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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Profile in Fake News: WCCO TV Links The Remnant to Charlottesville White Supremacists Featured

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matt family 2Michael J. Matt (& Family)
 ‘Leader’ of One of Minnesota’s ‘Active Hate Groups’
According to the Radically Liberal Southern Poverty Law Center


“Southern Poverty Law Center has been criticized in the past for having too broad a definition of hate.” (
WCCO TV reporter, Heather Brown, August 14, 2017) So there’s your 2017 Understatement of the Year. But then why did WCCO TV rely on an obvious Fake News source to concoct a nothingburger story like this?  
Let us consider this textbook example of Fake News. 


Last night, WCCO TV attempted to forge a link between white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA and—wait for it! —The Remnant. As the primary source for this “exposé”, WCCO reporter Heather Brown trotted out the 2006 Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report on hate groups in America.

judge roy moore al sup ctThe SPLC gained prominence back in 2004 when it raised legal challenges that
eventually forced Chief Justice Roy Moore to remove aTen Commandments
monument from his Alabama court-house. (Who in America doesn't feel a
whole lot safer now that that crucial blow for freedom has been struck?) 

Regurgitated for the umpteenth time were the old SPLC scare claims that a number of ‘hate groups’ (including The Remnant) are active here in Minnesota, and thus by implication form some sort of threat to the common good along the lines of the violent protesters in Charlottesville.

I have no desire to defend the lunacy of whatever actual hate groups may exist in my home state, but the existence of a least some of these alleged groups seems suspect at best.

According to investigative reports published by conscientious local reporters over the past few years, local police chiefs in Minnesota counties where the SPLC’s hate groups are alleged to reside have, in fact, never even heard of said hate groups. So either they don’t exist at all, or they’re comprised of one or two obscure nutters that present no actual threat, which is why they’ve never registered so much as a blip on law enforcement radar.

In his 2015 article in City Pages (sardonically titled “Minnesota’s Eight Active Hate Groups Are Struggling”), for example, reporter Cory Zurowski refers to interviews he conducted with local law enforcement during the course of his investigation of these same SPLC claims:

  • But if Forest Lake harbors villainy in its midst, Police Captain Greg Weiss is unaware. ‘This is the first I’ve heard of it,’ he says

  • If there’s a notorious band of racists in St. Paul, however, their presence has gone unnoticed. Police Sgt. Paul Paulos has called the city home for the last half-century. It’s been three decades since he last saw a skinhead. "We had skinheads in South St. Paul, but that was back in the '60s and '70s," he says. "Our database shows nothing about these guys, and it dates back to 2001. I can honestly say I haven't heard about them and there's no reason for me to tell you otherwise."

  • Adds Sgt. John Eastham of the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department: "I personally have never heard of that group."

    Despite local police skepticism, the SPLC is sticking to its claim.

The City Pages exposé sums up with an overall dismissal of the SPLC’s witch hunt, citing the downright laughable case of a SPLC “hate group” leader named Dean:

As best as anyone can tell, Dean's once-mighty movement now consists of a middle-aged man with a calf tattoo, a keyboard, and an internet radio show.  Consider him emblematic of Minnesota's struggling state of organized hate.

The SPLC Intelligence Report is a Fake News source. And yet WCCO went with the story anyway, after attempting to add legitimacy to it by soliciting the testimony of a local sociologist, Lisa Waldner (pictured right), from the University of St. Thomas. (Yes, our most venerable Catholic university is now a character reference for one of the most radically Leftist special interest groups in America. Go figure.) 

linda

In any case, even the expert from St. Thomas had to admit during the course of the WCCO broadcast that: “You have to be somewhat cautious at using their [SPLC] labels…even though they’re still a good source”.

Really? A good source of what—Fake News? And why would a reputable news agency give a second thought to a source that tends to get its labels wrong? Correctly labeling the subjects of your investigation is sort of Journalism 101 stuff, isn’t it? 

[UPDATE: After this article was posted, Dr. Waldner was kind enough to answer our request for further clarification on the remarks she made in this WCCO TV segment. Here is the comment she gave us, and we’re posting it with gratitude:

“Heather Brown [of WCCO TV] and I discussed the inclusion of “The Remnant” and I indicated that I wouldn’t have included this newspaper on a “Hate group” list. In fact, I talked quite a bit about the role of “watchdog” groups like the SPLC and how they are not a neutral organization. While not all of this conversation was recorded, my points about watchdog groups were part of the recorded conversation. They didn’t use that part of our interview in its entirety for the on-air piece. I don’t believe in using SPLC list uncritically or in assuming that the list is accurate. I am not the only social scientist that feels this way. No source is perfect.  Nonetheless, SPLC is a go-to source to get a general view of the types of hate groups that operate nationwide.” [emp. added]

L
isa K. Waldner, Ph.D.
Associate Dean College of Arts and Sciences
University of St. Thomas | stthomas.edu

To her credit, Ms. Brown admits that the “Southern Poverty Law Center has been criticized in the past for having too broad a definition of hate.” True enough, but evidently Ms. Brown’s journalistic curiosity was not sufficiently piqued to look into the grounds of that criticism.  

morris
A quick Google search reveals more smoke than most serious journalists can handle: The Southern Poverty Law Center is a far-Left fundraising group whose founder, Morris Dees,  dubbed the 'King of Fearmongers' by the Weekly Standard in 2013, was accused by Washington Times editor, Wesley Pruden, of being “nothing more than a scam artist”, and even his Wikipedia entry includes that Dees has been dismissed as “a con man and fraud”, who “has taken advantage of naive, well-meaning people–some of moderate or low incomes–who believe his pitches and give to his $175-million operation.”

The SPLC tactics were also cited as prompting at least one fan-turned-violent-vigilante to go on a shooting spree a few years ago. Back in 2012, Floyd Lee Corkins II, a self-appointed executor of the SPLC’s implicit will, entered the lobby of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., and started spraying bullets all over the place. Building manager Leo Johnson stopped him but only after taking a bullet in the process.

Mr. Corkins pleaded guilty to three felonies, including terrorism while armed and assault with the intent to kill. He informed investigators that he’d gotten the bright idea to go on the murderous rampage from the SPLC website. Inside his backpack police also found the address of the D.C.-based Traditional Values Coalition—another group listed on the SPLC “hate map.” Take a look:

We sent this link to WCCO TV, but it didn’t deter them from doing a story based solely on the authority of the same out-of-state and out-of-control SPLC.

So when some nut comes to my office and starts spraying lead, exactly why will WCCO TV not be responsible for their fire-in-the-theatre “journalism”?

Briefly, let’s look at how it works: They dig up scary-sounding names of little known racist clubs or lone nuts on the Internet. Then they associate those groups with reputable conservative organizations they don’t like.  Then they designate all of the above as ‘hate groups’.  Finally, they employ various scare tactics to raise money to “stop the hate” coming from such “dangerous” groups as Focus on the Family, Glenn Beck, Ron Paul, Judge Andrew Napolitano, the American Family Association, Tony Perkins, the John Birch Society, World Net Daily, The Remnant.  You name the conservative pro-family group and the SPLC has got them targeted and most often listed on its trusty “hate map” right alongside lunatical neo-Nazis and octogenarian Klansmen.

Last year the SPLC went so far off the rails as to include presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson on their hate watch list. While Dr. Carson had enough power and influence to finally get his name removed, the damage was already done.  

This is textbook Fake News. Throw as much mud as you possibly can at a given person or organization, wait to see if any of it sticks, and then hope nothing untoward happens to force a retraction.  

The SPLC Hate Map is a joke, of course. But in a society like ours, where racial tension is at an all-time high, such jokes present a threat to innocent people that’s no laughing matter.

And what does all of this have to do with Traditional Catholics?

Just for good measure, the SPLC’s hate map includes a category called ‘radical traditionalist Catholics’. So back in 2007, Father Nicholas Gruner, the Fatima Center, the SSPX, CFN, The Remnant, and many other traditional Catholic groups found themselves targeted on the SPLC Hate Map. There was no due process, of course. No trial. No hearing. In the fascist world of the SPLC, everyone with whom they disagree is simply guilty until proven innocent.  And the folks at the SPLC don’t seem to care too much about truth. Back in 2007 they flat out refused our lawyers’ requests to meet with them in person, to explain who and what The Remnant is. Demagoguery and polarization is the name of their game—not dialogue and peace making.

The Remnant was just another victim of the SPLC’s high-powered bullying/fundraising scheme, with their lawyers always careful to avoid any accusations against us of actual violence, as this would guarantee a SPLC defeat in a court of law.

It all comes down to a radical and willy-nilly definition of ‘hate’. If you think marriage is between one man and one woman, for example, you’re a dangerous homophobe. If you accept the Catholic dogma that all men will be saved only through Jesus Christ, well you’re anti-Semitic and guilty of ‘religious supremacism’. If you’re concerned about ISIS and terrorism, you’re guilty of Islamophobia. That sort of thing. Hyperbolic hate baiting at its worst, with no basis in reality, no room for debate, and no serious attempt to prevent the violence against innocent people that can and often does result from witch-hunt tactics.

By the way, of the ‘hate groups’ targeted in Minnesota, The Remnant was evidently the only one to readily agree to cooperate with the WCCO TV investigation. Ms. Brown asked us for a comment and I gave her one, which turned out to be the only one referenced in the newscast (minimally and out of context, of course).  Here’s our entire comment:

Dear Heather:

Thanks for your inquiry.  I’m not sure what more I can say, over and above what I’ve said many times to other reporters since the SPLC put The Remnant on their hate map back in 2006: The Remnant is not a hate group. The Remnant is not a “group” at all, in fact. It’s a Roman Catholic newspaper that’s been going to press every two weeks in this Archdiocese for 50 years. 

My grandfather, Joseph Matt, KSG (made a papal knight by Pope Pius XI) was on the planning committee for the city of St. Paul, and was later honored as America’s Editor Emeritus after he retired, having had another one of our family newspapers, The Wanderer, specifically banned by the National Socialists in Adolf Hitler’s Germany for his weekly opposition to the Nazi scourge.  

The founder of The Remnant Walter Matt, is a decorated World War II vet who spent 3 years of his life fighting Nazis in Europe with the 323rd Service Group of the U.S. Air Force.

And I’m a happily married 50-year-old who’s raising his kids here in Minnesota, loves life, loves his neighbors, feels blessed to be alive, and doesn’t hate anyone.  And yet according the SPLC, I’m the ‘leader of a hate group.”   Question: Who hates whom here? 

We’ve defended ourselves against the SPLC smear campaign many times, most recently when Cory Zurowski of City Pages did his piece on hate groups back in 2015.  I did a follow-up on our encounter with City Pages, which may answer whatever questions you have:

http://remnantnewspaper.com/web/index.php/articles/item/1925-the-hate-industry-loses-a-round-southern-poverty-law-center-dissed-by-far-left-city-pages

The City Pages piece on Minnesota hate groups, by the way, ended up debunking and even mocking the SPLC case against The Remnant, so absurd are the charges and so shoddy was the original “investigation”.  But for the record, here’s The Remnant’s position one more time: 

The Remnant deplores, denounces and condemns without reservation any and all forms of racism, violence and hatred against anyone for any reason—be it race, gender, ethnicity, religion, skin color, sexual orientation or any other factor seen or unforeseen. We condemn all hatred—past, present and future—on religious, moral and theological grounds. Jesus Christ told His followers to love everyone, to see Christ in everyone, even those with whom they disagree—and this revolutionary idea is at the heart of everything we as Christians try to do here at The Remnant.  Hate has no place here.  It’s what the old priests used to call a “mortal sin”—a grievous offense against God.  By the way, we have no affinity whatsoever with the so-called Alt-Right (in fact, there’s a new Remnant expose of the Alt-Right on our homepage right now). 

So in your story, if you quote the above paragraph, obviously my credibility as the “leader of a hate group” will be instantly destroyed with the very people I supposedly represent. So, please, don’t hesitate to quote me.

Thanks for checking with us before doing your story—something the SPLC never did, by the way. They slapped our newspaper on their hate map without even contacting us beforehand.  

Michael Matt
Editor, The Remnant

You see what happened there? An alleged “leader of a hate group” just denounced his own alleged hate group to a local TV station, thus thoroughly destroying his credibility with the very nutters in white hoods he allegedly leads. He’s through. He’s finished. It’s burning crosses on his front lawn from now on. Ms. Brown had the chance, in other words, to out (and thus eliminate the “threat”) the infamous leader of one of Minnesota’s ‘hate groups’ by simply quoting his own words in toto and in context.  But instead, her audience were trusted with only this much of my statement:

“For example, one of the hate groups identified in Minnesota is called the Remnant Newspaper.  The SPLC says the radical Catholic group publishes anti-Semitic material. Michael Matt, the head of the organization says it is simply a Roman Catholic newspaper and “denounces and condemns without reservation any and all forms of racism, violence and hatred against anyone for any reason.”

I’m sorry, Ms. Brown—but few are likely to be convinced by the accused guy’s protestations of innocence. Of course, I’m going to deny the charge that I hate people. But you’re a journalist with a mountain of evidence against the credibility of the source of the false charges leveled against an innocent man. Why did you bury it, when you as a professional reporter had to know very well The Remnant is the farthest thing from a hate group?

Instead you went with the SPLC—arguably the largest hate group in America, whose reckless witch hunts even Wikipedia can’t quite cover up. Here are just a few points listed under the Southern Poverty Law Center Wiki entry:

  • In 2010, a group of Republican politicians and conservative organizations criticized the SPLC in full-page advertisements in two Washington, D.C., newspapers for what they described as "character assassination" because the SPLC had listed the Family Research Council (FRC) as a hate group.
  • In October 2014, the SPLC added Ben Carson to its extremist watch list, citing his association with groups it considers extreme, and his "linking of gays with pedophiles".[101] Following criticism, the SPLC concluded its profile of Carson did not meet its standards, removed his listing, and apologized to him in February 2015.[102]
  • In October 2016, the SPLC published a list of "anti-Muslim extremists", including British activist Maajid Nawaz and ex-Muslim activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali…Nawaz, who identifies as a "liberal, reform Muslim", denounced the listing as a "smear", saying that the SPLC listing had made him a target of jihadists. Mark Potok of the SPLC responded "Our point is not to make these people targets for violence... The point is to tamp down the really baseless targeting."[104] The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice has written a public letter to the SPLC to retract the listings.[105]

Your point, Mr. Potok, is NOT to make these people targets of violence? No doubt their widows will be comforted to know that.  

And let’s keep in mind that if this much incriminating evidence survived the SPLC’s WIKI editors (constantly at work, trying to keep their mounds of dirty laundry off Wikipedia), there’s obviously a lot more that didn’t make the cut. So, again, why is WCCO TV so eager to close an eye to a “source” mired in this much controversy? Can they blame anyone for calling ‘Fake News’ on WCCO TV?

This is all old news too, of course, but it’s not just about The Remnant. They’ve been at it for years. And this is how the voice of conservatism in America will eventually be silenced, if not criminalized, if somebody somewhere doesn’t stand up and object.

If you’re worried about this, you should be. If left unchecked, it will eventually impact you, your homeschool, your private school, your church, your priest, your family—anyone the radical Left wishes to silence. It’s certainly taking its toll on The Remnant. Immediately after this story broke yesterday, a Remnant subscriber here in Minnesota sent us the following email:

Today I learned that The Remnant is listed among Minnesota's hate groups, compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center for every state of the nation.  Today I make my request [to cancel The Remnant subscription] more urgently because there is no place for hate in my life.  Please see to it that I no longer receive it.  Feel free to pass this along to Michael Matt.  Thank you.”

So, it’s working— this campaign against conservatism and especially faithful Catholics who accept the teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage and morality and salvation—something the mainstream media now routinely castigate as hateful “religious supremacism”. 

This isn’t some paranoid fear reserved for others and for the future. The Remnant is being attacked right now by powerful far-Left special interest groups and their lapdog accomplices in the mainstream media.

Take a moment to imagine how my wife and seven children felt this morning when phone calls began coming in from friends, neighbors and people at church who’d seen the evening news last night, and learned that their husband and father is the ‘leader of a hate group.’  Imagine this happening to your family, especially right now, in the midst of a dangerous climate of hate, unrest and even violent protests that are claiming the lives of innocent people.

I’m sorry, but joke or not, we’re not going to allow the SPLC and MSM to get away with this without a fight. I’ve been in contact with The Remnant’s lawyers all day today, exploring our legal options against this defamation by mainstream media. If they’re going to try to take The Remnant down, I promise you we will not be intimidated.

Pray for us, and please help me defend The Remnant and all traditional Catholics against this institutionalized hate and media witch hunt. Please donate to The Remnant’s tax exempt foundation today, and help us stop the real hate groups from completely silencing America's Christian voice. 

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Michael Matt | Editor

Michael Matt has been an editor of The Remnant since 1990. Since 1994, he has been the newspaper's editor. A graduate of Christendom College, Michael Matt has written hundreds of articles on the state of the Church and the modern world. He is the host of The Remnant Underground and Remnant TV's The Remnant Forum. He's been U.S. Coordinator for Notre Dame de Chrétienté in Paris--the organization responsible for the Pentecost Pilgrimage to Chartres, France--since 2000.  Mr. Matt has led the U.S. contingent on the Pilgrimage to Chartres for the last 24 years. He is a lecturer for the Roman Forum's Summer Symposium in Gardone Riviera, Italy. He is the author of Christian Fables, Legends of Christmas and Gods of Wasteland (Fifty Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll) and regularly delivers addresses and conferences to Catholic groups about the Mass, home-schooling, and the culture question. Together with his wife, Carol Lynn and their seven children, Mr. Matt currently resides in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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