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Fighting Extremism – If It’s the Right Kind

March 8, 2011


Everyone has likely heard of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and it’s well known co-founding attorney, Morris Dees.  Mr. Dees has made a career of using the SPLC to take down hate and extremist groups in America using civil lawsuits, crusading for civil rights.  Mr. Dees also uses the SPLC to publicize, and criticize, hate and extremist groups regularly in the SPLC’s Intelligence Report.  That is as long as it is right-wing hate or extremist groups like the Aryan Nation or the Ku Klux Klan for example.  I have a problem with this intentional blindness by Mr. Dees and the SPLC.

The report regularly identifies hate and extremist groups around America in the articles written for the publication.  An interested person can use an interactive map to look up hate groups in every U.S. State.  They’ll be nicely listed after clicking on a particular state.  But, did I mention you’ll not find any left-wing extremist or hate groups listed?  In fact the only standout non-white ideology listed by SPLC on the map is Black Separatists (like the Nation of Islam) groups.  Recently the SPLC has been taking some heat from conservatives for listing conservative organizations as hate groups (such as the Family Research Council for example).

I find it very interesting that a man, and an organization controlled by him, finds only right-wing hate and extremists to be a danger to the country.  Are not there left-wing extremists in America?  One would guess, since Mr. Dees and the SPLC show none, that the nation has no enemies from the left-wing of the political spectrum.  Ah, but there is just one little problem, well maybe two problems, with that idea.  The Department of Homeland Security states otherwise.  In fact, so does the Southern Poverty Law Center!

Back in April of 2009, The Department of Homeland Security released a report, “Leftwing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyber Attacks over the Coming Decade.”  The report focuses primarily on the “more prominent leftwing groups within the animal rights, environmental, and anarchist extremist movements that promote or have conducted criminal or terrorist activities,” according to the report (specifically mentioning the Animal Liberation Front).  Page three of the report states, “Direct actions range from animal releases, property theft, vandalism, and cyber attacks—all of which extremists regard as nonviolent—to bombings and arson.”  These two statements would seem to clearly indicate that groups in this report are extremists.  Why isn’t Mr. Dees and the SPLC taking the same steps to keep Americans well informed on the left-wing extremism?  Why isn’t Mr. Dees directing the SPLC to, as is stated on the SPLC’s web site, have “representatives communicate regularly with law enforcement agencies about extremist activity and conduct in-person training for officers at the local, state and federal level,” in regards to these left-wing extremists? (source)


Could it be that Mr. Dees, and the SPLC, doesn’t recognize these groups as extremist?  Not likely since the SPLC has posted items on these groups under their Intelligence Files.  For instance, here is an article on a possible death attempt on a university researcher in California whose had his car brake line cut by the animal rights extremists, or one here where animal rights activists received prison sentences for their criminal acts.  So to argue they don’t see them as extremists is an untruth.

Maybe Mr. Dees just doesn’t see any political mileage, publicity, or monetary gain in treating the leftist extremists and hates groups as he does with right-wing extremists?  It seems Mr. Dees motives have been called into question before.  In a Harper’s Magazine article in November 2007 they reprinted a letter written by Stephen Bright, an Atlanta civil rights attorney,  who wrote Morris Dees is a con man and fraud, as I and others, such as U.S. Circuit Judge Cecil Poole,  have observed and as has been documented by John Egerton, Harper’s, the Montgomery Advertiser in its “Charity of Riches” series, and others.”  It doesn’t paint a very good picture of Mr Dees.  The reprinted letter goes on to read, “The positive contributions Dees has made to justice–most undertaken based upon calculations as to their publicity and fund raising potential–are far overshadowed by what Harper’s described as his “flagrantly misleading” solicitations for money.”  That hardly ends the condemnation of Mr. Dees.  You should read the complete letter in the Harper’s Magazine article.

Taken all together this makes Mr. Dees appear to be more interested in exploiting right-wing extremism and hate for his own personal gain.  In the course of fighting his view of extremism he’s apparently become a very rich man.

My question would be whether or not Mr. Dees himself is an extremist and if the SPLC should be considered a hate group for only targeting the right-wing?

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