Here in the United States, we’re taught in elementary school that the First Amendment to the Constitution protects free speech. This is based on the notion that the free exchange of ideas is essential in a democracy. If the government were to suppress any criticism of its actions, how would citizens express their discontent, and communicate to fellow voters that there is a need for change? As a consequence, the First Amendment was intended to protect speech that is likely to be unpopular, not just the speech that we all tend to agree with.

And the First Amendment has set the standard in American political discourse, even where it doesn’t apply directly. Throughout the history of our Republic, Americans have tended to enjoy robust debate about important issues. And we have generally lived by the maxim attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire, “I wholly disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it!”

But that is changing. Organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) have begun trying to suppress all political opinions with which they disagree. How are they doing this? They’re using two underhanded tactics to misrepresent the views of their political opponents: name calling and guilt by association.

How the SPLC Uses Name Calling

Rather than addressing any of the political arguments raised by the organizations they dislike, the SPLC simply calls them “Hate Groups.” This is an ominous designation. But it is also the political equivalent of a foot-stomping five-year-old calling another kid a “stupid head” on the playground. It’s easy to apply a scary-sounding label to a group whose ideas you don’t like. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they’re a Nazi or a racist. Which brings us to the SPLC’s other dishonest tactic: guilt by association.

Guilt By Association

The fact is, there are actually a few real hate groups on the SPLC’s lengthy list – mostly neo-Nazis, the KKK and other white supremacist groups like the Aryan Nation. So, if you want to tar and feather a group that disagrees with your extreme liberal positions, but they aren’t really a hate group, what do you do? Lump them in with all of the nasty, outlandish groups that really are preaching hate and violence. That way, people who don’t know anything about the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), U.S. Inc. (or any number of other political groups on the SPLC’s list) will just assume those groups are like the Nazis and the KKK. It’s like your grandma always told you, people will judge you by the company you keep.

But no one should be judging political organizations just because of the company the SPLC claims they keep. In reality, groups like the FAIR, CIS and U.S. Inc. aren’t remotely like American Nazi Party or the KKK. The Nazis and the KKK spout irrational, race-based hatred. They dislike people on the basis of characteristics that those people can’t change. FAIR, CIS and U.S. Inc. dislike certain laws and policies – and the only people they have an issue with are the ones breaking the law, regardless of where they come from or who they are. The SPLC is utterly irresponsible when it attempts to mislead the public into believing that these immigration reform groups – which simply argue for policy changes that would improve national security and public safety for all Americans (even immigrants) – are motivated by hate. Wanting secure borders doesn’t mean you dislike foreigners.

So, don’t let the SPLC mislead you any longer. The only groups we should distrust are the ones who want to suppress free speech and keep us from learning about the important issues of the day. Don’t let the SPLC tell you what you should think, this is the United States and we still have free speech…for now.

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