THAT’S A REAL WINNING COMBINATION: The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Both a Terrible Place to Work and a Place That Does Terrible Work.
The leadership shakeup, fueled by allegations that black staffers were shut out of key positions and that Dees personally harassed female staffers, has brought the SPLC considerable media scrutiny, and it’s about time. Regardless of whether these specific accusations have merit, the SPLC should face a reckoning over its extremely shoddy work, which has mistakenly promoted the idea that fringe hate groups are a rising threat.
Peddling this false narrative has long been the SPLC’s business model, and the Trump years have been especially profitable, since the group was almost perfectly positioned to capitalize on growing liberals fears about hate crimes, resurgent white nationalism, and the alt-right. Over the course of the Trump campaign and presidency, the SPLC has added dozens of staffers, saw its social media following rise dramatically, ramped up its fundraising, and built a $200 million endowment. Its role has been to provide intellectual support for a central narrative of the #Resistance: Hate, broadly defined, is surging across America, and Trump is to blame.
But the SPLC’s hate tally is incredibly suspect, as left-of-center writer Nathan Robinson explained in a terrific article for Current Affairs. According to the SPLC’s hate map, there were more than 1,000 hate groups in the U.S. in 2018—nearly twice as many as existed in 2000. The number has increased every year since 2014.
The map is littered with dots that provide more information on each specific group, and this is where the SPLC gives away the game. Consider a random state—Oklahoma, for example, is home to nine distinct hate groups, by the SPLC’s count. Five of them, though, are black nationalist groups: the Nation of Islam, Israel United in Christ, etc. The SPLC counts each chapter of these groups separately, so the Nation of Islam counts as two separate hate groups within Oklahoma (its various chapters in other states are also tallied separately). The map makes no attempt to contextualize all of this—no information is given on the relative size or influence of each group.
In his piece, Robinson describes the map as an “outright fraud,” and it’s hard to argue with him.