June 28, 2017
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has plenty of money -- it's allies the group is running out of. The end of the Obama era not only brought about an end to the red-carpet treatment, it would appear tide is also turning against the phony civil rights group, and no one is more surprised than SPLC itself. For years, the group has enjoyed the blind support of the mainstream media -- a luxury it lost when SPLC was not only highlighted by another politically-motivated shooter but also when it slapped an "extremist" label on Muslim Maajid Nawaz.
For liberals like Bill Maher, who was so angry that he said he'd help fund a lawsuit against SPLC, it was the final straw. "It's funny," Maher told Nawaz, "you're fighting extremists but they call you an extremist." The woes for Morris Dees's groups only grew when the Alabama-based organization was linked to its second domestic terrorist two weeks ago -- James Hodgkinson, the gunman who shot another of SPLC's featured "haters," House Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), and four others at baseball practice.
Suddenly, the group's thin veneer of credibility (which was already in short supply after Floyd Corkins told authorities he targeted FRC because of SPLC) was gone. The dominos that started to fall after the FBI, U.S. Army, and Obama Justice Department distanced themselves from Dees's group exploded into a full-scale media firestorm. GuideStar was forced to drop SPLC's labeling from its charity index, the Wall Street Journal published "The Insidious Influence of the SPLC," and this week Politico spent 11 pages of its latest magazine criticizing the group for losing its way.
Almost overnight, the wagons that used to circle SPLC couldn't drive away fast enough. In a lengthy exposé that tackles everything from Dees's shady financial dealings to the group's controversial methods, Ben Schreckinger signals that SPLC's easy ride in the media is over. "As Dees navigates the era of Trump, there are new questions arising around a charge that has dogged the group for years: that SPLC is overplaying its hand, becoming more of a partisan progressive hit operation than a civil rights watchdog. Critics say the group abuses its position as an arbiter of hatred by labeling legitimate players 'hate groups' and 'extremists' to keep the attention of its liberal donors and grind a political ax," Politico's Schreckinger writes. From Ben Carson (called an "extremist" for his natural marriage stance) to Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the group is doing a better job discrediting themselves than anyone!
Cornell law professor William Jacobson hopes the media's eyes are finally opened. "For groups that do not threaten violence, the use of SPLC 'hate group' or 'extremist' designations frequently are exploited as an excuse to silence speech and speakers." Politico goes on to quote Ken Silverstein, a liberal journalist who investigated SPLC's suspicious $300 million endowment. "The organization has always tried to find ways to milk money out of the public by finding whatever threat they can most credibly promote," he argued. And the irony, The Hague's J.M. Berger points out, is that there's a desperate need for more objective research on hate crimes and domestic extremism -- especially now." Like us, Berger agrees the problem with SPLC is that it's trying to wear two hats -- activist and arbiter. And that makes the hate labels "very subjective even within academia, and even more so for a motivated organization."
At least for now, any pretense of SPLC's neutrality is gone. Dees and lieutenant Richard Cohen have made it clear that they're openly aiming for Donald Trump, who they accuse of "normalizing hate." "The shock of the election did not interrupt the steady barrage the SPLC has trained on Trump," Politico explains. That, more than anything, ought to expose the organization for the counterfeits they are. How can SPLC possibly be objective about Trump supporters when they've admitted their goal is to stop him? In a revealing exchange about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Cohen calls the former senator "simply mad" and then begs Schreckinger not to quote him (which he does anyway). But, as Politico fires back, Trump campaigned "as a rebel of political correctness, and in a sense his election was a backlash against the power amassed by liberal groups like the SPLC -- a rejection of the idea that liberal activists should determine what views are considered out of bounds in American politics."
By its own admission, SPLC's agenda is to choke off anyone aligned with Trump. That's even more obvious when you consider that the president's largest support base -- evangelical Christians -- make up the majority of SPLC's "watch lists." Trump is determined to keep his commitments, and SPLC is trying to stop him by marginalizing the groups who help him succeed. It's time for more in the media to wake up to this scam and stop legitimizing SPLC as a source. Being connected to gunmen who carried out two shootings hasn't deterred Dees. But maybe a costly lesson from the press will.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.