Washington Post: SPLC has “undermined its own credibility with a couple of blunders”

It is astonishing that this evisceration of the SPLC would appear in the Washington Post, and it indicates that even the Leftist media is finding the SPLC too partisan, too unfair, and too biased to continue to defend. We can only hope that this article will prove to be a bellwether, and that the groups that rely on the SPLC’s “hate” designation — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, Amazon, Patreon, GoFundMe, and the rest — will reconsider their reliance on this dishonest, hate-filled group, and begin to treat all organizations fairly.

Washington Post writer David Montgomery likes the SPLC, and wants to admire it, but finds it difficult to do so. One telling passage in this extremely lengthy piece:

I left Gaffney’s office with a tote bag full of 14 books buttressing his worldview. A 15th came later in the mail. In thinking about my interview, I was struck by just how little he had disputed the SPLC’s claims about the frankly disquieting positions he has taken. To some extent, it was similar to my experience at the FRC and ADF. They simply saw those positions as admirable, or at the very least defensible, expressions of truth — whereas, to the SPLC, they were expressions of hate.

“Frankly disquieting”? That shouldn’t be the criterion. The criteria should be: are those positions based on fact or not? Are they reasonable or not? There is a massive problem with the SPLC demonizing as “hate” what are indeed “at the very least defensible, expressions of truth.” It’s the same in my case. I’m on the SPLC’s “hate” list, and their rap sheet on me is a mixture of falsehood, smear propaganda, and demonstrably true statements presented as if they were self-evidently false and hateful. Here is an overview of the SPLC’s main charges against me, with responses:

“Robert Spencer,”

  1. “Spencer is one of the most prolific anti-Muslim figures in the United States.”

I am not “anti-Muslim.” I oppose jihad terror and Sharia oppression of women, non-Muslims, and others. I am no more “anti-Muslim” than foes of the Nazis were “anti-German.”

  1. “A career anti-Muslim figure, Spencer has devoted much of his life to writing books, countless articles, and producing other content all with the goal of vilifying and maligning Muslims and the Islamic faith.”

My goal is not now and has never been “vilifying and maligning Muslims and the Islamic faith.” My goal is to convey Islamic doctrines and beliefs accurately in order to help people understand the phenomenon of Islamic jihad terror.

  1. “He considers these texts to be innately extremist and violent, and refuses to acknowledge nonviolent passages and centuries of adapted interpretations.”

Actually, I’ve published online a commentary on the entire Qur’an, including the nonviolent passages, and written extensively within it about nonviolent interpretations of various passages. That’s here:

  1. “Spencer argues that extremists, like Osama bin Laden and ISIS, are the most authentic interpretation and practice of Islam, despite being actively rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims. He brushes this fact off by bombastically claiming the majority of Muslims, either do not understand their own holy book or are masking their extremism.”

I’ve never made such claims, and have in fact spoken of a spectrum of belief, knowledge, and fervor among Muslims that accounts for why most do not wage jihad.

  1. “By painting Rauf as an extremist who was striving to build a ‘victory mosque’ to celebrate the destruction of the World Trade Center, the two leaders of SIOA sought to block the project while portraying all Muslims as radical – an assertion simply not supported by facts.”

Rauf had links to the Muslim Brotherhood — see here: https://www.nationalreview.com/2010/07/raufs-dawa-world-trade-center-rubble-andrew-c-mccarthy/

We never stated or implied that “all Muslims” are “radical.”

  1. “Spencer also attacks individuals and organizations that claim to represent mainstream Muslims. This is most commonly done through accusations of those entities acting as secret operatives to destroy the West.”

In reality, I merely note the abundantly documented ties of groups such as CAIR to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. See, for example, here: https://www.investigativeproject.org/2340/federal-judge-agrees-cair-tied-to-hamas

  1. “Spencer is known to have associations with European racists and neo-fascists. However, he claims that his contact with them is merely incidental.”

I have no associations with European racists or neo-fascists, and never have. I have had some associations with people who were falsely accused of being racist and neo-fascist.

  1. “In Spencer’s 2017 book Confessions of an Islamophobe, a memoir that among other things dives into the nuances of being an anti-Muslim hate monger, he reveals he has no plans of slowing down.”

In reality, the book explains why opposing jihad terror and Sharia oppression do not make one an anti-Muslim hate monger.

Muslim Basher Robert Spencer Shows White Nationalist Colors,”

  1. “Proving yet again that nothing is beneath him, anti-Muslim propagandist Robert Spencer has put himself firmly in the camp of open white nationalists with an article published yesterday in Crisis magazine, a conservative Catholic publication.”

I am not a white nationalist, openly or secretly, and that article simply criticized multiculturalism. It did not discuss race at all.

  1. “Spencer’s piece is punctuated with a recommended reading list that might have been taken from the bookshelf of John Tanton, the racist architect of the modern nativist movement.”

I had nothing to do with the compilation of that reading list, and did not see it before the piece was published. None of the books on it are genuinely racist; they’re simply against mass migration of non-Europeans into Europe, the devastating effects of which we are seeing now.

  1. “Anthony M. Esolen’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization, which was published by the white nationalist Regnery Press…”

Regnery Publishing is not “white nationalist.” It is a leading mainstream conservative publishing house that has published books by numerous mainstream conservative figures, including David Horowitz, Dinesh D’Souza, Ann Coulter, etc.

What I write is based on the facts of Islamic theology and history. I’d be glad to send Richard Cohen and Heidi Beirich copies of these two books (free of charge, of course, although they could afford to wallpaper the entire earth’s surface with copies of each one), and then would travel to the SPLC headquarters to discuss their contents and accuracy, and whether they really constitute “hate.” They will, of course, ignore this offer.

“The State of Hate: Researchers at the Southern Poverty Law Center have set themselves up as the ultimate judges of hate in America. But are they judging fairly?,” by David Montgomery, Washington Post, November 8, 2018:

See that speck there?” retired Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin says, directing my gaze to the ceiling of the Family Research Council’s lobby in Washington. I spy a belly-button-size opening in the plaster. “That’s a bullet hole.”The blemish has been preserved for six years. “See that?” he asks, now indicating a cratered fire alarm panel near the reception desk. “That’s a bullet hole. That’s the first round. The second went through the arm of the building manager. The third round hit the ceiling. … Fired on August 15th, 2012, by Floyd Lee Corkins.”

The hero of that day was the building manager, Leo Johnson, who tackled Corkins and was shot in the arm as they scuffled. Asked by an FBI agent how he came to single out the FRC, Corkins replied: “Southern Poverty Law lists anti-gay groups.” The gunman, who was found to be mentally ill, was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

“He came in here to kill as many of us as possible because he found us listed as a hate group on the Southern Poverty Law Center website,” continues Boykin, FRC’s executive vice president, who is dressed today in a leather vest over a shirt and tie. “We and others like us who are on this ‘hate map’ believe that this is very reckless behavior. … The only thing that we have in common is that we are all conservative organizations. … You know, it would be okay if they just criticized us. … If they wrote op-eds about us and all that. But listing us as a hate group is just a step too far because they put us in the same category as the Ku Klux Klan. And who are they to have a hate-group list anyhow?”

Eight hundred miles south, the modernist, glass-and-concrete headquarters of the Southern Poverty Law Center etches the skyline of Montgomery, Ala., just up a hill from Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. used to preach. On display in the SPLC’s lobby is a melted clock. It marks the time at 3:47 a.m., July 28, 1983, when Klansmen torched a previous SPLC headquarters. Over the years, according to the organization, more than two dozen extremists have been jailed for plots to kill its employees or damage its offices.

Richard Cohen, president of the SPLC, decries Corkins’s assault on the FRC when I ask him about it in his office, with its view of King’s church. But he says the SPLC’s hate list — which doesn’t include the FRC’s address or any call for violence — shouldn’t be held responsible. “Labeling people hate groups is an effort to hold them accountable for their rhetoric and the ideas they are pushing,” says Cohen, who is dressed in a polo shirt, khakis and running shoes.

“Obviously the hate label is a blunt one,” Cohen concedes when I ask whether advocates like the FRC, or proponents of less immigration like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or conservative legal stalwarts like the Alliance Defending Freedom, really have so much in common with neo-Nazis and the Klan that they belong in the same bucket of shame. “It’s one of the things that gives it power, and it’s one of the things that can make it controversial. Someone might say, ‘Oh, it’s without nuance.’ … But we’ve always thought that hate in the mainstream is much more dangerous than hate outside of it. The fact that a group like the FRC or a group like FAIR can have congressional allies and can testify before congressional committees, the fact that a group like ADF can get in front of the Supreme Court — to me that makes them more dangerous, not less so. … It’s the hate in the business suit that is a greater danger to our country than the hate in a Klan robe.”

The SPLC was founded in 1971 to take on legal cases related to racial injustice, poverty and the death penalty. Then, in the early 1980s, it launched Klanwatch, a project to monitor Klan groups, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists. Their hate seemed self-evident. But eventually the SPLC began tracking — and labeling — a wider swath of extremism. And that’s when things became more complicated.

Today the SPLC’s list of 953 “Active Hate Groups” is an elaborate taxonomy of ill will. There are many of the usual suspects: Ku Klux Klan (72 groups), Neo-Nazi (121), White Nationalist (100), Racist Skinhead (71), Christian Identity (20), Neo-Confederate (31), Black Nationalist (233) and Holocaust Denial (10). There are also more exotic strains familiar only to connoisseurs: Neo-Volkisch (28; “spirituality premised on the survival of white Europeans”) and Radical Traditional Catholicism (11; groups that allegedly “routinely pillory Jews as ‘the perpetual enemy of Christ’ ”). Then there are the more controversial additions of the last decade-and-a-half or so: Anti-LGBT (51), Anti-Muslim (113), Anti-Immigrant (22), Hate Music (15), Male Supremacy (2). Finally, the tally is rounded out by a general category called Other (53) — “a hodge-podge of hate doctrines.”

For decades, the hate list was a golden seal of disapproval, considered nonpartisan enough to be heeded by government agencies, police departments, corporations and journalists. But in recent years, as the list has swept up an increasing number of conservative activists — mostly in the anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim categories — those conservatives have been fighting back. Boykin, of the FRC, recently sent a letter to about 100 media outlets (including The Washington Post) and corporate donors on behalf of four dozen groups and individuals “who have been targeted, defamed, or otherwise harmed” by the SPLC, warning that the hate list is no longer to be trusted. Mathew Staver, chairman of the Christian legal advocacy group Liberty Counsel, told me 60 organizations are interested in suing the SPLC.

There are signs the campaign is having an impact. Last year GuideStar, a widely consulted directory of charitable organizations, flagged 46 charities that were listed by the SPLC as hate groups. Within months, under pressure from critics, GuideStar announced it was removing the flags. The FBI has worked with the SPLC in the past on outreach programs, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions has signaled a very different attitude. At a meeting of the Alliance Defending Freedom in August, Sessions said, “You are not a hate group,” and condemned the SPLC for using the label “to bully and to intimidate groups like yours which fight for religious freedom.”

Along the way, the SPLC undermined its own credibility with a couple of blunders. In 2015, it apologized for listing Ben Carson as an extremist (though not on the hate list), saying the characterization was inaccurate. Then, this past June, the group paid $3.4 million to Muslim activist Maajid Nawaz and his Quilliam organization to settle a threatened lawsuit. The SPLC had listed them in a “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists” (again, not on the main hate list). The SPLC apologized for misunderstanding Nawaz’s work to counter Islamist extremism….

The Georgia office has about 10 researchers working on the hate list and other hate monitoring. They are paired with writers and editors working mostly out of Montgomery. My visit in September came as the researchers were preparing the list of hate groups for 2018, which will be published early next year. Clustered at desks according to their specialties — anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, anti-government and so forth — they were trying to determine who still belongs and prospecting for new entries….

Back in Washington, I paid a visit to the Center for Security Policy, four blocks from the White House. Founder Frank Gaffney greeted me warmly. Coincidentally, the date was Sept. 11. “Perhaps it’s not accidental,” Gaffney said. The SPLC calls the former Reagan administration Pentagon official an anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist, and even some conservatives in town want nothing to do with him. But the Center for Security Policy’s allies include Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the United States, who in a 2016 speech to Gaffney’s group said: “If you have enemies, Frank, it’s because you have stood up for something, many times in your life. … The SPLC and others who asked me not to come here tonight claim to support free and open debate. But in reality, they seem to want to stifle debate.”

Gaffney’s concern about Islam, he explained to me, is sharia, or Islam’s legal framework. Sharia is a “totalitarian ideology,” he said, and “sharia supremacists” including the Muslim Brotherhood want to make it the law of this land.

He listened patiently as I read to him from the SPLC’s five-page dossier on him and its seven-page dossier justifying his group’s listing as an anti-Muslim hate group. The SPLC claims this statement comes from a 10-part video course hosted by Gaffney: “America faces in addition to the threat of violent jihad another, even more toxic danger — a stealthy and pre-violent form of warfare aimed at destroying our constitutional form of democratic government and free society. The Muslim Brotherhood is the prime-mover behind this seditious campaign, which it calls ‘civilization jihad.’ ”

“Accurate quote,” Gaffney said. “But that has nothing to do with hatred. That has to do with intelligence analysis of the threat. It is a straightforward exploration based on the factual evidence of a peril to our country, as I say. And the only thing that I think you can conclude from the insistence [of SPLC] that nobody can say anything like that — and anybody who does say anything like that is not just a national security professional with whom they disagree, but is a racist and a bigot and a hater and an Islamophobe — is they’re trying maybe to get me killed. … I’m quite sure that if a jihadist decides to kill me, part of the inspiration will come from the hateful things they’ve said about me.”

Another quote, by a colleague of Gaffney’s at the center: “When people in other bona fide religions follow their doctrines they become better people — Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews. When Muslims follow their doctrine, they become jihadists.”

Gaffney nodded. Even peaceful forms of jihad can undermine the United States, he said, and not all are peaceful. “It’s not that we’re trying to offend Muslims by pointing this out. That, unfortunately, is the doctrine they follow.”

I left Gaffney’s office with a tote bag full of 14 books buttressing his worldview. A 15th came later in the mail. In thinking about my interview, I was struck by just how little he had disputed the SPLC’s claims about the frankly disquieting positions he has taken. To some extent, it was similar to my experience at the FRC and ADF. They simply saw those positions as admirable, or at the very least defensible, expressions of truth — whereas, to the SPLC, they were expressions of hate.

Next, I visited the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. The CIS supports reduced legal immigration and tougher border security. The lobby is decorated with executive director Mark Krikorian’s collection of kitsch renderings of the Statue of Liberty — Barbie, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, covers of the New Yorker and the Saturday Evening Post, Eddie Murphy in the movie poster for “Coming to America,” even a vintage Peace Corps recruiting poster that says: “Make America a better place. Leave the Country.”

The CIS has testified before Congress 100 times and publishes studies purporting to show the burden of immigration. The center supports a policy “that admits fewer people but does a better job of welcoming and incorporating those people,” Krikorian said. Among the factors that got CIS added to the SPLC’s hate list: the center’s habit of circulating links to articles from arguably noxious sources in its regular email roundup. Also, a series of harsh-sounding quotes about immigrants by Krikorian and some of his colleagues.

Krikorian indulged my desire to go deep into the SPLC’s 14-page hate dossier. The SPLC (with research help from the civil rights group Center for New Community) found that in 450 emails over 10 years, the CIS circulated 2,012 pieces from what the SPLC deems white nationalist websites. The total includes more than 1,700 from Vdare.com, an anti-immigration site that promotes white-identity politics. Popular article tags on Vdare include “minority occupation government,” “anti-white hate crimes,” “immigrant mass murder” and “white guy loses his job.”

“If they had just sent around one Vdare piece, for example, that wouldn’t matter at all,” Beirich had told me back in Georgia. “But we documented 2,000 hate-group things. … When you get into the thousands, it’s like, ‘How come you’re always on these hate sites and you’re sending it to your membership?’ You’re telling people to read hate material over and over and over again. At some point you have some responsibility for that relationship.”

The dossier leaves unclear how many of the 2,012 articles themselves were hateful, as opposed to having been published on platforms that the SPLC deems hateful. It offers only a handful of examples of the actual articles, and Krikorian maintains that most were legitimate immigration commentary. “The point is to cast a wide net,” he said. “There’s all kinds of stuff on Vdare that I have problems with. … But you know it is one of the main sources of commentary on immigration, and I’d be doing a disservice to readers not including immigration-related stuff that appears at Vdare.”

Beirich countered that readers who clicked on the links still found themselves on hateful websites, and the center’s aggregation helps legitimize those sites. Moreover, according to the SPLC, dozens of the pieces the CIS circulated were by authors whose work elsewhere is hateful.

“Providing links to immigration articles written by people who in other venues wrote things on other topics that are objectionable, and that I myself almost certainly would object to — so what?” Krikorian says. “You’ve got to admire the Inspector Javert-like obsession to go through hundreds of these links and find out who the author was and then Google the author and see what he — I mean it’s just, get a life, people!”…

EDITORS NOTE: This column with images originally appeared on Jihad Watch.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *