Wild Growth in Extremist, Anti-Government Groups in America… Or Is There?

Without having any substantive proof of its claims, once again the Old Media takes the word of The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a group that says right-wing hate groups are on the rise in the United States of America. Worse that Old Media outlet, Agence France Presse, simply takes this group’s press release, re-words it a bit and regurgitates it as if it were straight news. Typically, contrary to good journalistic practice, there is no second source to prove that these “hate” groups are on the rise. What’s more is that the SPLC’s claims are taken as gospel year in and year out by every Old Media outlet, not just the AFP.

Citing the “research” of the SPLC, AFP gravely intones, “Membership in anti-government extremist groups continues to explode in the United State.” Why are all these haters gathering together in never before seen numbers in our country? Because we have a black president, of course. Also because we have conservative lawmakers and Tea Party groups rising in popularity, naturally.

We are breathlessly told that these “active hate groups” have risen 7.5 percent since last year and now top 1,000 hate groups for “the first time” since the 1980s.

Combined with modest growth among anti-immigrant “nativist extremists,” the number of radical right extremist groups rose 22 percent in 2010 to 2,145 after jumping 40 percent in 2009.

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From the pen of Mark Potok of the SPLC, we are told that “right-wing extremism” is on the rise because the USA is filled with racists focusing on Obama and because conservative politicians, the Tea Party, and partiotism are on the rise.

What may be most remarkable is that this growth of right-wing extremism came even as politicians around the country, blown by gusts from the Tea Parties and other conservative formations, tacked hard to the right, co-opting many of the issues important to extremists. Last April, for instance, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed S.B. 1070, the harshest anti-immigrant law in memory, setting off a tsunami of proposals for similar laws across the country. Continuing growth of the radical right could be curtailed as a result of this shift, especially since Republicans, many of them highly conservative, recaptured the U.S. House last fall.

I see. So, Republicans are at fault, eh? If it weren’t for all those eeeevil Republicans having the gall to vote their conscience, why everything would be just ducky, I guess.

Potok then goes on to “prove” that there is radical right-wing extremism by giving two examples. One a neo-Nazi arrested in Arizona and the other a guy that might have wanted to blow up a mosque in Michigan. Not a peep is made by Potok of the dozens of Muslims that have been arrested for terrorist activities. I suppose ignoring evidence of radical Islamism helps Potok focus on those “right-wing hate groups” he’s so concerned about.

Aside from the overblown aspect of this “report,” that in a nation of 300 million people the SPLC has only found about 1,000 “hate groups,” we have to ask just what they mean by “hate groups”?

Let’s take Illinois, for example. On the SPLC Hate Map we find listed the Illinois Family Institute. It is true this group is against homosexual activity, but for it to be classified as a “hate group” alongside the Ku Klux Klan is simply idiotic. How many other groups that are hardly a “hate group” like this are on the SPLC’s watch list?

Even more ridiculously, the SPLC has named the blog of blogger Pamela Geller of New York as “hate group.”

Geller is most well known for her efforts to stop the Ground Zero Mosque from being built on the grounds where 19 Islamofascists killed 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001. Of her inclusion on a “hate group” list, Geller told the New York Daily News that the SPLC, “”failed to address the greatest threat to our national security.”

“My group is a human rights group,” she said. “And these people are taken seriously? This is the morally inverted state of the world.”

Who has double-checked the veracity of these proclamations by the SPLC? Who has made sure that what the SPLC claims is a hate group really satisfies universally to deserve such an appellation? No one has.

There is a more problematic flaw in the SPLC’s statistics, too. In each and every state on the hate map you can see that the SPLC lists chapters of the same groups as wholly separate groups. It’s easy to pump your list up to one thousand pretty quickly when you list the KKK or the Nation of Islam dozens of times each, after all!

Let’s take Michigan, for instance. The tally of hate groups in Michigan is 35 the SPLC tells us. But on that list you’ll see the National Black Foot Soldier Network listed four times, the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is listed three times, the United White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan also three, and the Nation of Islam four. This is a strange way to count, I think. Most people would say that there is one Nation of Islam hate group in Michigan, not four. But double, triple and quadruple counting chapters of the same groups would certainly help pad the numbers, to be sure.

But, let’s say the SPLC has as much integrity as the Old Media assumes it does. What happened to the journalistic practice of having more than a single source for important statistics such as this? The problem here is that the SPLC seems to be the only organization that tracks so-called hate groups. Even the FBI does not seem to publish stats on the number and whereabouts of hate groups in the USA. So, the media simply takes the SPLC’s stats as gospel, no back up proof needed.

It is also interesting that the Old Media trots out the SPLC and its little “hate group” report every year even after we’ve discovered that the SPLC itself is pretty racist — at least by the left’s own standards. It turns out that the SPLC has few minorities working for it. Last August a website called Watching the Watchdogs looked up all the salaries and identities of the SLPC’s top officers and didn’t find a minority in the bunch. Interesting that a group that claims it’s all about “civil rights” and equality is so, well, white, isn’t it?

Then there is the lack of curiosity that the Old Media has about the SPLC’s own associates. The Old Media never seems to explore the radical left-wing groups that the SPLC and its employees are connected to.

For instance one of the SPLCs contributors is a fellow named Chip Berlet. According to DiscoverTheNetworks.org Berlet is also a member of the George Soros funded Tides Foundation as well as a at least half a dozen other left-wing groups. And the SPLC itself is funded by dozens of extremely left wing groups. Left-wing groups such as the Tides Foundation, The Open Society, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, and others pay out thousands to identify right-wingers as “hate groups.”

In any case, it is awfully interesting that a group that supposedly tracks “right-wing hate groups” is funded by extremist left-wing groups and the Old Media never asks after that group’s left-wing patrons. Imagine how the Old Media would immediately discount a group that tracks “left-wing hate groups” were it to be funded by the Koch Brothers or any other right leaning donors. The reports that such a right-funded group would offer would likely be wholly ignored by the left-sold Old Media.

Yet the SPLC’s claims are accepted as gospel by that same media establishment. No mention is ever made of the SPLCs left-wing ties and no other stats are sought out to back up the SPLCs claims. Why is that, one wonders?

Lastly, do I dispute all of SPLC’s claims? Not necessarily. It’s just that I don’t have any way to double check its stats, no way to assure the veracity of its claims. But neither does the Old Media even as they simply swallow whole every word the SPLC utters.


I was contacted by Watching the Watchdogs to let me know that they have some other pieces on SPLC so I thought I’d pass them along.

Additionally, one group that has suddenly appeared as a “nativist/extremist” on SPLC’s list, the Midwest Coalition to Reduce Immigration, has tried to get a reason from the SPLC as to why they were included on the list. Naturally, the SPLC refuses to respond.

(Originally posted at BigJournalism.com)

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