Right-wing media figures are celebrating a new paper purporting to demonstrate anti-Christian and anti-conservative bias in the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) listing of extremist hate groups -- conveniently ignoring the clear biases of the paper's author and the paper's glaring methodological problems.
On March 10, Breitbart.com's in-house anti-gay extremist Austin Ruse touted a new "study" from University of North Texas sociologist George Yancey, the author of "Watching the Watchers: The Neglect of Academic Analysis of Progressive Groups," a paper appearing in the journal Academic Questions. In the "study," Yancey purports to have found that the SPLC's practice of identifying and labeling hate groups ignores extremism on the left, instead maligning right-wing groups like the Family Research Council (which Yancey calls the "Family Research Center"). Moreover, Yancey charges that the SPLC is far too liberal with its use of that designation, unfairly smearing sensible conservatives as hateful bigots.
Before taking his arguments seriously, here's what media outlets and the public should know about Yancey's anti-SPLC polemic:
1. It Isn't A Study. Yancey's paper -- republished in full on Breitbart's website -- is little more than a screed against the SPLC filled with right-wing boilerplate. ("Progressive groups who value tolerance may display intolerance when reacting to conservative individuals," Yancey writes, echoing conservative bloviators like Erick Erickson.) But Yancey's "study" lacks a systematic and coherent methodology. There's no objective metric by which he determines whether the SPLC goes too hard on conservative groups and too easy on leftist ones.
Instead, he fixates on the fact that the SPLC hasn't labelled the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) as a hate group. This perceived failure on the SPLC's part is Yancey's central example of its alleged pro-leftist, anti-conservative bias.
2. The SPLC Does Hold Non-Conservative Groups Accountable. The SPLC has done extensive work highlighting phenomena like black separatism and black supremacism. In fact, it was the SPLC who exposed last summer an African-American "race war" proponent working for the Department of Homeland Security. Conservative outlets like Fox News and WorldNetDaily highlighted the story, even though those organizations have condemned the SPLC in the past.
Fox News hyped a dubious story by Townhall news editor Katie Pavlich to stoke fears that a surge of immigrants has made the border less safe.
Pavlich, a Fox News contributor, published a story using anecdotal remarks from an unnamed Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agent and CBP internal data to claim that non-citizens are attempting to cross the southern border in large numbers:
As the immigration reform Gang of Eight inside the Beltway prepares to announce a deal later this week, claiming border security will come before a path to citizenship for millions of illegals, Border Patrol agents have seen illegal border crossings double and warn the cutting of agent work hours will only result in less border security, not more.
"We've seen the number of illegal aliens double, maybe even triple since amnesty talk started happening," an agent told Townhall, who asked to remain unnamed due to fears of retaliation within Customs and Border Protection [CBP], something he said is common. "A lot of these people, although not the majority, are criminals or aggravated felons. This is a direct danger to our communities."
Data obtained by Townhall and reported within CBP from February 5 through March 1, 2013 shows 504 illegal aliens were spotted exploiting the Tucson/Nogales area, 189 were caught on CBP intelligence cameras. Of those 504, only 174 were apprehended and 32 of the 189 on camera were carrying large drug load packs for Mexican cartels. Some were armed with AK-47 style weapons.
Pavlich -- who has previously used discredited reporting and made baseless claims, including a series of false or misleading statements in her book on the Fast and Furious operation -- was touted on Fox by her colleague, Townhall political editor Guy Benson, though even he admitted most of her report was based on "anecdotal" evidence:
Pavlich's other sources for this story are dubious at best. In a follow-up to her original report, Pavlich cited the Texas Border Volunteers (TBV), a Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled nativist extremist organization. TBV founder Mike Vickers began patrolling the border with the Texas chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a national anti-immigration group run by Chris Simcox which was affiliated with militia groups and white supremacist organizations. Vickers broke off with the Texas chapter of the Minutemen several years ago to form TBV, which "stages regular nocturnal watches" while armed and wearing camouflage and reports "illegal activity" to Border Patrol agents.
But CBP data shows that border crossings are historically low. Even though there was a 10 percent increase in apprehensions along the southern border for the first two months of this year compared to the first two months of 2012, it is a small increase compared to the 53 percent reduction in "illegal immigration attempts, as measured by Border Patrol apprehensions" over the past three years, which is less than one-third of what they were at their peak.
This is the second time in two weeks that Fox has pushed Pavlich's flawed data and misinformation about immigration issues.
During a report on diminished Republican opposition to granting in-state tuition for undocumented students, Fox News included the view of a spokesperson for the nativist group, Oregonians for Immigration Reform, to argue against the measure and accuse Republicans of "pandering" for Latino votes. Fox News has long engaged in promoting extreme voices to attack in-state tuition for undocumented students.
Discussing proposals in Oregon and Colorado that would grant certain undocumented students in those states in-state tuition, Fox News' America's Newsroom contrasted approving comments from Oregon state Republican Rep. Mark Johnson with comments from Jim Ludwick, a co-founder and former president of Oregonians for Immigration Reform.
Host Bill Hemmer introduced Ludwick's comments by saying, "Not everyone, I'd imagine, is happy about this shift." Ludwick was identified on-air simply as being with "Oregonians for Immigration Reform."
Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR) has been labeled an active "nativist extremist group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The hate group the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) lists OFIR on its network of "local immigration reform" groups.
In November of 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center listed the Family Research Council as an anti-gay hate group due to its "propagation of known falsehoods" about the LGBT community. Since being listed, however, FRC spokespersons have been invited 52 times to discuss issues ranging from the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," to the 2012 presidential campaign. Despite FRC's long history of producing anti-gay propaganda, every major news network has invited the group on national television while failing to acknowledge its hate group designation.