One wonders why it took the branding of a Muslim as a hater by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for the mainstream media to begin questioning the methodology, criteria, and the partisanship of that once-respected institution. After all, SPLC has been branding mainstream Christian groups as “haters” for many years.
Even so, Christians targeted by SPLC are grateful Maajid Nawaz has decided to sue SPLC for defamation, something Christian groups have been reluctant to do. And it is a very good thing that Nawaz’s case has brought the viciousness of the SPLC to the attention of the likes of The Atlantic and Politico.
Once upon a time, Nawaz was a radical Muslim, an Islamist who spent many years advancing that ideology. He reformed and now speaks out against Islamism and Islamists. And this has angered the SPLC and caused the group to target him, an especially dangerous and even deadly situation for someone who has split from radical Islam.
Nawaz landed in the crosshairs of the SPLC for tweeting out a cartoon of Jesus and Muhammad. Everyone knows that certain Muslims, but not all, get twitchy at representations of Muhammad. As Samuel D. James wrote at First Things, “This is truly a bizarre indictment . . . the SPLC’s willingness to designate itself an arbiter of correct Islamic theology would be amusing if it weren’t so destructive.” And irony of ironies, the centerpiece of SPLC’s case is that Nawaz has done precisely what SPLC does; create a list of groups that could be a danger to his native Great Britain.
The targeting of Nawaz also drew the attention of Politico, which published a long take by Ben Schreckinger who underscores the criticism that SPLC has become more of a partisan hit squad than a “civil rights watchdog.” Christian groups have complained for years that the main criteria for landing on the SPLC black list is to disagree with the leftist ideology of SPLC. Schreckinger writes, “[SPLC’s] authority to police the boundaries of American political discourse is facing its greatest challenge yet.”
J.M. Berger of The Hague-based International Centre for Counter-Terrorism told Politico, “The problem stems from the fact that the organization wears two hats, as both an activist group and a source of information.” In fact, Mark Potok, who frequently represents SPLC on television and who edits SPLC’s hate report, told donors and supporters in 2008: “Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate crimes and so on…. I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.”
Critics point out that SPLC is mostly a fundraising machine. Even the Left says so, notably Alexander Cockburn at Counterpunch, who wrote that SPLC is in the business of frightening northern liberals in order to keep the cash flowing. SPLC sits on a treasure trove of $350 million and brings in somewhere north of $40 million a year, mostly from scare mail to loopy liberals. SPLC’s founder, Morris Dees, is in the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame.
SPLC is hardly a poverty group. Besides sitting on an ocean of money, 250 SPLC staff work out of a big, expensive modernist building in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1994, the local paper was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize after it published an investigation into SPLC’s questionable finances, marketing, and personnel practices.
Other respected outlets have gone after SPLC’s criteria and methodology and have charged that much of the SPLC hate list is phony. Foreign Policy looked at SPLC’s 2010 list and after eliminating duplicate groups, the list shriveled from more than 1,000 groups to a few hundred. The trick they use to inflate the list is to name a national group and then all state and local affiliates. For instance, if the Catholic Church made the SPLC hate-list—and given the Church’s teaching that homosexuality is “disordered” and not innate, and that homosexual sex is “objectively evil,” one wonders why it hasn’t—SPLC would list all dioceses and perhaps all parishes. SPLC also puts groups on the list that you can’t even find; Granny Warriors, for instance, that landed on the list in 2012. Try to find them. You can’t.
align=”left” It should be noted further that shortly after FRC landed on the SPLC hate-list, an SPLC supporter invaded FRC’s Washington D.C., headquarters and attempted mass murder. You can still see the bullet holes, in the wall of the lobby, and the bullet scar on the arm of the security guard who subdued him.
SPLC ran into trouble some years ago when the KKK and similar groups seemed to disappear. How are you going to keep the left quivering under their beds and showering SPLC with cash if the KKK is no more than a P.O. box and a few grizzled veterans who occasionally play dress up? Well, you find more devils, in this case, Christian groups fighting the culture wars.
Family Research Council, for instance, landed on the list in part for one thing one staff member said back in the ’90s. This staffer had the temerity to say not that a majority of pedophiles are homosexual but that there is a higher concentration of pedophilia among homosexuals than among non-homosexuals. Virtually anything FRC or other targeted groups say that is critical of the “homosexual agenda” is further evidence that they are hate groups. Even using the term “homosexual agenda” is evidence of hate.
It should be noted further that shortly after FRC landed on the SPLC hate-list, an SPLC supporter invaded FRC’s Washington D.C., headquarters and attempted mass murder. You can still see the bullet holes, in the wall of the lobby, and the bullet scar on the arm of the security guard who subdued him.
Heidi Beirich, SPLC’s chief “investigator,” says Christian groups land on the list only for stigmatizing an entire population based on characteristics that are immutable. FRC denies that they have done that as they also deny that same-sex attraction is either inborn or immutable. That is dangerous territory, too, even though many gay-friendly scholars agree.
SPLC also expanded their hate-list to include critics of illegal immigration and radical Islam. Mark Krikorian’s Center for Immigration Studies landed on the list. “I think the SPLC has jumped the shark,” Krikorian told Politico. “The idea that a think tank on K Street is comparable to some skinhead group is laughable.”
Some institutions have started pushing back. Part of SPLC’s luster is its claim that governmental institutions rely on its “research.” However, in recent years, the FBI backed off and no longer links to the SPLC website. The U.S. Army distanced itself. Even Barack Obama’s Justice Department spanked SPLC for its over-the-top slurs when, in court papers, the group called the Federation for American Immigration Reform “white supremacist, eugenicist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Catholic…” A disciplinary letter from the Department of Justice said SPLC’s decision to “engage in derogatory name-calling exhibited a lack of professionalism” and that SPLC had “overstepped the bounds of zealous advocacy.”
align=”right” The Muslim Maajid Nawaz is doing what Christian groups have been afraid to do, sue the pants off them.
In recent days, Guidestar, the well-respected online reporter of non-profit tax returns, put an SPLC warning across the top of the pages of 46 groups targeted by SPLC. After complaints, Guidestar backed off and took them down though Guidestar CEO Harold Jacob says they may start it up again.
Would that the mainstream media learn from the FBI, the Army, the Department of Justice, and Guidestar. Whenever an SPLC-targeted group is mentioned in a news story, inevitably the story explains the group has been “designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.” Reporters tend to be lazy and ideological and are happy to rely upon the increasingly discredited SPLC.
SPLC is among the most anti-democratic, anti-American groups this country has ever seen. As Karl Zinsmeister wrote for the Philanthropy Roundtable, their kind of hateful branding has no place in our national discourse. The Muslim Maajid Nawaz is doing what Christian groups have been afraid to do, sue the pants off them. He’s backed by HBO’s Bill Maher and has generated a crowdfunding page to pay for what will cost millions. Every Christian and every conservative in America ought to be backing him.