Ever since Barack Obama was elected in 2008, we've heard that the number of hate groups in this country is on the rise. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (the left-wing, non-governmental organization responsible for compiling an annual list of hate groups), there are 926 active hate groups in the United States. (View the SPLC's map showing the number of hate groups by state.) That's a 54% increase since 2000.
But how accurate is the SPLC's list?
In 2006, the SPLC puzzled Vermonters when they declared the Klan was active in their state. According to the SPLC, the Brotherhood of Klans Knights of the Ku Klux Klan had an active chapter in the city of Rutland (pop. 17,292).
When a reporter for the Rutland Herald questioned the SPLC's Mark Potok about the validity of the group's claim, the only "evidence" of Klan activity in Rutland that Potok could produce was an archived copy of a defunct Web page listing a Klan post office box in Rutland. [Report says KKK is in Vermont, but others dispute claim. Gordon Dritschilo, Rutland Herald, June 12, 2007].
Potok explained to the reporter that the SPLC closely monitors the Web for any possible locations of hate groups, but makes no attempt to confirm the validity of each group before adding it to their hate groups list.
And like the TSA's No Fly List, once something is placed on the SPLC's hate groups list, it's nearly impossible to get it removed.
When Rutland residents and law enforcement personnel contacted the SPLC to tell them they'd made an error, the SPLC rebuffed them.
"Very frequently, authorities in a given community are surprised to find a hate group operating in their town or operating a mailbox, especially if it turns out to be a drop box," Potok explained, adding, "just because local police and local anti-racism groups don't know about it [the existence of a hate group] does not make it not true."
It's now 2010, and the SPLC still includes the dubious Rutland, VT chapter of the Brotherhood of Klans Knights of the Ku Klax Klan as an "active hate group" on its map.