To CNN and the rest of the elite media: Parroting SPLC propaganda is journalistic malpractice

“If CNN was irresponsible for publishing propaganda, and it was, SPLC has a hard row to hoe if it thinks it can deny all responsibility for the violence perpetrated by its followers Floyd Lee Corkins and Alexandria shooter James Hodgkinson”

Let’s be clear: There are hate groups operating in America. 

The grim and deadly spectacle last weekend in Charlottesville left no doubt that dangerous white supremacist groups exist, and even worse, were able to mobilize and ignite the condemnable violence the world witnessed.  Names should be named and racists who show their faces should be shamed without qualificationif we are going to come together as a nation to heal what ails us.

So it should be no surprise that news outlets would want to warn local communities if they are being infested by any groups like those that emerged from the muck to incite havoc in Charlottesville. 

What is surprising is that news organizations across the country would turn to one of the most divisive and dishonest propaganda peddlers in America as a credible source of this information: the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

What’s even more surprising is that many news outlets did little more than reprint SPLC marketing emails and pass it off as news. No original research to confirm SPLC accusations. No questioning the authority or credibility of the accuser. No consideration of SPLC’s partisan-left commitments (it openly admits that it targets only the “right”) and how that just might color its conclusions.

CNN became the most noteworthy accomplice in SPLC’s long-running fundraising scam, when it posted a piece entitled “Here are all the active hate groups where you live” that merely regurgitates the entire “hate group” list it was fed by SPLC. CNN obviously didn’t spend any time vetting the list, but as it notes at the top of the “story,” CNN did spend time creating its own map, with blood-red dots plotting the locations of all the supposed hate groups. That’s a problem.

We’ll grant that SPLC at one time did good work (though it has always exaggerated threats and inflated numbers to raise hundreds of millions). But that time is past. SPLC has lost its way

Whereas SPLC does rightly list actual hate groups, it has used that mask of legitimacy to sweep up mainstream groups into its “hate net.” Specifically, SPLC includes Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Research Council, Maajid Nawaz, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and other honorable freedom advocates on its “hate” list. This exposes SPLC’s true motive: to cleanse the public square of its ideological opponents.

The media is sadly playing rats to SPLC’s Pied Piper. The Pied Piper led vermin out of an infested village. But this is a more dangerous game. The SPLC scream machine is a poisonous vehicle that has helped drive deranged men to commit acts of murderous violence.

Five years ago this week, a would-be-mass-murderer named Floyd Lee Corkins cited the SPLC hate list as the motivation for his attempt to kill innocent people working at the Family Research Council building (where the Alliance Defending Freedom Washington, DC, office was co-located at the time). Corkins was later convicted of domestic terrorism. 

As the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson points out, “Four years ago CNN reported that shooting at FRC was inspired by the [Southern Poverty Law Center] hate map. Now CNN is reprinting it.”

Recall also that CNN didn’t outright pin Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting on Sarah Palin, but it helped fuel the narrative that a map of targeted congressional districts produced by the former governor’s organization was in some way responsible for the rampage that left six dead in Tucson.

So, how in the world did CNN think it was a responsible act to create a map with blood-red dots targeting many groups who belong nowhere near a “hate group” list?

If CNN was irresponsible for publishing propaganda, and it was, SPLC has a hard row to hoe if it thinks it can deny all responsibility for the violence perpetrated by its followers Floyd Lee Corkins and Alexandria shooter James Hodgkinson.  

You see, SPLC says that “inflammatory rhetoric” leads to violence.

OK, then anyone targeted – fairly or unfairly – on this list has reason to fear, as SPLC itself is an expert in the use of inflammatory rhetoric. It has even delivered what may sound like marching orders to violent and organized fellow travelers like Antifa, which has been burning, bashing, and beating across the country in recent months with nary a peep from the “anti-extremists” at SPLC.

An SPLC executive gave away the real end game when he said

“Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate crimes and so on…. I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.”

So, CNN and other media, will you continue to be a mouthpiece for a group that openly admits it is manipulating you and whose deception has been exposed for decades by critics from Left to Right? Is it really a public service to parrot the fundraising pitches of a fear-fomenting group that thrives – nine-figure-fortune-style – off of division and defamation? 

Seriously, do we really need SPLC to tell us that the KKK, neo-Nazis, and the Nation of Islam espouse hate? If you are tempted to say – as CNN implied in its free ad for SPLC – “they are the only one who does this, so we’d be lost without them,” don’t. The media need SPLC for a “hate list” like women need Planned Parenthood for mammograms

Let me offer a suggestion.

If news organizations think the problem of white supremacy on display in Charlottesville points to a national crisis as it likely does, consider how the Washington Post began handling police shootings back in 2015. It invested in research, built a database, and continues to monitor and report on police shootings.

A news organization, or a partnership of several, might want to do its own work to identify and monitor actual violent hate groups from across the ideological spectrum (everyone from neo-Nazis to Antifa) as a service to the American people, not as a way to buy someone a “Poverty Palace.”

If that is not in the cards, every journalist should at least have their consciences seared by Mark Pulliam writing in City Journal:

Despite numerous exposés over the years in publications spanning the political spectrum—including Harper’s, The Progressive, The Weekly Standard, Reason, the Baltimore Sun, and even the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser—the liberal establishment continues to treat the group as credible, largely because its preoccupation with right-wing bigotry aligns with the stereotypical view of liberals who dominate newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times. In our polarized culture, the epithet “hate group” is the ultimate slander of political opponents. The SPLC’s spurious imprimatur gives mere calumny gravitas, allowing liberal journalists to wield its highly charged judgments as a weapon, citing it as if it were a dispassionate authority. Many liberal (or merely lazy) journalists discredit conservative organizations by noting that they are “listed by the SPLC as a hate group,” treating its often dubious designations as gospel truth.

The American people don’t trust the mainstream media. Its approval ratings are the lowest in the history of polling on the question. By teaming up with a disreputable outfit like SPLC, media organizations leave themselves little room to protest accusations of “Fake News.” One way to get your trust back – CNN and other members of the SPLC Stenography Club – is to delete SPLC marketing emails and, dare I say it, make journalism great again. Or, at least make journalism journalism again.

About the author

Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom

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