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The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Apology to Maajid Nawaz Is Bad News for Free Speech

Frivolous defamation lawsuits undermine the First Amendment.

SPLCSPLCThe Southern Poverty Law Center has apologized to Maajid Nawaz for including him on a list of anti-Muslim extremists. Nawaz is a liberal who works to de-radicalize Islamists, and characterizing him as an anti-Muslim extremist was a serious error in judgment on the part of the SPLC, which purports to combat hate, racism, and bigotry.

Even so, this outcome—a result of Nawaz threatening the SPLC with a defamation lawsuit—is concerning on free speech grounds.

The SPLC has agreed to pay a settlement of $3 million to Nawaz and his foundation, Quilliam, which will be used to fund "work fighting anti-Muslim bigotry and Islamist extremism." In exchange, Nawaz won't sue the SPLC for defamation.

The SPLC really screwed up here, and it was right to apologize. But unfairly characterizing Nawaz is not defamation, because opinions cannot be defamatory. That's part of what makes them opinions.

Don't take my word for it: read Popehat's Ken White:

One of the most basic principles of defamation law, mandated by the First Amendment, is that pure opinion can't be defamatory. Only statements of provable fact — or statements that imply provable fact — can be defamatory. I write about this constantly. An opinion, however moronic or unfair, is absolutely protected by the First Amendment unless it implies that the speaker is relying on undisclosed provable facts. So, for instance, "look at what this guy wrote, he's a bigot" is by definition not defamatory; it's based on an interpretation of a disclosed fact, the thing the guy wrote. "I've listened to this guy's conversations and, let me tell you, he's a bigot" might be defamatory, because it implies undisclosed facts — whatever you claim you heard.

Here, the SPLC's fatuous Field Guide appeared to be classic opinion based on disclosed facts. The SPLC offered its opinion that certain people were "anti-Muslim extremists" based on facts it set forth and linked. Their conclusion appears unfair, narrow-minded, and uttered in bad faith, but opinions are absolutely protected whether or not they're unfair, narrow-minded, and in bad faith.

Again, the SPLC backed down due to the mere threat of a defamation lawsuit. The organization has every right to admit defeat, and agree to pay up, even though the theoretical case against it would rest on weak legal ground. The SPLC is an advocacy organization, and it's possible that it didn't want bad press, and admitting defeat was the swiftest way to move on from this episode. The organization has occasionally been very sloppy about who gets labelled an extremist, failing to draw distinctions between Ayaan Hirsi Ali—a survivor of religious violence—and anti-Muslim crazy woman Pamella Geller. (I recently criticized the SPLC for warning about the evils of cultural appropriation.)

And yet I'm worried that this settlement could end up chilling free expression. The answer to bad speech—like wrongly labelling people extremists—is more speech, not endless defamation lawsuits.

Nawaz is represented by Libby Locke of Clare Locke LLP, the same defamation lawyer who handled University of Virginia Dean of Students Nicole Eramo's lawsuit against Rolling Stone. Eramo, you will recall, prevailed in court. That verdict, which I covered at Reason, seemed well-founded to me. Rolling Stone author Sabrina Rubin Erdely didn't just make errors of opinion—she made factual assertions about Eramo that were false. The magazine refused to correct these errors for so long—in the face of overwhelming evidence that Erdely's trust in her single source, Jackie, was misplaced—that the significant line of actual malice was crossed. Rolling Stone's actions were truly extraordinary.

The SPLC matter is clearly different. The organization expressed a really bad opinion about Nawaz, and was rightly criticized for having done so. But the First Amendment protects our right to express bad opinions—and the integrity of this important constitutional principle is undermined whenever someone surrenders to an unfounded defamation threat.

Photo Credit: SPLC

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  • JesseAz||

    Hey Robby... this was a British Court that was handling the suit.

  • HGW xx/7||

    I do believe they have a much more lax standard on what is considered to be libel. Considering that it is a fault on the U.K. system and not ours, and that this is a blow to the commie-fascists at the SPLC, I would count this as an overall win, not a loss.

    Does the apology run counter to the freedom of speech? Yes. The SPLC defacates on said freedom on a daily basis, though. Running to their defense against someone who is battling islamofascism isn't the strongest battle cry.

  • Benitacanova||

    In the UK a muslim can't be criticized under any circumstances - opinion, fact, wet dream - it doesn't matter.

  • Number 2||

    If this was being litigated in a British Court, then British law applies. Popehat's comments about opinions not being defamatory is an accurate statement of American law, not British law, which is far more favorable to the plaintiff than American law. Which is why plaintiffs try to bring libel suits in Britain, and why some American states limit the circumstances in which they will enforce British libel judgments.

  • SparktheRevolt||

    Poophat doesn't care if he's misleading.

  • KevinP||

    A good article on the fraud that is the SPLC. And Tim Cook of Apple and ProPublica have been suckered by the SPLC.

    A Demagogic Bully:
    The Southern Poverty Law Center demonizes respectable political opponents as "hate groups" - and keeps its coffers bulging

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    Fuck the SPLC.

    Anything that does them damage is OK in my book.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Yes, and that "opinion" escape clause doesn't apply if your statement implies you have inside sources and undisclosed facts; they are relying on their reputation to slander people for their own gain, both monetary and SJW-cred, so they got what they deserve. In my opinion.

  • fatcyst||

    Lawyer organizations can't have opinions on individuals. Robby sucks as usual.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Fuck them and all "activists". The whole fucking world has gone in the shitter since most people have not had to work for (or just find) their next meal. Too much fucking free time.

    (whew, I feel better now)

  • Dan S.||

    Reason, and libertarians in general, are supposed to be dedicated to looking at "principles, not principals". So your attitude is not really one they can endorse.. But since the SPLC would not have such scruples about seeing harm come to those who they think are accurately labeled promoters of hate, I guess you can say about them: live by the sword, die by the sword.

  • Vaelyn||

    Bombing their offices, Charlie Hebdo-style, would damage them, but I hope you're not advocating such a thing...

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    Mebbe, mebbe not ...

  • Flinch||

    Awesome... we can chalk this up as a knee jerk reaction as the only current means to argue any part of our bill of rights might be affected by something in the UK would be to extrapolate something out of Lawrence v Texas, which Robby did not touch.
    But the SPLC got off easy: their "watch" list has been devolving into a hit list for the radical left the last few years, and in the case of identifying somebody as an islamic hater, they toyed with the edges of putting out a contract on Nawaz - the only thing missing was money changing hands. I find I agree with others here saying "fuck SPLC" in that... they themselves have devolved into a hate group [and might be slightly psychotic as they seem to see white supremacists in their rice crispies on a daily basis]. They clearly are a group in need of an intervention.

  • Ron||

    When businesses and government agencies seek out SPLC's opinions and thus hire and fire people based on their opinions then it is perfectly within a persons right to sue them for expressing their opinion especially when that opinion hurts their ability to make a living or even utilize their own right to free speech. that is the most Libertarian of solutions when there is no government solution. What has happened to Reason is there nothing libertarian left in this magazine.

  • Rhywun||

    government agencies seek out SPLC's opinions

    This. The entire argument falls apart when you consider how powerful the SPLC is lately.

  • HGW xx/7||

    Indeed. I notice google is also proudly teaming up with them to push some bullshit "the color of your skin is something to be proud of unless you're white" ad campaign. Their coffers must just be overflowing with earnings of self-flagellating progs.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    We just need to encourage those who hate themselves to take the next step...

  • Flinch||

    Ugh, what a pukefest. Diversity is a funcion of freedom, and those who would place the prism of color over our daily lives are putting the cart in front of the horse. That usually kills the horse.
    Time for google to get out of CA, and save itself from the onslaught of SJW robots the UC system is cranking out - they will lose their primacy if this type of mushroom logic keeps up. Come to think of it, any CEO that considers the SPLC as a real guidepost to anything should be removed - in business, sticking to craft is the only way to go. George Foreman doesn't try to tell us what to think as he is selling his slightly modified panini grills, and he's built a nice business there with just a twist of not so new technology.

  • Jerryskids||

    There is the question of when an opinion is relied upon as a factual assertion - all sorts of "opinions" are held to be facts, at least so far as the current science is understood, by legislative and judicial bodies. If the SPLC is holding itself out as the go-to authority on haters and hate groups, they seem to be claiming that their opinions are facts. Is it just their opinion that their opinions are facts, the same as Encyclopedia Britannica's opinion that their opinion that William Howard Taft died in 1930 is in fact a fact and not an opinion?

  • Calidissident||

    "When businesses and government agencies seek out SPLC's opinions and thus hire and fire people based on their opinions then it is perfectly within a persons right to sue them for expressing their opinion especially when that opinion hurts their ability to make a living or even utilize their own right to free speech."

    Since when is any of that grounds for a defamation suit based on opinion (in the US)? If you had some sort of quantifiable harm from government action (which Nawaz does not AFAIK) in violation of the First Amendment, then you could possibly sue them, but I don't see the grounds for suing a third party for opinions even if the government used those opinions in their decision-making.

    For the record, I agree the SPLC's argument was ridiculous and that Nawaz is not an extremist. I also think it's dangerous for this to be established as defamation - who decides what extremism is? Are people who call Trump an extremist or a fascist defaming him? What about people who called Obama an extremist or a communist? I think it's a dangerous precedent to set, and I think people would have a very different view of things if it wasn't an organization they hated that was involved.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    18 U.S. Code § 241 - Conspiracy against rights

    If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or

    If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured—

    They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death
  • Calidissident||

    How was this law violated? I don't think any serious attorney would make that claim and Nawaz wasn't even alleging that.

  • BigT||

    The SPLC was in disguise as a proponent of justice.

  • Ben of Houston||

    Quoting Grant's Klan laws against the Southern Poverty Law Center. That's a bit of a stretch.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    I guess that whole "rule of law" thing is a bit of a stretch too, huh? Regardless of the original intended targets, if the law is applicable it should be enforced. SPLC has become an enabler of oppression at this point.

  • Árboles de la Barranca||

    In the modern age lynching is done electronically. But yeah, it is a little bit of a stretch, but considering that the SPLC peddles their hate list for profit, not one that would strain a muscle.

  • Stevecsd||

    I wasn't aware of this statute. We should be using this one against antifa & those students on campus who forcibly prevent any speaker from completing their speeches on campus.

  • Greg Q||

    "who decides what extremism is?"

    No one

    Are you engaging in violent acts against innocent people?

    Are you cheering on others who engage in violent acts against innocent people?

    No?

    Then you're not an extremist, and anyone who sets up to label others as such is an evil monster who should be driven from the public square

    If someone's wrong, argue against them, don't shut them out

    SPLC is leading the fight to shut people out. So, in justice, what they deserve is to be utterly destroyed

    As was said above: live by the sword, die by the sword. No free speech for us? Then none for you

  • KevinP||

    The SPLC is itself a hate group:

    Southern Poverty Law Center Gets Creative to Label 'Hate Groups': Principled conservatives are lumped together with bigots.


    Quote (but read the whole story):
    In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated the Family Research Council a "hate group" because of its orthodox position on homosexuality, and its occasionally incendiary defenses of that position.

    In 2012, Floyd Corkins showed up at the Family Research Council headquarters with a gun.

    I don't mean to imply that these two things were connected. I'm telling you that they were connected. We know because the shooter told the FBI where he got the idea.
  • John C. Randolph||

    FRC should have been able to bankrupt the SPLC under the same legal premise that was used to bankrupt the KKK. SPLC clearly incited Corkins to bloody mayhem.

    -jcr

  • fatcyst||

    Sadly 3 mil is nothing for this "non-profit" brainwashing org.

  • Flinch||

    Perfect point. Public figures inciting violence typically happens in an plain wrap kind of way - like Maxine Waters saying "no justice, no peace!" in LA years ago. She didn't tell anyone to throw a brick at Reginald Denny, but she damn sure set the stage for it. Lucky for her, Gil Garcetti is pure jellyfish and charges of inciting to riot were never pursued.

  • ||

    This.

    I was coming to type this.

    The problem is social media takes these jack asses seriously and fricken policy gets formed around them calling everyone a nazi and racist without consequences.

    SPLC is a dangerous outfit with the potential to destroy lives based on lies and bull shit. They are engaging in defamation.

    Maybe a good law suit may jolt them back into place.

  • Hunthjof||

    Social media jackasses are just the tip of the iceberg. Remember the DOJ was using them as sources for policy papers.

  • Flinch||

    ...that they directed be posted, no doubt. There was a lot of round robin [inside/outside] stuff on Obama's watch, like the people in the group that formed the infamous 'dossier' having unfiltered FBI database access a year prior to the election. No wonder the FBI considered it "vetted" - it was salted with information that matched up with trivia their database, so the rest got imbued with legitimacy by underlings that had no idea they were on a treadmill. Have we completely lost the ability to do human intelligence work anymore because of computers? Qualitative analysis seems to by dying as we worship our machines, forgetting the GIGO rule that built them.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    The problem is that our laws are not adapted to the current reality of a dozen or so corporations completely controlling the ability to reach an audience of any size.

    If someone made false and negative statements about you and it resulted in a third party breaking off or even refusing to make a contract or economic transaction with you, that would be an actionable tort. That worked fine back in the days when information dissemination involved one party paying the other. However, Google delisting you or Twitter banning you, etc, don't involve contracts or economic transactions, because they're "free".

  • Sevo||

    Emotional Opposition Animal|6.18.18 @ 6:14PM|#
    "The problem is that our laws are not adapted to the current reality of a dozen or so corporations completely controlling the ability to reach an audience of any size."

    Which is quite fortunate, let's hope the government does not take in upon itself to make laws which claim to address that.
    You know, kind of like that bogus 'Net Neutrality' bullshit.

  • Greg Q||

    Oh, no, it would be very simple to rectify this:

    Either you're a common carrier, or you're a publisher

    If you're a common carrier, then you may not restrict the speech of anyone who is not breaking the law

    If you're a publisher, then you are liable for anything that is published on your system

    Problem solved: Twiter, FB, YouTube, Google, etc. either treat everyone equally, or they go out of business from lawsuits

    Individuals are free to set up whatever "block lists", etc., that they want, but Twitter et al can not.

    Individual liberty and freedom reign supreme

  • MarkLastname||

    What you describe us not consistent with freedom. If you've decided it's ok to use the state to bludgeon companies you don't like then you've forfeited the right to conplain when they do it to one you do (or the one you work for).

  • fatcyst||

    These aren't normal companies. They are bona fide monopolies and they are tightly knit in with the government so i could care less if they're bludgeoned unless many things are changed.

  • Flinch||

    Sounds nice, but in an age where congress never reads their bills and lawyers need lawyers, who the hell knows what the law is? For that reason, we see a de-evolution where folks like fakebook write policy to effectively mean their opinion at any particular moment is all that matters. So called objectionable content depends on who reviews it, who they talked to last, and how they rolled out of bed in the morning.
    That reminds me... I need to finish reading Three Felonies a Day.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Again, the SPLC backed down due to the mere threat of a defamation lawsuit. The organization has every right to admit defeat, and agree to pay up, even though the theoretical case against it would rest on weak legal ground.

    And yet I'm worried that this settlement could end up chilling free expression

    I'm not particularly worried.

    Methinks SPLC consulted with their lawyers and someone somewhere that passed a bar exam thought they might lose the defamation lawsuit.

  • Flinch||

    They probably knew it up front before their original listing. Scoundrels like to play 'catch me if you can', and... maybe it was worth 3M to them? That's a pretty expensive contract to put out on somebody, but it does keep their hands "clean" in that they weren't specific in their solicitation of action from the radical muslim world and will have never made direct contact with anyone committing a crime.

  • DajjaI||

    This is an old Frankfurt School technique to shut down free speech. The goal is to say, "We don't really have free speech in this country after all." SPLC tried a very similar thing a few months ago by publishing a neo-leninist screed by AR Ross (right when the ADL was hyperventilating about alt-left violence) and then retracted it after complaints by Max Blumenthal. The strategy is to keep making increasingly outrageous claims until someone complains and then they histrionically back down. Having said that, I agree completely that Nawaz is an islamophobe (sue me). The problem with the article is that it's a 'Field Guide' which is basically a fatwah. So the SPLC is being completely hypocritical in using this tactic and they rightfully retracted the article.

  • ||

    Hey, I agreed for once. Accept....

    There's not such thing as an 'Islamophobe.' That's just a shitty made up term by progressives.

    And that term is just a weapon used against people who just have, you know, reasonable and valid criticisms against it.

    Are the progressive left 'Christianophobes?' when they lose their minds about it?

  • BigT||

    Progs are reasonaphobes.

  • titmus||

    He doesn't have a phobia (an irrational fear) of Islam, he has an entirely rational fear, seeing as there are many millions of Muslims who would like to see him dead.

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    The fucktards at the SPLC just need to "retract" ad infinitum.

    Period.

  • Rich||

    But unfairly characterizing Nawaz is not defamation, because opinions cannot be defamatory. That's part of what makes them opinions.

    "In my opinion, he is a sheep-fucker."

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    In my opinion Robby's hard is kind of eh.

  • Flinch||

    Nothing like hoisting someone by their own petard, is there?

  • Azathoth!!||

    SPLC-- private

    Nawaz -- private

    First Amendment?

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    The courts that would enforce the defamation judgement are not private.

    If Congress passed a law allowing private citizens to sue other private citizens for making offensive statements, that would be a first amendment violation, as it is effectively equivalent to passing a law against offensive statements.

  • JonBlack||

    Nawaz was going to ask a Court (not private) to impose liability/sanctions on the SPLC. That's how the First Amendment is implicated.

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    " That's how the First Amendment is implicated."
    In the UK?

  • BigT||

    Right. It's called the Prime Amendment! ...sniff..

  • JonBlack||

    Nawab retained American counsel. My understanding is that he was going to proceed in the US.

    If he was moving forward in the U.K., the only way the 1A shows up is if he tries to collect in the US. We don't usually allow that.

  • Flinch||

    But... there's no funds in the US. SPLC does it's real banking offshore, despite having tax protections that should obviate the need for that. Hmm... wonder if any of their money was used to help organize the trainloads of kids ushered through Mexico on Obama's watch?

  • ThomasD||

    The First Amendment would only be implicated if someone from the government was suppressing speech, not when government is making someone pay for the damages their already uttered speech act inflicted upon another.

    Do you people even libertarian???

  • RabbitHead||

    So, the Government "making someone pay" for expression of opinion isn't suppressing free speech?

    Do you even cognate?

  • Azathoth!!||

    Since you don't, I'll help--

    making someone pay for the damages their already uttered speech inflicted upon another

    Not the speech. The damage.

  • ThomasD||

    What Azathoth said. If you are going to misquote or misconstrue a very plain and straightforward sentence you are probably not fit for this discussion.

    Beyond that, the author of this piece openly concedes that what the SPLC did was wrong - "The SPLC really screwed up here, and it was right to apologize."

    When you commit a wrong, and that wrong harms somebody then you are responsible for compensating them. That is in the foundation of civil society and also libertarianism.

  • Zeb||

    I'm not sure what to think of this. The SPLC outlived any usefulness it once may have had decades ago as far as I can tell. Yet certain people still seem to see it as authoritative on this sort of stuff. Perhaps that doesn't rise to American standards for libel, but it's still pretty damaging to a person's reputation.
    Seems pretty likely that the case would have prevailed in British courts.

  • Zeb||

    Not that I'm a fan of British libel laws.

    But fuck the SPLC.

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    ^^^THIS^^^

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    It's tragic that the SPLC now has $3 million less to devote to its important advocacy on behalf of marginalized groups. I'm considering making a donation to help offset the cost of this unfortunate outcome, and I urge my fellow libertarians to do the same.

  • DajjaI||

    Their endowment is down to a half billion. Please, reach deep and give all you can.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Half a billion dollars might seem like a lot of money, but there's no such thing as "too much" in the fight against white supremacy. Recall that Hillary Clinton and her allies raised around $1 billion for the 2016 election, and it still was not enough to prevent the Russians from installing their puppet.

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    When did "da Russians" become White Supremacists?

  • BigT||

    Never heard of White Russians?

    Great drink, too.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    AKA the Caucasian.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Been there. Nice vodka.

  • Ben of Houston||

    Well, since the Russians actually have the Caucus mountains, that is technically correct

  • Rat on a train||

    The Reds defeated the Whites.

  • ThomasD||

    This comment thread, one way or another, was going to find the Big Lebowski sooner or later.

  • Sevo||

    Or Mike Godwin

  • Greg Q||

    I'm, trying to figure out if you're a reasonable good righty troll, or a really sad lefty

    If you're not a troll, you would do well to spend your money on getting educated, rather than wasting it on the SPLC

  • Hidebehindyourcause||

    Liberal-tarian is like saying commie-capitalist.

    Makes no sense, just like the idiocy that spew forth from said individual

  • fatcyst||

    "Fellow libertarians" ... haha, shut up, you're a commie.

  • Alcibiades||

    I'm confused.

    The threat of a defamation lawsuit occurred in the UK, which has no First Amendment - certainly no freedom of expression - and fines/imprisons its "citizens" for teaching dogs to act like nazis (hysterical video by the way) or quoting rap lyrics and yet Robby's argument rests on First Amendment jurisprudence?

    Given the above it's totally obvious why the SPLC folded like the cheap scam operation it is.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    On the one hand, I can see your argument that bigotry is a matter of opinion and therefore accusations of bigotry cannot be the basis for a libel lawsuit. On the other hand, hate crime legislation have lead to extra jail time for crimes for a generation now, and in some countries, can turn a tweet or YouTube video into a jail sentence. In this legal climate, I can see the wisdom of a libel lawsuit based on an accusation of bigotry. We can all take a moment to think about the UK judges who are sending YouTubers to jail based on how those judges feelz.

  • ThomasD||

    That analysis might be reasonable here, but not in the UK, where people face state sanction for 'bigoted' utterances.

    There the accusation of bigotry is of substantially higher stakes, and therefore not merely a matter of opinion.

  • Longtobefree||

    Well, there will never any problem proving malice - - - - - -

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    An opinion, however moronic or unfair, is absolutely protected by the First Amendment unless it implies that the speaker is relying on undisclosed provable facts. So, for instance, "look at what this guy wrote, he's a bigot" is by definition not defamatory; it's based on an interpretation of a disclosed fact, the thing the guy wrote.

    IANAL, but that doesn't seem like a workable standard to me. The statement "Having read John Smith's blog post about anteater evolution, I have concluded that he is a pedophile," would be unactionable under White's standard. All would-be defamers would have to do to render themselves immune to lawsuits would be to attach a reference to some information, even if it could not possibly justify the negative statement being made. This would be especially pernicious given that the reference to "disclosed information" would nearly always be chopped off when the statement is repeated by others, to become something like "EOA has reviewed evidence and concluded that John Smith is a pedophile."

  • Rockabilly||

    I apologize to everyone for all the bad things, words, deeds, I did, have done, and will do, etc.

    OK?

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    "OK?"

    NOT GOOD ENOUGH, YOU RACIST BASTARD!!111!!!111!!!111!!!111

    /Morris Dees

  • ||

    I'm curious. Is there a conservative organization comparable to SPLC?

    I mean, conservatives are snowflakes on campus and shut down speech all the time too, right?

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    There used to be some that would throw a tantrum when anyone in a TV show mentioned abortion in a positive light, or when a character said religion is stupid and wasn't immediately shown to be wrong. Moral Majority, Catholic Defenders, etc. But they've been gone, or at least very much under the radar, for a long time, with the Leftists having long since won der Kulturkrieg.

  • ||

    I remember those in the 80s and they had nowhere the corrosive power of prog orgs. I seem to recall society being pretty good at telling Tipper to go fuck herself with an infected dildo.

  • DRM||

    And then that infected dildo was given a Nobel Peace Prize!

  • Azathoth!!||

  • Azathoth!!||

    Ate my comment.

    Is there a conservative organization comparable to SPLC?

    No.

  • fatcyst||

    No, right wingers have souls.

  • Allutz||

    Except, it isn't that they merely put him into a group (which may be an opinion), the group had a definition which included FACTS for your inclusion. Thus, if they say you belong to group X, they are making factual allegations 1-10 against you.

    Like if I say, "Robbie is a nerd", but then I have an official definition of "Nerd" on my website that includes "beats one's wife at least twice a year" and "drinks directly from the toilet", then I have made those specific factual allegations against Robbie. The same is true of the SPLC's definition of various hate rankings.

  • Allutz||

    "The Southern Poverty Law Center defines a hate group as an organization that – based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities – has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.

    The organizations on our hate group list vilify others because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity – prejudices that strike at the heart of our democratic values and fracture society along its most fragile fault lines."

    See Also: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting -hate/extremist-files/ ideology/anti-muslim

  • Michael P||

    Robby Soave, do you take the position that everything SPLC has published about Nawaz is non-defamatory? Or do you simply assume that the threatened lawsuit was solely premised on SPLC's inclusion of Nawaz in its factually challenged list of supposed anti-Muslim extremists?

    For example, do you think it was factually accurate (or protected opinion) to call him "anti-Muslim" at all?

  • majil||

    Soave misses on this one., They labeled him a hate group and slandered him.
    Soave should have talked them into fighting it . The system worked , Free speech was not harmed as this was one person ( group) against another person ( group) in court.
    Keep your panties on Soave, and by the way ,I saw you on a panel discussing Trumps win and your hair looks like a dog dumped on your head .and you live in a bubble.

  • ravenshrike||

    The SLPC lists are used as fact by, among other organizations, the Federal fucking Bureau of Investigations. Moreover, they tout said lists as accurate fact to, among others, their donors. All of which means that they were most probably committing defamation against Nawizz, which is why they folded like a house of cards. A judgement against them would significantly imperil their money train.

  • Eidde||

    Is this under UK law or not? Disputes under the agreement are to be arbitrated in Virginia.

  • Michael P||

    If the settlement invokes Virginia law, it should be covered by Virginia law. Because it's a settlement signed before any lawsuit was filed, it doesn't mean either party was legally liable for libel or that the SPLC's statements were unprotected by the First Amendment. It does suggest that SPLC didn't think the threatened lawsuit would have gone well for it.

  • Eidde||

    It just said that if they disagree over the settlement agreement, they'd have an arbitrator appointed by the American Arbitration Association, with hearings in Virginia. But that's not arbitrating the underlying dispute, but arbitrating the agreement which resolved the dispute. And no mention of which substantive law they'd use.

    And I don't think there was even a lawsuit filed in *any* country before the agreement was signed.

    So can anyone help me out? The guy they libeled is in the UK, so maybe there were threats of using UK courts and UK law?

  • Thor||

    The SPLC is a disgusting organization. They are nothing more than a not so cleverly disguised hate group.

  • Paulpemb||

    The SPLC will just use this in their next fundraising appeal ("You've undoubtedly heard about the recent settlement, and that means that we need your help more than ever! Your tax deductible gift will make sure that we have the resources that we need to stand up to hate!"). I'm sure they will more than break even.

  • twood||

    The SPLC literally works with the FBI on who to classify as terror/extremist groups. They're not just "dishing out opinions".

  • Hunthjof||

    Thank you said the same thing. Their "opinions" carry weight with government entities that then make the policies.

  • Mark22||

    Only statements of provable fact — or statements that imply provable fact — can be defamatory.

    Claiming that an individual engages in "hate speech" ceased being mere opinion once "hate speech" became a legally defined and relevant concept. For example, if Nawaz were charged with a violent crime, a finding of racial animus would result in increased penalties. Therefore, such claims aren't just mere opinions anymore, they are a statement of fact.

  • Joseph Wagner||

    Sorry, Robby Soave. You have the completely wrong take on this article. Discovery can really bite you in the butt. The SPLC must have had some real skeletons in its closet that it didn't want other people to find. SPLC is not cowering at the threat of a lawsuit. The SPLC is paying $3 million to make sure discovery doesn't happen and nobody finds out where the bodies are buried.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The Southern Poverty Law Center has asserted opinion AS fact, and those opinions have been used AS facts to injure other parties. It seems to me (IANAL) that this puts them into a free-fire zone, and much pain may it cause them.

    If they had made it clear that their hate mongers lists were only their opinions, they would be safe. They didn't. They instead allowed their rantings to be used by the Progressive Establishment as an excuse to suppress non-Progressive positions. And they were pretty goddamned smug about it.

    It is not the Apology that is bad news for free speech, but the SPLC and the Progressive Establishment that used them. Their apology is probably made in the hope that the moral and ethical bankruptcy of their organization wouldn't be exposed in court.

  • Hunthjof||

    Especially true when those opinions find their way into DOJ policy papers. I was less then amused when they said returning veterans were a potential terrorist threat.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The Progressive Left Establishment has been growing more toxic for several decades. Like many social groups and movements toward the end of their ascendency, they have become more extreme rather than more accommodating as they gradually lost power.

    The next few decades will probably see this accelerate. Certainly, the Herst Papers grew increasing shrill and deranged as they lost circulation to more Liberal media in the 1950's, so by the '60's they were almost caricatures of Conservative anti-Communism.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Don't take my word for it"

    Don't worry. We won't.

  • fatcyst||

    LOL, this ^

  • twood||

    Americans already have basically unlimited free speech rights. Would be nice to actually be able to win a defamation suit for a change. Unfortunately this had to be accomplished in Britain.

  • Sevo||

    "Would be nice to actually be able to win a defamation suit for a change."

    Not unless you'd like to be sued.

  • No Longer Amused||

    Hate groups like the SPLC can't financially afford too much exposure; if everybody figured out that they are the very definition of a racist hate group their donations would evaporate.

  • John C. Randolph||

    The SPLC is an advocacy organization

    Nope. It's a left-wing money laundry.

    -jcr

  • ThomasD||

    Rico Fucking Suave goes all First Amendment, even though it's a case of one private individual seeking peaceful redress for the defamatory statements of another.

    Constitutional scholar that he is.

    This place is shit.

    Total shit.

  • SIV||

    What if it is one private individual who feels bad about herself because she saw your family vacation photo picturing your wife and daughter at the beach. So she files a complaint knowing the government will require your mutual private employer fire you or face ruinous fines,civil judgements and litigation costs. Peaceful redress?

  • ThomasD||

    "So she files a complaint knowing..."

    Well, in that particular case you describe all I know is that it's nonsense.

    Hypothetical tyrannies divorced from any semblance of the actual incident at hand don't really mean much.

    Try sticking closer to reality and maybe we can have a discussion.

  • Sevo||

    There are no US judicial issues involved here, so any A-1 claim is a red herring.
    SPLC is a noted left-wing propaganda organization, but even if (in the US) they caused shown or potential harm by promoting their bullshit, they are still liable.
    No law prevents them from making an ass of themselves, but if, in doing so through lies, they cause a loss, they should be liable for the loss.
    It may well be that Nawaz has not yet suffered loss, but it also may well be that his lawyers have pointed out that the potential loss is so great that SPLC decided to settle rather than deal with that potential loss.
    I support A-1 without any 'buts'; I also support the claim of those harmed (or potentially harmed) by lies from organizations left or right to recover the losses (or potential losses)

  • Greg Q||

    "The SPLC really screwed up here, and it was right to apologize. But unfairly characterizing Nawaz is not defamation, because opinions cannot be defamatory. That's part of what makes them opinions."

    What you and Ken are ignoring is that the tech giants are destroying people's free speech for being on one of the SPLC's lists. And the SPLC is eagerly working with them to support this.

    People who work to drive out other people's speech, have no grounds to complain when the same is done to them.

    So, you have this exactly backwards. It is the existence of the SPLC that is bad for free speech, and this successful attack on them is a huge free speech win

    There is no such thing as "hate speech", there's only speech you don't like, and speakers you're trying to drive out of the public square. until the SPLC stops trying to drive others out of the public square, they deserve any damage that can eb done to them

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "The organization has occasionally been very sloppy about who gets labelled an extremist,"

    "Occasionally"?

    Try incessantly.

  • Vin_Decks!!!||

    Supporting the SPLC - which has BECOME a hate group in it's rush to label all enemies of the SJWs as "hate groups" - is a DISGRACE to reason. You fuckers have NO shame. You deserve Tony as your most active commenter - FUCK IT! YOU PEOPLE SHOULD MAKE HIM YOUR SPOKESMAN!

    This is why your donations dropped 1000% after you all contracted TDS.....

  • MikeP2||

    Pathetic, Robby. You should be ashamed.

    SPLC portrays themselves as a legitimate and unbiased source when by all appearances they are anything but. They hold sway over anyone's reputation and their praise or condemnation can have direct and severe financial impacts.

    this is exactly why civil law allows action against defamatory statements and why freedom of speech cannot exist without the legal means to defend oneself against hate groups like the SPLC.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Oh

    Look.

    The SPLC being defended at Reason Magazine

    The SPLC.

    yeah.

  • fatcyst||

    And to think I used to like Ken White (during the subpoena fiasco)... just to find out hes in bed with the devils.

  • SparktheRevolt||

    He's a raging liberal pos.

  • Greg Q||

    DENVER LGBT PRIDE FEST BANS LOCAL MEN'S GROUP, CITING — WAIT FOR IT — THE SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER::

    https://bit.ly/2t7aC5M

    "In a rejection email dated April 11, organizers officially exiled Rocky Mountain MRA from PrideFest, citing for example the group's one-time screening of the film "The Red Pill," as well as the fact that the group posted news from The Daily Caller on Facebook."

    That's why you're nuts to try to defend the SPLC on freedom of speech grounds

  • Vaelyn||

    The First Amendment would not apply in a British lawsuit.

    Yet even of it did, the 1A also guarantees the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Is that not what Nawaz is doing?

  • Vaelyn||

    Perhaps in a more civilized age this matter would be settled with pistols at dawn...

  • JeremyR||

    The problem is that the SPLC is acting essentially as a government agency putting groups they don't like on a black list, which is then used by the government or tech companies to discriminate.

    In other words, their "free speech" is being used to shut down the actual free speech of any group they dislike.

  • Tricia McMillan||

    I love the irony of SPLC settling a defamation suit for a list that they compiled to protect Islam (not Muslims, Islam) from defamation:

    "Anti-Muslim hate groups also broadly defame Islam, which they tend to treat as a monolithic and evil religion. These groups generally hold that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion."

    [emphasis added]

  • aajax||

    I wouldn't generalize from this case. Maajid had them boxed in. They don't want to have to go to court and claim they are dealing in opinions rather than facts. That would hurt the SPLC's brand, as they are widely treated as authoritative on who is racist and/or extremist.

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