In fact, [Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris] Dees never even wanted to run a poverty law firm. In a 1988 article in The Progressive, he was explicit: “We’re not a public interest law firm, not a legal aid society taking any case that comes in off the street. We only want the precedent-setting cases… Maybe our name is part of the problem.” But the United States is in need of more public interest law firms! The kind of representation poor people receive in criminal cases is often horrendous, and legal aid is woefully underfunded. Many of the SPLC’s donors surely think they’re donating to a public interest law firm. In fact, they’re mostly donating to an ever-growing giant pile of money, a portion of which is used to finance some progressive legal work.
Nathan J. Robinson on… yikes.
The allegations against Dees and the SPLC’s misuse of money are undeniably awful but, that being said, I do think Robinson is a little too flippant in his criticism of Hate Watch, ref. e.g. his dismissal of Return of Kings as
apparently just a blog published by pick-up artist Roosh V and a couple of his friends which, uh… kinda undersells the damage of a dude who literally writes rape manuals for a living and contributes to an ideology that pretty consistently produces mass murderers. Not to mention the fact that Nazis host pool parties (or play with kittens) doesn’t mean they’re, y’know. Not fucking Nazis.
To be fair to Robinson, I do think his broader point here is valid; basically, “liberal elites” like to focus on grassroots hate groups both as a kind of sneery “rednecks ew” class warfare thing and because it means they don’t have to think about systemic issues of inequality in traditional liberal institutions. Which… fine. But, also: ¿Por qué no los dos? Institutionally discriminatory policing sucks but so does, y’know. Living in fear of violence from your neighbor because he has a giant swastika tattooed on his head. Like, the fallacy of relative privation is a thing.
All that aside, the broader point is that the SPLC has ousted Dees, and hopefully the worst of its current culture with him. The organization still has a shittonne of money, so… time to do something good with it.