The concept of a “hate group” could be useful. In practice, however, it is like the concept of “hate speech,” applied to shut down heterodox speech and confine the public square to dissemination of officially approved thought. The concepts somehow overlook the likes of the hilariously misnamed Southern Poverty Law Center and its works, which direct something far beyond the Orwellian Two Minutes Hate to the likes of Charles Murray and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. If there is such a thing as a “hate group” — as I say, it could be a useful concept — the SPLC is it. Indeed, I think it may be our most influential hate group.
Earlier this year our friends at American Greatness took note with Mike Sabo’s column “The Southern Poverty Law Center is a hate group.” This past week the Wall Street Journal published Jeryl Bier’s scrupulously reported column “The insidious influence of the SPLC” (unfortunately, behind the Journal’s subscription paywall). Jeryl notes, for example:
Aided by a veneer of objectivity, the SPLC has for years served as the media’s expert witness for evaluating “extremism” and “hatred.” But while the SPLC rightly condemns groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Westboro Baptist Church and New Black Panther Party, it has managed to blur the lines, besmirching mainstream groups like the [Family Research Center], as well as people such as social scientist Charles Murray and Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a critic of Islamic extremism.
A clear illustration of the SPLC’s pervasive and insidious influence is the March riot at Middlebury College, where Mr. Murray had been invited to speak. “The SPLC is the primary source for the protesters at my events,” Mr. Murray told me. “It is quotes from the SPLC, assertions by the SPLC that drive the whole thing.”
Mr. Murray’s politics are libertarian, but the SPLC labels him a “white nationalist.” In reporting on the Middlebury fracas, numerous news organizations repeated the SPLC’s characterization without noting it was false. The AP even put it in a headline: “College Students Protest Speaker Branded White Nationalist.”
Sometimes understatement can be an effective rhetorical device. Jeryl tactfully suggests the true nature of the SPLC:
The SPLC’s work arguably contributes to the climate of hate it abhors—and Middlebury isn’t the worst example. In 2012 Floyd Lee Corkins shot and wounded a security guard at the Family Research Council’s headquarters. Mr. Corkins, who pleaded guilty to domestic terrorism, told investigators he had targeted the group after learning of it from the SPLC’s website. The SPLC responded to the shooting with a statement: “We condemn all acts of violence.”
Last week the SPLC found itself in the awkward position of disavowing the man who opened fire on Republican members of Congress during baseball practice. “We’re aware that the SPLC was among hundreds of groups that the man identified as the shooter ‘liked’ on Facebook,” SPLC president Richard Cohen said in a statement. “I want to be as clear as I can possibly be: The SPLC condemns all forms of violence.”
Jeryl notes in a parenthetical comment in his concluding paragraph: “[The SPLC] did not respond to three inquiries for this article.” That is silence speaking.
One more example of the SPLC at work. The SPLC has gone to work on anti-radical Muslim activist Majiid Nawaz. The SPLC has labeled Nawaz an anti-Muslim extremist along with Frank Gaffney, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and others. Nawaz appeared on Bill Maher’s HBO show on Friday. Josh Feldman covered the interview for Mediaite. RCP has posted the video here. I’m embedding it below.
The New York Times Magazine profiled Nawaz in the article “Majiid Nawaz’s radical ambition.” The Atlantic took up the SPLC’s stigmatization of Nawaz in a column by David Graham. (I don’t appreciate Graham’s workout on the “Islamaphonia” shtick in the column, but it’s good on Nawaz.) Nawaz responded to the SPLC designation in this Daily Beast column.