FAIR Investigative Report on Hate Groups and Nativist Extremists

Journalist Alert: Beware the Politicized "Hate Group" Designations by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)

A Special Investigative Analysis from FAIR

Journalist's Guide to the SPLC and Immigration

A guide for those actively involved in writing about immigration policy.

SPLC guide

The latest "hate group" report issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) demonstrates once again that the SPLC is neither a reliable source of information nor an "objective observer" in the immigration policy debate. The latest report issued by the SLPC is long on rhetoric and allegations and short of facts. Responsible journalists will not accept these SPLC allegations at face value; they will independently investigate any and all claims made by the SPLC.

Grasping for attention, and no doubt to expand its donor base, the SPLC's recent report claims that the number of so-called "hate groups" has risen 4 percent since 2008 and over 50 percent since 2000. With great fanfare, they warn their own members and uncritical journalists of a "firestorm" of hate engulfing the land. Yet, the Southern Poverty Law Center offers no concrete information about these so-called "hate groups." For example, the Southern Poverty Law Center never identifies exactly where they are; or even who are they, what they believe, or how they act. How many members do they have, if any? Do they have money? How can you contact them? Do they really even exist as an operational group?

Occasionally, unsuspecting journalists swallow the bait hook, line and sinker, conferring on the Southern Poverty Law Center or SPLC some claim to quasi-official status, and that the SPLC designation is entitled to some official respect or recognition. Of course nothing could be further from the truth. The Southern Poverty Law Center made up the term, and has shown time and again that its use of the term "hate group" is merely a strategy to try to discourage and suppress political speech in this country.

What is a "hate group"?

In the eyes of the law, there is no such thing. It does not exist in federal statutes; the term is entirely a concoction of the SPLC. Moreover, the SPLC has no concrete definition; it slides based on its current political objective.

What is implied with the term?

The Southern Poverty Law Center uses this term to imply - at least in the minds of most people - that those who belong to a "hate group" advocate criminal violence against other people solely on account of race, ethnicity or some other immutable characteristic. Yet the SPLC fudges, and then itself says that "hate group activities" can also include "marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing." (See the SPLC website) Isn't this how most individuals exercising free speech act? Under this absurdly incomplete definition, how would a non- "hate group" behave?

How has the SPLC used the term "hate group" and "nativist extremist"?

Recently, the SPLC is using the term to try to smear the entire national immigration reform movement: millions of Americans all across the country are being tarred and smeared by the SPLC without cause. Once the SPLC designates a group, its allies who favor mass immigration cheerfully tout the designation as somehow trumping the need for serious policy debate. For example, the controversial National Council of La Raza claimed on its website that one in seven Americans (equaling 45 million people) belongs to "hate" or "nativist extremist" groups. This claim, posted on its affiliated website was unambiguously designed to discourage people from opposing mass amnesty or even have a genuine political debate about the issue of immigration reform.

Remarkably, the SPLC and its allies have gone so far as to state that the "debate itself" has caused a rise in the number of "hate crimes" against Latinos. No real evidence is provided, except for fluctuating FBI data - data that both the FBI and SPLC warn is unreliable (See the FBI's "Caution to Readers") The SPLC in fact quotes "experts" declaring the FBI's hate crime data to be "worthless" (See the SPLC's Intelligence Report), yet then turns around and uses the same data to calculate what it determines to be a dramatic increase in the level of hate crime.

Clearly, through its "hate group" strategy, the SPLC is laying the groundwork for arguing that it should be unlawful for Americans to even advocate for the enforcement of current immigration laws. This year, the SPLC decided to simply designate - we'd call it smear - hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans working for immigration reform as being members of "nativist extremist" groups. Again, there is no real definition for what this designation means, only that these groups are "groups that go after people, not policy." (See this SPLC article in their Intelligence Report) What strikes many as particularly illogical is that only a handful of the list of "nativist extremist" groups are designated as "hate groups" even though these are the groups that are supposed to go after individuals. Of course, most of these organizations are simply well-meaning citizens who are active in supporting immigration law enforcement, improved state/local cooperation to discourage illegal immigration. The Southern Poverty Law Center is now doing this on behalf of interests who oppose interior immigration enforcement and support mass amnesty in response to illegal immigration. They do this because those interests have found themselves on the losing side of a long list of policy battles.

The implications for journalists? This means journalists must be responsible enough to independently judge absurd claims and facts made by the SPLC. Once you begin to try to verify their claims and facts, we are confident you will soon recognize that the Southern Poverty Law Center is not a credible organization, and that its so-called "hate group" designations have become virtually meaningless - fabricated out of thin air to manipulate opinion and control speech. It means no longer relying on the SPLC's designation of a "hate group" as dispositive of anything other than what it is: an intimidation tactic intended to suppress meaningful debate over the controversial and difficult subjects like immigration reform. Its use is journalistically unethical.

For the public, it means recognizing that terms like "racist" and "hate group" are becoming modern day substitutes for intelligent discussion and an exchange of ideas. In today's context, we hope it will generate a fierce determination to ensure that public debate on important policy ideas, like immigration control, can be carried out free of the sort of marginal tactics associated with marginal and discredited organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center.

For more information: go to http://www.splcinfo.com/
A statement from the Federation for American Immigration Reform
25 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Suite 330
Washington, DC 20001

This website has NOT been approved by the Southern Poverty Law Center, nor does this website have any affiliation with Southern Poverty Law Center. This website was designed to provide information about the Southern Poverty Law Center from FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. The official SPLC website is available at http://www.splcenter.org.