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Jewish World Review Feb. 9, 2001/ 16 Shevat 5761

Wesley Pruden

Wes Pruden
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Consumer Reports

When a hate crime
is something to love

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- BLACK PAIN and white piety is a winning combination in contemporary America, as any number of phony liberals have demonstrated over the years.

Nobody manipulates this combination better than Morris Dees. Few do it as well.

Racism in America has become big business, real and otherwise, which is no doubt why Bill Clinton, who got caught several years ago peddling a phony story about church-burning in Arkansas, says he'll be getting into it from his $700,000-a-year offices in midtown Manhattan. The appetite for sensation, even when it is half-baked sensation, is insatiable, and Morris Dees could show him how to profit from it.

Mr. Dees is a lawyer in Montgomery, Ala., who is the "national chairman" of something called the Southern Poverty Law Center, which sounds like the hide-out of a noble band of warriors against hate crime and other racial wrongs, but is actually a fund-raising scheme that could teach televangelists a thing or two.

In fact, maybe it has. Morris Dees, says his former partner, "is the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil rights movement, though I don't mean to malign Jim and Tammy Faye."

Mr. Dees took in $44 million from gullible contributors, mostly white, in 1999 and spent $13 million actually trying to help the poor and beaten down, mostly black, fight for their civil rights. He has been well known for years to reporters in the South, most of whom have never written much about who he really is. Mr. Dees, like the late I.F. Stone or the living Jesse Jackson, became a pet rock of the media, engaged in a calling so noble that it is regarded as tasteless, or at least suicidal, to notice that he runs around naked. The Rev. Billy Don Moyers endorses his fund-raising schemes, so what else does anyone need to know?

Ken Silverstein recently told another version of the Morris Dees story in Harper's magazine, and it's a tale well told.

What captured Mr. Silverstein's attention is the most recent project of the Dees "law center," a kit called "Teaching Tolerance" that is available for only $30 on the Dees Web site, with the firm but meaningless assurance that's it's "a $325 value." (Why not $425? $525?)

What the buyer gets is a compendium of hate crimes that any casual newspaper reader already knows about, described in vivid ink of a purple hue, spreading the alarm that the Ku Klux Klan, heavily armed white-citizen militias and six Nazi Panzer divisions that never made it to Omaha Beach are bearing down on Cleveland, or maybe Providence. Even a journalist for the 11 O'clock Eyeball News on Channels 3 through 10 would blush twice trying to peddle stuff like this.

Then we get the dirty little secret of hate-crime reporting. "Horrifying as such incidents are," writes Mr. Silverstein, "hate groups commit almost no violence. More than 95 percent of all 'hate crimes,' including most of the incidents [Mr. Dees] cites (bombings, church burnings, school shootings) are perpetrated by 'lone wolves.' " Indeed, membership in the Ku Klux Klan, which is the most lucrative Dees fund-raising target, has shrunk so dramatically that the Klan would have been out of business years ago but for FBI infiltration. In some chapters the only members with paid-up dues are FBI informants.

In one case cited by Mr. Silverstein, Morris Dees won a judgment for a black woman whose son was killed by Klansmen. She received $51,875 as settlement. Mr. Dees, according to an investigation by the Montgomery Advertiser, pulled in $9 million from fund-raising solicitation letters that featured a particularly gruesome photograph of the grieving mother's son. Mr. Dees, who pays himself an annual salary of $275,000, offered the grieving mother none of the $9 million her son's death made for him.

Mr. Dees, in fact, earns or is paid, which is not necessarily the same thing more than nearly any officer of other advocacy groups surveyed by the National Journal, more than the chairmen of the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Children's Defense Fund.

"You are a fraud and a con man," Stephen Bright, director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, which actually takes on dozens of death-penalty appeals for poor blacks every year, once told him. "You spend so much, accomplish so little, and promote yourself so shamelessly."

Mr. Dees does not take death-penalty cases because this might scare off contributors in safe white liberal neighborhoods, many of whom imagine that the death penalty keeps black robbers, rapists and murderers off their streets. White guilt can be manipulated with black pain, but it has to be done carefully. It's a sordid scam. Some people would call what Morris Dees does a hate crime, but it's a living, and a very good one.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

Up

02/07/01: Lifting a few spoons, cutting a few taxes
02/02/01: A few small surprises and a large lesson
01/31/01: Serving fried crow in the press mess
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01/23/01: A graceless getaway, a graceful beginning
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01/16/01: Bring on the lions, the clowns are ready
01/12/01: The dastardly plot to restore slavery
01/10/01: Mr. Lott's generosity to the Dems
01/05/01: Looking to the past for a bad example
01/03/01: A modest proposal for Arkansas folk
12/19/00: The reflexive sneer at George W. Bush
12/15/00: Taking inspiration from John Birch
12/12/00: It's time to raise high Florida's standards
12/08/00: A President Bush, and about time, too
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11/28/00: Cry no tears for Al, lawyers are the losers
11/21/00: The useful loathing of America's sons
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11/14/00: Something murky in the twilight zone

11/10/00: Something sinister in Palm Beach

11/07/00: Low days in the life of the ruptured duck

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11/01/00: Creator gets a hard time on the hustings

10/27/00: The sorcerer rides to rescue his apprentice

10/25/00: The founding father with a story to tell

10/23/00: A lonely passion for religious rights

10/16/00: Spending blood on the folly of fools

10/11/00: A big night for the embellisher-in-chief

10/06/00: AlGore's black problem

10/04/00: In headlong pursuit of the bigot vote

10/02/00: A modest proposal for Rick Lazio

09/27/00: When folks at home give up on a scamp

09/25/00: Gore plot exposed! The secret minutes

09/18/00: Playing politics with the blood supply

09/14/00: Al sets out to find his 'tolerance level'

09/12/00: When it's time for a thumb in the eye

09/07/00: Making a daughter a campaign asset

09/04/00: A footnote to the lie: How he beats the rap

08/30/00: Unbearable lightness of a cyberjournal

08/21/00: Clinton chickens on AlGore's roost

08/16/00: The long goodbye to California's cash

08/09/00: Innocence by proxy is a risky scheme

08/07/00: After insulin shock, an authentic rouser

08/02/00: When it gets hard not to get a little giddy

07/31/00: George W.'s legions of summer soldiers

07/26/00: He's set a surprise --- or a trap for himself

07/24/00: How do you serve a turkey in August?

07/19/00: Would Hillary sling a lie about a slur?

07/17/00: Process, not peace, at a Velveeta summit

07/12/00: The Texas two-step, a nudge and a wink

07/10/00: The Great Mentioner and his busy season

07/05/00: No Mexican standoff in these results

07/03/00: Denting a few egos in the U.S. Senate

06/28/00: Bureaucracy amok! Punctuation in peril!

06/26/00: The water torture of American resolve

06/21/00: The happy hangman is a busy hangman

06/19/00: Dick Gephardt finds a Dixie dreamboat

06/14/00: Taking a byte out of innovation

06/12/00: 'Go away, little boy, you're bothering us'

06/07/00: When a little envy is painful to watch

06/05/00: Fire and thunder, bubble and squeak

05/31/00: South of the border, politics is pepper

05/26/00: Running out of luck with home folks

05/24/00: The heart says no, but the head says yes

05/22/00: A fine opportunity to set an example

05/17/00: The Sunday school for Republicans

05/15/00: Hillary's surrogate for telling tall tales

05/10/00: Listening to the voice of an authentic man

05/08/00: First a lot of bluster, then the retreat

05/02/00: Good news for Rudy, bad news for Hillary

04/28/00: The long goodbye to Elian's boyhood

04/25/00: Spooked by Castro, Bubba blinks

04/14/00: One flag down and two memorials to go

04/11/00: Consistency finds a jewel in Janet Reno

04/07/00: Here's the good word (and it's in English)

04/04/00: When bureaucrats mock the courts

03/28/00: How Hollywood sets the virtual table

03/24/00: Dissing a president can ruin a whole day

03/20/00: When shame begets the painful insult

03/14/00: The risky business of making an apology

03/10/00: The pouters bugging a weary John McCain

03/07/00: When all good things (sob) come to an end

© 2000 Wes Pruden