Politics & Policy

Everyone Who Disagrees with the SPLC Is Hitler

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Reuters photo: Francois Lenoir)

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which made its reputation tracking and cataloguing violent extremist groups, has set its sights on a new group of people who are neither violent nor extreme but who are in fact precisely the opposite of that: critics of the violence and extremism too often associated with Islam.

The new SPLC blacklist includes: Daniel Pipes, holder of a Ph.D. in Islamic history from Harvard, a man who reads both modern and classical Arabic, who studied in Egypt, and who has taught at Harvard and the University of Chicago; Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a celebrated author, a former member of the Dutch parliament and crusader against female genital mutilation; Maajid Nawaz, a British Muslim reformist who was held as a political prisoner in Egypt; former Defense Department official Frank Gaffney; Radical Son author David Horowitz; attorney and free-speech advocate Robert Muise of the American Freedom Law Center; provocatrix Pamela Geller; former PLO member and Muslim reformist Walid Shoebat, among others.

Awfully tweedy for a bunch of would-be terrorists.

One might fault Geller or Shoebat for rhetorical excesses, and free-speech defenders such as Muise by necessity defend statements and views that are offensive, inoffensive speech requiring no First Amendment protection. The main offense of Pipes and Hirsi Ali seems to be the unforgiveable sin of being simultaneously well-informed about the actual state of the Muslim world and coolly critical of many of its leaders, institutions, and ideologies. Not everyone on the SPLC list is an Islamic scholar — but to rank any of them alongside Nazis, Klansmen, and those who encourage and do violence in the name of an extremist ideology? Preposterous.

Many of those smeared by the SPLC have themselves been the targets of extremist violence — Hirsi Ali has twice been made a refugee by Islamic extremism, and U.S.-based jihadis have actively plotted to murder Geller. About those violent extremists, the SPLC is strangely circumspect.

Maybe if one of them waved a Confederate flag.

The SPLC is an example of the way in which the Left corrupts and perverts the institutions it controls, from the IRS to the universities. While decrying “conspiracy theorists,” the SPLC itself is obsessed with “Terror from the Right” that is, pardon us for noticing, so rare as to be nearly insignificant. For all of the SPLC’s hysteria about neo-Confederates, skinheads, secret Nazi cabals, and the like, there is very little evidence that these organizations, to the extent that they exist as more than shared social-media fantasies, are actually up to much of anything. Even if we accept the tendentious characterization of SPLC favorite Timothy McVeigh as some kind of right-wing extremist (as with many such figures, his actual beliefs were confused, contradictory, and eccentric), the main organ of white-supremacist nuttery in the United States is prison gangs, which constitute a fairly constrained and peculiar phenomenon with relatively little effect on the outside world.

Not so violent Islamic radicalism, which is a factor in the United States and in practically every country in Europe, Africa, South Asia, and beyond. That is the great irony here: People like Ayaan Hirsi Ali are doing the work the SPLC is supposed to be doing — understanding and countering violent extremists — and the SPLC denounces them for it.

Very strange.

Some of those on the SPLC list are Muslims, former Muslims, and lifelong students of Islam. What they mostly have in common is that they are, broadly speaking, conservatives, people who are influential among conservatives, or writers and activists admired by conservatives. The SPLC is so drunk on its own poisonous ideological brew that it has simply come to conflate conservatism with violent or potentially violent extremism. One of these things is not like the others: A category of social tendencies that includes both Aryan Brotherhood felons in San Quentin and Somali-Dutch atheist women with celebrated literary careers is not an especially useful category.

It would be embarrassing if the authors of the report were capable of shame, which does not seem to be the case.

One might reasonably argue that Daniel Pipes or Ayaan Hirsi Ali is wrong in this or that particular, unfair in some way, or paints with too broad a brush. But to treat their criticism of what is — let’s not forget — the world’s most active and vicious violent-extremist movement as though such criticism were morally or intellectually equivalent to the ravings of backwater Klansmen is grotesque, irresponsible, and immoral. It would also be embarrassing if the authors of the report were capable of shame, which does not seem to be the case.

But that is the Left’s current favored method: to pathologize dissent (remember those “right-wing authoritarian” personality disorders) or to define dissent as immoral, as hate.

There’s a popular online joke about a book called “Everyone Who Disagrees with Me Is Hitler: A Child’s Guide to Arguing on the Internet.” Perhaps one of these SPLC scholars can be tapped to write a preface to the new edition.​

[Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Frank Gaffney was an official in the U.S. Department of State. He was, in fact, in the Department of Defense.]

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

Most Popular


What We’ve Learned about Jussie Smollett

It’s been a few weeks since March 26, when all charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and the actor declared that his version of events had been proven correct. How’s that going? Smollett’s celebrity defenders have gone quiet. His publicists and lawyers are dodging reporters. The @StandwithJussie ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Lessons of the Mueller Probe

Editor’s Note: The following is the written testimony submitted by Mr. McCarthy in connection with a hearing earlier today before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on the Mueller Report (specifically, the first volume of the report, which addresses Russia’s interference in the 2016 ... Read More

Kamala Harris Runs for Queen

I’m going to let you in on a secret about the 2020 presidential contest: Unless unforeseen circumstances lead to a true wave election, the legislative stakes will be extremely low. The odds are heavily stacked against Democrats’ retaking the Senate, and that means that even if a Democrat wins the White House, ... Read More

Why Are the Western Middle Classes So Angry?

What is going on with the unending Brexit drama, the aftershocks of Donald Trump’s election, and the “yellow vests” protests in France? What drives the growing estrangement of southern and eastern Europe from the European Union establishment? What fuels the anti-EU themes of recent European elections and ... Read More
Energy & Environment

The Climate Trap for Democrats

The more the climate debate changes, the more it stays the same. Polls show that the public is worried about climate change, but that doesn’t mean that it is any more ready to bear any burden or pay any price to combat it. If President Donald Trump claws his way to victory again in Pennsylvania and the ... Read More
White House

Sarah Sanders to Resign at End of June

Sarah Huckabee Sanders will resign from her position as White House press secretary at the end of the month, President Trump announced on Twitter Thursday afternoon. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1139263782142787585 Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, succeeded Sean ... Read More
Politics & Policy

But Why Is Guatemala Hungry?

I really, really don’t want to be on the “Nicolas Kristof Wrote Something Dumb” beat, but, Jiminy Cricket! Kristof has taken a trip to Guatemala, with a young woman from Arizona State University in tow. “My annual win-a-trip journey,” he writes. Reporting from Guatemala, he discovers that many ... Read More