Monday, December 31, 2007

The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Last week I talked about the list of the awards the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) gave to America’s worst bigots in 2007. Several persons commented on the Hatewatch site in response to the awards, including a couple posters claiming to be among the recipients. These comments contain the usual amount of venom one sees when white supremacists comment on the SPLC. As I’ve commented before on this page, some of this animosity seems a bit misplaced. Surely, both sides do have some cause for complaint. Members of racist groups do in fact occasionally commit hate crimes, including acts of violence (although these acts make up a tiny percentage of the total violence that occurs in the US). And the SPLC sometimes files civil suits with the aim of putting white power groups out of business, as well as providing law enforcement agencies with information on the groups they monitor. But when you look at the big picture, you see that extremist groups and the SPLC in fact depend on each other to make their operations possible.

The SPLC is, like most “non-profits”, essentially a for-profit business. The group currently has a treasury bulging with $168,000,000, although its expenditures for its various programs were only $19,000,000 last year. Morris Dees and the Center’s other higher-ups pull in yearly salaries of over $200,000. The only reason the SPLC is able to draw in such huge amounts of money is that they are able to convince wealthy leftists that only large donations to the Center will avert an immanent fascist takeover of America. Their alarmist reporting greatly exaggerates the threat posed by white nationalists in the US, while ignoring more serious threats such as foreign-based terrorism and anarchist violence. If all of the white power groups the SPLC regularly criticizes were to suddenly cease to exist, the Center would be unable to effectively raise funds, and its employees would eventually have to go out and find real jobs. The continued existence of a white nationalist underground is clearly in their interest.

The radical right relies on the SPLC and groups like it for something they value as much (if not more so) than money: Publicity. Consider the chapter of Young Americans for Freedom based at Michigan State University (YAF-MSU). This is a tiny organization, with probably about ten active members at this point. The group has attracted some attention through its sheer obnoxiousness. It has invited neo-fascists like Nick Griffin and Jim Gilchrist to speak at the university, as well as distributed semi-racist flyers around campus. However, the YAF-MSU chapter has never been linked to any acts of violence, and confines it activities to the campus grounds. Despite this, the SPLC made a big deal about adding the organization to its listing of hate groups, and even published a lengthy article on them in their latest Intelligence Report. This has done wonders for the YAF chapter, which went from being a fairly obscure white supremacist group to being nationally known. Keeping in mind that most extremist groups see any publicity as good publicity, you can’t pay for this sort of coverage. So despite all of the white power bitching about the SPLC’s actions, theses organizations actually owe them a debt of thanks for bringing their obscure sects to the public’s attention.

So in the holiday spirit of forgiveness and love, let’s see a truce. Why can’t Bill White and Morris Dees sit down at a table somewhere and have some beers? They could acknowledge their debt to each other and plot on ways to drum up even more money and publicity in the New Year to come.


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