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Morris Dees' Defamation By: Myles Kantor
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, September 25, 2003

A relatively small distortion often indicates a web of falsehood.

The Summer 2003 “Intelligence Report” of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) contains a diatribe by George Ewert against Ronald Maxwell’s recent film, Gods and Generals.  His charges include:

  • “‘Gods and Generals’ is part of a growing movement that seeks to rewrite the history of the American South, downplaying slavery and the economic system that it sustained.”
  • Gods and Generals “has two black characters, but they are wildly unrepresentative of blacks in the South of that period. One, Martha, is a slave who remains in her master's house after his family flees so that she can protect it from the ravages of Union troops. The other, a freedman named Jim who volunteers to be Gen. Jackson's camp cook and mumbles in clichéd black dialect, is similarly depicted as a loyal Southerner.”

Having seen Gods and Generals, I must conclude that Ewert either has not seen it or suffers from memory loss.

To address the first charge together, slavery is a central theme in Gods and Generals and hardly romanticized.  One of the protagonists, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, is an abolitionist who delivers perhaps the film’s most powerful monologue on the necessity of emancipation. 

To claim that the two black Southerners are content with slavery likewise ignores the plot.  Martha does remain in her master’s house, but after Union troops arrive she cares for their wounded and blesses them, stating her desire for freedom.  During a prayer with Jackson, Jim asks why slavery still exists.

A “those Yankee agitators turned our merry Negroes bad” kind of film doesn’t have this content, and Ewert owes an apology to the director and writer of Gods and Generals, Ronald Maxwell.

Ewert notes praise of Gods and Generals by FrontPage Magazine’s John Zmirak, which ties in with the Summer 2003 Intelligence Report’s smears of FrontPage’s sponsor, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture.  The cover of the report is a drawing of Adolf Hitler in front of the American flag with the title “Marching toward the Mainstream,” about how “the radical Right invades American culture.”  In the feature story by Chip Berlet, “Into the Mainstream,” the list of such “radical Right” organizations includes the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and the Ludwig von Mises Institute (for which Mr. Zmirak and I have also written).

The implication is egregious: the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and Mises Institute seek to restore Hitlerian policies.  While CSPC president and FrontPage editor-in-chief David Horowitz has ably addressed the SPLC’s defamations, I also have an interest in responding given my association with both the CSPC and Mises Institute.

On August 13, 1999, WorldNetDaily published an article titled “Socialist origins of Neo-Nazism” that contained this description of Nazis:

"Hitler and all his top lieutenants were hard-core socialists who hated everything about the old Europe, including small states, the monarchs, the Church, the landed aristocracy, peace, and the free economy of the 19th century. They imagined themselves running a centralized, protectionist, and statist Germany under the executive-branch 'leadership principle.' They talked constantly of a proletarian revolution that would destroy the bourgeois class."

The writer later remarked about the neo-Nazi vision in William Pierce’s novel, The Turner Diaries, the twisted hate screed that inspired Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City Bombing:

"After taking over, they restart the calendar at the year zero, a goal associated with every socialist thinker from Rousseau to Pol Pot…businessmen are portrayed as a greedy class that puts money before race, and Christians are demonized as stupid and evil. In the U.S. of the future, all free enterprise and free trade are abolished. Instead, we get a central-planning regime that distributes all resources, including food, on an equal basis. The citizens are pliable subjects of the socialist elite who exercise total power."

The author of “Socialist origins of Neo-Nazism” was Llewellyn Rockwell Jr., president of the Mises Institute.  That stands to reason since the Mises Institute is named in honor of the pioneering Austrian economist and thinker who loathed Nazism and fled his homeland after the Nazi Anschluss in 1938.

The CSPC through FrontPage has likewise supported writing against Nazism and its spawn.  For instance, at David Horowitz’s request I wrote a pair of articles on white supremacist anti-Americanism: “The Anti-American Right: An Introduction” and “The Fascist Left during the 1930s and 1940s,” which FrontPage Magazine published last spring.

But Dees and the SPLC are impervious to such facts. The pursuit of cash supersedes Dees’ fidelity to reality, as left-wing journalists have noted.

“Morris Dees doesn't need your financial support,” writes Ken Silverstein in “The Church of Morris Dees” (Harper’s, November 2000), observing that:

"The SPLC is already the wealthiest civil rights group in America…Back in 1978, when the Center had less than $10 million, Dees promised that his organization would quit fund-raising and live off interest as soon as its endowment hit $55 million. But as it approached that figure, the SPLC upped the bar to $100 million, a sum that, one 1989 newsletter promised, would allow the Center 'to cease the costly and often unreliable task of fund raising.' Today, the SPLC’s treasury bulges with $120 million, and it spends twice as much on fund-raising-$5.76 million last year-as it does on legal services for victims of civil rights abuses. The American Institute of Philanthropy gives the Center one of the worst ratings of any group it monitors, estimating that the SPLC could operate for 4.6 years without making another tax-exempt nickel from its investments or raising another tax-deductible cent from well-meaning 'people like you.'"

JoAnn Wypijewski has remarked in The Nation (February 26, 2001):

"What is the Southern Poverty Law Center doing…? Mostly making money…In 1999 it spent $2.4 million on litigation and $5.7' million on fundraising, meanwhile taking in more than $44 million--$27 million from fundraising, the rest from investments…On the subject of 'hate groups' …No one has been more assiduous in inflating the profile of such groups than the center's millionaire huckster, Morris Dees, who in 1999 began a begging letter, 'Dear Friend, The danger presented by the Klan is greater now than at any time in the past ten years.”…With…a salary close to $300,000 putting him among the top 2 percent of Americans, Dees needn't worry about 'fitting in' with the masses of Montgomery [SPLC headquarters]. Naturally, he'd erect a multimillion-dollar office building that's a monstrosity. 'I hate it,' a security guard across the street told me, as the sun's hot rays bounced off the building's vast brushed-stainless-steel-clad southern exposure and onto his face, making him sweat, roasting his skin while he stood watch for the militia nuts Dees would have his donors believe are lurking around every corner."

Keep up the great work, Mr. Dees.  Don’t let truth and decency get in your way.

Myles Kantor is a columnist for FrontPageMagazine.com and editor-at-large for Pureplay Press, which publishes books about Cuban history and culture. His e-mail address is myles.kantor@gmail.com.

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