It’s disturbing enough that the media seems comfortable relying on the Southern Poverty Law Center as the irrefutable font of hate group wisdom. If SPLC says you’re a hate group, that’s as conclusive as it gets, and journalists can smugly call groups out, confident that the conclusive source of what thought is permissible has pointed its finger.
It’s not that SPLC is necessarily wrong, within the confines of a category that has no official definition. It’s a non-profit, and it’s created its own agenda-driven, value-laden definition of what constitutes a hate group. As an NGO, they’re allowed to craft their own definition, and they’re allowed to pick whatever side is hateful for not being the side that aligns with their political views.
And you, like most journalists, are allowed to agree with their views, even if they represent a partisan agenda rather than a legal or factual conclusion. That the media accepts their conclusions as gospel (see what I did there?) is problematic, but then, without fake news, there would be no news at all. It’s as American as Tiramasu.
But just because SPLC says so, can the State of Michigan use it as a substitute for either a definition provided by the legislature or a conclusion as a matter of law? Attorney General Dana Nessel and Civil Rights Director Agustin Arbulu seem to believe so, as they’ve taken the word of SPLC in formulating new state policy against hate groups.
Michigan Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin Arbulu announced the department is creating a process to document hate and bias incidents that don’t rise to the level of a crime or civil infraction.
Attorney General Dana Nessel previously announced plans for a hate crimes unit in her office. She reiterated the plans Friday after a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center found active hate and extremist groups in Michigan had increased by more than 6 percent from 2017 to 2018.
It’s not just that the SPLC report has motivated the AG to take action against hate groups in general, but that the groups identified by the SPLC as such are the specific targets based on the SPLC’s definition and conclusions.
The lawsuit says the recent policy announced by Nessel and Arbulu legitimizes the “radical, leftist” Southern Poverty Law Center’s efforts to “marginalize” political opponents by labeling them hate groups.
The lawsuit stems from an announcement last week in which Nessel said her office would form a hate crime unit to prosecute hate crimes and review any groups identified in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2018 list of hate groups. Arbulu also announced plans to create a database to track bias and hate incidents that don’t rise to the level of a crime.
The suit by the American Freedom Law Center challenges what it views as an unholy marriage between the State of Michigan and the SPLC.
3. Defendants and SPLC are conspiring and working jointly to promote SPLC’s radical political agenda by targeting political opponents, such as Plaintiff, for investigations, surveillance, public condemnation, public scorn, and other efforts designed to harm their work.
4. It is one thing for a radically-partisan private organization like SPLC to express its falsehoods about political opponents. However, when the Michigan Attorney General and the Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights join and officially endorse this partisan attack by lending government resources and thus becoming the government enforcement agency for SPLC’s radical agenda, the protections of the United States Constitution are triggered.
While there the suit may be premature, as no harm has, as yet, occurred as a result of this “conspiracy,” there is, or should be, some concern that government has seized upon an openly political perspective as a basis for official policy, and focus of its “hate crime” exercise of authority.
This isn’t to say that government hasn’t in the past, and doesn’t continue, to indulge in such partisan distinctions when formulating policy, Trump’s Muslim Ban being an obvious example. But here, it’s not Nessel or Arbulu making the call based on some definition established by law or their independent investigation, but because a non-governmental entity says so.
The SPLC isn’t under the thumb of any governmental entity to make its determinations any way other than how it pleases, as is its right. And indeed, it’s not named in the suit as it’s done nothing wrong. But then, the SPLC’s conclusions are its own, and can’t be bootstrapped into a basis for the government to pick sides and denominate any group a hate group. The SPLC doesn’t get to make law, no matter what the media tells you about their “hate group” designation. It’s just their view, even if it’s your view as well.