News and Commentary

7 Things You Need To Know About The Left’s Favorite Attack Dog, The Southern Poverty Law Center

The media has a bad habit of citing the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as if the SPLC an objective, credible source:

Adams raises a good question, as the SPLC is nothing more than a left-wing propaganda outlet that smears those with opposing views as hatemongers.

Here are seven things you need to know about the SPLC.

1. The SPLC falsely smears American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray as a “white nationalist.” The SPLC describes Murray as someone who perpetuates “racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women and the poor.” The SPLC points to Murray’s most well-known book, The Bell Curve, as a key example because it supposedly argues that a causal “social inequality to genes” relationship.

But Murray does not actually conclude this in The Bell Curve. The Hoover Institute’s Erielle Davidson pointed out in a piece for the Daily Wire: (emphasis bolded)

Though the 800-page book references several variables that may contribute to one’s IQ measurement, the 18-page chapter, which elicits controversy, explores the causes of racial variation in IQ tests. Concluding that both environment and genetic differences between races likely play a role in accounting for disparities in average IQs, Murray and Hernstein remain deliberately undecided as to how much each factor impacts human intelligence. The chapter has earned Murray and Hernstein considerable criticism.

Indeed, Murray himself has quoted from his book that while “it seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences,” there is no evidence to “justify an estimate.” After that section, the book argued that “it really doesn’t make any difference whether the differences are caused by genes or the environment.”

Therefore, the SPLC’s contention that Murray argues that social inequality is due to genetics is false, yet they’re cited as an authoritative source for the media to smear Murray as a “white nationalist.”

2. The SPLC also smears people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali who are critical of radical Islam as “extremists.” Hirsi Ali is among the following “extremist” names on the SPLC’s list:

Daniel Pipes, holder of a Ph.D. in Islamic history from Harvard, a man who reads both modern and classical Arabic, who studied in Egypt, and who has taught at Harvard and the University of Chicago; Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a celebrated author, a former member of the Dutch parliament and crusader against female genital mutilation; Maajid Nawaz, a British Muslim reformist who was held as a political prisoner in Egypt; former Defense Department official Frank Gaffney; Radical Son author David Horowitz; attorney and free-speech advocate Robert Muise of the American Freedom Law Center; provocatrix Pamela Geller; former PLO member and Muslim reformist Walid Shoebat, among others.

What all the aforementioned names have in common is that they speak out against Islamic extremists and don’t kowtow to the left’s politically correct line of Islamophobia. Hence, the SPLC has to label them as “extremists.”

Labeling Hirsi Ali as an “extremist” is especially absurd given that she was raised in an Islamic society and fled to the West for refuge. In an October PragerU video, Hirsi Ali argued, “There are many millions of peaceful Muslims in the world. What I do say is that the call to violence and the justification for it are explicitly stated in the sacred texts of Islam.” She also stated the need for Islamic reformation. There is nothing extreme about that at all, it just doesn’t fit the SPLC’s leftist orthodoxy; therefore Hirsi Ali is an “extremist.”

3. On the other hand, the SPLC has ardently defended Sharia-proponent Linda Sarsour, organizer of the Women’s March. The Daily Wire‘s Elliott Hamilton has noted that the SPLC tweeted that they “stand with her [Sarsour] against this type of hate and bigotry.” But Hamilton tore down the SPLC’s inane tweet by highlighting various tweets of Sarsour defending Sharia law, including one tweet where she calls Sharia law “reasonable” and “makes a lot of sense.”

“What SPLC does not want to address is that Sharia law permits husbands beating their wives, executing gay people, and other despicable things that would never be tolerated in western civilization,” Hamilton wrote.

4. The SPLC obsesses over supposed right-wing terror groups that are irrelevant. Per National Review:

While decrying “conspiracy theorists,” the SPLC itself is obsessed with “Terror from the Right” that is, pardon us for noticing, so rare as to be nearly insignificant. For all of the SPLC’s hysteria about neo-Confederates, skinheads, secret Nazi cabals, and the like, there is very little evidence that these organizations, to the extent that they exist as more than shared social-media fantasies, are actually up to much of anything. Even if we accept the tendentious characterization of SPLC favorite Timothy McVeigh as some kind of right-wing extremist (as with many such figures, his actual beliefs were confused, contradictory, and eccentric), the main organ of white-supremacist nuttery in the United States is prison gangs, which constitute a fairly constrained and peculiar phenomenon with relatively little effect on the outside world.

Meanwhile, as the National Review piece goes on to argue, Islamic extremism is a serious problem worldwide, yet the SPLC tears down figures like Hirsi Ali who “are doing the work the SPLC is supposed to be doing — understanding and countering violent extremists.”

5. In fact, some the organizations listed on the SPLC’s “hate groups” list don’t seem to exist at all. Laird Wilcox, a leftist “who has been tracking radical-fringe organizations on both the left and the right for five decades,” told The Weekly Standard that the SPLC’s “lists of hate groups never have addresses that can be checked.”

“I’ve had police departments across the country calling me and saying we can’t find this group [on the SPLC’s list],” Wilcox said. “All they can find is a post-office box, so I have to tell them that I don’t know whether they even exist.”

The Weekly Standard cited an example from Wilcox’s book The Watchdogs, where he pointed out that the SPLC claimed that three men who allegedly murdered a Colorado police officer were a part of “a supposedly racist and anti-Semitic militia group called the Four Corners Patriots,” but that organization has never been found.

6. Some of the SPLC’s biggest critics are actually on the left. A number of leftists have skewered the SPLC for being an organization that scams leftists out of their money by concocting the fiction of a supposed rise in right-wing hate. The Weekly Standard cited leftist columnist Alexander Cockburn, who wrote that the SPLC has made a career out of “scaring dollars out of the pockets of trembling liberals aghast at his lurid depictions of hate-sodden America, in dire need of legal confrontation by the SPLC.”

The Weekly Standard also quoted leftist writer Ken Silverstein, “Hate groups commit almost no violence. More than 95 percent of all ‘hate crimes,’ including most of the incidents SPLC letters cite (bombings, church burnings, school shootings), are perpetrated by ‘lone wolves.’ Even Timothy McVeigh [perpetrator of the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people], subject of one of the most extensive investigations in the FBI’s history—and one of the most extensive direct-mail campaigns in the SPLC’s—was never credibly linked to any militia organization.”

Silverstein later wrote that the SPLC’s goal is simply “to raise obscene amounts of money by hyping fears about the power of [right-wing fringe] groups; hence the SPLC has become the nation’s richest ‘civil rights’ organization.”

7. The SPLC has received an “F” from Charity Watch. According to The Weekly Standard:

CharityWatch (formerly the American Institute of Philanthropy), an independent organization that monitors and rates leading nonprofits for their fundraising efficiency, has consistently given the SPLC its lowest grade of “F” (i.e., “poor”) for its stockpiling of assets far beyond what CharityWatch deems a reasonable reserve (three years’ worth of operating expenses) to tide it over during donation-lean years. But even if the SPLC weren’t sitting on an unspent $256 million, according to CharityWatch, it would still be a mediocre (“C+”) performer among nonprofits. The SPLC’s 2011 tax filing reveals that the organization raised a total of $38.5 million from its donors that year but spent only $24.9 million on “program services,” with the rest going to salaries, overhead, and fundraising. And even that 67 percent figure is somewhat inflated, according to CharityWatch, which notes that the SPLC takes advantage of an accounting rule that permits nonprofits to count some of their fundraising expenses as “public education” if, for example, a mailer contains an informational component. CharityWatch, ignoring that accounting rule, maintains that only 60 percent—about $19 million—went to program services during the year in question. The SPLC’s 2011 tax return reveals that the organization spent $1.6 million (aside from salaries) on litigation-related costs that year, in contrast to the $7.8 million it spent on “professional fundraising services,” “postage and shipping cost,” “printing & lettershop,” and “other development cost.”

Furthermore, the SPLC spends a relatively high $26 on fundraising (according to CharityWatch, $18 according to the SPLC) for every $100 that it manages to raise. Compare that with the “B+” rated American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where 78 percent of the budget goes to program services and $20 is spent for every $100 raised or to the “A-” rated ACLU Foundation (79 percent going to program services and only $11 spent to raise $100). True, the ACLU has net assets comparable to those of the SPLC, $254 million according to a fiscal 2012 financial statement, but it spends a full $111 million a year on program services. People who want to support a litigation-minded liberal organization and see a higher percentage of their donations actually spent on the causes they support might be better off giving to the ACLU—or to some shoestring civil rights nonprofit that actually needs the donor’s money.

For more on the SPLC, read the Daily Wire‘s primer on the organization in September here.

Follow Aaron Bandler on Twitter.