I have written many times before about the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization to which I contributed for many years back in the late 1970s and 1980s, when SPLC was fighting Klan groups.

In the past two decades, however, after the Klan ceased to be a significant force in the nation, the SPLC has descended into an organization which seeks to demonize legitimate opposition to Democratic Party policies and the Obama administration.

Here are some of my prior posts:

So why am I writing today about the SPLC? Because I just read an article in The Daily Caller (h/t Instapundit) in which the author notes that the SPLC lists Sarah Palin’s speech in Nashville last February at the National Tea Party Convention as one of the landmark events in the “Patriot Movement” historical timeline.

When SPLC speaks of the “patriot movement,” it doesn’t mean it as a compliment. Instead, here is how SPLC defines the movement (emphasis mine):

The 1990s saw the rise and fall of the virulently antigovernment “Patriot” movement, made up of paramilitary militias, tax defiers and so-called “sovereign citizens.” Sparked by a combination of anger at the federal government and the deaths of political dissenters at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, the movement took off in the middle of the decade and continued to grow even after 168 people were left dead by the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City’s federal building — an attack, the deadliest ever by domestic U.S. terrorists, carried out by men steeped in the rhetoric and conspiracy theories of the militias. In the years that followed, a truly remarkable number of criminal plots came out of the movement. But by early this century, the Patriots had largely faded, weakened by systematic prosecutions, aversion to growing violence, and a new, highly conservative president.

They’re back. Almost a decade after largely disappearing from public view, right-wing militias, ideologically driven tax defiers and sovereign citizens are appearing in large numbers around the country….

A key difference this time is that the federal government — the entity that almost the entire radical right views as its primary enemy — is headed by a black man. That, coupled with high levels of non-white immigration and a decline in the percentage of whites overall in America, has helped to racialize the Patriot movement, which in the past was not primarily motivated by race hate.

Why would SPLC put Sarah Palin’s Nashville speech in a timeline of this movement? Here is the entry on the timeline by SPLC:

Feb. 6, 2010: One-time GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin tells the first National Tea Party Convention in Nashville “America is ready for another revolution.”

Here is the link to the text of Palin’s speech. It is clear that SPLC is being purposefully misleading and deceptive in suggesting, by including this sentence from the speech in the timeline, that Palin was calling for violence consistent with the “Patriot movement” (as defined by SPLC).

In reality, Palin was speaking of the electoral revolution epitomized by Scott Brown’s then-recent victory in Massachusetts. Just three sentences after using the phrase quoted by SPLC, here is what Palin explained she meant by a “revolution” (emphasis mine):

Now in many ways Scott Brown represents what this beautiful movement is all about. He was just a guy with a truck and a passion to serve our country. He looked around and he saw that things weren’t quite right in Washington, so he stood up and he decided he was going do his part to put our government back on the side of the people. And it took guts and it took a lot of hard work, but with grassroots support, Scott Brown carried the day. It has been so interesting now to watch the aftermath of the Massachusetts shout-out revolution.

The sentence quoted by SPLC and the sentence I quote above are the only times Palin used the word “revolution” in her speech. Why would SPLC quote one, without quoting the other which explained what Palin meant?

So is Scott Brown also part of the “Patriot movement”? Shouldn’t Brown’s election, under SPLC’s standard, also be on the timeline? And the people of Massachusetts, are they now radicalized by the “Patriot movement”?

Perhaps SPLC could have quoted this part of Palin’s speech, in which she called for civility and a focus on electoral change (emphasis mine):

Because we are the loyal opposition. And we have a vision for the future of our country, too, and it is a vision anchored in time tested truths.

That the government that governs least, governs best. And that the Constitution provides the best road map towards a more perfect union. And that only limited government can expand prosperity and opportunity for all and that freedom is a God given right and it is worth fighting for. God bless you. And that America’s finest, our men and women in uniform, are a force for good throughout the world and that is nothing to apologize for.

These are enduring truths and these enduring truths have been passed down from Washington to Lincoln to Reagan and now to you. But while this movement, our roots there, in our spirit, too, they are historic. The current form of this movement is fresh and it’s young and it’s fragile. We are now the keepers of an honorable tradition of conservative values and good works. And we must never forget that it is a sacred trust to carry these ideas forward. It demands civility and it requires decent constructive issue-oriented debate.

Whatever SPLC once was, it now is a bastion of political hackery which, by equating legitimate political opposition with criminal violence, is doing substantial damage to our national fabric.

It is time for people of conscience to speak out against SPLC’s tactics.

Update 9-12-2010:  Via Instapundit – thanks for the link – comes an interesting article on SPLC’s self-serving obsession with “militias” going back to the early 1990s, The Militias Are Coming.

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