Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Southern Poverty Law Center
I owe the Southern Poverty Law Center a lot. They influenced the direction of my life. Ironically, it's because of that direction that I've developed some serious reservations about them.

The beginning was around 1998. I'd read about the SPLC and how it tracked various hate groups and attacked them in court. I thought that was a good idea and sent a donation. In exchange they sent their "Intelligence Report," a periodical with information about the activities and people of the Klan, neo-Nazis and other varieties of slime. All was well and good until we got their year-end summary issue. It included a map of the US with little symbols--hoods, swastikas, boots, etc.--denoting the locations of active haters. There were dense concentrations of symbols in many of the places my wife and I liked to ride our motorcycle. Not only in Georgia, mind, but California, Colorado, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona....all places we'd been. It came home to me that Jack the Jewboy and his Quaker wife had been happily, innocently adventure-touring among monsters; monsters who'd enjoy harming us in nasty ways that the SPLC had thoughtfully detailed.

With this new knowledge came a choice: I could pretend I didn't know what I damned well did, riding as innocently as before. I could quit doing something my wife and I enjoyed, essentially surrendering our rights. Or I could be ready to fight back.

I had a flashback to 1971, when I'd gotten a death threat from the KKK (in Champaign, Illinois, nowhere near the SPLC's vision of hate-filled Dixie.) Then another, to the antisemitic bullying I'd taken in Chicago and Skokie. Then the last, to my first year at the University of Illinois. A speech by the then-leader of the American Nazi Party, George Lincoln Rockwell, was cancelled because Jewish fraternities had bought the entire local stock of baseball bats.
In November, if memory serves.

I bought my first handgun a short time later. That was the start of a lifetime odyssey, and maybe the subject of a future essay. For now let's just say that I was grateful to the SPLC and continued to donate for several years. I felt then, and in a way still feel, that their work is helpful and necessary.


Over the years, perhaps because my friendships extended beyond the university, I started noticing some inconsistencies. For one thing, all the nasties seemed to come from the "Far Right." Antisemites, racial bigots, gay-haters, anti-government zealots, militias, all (bar a few "black separatists") were right-wingers. The left, it seemed, was a flower-child dreamworld in which all you needed was love. But while the progressives were busy imagining no posessions odd things were happening. Antisemitism was coming to universities, coddled and nurtured in "Mideast Studies" programs and elsewhere. Black "leaders" like Al Sharpton were actively attacking white people and promoting violence. Antisemitism is part and parcel of the "Occupy" movement, too. Remember the TV interview with he Occupier who said that "Zionist bankers don't belong in our country?" *If any of this was ever in the "Intelligence Report" I don't recall it. If I'm wrong, I welcome correction.

Then there's the SPLC's intolerance of academics who stray from liberal orthodoxy. I recall one historian taken to task for writing that the War Between the States wasn't primarily about slavery. "Revisionist history," they called it, and (again in my recollection, again welcoming correction) for that reason all but labelled the author a bigot.** This bothered me because they never opposed his arguments with historical scholarship. This tactic is called "ad hominem" argument, the logical fallacy of claiming an argument is wrong because you don't like its author. I wrote and told them so, because I'm an academic and care deeply about honest scholarship. Their response was a runaround.

Understand this: I don't claim the author in question was right. I don't know and not being an historian I don't have the tools or time to do original-source research on the topic. But somebody does, and they're the ones to take on his argument. The SPLC needs to present the arguments about these issues fairly so people can judge for themselves. They don't.

The SPLC is intellectually dishonest, too, in a sadly common way. Their "Teaching Tolerance" program, like other diversity initiatives, is well-intended and they seem to believe
it does good. The problem is, they don't know. The evaluations they present as evidence of effectiveness are worthless. Any graduate student in my field could design a study telling them how much, if any, improvement in intergroup relations resulted from their program. They, like many promoting social interventions, don't want real data. They want public relations.***

Finally, there's the SPLC's corporate dislike of anything that smacks of self-defense. They don't like guns and don't want anyone but police and their bodyguards to have them. They label Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership a "hard-right" group, which seems to be code for "We'd call them a hate group but can't." One wonders what they'd have to say about the Deacons for Defense and the Pink Pistols. Their stereotype seems to be that every shooting match is a militia waiting to happen and every self-defense school is a Nazi training camp.

Sociologically, this is understandable. Suppose the gay, black, Latino, Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, et al. victims of real hate groups simply shot, stabbed, clubbed or otherwise dealt with their attackers. Problem solved. What scary pictures would the SPLC run on its magazine cover? Who would they sue? How would they get on TV? The SPLC's existence 
depends on telling people who believe themselves helpless that  "We'll protect you!"  If those people suddenly got up and said "Thanks, but we've got this,"  their entire reason for being would be gone. 

Imagine being offered a choice. Option 1: Attacked by vicious people, you or a loved one take a crippling beating, followed by a years-long lawsuit and a settlement that, no matter how large, does nothing to help you speak, see, walk or otherwise function as you did. 
Option 2: Attacked by the same people, you shoot the bastards down. Which would you choose, remembering that Option 1 only applies if the scumbags have anything worth suing for?

Of course, it's not that simple. Self-defense requires commitment and training. It's way easier to write a check and hope, meanwhile congratulating yourself on how moral and upstanding you are. As for me, I'll continue training, practicing and teaching those who want to start their own odyssey. The money I used to send to SPLC will go to JPFO. 

* Don't believe me? Start here:http://www.usccr.gov/campusanti-semitism.html
Then spend some time here: http://spme.net/
You might say, well, that's just a few instances. It's like cockroaches. For every one you see there are 100 in the walls.

** In case you think any revision of conventional thought is open to attack, consider the case of Michael Bellesiles, the Emory historian whose revisionist history of gun ownership was greeted with applause and prizes, at least until it was discovered that he'd made up his data.
See http://www.emory.edu/news/Releases/Final_Report.pdf
This doesn't reflect directly on the SPLC, but does show that anti-revisionist indignation among liberals is highly selective.

*** If you want to know how to do evaluations, start here: 

1 comment:

  1. An excellent examination of the dubious practices of a self-proclaimed "civil rights group" and one of America's most profitable "non" profits.

    You've touched on several key points worthy of further examination.

    First was the "Hate Map" you mentioned, which purports to identify "hate groups" across America and is easily the SPLC's most lucrative fundraising tool.

    To begin with, there is no legal definition for "hate group," which is why even the FBI does not, cannot, designate "hate groups," but somehow a private fundraising organization like the SPLC can?

    Of the 1,018 "hate groups" designated by the SPLC's public relations chief, Mark Potok (the man behind the "Intelligence Reports"), fully 247 of them are not affiliated with any known city or town.

    Mr. Potok cannot locate them on any map, including his own, but he counts them all the same. That's 25% right off the top.

    Your own state of Georgia is the site of some of Mr. Potok's most egregious number padding. In March of 2012, Potok added 20 chapters of something he calls "The Georgia Militia" to that state's map, but he can't seem to locate 18 of them!

    Instead, he simply inserted 18 empty slots marked "Georgia Militia." See it for yourselves:


    THIS is hard data? It turns out that 29 of the 65 "groups" Mr. Potok has designated for Georgia are homeless. In many states the percentages run as high as 60-, 80- and even an incredible 100%.

    But the media and the donors swallow Potok's bogus numbers whole.

    You mentioned "Teaching Tolerance," the SPLC's laughably named program that purports to promote diversity in the K-12 classroom.

    In 1994, Dan Morse of the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper revealed that "Teaching Tolerance" was staffed entirely by whites. "Teaching Tolerance" has been led by "whites only" for 20 of its 21 year history.

    As ironic as that sounds it pales compared to the fact that NOT ONE of the SPLC's top executives is a minority. Despite being located LITERALLY in the back yard of Dr. M.L. King's home church in Montgomery, the SPLC has NEVER hired a person of color to a highly paid position of authority in its 41 year history.

    Some "civil rights" icon.

    Speaking of Civil Rights, Mr. Potok makes the astonishing statement on his "Hate Map" that "Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing."

    Seriously, what kind of "civil rights group" deliberately conflates six of the most basic First Amendment rights with "criminal acts" and "hate group activities"?


    With such a perverted view of the First Amendment it should come as no surprise that they have even less regard for the Second Amendment.

    In the long run it's hard to believe that the SPLC believes much of their own rhetoric. They say what they need to say to gull their gullible donor base out of tens of millions of dollars each year.

    SPLC founder Morris Dees made his first million in 1964 through direct mail order sales and he built the SPLC's donor list from those of the McGovern, Carter, Kennedy and Hart presidential campaigns.

    Like any good salesman, Dees knows his audience and tailors his message accordingly. There is no ideology there.

    The bottom line at the SPLC has always been the bottom line.

    Excellent post


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