Over at Steve Sailer’s blog:
The Montgomery Advertiser has a 60-photo lifestyle spread on “The home of Morris Dees and Susan Starr in Montgomery, Ala.” Mr. Dees is, of course, the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and poverty has been very, very good to him, judging by the staggering amount of expensive bric-a-brac he and Ms. Starr have accumulated.
I’m not precisely sure what Morris’ wife is wearing in this photo (Barbarella’s coronation gown? Or, as a reader suggests, a shower curtain trimmed with fake fur?), but the caption reads “Susan Starr models a jacket she made in her studio at her home in Montgomery, Ala.”
This shiny thing-a-mabob with the #20 on it is described as “A poolside rickshaw at the home of Morris Dees and Susan Starr in Montgomery, Ala,” because nothing screams Equality! like a fancy rickshaw.
It would probably not occur to you to acquire what might possibly be a matador’s outfit to hang next to the washstand in an office bathroom of your compound, but then you aren’t the main man behind America’s most lucrative poverty organization, now are you?
This white and beigeish picture is described as “Guest house living area at the home of Morris Dees and Susan Starr in Montgomery, Ala.,” but the contents remain enigmatic. What exactly is on the coffee table? A nest of writhing snakes? A ton of old horseshoes? And what’s that spherical object behind the fuzzy couch? A giant ball of twine?
For some reason, the article accompanying the 60 pictures seems to have largely vanished, but it began:
It is hard to believe the home Susan Starr and Morris Dees purchased upon their marriage 11 years ago was once a very small cottage originally built in 1923.
Nah, by this point, I can believe anything about Morris.
Many civil rights groups abhor the media whores at the Southern Poverty Law Center, because they exist primarily to raise money and do very little work. It is a spin factory fueling fears of an imaginary white ayran nation, in order to raise money.
Why hasn’t the media investigated Morris Dees and his multimillion dollar house?
Above photos: Dees mansh
The Southern Poverty Law Center has been profiled here by Laird Wilcox.
The most troubling aspect of watchdog opportunism is their infiltration of law enforcement. Watchdog organizations feed law enforcement agencies information in order to prompt them to go after their enemies, real and imagined. By alleging “dangerousness” on the basis of mere assumed values, opinions and beliefs, they put entirely innocent citizens at risk from law enforcement error and misconduct.
For example, following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 the Southern Poverty Law Center gave the FBI a list of several thousand alleged members of militias and “hate groups” culled from its files. None of them had anything to do with the bombing. These names came from letters to newspapers expressing right-wing political views, lists of “members” supplied by informants, names from license plate numbers collected outside public meetings, pilfered mailing lists, and so on.
The possibility of a mere curiosity seeker or an individual with no criminal intent whatsoever being suggested to the FBI or BATF as “dangerous” seems inevitable. Along these lines, watchdog influence on law enforcement policies in tragedies from Ruby Ridge to Waco needs to be examined in detail.
[T]he Southern Poverty Law Center’s use of civil law to accomplish defacto criminal prosecutions without the benefit of appropriate constitutional guarantees, is simply wrong, and would be wrong no matter who did it. The rules of evidence and procedural practices in criminal cases are far more protective of civil liberties than those civil cases.
In civil prosecutions, for example, a defendant is not entitled to legal counsel unless he can pay for it, whereas in criminal prosecutions legal counsel is guaranteed, regardless of ability to pay. It has not gone unnoticed that most of the defendants in civil cases brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center are either indigent or of very modest means.
In February 1992 USA Today reported that Klanwatch, a division of Morris Dees’ Southern Poverty Law Center, had identified a total of “346 white supremacy groups operating in the USA, up an alarming 27% from the past year.” Included were 97 Ku Klux Klan and 203 alleged neo-Nazi groups.
What Klanwatch apparently did was list any group they could find mention of, including groups only rumored to exist. These included the large number of “post office box chapters” maintained by Klan and skinhead organizations. Some Christian Identity “ministries” consist only one person and a mailing list and many “patriot groups” consist of but three or four friends.
They also listed many groups whose actual affiliation is neither KKK nor neo-Nazi and who would argue with the designation of “white supremacy.” In short, they misleadingly padded their list.
A good example of SPLC disinformation occurred in June 1998 when SPLC spokesman Mark Potok responded to a newspaper request for background information on three accused cop killers. According to news reports
Alan “Monte” Pilon, one of the men suspected of killing a Cortez police officer and wounding three other officers, is a member of a local militia group linked to an extreme right-wing religion, a militia expert said Thursday.
Pilon, 30, of Dove Creek, is a member of the Four Corners Patriots, according to
Mark Potok, spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that monitors hate groups. The Four Corners Patriots is an underground militia linked to the Christian Identity religion, a faith Potok described as “viciously racist and anti-Semitic.
Potok further claimed to have been tracking the group since 1995 and estimated the group had 25 members. These claims, along with this detailed information, clearly gives the impression that the SPLC knows what it’s talking about. Potok’s claims were picked up by wire services and repeated nationwide, including NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw
One small problem: There apparently is no “Four Corners Patriots” organization. It doesn’t exist. Nobody in the broader militia and patriot movement had ever heard of them. My own efforts to pin down the organization were without success. Even local law enforcement couldn’t vouch for their existence and no evidence has developed that any of the suspects ever belonged to a militia organization.
The interplay between the SPLC and the media that depends upon them for information is complex and corrupt.
In February 1994 the Montgomery Advertiser ran a series of articles exposing various aspects of the SPLC, including its highly questionable fundraising tactics. In 1993, the American Institute for Philanthropy ranked the Southern Poverty Law Center as the “fourth least-needy charity in the nation.” Among the issues raised were:
The SPLC has reserve funds of $52 million…Just what the Law Center does with all that money is a source of concern. Some who have worked with Morris Dees call him a phony, the ‘television evangelist’ of civil rights who misleads donors…
For 15 years, people throughout the country have sent millions to the (SPLC) to fight the Ku Klux Klan and other supremacists. But critics say the law center exaggerates the threat of hate groups…
The American Institute of Philanthropy rates charitable institutions according to several criteria, including percent of income spent on charitable purposes, excess assets and so on. The Southern Poverty Law Center was rated “F” on a scale A through F. By way of comparison, the ACLU Foundation was rated A- and the Anti-Defamation League was rated B+.
Morris Dees [founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center] has been married four times, and in an appellant brief filed by Maureene Bass Dees in their acrimonious 1979 divorce she alleges numerous infidelities, homosexual behavior and a sexual interest by Morris Dees in both his adolescent stepdaughter and his daughter-in- law.
In all fairness, accusations and claims made in a divorce case may or may not be reliable. However, one must also ask how reliable are depositions, affidavits and testimony made by limited-income Ku Klux Klansmen who cannot afford legal counsel when faced with possible civil or criminal charges by Morris Dees. How many have agreed to say what Dees wanted them to say just to survive? How many legal “victories” have been obtained in this manner? Morris Dees and the SPLC must be judged by the same standards they have used to judge others.
Writing in a June, 1998, issue of The Nation, a leftist weekly, writer Alexander Cockburn observed:
“Morris Dees has raised an endowment of close to $100 million, with which he’s done little, by frightening elderly liberals that the heirs of Adolph Hitler are about to march down Main Street, lynching blacks and putting Jews into ovens. The fundraising of Dees and the richly rewarded efforts of terror mongers like Leonard Zeskind offer a dreadfully distorted view of American political realities.”
For further reading –
Ken Silverstein, “The Church of Morris Dees: How the Southern Poverty Law Center Profits from Intolerance,” Harper’s Magazine (November 2000), 54-57.
Dan Morse, “Marketing the Klan,” Montgomery Advertiser (November 1994)
John Edgerton, “Poverty Palace: How the Southern Poverty Law Center got rich fighting the Klan,” The Progressive (July, 1988)
Declairing Pamela Geller’s group a “hate group” is politically motivated defamation. Please help set the record straight on this
Roland Shirk opines:
I might be forced to adopt a rather cynical reading of SPLC’s motives. A group that began as Klan Watch, back when the Klan still (barely) existed, SPLC has since had to reinvent itself as an all-purpose watchdog keeping a keen eye on the activities of groups such as… Civil War Reenactors, Catholic monks, and opponents of Islamic terror. Given the happy decline into obscurity of white racist and anti-Semitic groups (anti-Zionists don’t count, no matter how many Jews they kill), SPLC has been forced to look a little harder for its targets. Since the only people outside of psych wards and tiny little compounds in Idaho who still preach the mass repression or murder of others based on religion are Muslims, and are by definition innocent, the standards for what makes a hate group will have to broadened a bit.
The alternative is too ugly to contemplate: SPLC might have to declare “victory” and go home, and its officers might have to sacrifice the six-figure incomes they earn by churning out letters that scare elderly Holocaust survivors into writing them fat checks. That money might instead be wasted on legacies to their grandchildren, when it could go to good use gold-plating the toilet fixtures on SPLC’s glittering Poverty Palace. Men like Morris Dees would have to find jobs at Starbucks.
Without the SPLC to tell us where to locate intolerance and bigotry, we might find ourselves confused. We might look at foundations which funnel money into foreign terrorist organizations devoted to murdering Jews and Christians, and mistake these charities for hate groups. We might, when we read about blasphemy laws that target religious minorities, or social mores that goad fathers into murdering their daughters, somehow conclude that the creed which underlies such activities is in itself hateful. And that might lead us to assert our country’s native values—driving us thereby down the ugly road of nativism.
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