Is Montana the Most Racist & Hateful State?
HELENA — In February, the 24/7 Wall St, a financial news corporation, published a list of the 17 States with the most hate groups per capita, and Montana ranked as number one. Grant Suneson, the senior editor at 24/7 Wall St wrote the article.
The claim from this article compelled Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell (D) to sponsor, and introduce a bill that would declare that “White Supremacist Neo-Nazi violence is domestic terrorism” to the Montana Legislature. The joint resolution failed after being tabled by House Republicans, who exposed Dunwell’s folly after she struggled to identify what a hate group is or identify one that exists in Montana.
Suneson’s article influenced legislative action and implies that Montana is rampant with racism, hate groups, and hate crimes to the whole world.
The primary source in Suneson’s article is the “Southern Poverty Law Center’s ambiguous Hate Map” report. I decided to take it upon myself to fact-check these claims and provide more information on their validity or lack thereof.
Analysis: Does Montana Have the Most ” Hate Groups” In the Country Per Capita?
Suneson’s article depends on the data provided by SPLC, which names six “hate groups” in Montana. According to data from the SPLC, Montana posses 5.55 hate groups per 1 million residents. He further states that there are a total of 6 hate groups per million.
Are these groups legitimate “hate groups?” Per SPLC definition, they identify hate groups based on ideology and rhetoric rather than organizations engaging in criminal activities and unlawful actions committed by said groups. The SPLC does not require an organization to commit a crime to be labeled a hate group under their definition.
For example, Last Chance Patriots are labeled as the largest hate group headquartered in Montana. The SPLC does not explain or expound on their reasons for labeling the Last Chance Patriots as Anti-Muslim. In response, Last Chance Patriots published this to the FAQ section on their website when asked, aren’t you just another hate group?
“According to the Montana Human Rights Council and the Southern Poverty Law Center, we are. However, nothing we share, no speakers we sponsor, and nothing we’re involved in has anything to do with hate. We’re about truth, which today is considered hate.”
Moreover, him and his partner, explain how they are not against individuals Muslims but rather the “totalitarian ideology” behind Islam. In my recent interview, with the founder, Ed Kugler, I discovered that ironically Last Chance Patriots has no membership; but rather an online organization that is only made up of him and his partner.
Therefore, according to the SPLC either Last Chance Patriots are not a hate group or all the other groups have less than two members. Does this qualify as a group? Are these really the standards?
ACT for America is another organization labeled as a “hate group” for Anti-Muslim rhetoric; however, it’s actually a national organization created in response to the 9/11 attacks. Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese-American conservative author, is the one who started this organization in hopes of informing Americans about national security and terrorism. Much like Last Chance Patriots, they also express the dangers behind radical Islam as a dominating political force rather than attacking individual Muslims.
Note that these two organizations are the only two displayed on the SPLC hate map, and the other four are classified as being state-wide. There is no basis or data to reflect that these other four groups exist in Montana.
Rep. Skees asked Rep Dunwell if she could name one such white supremacist hate group and Dunwell named the infamous “Proud Boys.” However, the leader of the Proud Boys is an Afro-Latino man named Enrique Tarrio. Tarrio, in several interviews, denounces white supremacy. When she was asked about where the Proud Boys headquarters were located in Montana, she said she did not know exactly and asked to redirect the question.
During the entire hearing, the only thing of note that was mentioned that could be labeled as malicious activity is Anti-Semitic literature distributed by an unnamed individual or group to the front doors of Jewish communities. It is evident that the SPLC failed to produce any legitimate proof to suggest that any of the six hate groups they mentioned actually exist in Montana. The SPLC hate map is not a creditable source.
Is SPLC Creditable?
This is all without mentioning that ironically SPLC has now been discredited and denounced by ACT for America, Prager U, Center for Security Policy, and many other organizations at SPLCEexposed.com. They are accused of using their Hate Map as a political tool to intimate organizations with opposing views.
What Does a Lack of Diversity Prove?
According to the 24/7 Street article, Montana is among the least diverse states with 85.8% of residents identifying as White and it possesses the third-lowest share of foreign-born residents among states, at 2.3 %. Mr. Suneson mentions this to insinuate that States with “outsized hate groups tend to have several characteristics in common”, like being majority white or have a lower diversity score.
The Montanan majority that identifies as white, although that alone does not suggest that this State has an influx of hate groups, discrimination, racism, or white supremacy. The interesting thing is that instead of outright claiming white people are racist, he claims that this happens to be a common trait among these States.
This syllogistic premise is an association fallacy. For example, “John is a con artist. John has black hair. Therefore, all people with black hair are con artists.” Mr. Suneson indirectly asserts this by first claiming these States have the top number of hate groups and then deviously adds in the traits to solidify his point. The lack of diversity does not automatically mean that Montana is a racist state. There are other factors that might account for the lack of diversity.
What do a State’s low Median Household Incomes and Poverty Rates Prove?
“States with high concentrations of hate groups also tend to have low median household incomes and high poverty rates.”
Mr. Suneson notes that Montana has a Median Household income of $57,153 (11th lowest). Although Montana is comparatively has a low poverty rate and relatively low cost of living than other States, he wanted to suggest that places making less income like Montana have more hate groups.
Same as the previous point, this is a pang of guilt by association fallacy. There is no distinct connection between household incomes and hate groups.
Having low median household incomes and poverty rates don’t prove anything.
Is the Senior Editors’ Intent to Malign These States and Specifically Montana?
What I have discovered is this isn’t the first time Montanan has been ranked as number one. In 2017, the 24/7 Wall St. published an article naming the top 10 states with the most hate groups, again ranking Montana as number one. A different writer wrote this article with similar intent and false data but with one distinct difference.
The most significant distinction between the 2017 and 2021 articles is the featured image for the State. What is interesting is that the former used a picture that showed a mountain representing Montana. However, Mr. Suneson used an image that shows Members of the National Socialist Movement, one of the largest neo-Nazi groups in the U.S., holding a swastika burning after a rally.
If you are from Montana or live here, you would know that this is not something that would happen. In fact, this image is only a stock imaged produced by “Spencer Platt at Getty Images News via Getty Images.” This photo actually took place on April 21, 2018, in Draketown, Georgia.
My question is, why post a stock photo to make it appear or give an impression as if this happened in Montana? Most of all 17 states mentioned appear to have a stock image provided by Getty Images.
It is obvious the Senior Editors intended to falsely paint Montana as a racist State by reporting false data, misapplied stats, and using White Supremacist stock images.
What Do Local Montanan Agencies Say in Regards to Hate Crimes and Hate Groups?
I called several local police agencies to get their perspective state-wide. Montanan area law enforcement agencies all seem to be on the same page and consistent with the perspective that there are random reports of hate speech or hate activity but have never been aware of any large, organized hate groups. The impression given was that it doesn’t seem to be an issue in Montana in general.
What Do the Stats Say about Hate Crime in Montana and Nationally?
Montana Board of Crime Control report in 2018 reveals that there were only seven reported incidents state-wide. Six of which were related to a mixed group of either being Anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender.
In November of 2020, the FBI released statistics that showed the number of hate crimes reported nationally. This report showed that Montana ranked 35th out of 51 with only 35 reported hate crimes. (Statista)
On the category of “per bias motivation,” the report shows 16 incidents in Montana between 9 cities. The rest shows nine incidents due to religion, and the rest towards sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity.
What’s interesting is that 11 of the 17 States ranked by 24/7 Wall St. are under 100 reported incidents, with the average being 36 incidents between them.
But why did 24/7 Wall St. fail to mention that California has 1,221 bias-motivated crimes? Which is double the amount of New York (618), New Jersey (478), Washington (664), and even Texas (560). Even the U.S. News made a report about this!
It’s evident that the Chief Editor of 24/7 Wall St. Mr. Suneson’s goal was to tarnish Montana and the other 17 States’ reputation. Despite actual data provided by the FBI, that proves otherwise.
I’ve shown how SPLC, the source used to identify hate groups, is ambiguous and has no real tracking data on the whereabouts of said hate groups in Montana.
Moreover, the fact Last Chance Patriots being named as the largest group should be embarrassing enough by the fact it only consists of two members.
Then the false comparisons were made between States regarding low median household income and high poverty rates.
Lastly, the rhetoric and images posted were used to manipulate the American people, especially Montanans.
I’m appalled that the top four states with the most problems with hate-crime incidents are all run by Democrats, with California having double the number. All while pushing the narrative that the issue is between the States with the lowest reported hate crimes.
Grant Suneson, 24/7 Wall St, and SPLC should be ashamed of themselves for suggesting Montanans are racist and hateful. In my experience, all Montanans have the same skin color with a blue shade and with a Treasure State seal in their hearts. This is a state that welcomes all despite your skin color.