The Middlebury College attackers who shut down Charles Murray's talk and assaulted a professor accompanying him drew their argument in part from a familiar source. They cited the Southern Poverty Law Center's labeling of Murray as a racist.
This isn't the first time that the SPLC's efforts of supposedly labeling "extremists" has led to violence against its targets. The worst such incident remains the attack on the Family Research Council headquarters by an attacker who used its "hate map" as the basis for his plot.
Floyd Lee Corkins opened fire at the headquarters of the Family Research Council. The conservative Christian organization had been targeted by Corkins because of its appearance on the SPLC’s list.
"Southern Poverty Law lists anti-gay groups. I found them online,” Corkins later confessed to the FBI.
When Leo Johnson, the building’s African-American manager, attempted to stop Corkins, the SPLC shooter told Johnson that he didn’t like his politics and opened fire. The SPLC gunman had planned to kill everyone in the office, but Johnson’s heroic actions saved their lives. The African-American building manager was forced to undergo painful surgeries because of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate list.
Despite its role in the terror attack, the SPLC continues to target the Family Research Council.
The SPLC's smear of Murray was frequently cited as justification for the Middlebury protests and opposition to his appearances. The Southern Poverty Law Center, like Snopes, is one of those ridiculously sloppy institutions, that makes claims without bothering to prove them, while skating by on name recognition. But the fact that its smears have led to violence twice is a serious issue.
When an organization that claims to fight extremism instead causes it, without ever apologizing or conducting a conversation about how to change its practices, it becomes an extremist hate group.
The Freedom Center's Discover the Networks resource site exposes more about the Southern Poverty Law Center at its profile page here.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.