Southern Poverty Law Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Counting Extremists Again

Do its numbers tell a story?

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SPLC

The Southern Poverty Law Center has released its 2017 report on "The Year in Hate and Extremism." This is the annual study, inevitably covered heavily in the press, in which the SPLC tries to count the number of hate groups and anti-government "Patriot" groups that were active in the U.S. in the prior year. This edition's numbers are interesting, to the extent that they're reliable; but as always, I have questions about their reliability.

It is obviously far easier to count the number of groups than the number of people active in these groups, so I understand why the center takes that approach. And while people sometimes complain about the fact that the SPLC counts the different chapters of an organization as separate groups, that method may do a better job of showing you how much activity there is on the ground. The trouble is that if a group splinters—as these groups often do—that shows up as growth. (Last year's report, for example, showed a big spike in KKK groups, but it also conceded that this was probably a matter of racists forming smaller new klaverns after two big Klans fell apart.) There have also been several cases where a group winks onto one of these lists not because it was just formed but because it just came to the SPLC's attention. That's inevitable, but it means people sometimes read too much into the year-to-year changes in the numbers.

On top of that, there are all sorts of questions about how certain items end up on these lists in the first place. I see that the SPLC is no longer counting the Moorish Science Temple among the "Patriot" groups—a wise decision—but the list still has separate entries for both WorldNetDaily and WorldNetDaily's book imprint. What on earth could justify that? There's also the matter of where you draw the line between an "extremist" group and some plain old constitutionalist conservatives. I understand why the Patriot roster includes militias and III%ers, but do they really need to list every Eagle Forum chapter in the land?

All that said, the SPLC count isn't completely useless. When you see a really big jump or decline in its numbers, as opposed to some small shifts along the margins, it's a decent sign that something's going on. The SPLC data show the militia movement taking off under Bill Clinton, declining under George W. Bush, and then surging again in the Obama years. And that reflects pretty much everyone's understanding of the facts on the ground, even if we don't always interpret the meaning of those facts in the same way.

This year the number of militias dropped from 276 to 165. The broader number of anti-government "extremists" also fell sharply, from 998 to 623. Meanwhile, the number of hate groups bumped up from 892 to 917. I'm not sure how significant an increase of 25 groups is, and I should note that the total is still lower than it was just three years ago. I'm more interested in a big leap within the list of hate groups: The number of anti-Muslim organizations zoomed from 34 to 101.

The SPLC report suggests that the drop in anti-government groups was a reaction to a pro-gun Republican coming to power, much like the decline during the Bush era. That doesn't seem very plausible—remember, this is a look back at 2016, and for most of the year it was widely expected that Hillary Clinton would win the election. The report also suggests that the crackdown on the Malheur occupation was a "key factor in the decline of the Patriot groups." Oddly, another article in the same issue of the SPLC's magazine argues that the Malheur saga "further emboldens" the nation's gun-toting radicals. Which is it, folks?

But as long as we're skylarking about what all these numbers might mean, let me throw a thought onto the table. In mainstream Republican circles last year, the more nationalist side of the right outpaced the relatively libertarian side. (You don't need an SPLC-style report to see that—just compare Donald Trump's performance in the primaries to Rand Paul's.) Given that, I wouldn't be surprised at all if the far end of the right has seen a leap in the number of groups worried primarily about outsiders and a decline in the number of groups worried primarily about the government. If I were prone to probing for patterns in the SPLC's numbers, I'd start there.

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  1. Oooh, oooh, Count me, don’t forget me.

    Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

    Also, extremism in the defense of being left alone is even less of a vice.

    1. I’m so extreme, I took my ball and went home.

      1. I’m so extreme, i wasn’t even playing in the first place.

        1. I’m so extreme, I have no idea what either of you are talking about.

            1. Thanks for the earworm, you bastard.

                1. I am so extreme, I am a genuine anarchist (as opposed to those fake ones who violently rioted at Berkeley).

    2. You aren’t even on Hihn’s list – how can you hope to have SPLC consider you?

  2. Hope they count Floyd Lee Corkins, but they probably won’t!!!

  3. I didn’t see any government or government-related organizations.
    Police unions are pretty violently hateful.

    1. Haven’t you heard? Hateful violence is fine as long as the people committing it are wearing state-issued badges and uniforms.

      1. Or are committing said violence against “fascists,” for some definition of that word.

      2. I’m Jeff Sessions, and I approve this message.

  4. I imagine the “explosion” of hate groups over the last few years is largely attributable to social media. Nobody pays any attention to basement dwelling cranks unless they have an internet connection.

    And the SPLC has almost zero credibility since they are largely a DNC front group.

    1. SPLC’s press releases at the lazy reporter’s golden ticket to clicks.

      1. There’s a whole industry of organizations on both sides of the aisle that do nothing other than create Buzzfeed-style red meat for the respective political bases. Ginning up outrage has become a billion dollar business.

    2. What’s my mimeographed newsletter, chopped liver?

  5. Do these people have like meetings and conferences? Does the SPLC go around and attend them? I never understood the methodology, and the SPLC is about as trustworthy as InfoWars.

    1. Here is the methodology:
      Does this group fully support all left wing policies?
      Yes = not on list
      No or not sure or anything but yes = extremist

      Which is why the racist SPLC is not on the list.

      1. And

        Can we make this group seem sufficiently scary for fund-raising purposes/

        Yes = Top of the list

  6. “The Southern Poverty Law Center…”

    I stopped reading at this point.

  7. No no no, Jesse. Didn’t you get the memo? The correct line to take here is:

    SPLC IS A TOOL OF THE PROGTARD LEFT TO SLIME THE GOOD PATRIOTIC PEOPLE OF THE RIGHT, AND IT IS OUR DUTY TO DEFEND TRUMP AGAINST THE LEFTIST ASSAULTS

    1. D-… You CAN do better. Just APPLY yourself. Don’t give up!!

    2. “SPLC IS A TOOL OF THE PROGTARD LEFT…”

      Yes, yes they are. So what is your point exactly?

      1. “Hurr durr yokeltarians.” It’s like AddictionMyth without the raving insanity which made him so much fun.

        It must be hard work being an anti-anti-SJW. There are so many threads to post the same rephrased complaints into.

        1. Moderately sure that actually IS AddictionMyth.

          1. Congrats chemjeff. You’ve got people thinking you’re local idiot Dave Weigel. That didn’t take long.

      2. You’re right. If you ignore things you don’t like, they will just go away.

    3. Criticizing Trump is pretty much indistinguishable from celebrating everything Obama did.

        1. Ahh…. remember, “Trump threatens to invade Mexico“? that was a good one.

          they managed to make the story last a day or two longer by running the “denials” as new news.

          1. “…they managed to make the story last a day or two longer by running the “denials” as new news.”

            “Trump answers anti-Semitism question by boasting about election”
            http://www.sfgate.com/technolo…..935109.php

    4. So we can’t criticize an organization we have been criticizing long before Trump began running for office, because that makes is right wing shills? I get how some commenters can appear to be Trump apologists, but don’t get that confused with very legitimate criticism of a thinly veiled political organization.

      1. Chemjeff is a Tupla sock.

        1. Who isn’t these days?

      2. Precisely. It can’t possibly be that both Trump is wrong on things and the media is wrong on other things. Nor can it possibly be that Trump is bad, but the media is still overdoing it’s criticisms. The only valid realities are: Trump is an angel and the media are devils, or Trump is Hitler’s more evil reincarnation and the media are heroic underdogs trying to save the world.

  8. The SPLC is as useful as pleated jeans.

    1. What do you have against Z Cavaricci’s?

      1. *flashed back to 7th grade*

        God damn you to hell!

    2. Your words make me think that you are heaping high praise on the SPLC, but the context makes me think you’re dissing pleated jeans

      1. Well, pleated jeans aren’t as good as acid washed and ripped, are they?

        1. All qualities orthogonal to them being pleated. I wear my pleated, ripped, acid washed, stone scrubbed, skinny jeans every day. And I am seriously considering suicide to escape how much sexual intercourse I receive. Yep.

  9. “klavern” is the word of the day.

    1. +1 kliff the mailman

      1. ‘You know, Normie, it’s a little known fact that the Jews control the media only as a proxy for the Armenians…’

        1. kudos to all three of you.

          Outstanding.

  10. What about dragons? Are there more dragons than in previous years? That’s what I worry about.

    1. The SPLC wants you to know that is steadfastly against the burnination of your peasant village and requests a contribution to support their efforts.

      1. +1 TROGDOOOOOOR!

    2. There will be because Trump plans to heartlessly repeal Obama’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Mitigation Act of 2010

    3. Dragons eat zombies; therefore they should be on the list as life form bigots.

      1. Do zombies technically count as life forms though?

    4. Everyone knows that dragons don’t exist. But while this simplistic formulation may satisfy the layman, it does not suffice for the scientific mind. The School of Higher Neantical Nillity is in fact wholly unconcerned with what does exist. Indeed, the banality of existence has been so amply demonstrated, there is no need for us to discuss it any further here. The brilliant Cerebron, attacking the problem analytically, discovered three distinct kinds of dragon: the mythical, the chimerical, and the purely hypothetical. They were all, one might say, nonexistent, but each nonexisted in an entirely different way…
      “The Third Sally or the Dragons of Probability”, transl. by Michael Kandel

      More about this here.

  11. OT
    Hey, not only are hate groups now on the rise, but the media have rediscovered the homeless after 8 years!

    https://tinyurl.com/jfs2mje

    /OT

    1. oh great. the anti-homeless left is back. they’re even more annoying than the anti-war left which is reemerging.

      1. The democratic supporters in Hollywood and Silicone Valley alone have enough money to house all “homeless” for ten years. So if there is a homeless problem, it belongs to the left alone.

        1. Especially since leftist policies cause a lot of homelessness.

    2. Aw, it’s nice of The Guardian to do the yeoman’s work that heartless Americans can’t be bothered with.

  12. I will give them a suggestion for the No.1 spot

    The Southern Poverty Law Center

  13. Not that one would expect this to fall under the umbrella of “Free Minds and Free Markets” or anything, but the union vote at Boeing’s South Carolina plant failed decisively.

    1. “Destroyed” might be the operative term. 76% against with more than 90% voting.

    2. Said the union grifter, “The IAM remains committed to getting Boeing South Carolina workers the respect, wages and consistency they deserve.”

      Whether they like it or not, apparently.

  14. The Southern Poverty Law Center, given its record, has pretty much the same claim to legitimacy as, say, the Tupelo Mississippi chapter of the KKK. why would you listen to, much less believe, a damn thing they say?

    1. I think that the fact that many major media outlets will cover the report with great credulity is a pretty good reason to critically examine the report.

  15. By “decisively” I mean “not even close”.

    One more tragedy wrought by the onset of Trump’s America.

  16. The SPLC is itself a hate group.

    Anti-hate group Southern Poverty Law Center blamed for inspiring gun attack on Family Research Council

    Quote:
    In August 2012, a Washington area man guided by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate map” that cited FRC, entered the group’s headquarters and shot a security guard. The guard survived and the shooter, a volunteer with a gay group, pleaded guilty to domestic terrorism.

    1. It’s wrong to initiate violence against anyone, so this is kind of a moot point, but…

      He shot the security guard? The guy who probably works through Securitas or GuardsMark and has no particular ideological alignment with the organization in whose facility he works? The guy who is just trying to get his damn paycheck ($11 per hour x 40 hrs) and go home? The guy who is probably old as dirt and trying to save for a short retirement?

      Again, kind of a moot point, but I just find it galling.

  17. The SPLC data show the militia movement taking off under Bill Clinton, declining under George W. Bush, and then surging again in the Obama years. And that reflects pretty much everyone’s understanding of the facts on the ground, even if we don’t always interpret the meaning of those facts in the same way.

    Threat of gun control.

    1. That’s almost certainly the biggest reason. Though I suspect there was a 9/11 effect too.

    2. Minor detail; all adult males (17 to 45) are in the militia.
      (Militia act of 1903)
      So if the SPLC wants to be factual, the “growth” in militia is related to the changes in population ages.

      1. Oh, cut it out.

        The same word can often be used in different ways with different meanings. The militia act of 1903 is not the definitive and only definition of “militia”.

  18. Does the SPLC bother to track things like the rise of people claiming to be ‘antifa’ or #BLM protestors who are committing actual violence in the streets? For all the pearl clutching over those dangerous militia guys (I have a hunch getting labeled as such only requires that you form a group that supports the second amendment and hangs out somewhere to drink and shoot the shit once a week), I don’t see much actual violence from them. Closest they came was hijacking a cabin in the middle of nowhere while armed.

    1. Does the SPLC bother to track things like the rise of people claiming to be ‘antifa’ or #BLM protestors who are committing actual violence in the streets?

      I don’t see much violence from BLM either. But to answer your question: They do track black separatists and they discuss some sorts of leftist activity, but it isn’t their focus.

      1. I’d say there’s more evidence connecting BLM to riots and mass shootings in the last year than militia movements, but it’s hard to pin a hashtag movement down when people will just deny individuals have affiliation whenever they do bad things. They most definitely have inspired violence and people who support them/are members openly use rhetoric condoning violence both online and in their protests.

      2. None of my posts should be taken to deny the existence of any right wing whack jobs/loons who could potentially commit violence. But if I’m looking at the current political landscape, I see one side that the actual political violence is coming almost wholly from one side of the political spectrum.

      3. They do track black separatists and they discuss some sorts of leftist activity…

        They probably feel like they need to at least give kind of an appearance of neutrality

    2. They categorize the Orlando shooter and the Dallas police shooter as “right-wing terrorists”, and include them in their tallies of white supremacist attacks.

    3. Also, no one can ever forget Timothy McVeigh. People who can’t recall Clinton(the one who was actually President) can tell me in great detail about the terrible anti freedom event and about the great evil he was and represents to this day. He is the bogeyman.

  19. I hope they include Longshoremen and teachers’ unions this time.

  20. So groups are considered “extremists” because they are not statist groups? One of the “patriot” groups in the SPLC report is Brave New Books in Austin, TX, (https://www.bravenewbookstore.com). Why are they on the list? Because they support bitcoin, CBD, natural health and beauty products, or maybe it’s that subversive literature they sell. Or, maybe it’s just their motto, “Anti-War, Anti-State, Pro-Market.” If that’s all it takes, then maybe the next list will have groups purporting “free minds and free markets” as extremists.

    1. Jesse seems to be working under the assumption that there is an honest methodology behind this study that makes its numbers worthwhile year to year. Why the hell would I put it past the SPLC to, you know, change their counting methods for political purposes?

      1. Jesse seems to be working under the assumption that there is an honest methodology behind this study that makes its numbers worthwhile year to year.

        I don’t know if you noticed this, but the whole point of this post is that their numbers really aren’t worthwhile from year to year, except perhaps when they show really enormous swings.

        But I don’t think they’re deliberately fudging the figures. They do the fudging when they interpret the figures. My favorite was the year that both counts were coming down, so they wrote that the real threat was lone-wolf violence. Which may well be true, but it calls into question a lot of the things they wrote in previous years.

        1. I don’t know if you noticed this

      2. Whaddya mean “change” their counting methods. From the beginning their counting methods have been political.

        also regarding: “Then maybe the next list will have groups purporting “free minds and free markets” as extremists.”

        See yesterdays slippery slope of including libertarians as punchable fascists….

        1. I also notice they only count “anti-government” extremists as if there’s no such thing is “pro-government” extremists.

          (I also notice you need a lot of quotation marks when speaking about anything from the SPLC.)

      3. So true. I wonder how many of these groups even know they are on the list.

  21. They won’t have any credibility with me until they put themselves on the list, at which point they lose all credibility.

  22. In mainstream Republican circles last year, the more nationalist side of the right outpaced the relatively libertarian side.

    Ain’t nothing libertarian about Republicans. More accurate to say: “the more nationalist side of the right outpaced the less nationalist side”.

    1. Yeah, but there sure as hell ain’t nothing libertarian about Progressives.

    2. Rand Paul and Justin Amash, to name but two prominent (R)s, will be sad to hear this.

  23. Here’s a tell.

    And the numbers undoubtedly understate the real level of organized hatred in America. In recent years, growing numbers of right-wing extremists operate mainly in cyberspace until, in some cases, they take action in the real world. Dylann Roof, who was convicted late last year of the racist murder of nine black churchgoers, is an example of that ? he had no real-world contact with hate groups before deciding, based on propaganda he read on the Internet, that it was time to start a race war.

    By far the most dramatic change was the enormous leap in anti-Muslim hate groups, from 34 in 2015 to 101 last year ? a 197% increase. But that explosion was not unexpected. Anti-Muslim hate has been expanding rapidly for more than two years now, driven by radical Islamist attacks including the June mass murder of 49 people at an Orlando, Fla., gay nightclub, the unrelenting propaganda of a growing circle of well-paid ideologues, and the incendiary rhetoric of Trump ? his threats to ban Muslim immigration, mandate a registry of Muslims in America, and more.

    1. We’ve got racists, hate groups, etc… but when it comes to characterizing an act which was decidedly driven by hate and homophobia they revert to “radical Islamic terrorist”, an act which was apparently really bad because it inspired a backlash.

      The problem the left has is that it cannot come to grips with the progressive stack. These are not anti-homosexual extremists, they’re radical Islamic terrorists somehow removed from the norm of American society. However, if it had been a Christian who performed the attack, it most assuredly would have been characterized as an act of hate using the terminology reserved for the SPLC’s disfavored groups.

  24. Lemme guess, the SPLC number for extremists is about 60 million…..

  25. Isn’t the total number of extremists roughly 62,985,106, the total number of Trump voters?
    Or do we need to add all the Johnson voters as well?

  26. The report also suggests that the crackdown on the Malheur occupation was a “key factor in the decline of the Patriot groups.” Oddly, another article in the same issue of the SPLC’s magazine argues that the Malheur saga “further emboldens” the nation’s gun-toting radicals. Which is it, folks?

    It’s whichever they need it to be at the time.

    If I were prone to probing for patterns in the SPLC’s numbers, I’d start there.

    If I were prone to probing for patterns in the SPLC’s numbers, I’d put a gun to my head and paint the walls with brain for wasting my life.

  27. Isn’t it funny how all the groups somehow fall on the conservative viewpoint side? What a coincidence! Maybe they should call their bird-cage-liner “The year in people who don’t subscribe to our radical leftist agenda”.

    All that said, the SPLC count isn’t completely useless.
    We’ll agree to disagree, Jesse.

  28. I think I stopped paying attention to the SPLC when they listed the Heritage Foundation as a hate group. Also, I find their stance on “patriot” groups pretty telling. They basically equate state skepticism with racially-motivated violence.

    1. They basically equate state skepticism with racially-motivated violence.

      That’s what all the cool kids do these days.

    2. Ben Carson is possibly the least extreme and hateful person I’ve seen, and they labeled him a hateful extremist. Maajid Nawaz is a devout Muslim who was once a radical Islamist and is now trying to reform Islam. He was labeled an “anti-Muslim extremist”. I would trust a list of “hate groups” from InfoWars as much as one from the SPLC.

  29. Was Ayaan Hirsi Ali and/or Sam Harris on the list of Anti-Muslim “groups”?

    1. At least they’re not Muslims themselves.

      Maajid Nawaz is a devout Muslim who was once a radical Islamist and is now trying to lead a modern reform movement within Islam. Labeling him an anti-Muslim extremist is so ironic and absurd that it hurts my brain.

  30. Does the SPLC count left-wing and Muslim extremist groups, or do they just concentrate on right-wingers and libetarians? For that matter, I understood at the time that the initial rise of the militia movement was at least partly a response to the liberal misinterpretation of the Second Amendment’s militia clause., and the SPLC itself is an extremist group that has never issued any sort of apology for inspiring Floyd Corkins on his attempted murder spree at the FRC.

  31. SPLC equals extremism…………….

  32. When you look at SPLC numbers, always remember that they classified Omar Mateen’s Orlando massacre as right wing terror and not Islamic terror.

  33. Did this make it?

    Berkeley Student Paper Publishes Columns PRAISING Anti-Milo Riot

    http://dailycaller.com/2017/02…..z4Ywhh1dD0

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  35. By any reasonable standard, the Southern Poverty Law Center should list itself.

  36. It is obviously far easier to count the number of groups than the number of people active in these groups, so I understand why the center takes that approach. And while people sometimes complain about the fact that the SPLC counts the different chapters of an organization as separate groups, that method may do a better job of showing you how much activity there is on the ground. The trouble is that if a group splinters?as these groups often do?that shows up as growth. (Last year’s report, ???? ????? ??? ????? ??????? iron man ????? ???? for example, showed a big spike in KKK groups, but it also conceded that this was probably a matter of racists forming smaller new klaverns after two big Klans fell apart.) There have also been several cases where a group winks onto one of these lists not because it was just formed but because it just came to the SPLC’s attention. That’s inevitable, but it means people sometimes read too much into the year-to-year changes in the numbers.

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