyberspace”:

“The Daily Stormer is mostly Andrew Angelin, his dog, and his computer,” says Potok.”

As usual, even the most casual perusal of the “hate group” list reveals several one-man bands at first glance, and would no doubt give up more at the hands of an actual journalist, if any still survive.

websites2

When conservative blogger Daniel Greenfield, owner, operator and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer of the clearly labeled “Sultan Knish – A blog by Daniel Greenfield” realized that he had become an SPLC “group,” he was initially confused:

“My first response on finding out that I was now a hate group was to look around to see where everyone else was. A hate group needs the group part and one man and a cat don’t seem to be enough.”

Greenfield surmised that his “group” was found to be “active” because “I jogged a few miles yesterday…” Eventually, Greenfield came clean, throwing the rest of his “group” under the proverbial bus: “Even when the cat is a well known bigot who hates mice, birds, car alarms that go off in the middle of the night, the plumber and sudden noises.”

Our personal favorite “hate group,” (if such phraseology does not doom us to one-man groupdom), is Casa D’Ice, an Italian restaurant on the outskirts of Pittsburgh run by a curmudgeonly old crank who leaves idiotic and often outright-bigoted messages on the marquis sign outside his place.

Casa D'Ice

The threat to the nation has seldom been greater.

Of course, the SPLC has been padding its list with one-man bands for decades. As Laird Wilcox, one of the most respected researchers on the Hate Industry, noted nearly 20 years ago:

“What [the SPLC] apparently did was list any group they could find mention of, including groups only rumored to exist. These included the large number of “post office box chapters” maintained by Klan and skinhead organizations. Some Christian Identity “ministries” consist only one person and a mailing list and many “patriot groups” consist of but three or four friends.”

More recently, in 2015, Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League repeated Wilcox’s findings in the South Jersey Times:

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

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

Clearly, the removal of the one-man disclaimer releases the SPLC from any expectation that the “hate groups” they designate, for they are the sole designator of the term, will actually be composed of two or more individuals.

After all, why drag accuracy into the discussion and why leave good money lying on the floor?

Ironically, if it were not for the SPLC shining a nation-wide spotlight on these one-man “groups,” the vast majority of humankind would have no idea these websites even existed. Of course, that would include the almighty donors and so an existential threat is born.

We first noted the SPLC’s dropping all pretenses of being an organization with the mission of protecting civil rights as early as June, 2015. At the time, we noted that this move would free the SPLC to chase any headline grabbing law suit without having to go through the motions of pretending it was doing actual civil rights work, such as the copyright infringement case involving a gay New Jersey couple whose engagement photo was used in anti-gay fliers in a Colorado State Senate campaign in 2012.

Was the image used without the permission of the couple or the legal copyright holder, photographer Kristina Hill? Absolutely.

Does the SPLC have any legal experience whatsoever in pursuing copyright infringement cases? None whatsoever. The company isn’t even licensed to practice law in Colorado and so the suit was handled by local law firm Faegre Baker Daniels.

Were there any civil rights issues involved in the case? Apparently not. While the photo was doctored to make it appear it had been taken in snowy Colorado and included anti-gay commentary, the term “civil rights” appears nowhere in the complaint. Instead, the SPLC was claiming “mental distress and anguish” and “reputational harm.”

While we have no doubt that the couple did indeed experience anguish and reputational harm, there was no real need to “make a federal case” in U.S. District Court. The only thing the SPLC brought to the case was publicity, which it milked in its fundraising materials for more than a year.

In the end, the Federal Court threw out the couple’s “pain and anguish” claim and awarded photographer Hill $2,501 for the unauthorized use of her photo.

In short, the entire proceedings could have taken place in small claims court, and without any input from the Southern Poverty Law Center, but how would the donors ever hear about the case under those circumstances?

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s move to from civil rights organization to advocacy group is perfectly logical. There just aren’t enough Klansmen or neo-Nazis goose-stepping around to make a decent living anymore. As Mark Potok explained to Arlene Levinson of the Associated Press back in 1999:

“The numbers are absolutely soft,’ said Mark Potok, a Southern Poverty Law Center spokesman. ‘We are talking about a tiny number of Americans who are members of hate groups – I mean, infinitesimal.”

As an advocacy group, just like the National Rifle Association, Mr. Potok’s hands are untied and he can make any guilt-by-association allegations he deems profitable without regard to anyone’s civil rights, and of course, nobody in the media will bother to check out his claims. That might involve journalism.

And just like the NRA, Potok can “advocate” for his highly lucrative industry just like the Gun Lobby does. No wonder his company forgot to mention the change of mission to the donors. No sense is upsetting the blue-haired dears over semantics. They have enough to do just writing the checks

SPLC — Hoaxed Again!

December 22, 2016

In another ham-fisted fear campaign, the Southern Poverty Law Center has embarked on a series of unsubstantiated, unverified and largely anecdotal “reports” that claim hundreds of “hate incidents” (not to be confused with actual hate crimes) and over a thousand “incidents” have recently been reported across the country at large and hundreds more occurring within the nation’s school systems.

The undeniable cause of this effect? It could only be the hate-filled election of Donald Trump, right? What else could it be (that would still agitate the donors into forking over more money)?

As we have been reporting over the weeks since the election, neither SPLC “report” stands up to the slightest breath of fact checking. The company makes huge claims of receiving thousands of reports over a web page on their website where anyone in the world can “report an incident” and they themselves disclaim that their “Trump Effect” survey of “educators” is not scientific because the respondents were not chosen at random, there’s no mechanism to verify that the respondents were even “educators” and all of the responses were anecdotal.

The results of this survey are not scientific. The respondents were not selected in a manner to ensure a representative sample; those who responded may have been more likely to perceive problems than those who did not.

Opening her report on “election-related bias” in the elementary schools, Teaching Tolerance’s Maureen Costello makes the bizarre claim that:

“Every student, from preschoolers up through high school, is aware of the tone, rhetoric and catch-phrases of this particular campaign season.”

Really, Maureen? Every student glued to the debates, watching Meet the Press over their weekend Lucky Charms and Pop Tarts? Even kindergartners? Really? Costello peppered her report with anonymous quotes to prove that Hell’s hand-basket has arrived. [Caution: Some readers may find the following graphic content disturbing.]

One Muslim girl clung to her kindergarten teacher on November 9 and asked, “Are they going to do anything to me? Am I safe?” – Early Childhood Teacher, Tennessee

A lesbian student’s mother was telling her that life as we knew it was over, and she was quite distraught about her mother. Children are very worried about being deported or killed. – Elementary Counselor, Illinois

Pretty heart-wrenching stuff, no? It’s hard enough being a lesbian in the third grade without Donald Trump sending your mom over the edge, and let’s face it, Elementary Counselor — Illinois has never lied to us before.

On the national scene, more anonymous reports and more disclaimers that the anonymous reports were pretty much all anecdotal.

A Latina woman in Texas reported: I was walking my baby at my neighborhood park and a truck drove by with a male driving and a female passenger. The female yelled “white power” at us as they drove by and then sped away.

It doesn’t get much more Trump-related than that, or more undeniable. After all, it’s “anecdotal,” right?

November 15: “These incidents, aside from news reports, are largely anecdotal.”

December 16: “The SPLC made every effort to verify each report, but many included in the count remain anecdotal.”

 anecdotal
adjective

  1. (of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research: ‘while there was much anecdotal evidence there was little hard fact’

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/anecdotal

The SPLC “reports” do include several media reports, and if the anonymous, anecdotal incidents were not proof enough, “Many harassers invoked Trump’s name during assaults, making it clear that the outbreak of hate stemmed in large part from his electoral success.”

This time, the SPLC got it right. A growing number of “incidents” really were directly tied to Trump’s election.

ten-days-after

And the suspect is…

andrew-mcclinton-arrested

Unlike the SPLC, we’re not going to jump to any conclusions because the authorities are still working through the case, and unlike the SPLC, we believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, not a court of public opinion.

The same goes for this gentleman:

philly

And him:

palmer

And this young “activist”:

volk

This young woman says she made her story up because she was late for curfew:

yasmin

Let’s be honest. A lot of hateful, ignorant things have been said before and after the election, with no shortage of them coming from Trump himself, and sadly, there is no shortage of knuckleheads who will commit hoaxes in accordance with the voices they hear in their heads.

One thing you can always count on, the SPLC will find a way to build a classic fearmongering campaign around them.

THIS JUST IN: A gay couple were removed from a JetBlue flight today for allegedly verbally abusing Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her family, who were flying commercial.

According to tweets by one of the men, his husband was upset to find Trump’s family on the flight and was “chasing them down to harass them.” [Who says one spouse can’t testify against another? Someone’s going to have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do when they get home tonight.]
ivanka

Finally, SPLC, a genuine “election-related hate incident” for your collection. Let’s see if it makes it onto the list.

SPLC — Doubling down on the “Trump Effect”

November 29, 2016

In February of this year, Watching the Watchdogs reported on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s thinly disguised attack on then-candidate Donald Trump that claimed that “election-related” harassment of immigrant and minority children was surging in the public schools due to Trump’s caustic rhetoric. They called the report “The Trump Effect.”

At that time we noted that the SPLC, like all 501(c)(3) nonprofits, was strictly prohibited by IRS tax regulations from promoting or denouncing political candidates during a campaign. The SPLC slid around that regulation by claiming that it had “collected 5,000 comments from 2,000 educators” who responded to an online survey created by the company’s “Teaching Tolerance” wing, which purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom.

See, it wasn’t the SPLC attacking Trump, they were simply repeating what they were told by the 2,000 respondents. Get it?

As usual, the Media obediently regurgitated the SPLC’s nonsense without performing even the most rudimentary fact checks, with many of them transmogrifying the company’s claim of “2,000 respondents” into “a survey of 2,000 teachers” and the term “harassment” into “hate crimes.”

What most media outlets conveniently ignored was the clearly stated disclaimer on the “Trump Effect” web page that:

“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.”

Not only did the SPLC publicly state that their “survey” was not scientific because the respondents were not chosen at random, they can’t even verify that the alleged responses came from actual “educators.”

The same document also notes that “Teaching Tolerance magazine is sent to over 400,000 educators, reaching nearly every school in the country,” and yet the entire “report” is based on only 2,000 anonymous, unverifiable responses?

Either 398,000 “educators” ignored the survey email or the SPLC cherry-picked 2,000 “reliable” people who would give the “right answers.”

Either way, given the widespread media coverage given the “Trump Effect” the reaction among the donors must have been fantastic.

Never one to let a good thing go, on November 28, the SPLC doubled down on its “Trump Effect” cash cow by releasing a new and improved version of the “report,” this time freed from any IRS election-related restrictions.

The new report now claims that “Over 10,000 teachers, counselors, administrators and others who work in schools have responded,” with “more than 25,000 comments.”

As if stung by Watching the Watchdogs‘ observation that all of the alleged responses in the first “report” were anecdotal, anonymous and completely unverifiable, the company made a point of claiming that:

“Nearly all respondents identified themselves by name, email address, grade level and state. More than 1,500 signified a willingness to go on record by giving permission for Teaching Tolerance to share their contact information with the media.”

Despite this apparent willingness to actually document their claims, the 2.0 version of the “Trump Effect” is accompanied by alleged claims by the anonymous likes of “High School Teacher, New York,” and “Elementary School Teacher, Minnesota.” There’s not a single claim backed up the willing 1,500 mentioned above.

And while the company buried its disclaimer a little deeper into the text this time, the song remains the same:

“The results of this survey are not scientific. The respondents were not selected in a manner to ensure a representative sample; those who responded may have been more likely to perceive problems than those who did not.”

Once again, the “report” duly notes that “Teaching Tolerance magazine is sent to more than 400,000 educators, reaching nearly every school in the country,” and yet only 10,000 “educators” allegedly responded.

It’s worth noting that the National Center for Education Statistics estimates that there were more than 3.5 million full-time teachers in the US in 2014, the latest statistical year, meaning that less than three-tenths of a percent of them responded to the SPLC’s open “survey,” anonymously or otherwise. You do the math.

In the long run, it really doesn’t matter. The Media is already regurgitating the SPLC’s “10,000 educator” claims as fact the day after the “report” was released. Even though the company clearly states that its numbers are “not scientific” and has yet to produce one single verifiable respondent, the Media will repeat every last claim as if it were true.

Well played, SPLC. No doubt we’ll see record-breaking donation figures in your next IRS Form 990, as well as much-deserved raises in the six-digit salaries your all-white executives are pulling down.

In the meantime, Watching The Watchdogs will continue to watch and to document your latest fundraising antics. You read it here first.

 

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.

Morris Dees: Confessed Felon on the Lam

September 16, 2016

Here’s an interesting tidbit regarding Southern Poverty Law Center Co-Founder and sole owner, Morris Dees. According to Dees’ own words, the man has openly confessed, twice no less, to having committed a violent felony under Alabama law in 1983 and is still at large.

The link to this confession came to us through none other than Dees’ long-time Public Relations Guru, Mark Potok. In 2008, Potok was giving a group of Vermont high school teachers and students a personal tour of SPLC headquarters in Montgomery. During the hour-long interview, the audio file for which can be found here on the Internet Archive, Mark Potok relates the details of an event where a Klansman named Jeff Berry gives an interview to a television news crew, then, thinking better of it, demands the tape of the interview from the crew at shotgun-point. Potok says the police did nothing in response to the reporter’s complaint and so the SPLC stepped in.

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

Absolutely false imprisonment… A felony crime…

This passage got us to thinking about another anecdote we remembered about someone else holding someone at shotgun point. On page 101 of his 1991 autobiography, A Season For Justice, Morris Dees brags about holding a shotgun to the head of his good pal, and best paying Klan client, Claude Henley.

(Interestingly, Mr. Dees repeats the claim on page 101 of his second autobiography in 2003, A Lawyer’s Journey: The Morris Dees Story, which was a page-for-page reprint of Season, with one additional chapter tacked on the end. Most authors would refer to such a reprint as an updated or revised edition of the original title, but Mr. Dees opted to resell the same book under a different title.)

In both autobiographies, Dees writes of inviting friend Henley to his law office after an arson attack on the first SPLC headquarters, which Dees believed was committed by the United Klans of America (UKA). When the unsuspecting Klan thug shows up, Dees dials up Henley’s boss, UKA Imperial Wizard Bobby Shelton, on the speakerphone.

Below is Dees’ account of what happened next. Granted, we only have Dees’ word for it, but why would he lie to us? Twice? CAUTION: Mr. Dees has a fondness for expletives:

shotgun

Admittedly, we know even less about the law than even Mark Potok, but if Jeff Berry holding reporters at shotgun-point is a no-brainer felony, why isn’t the exact same act a felony crime for Morris Dees?

“Ah, well,” some may say, “this is ancient history from 1983 and surely the statute of limitations has long since expired.” In other words, Dees is bragging and making crude little jokes because they can’t touch him, right?

Au contraire! Under Alabama state law, (Statute: AL § 15-3-1 et seq, to be precise), while most felonies have a mere 3-year statute of limitations, “Any felony involving the use, attempted use, or threat of, violence to a person” has NO such limitation.

Clearly, Morris Dees bragging that he threatened to blow Henley’s head off its stump, in thousands of published books, no less, is every bit as viable a felony as if Dees had actually pulled the trigger all those years ago.

The confessed felon has been at large for more than thirty years now. It’s time for the squeaky Wheels of Justice to pull up in front of the Poverty Palace in Montgomery and get this violent individual off the streets.

Is there a real lawyer in the house?

By the way, the Potok interview is even more interesting for some of the other claims he makes, which ought to give any intelligent donor pause.

“In the 70’s… “poverty law” was actually the phrase… it was a phrase used that just applied to… essentially… civil rights law… to kind of human rights legal actions.”

“I know a couple years ago there was a big discussion internally [at the SPLC], ‘Should we change our name to something else?’ People think, you know, that it’s all about, sort of, defending poor people, and that’s not really, exactly what our mission is. By that time, people knew the name so well that, you know, we made, I think, the obviously right decision not to change the name.”

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

“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.”

You hype up this little tiny threat into something scary, uh, and then go and try to make money off of it.” Let us count the ways… here, here, here, here and here, and the list goes on and on.

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

“We don’t do that, really, any more, because, basically, a lot of other lawyers got good at it and now do that work.” And how many of those lawyers have a $302 million-dollar cash reserve, Mr. Potok? Mo Dees got out of the civil rights business because he wanted Mo’ Money.

And most telling of all:

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

“We don’t want to take their free speech rights away… we just want to destroy them,” for expressing their free speech opinions, regardless of how offensive some may find them, Mr. Potok? We may not like what they have to say, but if a private fundraising company like yours has the power to “destroy” people for “thought crimes” then what’s holding you back? Oh yeah, that whole Dead-White-Guy Constitution thing.

Well, consistency was never your strong suit, Mr. Potok. Here’s a thought, turn in your felonious boss and collect the reward.

 

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.


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