Citing the SPLC data, Australia’s The Age described a US “on the edge of upheaval,” like “an impregnated sky ahead of a thunderstorm.” The Toronto Star asked whether America is losing its “grip on reality.” The Guardian, The Straits Times, and Sydney Morning Herald ran similar pieces, while Newsweek, USA Today, and MSNBC each placed the law center prominently in stories on the rise of right-wing hate.
There’s only one problem: the SPLC report is deeply flawed.
The news sources all referenced the SPLC’s claim of a 244 percent rise in patriot groups and militias. This represents an increase of 363 groups in 2009, but a side by side comparison with SPLC’s 2008 data shows inflated numbers. For instance, 102 of these new groups are chapters of “We are Change,” a “grassroots peace and social justice movement,” according to the organization’s own website. Their founding member, Luke Rudkoswki, was included in the SPLC’s April “Meet the Patriots” list of enablers of right-wing extremism. “It was weird,” Mr. Rudkoswki said, “the SPLC specifically interviewed me for this report, we spoke about nonviolence, Gandhi, Dr. King” as well as raising funds for 9/11 first responders, toy and clothing drives, and helping the homeless. “They didn’t even mention any of it.”