J.E. McReynolds | September 11, 2017

Despite fawning adoration by liberals and journalists, SPLC’s sterling reputation is undeserved

J.E. McReynolds

Visitors to Apple’s iTunes Store these days will see more than spiels for the latest music and movie releases. Also on offer is an invitation to join Apple in donating money to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

After the chaos and violence in Charlottesville on August 12, SPLC is enjoying even more of the charmed life it has had for decades, a result of fawning adoration by liberals and journalists. But SPLC’s sterling reputation is undeserved. Apple’s appeal for donations is one-dimensional. That is, SPLC’s public persona is based partly on myth. The self-styled arbiter of “hate groups” tends to pick winners and losers based as much on ideology as on any other criteria, including actual violence stemming from actual hate.

The iTunes message urges donations to help SPLC’s work in “fighting hate, teaching tolerance, and seeking justice.” But SPLC is free to define “hate” as its officers see fit and the organization is anything but tolerant toward many long-held Christian and conservative views. Meantime, iTunes continues to sell music from rappers who, by any definition, spew hatred.

Mainstream organizations with a conservative and/or Christian bent show up on SPLC’s “hate map” but radical Islamic groups do not. SPLC labels one Baptist church in Oklahoma City a “hate group” merely for preaching a traditional view of homosexuality. Depending on one’s perspective, that view may be wrong. But it does not rise to the level of hate. Indeed, the term “hate” has been defined down by SPLC to the point where it has little meaning.

The tragedy in Charlottesville unleashed a firestorm of animosity, some deserved and some less so. Violence stemming from protests and counter-protests related to Confederate monuments led to widespread outrage targeting anyone who believes Confederate generals and soldiers were not all monsters. ESPN pulled the plug on letting an employee coincidentally named Robert Lee do the play-by-play on the University of Virginia’s home football opener. In Oklahoma City, the school board began the process of considering whether to rename schools carrying the names of men associated with the Confederate cause, including Cherokee leader and Confederate Gen. Stand Watie.

This has been a year of vile expressions of hate, but not of the kind tagged by SPLC. Some of the worst examples have come from celebrity liberals who hate Donald J. Trump with a purple passion. But none dare call that hate speech.

In the same week a man drove into a crowd in Virginia, leaving one woman dead, a radical Islamic group claimed credit for mowing down dozens of people in Spain, leaving 13 dead. But Apple executives took no time to express sorrow for these victims. Instead, the corporation pledged to donate $2 million to SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League. Other large corporations followed suit. Apple CEO Tim Cook wants employees and customers to join the company in “fighting hate, teaching tolerance, and seeking justice.” Many will do so without spending one minute to critically examine SPLC’s motives and history or Apple’s own hypocrisy in this arena.

SPLC has a deserved reputation, apparently of no concern to Cook, for painting people and groups it doesn’t like with the broadest of brushes. Some of these are truly hate-filled. Others are simply expressing opinions that happen to fall outside the norms acceptable to SPLC or Apple.

Ben Carson, the 2016 Republican presidential aspirant and now U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, drew SPLC’s wrath in October of 2014. Carson was added to SPLC’s extremist watch list because of his perceived association with “anti-LGBTQ” groups. In its rush to judgment about Carson, SPLC violated its own standards and Carson was later removed from the list. SPLC issued an apology to the future cabinet member in February of 2015. But the damage had been done.

Mark Potok, who edits the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, has said that SPLC’s “aim in life” is to “completely destroy” the groups SPLC opposes. Destroy? This totalitarian view should frighten anyone now outraged by an outbreak of neo-Nazi sentiment. It’s small wonder that SPLC has now been sued by two of its smear-campaign victims—Muslim author Maajid Nawaz and D. James Kennedy Ministries, a respected Christian ministry associated with the late Presbyterian Church in America pastor D. James Kennedy.

What happened in Virginia led to the kind of rage, reaction, and over-reaction not seen since the wave of news stories about professional athletes perpetrating domestic violence. Yet Apple shows a disregard for some forms of domestic violence. iTunes sells music that mainstream Americans might consider vile, hate-filled, or violence-inducing, but Cook apparently has no problem with that. Offered on the Apple vending site, for example, are works by rappers Tupac Shakur and Nate Dogg. The latter, before his death in 2011, had numerous brushes with the law related to domestic violence. But this gets a pass from Tim Cook and a company united with SPLC in “fighting hate” and “seeking justice.”

For SPLC, true extremism dwells in the hearts of men such as Carson and conservative author David Horowitz, a former OCPA guest speaker. Also on SPLC’s list of “extremists” is Charles Murray, an eminent scholar affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute (and a former guest on The Trent England Show). Indeed, OCPA proudly counts among its allies such SPLC-denigrated groups as the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Pacific Justice Institute, and the Family Research Council—the latter established in 1981 by Oklahoma native Jerry Regier, who later served as state Secretary of Health and Human Services under Republican Gov. Frank Keating.

Hats off to Oklahoma’s junior U.S. senator, Republican James Lankford, for recently criticizing SPLC’s broad-brush approach. For too long, the truth about SPLC has been obscured because journalists have suspended their usual skepticism when it comes to the group and its methods. Mark Pulliam, a contributing editor of Library of Law and Liberty, has said the SPLC’s “principal function” is to “provide an aura of respectability to liberal journalists wishing to disparage conservative groups and provide cover for political battles, such as the removal of Confederate symbols.”

Journalists ignore or are ignorant of SPLC’s penchant for sleaze and its own brand of extremism. “The SPLC’s authority,” Pulliam said, “derives from its presumed occupation of a moral high ground, which is belied by its record of character assassination, questionable fundraising practices, excessive salaries and poor ratings from philanthropic monitors.”

Despite all the known knocks on SPLC and its ideological, truth-bending biases, mainstream journalists continue to give it a pass—something they would never do for a conservative organization issuing “watch lists” for hateful liberals. Simply review the news stories about Apple’s donation and look for any balancing, critical information about SPLC. You probably won’t find it because it’s as scarce as Apple pricing an iPad app for an amount that doesn’t end in .99.

In the 1950s, the Red Scare and McCarthyism led to a form of mobocracy aimed at freeing government, academia, and Hollywood of “commies.” Today, academia, Hollywood, and corporate America are brazenly engaged in their own brand of McCarthyism, determined to join SPLC in ridding the country of any semblance of Confederate honor and glory. Call it the Gray Scare.

Meanwhile, divisions of the Democratic Party continue to celebrate Jefferson-Jackson Day, named after a slave-holder and the man who forced Indians to make the deadly march from the East to present-day Oklahoma. Are Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Jackson worthy of a name day, Mr. Dees and Mr. Cook?

A former managing editor of The Journal Record, J. E. McReynolds has served as a general assignment reporter, business editor, and opinion editor of The Oklahoman.

J.E. McReynolds

Independent Journalist

A former managing editor of The Journal Record, J. E. McReynolds has served as a general assignment reporter, business editor, and opinion editor of The Oklahoman.

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