The SPLC Marginalizes Itself

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The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) hugely exaggerates the number of independent groups it terms “conspiracy-minded antigovernment ‘Patriot’ groups”. It does this by counting every state chapter, branch or subdivision of a larger organization as a separate group. As they say “Groups are identified by the city, county or region where they are located.”

Take the Constitution Party, for example. It counts that once in Alaska, 3 times in Arizona (in each of 3 counties), once in Arkansas, twice in California, 7 times in Colorado, etc. The John Birch Society gets counted 5 times in California, 4 times in Florida, etc.

This multiple counting is what gives them a total of 1,360 groups in 2012. The actual number of independent organizations is far, far less. When a national organization succeeds in adding more statewide chapters, the multiple counting of the SPLC makes it appear as if the numbers of organizations are wildly proliferating. What then happens is that reporters sometimes take an SPLC report at face value, which is misleading. They report that the number of these groups has “soared” or risen to an “all-time high”. What may actually be happening is that a few organizations are succeeding in adding local chapters.

The SPLC includes groups on their list that are highly questionable candidates for inclusion by the SPLC’s criteria. For example, they include “We Are Change”, which gets counted 20 times from California alone. This organization says of itself” “We Are Change is a nonpartisan, independent media organization comprised of individuals and groups working to expose corruption worldwide…We seek to expose the lies of governments and the corporate elite who constantly trash our humanity. By asking the hard questions the mainstream media refuses to ask, we shine a little more light on truth.”

Another example is that the SPLC includes the “Constitution Party.” This organization is by no means officially or even unofficially anti-government or conspiracy-minded. Its thrust is to change government and reduce its size and scope by, among other things, going back to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

A third example of erroneous inclusion is the “Tenth Amendment Center”. Far from being an anti-government group, this organization supports the Constitution. It says of itself: “And since our goal is the Constitution, we’re always over the target to the establishment. The Constitution. Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses.”

A fourth example is the “John Birch Society.” Like the Constitution Party, the John Birch Society aims for a much smaller and different kind of government than now exists. This time I’ll quote the Wiki article: “The organization identifies with Christian principles, seeks to limit governmental powers, and opposes wealth redistribution, and economic interventionism.” Also: “The John Birch Society (JBS) is an American political advocacy group that supports anti-communism, limited government, and a constitutional republic.” Again, this organization is not anti-government (or anti-state) in a fundamental sense.

The SPLC simply doesn’t like these organizations for what they stand for, which is government that is far more limited than today’s. The SPLC also strongly dislikes groups that support guns and the right to bear arms.

I have not examined the other groups on the SPLC list. This blog is not meant to be a complete assessment of the SPLC or that list.

The SPLC is filled with hypocrisy. Its byline or slogan is “Fighting Hate • Teaching Tolerance • Seeking Justice”. However, it does none of these. For example, in this article, which is titled “The Year in Hate and Extremism”, it spreads hate, teaches intolerance, and unfairly smears people and groups with views it dislikes.

How does it do this? It directly blames the growth in patriot groups (by its inflated count) with Obama’s being a black man. It doesn’t document this accusation of racist motives. It paints these groups as “angry”. It characterizes the pro-gun groups as “furious”. It goes on to link the growth of patriot groups with the Oklahoma City bombing. It suggests that the motivation for the hate, anger and “backlash” of patriot groups is that America is demographically reaching a point where whites are in the minority. It accuses the “right” of “hysteria”. It gives as an example legislation introduced by Rand Paul “that would nullify any executive gun control actions by Obama, accusing the president of having a ‘king complex.’” Paul wanted to stem rule by executive order, by act of Congress. This cannot possibly be construed as an hysterical, angry or furious anti-government position.

Now all of this SPLC characterization and more is aimed at people and groups that are taking political positions that the SPLC dislikes, but instead of dealing with the issues and debating them, the SPLC is attempting to make these opponents seem angry, hate-filled, radical extremists who are anti-government. Why? It wants the government to suppress them. It wants people to turn against the ideas of these groups, and its means of doing this is to smear them. And what is an effective smear? It wants them to be thought of as terrorist threats. This is why Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the SPLC writes “We are seeing a real and rising threat of domestic terrorism as the number of far-right anti-government groups continues to grow at an astounding pace. It is critically important that the country take this threat seriously. The potential for deadly violence is real, and clearly rising.”

The SPLC is not simply and only out for what it claims to stand for. What comes through is that it is a partisan political organization with specific right-wing and pro-gun foes. And it wishes to bring them down, not by showing the falseness or wrongness of their ideas, but by tactics of fear, smears, unproved charges, and exaggerations; and by charges of their being racist, radicals, extremists and harboring potential terrorists. Their shotgun approach, lumping together all sorts of persons and groups and failing to deal with their actual agendas, is far from tolerant and just.

The net result is that the SPLC is marginalizing itself.

3:13 pm on January 31, 2014