This week, the Southern Poverty Law Center released a new report, claiming that hate is on the rise — has risen to a 20-year high, in fact. The number of active groups “espousing hate” has been placed at 1,020 (four years ago, the SPLC placed this number at 784).
According to their website, “fighting hate” is a primary mission of their organization. It is “what we do.” But this raises some interesting questions. Isn’t “fighting” rather combative for a group ostensibly dedicated to opposing such things? Of course, they couch their language in plausibly-deniable vagaries, like “monitoring the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists,” as if they simply kept files under lock and key and passed them on to the relevant authorities in the unlikely chance that such information was needed. Wikipedia is more objective in its description:
…an American nonprofit legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation. Based in Montgomery, Alabama, it is known for its successful legal cases against white supremacist groups, its classification of hate groups and other extremist organizations, and for promoting tolerance education programs.
In short, their mission is to seek and destroy. They hunt down organizations which they classify as hateful, and then they sue those organizations — and the individuals who constitute them — to death.
This raises a few interesting questions, most notably, “what’s hate?” Nowhere on their website does the SPLC attempt to define “hatred,” and provide some objective standard by which certain groups are deemed “hateful” while others are not.
Allow me to illustrate this with an example. When I look at the Washington section of the SPLC’s map, it lists both anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim organizations in their “hate list.” This may seem strange, since a great number of people oppose Islam explicitly — perhaps even exclusively — on the grounds that the religion is intrinsically and inexorably anti-gay. One exemplary gay “Islamophobe” who is important enough to return 124 results on the SPLC’s web-search is just such an opponent of Islam: Milo Yiannoupolous. Is someone who defends Islam an anti-LGBT extremist? Is someone who defends LGBT rights Islamophobic by definition? Are we allowed to choose sides without ending up on their list? Most of these classifications are not the results of criminal activity, but merely based on what people say. “Hatred,” after all, isn’t a crime — not yet, anyways — and their mission is to exterminate the emotion.
And what about their laser-focus on the political right? Isn’t it strange that Donald Trump — the first president to enter the office supporting gay marriage — gets 117 mentions in their report, while Antifa organizations who criminally threaten, vandalize, assault, and attempt to kill their political opponents, while advocating the overthrow of the government and of order itself, get a mere four mentions. All four of these are either direct or paraphrased quotes from “hateful” right-wing groups, talking about their civil concerns and the danger Antifa poses to themselves. A more general search of “antifa” on the SPLC website returns similar results.
Is Antifa not a hate group? I find that hard to believe, given the persistence and depth of their feelings towards the political right. These, Antifa label as “fascists” with the indiscriminate zeal of a person holding a hammer for the first time, and who now sees everything as a nail to be beaten down.
Hatred can be a tricky emotion to define, but all experts agree that it is characterized by a sustained feeling of anger that is associated with violence. Personally, I think it is more closely associated with disgust than anger, and that it can only be directed towards a conscious mind (and have made that argument in a short book). But in either case, Antifa’s behavior qualifies. Their concerted and long-lasting campaign against “fascists” is dedicated — however ineptly — to their enemy’s ultimate destruction. It is motivated by a deep-seated anger born of ideology, and when you see them face their enemies in person, the disgust is palpable.
I know this from personal experience.
However, unlike the SPLC, my own criticism of Antifa is not for their hatred. Au contraire, a small part of me kind of admires the Antifa a little bit, pathetic as they are. At least they’re fighting for something — never mind their ignorance of what precisely that is, or their unskillful pursuit of that elusive end.
All hatred comes from love. What’s wrong with Antifa is not that they hate, but what they hate, and what they hate is a product of what they love. In short, they love the wrong thing. Their visions of anarchism and communism are impossible. They are inhuman, and they don’t work.
But if they were appropriate goals — if anarcho-syndicalism was a viable and superior political path to the older and more venerable systems — than the group identities which impede that goal would be appropriate targets of hatred.
With this argument made, it should not be taken as a criticism when I say that the SPLC is a hate group. Imagine replacing the word “hate” with its functional definition — “disgust towards mind,” or “prolonged, violence-prone antipathy” — and this becomes undeniably obvious. More than a hate group, in fact: they are an extraordinarily successful hate group. Their hatred is channeled with cool calculation and patience. After all, they go out of their way to “fight hate,” which of course just means to fight those who they more or less arbitrarily define as hateful, and given their hyperbolic and intensely manipulative language (example: they define “anti-immigrant” — an essentially valid political opinion — as “the most extreme of the hundreds of nativist and vigilante groups;” they then include think tanks like the Center for Immigration Studies as though they were armed rednecks running through the hills shooting migrants), it is clear that deep and intense emotions, allowed to grow in depth and sophistication for decades.
So what is it that the SPLC loves, which drives such hatred?
This is what makes the SPLC such an interesting oraganization, since they seem to hide what they love. Their targets, by contrast, are always first and foremost about what they love, and only become confrontational in defense of that. For an organization dedicated to “fighting hate,” leading with opposition and hiding the motivational cause seems like a strange maneuver, but paradoxically, it has been reasonably successful. By rhetorically opposing “hatred” generally, they affect an objective pose which makes them appear judicious and unbiased.
Of course, the credibility of this posture evaporates beneath their feet under even a glancing look. Not the most important, but the most obvious absurdity has been their decision to label Maajid Nawaz — a practicing Muslim and a liberal — as an “anti-Islamic extremist.”
Nevertheless, the strategy deserves more attention. More on this shortly.
On their “what we do” page, their most prominent listed targets are as follows:
Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Nazi movement, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, antigovernment militias, [and] Christian Identity adherents
“Black separatists” aside (this is the leftist equivalent of “I have a friend who’s black”) every single one of these organizations is explicitly or tacitly white. More damning, two of the most prominent hate groups of the past few years — Black Lives Matter and Antifa — are conspicuously absent. Following Cicero’s incisive logic and asking “who benefits?,” it is obvious that the SPLC hates White America.
But this dodges the question of motivation, since hatred is rarely a primary motivator. It is always at least instigated by threatened or defiled love, even if that love is eventually forgotten and only the hate remains.
Given their language (“discrimination,” “powerless,” “exploitation,” etc), one may be tempted to conclude that they are motivated by ideological notions of political and social justice. But this appears to me as an ex-post-facto cover, not only due to the barely concealed bias in the prosecution of their stated mission, but also because of the practically non-existent interest shown in these fields. Their “resources” have no information on the foundations of justice and the reasons they believe tolerance is superior; they are primarily just lists of targets and means of identifying them, and the one exception (“teaching tolerance“) sticks out like a sore thumb. It doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the page, and when you actually click through, the contents are just mantras: “tolerance good;” “diversity good;” “hate bad.”
When Socrates claimed to love justice, it was proven through his allocation of attention. He spent years actually trying to figure out what justice was, and his advocated positions arose as a result of his investigations, which always remained primary. If someone has reversed these, and is persistently and enthusiastically promoting something without an evident reason — or any apparent interest in having a reason — they’re either trying to dupe you or sell you something.
Honesty requires me to say that I do not know what the SPLC’s ulterior motive (their “object of love”) is. I find it highly unlikely that they have no originating object of love, but they have so successfully hidden it under layers of superficial bullshit and invitations to presumption — wherein the reader is simply assumed to share the assumption that (for instance) hatred is bad — that it cannot be ascertained with any certainty. I have my guesses, but I will keep those to myself… for the same reason that they keep the real answer to themselves.
There is an apocryphal Mormon story that is worth sharing as an allegory. According to legend, God actually has a wife, but he keeps her name and existence a secret, so as to prevent people from mocking or profaning her. We protect what we love, and secrecy is a great first line of protection. Maybe that’s a lesson “hateful” groups can learn from the SPLC: hide your intentions from your enemies. Don’t advertise what you care about most to people who hate you.
But it isn’t a lesson to overlearn. We are what we repeatedly do, and if you live your life immersed in deception of your enemies, repetition will eventually get you. You’ll believe your own bullshit.
Love Trump’s Hate.
Diversity is our strength.
Better just to avoid these kinds than to become them. The ideal manifestation of justified hatred isn’t combat. It’s avoidance, either by staying away from what is hateful, or persuading it to keep its distance.
Given the deceptive hypocrisy or bland stupidity of those who condemn hatred in a blanket fashion, it’s best to just stay away from groups like the SPLC, rather than to become them. Author and podcaster Sam Harris has likened the SPLC to a group of immature children given enormous legal power and funding. Even to their supporters, the SPLC seems to have diminished in its intellectual firepower since their first generation in the 80s and 90s has been replaced.
They’ve come to believe their own bullshit. The cleverly disguised motives have been lost in the transfer of power, and whatever positive reason — whatever object of love — that motivated their hatred has been lost and subsumed by the hatred itself. They now attack “hatred,” and the contradiction reflects a more general purposelessness. Immersing oneself in deception leads to self-deception. Self-deception leads to loss in love and purpose. Pretend to stand for something long enough, and eventually you’ll forget it’s a pretense.
In this way, the SPLC is an iconic example of everything that’s wrong with modern attitudes about hatred. They symbolize the hypocrisy, the deceptiveness, and the ultimate self-destruction latent in the moral rejection of hatred.