A Demagogic Bully

The Southern Poverty Law Center demonizes respectable political opponents as “hate groups”—and keeps its coffers bulging.

H.L. Mencken described the secret of successful demagoguery as “keep[ing] the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” Mencken was referring to “practical politics,” but his insight is equally applicable to public relations and fundraising campaigns trafficking in extravagant claims. For the past 40 years, a self-styled watchdog group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, has excelled in promoting such unwarranted alarm, with a politicized series of hobgoblins, in the process amassing a fortune from its credulous donors.

According to the SPLC, America is rife with dangerous “hate groups”: the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, anti-government militia groups, radical-right terrorists, and many more. “We’re currently tracking more than 1,600 extremist groups operating across the country,” the SPLC’s website claims. Readers of SPLC’s press releases, reports, and—importantly—direct-mail solicitations would be justified in imagining an America teeming with smoldering churches and synagogues, cross burnings, storm troopers bearing swastikas, and even lynchings.

Reality is different.

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  • Is it possible to launch a RICO suit against these guys?

    • Not likely but sunlight is still the best disinfectant.

    • Drunk_by_Noon

      I don’t think they fully meet the test of being an “ongoing criminal enterprise”. Revoking their tax exemption status might be a lot easier.

      A former SPLC lawyer, Gloria Browne, charged that SPLC programs were calculated to cash in on “black pain and white guilt.”

      • Very well.

        How would one go about revoking their tax exempt status?

        • Drunk_by_Noon

          You could do it administratively and have the IRS devise a new standard that the SPLC couldn’t and wouldn’t meet. That’s the hard way.
          The easy way is for Congress to pass a bill singling out the SPLC and revoking their tax exempt status.
          That could be made to stick too since Congress is specifically tasked with tax collection.