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