By Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ
What is its gift to the Southern Poverty Law Center telling bank customers?
Corporate America will do almost anything to stay on the safe side of public opinion—at least as it’s defined by the media. CEOs will apologize, grovel, resign, settle. They will even, as of this month, legitimize and fund an outfit that exists to smear conservatives.
The press is still obsessing over President Trump’s incompetent handling of the violence in Charlottesville, Va., and that has suited some profiteers just fine. The notorious Southern Poverty Law Center is quietly cashing in on the tragedy, raking in millions on its spun-up reputation as a group that “fights hate.” Apple CEO Tim Cook informed employees that his company is giving $1 million to SPLC and matching employee donations. J.P. Morgan Chase is pitching in $500,000, specifically to further the SPLC’s “work in tracking, exposing and fighting hate groups and other extremist organizations,” in the words of Peter Scher, the bank’s head of corporate responsibility.
What Mr. Scher is referring to is the SPLC’s “Hate Map,” its online list of 917 American “hate groups.” The SPLC alone decides who goes on the list, but its criteria are purposely vague. Since the SPLC is a far-left activist group, the map comes down to this: If the SPLC doesn’t agree with your views, it tags you as a hater.
Let’s not mince words: By funding this list, J.P. Morgan and Apple are saying they support labeling Christian organizations that oppose gay marriage as “hate groups.” That may come as a sour revelation to any bank customers who have donated to the Family Research Council (a mainstream Christian outfit on the SPLC’s list) or whose rights are protected by the Alliance Defending Freedom (which litigates for religious freedom and is also on the list).
Similarly put out may be iPhone owners who support the antiterror policies espoused by Frank Gaffney’s Washington think tank, the Center for Security Policy (on the SPLC’s list). Or any who back the proposals of the Center for Immigration Studies (on the list).
These corporations are presumably in favor of the SPLC’s practice of calling its political opponents “extremists,” which paints targets on their backs. The group’s “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists” lists Mr. Gaffney (who worked for the Reagan administration); Maajid Nawaz (a British activist whose crimes include tweeting a cartoon of Jesus and Muhammad ); and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (a Somali refugee who speaks out against Islamic extremism).
The SPLC has tarred the respected social scientist Charles Murray, author of the well-regarded book “Losing Ground,” as a “white nationalist.” Mr. Murray has been physically assaulted on campus as a result. He happens to be married to an Asian woman and has Asian daughters, so the slur is ludicrous. But what’s a little smearing and career destruction if J.P. Morgan Chase gets some good headlines?
It isn’t only the lists. An honest outfit tracking violent groups would keep to straightforward descriptions and facts. Instead, the SPLC’s descriptions of people are brutally partisan, full of half-truths and vitriol designed to inspire fury.
We’ve seen what this kind of fury can do in Europe, with the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the controversial filmmaker, by a Dutch-Moroccan Islamic fanatic. Ms. Hirsi Ali, who had worked with Van Gogh, still travels with security—and J.P. Morgan thinks it appropriate to further target her? In 2012 a gay-marriage supporter named Floyd Corkins smashed into the Family Research Council’s headquarters and shot a security guard. He told police he was inspired by the SPLC’s “hate group” designation.
Had the companies done a bit of homework, they’d have discovered the SPLC isn’t even considered a sound charity. Karl Zinsmeister excoriated the outfit in a recent article for Philanthropy Roundtable: “Its two largest expenses are propaganda operations: creating its annual list of ‘haters’ and ‘extremists,’ and running a big effort that pushes ‘tolerance education’ through more than 400,000 public-school teachers. And the single biggest effort undertaken by the SPLC? Fundraising. On the organization’s 2015 IRS 990 form it declared $10 million of direct fundraising expenses, far more than it has ever spent on legal services.”
Apple did not return a call to its media center. J.P. Morgan Chase, in an emailed statement, said only that it has a “long history of supporting a range of organizations that are committed to addressing inequality.”
The corporate donations are nonetheless appalling, as they legitimize a group that already exercises inappropriate influence. The SPLC’s list is cited regularly by the media and congressional Democrats, ignorant or uncaring of its falsehoods. The charity tracker GuideStar for a time attached warning labels to philanthropies flagged by the SPLC.
This undermines the fight against truly hateful groups. Comparing pro bono lawyers at the Alliance Defending Freedom to hood-wearing KKK members only make the Klan seem more innocuous. Blackballing mainstream groups only silences the moderate voices the country needs to fight hate and bigotry.
Corporations have a role to play in calming today’s divisions. This is the opposite.