Southern Poverty Law Center Officially Declared â€œLeft-Wing Hate Groupâ€
By: Matt Barber
Though always left of center, the Atlanta-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) once had a reputation as a fairly objective civil rights group. Founded by direct-marketing millionaire Morris Dees and partner Joseph Levin Jr. in 1971, the SPLC made important and honorable contributions to many of the historic civil rights gains of the 20th Century. According to its own materials, the SPLC was â€œinternationally known for tracking and exposing the activities of hate groups.â€
Alas, â€œpower corrupts,â€ as it goes, and the SPLC, having amassed tremendous power and wealth over the years, has regrettably become corrupt to its core. By way of an ever-escalating wave of â€œus-versus-themâ€ money-grubbing schemes, Todayâ€™s SPLC has morphed into a far-left political activist outfit, famous for promoting a panoply of extreme liberal causes.
Ken Silverstein, writing for Harper’s Magazine, addressed this untoward metamorphosis in 2000: â€œTodayâ€™s SPLC spends most of its time â€“ and money â€“ on a relentless fund-raising campaign, peddling memberships in the church of tolerance with all the zeal of a circuit rider passing the collection plate. â€˜He’s the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil rights movement,â€™ renowned anti-death-penalty lawyer Millard Farmer says of Dees, his former associate, â€˜though I donâ€™t mean to malign Jim and Tammy Faye.â€™
â€œThe American Institute of Philanthropy gives the Center one of the worst ratings of any group it monitors,â€ continued Silverstein. â€œMorris Dees doesn’t need your financial support. The SPLC is already the wealthiest civil rights group in America, though [its fundraising literature] quite naturally omits that fact. â€¦ â€˜Morris and I…shared the overriding purpose of making a pile of money,â€™ recalls Deesâ€™s business partner, a lawyer named Millard Fuller (not to be confused with Millard Farmer). â€˜We were not particular about how we did it; we just wanted to be independently rich.â€™â€ (You say Fuller. I say Farmer. The two Millards say â€œcall the whole thing off.â€)
So, what happens when a dragon slayer â€“ paid per dragon head â€“ runs out of real dragons to slay? Well, he invents new ones, of course. Gotta keep those sprinklers-a-sprinklin.â€™ (According to Harperâ€™s, â€œDees bought a 200-acre estate appointed with tennis courts, a pool, and stables.â€ SPLCâ€™s 2008 Form-990 shows net assets of over 219 million at the beginning of that year. Yup, thereâ€™s a spate to be made in the hate trade.)
â€œThe Ku Klux Klan, the SPLCâ€™s most lucrative nemesis, has shrunk from 4 million members in the 1920s to an estimated 2,000 today [year 2000], as many as 10 percent of whom are thought to be FBI informants. But news of a declining Klan does not make for inclining donations to Morris Dees and Co., which is why the SPLC honors nearly every nationally covered â€˜hate crimeâ€™ with direct-mail alarums full of nightmarish invocations of â€˜armed Klan paramilitary forcesâ€™ and â€˜violent neo-Nazi extremistsâ€¦â€™â€
But as the real dragons dry-up, new dragons emerge: â€œTea Partyâ€ conservatives; Evangelical Christians; anti-abortion zealots and anti-gay bigots (read: pro-life and pro-family traditionalists); and, of course, gun-toting, knuckle-dragging 2nd Amendment rednecks. All bundled together â€“ courtesy of the SPLC and Janet â€œthe system workedâ€ Napolitano â€“ in that neat little pejorative package know as â€“ Dun-Dun-Dun! â€“ THE RIGHT-WING EXTREMIST! (You know, basically Middle America.)
So, sadly â€“ shamefully, really â€“ todayâ€™s SPLC has become nothing more than a â€œnon-profitâ€ extension of the black helicopter, Huffpo-wing of the Democratic Party â€“ a gaggle of partisan hacks bent on lining their pockets, defaming good people (along with the bad) and filling DNC coffers. (SPLC Director Mark Potok even doubles as a Huffington Post columnist. Seriously. They make it that easy.)
The real problem lies in the fact, however, that the SPLC holds itself out as an objective monitor of potentially violent or subversive hate groups. It presents to municipal, state and federal law enforcement, regular â€œintelligence filesâ€ and an annual â€œYear in Hateâ€ report. Ostensibly, these reports contain facts â€“ even actionable intelligence â€“ aimed at helping law enforcement officials prevent and/or monitor potentially violent criminal activity.
Then? Perhaps. Now? Not so much.
In recent years the SPLC reports have been utterly tainted â€“ weaponized and used against the leftist groupâ€™s ideological and political adversaries. This is a despicable, bad faith abuse of othersâ€™ good will, and of the SPLCâ€™s past reputation.
Case in point: Recently, the SPLC came under fire for comparing the â€œTea Partyâ€ movement and other grassroots conservatives to â€œterrorists.â€ Potok slandered â€œTea Partyâ€ goers, suggesting that â€œthey are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism,â€ and are widely linked to â€œhateâ€ and â€œvigilante groups.â€ Of course there are always a few nuts in any movement, but clearly Potokâ€™s intent was to defame tens of millions of patriotic â€œTea Partiers,â€ simply because he disagrees with them.
It was earlier reported that Janet Napolitano and the Department of Homeland Security relied upon similar reports by the SPLC in preparing the DHSâ€™ own slanderous â€“ now infamous â€“ â€œRight Wing Extremistâ€ report. You may recall: it painted pretty much all conservatives with that broad, multi-colored brush of â€œdomestic terrorism.â€ (The report was later pulled, and Napolitano forced to apologize in shame.)
Even more recently, the SPLC launched another in a series of politically motivated attacks against a well-respected Christian organization. The group arbitrarily tagged as an official â€œhate groupâ€ Americans for Truth about Homosexuality (AFTAH).
AFTAH promotes biblical morality, opposes the radical homosexual activist lobby and publicly decries both violence and hatred against homosexuals or anyone else. Although it has been in operation for a number of years, the SPLC only recently labeled AFTAH a â€œhate groupâ€ after being pressured by the Chicago-based â€œGay Liberation Networkâ€ to do so.
GLN is a fringe group of self-described Marxists and sexual anarchists best known for disrupting peaceful Christian gatherings with raucous, bullhorn laden protests. In a twist most ironic, GLN leader Bob Schwartz once threatened AFTAH founder Peter LaBarbera in front of witnesses, telling him that if the police werenâ€™t present at a rally, he would have pushed LaBarbera into oncoming traffic. (â€œHate crime, anyone?â€ Love that â€œtoleranceâ€ and â€œdiversity.â€ Whereâ€™s the SPLC when you need them?)
You can only cry wolf so many times before people begin to ignore you. Today, the SPLCâ€™s â€œhate groupâ€ reports have begun to resonate almost exclusively within a far-left echo chamber. Newsflash: Moveon.org wants Bush tried as a â€œwar criminal,â€ Charlie Sheen thinks the U.S. government was behind 9/11 and, yes, the SPLC has once again awarded its now meaningless â€œhate groupâ€ distinction to yet another conservative organization with which it is admittedly â€“ in every way â€“ both politically and ideologically opposed. Who wouldâ€™ve thunk it?
Donâ€™t get me wrong. Again, in the past, the SPLC has actually done some good by identifying and monitoring real hate groups such as the KKK, neo-Nazis and Skin Heads.
But now, regrettably, the SPLC has traded in its limited usefulness for radical left-wing activism. It has become much like that which it previously sought to expose. Today it uses the very tactics employed by white nationalists and other bona fide hate groups to malign large groups of people whom the SPLC most decidedly â€œhates.â€
Itâ€™s nauseatingly transparent. With empty, ad hominem attacks and pejorative â€œhate groupâ€ smears, the SPLC strives to politically marginalize its ideological opponents. Itâ€™s a cynical â€œguilt-by-false-associationâ€ scheme, through which the SPLC hopes â€“ in the public mindâ€™s eye â€“ to equate Christians, â€œTea Partyâ€ conservatives and other traditionalists to the KKK and neo-Nazis.
Still, in going after Americans for Truth, the GLN surprisingly betrayed its SPLC ally by publicly acknowledging SPLCâ€™s nefarious tactics. GLN boasted that this was the strategy all along. The Gay Liberation Networkâ€™s stated goal in goading the SPLC to label AFTAH a â€œhate groupâ€ was to â€œhelp assistâ€ in AFTAHâ€™s â€œpolitical marginalization.â€
Of course, by kowtowing to an already deeply marginalized GLN; by so obviously abusing its once-respectable reputation; and by spending its last remaining political capital on such folly, the SPLC has only succeeded in further marginalizing itself.
But, as they say: Whatâ€™s good for the gooseâ€¦ Letâ€™s try it on for size. Itâ€™s a â€œhate group,â€ mudslinging good time! In exercise of the SPLCâ€™s trademark â€œI-know-you-are-but-what-am-Iâ€ criterion for arbitrarily determining â€œhate groupâ€ status, I hereby declare the Southern Poverty Law Center an â€œanti-Christian, anti-conservative hate group.â€ There, itâ€™s official. Try it. Itâ€™s fun!
But seriously, if AFTAH is a â€œhate group,â€ then so is Liberty Counsel, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, American Family Association, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church. Any group that observes and defends traditional sexual morality would have to be labeled such.
Heck, for that matter, so would the U.S. Armed Forces, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA. These groups publically expose the undeniable medical and societal pitfalls associated with the homosexual lifestyle and, therefore, must be â€œhate groups,â€ right?
Of course, like any bully, the SPLC only goes after those it believes it can push around. But really, it confers a badge of honor upon every legitimate Christian and conservative organization it so disingenuously mislabels â€œhate group.â€ Itâ€™s a tacit admission by the SPLC that these groups represent a political threat; that their activities undermine the SPLCâ€™s not-so-thinly-veiled, left-wing agenda. (Kind of like winning a conservative Grammy.)
Indeed, I canâ€™t speak for the many conservative and Christian organizations and ministries with which Iâ€™m associated. And of course I hate absolutely no one. Nonetheless, Iâ€™d like to officially request that the SPLC add my name to its spurious â€œanti-gay hate list.â€ Itâ€™s good for oneâ€™s conservative and biblical bona fides.â€
(Hater Matt Barber hatefully sits on the hate-filled board of the official SPLC â€œhate groupâ€ Americans for Truth.)
Matt Barber is an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. He serves as Director of Cultural Affairs with both Liberty Counsel and Liberty Alliance Action. Send comments to Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org. (This information is provided for identification purposes only.)
Matt Barber (@jmattbarber on Twitter) is an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. He serves as vice president of Liberty Counsel Action. (This information is provided for identification purposes only.)