Fact Check: No, Hate Groups Didn't Increase 4% Last Year

A major problem with the media is that it uncritically republishes material from political non-profit allies without doing the most basic forms of fact checking.

One of the worst offenders is the Southern Poverty Law Center whose claims get repeated as fact, even when there's no factual basis for them.

The number of U.S. hate groups expanded last year under President Donald Trump, fueled by his immigration stance and the perception that he sympathized with those espousing white supremacy, the Southern Poverty Law Center said on Wednesday

There were 954 hate groups in the country in 2017, marking a 4 percent increase over the previous year when the number rose 2.8 percent, the civil rights watchdog said in its annual census of such groups.

Since 2014, the number has jumped 20 percent, it said...

Anti-Muslim groups increased for a third year in a row, to 114 from 101 in 2016, the report said.

All these numbers are meaningless. They don't depend on any kind of rigorous research. Forget the entire argument over whether the groups the SPLC is targeting are hate groups (as an individual wrongly listed as a hate group by the SPLC until this year, you can guess my position on that), the SPLC's hate map doesn't actually track increases.

The SPLC isn't tracking when groups are created or dissolve except in the most casual fashion. Mostly the SPLC tracks groups based on when it becomes aware of them. Or thinks it became aware of something.

Here's a recent Politico mag piece.

Last year, Amana, Iowa, part of the Amana Colonies—founded in the 1850s by Pietists escaping persecution in their native Germany for their Reformist Lutheran beliefs, and which are now on the National Register of Historic Places—earned its place on the hate map. Someone at the SPLC spotted a chat thread on the Daily Stormer, in which someone with the screen name “Concerned Troll” had proposed a neo-Nazi “book club” meeting in an Amana café. No one in Amana was able to confirm to the SPLC whether or not the meeting actually took place, but that was enough to earn the corn-carpeted state its only swastika.

... in response to Amana’s complaint. Beirich says her team decided that the Nazi book club did in fact meet in Amana because the post on the “Daily Stormer” said so, but they allowed that they couldn’t be certain the participants were actually from Amana. So it came up with a solution: The SPLC expanded the designation on the map to include all of Iowa, making the group a state-level chapter without pinpointing the colonies. In effect, the remedy was to make a sweeping generalization based on no new information.

It's meaningless garbage. Trying to treat the SPLC hate map as meaningful statistics is a joke. It doesn't track anything except its own subjective methodology.

This year, I'm no longer listed as a hate group. But Unconstrained Analytics, a counterterrorism expert site by Stephen Coughlin and Patrick Poole is. It goes without saying that UA is not a hate group, but it also didn't come into existence last year. 

The SPLC doesn't measure anything except its own need to inflate its hate map by adding new entries, like Male Supremacists, a group that apparently includes women. 

Nothing increased 4% except the SPLC's listings which have a very loose relationship with reality.

Still the Southern Poverty Law Center had listed, "Sultan Knish a blog by Daniel Greenfield" as one of their "Active Anti-Muslim Hate Groups," alongside such other vast organizations as "Faith Freedom," a website for ex-Muslims, and "Casa D'Ice Signs," the signs on a bar located on K-Mart Plaza located in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Someone with less faith in the fact checking abilities of the Southern Poverty Law Center might have thought that whoever had made up this list had no clue that "Casa D'Ice" was a lounge with signs outside, that there was no such group as "Casa D'Ice Signs" and that signs are pieces of plastic and not a hate group. 

Casa D'Ice is no longer listed. Neither am I. But that doesn't mean the SPLC has become any more credible.