The Southern Poverty Law Center is back in the news because of the shooting at the Family Research Council, a group the SPLC had designated a “hate group” along with the Klan and Neo-Nazis.

Based on the available evidence, it is clear the shooter was motivated by hatred of FRC’s positions on homosexuality and gay marriage.  It also seems clear that the shooter was caught up in the recent anti-Chick-fil-A hysteria, as he carried Chick-fil-A sandwiches in his backpack along with more ammunition.

As detailed in my prior post about the shooting, SPLC’s hatewatch gives cover to hate, I previously have taken SPLC to task for exaggerating the supposed presence of the Klan in Rhode Island.

My own investigation in 2010, along with a subsequent investigation by the police in reaction to the SPLC listing, revealed no active Klan groups despite such a group being listed in SPLC’s annual “hate map” (link is to current) and listing of “hate groups.”  The supposed Rhode Island Klan group was nothing than a listing on a Klan website someplace in the Mid-West.

SPLC’s hate map at the time listed a total of three hate groups in Rhode Island, but there was no information as to the other two supposed groups, reflecting how SPLC inflates the number of hate groups.  SPLC also counts each supposed state branch of each hate group as a separate group, which again inflates the numbers.  If some neo-Nazi website claims to have branches in all states, that would be 50 hate groups to SPLC.

This all allows SPLC to run inflammatory reports about the supposed growth of hate groups, like this:

I decided to look at SPLC’s most recent annual hate group report, covering 2011, to see what was listed for Rhode Island.

I was pleased to see that SPLC had dropped the claim of a Klan group, but now there is listed a neo-Nazi group, the National Socialist Movement.

But once again, my suspicions were raised because no city was listed for the group in Rhode Island, unlike the listing for some other states.

The website of the National Socialist Movement listed a Rhode Island branch, but again no city or information, only a link to a Gmail account.  I assume the listing in the website was the source of SPLC’s information.  If so, that was a very thin basis on which to list the National Socialist Movement as having a real branch in Rhode Island.

I live in Rhode Island, and I have not heard of any active neo-Nazi groups.  I searched the state’s paper of record, The Providence Journal, and found no references to such groups.  I did Google searches, and still nothing.  Google searches turn up the SPLC’s listing.

I checked the SPLC website, and the last hate crime listed in Rhode Island was in 2010, when a swastika was painted on a synagogue.  Could that be the group?  No, that was two ignorant youths who painted the swastika backwards, and when caught, were described by the police as very remorseful and not motivated by anti-Semitism.

As with the prior listing of the Klan, I can’t say that there isn’t some guy or gal someplace in Rhode Island who has a Nazi flag hanging on the wall or who shares the sentiments of the National Socialist Movement.  If there is such a group, they are doing a really good job of keeping it quiet.

The notion that Rhode Island has a real, active neo-Nazi movement in the state appears to be just another exaggeration by the SPLC.

These exaggerations, as I have pointed out in my prior posts, cause real damage.  Every minute or resource we spend chasing SPLC’s phantom hate groups is a minute or resource we do not devote to real threats:

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.

The problem has become worse since SPLC decided to wade into the political and religious controversy over gay marriage and sexual orientation.

SPLC now lumps the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage in with the Klan and neo-Nazis.  It must do wonders for SPLC’s hate group numbers and fundraising, but it further tears apart the political fabric of the country.