BY MARK W. HENDRICKSON
Editor’s note: Current status of Senate Bill 2043 as of August 23, 2019: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Judiciary. The House version HR 3545 was introduced into the House on June 27, 2019 and has not yet been sent to committee.
As Matthew Vadum reported in The Epoch Times on July 7, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has thrown her support behind SB 2043, the “Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assaults, and Threats to Equality (NO HATE) Act.”
One key promoter of the legislation is the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)—the old civil rights organization whose main project today, “Hatewatch,” monitors alleged hate groups.
Leaving aside the question as to whether such legislation is redundant (the FBI already monitors hate crimes), any bill that adopts the SPLC’s perspective on what defines a hate group will be highly problematic.
The first problem is that the SPLC is ideologically skewed. Do an internet search for the SPLC, and the first “hit” is their website. Under the main heading are four links. The first is for their “Hatewatch” project, the subtitle of which is “The latest on the activities of the American radical right.” Fine, but why the omission of hateful activities on the radical left?
It’s absurd to imply that conservative groups certainly have a monopoly on hate, assaults, and violence. In fact, the socialist left has deep roots in hatred. Karl Marx boasted that he was “the greatest hater of the so-called positive.” In 1923, Vladimir Lenin chillingly declared to the Soviet Commissars of Education, “We must teach our children to hate. Hatred is the basis of communism.” In his tract, “Left-Wing Communism,” Lenin went so far as to assert that hatred was “the basis of every socialist and Communist movement.”
Strains of hatred are in clear evidence in progressive, liberal, socialist, and Democratic circles today. An obvious example is Antifa, which periodically engages in violent assaults against conservatives. Alas, the SPLC isn’t interested in cataloging Antifa’s deeds.
For years, elements on the left have churned out such undeniably hate-feeding literature as “The I Hate Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh … Reader,” “The I Hate George W. Bush Reader,” and the “I Hate Republicans Reader.” People such as Gillibrand may denounce a particularly egregious attack on their political opponents, such as when a hate-filled man shot Republican Rep. Steve Scalise two summers ago, but they’re conspicuously silent in denouncing any of the rhetoric that feeds the hatred that leads to such crimes.
Another major problem with the SPLC paradigm is their penchant for smearing people with the loathsome label of “hate group,” when the group’s only offense was to be at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum from the SLPC.
Returning to the internet search, another link takes you to the SPLC’s “Hate Group Map.” It includes a “filter by ideology” feature that cites specific targets of hatred—e.g., groups that are anti-immigrant, radical traditional Catholicism, white nationalist, etc.
I decided to poke around on that webpage.
One of the alleged hate groups on the SPLC’s Hate Map is San Diegans for Secure Borders. Here, I may be on thin ice, because I had never heard of this group before, but the Hate Map would be more convincing to me if they cited any acts of violence or advocacy of violence rather than simply listing the group. Maybe they did this somewhere on their site, but I used their search function and couldn’t find a thing beyond the listing.
Then I went to the San Diegans website where I found nothing that advocated violence. This group advocates policies to uphold the laws of the land by stopping illegal immigration. The SPLC and Gillibrand may not favor such policies, but to tar-and-feather as a hate group Americans who favor enforcing duly passed laws seems extreme and at least a little bit hateful.
Another group that’s branded a hate group by the SPLC is the John Birch Society (JBS). Unlike the San Diegan group, I have some familiarity with the JBS. Although I have only met a couple of members in person, my graduate research led me to read a number of JBS publications. Frankly, to call the JBS a hate group is libelous. Yes, the Birchers have an esoteric (quirky? strange? far out?) theory about a unitary worldwide conspiracy, but otherwise, they are typical conservative Americans.
The SPLC plainly dislikes conservative Americans. You can picture them practically choking on their own vitriol in deriding the JBS in 2013, calling them “conspiracy theory-loving, U.N.-hating, federal government-despising, Ron Paul-supporting, environmentalist-bashing … true believers.” The following is a more accurate assessment:
The JBS stands for the limited concept of government shared by America’s Founding Fathers; therefore, they are pro-private property and free enterprise and staunchly opposed to communism and socialism, which means, yes, they don’t favor a leviathan federal government and so they oppose the socialist, wealth-redistributing agenda of the U.N. and radical environmentalists. As for racial or religious bigotry, unlike some populist groups, the JBS rejects such prejudice.
The SPLC stooped to new lows in bashing Ron Paul so maliciously. To construe even the most tenuous connection between Ron Paul and “hate groups” is hateful and libelous. [Disclosure: I take this calumny against Dr. Paul personally. Although I only met him once 38 years ago, he was kind enough to endorse my 2014 book, “Problems with Piketty: The Flaws and Fallacies in ‘Capital in the 21st Century.’”]
Paul has dedicated his life to preserving life, not threatening it. As a libertarian, he adheres to and practices the nonaggression principle. As an obstetrician, he has welcomed babies into this world and (unlike many libertarians) believes that the most defenseless of all human beings—the unborn—are entitled to the same legal protection of their lives as the rest of us. In Congress, he often voted with progressives in opposition to deploying U.S. troops into harm’s way in far-off lands in undeclared wars. You may disagree with Paul’s policies, but to lump him together with alleged haters is warped.
The SPLC wants to ruin the reputation of innocent American conservatives. As The Epoch Times article reported, in 2007, a spokesperson for the SPLC declared, “I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups …” To achieve its goal of destroying ideological opponents, the SPLC has weaponized hate. For them to accuse innocents of hate is itself hateful. Instead of exposing hate, as they claim, the SPLC is exploiting hate, wielding it as a club against opponents.
It’s more than a little hypocritical that the SPLC denounces hate and then stirs up hatred against conservative groups by often falsely characterizing them as dangerous haters.
Such ideological warfare isn’t going to go away, but it certainly shouldn’t be enacted into law. As long as the NO HATE Act coincides with the SPLC’s political agenda, members of Congress should vote it down
This article appeared first in The Epoch Times.
Self-Educated American Contributing Editor Mark Hendrickson recently retired from the faculty at Grove City College where he remains Fellow for Economic and Social Policy at The Institute for Faith & Freedom. He is also a contributing editor of The St. Croix Review, sits on the Council of Scholars of the Commonwealth Foundation and writes opinion commentary for TheEpochTimes.com
Mr. Hendrickson’s most recent books include: The Big Picture: The Science, Politics, and Economics of Climate Change (2018), Problems with Picketty: Flaws and Fallacies in Capital in the 21st Century (2015), Famous But Nameless: Inspiration and Lessons from the Bible’s Anonymous Characters (2011); and God and Man on Wall Street: The Conscience of Capitalism (with Craig Columbus, 2012).