“I’ve long regarded Morris Dees and his Southern Poverty Law Center as collectively one of the greatest frauds in American life,” wrote the late progressive journalist Alexander Cockburn in 2007.
“I’ve long regarded Morris Dees and his Southern Poverty Law Center as collectively one of the greatest frauds in American life,” wrote the late progressive journalist Alexander Cockburn in 2007″
EYE ON THE NEWS
A Demagogic Bully
The Southern Poverty Law Center demonizes respectable political opponents as “hate groups”—and keeps its coffers bulging.
July 27, 2017
H.L. Mencken described the secret of successful demagoguery as “keep[ing] the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” Mencken was referring to “practical politics,” but his insight is equally applicable to public relations and fundraising campaigns trafficking in extravagant claims. For the past 40 years, a self-styled watchdog group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, has excelled in promoting such unwarranted alarm, with a politicized series of hobgoblins, in the process amassing a fortune from its credulous donors.
According to the SPLC, America is rife with dangerous “hate groups”: the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, anti-government militia groups, radical-right terrorists, and many more. “We’re currently tracking more than 1,600 extremist groups operating across the country,” the SPLC’s website claims. Readers of SPLC’s press releases, reports, and—importantly—direct-mail solicitations would be justified in imagining an America teeming with smoldering churches and synagogues, cross burnings, storm troopers bearing swastikas, and even lynchings.
Reality is different. In fact, racial tolerance is at an all-time high, diversity is universally promoted as a civic virtue, and “hate crimes,” as defined and reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, have declined over the past decade to fewer than 6,000 incidents a year, a modest number in a country with 326 million people. The principal threats of radical extremism in the United States today are jihadist attacks (radical Islam), militant anti-police rioters (such as Black Lives Matter), and masked Antifa (so-called “anti-fascist”) mobs shutting down free speech on college campuses and violently protesting the election of President Donald J. Trump, while the greatest perpetrators of violence in America are criminal street gangs—including the deadly MS-13—that have turned some of our inner cities into war zones.
The virulently anti-Trump “Resistance” movement has fueled partisan acrimony with poisonous rhetoric, to the extent of condoning—and in some cases even encouraging—physical attacks against political opponents. Yet the SPLC largely ignores such groups, focusing instead on the moribund KKK (many of whose estimated 2,000 members are thought to be FBI informants) and similar relics from the Jim Crow era. The SPLC myopically focuses on white racism directed at minority groups, especially African-Americans. A former SPLC lawyer, Gloria Browne, charged that SPLC programs were calculated to cash in on “black pain and white guilt.” Racism undoubtedly exists, but it is neither pervasive nor exclusively practiced by whites.
Ironically, the SPLC not only overlooks most of the real hate groups in operation today, along with overtly race-based organizations, such as the pro-Latino National Council of La Raza and MEChA, but also labels moderates with whom it disagrees “extremists” if they deviate from its rigid political agenda, which embraces open borders, LGBT rights, and other left-wing totems. The SPLC has branded Somali-born reformer Ayaan Hirsi Ali an “anti-Muslin extremist” for her opposition to female genital mutilation and other oppressive Islamic practices, and designated the respected Family Research Council as a “hate group” for its opposition to same-sex marriage. Likewise, the organization deems mainstream immigration-reform advocates such as the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) as hate groups. British Muslim activist Maajid Nawaz—regarded by most observers as a human rights leader—is suing the SPLC for listing him as an extremist.
Critics of the SPLC accuse the lavishly funded organization of peddling fear and smearing political opponents—mostly conservatives—as bigots. Its “Hatewatch” list is avowedly ideological, acknowledging that it “monitors and exposes the activities of the American radical right.” Few left-wing organizations—and no Islamist groups—are branded in this way by the SPLC. Nevertheless, the SPLC, founded in 1971, has burrowed itself into the civil rights movement, the organized bar, the cloistered culture of large law firms, the education system, and even law enforcement as a champion for “the exploited, the powerless and the forgotten.” Its executives are richly compensated, some in excess of $400,000 annually. Operating from palatial six-story quarters in Montgomery, Alabama (sometimes called the “Poverty Palace”), it enjoys a $300 million endowment, including more than $23 million in cash. It fundraises ceaselessly. It’s no coincidence that SPLC co-founder Morris S. Dees Jr. has been inducted into the Direct Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame.
Despite numerous exposés over the years in publications spanning the political spectrum—including Harper’s, The Progressive, The Weekly Standard, Reason, the Baltimore Sun, and even the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser—the liberal establishment continues to treat the group as credible, largely because its preoccupation with right-wing bigotry aligns with the stereotypical view of liberals who dominate newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times. In our polarized culture, the epithet “hate group” is the ultimate slander of political opponents. The SPLC’s spurious imprimatur gives mere calumny gravitas, allowing liberal journalists to wield its highly charged judgments as a weapon, citing it as if it were a dispassionate authority. Many liberal (or merely lazy) journalists discredit conservative organizations by noting that they are “listed by the SPLC as a hate group,” treating its often dubious designations as gospel truth.
One would expect an organization that holds itself out as an expert on hate groups to have a consistent definition of that term, but in Humpty-Dumpty fashion, it turns out that a “hate group” is whatever the SPLC decides it is. The SPLC claims that “917 Hate Groups are currently operating in the U.S.,” but offers only vague guidelines for what qualifies: “groups hav[ing] beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” Despite its insinuations that hate groups are inherently violent, the SPLC casts a much broader net: “Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafletting or publishing” (emphasis added). Indeed, some of the SPLC’s hate “groups” are merely websites or publications—even record labels and religious sects.
This fluid and subjective definition allows the SPLC to lump together—along with the KKK, neo-Nazis, and racist skinheads—such varied groups as religious-liberty advocates Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel; pro-family groups such as the World Congress of Families; Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy; the David Horowitz Freedom Center and, separately, its Jihad Watch program; Pamela Geller’s Refugee Resettlement Watch; and many immigration-reform groups, including CIS and FAIR. Without irony, SPLC president Richard Cohen has defended designating the Family Research Council as a hate group “because it traffics in incendiary name-calling.” To the SPLC’s credit, it also classifies the Nation of Islam, the New Black Panther Party, and a few other black separatist groups as hate groups, though these organizations are seldom mentioned in its stream of emails and bulletins… Much more HERE