Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
The nation’s longest running civil rights mail order scam has almost $450 million in assets.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, founded by a lawyer who had formerly defended a violent racist who beat a Freedom Rider on behalf of the KKK, has a swollen bank account but is headed for a reckoning.
Like most big scams, the SPLC is a victim of its own success. The Klan, which its founder had once helped before launching a lucrative career of fighting it, is irrelevant. And the SPLC’s efforts to expand into fighting the Christian groups it deems “homophobes” and critics of Islamists whom it accuses of “Islamophobia” have begun to backfire on the venerable civil rights mail order scam organization.
“We will not partner with groups that unfairly defame Americans for standing up for the Constitution or their faith,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions told attendees at the Alliance Defending Freedom's Summit on Religious Liberty.
Those remarks came in response to revelations of a relationship between the FBI and the SPLC.
Any relationship between the SPLC and the FBI is deeply shocking as the FBI’s Washington D.C. headquarters is only a few blocks away from the offices of the Family Research Council, where Floyd Corkins, an SPLC-inspired terrorist, opened fire, shooting Leo Johnson, the building’s African-American building manager.
"Southern Poverty Law lists anti-gay groups. I found them online,” Corkins confessed to the FBI.
The FBI knew that the SPLC’s maliciously misleading list of hate groups had inspired a terrorist, and still maintained a relationship with the organization. And in response to Sessions’ condemnation, the SPLC doubled down on its hate, attacking the FRC once again, while showing no remorse for the shooting.
Unlike the Southern Poverty Law Center, the FRC and the ADF have never inspired a domestic terrorist. But the FBI used the SPLC as a source of information on domestic extremism while ignoring the complaints of its victims. The SPLC is far better known for its rankings, its lists of hate groups and its map, which has terrorized municipalities across the United States that fear being falsely linked to hate.
That’s what happened to Amana, Iowa. The small villages ended upon the SPLC’s hate map because someone online had once proposed holding a neo-Nazi book club meeting there.
But now the terror is fading as the people and organizations smeared by SPLC begin to fight back.
The SPLC’s sloppiness proved to be its undoing. As the organization tried to expand beyond its core Klan portfolio, it left its area of competence. Fighting “Islamophobia” was a growth industry and the SPLC jumped on board without caring about the details. Its already habitual sloppiness quickly hit new lows.
The SPLC named me as a hate group. Even though I’m an individual. But I wasn’t alone. It named a number of other individuals, including ex-Muslim artist Bosch Fawstin, who had been a target of the first ISIS attack carried out in this country. It was bad enough that the SPLC routinely misdefined “hate," but it had somehow also managed to misdefine “group." Also on its list of hate groups was a sign outside a bar on K-Mart Plaza in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
The SPLC routinely lied and maligned, but its anti-Muslim hate group rankings were something special. It faked a tripling of “anti-Muslim hate groups” one year by suddenly switching from listing one group to listing 45 of its chapters separately. But then it went too far when it listed a Muslim as anti-Muslim.
The Muslim Brotherhood was notorious for using “Islamophobe” to refer to the Muslims it opposed. And the SPLC may have outsourced its anti-Muslim list to an organization employing a CAIR figure. It also followed the example of the Center for American Progress’ "Fear Inc.: The Roots Of the Islamophobia Network In America" report, which had listed anti-Brotherhood Muslims as Islamophobes.
But where CAP had smeared Zuhdi Jasser and Tawfik Hamid, Muslims whom the Brotherhood's front groups had already managed to marginalize, the SPLC stupidly libeled Majid Nawaz, a Muslim activist with a following on the left and in the media, as an “anti-Muslim” extremist.
Nawaz went after the SPLC which paid out $3.375 million.
The $450 million civil rights mail order scam that had terrorized entire towns and destroyed the lives and reputations of countless people, was finally forced to disgorge some of its loot.
The Nawaz case was one of a number of recent SPLC retractions. And the existence of even a single SPLC retraction is unusual. But it’s one gust of wind in a storm. As the SPLC list is increasingly used not just to smear organizations, but to sanction them, its targets are being forced to take action against it.
Last year, Guidestar, a guide to non-profit organizations, briefly tried to embed the SPLC’s hate group listing into its database. More recently campaigns have been launched to force companies to stop doing business with hate groups. These campaigns often directly or indirectly rely on the SPLC’s lists.
Bringing the SPLC to justice has become a matter of survival for organizations that face the threat of being rejected by credit card companies, social media platforms, and online retailers.
"When I spoke to ADF last year, I learned that the Southern Poverty Law Center had classified ADF as a 'hate group.' Many in the media simply parroted it as fact. Amazon relied solely on the SPLC designation and removed ADF from its Smile program, which allows customers to donate to charities," Attorney General Sessions said, at the Alliance Defending Freedom dinner.
“President Donald Trump has heard these concerns. Unlike some, he is not afraid of the name-calling and the fake news. He has endured relentless media attacks in order to speak up for the forgotten people of this country. He made a promise—and from day one of this administration he has delivered. He is defending religious freedom at home and abroad.”
What the SPLC’s expansion into fighting “homophobia” and “Islamophobia” have in common is that they both touch on issues of religious freedom: the religious freedom of Christians and Jews to be true to their beliefs about sexual morality or even the freedom of Muslims to criticize the Muslim Brotherhood.
As tech companies deplatform organizations smeared as hate groups and in the wake of the Nawaz case, Christian organizations are preparing to launch a massive legal campaign against the SPLC.
The SPLC may have $450 million in assets, but it’s going to need it because the organizations intend to launch as many as 60 lawsuits against the civil rights mail order scam group across the country. The organizations will include the ADF and many others, which will sue the SPLC individually, forcing it to respond to every single lawsuit.
And the SPLC is clearly rattled.
Its letter to Attorney General Sessions emphasizes, awkwardly, that its accusations against the ADF and FRC are protected by the First Amendment. But the trouble is that the SPLC doesn’t just offer opinions. Instead it puts out a rating system used by other organizations to discriminate by denying products and services to its targets. The SPLC is aware of how this impacts the First Amendment rights of its targets.
As SPLC’s Mark Potok had said, its blacklists have “nothing to do with criminality or violence or any kind of guess we’re making about ‘this group could be dangerous.’ It’s strictly ideological.’”
"We're not trying to change anybody's mind. We're trying to wreck the groups. We're trying to destroy them," he had said.
Until now, the SPLC had little ability to destroy its targets. But as tech companies line up to censor the political opposition, it has that power. And that’s why its targets are preparing to fight back.
The SPLC is more dangerous than ever. But now it’s also more vulnerable than ever.
A perfect storm of lawsuits is headed for the SPLC. And the outcome will help determine the fate of religious freedom in America.