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Oct 5, 2017

In Episode 12 of Series 2 of The Rights Track we talk radical right groups in the United States with Heidi Beirich, Intelligence Project Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center.


  • Heidi starts by explaining the work of the SPLC since its formation in the 1970s when it tried to make the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act “a reality”
  • She mentions a civil suit the SPLC brought against the United Klans of America in the 80s which made the organisation realise the lack of information that existed about hate groups and how and where they operated. 
  • Heidi describes the sorts of groups that are listed including Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, anti-semitic and other racist/hate group. She provides a definition of a “hate group” and gives examples of the sorts of groups on SPLC’s hate group list
  • The SPLC publishes 2 lists - Active Hate Groups and Anti Government Groups
  • Todd asks specifically about the Christian Identity movement and Heidi explains their ideology
  • Some people in the US argue (especially online) that there is no difference between the Ku Klux Klan and Black Lives Matter - Heidi explains the difference
  • Heidi mentions the SPLC’s Hate Map and the hate crime data the organisation collects and how the two sets of data differ


  • The discussion moves on to the difference between free speech and hate speech in the US. Heidi explains the First Amendment Right, which protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference. She explains how that plays out in reality in respect of hate speech within and, she argues, as a result of the Constitution
  • Todd asks Heidi for her thoughts on the events in Charlottesville in August 2017

17.20- end

  • How SPLA tracks and collects hate speech data on social media and how SPLC can use that data to track radical right movements and their activities
  • Heidi mentions the group and a recent conference it held. She goes on to talk about some of the positive developments by organisations such as Facebook post Charlottesville to take down hate speech material from its site.
  • Where SPLC’s support is coming from including the American Civil Liberties Union
  • Heidi reflects on her concerns and hopes for the future. She  says she is heartened by recent resolutions among politicians condemning white nationalists but concerned by what the transition towards a US where white people are no longer in the majority might signal in terms of hate groups and hate speech remaining at the fore.