The Southern Poverty Law Center was too intolerant for the U.S. Army. Too controversial for the FBI. And too inflammatory for the Obama Justice Department. But despite SPLC’s baggage, the extremists seem to have found a home at one of America’s biggest companies: Amazon. Turns out, you can get almost anything at the online retailer, except — conservatives are finding out — tolerance.
At a time when even the mainstream media is questioning SPLC, Amazon is rushing to embrace the “hate labeling” that inspired Floyd Corkins to walk into our lobby with the goal of killing as many people as possible. Now, a year after the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who is also branded an extremist on SPLC’s website, most people are shocked that anyone – let alone Amazon — would use the radical organization as a resource. Yet now, when shoppers try to donate to Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) through the AmazonSmile program, they can’t. Why? Because, according to the company, “haters” aren’t allowed to participate.
ADF’s supporters, who’ve been using the program for five years, were shocked. After all, ADF isn’t some marginal, far-Right nonprofit, but a respected legal organization that’s argued — and won — several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. But despite the fact that ADF’s been a part of the program since 2013, a spokesman said the company had reconsidered its involvement. When ADF inquired, they were told: “The AmazonSmile Participation Agreement states that certain categories of organizations are not eligible to participate in AmazonSmile. We rely on the Southern Poverty Law Center to determine which charities are in certain ineligible categories. You have been excluded from the AmazonSmile program because the Southern Poverty Law Center lists Alliance Defending Freedom in an ineligible category.”
Of course, the policy change isn’t surprising when you consider the politics of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The billionaire and his wife dumped $2.5 million into a same-sex marriage effort in Washington State — the largest LGBT advocacy gift ever given. If Bezos wants to start policing haters, that’s his business. But relying on SPLC to define them, a group that Politico calls “more of a partisan progressive hit operation than a civil rights watchdog,” then Amazon is making a major mistake.
After all, SPLC’s Mark Potok has been clear that the organization’s real mission has nothing to do with tolerance. “Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate crimes and so on…. I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.” And, what’s worse, SPLC is quite open about the fact that their labels are completely arbitrary. “Our criteria for a ‘hate group,’ first of all, have nothing to do with criminality or violence… It’s strictly ideological.” At least for now, any pretense of SPLC’s credibility is gone — and not just with its conservative targets, but with liberals, Muslims, secularists, even journalists.
Atheists like Sam Harris, who were once allies of SPLC, have roundly criticized it for applying “the powerful language of civil rights to mark those with whom it disagrees as bigots or racists…” Besides, he goes on, “the SPLC has half a billion dollars and seemingly endless appetite for such character assassination campaigns, which should trouble anyone committed to… the old-fashioned values for which journalism, academic, and other high-minded pursuits once stood.”
If Amazon wants to take a stand against incivility, ADF says it would be “happy to help the company create a participation policy for AmazonSmile that does not ban legitimate, well-respected, faith-based organizations like ADF.” At the very least, the organization’s Sarah Kramer writes, if Amazon insists on using information from a discredited group like the SPLC to determine which organizations it allows to participate in AmazonSmile, it should certainly disclose that to its customers. After all, millions of people around the world, like many of you, share our beliefs. And I’m sure you would like to know whether Amazon welcomes your views.”
If you’re an Amazon shopper or Prime subscriber, let the company know how you feel about its partnership with SPLC. Call customer service at 1-888-280-4331 or tweet them @AmazonHelp.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.