The Southern Poverty Law Center: Part Karl, Part Groucho

by Mark Krikorian

The Southern Poverty Law Center is rightly seen as a pernicious and loathsome racket. It warns that terrorists lurk among veterans and Tea Partiers; its labeling of the Family Research Council as a “hate group” inspired a gay activist to attempt a murderous attack on the FRC’s Washington offices; and it beat Politico to the smear by putting Ben Carson on a list of “extremists,” on par with David Duke and Fred Phelps (for which is was forced to apologize).

But sometimes the SPLC’s righteous fanaticism leads to comical errors. An example of that arose last month at a conference of immigration skeptics outside Washington. Heidi Beirich, one of the SPLC’s chief propagandists, wrote a blog post to help mainstream a posting from an even more extreme group than hers. The upshot was that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (sometime National Review contributor) is evil because he spoke at a “white nationalist” conference. And her tactic succeeded; Beirich’s posting was the basis of an editorial last week by the Kansas City Star criticizing Kobach’s “despicable behavior” for hobnobbing with the wicked.

Here’s the funny part: Beirich’s posting was illustrated with a photo of Kobach speaking at the conference, the caption of which notes that it was taken from the Twitter feed of one @Hunter7Taylor. What do you find when you go to @hunter7taylor’s profile? This:

White nationalist?

Turns out her name is Inger Eberhart. I was at the conference too and, though I don’t know her, the photo is definitely her.

So, the SPLC chose to illustrate a menacing warning about a “white nationalist” conference with a photo taken and tweeted by a black woman. And not a plant, but a participant who’s on the board of the Dustin Inman Society, Georgia’s immigration-control citizens’ group led by the indefatigable D.A. King.

As she wrote, “I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia in the years immediately following the civil rights era. I would spot a real white nationalist a lot faster than you ever could.”

Eberhart wasn’t the only improbable “white nationalist.” Maria Espinoza, daughter of a Mexican immigrant and past president of Houston Eagle Forum, heads the Remembrance Project, which honors Americans killed by illegal aliens. Two other speakers were also Hispanic Americans.

This gathering of “white nationalists” also featured a panel featuring me, Mike Gonzalez of the Heritage Foundation (a Cuban immigrant who spoke on promoting assimilation and fighting multiculturalism) and George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan (who made a forthright argument for open borders). As Caplan noted afterward on his blog, “the audience was polite, with little of the vitriol that so sullies cyberspace.”

Yes, yes, I know, I shouldn’t expect anything different from leftist goons. And I don’t really; Beirich is clearly an end-justifies-the-means Alinskyite. But I had expected a certain level of competence, which is apparently lacking. As the great Londo Mollari said, “Arrogance and stupidity all in the same package. How efficient.”

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