Whether one agrees or disagrees with the actions of the National Organization for Women (NOW), at least when it was formed in 1966 its mission was lofty: securing “political, professional, and educational equality for women.”
Forty-three years later, NOW has diminished to a caricature of its former self — issuing ridiculous news releases criticizing television for extolling “skinny” women rather than those who are “plus-size.”
Another organization founded in the same era that spawned NOW has fallen victim to a similar fate — the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Formed in 1971, the SPLC initially focused its energies and resources on a very real problem facing our country at that time — virulent racism. Co-founder Morris Dees and his associates at SPLC quickly developed a well-deserved reputation as tireless and fearless fighters, taking on such targets as the KKK, the Aryan Nations, and other violence-prone racist groups. During my tenure as the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta in the late 1980s, my office occasionally worked with the SPLC to strengthen cases against such criminals.
In recent years, however, the focus of the SPLC has blurred considerably, and the targets of its ire have become decidedly less tangible. The Southern Poverty Law Center seems to be grasping for continued relevance in an age clearly less hostile to racial minorities than two generations ago.
A report titled “Return of the Militias” illustrates the degree to which SPLC has diluted its message and its strength. Straying far from its earlier focus against true, violence-oriented racial hate groups, this latest work raises suspicions about virtually any group that takes serious issue with the policies now being proposed and implemented by Barack Obama’s administration. The report also determines that many of the people and entities disagreeing with the new president are doing so based on racial motives. Painting so broadly with the “race card” further diminishes the Center’s credibility.
Often citing unnamed sources to support its conclusions, the “militia report” chronicles a rise in “militia activity” based on such scholarly sources as YouTube sightings and other Internet activities. One might legitimately wonder whether the SPLC’s findings that “militia groups” are communicating and strengthening themselves via the Internet, is laying the groundwork to have the government monitor or even control the Internet in order to squelch “inappropriate” uses.
One of the source documents cited by the SPLC in support of its cry that “militias” are on the rise and pose a dire threat to our country is a report that had been posted on the webpage of the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC). The report in question linked suspect “militia” activity to such innocuous actions as displaying Ron Paul or Bob Barr bumper stickers. It was in fact ordered removed by Missouri’s Director of Public Safety last March, because it implied that a person’s exercise of First Amendment-guaranteed rights was a proper basis for government surveillance — an implication with which the SPLC apparently is comfortable.
The “militia” net cast by the SPLC is indeed wide.
The “tea parties” that have sprung up this year to protest the expansion of government power and spending are suspect in the SPLC’s jaded eyes; as is even the “Tea Party Anthem.” CNN’s Lou Dobbs, Fox News Channel’s Glenn Beck, and even Texas Gov. Rick Perry are casually, if not causally, linked to the “militia movement” by the SPLC writers. Not surprising, one of the favored punching bags of the Left — the National Rifle Association — doesn’t escape being linked to “militias.”
The once-proud Southern Poverty Law Center has honed the practice of guilt by association to a fine art, and is pandering to peoples’ prejudices in a manner it once would have properly denounced.