The Southern Poverty Law Center has issued its latest screaming report: “Patriot” Groups, Militias Surge in Number in Past Year.
Unfortunately, the hype surrounding the SPLC report is just another indication that SPLC has lost its way and has become a primary source to smear anyone who is against the liberal dogma of big government.
As Robert Stacy McCain documents, the portion of the SPLC report dealing with “patriot militias” is both exaggerated in numbers (for example, if one group has 50 state branches, that counts as 50 groups in the report) and in scope (standard libertarian groups without any “militias” are included).
I pointed out last October the depths to which SPLC goes to smear political opponents, when SPLC falsely accused a black female law professor of being an “apologist for white supremacists.”
So it is not surprising that SPLC includes libertarians (whose positions on many issues resemble those of the far left) in the list of “patriot” groups. Nor is it surprising that SPLC, through some linguistic slights of hand, tries to smear the Tea Party movement:
The Patriot movement has made significant inroads into the conservative political scene, according to the new report. “The ‘tea parties’ and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups, but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism,” the report says.
But there was one aspect of the report which really caught my eye. SPLC’s report lists Rhode Island as having three hate groups, but the SPLC “hate map” indicates only a single Ku Klux Klan chapter in Rhode Island.
Even that seemed strange to me, because in the 17 years I have lived in Rhode Island, I never had heard of the Klan being active in Rhode Island.
Other gangs, yes. Violent gangs are active among Hmong and other Asian immigrant groups, as are street gangs in black neighborhoods of Providence. But the Klan?
So I did some looking around. First, I checked The Providence Journal website. The ProJo is the only statewide paper, and the paper of record in RI. It is hard to spit on the street without the ProJo writing it up.
A search of the ProJo website did not uncover any Klan activity. The only reference at all was to an allegation by a “mentally disabled” person in 2006 that a police officer stated during an arrest that the police officer was a card carrying member of the Klan. I could find no follow-up or verification of that allegation. That’s it for reported Klan activity in RI, unless you count the ACLU’s successful 1992 attempt to get David Duke on the ballot (would that make the ACLU a hate group?).
A Google search also reveals no Klan activity in RI in the past several decades. If the Klan is active in RI, it is keeping it very, very quiet.
The Klan group listed by SPLC, the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan has an alleged P.O. Box in North Providence, RI. The box number, which is six digits, looks suspicious, but I’m not in RI right now so I can’t check out whether it is real. (I tried calling the Postal Service center in the zip code, but they do not pick up the phone.) No contact name is given for the Klan member or members in RI, and there is no other record of the group actually doing anything.
I could not even find a P.O. Box, much less an actual person, for any other Klan group in RI, although SPLC elsewhere lists a second Klan group as being in RI.
Rhode Island may not be representative of the nation, but it is a good example of how SPLC exaggerates the number and scope of hate groups. If the Klan is active in Rhode Island, no one seems to know about it.
Maybe there is someone sitting in a house or apartment somewhere with a white robe in the closet, but I assure you such person wouldn’t last two minutes in RI if he tried to wear it on the street.
Who loses from SPLC’s political tactics? Most obviously SPLC, whose credibility is undermined. More important, is that the public loses because SPLC’s tactics mask the truth.
Undoubtedly there are real hate groups out there, but the identity of such groups gets lost in the avalanche of accusations and numbers run up by SPLC.
Which groups among the 1000 or so “hate groups” listed by SPLC do we really need to worry about? Your guess is as good as mine.
Update: I received this e-mail from someone in Rhode Island, about her unsuccessful attempt to get details from SPLC:
I’ve been reading your blog for several months now, I live in RI, and wanted to see what I could find out. I would have posted a response, but for some reason I can’t post there using the options provided (I don’t have a blogger account either). I went to the SPLC page, looked at the “hate map” and then called the national hq of the SPLC. I was put through to a man named Booth, and asked him for whatever substantiation they had to back up their claims. He treated me sarcastically, and basically inferred that he didn’t feel that they’d necessarily have to cite sources. That he’d grown up in Alabama and hadn’t known there was a kkk group there til he’d grown up. I stated that I believed, that had there been one, let alone three, we’d have heard something about it, but he just laughed. I told him that I wanted some info on what they based their claim on, and he said he would have someone call me. Whether they will, I don’t know.
Saturday Night Card Game (Southern Poverty Law Center)