CNN’s Hate Group List Smears Some Great Organizations

Written by Tom Gilson

CNN has just published a map and listing of “all the active hate groups where you live.” I’ve got serious problems with lists like this, but apparently CNN doesn’t. It seems to me that if they believe in “hate group” lists, they really ought to include themselves on it.

A list like this one, published days after Charlottesville, is, in theory, meant to warn Americans against groups that might carry similar violence into other cities. Some of the groups on this list, which was developed and has been kept updated by the Southern Poverty Law Center, truly fit that description. Others simply don’t belong there.

Disagreement Isn’t Hate

The Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal group. I’ve worked with some of their attorneys, and from personal contact I can attest to the fact that they don’t actually hate people. They’ll confront people with persuasive arguments, but even liberals should be able to handle that without an SPLC danger warning.

The American Family Association publishes print, web, video and broadcast media, and sends people out to speak. I did some media work with them last week, which will be released in a week or two from now. I can tell you from even more direct personal knowledge that I don’t hate people I disagree with. I abhor and condemn violence.

Why are the ADF, AFA and other similar groups are on the SPLC’s list? It’s mostly because they stand for the sort of marriage and moral values that supports and strengthens families, communities and society for the long term. As such they advocate for beliefs that liberals find disagreeable. But disagreement is not hate. If it is, then CNN — which is hardly known for agreeing with everything it reports on — is a hate group, too.

It would be silly to tar CNN with that label just for disagreeing, though, just as it’s silly to do the same with the ADF, AFA and other conservative advocacy groups. There’s a reason we have one word for disagreement, another one for hate: They’re not the same thing. Not even if you hate the fact that I disagree with you. (Putting it that way actually reveals where the hate really lies.)

Hateful Accusations of Hate

Still CNN could be labeled a hate group on other grounds. They’ve listed the ADF, AFA, etc. alongside groups like Bomb Islam, the Supreme White Alliance and the KKK, which implies that they’re despicably racist and potentially violent in similar ways. That’s a hateful implication for the SPLC to make. It’s hateful for CNN to publish it without clarifying the truth. Would you tell the world I was aligned with white supremacists if you didn’t hate me?

Still I wouldn’t put CNN on a hate group list. I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with the whole idea of this kind of list. The search for people who “hate”is too subjective and too easily contaminated with smug self-righteousness. That’s where the SPLC list went wrong. (A mistake that led in 2012 to an attempted massacre at the offices of the Family Research Council in 2013.)

Lists That Might Do Some Good

Now, I could see the value in a list of known racist groups, if we called it (pardon my excessive creativity) a “List of Known Racist Groups.” We could use a list of groups known to advocate violence, if that’s what we called the list. Groups like these are obviously motivated by hate, but that’s not what the public really needs to know about them. We’re mature enough to draw our own conclusions about what’s behind these groups’ actions and beliefs.

We might even disagree over what motivates some groups. We should have the freedom to do so. Neither the SPLC nor CNN should be so paternal as to tell us what we’re supposed to think about them. So I’ll feel free to think there’s something hateful in this list — but I won’t add either the SPLC or CNN to any hate group list of my own.

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Modified by Matthew