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The popular press gravitates to society’s extremes like testosterone-crazed boys to professional wrestling. “If it bleeds, it leads.” The same need for bleed afflicts sports, science, weather, music and gossip coverage. No surprise there. All the interesting stuff goes down at the extreme end of society. In mainstream America, people get up, go to work, socialize, surf the net, buy stuff, take care of their family, tuck in their kids, watch TV and go to bed. Meanwhile, CBS News reports on The Violent World of White Supremacists. Note the plural. A story isn’t really a story unless it’s BIG! Which is why so many of these shock horror “features” start with a stat. Usually misleading. For sure, here . . .

According to the Justice Department, 27,000 gangs with 788,000 members operate in this country. Chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian gives us a look at a heavily armed, and very dangerous white supremacist gang.

How’s that for diversion? Hit ’em with a total gang stat and then point a finger at one TINY fraction of the problem. Seriously. Anyone want to guess how many of those 788,000 gang members are black? Hispanic? Asian?

Oh sorry, that would be racist. Better to focus on a—as in one—[unnamed] white supremacist gang than file yet another report on the ethnic gangs that rack up a daily body count and leave a trail of devastation in their wake.

But rest assured, this [as yet unnamed] white supremacist gang is serious trouble.

Posing as a gun-runner an undercover ATF agent opened a door into the rarely-seen world of white supremacists. They’re ultra-violent, sophisticated, and less interested in a pure white race, than the color of money.

Uh-oh. Welcome to the world of entrapment, where ATF agents will jump through any hoop to justify the existence of their entirely superfluous federal agency.

In any case (so to speak), it’s a bit odd that a piece about violent white supremacists starts with a disclaimer stating that race has nothing much to do with it. If this [unnamed] white supremacist gang is no worse/different than, say, the Crips, what’s the big deal?

The leader of the eight-member group, identified by the signature red suspenders, is Jason “Skin” Hawthorne – a three-time felon. Virtually his entire crew had done time in federal prison – the breeding ground, experts say, for white supremacists.

“What has happened in the last 10 or 15 years is that we have seen these gangs increasingly spilling out of the prisons and onto the street,” said Mark Potok, Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Citation alert! According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) website, there are “932 active hate groups in the United States in 2009.” As the term doesn’t exist in legal parlance, what pray tell is a “hate group”? “All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”

In other words, the SPLC makes its own rules. More to the point, it’s hardly likely to say that the “hate group” problem is diminishing. To wit (without proper citation):

Particularly in California and Texas, and now spreading across Midwestern states, nearly 5,000 white supremacists are in prison today. Experts estimate that number could be 50,000 nationwide – distinguished by an unceasing appetite for violence.

Be that as maybe, how about a little perspective? The current U.S. prison population is 7.3 million. Fifty thousand white supremacists represents less than .01 percent of all American inmates.

Without a proper citation (is this an SPLC stat?), I’m not buying that number. As a recent NPR report pointed out, 50k is the “Goldilocks stat”—which makes this deployment entirely dubious.

Does it matter? This [unnamed] white supremacist gang is really bad news, right?

ATF agents working what was known as “Operation Red Swastika” called this gang the “worst of the worst.” They cited the use of stun guns – stronger than those used by federal agents, radio scanners, and virtual carbon-copies of SWAT team outfits. Skin and his crew were wearing the SWAT outfits the night they showed up at the undercover agent’s apartment, ready to rob what they thought was a drug dealer but was actually an ATF sting.

Wait. The [unnamed] supremacist gang showed up at an ATF sting dressed like ATF agents wielding stun guns? Never mind the probability that they were enticed into this deal (Informants R Us). Where are the assault rifles, shotguns, etc.?

The undercover agent said they were “ready to go,” with “black hats, black coats, pants, black boots, surveillance equipment, and GPS tracker.”

Before they did that, some of the crew decided to get amped-up for the action – by smoking meth.

“They sat at my table, loaded their guns, and smoked methamphetamines,” the undercover agent said. “It definitely took things to a different level.”

WHAT guns? If this group is so damned dangerous, wouldn’t the ATF would make SOME specific mention of specific firearms? They’re gun runners, remember?

I reckon this [unnamed] white supremacist gang was your basic none-too-smart, entirely infiltrated group of ex-cons, lead down the garden path by the ATF. Which is no bad thing in and of itself. But CBS is so into the white racist media meme that they once again failed to perform what used to be called “real journalism.” Which is a shame.

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