Whether or not one accepts or agrees with the designation of hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the potential for the existence and proliferation of such organizations should be of concern to all. That concern, in turn, relies upon credible information.
For 2021, SPLC identified 733 such groups (https://www.splcenter.org/hate-map) across the nation, with 20 located or active in Virginia (https://www.splcenter.org/states/virginia), down from 39 reported in 2019. That fact alone is promising. Several of the 20 identified as Virginian researched by VoxFairfax were of questionable viability, such as the League of the South’s Virginia chapter, which was dissolved in 2010. While flyers from the Loyal White Knights of the KKK appeared sporadically in Virginia communities in 2020, it appears its activity in the Commonwealth is minimal. Others, such as Voice for Men (Roanoke), oppose misandry (dislike or disfavor of males) which, while hinting of male supremacy, cannot be firmly said to be affirmatively engaged in hate speech.
The difficulty, of course, is rooted in the definition of hate. SPLC’s scope of hate identification of organizations itself appears at times to be extreme. One designation is Beasst Productions (Roanoke), which touts itself as a source of “alternate” music, much of which promotes Nazism and anti-communist themes. Beasst maintains a website from which to purchase the wares categorized by SPLC as hate music. A review of the titles of available wares is more disappointing than attractive.
Several organizations appear to have made it onto SPLC’s top 20 in Virginia based upon no more than a vague attachment to some national organizations. Three organizations reflect no presence in the Commonwealth but are included as “state” locations. Another cited is Wolves of Vinland (Lynchburg), described on the Internet as a neo-pagan, Norse-worshipping club. SPLC characterizes it as Neo-Volkisch.”
Several organizations appear to have made it onto SPLC’s top 20 in Virginia based upon no more than a vague attachment to some national organizations. Three organizations reflect no presence in the Commonwealth but are included as “state” locations. Another cited is Wolves of Vinland (Lynchburg), described on the Internet as a neo-pagan, Norse-worshipping club. SPLC characterizes it as “Neo-Volkisch” which often dabbles in neo-Nazi theories.
Publicly available Internet information sometimes leads to questionable assertions. The Public Advocate of the United States (Merrifield) claims on its website that
Since its founding in 1981, Public Advocate has grown into a dedicated group of young conservatives in Washington, D.C., with a network of volunteers and supporters nationwide.
Assuming this claim to be accurate, the potential for Virginians to be made aware of the organization falls mainly to SPLC, notwithstanding the “nationwide” attribute. Itis characterized by SPLC as anti-LGBTQ which fails any fair test of devotion to hate. However, a number of listed organizations offer material and activities that contribute to the acknowledged strife in the nation’s civil discourse. The American Immigration Control group located in Monterey since 1983 received $1.3 million in contributions in 2019. Its mission, according to its website, is to stem the “destructive flooding” of immigration. That’s all immigration, not merely that crossing the southern border. While this group is clearly opposed to immigration, characterizing it as a hate entity may be overstating the proposition.
The American Renaissance/New Foundation Century (Oakton) has for many years been a prominent actor in white supremacy, now characterizing itself as devoted to white identarianism. This group, along with American Immigration Control, received initial funding support from the (now defunct) NYC Pioneer Fund, which supported and promoted eugenics commencing in the late 1930s. The fund continues in existence to the present time but with little public footprint. White supremacy connotes a more cogent sense of hateful discourse while white identarianism reflects fringe credo. Either characterization may, of course, be encapsulated in hate or hateful speech.
Many of the listees are groups focused on culture war issues, e.g. LGBTQ and same sex marriage. Located in Vienna and founded in 2003, the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation promotes the preservation of western culture and Christianity, largely through the publication and distribution of books devoted to those topics. According to available public information, the organization receives less than $50,000 per year and for that reason is not rated by charity monitors.
On balance, the hate group listings by SPLC are terrific for its own fundraising but of little practical use for the public.
On balance, the hate group listings by SPLC are terrific for its own fundraising but of little practical use for the public without increased background and descriptive material. The object remains a valuable information source and service but requires a more intense and useful definitional approach, such as a rating system based upon a set of factors. It would be helpful to know the income of such organizations; membership size, if applicable; website and geographic address; and statement of purpose. Since many of the listed organizations are not for profits, detailed financial and staffing information is available through charity monitoring agencies. SPLC characterized three of the Virginia-located organizations as “general hate” and one a purveyor of hate music. Two others received the appellation of “anti-LGBTQ” entities. Similarly, “neo-Confederate” and “male supremacy” may translate as hate for some but may not be as threatening as white supremacists. Following the Charlottesville march, it was somewhat surprising that only one Virginia organization – Nation of Islam – was characterized as anti-Semitic.
SPLC needs to up its game in this arena to continue to sustain credibility and respect. The current presentation is tired and subject to losing its cachet as a useful citation. Hate maps may make impressive sound bites for media but suffer from poverty upon inspection.