The Southern Poverty Law Center  recently released its Intelligence Project report on the number of hate groups operating in America.  Surprise!  It reports things are grim, and getting worse:

Taken together, these three strands of the radical right — the hatemongers, the nativists and the antigovernment zealots — increased from 1,753 groups in 2009 to 2,145 in 2010, a 22% rise. That followed a 2008-2009 increase of 40%.

Considering they don’t reveal their methodology (What, exactly, constitutes a hate group?  How does one distinguish between skepticism about government and being an “anti-government zealot”), this should be viewed as nothing more or less than a political organization talking their book, like a stock broker that fails to reveal that he happens to own the stock he’s trying to sell you.  Without ever-increasing numbers of hate groups against which to rail, why would NPR need to interview a spokesman for the group on its nationally-syndicated Morning Edition?

What sorts of things catch the eye of the Southern Poverty Law Center such that it ominously warns of an expansion in hate?  Let’s look at a few cited by Mark Potok, the Intelligence Project’s director:

…Last April, for instance, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed S.B. 1070, the harshest anti-immigrant law in memory, setting off a tsunami of proposals for similar laws across the country…

…It’s also clear that other kinds of radical activity are on the rise. Since the murder last May 20 of two West Memphis, Ark., police officers by two members of the so-called “sovereign citizens” movement, police from around the country have contacted the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to report what one detective in Kentucky described as a “dramatic increase” in sovereign activity…

…That’s in addition, the same month, to the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, an attack that left six dead and may have had a political dimension…

…In Virginia, a state legislator wants to pass a law aimed at creating an alternative currency “in the event of the destruction of the Federal Reserve System’s currency” — a longstanding fear of right-wing extremists. And in Montana, a state senator is working to pass a statute called the “Sheriffs First Act” that would require federal law enforcement to ask local sheriffs’ permission to act in their counties or face jail…

…There also are new attempts by nativist forces to roll back birthright citizenship, which makes all children born in the U.S. citizens. Such laws have been introduced this year in Congress, and a coalition of state legislators is promising to do the same in their states…

Thus, it appears that in some respects, one man’s hate group is another man’s federal or state representative.  It should be pointed out that killing police officers, or anyone, without good cause (self-defense), is a punishable crime, whether done out of hate or because of membership in a an anti-government group.   

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a fraud directed at building political capital for left-wing causes by exploiting and orchestrating right-wing lunacy.  It exists in symbiotic harmony with the groups it claims to oppose, offering them legitimacy and publicity in return for its own legitimacy and publicity.   A good many of these looney-bin organizations it tracks have only the SPLC making them relevant.  If the SPLC went away, so would they.  Perhaps the activities of the SPLC should be examined as closely as those whom it claims to oppose.   The legitimacy and publicity it affords wacko groups seems to foster, rather than impair, their creation, and the SPLC is heavily vested in the continued spread of hate groups and hatred.  Without them, what is its raison d’être?

The way to best deal with idiotic ideologies is in the marketplace of ideas.  Worthy ideas will be awarded with generous followings; lousy ones will wither and die on the vine.  Highlighting and actively opposing lousy ideas because of deeply-held political bias will only serve to broadcast the seeds of the ideas in ways ignoring them never would.  The SPLC reveals its political underpinnings by conflating and combining legitimate ideas reached by normal political processes with the truly whacko ideas of a very few right-wing loonies.  Is the Arizona  legislature a hate group?  How about  Virginia’s and Montana’s?  Or, the US Congress? 

The truth of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s mission is revealed in Mr. Potok’s explanation for the increase in hate and hate groups:

What seems certain is that President Obama will continue to serve as a lightning rod for many on the political right, a man who represents both the federal government and the fact that the racial make-up of the United States is changing, something that upsets a significant number of white Americans. And that suggests that the polarized politics of this country could get worse before they get better.

Now I get it.  Opposing Obama means one is hateful, or antigovernment, or something, because he is black, or at least half-black, even though the racial make-up of the United States is not changing in favor of blacks.  It is changing in favor of immigrants, specifically Hispanic immigrants, to the detriment of blacks and whites.  But opposing Obama–a politician–is either hateful or anti-government, or, at bottom, anti-American.  Never mind that allowing and encouraging such opposition as a healthy exercise of political freedom is exactly what the federal government charter was designed to accommodate. 

Even the name “Southern Poverty Law Center” is a fraud.  It is Southern only in the location of its headquarters.  It is not some lonely bastion of freedom beaconing in the dark night of Jim Crow like its name implies.  (Every organization in the South seems to want to put some derivative of “Southern” in its name these days, or did.  From the Southern Company (electric utility) to the old AmSouth (predecessor to Regions Bank) and BellSouth (predecessor to AT&T), including “Southern” or “South” seems/ed to be good for business).  The SPLC is not in the least way concerned with poverty, unless you count the poverty of the members of hate groups it tracks.  Skinheads rarely hail from the top strata of the socio-economic rankings.  It is more about politics than law, but in all fairness, I’ll concede that politics is to the law what diplomacy is to war. 

When the organization actually engages in what it claims is its purpose, it is patently anti-democratic.  People that hate other people have every right to organize and freely speak their views (with the “fire in a crowded theater” limitation, inter alia).  And of course, the SPLC also has every right to loathe  others that exercise the rights afforded them by government in ways with which they disagree.  They even have the right to loathe the granting of rights to others with whom they disagree.  They can be as anti-democratic in their opinions as they wish.  That’s a right we all enjoy by dint of the charter creating this democratic republic.   But they full well know their protestations against hate groups will fail.  They’re counting on it.

But at least hate groups are honest in their purposes.  The Southern Poverty Law Center cynically exploits their honesty to not-so-honestly promote its agenda and relevancy.