fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Ashland marked on 'Hate Map'

Ashland is back on the national map, but this time it's not for theater, wine tourism or spectacular natural scenery.

It's on a "Hate Map" published on the Southern Poverty Law Center website at www.splcenter.org/hate-map. The map tags Ashland as home to the Rense Radio Network and an example of "general hate.”

The Rense Radio Network is a talk network largely distributed via its website and a YouTube channel, and has been on satellite radio in the past. It is based from Jeff Rense’s home outside the city limits of Ashland.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has tagged the broadcaster and his programs as "increasingly anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi." Rense, who did not respond to a request for an interview, has a slate of regular shows that feature the likes of David Duke, a longtime Ku Klux Klan leader, and others who discuss conspiracy theories that often involve race and liberal politics.

In a recent broadcast, Rense discussed a debunked conspiracy theory called “Pizzagate” that alleged prominent Democrats operated a child sex-trafficking ring and satanic cult out of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor. Rense discussed the fabricated conspiracy theory with a retired New York City police officer who said, “Everyone has known about it for years.”

The Hate Map includes Ashland because this broadcaster bases his show near the city. The map has an icon that refers to hate groups. It shows some 892 hate groups across the United States. Five from Oregon are listed on the website. Three are “Black Separatists,” one (in Eugene) is defined as “White Separatist” and the Rense network is defined as “General Hate.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported 30 hate incidents in Oregon within the first 10 days following President-elect Donald Trump’s general election victory.

It listed more than 800 hate incidents nationwide, but many of those accounts have since been withdrawn. The map does not claim these incidents were all investigated by police. They are incidents reported by individuals.

Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara has stated no hate crimes or reported incidents occurred in Ashland within the first 10 days following Trump’s election. There was an incident where a Native American woman was punched in the face by a bar patron whom she alleges hit her because she identifies as Native. The alleged perpetrator was not found but the police confirm the woman was hit.

The Hate Map listing for Ashland is focused not on any incidents, allegations or crimes, but solely on Rense and his network.

Local writer and musician Josh Gross is concerned about the map, saying it goes further than one person with a radio show. Gross says he’s been yelled at with anti-Jewish slurs by unsuccessful City Council and mayoral candidate Michael Erickson, also known as Biome, at his various plays and performances.

“I submitted an op-ed to the Tidings about that exact topic based off of how many people voted for a Neo Nazi in the mayoral election (nearly 200),” Gross said. Erickson has expressed views that Jewish people and values are to blame for global problems. 

Herb Rothschild of Talent, former executive director of Peace House in Ashland, is also aware of the anti-Semitic nature of recent conversations being generated in the Ashland area, primarily by Rense.

“Apparently, until recently Rense focused on conspiracy theories about aliens, contrails and especially the FDA's determination to keep life-saving drugs and devices out of our hands (much of his income is selling — or allowing others to sell via his site — such stuff)," Rothschild wrote in an email to the Tidings. "But in the last couple of years he's promoted anti-Semitic propaganda, even celebrating Hitler's birthday.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center began tracking hate speech and actions immediately following Trump’s election to test the theory that those who hold views hostile to others who fit in a “minority” category were emboldened to express that hostility.

Since an initial spike in such incidents directly following the election, reports of such activity have gone down nationally.

Web traffic data posted on Alexa.com for rense.com show it hovering around 10,000th worldwide in the summer of 2014, falling to about 30,000th place in July this year before recently spiking to 16,847th.

— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at julieanneakins@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.

A screen grab from the Southern Poverty Law Center's 'Hate Map' for Oregon shows Ashland marked along with seven other locations in the state.