There was a time when the Southern Poverty Law Center did useful work reporting on actual hate groups such as the KKK. These days, though, the SPLC is simply a MoveOn or Media Matters–style outfit. Its core mission now is trying to marginalize and shut up even mildly right-of-center voices by calling them instruments of hate, making increasingly strained attempts to tie conservative commentators, authors, political figures, and professors to the alt-right or neo-Nazism. At the same time it elevates absurd bloggers to the level of potential leaders of lynch mobs.
The equivalent of a Drudge-siren moment for SPLC is when it rolls out yet another faux-neutral report on hate, which is always getting worse and threatening to engulf the republic. The SPLC’s report on “Male supremacy,” which it calls “a hateful ideology for the subjugation of women” and ties to the men’s-rights activists lurking on 4Chan and Reddit who boast about their supposed dominance of women, lists as pernicious allies the psychologist, author, and PJ Media columnist Helen Smith and the American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, calling them “anti-feminist female voices” who “give the men’s rights movement a veneer of even-handedness” and lend a “mainstream and respectable face to some MRA concerns.”
You will search Smith’s and Sommers’s writings in vain for the sort of chest-thumping idiocies espoused by men’s-rights bloggers such as Paul Elam of the site A Voice for Men or “Roosh V.” (a.k.a. Daryush Valizadeh), a self-proclaimed “pickup artist” from the site Return of Kings. The SPLC is designating both of these websites “hate groups,” which offers an answer to the question of why the number of hate groups always seems to be growing in the SPLC’s tabulations. Got a blog you use to attract clicks by saying the most outrageous things you can come up with in between playing shoot-’em-up games on the PlayStation? Congratulations, you’re a “hate group.” Just like the Nazi party.
Elam and Valizadeh have said plenty of controversial, indeed hateful, things, but what fault is that of such distinguished scholars as Sommers and Smith? Nothing either of them has written gets quoted in the report. We’re meant to take the SPLC’s word for it that these women somehow “give a mainstream and respectable face” to the louts. Sommers told The Weekly Standard that she used to admire the SPLC, but now “they’re blacklisting in place of engaging with arguments. They blacklist you, rather than try to refute you.” Smith (a contributor to the Instapundit blog run by her husband, Glenn Reynolds) wrote at PJ Media, “I get emails and letters from men across the US and even other countries who tell me about the difficulties and downright atrocities that they are dealing with” but they find themselves subjected to “contempt by society, the courts and miserable, misandric places like the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
SPLC, founded by a direct-mail zillionaire named Morris Dees, spends far more on direct-mail fundraising pleas ($10 million) than it ever has on legal services, according to an analysis by Philanthropy Roundtable, and has never passed along more than 31 percent of its funding to charitable programs, sometimes as little as 18 percent. Meanwhile it has built itself a palatial six-story headquarters and an endowment of more than $200 million. In essence it is a machine for turning leftist hysteria into cash that portrays itself as a non-partisan, fact-finding group and has long been treated as such by media institutions such as the Washington Post and the New York Times. Yet it has also targeted Senator Rand Paul, surgeon–turned–HUD secretary Ben Carson, and human-rights activists Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz, calling them extremists or agents of hate (though it removed Carson from its list after an outcry), and it tagged both the Family Research Council and Mark Krikorian’s think tank, the Center for Immigration Studies, as hate groups, though the latter has been invited to testify before Congress more than 100 times.
SPLC’s tactics inspired a Politico piece wondering whether, in an era when the group’s “biggest fights seemed to be behind it,” it was “overstepping its bounds.” “There is a desperate need for more objective research on hate crimes and domestic extremism,” J. M. Berger, a researcher on extremism and a fellow with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism at the Hague, told Politico. He said that “the problem partly stems from the fact that the [SPLC] wears two hats, as both an activist group and a source of information.” Progressive journalist Ken Silverstein, who in Harper’s compared SPLC’s practices to those of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, told Politico, “The organization has always tried to find ways to milk money out of the public by finding whatever threat they can most credibly promote.”
The SPLC is, as Philanthropy Roundtable put it, “Hate, Inc.,” or “The Anti-Hate Group That Is a Hate Group.” Its shameful attacks on Smith, Sommers, Ali, Carson, Paul, Krikorian, and others are simply scaremongering for suckers. It may portray itself as a justice-minded team of Atticus Finches. In reality it’s more like a goon squad of David Brocks.