SPLC ‘hate incidents’ warrant a closer look, but media are unwilling

Omar Mateen

Omar Mateen, Pulse Night Club mass murderer. (photo/FBI)

The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization I once admired, has become a lightning rod for many in discussions of acts of ‘hate’ in US communities. Media, including this site, often use their information when covering hot topics.

What most of us haven’t done, though, is take a hard look at what SPLC classifies as ‘hate incidents’ and ask some questions. Among the questions we should ask is why, when their itemization of “apparent hate crimes and hate group activities” comprises different ethnicities, faiths, and ideologies, the graphic on the portal page to those incidents features only one type of individual.

SPLC draws these incidents “primarily from media sources.” To their credit, they do revoke hate crime status for some claims proven false.

What constitutes ‘hate’ these days? 

According to SPLC, it can be an act such as KKK fliers being distributed in a neighborhood. It can also be something as heinous as murdering someone because of his faith or skin color. Here are some examples of violent incidents posted on the SPLC website:

*(Boulder, CO) “Bryan Jamsheed Tayefeh, 29, and Yotam Monjack, 27, face felony second-degree assault and bias-motivated hate crime charges for allegedly attacking a Jewish man in December because he refused to remove his yarmulke.”

*(San Francisco, CA) “Brodes Wayne Joynes, 54, was charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, battery with serious bodily injury, two counts of criminal threats, false imprisonment, and hate-crime enhancements after he allegedly stabbed a transgender woman on a city bus and hurled epithets at her and her friend.

*(Jackson, MS) “Two 21-year-old white women, Shelbie Brooke Richards and Sarah Adelia Graves, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in a series of attacks on blacks that culminated when a black man, James Craig Anderson, was run over and killed in Jackson in 2011.”

Crimes range from vandalism to murder, but what is striking about SPLC’s reportage is the lack of consistency and questionable methodology, such as relying on “media reports” and self-reportage.

For instance, I noticed various entries detailing crimes against transgenders such as the entry about Brodes Wayne Joynes. I looked at numerous stories in different newspapers. None of those stories had a photo. I did find a website that featured a photo with that perp’s name, but because I can’t confirm it’s him, I am not including it here. The photo I did find showed a Mr. Joynes whose skin is black.

There are other peculiarities. One entry listed a murder in Kansas City (MO):

“Ahmed H. Aden, 34, was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in a hit-and-run crash that fatally injured 15-year-old Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein at a Somali Center.”

Again, no specifics are given about the suspect. There are some entries that specify skin color when the suspect or perp is white and some that specify other skin colors, but there doesn’t seem to be a standard procedure for identification.

I’ve long expressed concern about the method used by media to specify ‘hate’ incidents and ‘hate’ speech. It seems to me there is a willingness to inflate such instances when sometimes, they may be due to personal conflicts, mental illness such as the Navy Yard shooter, or other causes.

Although skin colors and ethnicities varied in the hate reportage, all the photos at the top of the page showed one skin color—white.

Considering the current attention media and the left are directing to ‘white supremacist’ groups, it seems to me we should look at all groups committing violence, directly or indirectly. I recall President Barack Obama refusing to use the label ‘Islamic radicals’ or an equivalent when talking about crimes such as the horrendous murders at Ft. Hood (the second time) and Pulse Night Club in Florida. Branded media did not drill down with questions for the president on that matter. Obama emphasized the element of hate and terrorism, but did not specify the brand. Other than that, Obama used the occasion to renew his calls for gun control.

The Pulse Night Club shootings resulting in the deaths of 49 victims and injuries to scores of others is the worst by a single shooter in the history of our country. The perpetrator, the late Omar Mateen, said when he called 911:

“I pledge my allegiance to [Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi] of the Islamic State.”

I must point out that no branded media called President Obama an Islamist or assailed Democrats because the president chose not to emphasize Mateen’s Islamist ideology. Mateen, according to left of center The Washington Post, was a supporter of then-presidential candidate the Democrat Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton was not asked to disavow him. Nor was her party.

Sadly, media also downplayed the fact that a friend of Mateen reported him to the FBI in advance of the shootings. James Comey was FBI director at the time. The friend who is also a Muslim should have been listened to—it might have saved many lives, including that of the shooter. The story in the Post is well worth reading, and it is rare that I say that about that particular paper.

Imagine the consequences if someone other than Obama held the White House when that mass murder occurred.

The opposite is true for media now that a different party holds the White House. That is unfortunate, misleading, and increases the divisiveness politicians on the Left seem eager to promote, with some assistance from politicos traditionally considered rightwingers.

Media continue to rely on SPLC for ‘hate’ incident information, but it seems to me this is a very shaky standard.

You can view the incidents at the SPLC website.

You can also report a hate incident by using SPLC’s form. It includes this instruction:

“Please describe the incident and include what you might think was the motivation behind the bias incident (e.g. Anti-Black, Anti-Immigrant, Anti-LGBT, etc.).”

I have long held the position the very label ‘hate crime’ is not acceptable.

I can’t think of a single crime against anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, faith, skin color, gender, or any other criterion, that doesn’t involve some form of hate.

At present, everyone from our president to members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and media are talking about divisiveness.

There’s a simple solution for much, but not all of it. Stop labeling people as things and start looking at others as individuals. Therein lies true diversity, unlike the artificial construct political interests use for gain.

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/8-24-17)

About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
This entry was posted in Above the Fold (news). Bookmark the permalink.

Sound off!