As Ericka Andersen points out below, Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz has been targeted as an “extremist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center and is planning to sue the left-wing group for defamation. He’s crowdfunding the lawsuit, and he’ll need a big crowd, because the SPLC is sitting on a war chest of more than $300 million amassed via junk mail by its founder Morris Dees, a member of the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame. (This hoard of cash is why my Center for Immigration Studies couldn’t sue when the SPLC added us to its “hate group” fatwa earlier this year; as Peter Thiel might say, small nonprofits have no effective access to our legal system.)
Whatever the outcome of Nawaz’s lawsuit, the SPLC — whose pronouncements were once accepted without question by right-thinking people — is clearly losing its luster. Perhaps that started when the SPLC’s chief hate-sniffer, Mark Potok, started openly and repeatedly acknowledging that the point of the “hate group” designation “is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.” Or when it became clear that the Nazis, skinheads, Klansmen, and other weirdos on the list were merely window dressing designed to taint the SPLC’s political opponents, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, added in 2007 (in response to the failure of the McCain-Kennedy amnesty bill) and the Family Research Council in 2010 (as part of the push for gay marriage).
The SPLC’s most recent setback came this week as GuideStar, the nation’s leading clearinghouse for information on nonprofits, removed the recently added “hate group” designation from the profile pages of targeted groups. Here’s what the header on CIS’s profile page on this supposedly neutral, non-political site looked like until yesterday:
When you clicked on the information button, you saw this text: “The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a respected [sic] hate group watchdog. There is disagreement on some of SPLC’s specific choices, but on balance GuideStar believes the analysis is strong enough to share. We leave it to you to come to your own conclusions.”
When my attorneys and I met with Guidestar a week and a half ago, the organization’s president, Jacob Harold, was adamant that they would not remove the SPLC scarlet letter. Ensconced in a liberal cocoon, he was soon taken aback by the furious backlash, including a scathing piece in the Wall Street Journal and objections from Guidestar’s own donors (it is itself a nonprofit). Harold did the Left’s blame-the-victim thing by claiming he was forced to remove the offending designation because of concern for “staff safety.”
Another sign of the weakening of the SPLC’s “hate” voodoo came last week from a former head of the ACLU. Yes, that ACLU. Nadine Strassen, president of the organization until 2008, was on a Washington Post Live broadcast recently alongside Ann Coulter, with columnist Charles Lane moderating. This excerpt is interesting, starting at about 10:00:
Coulter: …but do not start saying to me “illegal alien” is the same as the N word, “slant” is the same as the N word – no, nothing is the same as the N word…that is how people shut down speech.
Strassen: There are also two different kinds of expression that you’re talking about, Ann. One is a face-to-face insult or insulting people by using a derogatory term. The other is an idea that people dislike, and that’s a whole different kettle of fish, right? And one of the things that really disturbs me, is how the H word – “hate” – which is being overused and abused, we’re hearing the term “hate speech” and even “hate crime” for policy positions that people dislike.
Lane: Well, sometimes it’s more than a mere policy…
Strassen: No, but, very often, seriously, people who take certain positions on immigration, who take certain positions on gay marriage, who take certain positions on abortion, even on voting. … There was actually a professor somewhere in California, not Berkeley, who actually said that voting for Trump was a “hate crime.” And she took pains to say I meant that literally. And there are many examples like that. And what scares me is that it’s not just rhetoric, right? There are consequences. Because if something is a crime – and somebody else said the whole election was “terrorism” – well we punish terrorists, we outlaw them. And I think that is the analogy that’s being made, is that there are certain ideas that are considered tantamount to violence, and therefore just as we outlaw and punish violence, we have to outlaw and punish those ideas, or take vigilante justice into our own hands.
Coulter: “Right. Or shoot them.”
Strassen’s point about vigilante justice is what I was getting at in describing the SPLC’s “hate group” designation as a hit list, a point that was underlined shortly after my post by James Hodgkinson.
Despite these promising signs, we’ll only really know the SPLC has been knocked off its pedestal when mainstream news media always, as a matter of editorial policy, insist that reporters put “hate group” in scare quotes, like “illegal immigrant” or “partial birth abortion” or “death tax.” An especially comical example of the current state of play in the media is an NBC piece from a couple of weeks ago, which put sharia law — an actually existing thing — in scare quotes, but did not put them around the made-up advocacy term of “hate group.” So we still have a ways to go.