Please Stop Using the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Data, Guise.

Posted on May 28, 2017


Many people who care what I think will have noticed I have little regard for Antifa. I also don’t subscribe to the prevalent ideological construct of white supremacy growing astronomically in a substrate of the alt-right.

I think there may be a slight growth in white supremacist affiliation, and a definite spike in brazen public declarations of proud bigotry in the US. My problem with the alt-right and antifa formulation is just that–the alt-right antifa industrial complex has both groups, which emerge from the same race and economic class feeding off each other, burnishing each other’s reputation, and most critically, from my pov, making each other the focal point for the examination of white supremacy and its negation.

This construct ignores generations of study and experience about the very mainstream realities around white supremacy in the US: that its well tolerated by liberal as well as so-called conservative audiences; that its toxic effects are most often a product of local and federal laws that have nothing to do with race; and that in a capitalist economy such as ours, economic acts are the primary theater where white supremacy flourishes.

Putting all that aside for a moment, because everyone I know already hates me for bringing this stuff up, I have to note that antifa discourse, and many anti-racist normative liberal perspectives, orbit around the declarations of the Southern Poverty Law Center. This go-to-itiveness the SPLC holds over the left is what I’m concerned about in this brief argument for consigning the org forever to the cornfield.

I sympathize with the problem of trying to find the numbers to defend arguments based on ideas that white supremacy is growing–because in a white supremacist society, any organization focused on recording and analyzing such stats is going to be bound by the public acceptance of what white supremacy is at any given time and let’s not even talk about funders.

But the SPLC’s categorization and analysis of hate groups in the US is beyond any flaws you’d imagine resulting from these issues. The flaccid and silly characterizations SPLC uses for its analysis are a product of the capricious ideas of the org’s founder and its director. For example, the SPLC’s “hate map” and the data that inhabit it are used often to argue there has been recent growth of white supremacist groups. Here is the graph that accompanies the Hate Map on SPLC’s website, that shows a definite growth according to the SPLC’s rubric, in racist groups:

increase in hate groups

More striking is the SPLC’s “Hate Map. This is the map at the “All States, All Groups” setting.

hate map all states all groups

Prett scary. Of course, people who will use this data set to make their argument, rarely click the drop-down menu that breaks the map down into sections of hate which are solely the SPLC’s intellectual product. One interesting thing that happens when you do that–let’s say, when you click on the fanciful “Black Seperatist” flavor of hate groups–is you get brow-furrowing results. I call these Sudden Weird Outcomes, or SWO’s, a term I have coined to describe SPLC’s jenga-like data constructs.

Here we see that the 1/5th all of SPLC’s hate groups in the United States are “Black Seperatist” groups and that these are instutionally powerless orgs whose main work is discursive and legally-approved protest like the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers–the kind of organizations any ‘civil-society’ math would dictate you need to create a robust conversation about Black liberation.

black seperatist groups

Here’s the SPLC’s really rigorous methodology for defining and including Black Seperatist groups in the SPLC’s analysis of hate groups in the US.

black seperatist report

This is specious reasoning. And, of course, these statements are clearly up for analysis themselves. Gauging Black groups, even if they espouse violence, as racist, shows a very narrow understanding of race and whiteness in the US. So its suprising to see the authors so boldly asserting what can only be seen as controversial ideas, themselves immersed in the mainstream white supremacy of the US.

Beyond this, using SPLC’s data in the way that they are intended to be used creates tons of SWOs. According to SPLC, there are more Black Separatist groups in California, than either White Supremacist or Neo-Nazi groups, a ratio that holds for the entire country’s data sets.

cali black sep groups

And if this is true, its clear that the biggest threat to the average Californian is the growth of Black separatist groups–which according to the magic of whatever-I-say-at-my-own-ngo–has increased by 10% since 2015. Obviously, if the increase of Black Seperatist groups in the US has grown 10% in the last year, then the total growth in hate groups according to SPLC in the US, is driven in no small part by Black racism, a laughable theory.

So, please stop posting this garbage, its meaningless.

Here’s the link so you can play at home.

Posted in: Uncategorized