What do you call an organization whose so-called intelligence reports are sometimes an insult to intelligence, an organization that brands some groups “hate groups” and yet, using its own criteria, should itself be branded a hate group? You call that organization the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center). The scary thing is that many people still take them seriously.
According to the SPLC website, its quarterly magazine, the Intelligence Report, “provides comprehensive updates to law enforcement agencies, the media and the general public. It is the nation’s preeminent periodical monitoring the radical right in the U.S.”
The radical right? Well, let’s do a fact check on the Spring 2012 edition, Issue Number: 145, entitled, “The Year in Hate and Extremism 2011,” so we can find out just who this “radical right” really is. I’ll focus on the article by Ryan Lenz (with help from Evelyn Schaltter), “NARTH Becomes Main Source for Anti-Gay ‘Junk Science’,” since I spoke at a conference the article describes and since I was able to have the article reviewed by a staff person at NARTH (the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality).
The article starts off with a dramatic (and hardly impartial) description: “PHOENIX: Michael Brown took the dais in a sterile Marriott ballroom last fall, beaming for the 40 or so therapists who form the devout core of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). With a hulking frame packed tightly into a three-button black suit, one of the nation’s most vociferous anti-gay activists began his speech with a dire warning.”
Well, the “hulking frame” description wasn’t too bad, but I didn’t begin the speech with “a dire warning” and there were probably 75-80 (not 40) in attendance. So, not the best start for an investigative report. As for being “one of the nation’s most vociferous anti-gay activists,” I had no idea I had achieved that status.
Moving on, here are some of the most egregious errors in the report. Describing the NARTH conference itself, the article states that, “True to form, the people speaking at that conference were not therapists promising revelations about human sexuality, but rather prominent culture warriors of the religious right, like Brown [and Sharon Slater].”
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.