In the academic study “Watching the Watchers: The Neglect of Academic Analysis of Progressive Groups,” published in the January 2014 issue of Academic Questions, Professor John Yancey finds that Southern Poverty Law Center provides a concrete example of “irrational shortcomings” regarding the publishing of its “Hatewatch” list.

The academic paper was reported by Napp Nazworth at the Christian Post

The “Hatewatch” list is, in actual fact, a list of Southern Poverty Law Center’s enemies–oftentimes Christian groups, for example. In August 2012, a man carrying a copy of that Hatewatch list started shooting in the lobby of the Family Research Council building in Washington, DC. Southern Poverty Law Center had placed the pro-Christian Family Research Council on its “Hatewatch.”

Yancey points out examples where, according to SPLC’s definition of “hate group,” leftist organizations should be included on its list.

As our society became more politically partisan, SPLC cemented its position as speaking for those with progressive political and social attitudes. Rather than developing into an objective clearinghouse for the identification of hatred – no matter where the source of that hatred may develop – SPLC has become a useful organization for progressives to legitimate their battle against conservatives. Since conservative Christians are categorized as opponents there is little, if any, incentive for SPLC to recognize hateful expressions against Christians, because doing so actually works against the social vested interest of the group.

Even after the publishing of this study, SPLC’s website forges ahead with erroneous and bizarre declarations that only suit its extremist political agenda. For example, see how SPLC tries to malign “Patriot” groups by including them with the Oklahoma City bombers. From the SPLC website:

Since 2000, the number of hate groups has increased by 56 percent. This surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president.

These factors also are feeding a powerful resurgence of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement, which in the 1990s led to a string of domestic terrorist plots, including the Oklahoma City bombing. The number of Patriot groups, including armed militias, skyrocketed following the election of President Obama in 2008 – rising 813 percent, from 149 groups in 2008 to an all-time high of 1,360 in 2012. The number fell to 1,096 in 2013.

In 2010 Professor Jacobson detailed how the SPLC’s Hatewatch and the organization in general has been detrimental in the real fight against hate:

Time and again SPLC, through its Hatewatch division, seeks to shut down debate by applying the “hate group” or similar epithets to political opponents, and those political opponents almost always are conservative.

Being labeled a “hate group” by SPLC can be devastating, because most of the country is unaware of how politicized SPLC has become.  Until I started blogging a little over two years ago, I too was working off of SPLC’s prior reputation of fighting real hate groups, like the Klan.

Yancey’s study ought to provide the impetus for a conversation amongst all level-headed academics about why groups like Southern Poverty Law Center are given a pass as they apply an arbitrary and partisan-fueled “standard” to intimidate, inspire fear, and malign those with whom they disagree.

As a sidenote, last summer I passed a group of women asking for signatures for the Southern Poverty Law Center. After hurrying by and refusing to sign, I stopped, turned around, and asked the woman if I could speak to her about the group. I told her how, as a Christian who believes wholeheartedly in the message of my faith–of love and tolerance and of standards and of sin, I would be labeled as someone who “promulgates hate.”

She was shocked, said she had no idea who they were and was just doing it for a job. As I watched, she gathered the two other women and they left the street. I have no idea if they stopped asking for signatures, but I felt like it was my responsibility to let her know–and I encourage you to do the same–that while because a group says they’re fighting hate, your good intentions may be in fact enabling an organization that ought to examine itself along that score.

For all Legal Insurrection posts regarding the Southern Poverty Law Center, see our SPLC Tag, including these posts:

(Featured image: Mark Potok of SPLC Hatewatch blaming radical right for Gabby Giffords shooting – YouTube)