I have been calling the ludicrously misnamed Southern Poverty Law Center a wealthy left-wing hate cult. The organization now serves as a handmaiden to forces of the left as they seek to stigmatize honorable conservatives and confine our public discourse to approved channels. Most recently, Minnesota Senator Al Franken showed how it’s done in his crude McCarthyite assault on Notre Dame Law Professor Amy Barrett in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on her nomination to the Seventh Circuit last week.
I didn’t realize that I was following in the footsteps of former Vanderbilt political science professor Carol Swain, who called the SPLC’s number in a post she wrote about it for the Huffington Post in September 2009. Professor Swain concluded the post: “Rather than monitoring hate groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center has become one.”
This could not stand. In today’s Wall Street Journal Professor Swain tells the rest of the story:
The SPLC’s retaliation was vicious and effective. On Oct. 17, 2009, my photo appeared on the front page of my local newspaper, the Tennessean, with the headline “ Carol Swain is an apologist for white supremacists.” That was a quote from Mark Potok, at the time the SPLC’s national spokesman. The context for Mr. Potok’s attack was a review I gave for a film titled “A Conversation About Race.” I endorsed it for classroom use because it offered a perspective on race rarely encountered on university campuses. Mr. Potok argued that the filmmaker was a bigot. I felt then and now that the perspective needed to be heard.
This negative article was featured on the front pages of several newspapers and it went viral, especially in black media outlets. The attacks did not subside until this newspaper’s website published a lengthy article titled “In Defense of Carol Swain.”
Being targeted by the SPLC has had a lasting impact on my life and career. Offers from other universities ended and speaking opportunities declined. Once you’ve been smeared in this way, mainstream news outlets are less likely to cite you as an expert of any kind.
Professor Swain knows she is in good company:
[T]oday I wear the SPLC’s mud as a badge of honor because I know I am in the company of many good men and women who have been similarly vilified for standing for righteousness and truth. Other SPLC targets have included Ben Carson (who eventually received an apology and retraction), Somali refugee Ayaan Hirsi Ali, terrorism expert Steve Emerson, political scientist Guenter Lewy (who successfully sued the SPLC), attorney Robert Muise, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, and Princeton professor Robert P. George. The SPLC has tagged Mr. George, a devout Catholic intellectual, as “anti-LGBT.”
The SPLC seems to have taken its inspiration from 1984. In the run-up to the regime fueled by the Two Minutes Hate, the SPLC organizes the animus fueling the left-wing fascists who aim to bring it on and squelch the rest of us.