BLOGHow the SPLC Uses the Word “Hate” to Silence Dissent

By Joseph Infranco Posted on: | August 21, 2017

“Political language … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” – George Orwell

Word choice colors our thoughts and shapes debates.

As the Left knows, the word “progressive” rolls off the tongue easier than “radical left” or “socialist.” Likewise, “radical right” sounds scarier than “conservative” or “traditional.” Few groups understand and exploit this better than the radical leftist organization (you read that right) called the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

SPLC’s word-weapon of choice is “hate.” It uses the H-word to harpoon victims through a “Hate Map” – a cluttered visual surrounded by sobering images such as a “hate-graph” and clenched fist symbols. Percentages purportedly communicating something really serious about “hate” assault the viewer’s senses in size 72 font. 

The map’s approach is indiscriminate, by design. It mixes the likes of the KKK, “Racist Skinhead(s),” and “Neo-Nazi(s)” with groups holding traditional views of human sexuality. Quaint notions on the meaning of marriage, rooted in longstanding religious beliefs, receive special hostility. Never mind that less than 10 years ago nearly every major political figure in the country, including President Obama, said marriage was a union of one man and one woman. Many of those folks are given a pass, however, because their views on that issue have since “evolved.”

But the SPLC dictates - because it says so - that those who failed to evolve (some might say “retained their convictions”) are now the functional equivalent of skinheads. Just picture those scary traditional marriage types, roaming the streets with chains, looking for a good fight. This would be a ludicrous and even laughable attempt at equivalency, if not for the harm it does to people of good will (to say nothing of the damage to public discourse).

Fortunately, increasing numbers of independent commentators are calling out the SPLC for its outrageous tactics. But as someone once observed (the author is disputed), “a lie gets halfway around the world while truth is pulling its boots on.”

For example, in a recent story about Attorney General Jeff Sessions giving a private address to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorneys, ABC News regurgitated SPLC talking points, calling ADF a “hate group.” Besides the sloppy cut-and-paste journalism, ABC reported the “news” as if it were coming from a reputable independent source. The decision of ABC to parrot the SPLC’s rhetoric actually speaks more ill of the network’s practices than it does the “target” of its story. 

How does SPLC justify inclusion on the Hate Map? In some cases by quoting the designees (context is not terribly important to SPLC). Here’s the proof, the Map screams, in their own words! 

To support the claim that ADF is a “hate group ” SPLC presses a variety of arguments – too many to address in one blog. But the first few quotes attributed to ADF speakers set the tone, and deserve comment. Among these, speakers express the concern that abandoning traditional religious sexual morality will lead to silencing people of faith (one quote expresses fear of “silencing dissent”). SPLC apparently views such fears as proof of “hate.”

But don’t miss the glaring hypocrisy here. Leading up to the Supreme Court’s marriage decision in Obergefell, people of faith were rightly concerned about what would follow. But those on the other side of the debate assured people of faith that expanding the definition of marriage would merely help everyone get along. Redefining marriage is about “live and let live,” don’t you know. Nothing more will come of it; move along folks, nothing to see here. 

But many people and groups, including ADF, were not convinced. In his dissent in Obergefell, Justice Alito predicted that the decision “… will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy… I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

All this is profoundly ironic. The SPLC uses quotes – warning of attempts to silence dissent – to accuse someone of “hate” and thereby label them a “hate group.” Then SPLC uses the hate label to intimidate people into conformity, thereby silencing dissent.

Knowing all this doesn’t make it better. As Justice Alito warned, and the SPLC knows well, repeating a poisonous “hate” charge often enough brings consequences. When people see others publicly pilloried and ostracized, they fear to express their opinions. Dissent is silenced, and SPLC’s objective is achieved. Show’s over folks; nothing to see here.

If the price of holding our traditional religious beliefs and speaking on them in public discourse is to earn a place on the “Hate Map,” then we’ll view SPLC’s slander as a badge of honor. But the people who use such tactics should know they won’t work forever. They will not succeed in trampling conscience or stopping civil discourse by name calling. That’s the tactic of the bully on the playground.

We refuse to be silenced by such transparent efforts at intimidation. Thankfully, the SPLC is being called out more and more for its tactics aimed at silencing dissent. And as more people stand and resist, the rest of society will see SPLC is a far cry from the “civil rights watchdog” it pretends to be.

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Joseph Infranco

Senior Counsel, Vice President of the Alliance Coordination Team

Joseph Infranco serves as senior counsel and vice president of the Alliance Coordination Team with Alliance Defending Freedom.

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