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SPLC Admits Defining ‘Hate’ Is Purely Subjective


By Dave Gahary

In the last decade, AFP has frequently reported on well-funded U.S. and international organizations that are set up for the sole purpose of smearing decent patriotic Americans and others as “haters” and “racists,” simply because they do not agree with these groups’ liberal outlook. The danger here is that these so-called “civil right groups” often work closely with law enforcement agencies, using paid informants to infiltrate meetings and spy on people. Detailed information is collected and kept in files or turned over to police to help facilitate lawsuits and prosecutions— even prison sentences.

AFP had the chance recently to interview Mark Potok, the spokesperson for Morris Dees’s Southern Poverty Law Center, a multi-million-dollar operation that sees itself as America’s premier civil rights organization, but more broadly exists to pigeonhole Americans into subjective categories of “hate.”

Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) “Intelligence Project,” tasked with monitoring “hate groups” and “extremists,” freely admitted to AFP that the method SPLC staffers use for determining “hate” is not at all a science.

When asked if there is a definition on the SPLC’s Internet site that explains the parameters or metrics used to determine “hate,” Potok had a short reply: “Not really.” Potok was then asked if this kind of approach to classify “hate” is subjective, and he replied in the affirmative. “Yes, there’s some art as well as some science in it.”


This admission from the editor of the quarterly magazine Intelligence Report, the “nation’s preeminent periodical monitoring the radical right in the U.S.,” could be seen as alarming. A subjective, therefore inaccurate “hate” judgment from Potok and company at the SPLC could ruin someone’s life or even become a jail sentence, especially since the magazine is sent free to law enforcement agencies.

According to what Potok told AFP, the SPLC “train[s] anywhere between 2,000 and 8,000 police officers a year . . . in everything from hate crimes training to, much more typically, training in hate groups and
domestic terrorism.”

Even more alarming, someone can be classified as “hateful” even if they’ve never committed any crimes nor seem poised to do so in the future, but simply for expressing their “politically incorrect” opinion.

“The listings are not based on criminality or violence or any kind of estimate we’re making as to the potential of violence or criminal actions . . . [but] based strictly on ideology,” continued Potok.

Amazingly, Potok explained why “hate” is not defined by the SPLC.

“Part of the reason we don’t publish a definition . . . this is our opinion, this is our evaluation based, we think, on objective factors,” said Potok. He says this, even after admitting that the process is clearly subjective.

The SPLC’s Internet site comes fully equipped with a “hate map” that displays a spiffy graphic of the United States and a drop-down menu that allows users to select a state and view corresponding lists of “hate groups.”

The SPLC supposedly isn’t in the business of infiltrating such groups but instead claims on its site: “The list was compiled using hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports.”

Obviously, one of the dangers in this type of approach is interpreting the authenticity and content of the source material from the individuals and groups the SPLC decides to monitor, as well as the accuracy and dependability of eyewitnesses, police and “news” reports. The fact that “history” is littered with errors seems not to bother Potok.

It’s interesting to note that the SPLC’s unscientific, subjective virtual slandering applies to the publication you’re currently reading. 

AMERICAN FREE PRESS is listed on the “hate map” under the “not easily categorized” category of “General Hate,” which has an equally
ambiguous and unsettled definition:

These groups espouse a variety of rather unique hateful doctrines and beliefs that are not easily categorized. This list includes a “Jewish” group that is rabidly anti-Arab, a “Christian” group that is anti-Catholic and a polygamous “Mormon” breakaway sect that is racist. Many of the groups are vendors that sell a miscellany of hate materials from several different sectors of the white supremacist movement.

Potok and the SPLC need to take a lesson from themselves: “hate” is certainly subjective and “not easily categorized.”

Dave Gahary is the host of AFP Podcast, an audio interview series available on the Internet and on compact disc. See more at Gahary is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and an outspoken advocate of the Constitution.

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(Issue # 5, January 31, 2011)

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