Why Words Can Hurt You

The editor of Intelligence Report on racists, militants, and their favorite pundits

| Web Exclusive, December 2009

This article is part of a package on the right-wing militia movement. For more, read  A Conspiracy of Hate about the rise of the extreme right from the January-February issue of Utne Reader.

Hate is an incurable disease. The goal of organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center is to ensure it doesn’t morph into a plague. Founded as a small law firm in Montgomery, Alabama, the SPLC opened its door in 1971 to fight regional cases of racial discrimination. Today the nonprofit manages a multimillion-dollar budget and publishes Intelligence Report, an Utne Independent Press Award winner for investigative journalism that, like its parent organization, advocates tolerance and tracks hate groups from coast to coast (see “A Conspiracy of Hate,” in the most recent issue of Utne Reader).

Mark Potok, the quarterly’s editor, recently chatted with Utne Reader editor David Schimke about the SPLC, Intelligence Report, and the state of hate. What follows is a full, unedited transcription of the conversation.

David Schimke: How would you, as the editor of the magazine, define the mission of the Southern Poverty Law Center?

Mark Potok: The mission of the Southern Poverty Law Center, overall, really has to do with the fourteenth amendment. It is essentially seeking justice for the least among us—seeking equality in the treatment of our citizens, by the law. More narrowly, our purpose in my department, the Intelligence Project, is really to both exposes and to do battle with white supremacist groups and other formations on the radical right. We're very explicit about the idea of we're not simply there to document or monitor these groups. Our purpose is to destroy them or to politically nullify them.

DS: Did the need for the Intelligence Project emerge in a certain point in the history of the center? If so, why did it emerge or has it always been part of the mission?

Skip Foss
5/7/2013 6:00:43 PM

I would like to know who gave Potock or Poduck or what ever his name is and his group of communist the right to decide who is a hate group and be able to keep a portfolio on these people? This bunch keeps info on anyone THEY feel is part of a hate group or a malitia of course with the exception of Islamic groups. Personally I think it is time that the people and groups that they are investigating strart looking into who is sponsoring them who is providing the money it takes to do what they do as a matter of fact it sounds to me like they are setting up people and feeding their info to the Obama communist muslim anti American hate group. I think that Americans should have listened to Joe Mcarthy there are communist agents and muslim agents in every branch of the government. It is time that we have a National Malitia of well armed men and women to stand by to take on Obamas secret army and the UN agents that will try to take our weapons and rights away from us , you can call me a paranoid nut but I have seen what commies can do to a country and their unarmed citizens and I am damn sure there guy's out there that have seen what these peaceful Muslims can do to their own unarmed people

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