Thursday, December 9, 2010

Success Breeds Excess

The Civil Rights movement and legislation in the 60s brought a sea-change to race relations in America. But there was still much to be done. Giving poor blacks in the South equal rights wasn't the same thing as allowing them to exercise those rights. Many fine organizations which advanced what the Civil Rights statutes had only put into books grew up. One of those was the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Co-founder Morris Dees has been a tireless worker for equality and racial justice since the SPLC was created in 1971. He has successfully sued racist domestic terror groups, putting several of them out of business entirely. He expanded the mission of the Center beyond its Southern roots in recognition of the fact that there was still considerable institutional racism in the North. Even into the 80s, the SPLC was breaking ground for recognition of the effects of de facto segregation and very real racial discrimination. It was particularly effective in shutting down violent racist groups by use of civil lawsuits.

Still, like so many formerly excellent and dedicated civil rights groups, the SPLC has done such a good job of defeating the enemies of racial justice that they have largely run out of major targets. There will always be racism and violent racists to exploit it, but 2010 is not 1970. Much of the work is done, daily vigilance is being exercised, and almost all governmental agencies are on-board and vigorous in enforcing both the words and the intent of the civil rights statutes.

But Dees has built a huge organization with a large campus of its own and branch offices. The organization is registered as a not-for-profit corporation, and all indications are that it remains so. It is not profit that motivates Dees and his lawyers. It's a palpable dedication to liberal-left social engineering, using the law as a sword more than as a shield. The organization's mission has gone beyond ending racial hatred and violence against racial and ethnic minorities, and has moved onto the "everybody's a victim" stage. When the organization found that the big dragons had been slain or subdued, it was time to move on to smaller and occasionally imaginary dragons. Dees is one of those very fearsome creatures called "true believers."

Following the lead of political grandstanders and demogogic people-dividers, Dees has decided that since the Ku Klux Klan is now a pathetic shadow of its former monstrous self, he might as well go after the Family Research Council. The SPLC's mission is now to fight "hate" and "bigotry" in all its forms, which mostly includes any organization that doesn't have the same socio-politico-religious goals as the Center. Dees knows that the legitimate use of the words "hate group" have genuine meaning as a result of the success of the civil rights era. It worked with racist bigots (easy to recognize one), so use it to denigrate any group that disagrees with you. From skin color to opinions and beliefs is not any easy leap, but Dees is not a simple man.

What "don't ask, don't tell" has to do with Southern poverty or race is beyond me, but Dees sees it as a crystal clear. Some people think that openly gay people should be allowed full access to the military. Others don't. The former are the champions of truth, justice and the American way. The latter are hate groups. Now is it clear to you? If there aren't enough hate groups around to support your immense staff of do-gooders, create them or simply name a few that aren't of your own particular philosophy.

Dees has named the Family Research Council as mentioned above, along with the American Family Association, the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, the Family Research Institute, the Illinois Family Institute, the National Organization for Marriage, the Coral Ridge Ministries, Concerned Women for America, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, Mass Resistance, Liberty Counsel, and the Traditional Values Coalition. He has put all of these groups in the same category as the Klan simply because they disagree with him on the issue of homosexuality and the military.

Former Attorney General Ed Meese says "I think it is attacking them for exercising their freedom of speech and their freedom of religion." Meese is a much-honored purveyor of the law, but he missed the memo about "no freedom for 'hate speech'" and "freedom from religion." Meese accurately points out that Dees and the Center have cited no evidence of any kind that the Family Research Council or any other major pro-family traditionalists are hate groups.

Some of the "hateful lies" that the conservative groups are alleged by Dees to have used is that gay men have a lower life expectancy. Dees gives no explanation for how this is hateful, and in addition ignores the fact that studies made at liberal universities have found life expectancy for gay men to be 8 to 21 years less than the general male population (the higher mortality figures were reached during the height of the AIDS epidemic). But if you point that out, even sympathetically, you're a hater. Likewise for the suicide rate. Clearly the Center has gone from being a respectable defender of racial minorities to becoming a full-fledged political advocacy group.

The point of this article is not to debate or re-debate the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. We've already done that, several times. The real point is that certain major civil rights groups have lost their original raison d'etre and have moved on to attempting to force their own social views on the public by use of lawfare. The Southern Poverty Law Center, and Morris Dees himself have become the shock troops of the most dangerous kind of zealots. When advocating the murder of a black person or denying him his constitutional rights solely because of his race becomes muddled up with military policy towards openly gay men and women serving in the military, fascistic personal values have replaced both the Constitution and the right to disagree on religious grounds.


Tennessee Jed said...

A nice post about Dees. As we have often discussed, terms like "hate group" "racist" or "bigot" have lost all real meaning because they have been co-opted for political gain. The fact that there are a few true "haters" of people based on race or sexual orientation left adds to the ability of some to exploit these terms for their own agenda while giving them just the scent of legitimacy.

I don't know if anyone at Commenterama followed a story that took place just a couple of miles from my old home in Pennsylvania. Somebody put up a sign at West Chester University as a gag, calling for interest in a "white" student union group. This brought out the left in droves quickly getting the University to denounce the formation of such a racist organization.

Of course, left out of the denunciation is that there is a "black" student union as well as other ethnic identity groups at the University. Only "white" groups are permitted to be automatically branded with the "R" word.

Libertarian Advocate said...

I feel compelled to argue that SPLC is indeed a for-profit entity, even if its not directly earning money for shareholders, it certainly it pays salaries to its staff and serves as a springboard for them to parlay their positions into more lucrative gigs.

Tehachapi Tom said...

Excellent and informative as usual you have made a great post. I have to admit Dees has not been one I ever followed or was interested in.

Your treatment brought to light, for me, who and what Dees is.
This sort of missing the mission, use of the law is just one of the problems our country has.

Of course in a utopia no one would be able to do such but we live in the real world.

Personally I am against the abandoning "don't ask don't tell.

However I do feel everyone has the "right to existence" and should not have to tolerate attacks from anyone who simply doesn't approve of their particular circumstances.

Is it because we have such a transparent world with instant info distribution. Or have we as a people evolved into this "I don't like you or what you are doing so I'll sue."

With that style then only those with the resources to impose their views will prevail.

That will present a very skewed society. At that point in time we won't have any real freedom of expression left for us.

I feel that freedom of thought and expression is what has made us what we are today.

Anonymous said...

Tennessee: I hadn't seen that particular incident, but it's certainly no surprise. The affirmative action bake sales have been stirring up the left on campus for several years now. Liberals seem to have completely lost the ability to comprehend satire and irony.

Richard Keefe said...

In 1994, SPLC founder Morris Dees vowed that he would stop soliciting donations when the SPLC’s Endowment Fund reached $100 million dollars. It reached that mark in 2002, yet the fund-raising letters continued to go out like clockwork.

By 2007, the Endowment Fund had reached $200 million, and still the fund-raising letters went out.

Last year the Endowment Fund generated $39 million dollars in interest, or more than $15 million dollars in excess of the SPLC’s total annual expenses, (minus the $5.3 million they spent on fund-raising), and yet the fund-raising letters, like this one from this past September,, keep coming.

If this be “non-profitability,” where do I sign up??

The most ironic (read: “hypocritical”) thing about the Southern Poverty Law Center is that NOT ONE of its top ten, highest paid executives is a minority.”

In fact, according to the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, despite being located LITERALLY in the back yard of Dr. Martin Luther King’s home church, the SPLC has NEVER hired a person of color to a highly paid position of power.

Some “experts”

Anonymous said...

Tehachapi Tom: I agree entirely on freedom of speech and expression. And I would add that the Founders didn't write the First Amendment to protect pleasant, agreeable speech. It was specifically designed to protect obnoxious, unpopular and controversial political and religious speech. The Constitution does not guarantee everyone the right to feel comfortable about what someone else says.

Anonymous said...

Richard Keefe: Welcome.

You've done your homework. As I indicated in the article, the Center has grown to immense proportions. I would say excessive proportions. And like all corporations, for-profit or otherwise, its basic goal is to perpetuate its own existence. Dees has accomplished that in stellar ways.

Breaking his promise to stop soliciting donations after reaching $100 million and then breaking that promise makes him a liar, or a politician. Failure to hire a person of color in Montgomery could be a coincidence, but it sounds a lot more like hypocrisy. And as we've mentioned above, it doesn't sound like any of the staff are suffering from poverty.

These are all valid and damning criticisms of Dees and the SPLC, but as I mentioned to Libertarian Advocate, it's probably not unlawful, and it probably doesn't alter the "not-for-profit" nature of the SPLC itself under present IRS and other federal standards. That doesn't make me happy, but a lot of perfectly lawful things don't make me happy.

StanH said...

Just like the SCLC, NAACP the SPLC has morphed into an organization looking for a reason to exist. What’s the alternative get a job. Though the importance of civil rights are essential to our Republic, the flip side of special rights is Balkanizing our great country, pitting one against the other. MLK’s admonition, “judge a man by the content of his character, not by the color of his skin,” is totally lost with present day race/victim hustlers, sadly Dees is falling into that category. Like you I watched this guy from the beginning and I’d say, right on with his early work, but of late he’s nothing more than another liberal trying to dissemble America through the courts. It makes me wonder, was he a Marxist, or a crusader for equal rights first, or both, and his long game in truth, like most liberals, was to destroy America by using civil rights as his vehicle? Sorry to be so cynical, but life has taught me to look at things like this with a jaundiced eye.

Anonymous said...

Stan: Sadly, a lot of radicals in the 60s joined the movement to right historical wrongs. I was one of them. But there comes a time to say "we've accomplished our grand goals," not let's get on with the business of making it work. Too many became so enamored of the "movement" that they just couldn't bring themselves to leave. Dees is one of those. If he doesn't have a cause, real, created, or imagined, he has no reason to exist.

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