I’ve posted a fair amount about the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which at one time was a great organization fighting segregation and pushing for civil liberties (see my posts here). But, as civil rights became national law, the organization started changing its mission, which largely became fighting “hate speech.” That is not necessarily bad, but the SPLC became so social justice-y that they started making “hate lists” that included people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz who featured on a list of “anti-Muslim extremists” (Nawaz is a Muslim, for crying out loud). Further, they also went after “cultural appropriation” of Cinco de Mayo, pretty close to a victimless crime for these people. Finally, it was revealed by several outlets, including Politico, that the founders and top lawyers of the SPLC made huge and unconscionable salaries, and that they even stashed a lot of the organization’s money in offshore accounts for reasons that aren’t clear.
I was thus pleased when Nawaz sued the SPLC and won a $3.4 million settlement as well as an apology, and when the SPLC removed that “hate list” from their site. Now, according to the NYT and other venues, the founder and big macher in the whole shebang, Morris Dees, once an effective and admirable civil-right litigator, has been ousted from the organization after nebulous charges of “inappropriate conduct”. That conduct isn’t clear yet, but may include, ironically, poor treatment of women and blacks. The NYT story is below:
From the article:
The group’s president, Richard Cohen, did not give a specific reason for the dismissal of Mr. Dees, 82, on Wednesday. But Mr. Cohen said in a statement that as a civil-rights group, the S.P.L.C. was “committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world.”
“When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action,” Mr. Cohen said.
Mr. Cohen’s statement suggested that Mr. Dees’s firing was linked to workplace conduct. He said the center, which is based in Montgomery, Ala., had requested “a comprehensive assessment of our internal climate and workplace practices” in a bid to ensure that the organization was a place where “all voices are heard and all staff members are respected.”
Note that Dees denies the charges vehemently; the tweets below were posted by Josh Moon, who writes for The Alabama Political Reporter:
Dees noted that he is 82 and hasn't been in charge of SPLC in a number of years. "I probably only go down there about two day a week. There was nothing like that (sexual harassment)." He also wished the center well and said the employees "are a fine group of people."/F
— Josh Moon (@Josh_Moon) March 14, 2019
Some of the reporting, including the first tweet above, intimates that another factor in Dees’s firing could have been the change in mission of the SPLC from a genuine civil rights group to a social-justice enforcement group:
Mr. Dees and the S.P.L.C. have been credited with undermining the influence of the Ku Klux Klan and extremist groups. But in recent years, the center has come under scrutiny for its classifications of “hate groups,” and whether the organization has abused that label in pursuit of a political agenda or increased donations.
The center has tracked extremist activity and hate groups throughout the country since the 1980s. Its 2018 Intelligence Project reportidentified 1,020 hate groups, its largest number ever. Conservatives have accused the group of unfairly including right-leaning organizations on the list.
. . .“I am glad to see Dees leave S.P.L.C., whatever the reason,” William A. Jacobson, a professor at Cornell Law School and an outspoken critic of the group, said on Thursday.
“S.P.L.C. long ago focused on combating the Ku Klux Klan, but then abused the reputation it earned for those efforts by demonizing political opponents through the use of hate and extremist lists to stifle speech by people who presented no risk of violence,” Mr. Jacobson said.
I’m glad to see hm go, too. It’s time for fresh blood and a rededication to the original mission of the SPLC, fighting genuine oppression and bigotry. As the Montgomery Advertiser reports, an outside group will be examining the group’s direction:
“Today we announced a number of immediate, concrete next steps we’re taking, including bringing in an outside organization to conduct a comprehensive assessment of our internal climate and workplace practices, to ensure that our talented staff is working in the environment that they deserve — one in which all voices are heard and all staff members are respected,” [SPLC President Richard] Cohen said.
This group has about half a BILLION dollars in assets, and that dosh can be used to do real good rather than making up “little lists.”