good causes & bad advocates
Murray Fact-Checks the SPLC

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of AEI scholar Charles Murray as an “extremist” and a “white nationalist” helped whip Middlebury students into a frenzy ahead of his visit to the campus earlier this month, where he was assaulted and his faculty interlocutor concussed and sent to the emergency room.

Murray has now penned a characteristically understated response to the SPLC’s “extremist files” page that lists his allegedly hateful beliefs, offering “an edited and expanded version of the SPLC page that I can live with.” One section:

According to Murray, disadvantaged groups are disadvantaged because, on average, they cannot compete with white men, who are intellectually, psychologically and morally superior. [AU: You have some material relating to “intellectually superior” (though it relates to men in general, not white men) at the end of the article. I can’t find anything to document “psychologically and morally superior” anywhere in Murray’s work, and I have read every word he’s ever written. Please supply references.]  Murray advocates the total elimination of the welfare state, affirmative action, and the Department of Education, arguing that public policy cannot overcome the innate deficiencies that cause unequal social and educational outcomes; “[w]e tried to provide more for the poor and produced more poor instead. We tried to remove the barriers to escape from poverty and inadvertently built a trap.” [AU: This is how Murray put it in Losing Ground, p. 9. You’re okay saying Murray believes that cognitive and personality deficiencies contribute to social and economic outcomes, but he’s silent on the “innate” part. On the contrary, he’s put a lot of emphasis on the role of family structure as the culprit. The bigger problem is that Murray has a history of coming out with educational and social policies that he says will help the disadvantaged. That’s why he wants to get rid of the welfare state and affirmative action. In education, he has a whole book about policy changes that he claims will benefit the disadvantaged.  So I think you’ve got to get rid of the implication that he advocates giving up on the disadvantaged because of their innate deficiencies.]

The SPLC was born of good intentions, but that only makes its decline all the more harmful, because many journalists still regard it as reputable. As we wrote after the Middlebury incident, the SPLC has in recent years “turned tracking hate in America into a money-making bonanza that requires regularly exaggerating threats in order to drive donations.” After a decade of tarring groups and individuals with its “extremist” label ever-more liberally, its endowment now exceeds $300 million.

Instead of credulously replicating its designations, journalists should treat the SPLC as they would Gateway Pundit or InfoWars—alert to its tendency to broadcast politically motivated distortions and outright fakery, often with significant real-world consequences.

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