Just How Deceptive Is the SPLC’s ‘Hate Map’?
Is America a dangerous place for women and minorities? If so, why? A prominent leftist organization long has trumpeted the threat of “hate groups” with a scary red-and-black map pinpointing KKK chapters, militia groups, and scores of organizations you’ve never heard of.
Who better to trust on the matter than that leftist group, the Southern Poverty Law Center? After all, it bankrupted the Klan and has monitored “hate groups” for decades. If the SPLC says you have haters in your neighborhood, maybe you should pay attention.
Not so fast. Not only has the SPLC used its map to target mainstream conservative and Christian groups, but it also has featured organizations that barely exist.
Don’t just take it from me. A former SPLC employee said he had been “part of the con,” a “highly profitable scam” to scare donors into ponying up cash. A terrorist even used the organization’s “hate map” to target a pro-family group in Washington, D.C., but the SPLC has kept that group on the map for 10 years since then.
I’ve been following the SPLC for years, and I even wrote the book on why the “hate map” can’t be trusted. So when the SPLC released its updated “hate map” for 2022, I decided I’d go through the data and crunch the numbers.
The SPLC exaggerates hate in three key ways, according to The Daily Signal’s analysis. It lists “chapters” of organizations as separate “hate groups” or “antigovernment extremist groups,” no matter how small they are. It tars political and ideological opponents by branding them “hate groups” even if they don’t have anything to do with hate. Finally, the SPLC includes other organizations that barely exist at all.
1. Juicing the Numbers
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate map” for 2022 — released last week — plots 1,225 “hate groups” and “antigovernment extremist groups.” Yet a quick perusal of the SPLC’s data reveals something curious: Many organizations are listed far more than just once.
Moms for Liberty, for instance, appears on the list no fewer than 220 times, once for each chapter the SPLC recorded. Eagle Forum, a conservative group founded by Phyllis Schlafly to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment, appears 16 times, to account for multiple chapters.
Thirty-one chapters of the Constitution Party appear on the map, as do 77 chapters of the Proud Boys. Patriot Front has 48 entries on the SPLC’s list.
Some Eagle Forum chapters consist of one or two staff members, and it remains unclear just how active a chapter needs to be in order for the SPLC to place the chapter on its list.
Brigitte Gabriel, who is Lebanese-American, founded ACT for America to warn about the threat of radical Islam that overran her birth country. ACT for America has appeared on the SPLC list for years, but it never appears merely as one “hate group.”
Although ACT for America’s executive director told PJ Media that the group “scrapped” its “chapter model entirely” in 2020, the SPLC “hate map” has plotted dozens of ACT for America chapters in the years since. The 2022 list includes 13 ACT for America chapters.
Although the SPLC often includes the city or town in which an organization exists, many organizations are listed as “statewide.” The SPLC claims that it uses this designation because groups “have not designated a specific location as their headquarters.”
Yet the “statewide” listing also suggests that the chapters may be loosely organized, if they even truly exist.
Twenty-five entries for Proud Boys list each group as “statewide,” and all 48 chapters of Patriot Front appear on the list as “statewide.”
The SPLC does not list leftist groups such as Antifa or Jane’s Revenge, which have engaged in violence against government courthouses and pro-life pregnancy centers, respectively, as “hate” or “anti-government extremist” groups.
Back in 2017, then-SPLC President Richard Cohen said his organization wouldn’t brand Antifa a “hate group” because it didn’t target people based on race, sexual orientation, or religion. The new designation of “antigovernment extremist group” removes this excuse, however.
In all, the SPLC list has 710 chapters of specific umbrella groups listed as separate “hate groups” or “antigovernment extremist groups.” If the SPLC didn’t count separate chapters as if they were unique “hate groups,” the number would drop significantly, from a total of 1,225 to 515.
2. Attacking Ideological Opponents
Yet the SPLC doesn’t just pad its numbers by listing chapters as separate organizations. It also smears its political and ideological opponents, using guilt by association or cherry-picking quotes out of context to make organizations appear extreme or hateful.
Take Alliance Defending Freedom, for example. This mainstream conservative Christian legal organization has won numerous cases at the Supreme Court in recent years, including the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop case.
Yet the SPLC brands Alliance Defending Freedom as an “anti-LGBTQ hate group,” falsely claiming that ADF supports imprisoning gay or lesbian people as well as forced sterilization for transgender people. Even liberal lawyers such as former ACLU President Nadine Strossen and Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the secularist Military Religious Freedom Foundation, have condemned the smear publicly, but the SPLC keeps it up anyway.
Other “anti-LGBTQ hate groups,” according to the SPLC, include the American College of Pediatricians, the American Family Association, the Center for Family and Human Rights, Church Militant, D. James Kennedy Ministries, the Family Research Council, Family Watch International, Illinois Family, Liberty Counsel, Mass Resistance, the Pacific Justice Institute, the Ruth Institute, and the World Congress of Families.
Most of these organizations advocate religious freedom, the traditional institution of family, and protecting children from transgender ideology.
The SPLC brands its opponents on the immigration issue “anti-immigrant hate groups,” smearing mainstream organizations such as Californians for Population Stabilization, the Center for Immigration Studies, the Dustin Inman Society, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, Oregonians for Immigration Reform, and ProEnglish.
The SPLC once admitted that the Dustin Inman Society’s founder, D.A. King, didn’t start a “hate group” after all, but it branded his organization a “hate group” in 2018 right around the time that the SPLC registered a lobbyist to oppose a bill supported by King’s group. (The society’s defamation lawsuit against the SPLC cleared a major legal hurdle earlier this year.)
ACT for America, the American Freedom Law Center, the Center for Security Policy, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and Jihad Watch appear on the SPLC list as “anti-Muslim hate groups.” These groups warn against radical Islam but often promote Muslim reformers such as M. Zuhdi Jasser. In fact, the SPLC paid $3.375 million to settle a defamation lawsuit after it branded Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz an “anti-Islamic extremist.”
The SPLC’s 2022 list includes parental rights groups for the first time. The SPLC faults these organizations for opposing its agenda on critical race theory and LGBT issues in schools. It added Army of Parents, state chapters of Parents Involved in Education, Moms for America, Courage is a Habit, Moms for Liberty, No Left Turn in Education, Parents Against Critical Race Theory, Parents Defending Education, Parents Rights in Education, Education First Alliance, Purple for Parents Indiana, and Education Veritas.
The SPLC lists these parental rights groups as “antigovernment extremist groups” alongside hundreds of other organizations. The “antigovernment” list includes bona fide political parties such as the Constitution Party, longstanding conservative organizations such as Eagle Forum and the John Birch Society, and the Texas Freedom Coalition.
Under “general hate,” the SPLC lists other established groups such as Chick Publications, which is known for publishing gospel tracts, and the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative Christian law firm.
The SPLC, founded as a public interest law firm, applies the “hate” smear to other public interest law firms on the opposite side of contentious issues, such as the Thomas More Law Center, the American Freedom Law Center, Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Pacific Justice Institute.
Michael J. Matt, editor of The Remnant newspaper and producer of Remnant TV, told The Daily Signal last month that the SPLC’s list of “Radical Traditional Catholic Hate Groups” is hopelessly outdated. Matt noted that the SPLC falsely suggested organizations such as The Remnant are antisemitic. He also noted that Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, another “hate group,” is a convent that follows a priest who tried to convert Jews to Catholicism.
With these 46 organizations removed, the “hate map” includes 469 groups, not the 1,225 listed by the SPLC.
3. ‘Groups’ That Barely Exist
The Southern Poverty Law Center long has been notorious for listing as “hate groups” individuals or entities that either do not exist, have no impact, or are not groups at all.
Luxor Couture, for example, is a fashion boutique. Patriot Sh*t Outfitters sells flags, patches, and Second Amendment-themed Christmas cards. It probably made the list because it sells merchandise featuring the logo of the militia group III%.
Sons of Liberty Survival Outfitters is so dangerous, its T-shirts are not currently available for sale due to supply-chain issues. A site called 2ndAmendmentPatches.com even dares to sell patches celebrating the Second Amendment to the Constitution.
Matt, editor of The Remnant, told The Daily Signal that two of the “Radical Traditional Catholic” groups identified by the SPLC are defunct. He said Robert Sungenis, founder of Catholic Apologetics International, told him that “the organization is done now,” and he called Christ or Chaos “completely defunct.” Matt said the SPLC has been recycling an old list compiled in 2007.
The SPLC usually releases its “hate map” in February or March, but this year, it waited until June. Apparently, that was not enough time to finish copy editing, however, as one organization on the map appears merely as “Fort Worth Chapter.”
The SPLC also lists some websites rather than groups, including the blog of Lew Rockwell, founder and president of the Mises Institute. LewRockwell.com, Liberty Hangout, and WorldNetDaily do exist, but they are websites, not groups.
Removing these 10 “groups” leaves 459 organizations on the SPLC’s “hate map,” many of which likely are insignificant. These 459 groups, probably still an overcount, account for 37% of the original 1,225 groups.
In other words, the Southern Poverty Law Center inflated “hate” by at least 267%.
Tyler O’Neil is managing editor of The Daily Signal.
This article originally appeared in The Daily Signal.