In the wake of the Capitol riot, the House Committee on Financial Services — chaired by none other than Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) — held a hearing entitled “Dollars Against Democracy: Domestic Terrorist Financing in the Aftermath of Insurrection.” Who should testify at such a hearing? Democrats invited none other than the scandal-plagued far-left smear factory the Southern Poverty Law Center, which routinely brands mainstream conservative and Christian nonprofits “hate groups,” listing them along with the Ku Klux Klan.
In her testimony, SPLC Chief of Staff Lecia Brooks suggested concrete ways that government and Big Tech can separate “hate groups” from their “online funding sources.” She praised some tech companies for taking action while demanding far more throttling in the future.
“Separating hate groups from their online funding sources will prevent their ideas from reaching a wider audience, and it will disrupt their networks. Some technology companies have taken steps in the right direction, but both government and internet companies must do far more to combat extremism and hate,” Brooks wrote in her testimony.
While government and Big Tech should combat organizations that pose a concrete terrorism threat, the SPLC’s recommendations are riddled with far-left bias and blindness to any violent threat from leftist radicals associated with antifa or Black Lives Matter. The SPLC paints the Right with a broad terrorism brush while consciously ignoring any threats from the Left.
In fact, the SPLC’s “hate group” accusation inspired a would-be terrorist to target the Christian nonprofit the Family Research Council (FRC) in 2012, aiming to murder everyone in the building and place a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich by his or her head. While the SPLC rightly condemned the attack, it did not remove FRC from the “hate group” list.
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Brooks’ testimony does not mention FRC or any other Christian organization the SPLC has branded an “anti-LGBT hate group.” However, her praise for tech companies taking “steps in the right direction” may allude to a broad array of actions tech companies have taken to exclude and silence conservative groups.
Amazon removed falsely-branded “hate groups” like FRC and Alliance Defending Freedom from its charity donation platform AmazonSmile. The credit card processing company Vanco Payment Solutions blacklisted the small Roman Catholic nonprofit the Ruth Institute. Credit card companies like Mastercard and Discover refused to process donations to critics of radical Islam like Robert Spencer, whose JihadWatch the SPLC brands an “anti-Muslim hate group.” The event managing site Eventbrite blacklisted a mainstream conservative national security nonprofit, ACT for America, as did Hyatt Hotels.
These “hate groups” had nothing to do with the Capitol riot, but they would likely find themselves in the crosshairs of any efforts the government and Big Tech take to fight “hate groups” on the SPLC’s orders.
In her testimony, Brooks warned about “hate groups” resorting to less mainstream social media networks and fundraising platforms as Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and others move to deplatform conservatives along with some truly noxious actors who planned the violent attack on the Capitol.
In fact, Brooks touted the SPLC’s “coverage” of the social media platform Parler’s alleged complicity in the Capitol riot.
“In the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, as The Guardian and others reported, some of these sites rose quickly to the top of both Apple’s app store and Google Play’s most downloaded apps list. One exception was Parler, a social media platform partially funded by conservative megadonor Rebekah Mercer. Parler was removed from both the Apple and Google app stores in the days following the attack after numerous outlets, including the SPLC, reported on the central role the site played in promoting and coordinating the insurrection,” she wrote (emphasis added).
Brooks warned that “the continued proliferation of cryptocurrencies” has enabled “hate group financing.”
“Not only are groups and individuals involved in the hate landscape readily adopting cryptocurrencies, but they are implementing techniques to use cryptocurrencies covertly,” she wrote. Brooks warned that “U.S.-based hate groups and extremists have also started using other obfuscation techniques previously tested by foreign terror organizations.” She mentioned the Neo-Nazi National Justice Party’s use of dynamically-generated Bitcoin addresses and the Daily Stormer’s move to “privacy coin” Monero.
Most Americans rightly condemn noxious racist groups like the National Justice Party and the Daily Stormer, but the SPLC seems intent on hounding these groups from platform to platform in an attempt to destroy them. Meanwhile, the SPLC winks at the violence and bloodshed perpetrated in the name of racial justice in the riots this past summer.
Brooks’ testimony mentioned the Black Lives Matter movement but did not once take note of the black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments destroyed in the horrific violence that followed many of the protests. She repeatedly referred to “antifascists” as if they were neutral or even positive “activists” aiming to infiltrate “hate groups.” Note the spin in this paragraph:
When the BLM movement mobilized millions of people in opposition to racist policing, far-right groups like the Oath Keepers demonized activists as “domestic enemies.” They appeared at protests across the country to patrol the streets. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin in August, where he paced the streets with an automatic rifle and allegedly murdered two protesters. He is now hailed as a hero by many farright extremists. Many on the far right welcomed the rising political tension, which they hoped would lead to violent confrontations with BLM activists, leftists, people of color, and members of law enforcement.
Brooks did not mention the violence in Kenosha that led Rittenhouse to travel there, nor the fact that Rittenhouse gave medical attention to Black Lives Matter protesters, nor the fact that Rittenhouse appears to have fired his weapon in self-defense.
Later on in her testimony, she noted that the alternative crowdfunding site GiveFundGo had raised money for “extremists’ legal defense funds.” She provided two examples: Rittenhouse and Proud Boys leader Enrico Tarrio, who destroyed two Black Lives Matter signs in Washington, D.C.
It is extremely ironic that the Southern Poverty Law Center, which began its work in 1971 by providing legal defenses to those who could not afford them, is now demonizing crowdfunding sites that enable defendants to raise money in their legal defenses.
Brooks also warned Congress about a crowdfunding platform launched by the Olympia, Wash., group American Wolf. She noted that Proud Boys member Alan Swinney, who faces charges for allegedly shooting protesters with a paintball gun and who reportedly aims to raise funds to physically attack antifa agitators, leaving them “on the ground and choking,” has raised money on the platform.
How much money? Brooks noted that he raised “roughly $1,500.”
Swinney’s motives seem heinous and Americans should condemn unprovoked attacks on activists, no matter their side of the aisle. But the SPLC is calling for government and Big Tech to throttle “hate groups” that can barely raise enough money for a month’s rent.
So, what, exactly, does the SPLC recommend Big Tech and Joe Biden do to separate “hate groups” from their online sources of funding?
Brooks encouraged tech companies to craft terms of service that prevent “hateful activities and extremism” from growing and leading “to domestic terrorism.” She recommended tech companies commit to regular outside audits, work with other tech companies to prevent “hate groups” from finding a new platform when they have been blacklisted, use their data to prevent “terrorist funding,” and redesign their “Trust and Safety” systems.
As for the federal government, Brooks encouraged lawmakers to “condemn hate and extremism” (supposedly unlike Donald Trump), penalize tech companies if they do not report on abuses of their systems, fund research into how to monitor tech platforms and how to acquire cryptocurrency data, enact the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act to establish offices to “confront far-right extremism,” improve federal hate crime data, and promote “anti-bias education programs” that “steer individuals away from hate and extremism.”
As for the anti-bias programs, Brooks specifically mentioned the SPLC’s Learning for Justice program, which promotes Marxist critical race theory in public schools. In the name of fighting “extremism,” she supports an ideology that inspired the deadly riots of last summer.
Interestingly, Brooks warned that Congress should reject “efforts to create … a list of designated domestic terrorist organizations.” She argued that such a list “could be used to expand racial profiling or be wielded to surveil and investigate communities of color and political opponents in the name of national security.” Yet she did not harbor any qualms about encouraging new anti-terror offices focused on “far-right extremists,” which would also likely target “political opponents” of the Democrats in power.
The SPLC’s recommendation that Big Tech companies submit themselves to regular outside audits seems particularly rich, given that after the SPLC fired its co-founder in a racial discrimination and sexual harassment scandal in 2019, it promised an internal review — the results of which have yet to be published, nearly two years later.
Amid that scandal, former employees came forward and confessed to being part of a “con” to exaggerate hate and bilk donors. As I cover extensively in my book Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the SPLC’s “hate group” list is padded with defunct organizations that barely exist, local chapters of one organization listed as separate “hate groups,” and mainstream organizations that dissent from the SPLC’s far-left activism.
While some of the rioters who broke the law by engaging in violence on January 6 were members of a few of the SPLC’s “hate groups,” most notably the Proud Boys, the SPLC uses its “hate group” accusations to fundraise and silence opponents in the name of fighting white supremacist terrorism. The SPLC’s work does shine some light on truly noxious organizations, but overall the group is a left-wing attack dog and it has no business advising Congress on fighting domestic terrorism.
Last month, the SPLC accused former President Donald Trump and the 147 Republican congressmen and senators who contested the 2020 election of inciting the Capitol riot. The far-left group demanded that Congress “discipline, censure, or expel” half of the Republicans in Congress.
The fact that Democrats consider this organization credible should set off alarm bells for Americans concerned about cancel culture.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.