Following the arrests this week of several Occupy Cleveland-linked anarchists for allegedly trying to blow up a bridge, National Review Online’s Charles C.W. Cooke reached out to the Southern Poverty Law Center to see whether the group had any plans to monitor the Occupy Wall Street as a hate group.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is a left-leaning nonprofit well known for tracking groups in the U.S. that it deems hateful, including the Ku Klux Klan, New Black Panther Party, Nation of Islam and Aryan Nation. The socially-conservative Family Research Council is also on the list, a label it has blasted as a “slanderous attack and attempted character assassination.”
Cooke’s question to an SPLC representative was straightforward — “Do you have any plans to start tracking Occupy Wall Street after a hate group tried to blow up a bridge?”:
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “We blogged it right away when it happened.” I asked him why he thought this deserved only a blog post, and he explained that the SPLC only deals with “hatred of people based on class characteristics,” which a little more pushing revealed meant “immutable characteristics such as a person’s eye or skin color.” “So,” I asked, “Occupy doesn’t count because it doesn’t hate people based on their innate characteristics?” He assented, but didn’t explain adequately why SPLC is vocal on “Islamophobia,” for example — whatever Islam is, it is not an “immutable” characteristic — and why it concerns itself with matters of traditionalist Catholic theology.
“We did go after the eco-terrorists,” he told me. “But that was because they’d adopted the same tactics as the abortion activists: vilification, the use of ‘Wanted’ posters, highlighting the names and whereabouts of people’s children and spouses.” And then he went on a long speech about “anti-abortion extremists” that had very little to do with what I was asking, but no doubt made him feel good. I met this with silence, so he said that, really, the SPLC only tracks those who commit violence or who seek to destroy whole systems in the name of an ideology.
“Isn’t that exactly what happened in Cleveland?” I asked. “These five men, all linked with Occupy Wall Street, attempted to blow up a bridge as an overture to the wholesale destruction of Cleveland, Ohio, and in the name of anarchism. They also looked to blow up the Republican convention.”
“They were anarchists,” he repeated.
He paused. “We’re not really set up to cover the extreme Left.”
The SPLC representative went on to explain that the organization also doesn’t cover groups like prison gangs “because they aren’t political.”
When Cooke pressed that Occupy is in fact political, the representative gave a verbal shrug: “Well, take it if you will, or won’t.”
The center, he said, only ever covers left-wing groups when they have a right-wing component, like “when anarchist groups are infiltrated by those on the right; Neo-Nazis, that sort of thing.”
Read the full post at National Review Online here.