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Alexander Cockburn
Alexander Cockburn
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King of the Hate Business

Comment

The sun is dipping low in the evening sky over the Republican Party as the Other Leading Brand. A mere 21 percent of the adult population identify themselves as Republicans. Sen. Arlen Specter sees the writing on the wall. He prefers to make his sixth senatorial run under the ample Democratic banner, rather than get mangled in the tiny shark tank of a Republican primary attended only by people who want to see the country run by Limbaugh and Hannity. With Franken certified, Specter crossing the aisle and Biden in reserve, the Democrats can no longer hide behind the excuse of a Republican filibuster. They'll figure out a way, no doubt, but it could be embarrassing.

It's also horrible news for people who raise money and make money selling the notion there's a right resurgence out there in the hinterland with massed legions of haters, ready to march down Main Street draped in Klan robes, a copy of "Mein Kampf" tucked under one arm and a Bible under the other.

What is the arch-salesman of hate mongering, Mr. Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, going to do now? Ever since 1971, U.S. Postal Service mailbags have bulged with his fundraising letters, scaring dollars out of the pockets of trembling liberals aghast at his lurid depictions of hate-sodden America, in dire need of legal confrontation by the SPLC. Nine years ago, Ken Silverstein wrote a devastating commentary on Dees and the SPLC in Harper's, dissecting a typical swatch of Dees' solicitations. At that time, as Silverstein pointed out, the SPLC was "the wealthiest civil rights group in America," with $120 million in assets.

As of October 2008, the net assets of the SPLC were $170,240,129. The merchant of hate himself, Mr. Dees, was paid an annual $273,132 as chief trial counsel, and the SPLC's president and CEO, Richard Cohen, $290,193. Total revenue in 2007 was $44,727,257 and program expenses $20,804,536. In other words, the Southern Poverty Law Center was raising twice as much as it was spending on its proclaimed mission. Fundraising and administrative expenses accounted for $9 million, leaving $14 million to be put in the center's vast asset portfolio.

But where are the haters? That hardy old standby, the KKK, despite the SPLC's predictable howls about an uptick in its chapters, is a moth-eaten and depleted troupe, at least 10 percent of them on the government payroll as informants for the FBI. As Noel Ignatiev once remarked in his book "Race Traitor," there isn't a public school in any county in the U.S.A. that doesn't represent a menace to blacks a thousand times more potent than that offered by the KKK, just as there aren't many such schools that probably haven't been propositioned by Dees to buy one of the SPLC's "tolerance" programs.

What school is going to go on record rejecting Dees-sponsored tolerance?

Dees and his hate-seekers scour the landscape for hate like the arms manufacturers inventing new threats and for the same reason: It's their staple.

The SPLC's latest "Year in Hate" report claims that in 2008 the number of hate groups rose to 926, up 4 percent from 2007, and 54 percent since 2000. The SPLC doesn't measure the number of members in the groups, meaning they probably missed me. Change that total to 927. I'm a hate group, meaning in Dees-speak, "one with beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people," starting with Dick Cheney. I love to dream of him being waterboarded, subjected to loops of Schonberg played at top volume, locked up naked in a meat locker. But the nation's haters are mostly like me, enjoying their (increasingly circumscribed) constitutionally guaranteed right to hate, solitary, disorganized, prone to sickening relapses into love, or at least the sort of amiable tolerance for All Mankind experienced when looking at photos of Carla Bruni and Princess Letizia of Spain kissing.

The effective haters are big, powerful easily identifiable entities. Why is Dees fingering militiamen in a potato field in Idaho when we have identifiable, well-organized groups that the SPLC could take on? To cite reports from the Urban League, and United for a Fair Economy, minorities are more than three times as likely to hold high-cost subprime loans, foisted on them by predatory lenders, meaning the big banks; "all black and Latino subprime borrowers could stand to lose between $164 billion and $213 billion for loans taken during the past eight years." Get those bankers and big mortgage touts into court, chief counsel Dees! How about helping workers fired by people who hate anyone trying to organize a union? What about defending immigrants rounded up in ICE raids? How about attacking the roots of Southern poverty, and the system that sustains that poverty as expressed in the endless prisons and Death Rows across the South, disproportionately crammed with blacks and Hispanics?

You fight theatrically, the Dees way, or you fight substantively, like, for example, the Institute for Southern Studies run by Chris Kromm; or like Stephen Bright, who makes only $11,000 as president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights. The center's director makes less than $50,000. It has net assets of a bit over $4.5 million and allocates about $1.6 million a year for expenses, 77 percent of its annual revenue. Bright's outfit is basically dedicated to two things: prison litigation and the death penalty. He fights the system, case by case. Not the phony targets mostly tilted at by Dees but the effective, bipartisan, functional system of oppression, far more deadly and determined than the SPLC's tin-pot hate groups. Tear up your check to Dees and send it to Bright.

Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through www.counterpunch.com. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



Comments

1 Comments | Post Comment
It's about hate, but mostly about fear and about greed. Our society has, for several years, been building a small class of rich people and a very large class of poor people. The very rich live in walled and guarded neighborhoods while the very poor live in bleak accomodations that are owned by someone else, or they are warehoused in various prisons around the country. The very rich have conned the shrinking middle class and the marginal poor into fearing the very poor along with anyone who looks different, speaks another language, or goes to a different church. The sad truth is that the fear that people should have in our country is the fear of building a very large group of people who have nothing; because if you have nothing, you have nothing to lose if you set a match to all of it.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Paul M. Petkovsek
Fri May 1, 2009 2:58 AM
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