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What on earth gives with journalists at the Washington Post? Both editors and reporters alike? I ask this because of the outrageous headline in today’s edition, accompanying an equally outrageous article, sliming an organization that’s concerned about the spread of Muslim extremism and terrorism into the United States as a “hate group.”

Not that there’s anything new about mainstream news media and their staffs being dismissive about these dangers. And not that there’s anything new about these newspapers, magazines, broadcast networks, and websites using as their guide to hate groups the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) – even though this organization’s definition of an anti-Muslim extremist can be wildly offbase.

What’s new, and upsetting, about this incident is that the Post itself recently published an article – by the head of the restrictivist immigration organization, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) – that its appearance alone (let alone the evidence it marshaled) revealed that the paper itself took most seriously the case that SPLC hate group ratings are simply biased garbage.

As noted by its Executive Director Mark Krikorian in a Post article just last March, SPLC has labeled CIS a hate group since February.  But as Krikorian also pointed out:

“CIS has testified before Congress more than 100 times over the past 20 years. We’ve also testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and our work has been cited by the Supreme Court and the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General. We’ve done contract work for the Census Bureau and the Justice Department. Our director of research was selected by the National Academies of Sciences as an outside reviewer for last year’s magisterial study of the fiscal and economic impacts of immigration. Our authors include scholars at Harvard,Cornell University, Colorado State University, the University of Maryland and elsewhere. We are one of the most frequently cited sources on immigration in the media (including in The Post).”

And he sensibly concluded:

“Equating a group that has such a track record of engagement in the public policy debate with, for instance, the Holy Nation of Odin has nothing to do with warning the public of ‘hate.’ The SPLC’s true purpose can only be to deprive the American people of points of view they need to hear to make informed and intelligent collective decisions.”

Yet this morning, just six months later, a Post headline declared that “Marriott says it will not cancel conference hosted by anti-Muslim hate group.” In other words, this development was portrayed as a fact. But in the third paragraph, reporter Abha Bhattarai (and clearly her editors) show that the paramount basis for this description was that same Southern Policy Law Center.

Now the group so labeled – ACT for America – is completely separate from Krikorian’s CIS. Here’s how it describes it purpose:

“ACT for America educates citizens and elected officials to impact public policy and protect America from terrorism. As a result, ACT’s grassroots network has driven the education process toward the successful passage of 84 bills in 32 states. ACT for America is continuing to expand its nationwide volunteer network that trains citizens to recognize and help prevent criminal activity and terrorism in the United States while preserving civil liberties protected by the United States Constitution.”

Bhattarai attempted to buttress the SPLC’s finding by reporting that ACT was

“behind anti-Muslim demonstrations across the country this summer that attracted white supremacist groups.

‘I don’t believe in having Muslims in the United States,’ Francisco Rivera, of the white supremacist group Vanguard America, said at one of the demonstrations.

‘Their culture is incompatible with ours.’”

Sounds like guilt by association to me. Moreover, there are reasons to view Bhattarai’s verbal brush as excessively broad in a more fundamental sense. Here’s how another big national news organization, The Los Angeles Times, depicted these activities. ACT, it stated, “has supported President Trump’s restrictions on refugees and travel from Muslim-majority countries. It organized protests throughout the country this summer against sharia law, which the group says is incompatible with Western culture.”

That appears to be much more precise — and less damning — phrasing. And I’m inclined to trust in it because the Times handled the headline for its version of this story properly, too:

“Marriott won’t cancel convention of what critics call anti-Muslim hate group.”

So the Times, unlike the Post, seems to understand the difference between a fact and an opinion. But the Post‘s failure in this regard is even less excusable because it had recently run material casting major doubt on the SPLC’s bona fides. In other words, it seems that its own reporters and editors don’t read a lot of what the Post produces. Maybe the rest of us should take this as a hint?