On Monday, Gavin McInnes, co-founder of Vice Media and founder of the right-wing Proud Boys, filed a lawsuit in Alabama against the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center for defamation and damaging his business opportunities after labeling the Proud Boys a "hate group."
The lawsuit alleges that the SPLC — which is facing several potential defamation lawsuits after recently paying out millions after labeling a British group "extremists" — has again unfairly branded a group on the Right. "The lawsuit contends the designation is false and damaged his career," NBC News reports.
Along with suing for defamation and tortious interference with economic advantage, the Daily Beast reports, "McInnes also wants a court order stopping the SPLC and its employees from referring to him as someone connected to a hate group."
"Mr. McInnes is essentially an untouchable, unable to retain or be considered for gainful employment in his line of work," his lawsuit asserts, the outlet notes.
Below is an excerpt of the SPLC's report on the Proud Boys:
Established in the midst of the 2016 presidential election by VICE Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys are self-described “western chauvinists” who adamantly deny any connection to the racist “alt-right,” insisting they are simply a fraternal group spreading an “anti-political correctness” and “anti-white guilt” agenda.
Their disavowals of bigotry are belied by their actions: rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric. Proud Boys have appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist gatherings like the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville. Indeed, former Proud Boys member Jason Kessler helped to organize the event, which brought together Klansmen, antisemites, Southern racists, and militias. Kessler was only “expelled” from the group after the violence and near-universal condemnation of the Charlottesville rally-goers.
Other hardcore members of the so-called "alt-right" have argued that the “western chauvinist” label is just a “PR cuck term” McInnes crafted to gain mainstream acceptance. “Let’s not bullshit,” Brian Brathovd, aka Caeralus Rex, told his co-hosts on the antisemitic The Daily Shoah — one of the most popular alt-right podcasts. If the Proud Boys “were pressed on the issue, I guarantee you that like 90% of them would tell you something along the lines of ‘Hitler was right. Gas the Jews.’”
The organization accuses McInnes of having "ties to the racist right" and says he's "contributed to hate sites like VDare.com and American Renaissance, both of which publish the work of white supremacists and so-called 'race realists.'"
Along with being referenced regularly by mainstream media outlets for its "hate group" and "extremist" labels — particularly of individuals and groups on the Right — the SPLC has frequented reports recently for mounting legal threats from those who have appeared in its lists. After paying $3.375 million to Maajid Nawaz and his Quilliam Foundation, whom SPLC branded "anti-Muslim extremists," dozens of groups have threatened legal action against the self-styled civil rights organization.
In response to the SPLC settling with Nawaz in June, leaders of at least 47 non-profit group issued a joint statement warning the media that they are complicit in defamation by repeating SPLC's unfair designations:
Editors, CEOs, shareholders and consumers alike are on notice: anyone relying upon and repeating its misrepresentations is complicit in the SPLC’s harmful defamation of large numbers of American citizens who, like the undersigned, have been vilified simply for working to protect our country and freedoms.
The partisan nature of the SPLC's enterprise has grown so overt that even some on the Left have begun to push back on the highly lucrative organization and questioned how it handles its money. Left-leaning Politico published a piece in the summer of 2017 describing how the former "civil rights stalwart" seems to have "lost its way." The SPLC, the author writes, appears to have transformed into "more of a progressive hit operation than a civil rights watchdog." Along with Nawaz, the SPLC has unfairly targeted the Family Research Council, the Center for Immigration Studies, Charles Murray, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sen. Rand Paul, and Dr. Ben Carson, the author notes (formatting adjusted):
- Former Islamist and self described “counter-extremist” Maajid Nawaz appeared in the SPLC’s 2016 “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists” for using his platform "to savage Islam."
- The Family Research Council — a conservative Christian nonprofit led by Tony Perkins—has been classified by the SPLC as a hate group since 2010 for spreading “false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people.” In 2012, a gunman who read on the SPLC’s website that the FRC was anti-gay shot up the group’s lobby.
- The Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit led by Mark Krikorian that supports lower immigration, appeared in the SPLC’s 2017 “Year in Hate and Extremism” report for producing “fear-mongering misinformation about Latino immigrants.”
- Political scientist Charles Murray has been a fixture on the SPLC’s roster of “extremists,” in part for his writing on race-based intellectual disparities. In March, Middlebury students informed by the SPLC’s designation violently prevented Murray from speaking on campus.
- Somali-born Dutch activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali was stoking controversy for her vocal criticism of Islam long before she found her way onto the SPLC’s 2016 “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.” But while some say she is a bigot, others laud her as a human rights icon. ...
The SPLC has included Senator Rand Paul and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson among the neo-Nazis and white supremacists on its extremists lists (Paul for suggesting private businesses shouldn’t have to adhere to the Civil Rights Act and criticizing the Fair Housing Act; Carson for his views opposing same-sex marriage). The group did back down after it put Carson on the 2014 “extremist watch” list—removing his name and issuing an apology that earned a lot of coverage in the conservative media. “This week, as we’ve come under intense criticism for doing so, we’ve reviewed our profile and have concluded that it did not meet our standards,” the organization’s statement said, “so we have taken it down and apologize to Dr. Carson for having posted it.”