Ever noticed how many “mainstream” and “neutral” institutions end up with a left-of-center bias? The media and government-run schools are good examples.
In recent weeks, a battle erupted over another mainstream institution when Guidestar.org, a well-known website in the nonprofit world, struggled to decide whether it would leave its well-earned neutrality behind and sign on to an ideological crusade by the hard-left Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
You may have used Guidestar’s website to check out charities before donating to them. The site is the standard place to go to view objective data on the nonprofit world. It offers public tax filings and similar data on hundreds of thousands of groups, and my colleagues and I at the Capital Research Center, a nonprofit watchdog, use it every day.
But recently, the site began giving visitors a thoroughly non-objective bit of information: It started flagging dozens of nonprofits as “hate groups,” using the list of such groups concocted by the SPLC.
Nobody ever accused the SPLC of being neutral or mainstream. It is, bluntly put, a far-left smear machine with ideological and venal motives for its famous list, which mixes some genuinely sicko groups with mainstream conservative groups the SPLC hopes to harm. This con job advances both SPLC’s goal of weakening its ideological opponents and also the aim of scaring its center-left donor base into ponying up still more cash for the embarrassingly profitable “nonprofit.”
Don’t take my word for it. Read the liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who regularly sneers at conservatives, as he denounces SPLC’s smears against “mainstream conservative” groups in a column appropriately titled, “Hateful Speech on Hate Groups.”
As for the SPLC’s lust for cash, that’s been denounced by groups all over the leftward side of the spectrum. See the criticisms in the Progressive, the Nation, and Harper’s. The author of that last broadside sums up the problem: “The SPLC shuts down debate, stifles free speech, and most of all, raises a pile of money, very little of which is used on behalf of poor people.”
Conservative groups like my own have made the same argument over and over again, and in the midst of the latest controversy, The Wall Street Journal ran an excellent op-ed on the topic. The prestigious donors group Philanthropy Roundtable has likewise critiqued the SPLC’s disreputable behavior.
And as bad as these criticisms are, the SPLC has far worse black marks against it. One mainstream conservative think tank it labeled a “hate group” was attacked by an armed crazy who had read the SPLC’s propaganda and was inspired to attempt mass murder. Again, don’t take my word for it. Listen to the man say it himself on this video.
The FRC shooting was in 2012, but the SPLC continues to drag public debate from the level of honest argument down to the thuggish depths of violence. Earlier this year, you’ll recall, Middlebury College was disgraced when the social scientist Charles Murray and a liberal professor who was supposed to debate him were violently attacked by a mob that sent the liberal professor to the hospital. The mob’s motivation? SPLC’s smear on Murray.
In short, Guidestar had to know that the SPLC is an ideological bully, a “charity” as corrupt as the sleaziest televangelist, and a font of hateful violence. Yet somehow Guidestar was willing to sully its reputation as a neutral, mainstream source of information.
Could anything other than ideological fervor explain that choice? Thank goodness the fervor wasn’t strong enough to overcome the outcry it occasioned this time.
Score one loss for the Left. They’ll have to make due with CNN, the public schools, and Harvard.
Scott Walter is president of the Capital Research Center in Washington, DC. He served in the George W. Bush administration as Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy.