W. James Antle III at the American Conservative revisits our friends at the Southern Poverty Law Center, and their efforts to cast legitimate, mainstream political groups as racist and extremist.
What calling could be nobler than working against the cross-burning knuckle-draggers of the Ku Klux Klan? But the country that elected Barack Obama president is not the America of “Mississippi Burning.” Organizations like the Klan have been thoroughly marginalized, their racist ideologies soundly rejected by Americans of all colors and creeds. To raise money as if they constitute anything more than an unpleasant reminder of our Jim Crow past is to perpetuate a fraud.
That’s why Dees and his merry band of politically correct enforcers have had to branch out, endlessly expanding the list of “hate groups” to include perfectly mainstream organizations with which they disagree. Advocates of reduced immigration levels and stronger border security are high on the SPLC’s list of targets because of the obvious racial component of the immigration issue.
Locating cranks who have made ill-tempered remarks about immigrants is not terribly difficult work for highly trained members of the thought police. But Morris Dees’s marauders have not been content to stop there. In late 2007, the SPLC labeled the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) a hate group. This troubling designation by extension tarred organizations like CIS and Roy Beck’s NumbersUSA—and quickly achieved its intended chilling effect on the immigration debate.
Consider the case of Carol Swain, an African-American law professor at Vanderbilt who has been sounding the alarm about “the new white nationalism.” Because she approaches the subject from a scholarly rather than a fundraising perspective, she has raised the SPLC’s hackles. “When my face was smeared across the papers in my state with accusations that I was an apologist for white supremacy, I thought it was time to get involved,” Swain said at the CIS press conference. Driving the immigration debate underground, she argued, will silence legitimate restrictionists and empower genuine racists.