"Conflation occurs when the identities of two or more individuals, concepts, or places, sharing some characteristics of one another, become confused until there seems to be only a single identity — the differences appear to become lost. In logic, the practice of treating two distinct concepts as if they were one does often produce error or misunderstanding — but not always — as a fusion of distinct subjects tends to obscure analysis of relationships which are emphasized by contrasts. The result of conflating concepts may give rise to fallacies of ambiguity . . . For example, the word "bat" has at least two meanings: a flying animal, and a piece of sporting equipment (such as a baseball bat or a cricket bat). If these two meanings are not distinguished, the result may be . . .:
All bats are animals.
Some wooden objects are bats.
Therefore, some wooden objects are animals." -- Wikipedia
The professional liars at the Southern Poverty Law Center are experts at conflation. You might say they've made quite a tidy pile of money at it. As you can see from the picture above of their shiny headquarters, there ain't much "poverty" about them. They have amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in their bank accounts selling conflation over the years.
Now this, on the face of it, is not uncommon, nor the way the law school-educated flacks at SPLC practice it, is it particularly illegal. That does not mean that it is not dangerous to the Republic or to the individuals and organizations that SPLC chooses to slander. For what we are witnessing today is the institutionalization of their conflation narrative from the highest levels of U.S. law enforcement all the way down to the cop on the beat. SPLC's deliberate twisting of facts and prejudice are now accepted as gospel and are ready, for one example, to be executed at the point of a Missouri highway patrolman's gun (the retraction of the grosser lies of the MIAC report notwithstanding).
If politics is the competition of narratives, then SPLC (and their sister canardists at the ADL) have, with the accession to power of the Obamanoids, swept the field.
The latest proof of this is in the nine page document that the Department of Homeland Security sent to police and sheriff's departments across the country on 7 April, entitled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." This latest distillation of SPLC conflation from on high is being dissected and loudly protested by others, so I will not duplicate their efforts here.
What I would rather do is show you where this came from, in the words of a scholar who has studied the issue at length.
Meet Professor Robert H. Churchill, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. Professor Churchill is a historian of early America and specializes in the history of the American Revolution, early national political culture, and American political violence. Professor Churchill approached me a few years ago as part of research he was doing on a book, this book:
To Shake Their Guns in the Tyrant's Face has just been released by University of Michigan Press. You may find it on-line here. I received my copy only yesterday.
When Churchill approached me about his interest in the philosophical bases of the constitutional militia movement of the Nineties, I was wary. He was, after all, an academic, a species of human known to be not entirely without prejudices when it comes to militias. When I learned that he had been one of the debunkers of Michael Bellesiles' anti-firearm twisting of history with manufactured footnotes entitled "Arming America," I figured maybe he was intellectually honest enough for me to take a chance on.
Certainly the history of our movement had not yet been written. And even after skimming To Shake Their Guns in the Tyrant's Face, I must conclude that the comprehensive history I wish for has yet to be penned. Still, Churchill's work is as rigorous, honest and accurate a portrayal as anything I have seen. When I am quoted, I am quoted accurately and in context. There is not one error I have yet spotted, either in particular to me or in general. Churchill accurately identifies the various groups in and around the militia movement, pointing out the fundamental differences between the constitutionalists and the millennialists and certainly gets right our constant struggle against the racist collectivists who sought to turn the movement to their own purposes.
But in addition to the accuracy of his work, his is the first scholarly critique of the SPLC's conflationism and what Churchill calls the "moral panic" of the "Narrative of 1995." A longish, but pertinent, excerpt:
The militia movement has been the subject of at least a dozen books and hundreds of articles, yet it remains one of the most poorly understood political movements of the twentieth century. In the months after the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building by Timothy McVeigh, civil rights organizations issued at least a dozen published reports on the militia movement, and civil rights activists offered "expert" commentary in hundreds of news stories. Within a year, books by leading figures associated with civil rights organizations, including Morris Dees, Kenneth Stern, and Richard Abanes, offered a coherent narrative of the origin of the movement.
What America learned in these months was that the militia movement was an outgrowth of the racist Right. Civil rights activists portrayed the militias as the armed wing of a much larger "Christian Patriot" movement. They warned that Christian Patriots numbered in the millions and that Christian Patriotism called for restoration of white, Christian, patriarchal domination. The Christian Patriot movement as a whole, and the militias in particular, were antidemocratic, paranoid, virulently anti-semitic, genocidally racist, and brutally violent. Much of this literature suggested that Timothy McVeigh was the movement's highest expression. In this narrative, the militias and the Patriot movement took on the guise of the perfect racist "other," and the threat they posed was best articulated by Morris Dees' apocalyptic vision of a "gathering storm."
This "narrative of 1995" produced by civil rights organizations, coupled with the horror of the Oklahoma City bombing, triggered what Steven Chernak has referred to as a moral panic. Through published reports, their influence over the news coverage of the movement, and testimony at prominent public hearings, leading militia "experts" injected their portrait of the movement into public consciousness and popular culture. In news coverage, popular novels, episodes of Law and Order, and movies such as Arlington Road, the public became well-acquainted with the archetypal militiaman, usually protrayed as warped by racial hatred, obsessed with bizarre conspiracy theories, and hungry for violent retribution.
The moral panic over the "militia menace" strongly resembled previous moral panics over the "communist menace" that had swept the nation in the aftermath of World War I and again in the early 1950s. Less well known than these two Red scares is America's "Brown Scare." In the late 1930s, political activists on the left warned that an array of far right opponents of President Roosevelt and the New Deal . . . constituted a fifth column composed of fascist brownshirts . . . (T)he ensuing moral panic facilitated a campaign of repression waged by the U.S. governemnt against the Far Right during World War II. In 1995-6, the moral panic over the militia movement blossomed into a second American Brown Scare.
The literature produced by the second American Brown Scare has had significant impact on academic analysis of the movement, and this poses a problem for continuing scholarship. The civil rights organizations that produced the narrative of 1995 conceived of themselves as political opponents of the militia movement, and these organizations made the legal suppression of the movement one of their central political objectives. That political objective has systematically shaped their reporting on the movement. Their analyses might serve as a primary source base for an interesting analyis of how the activist Left perceived the Far Right at the turn of the millennium. To use this literature as a primary source base in an analysis of the character of the militia movement itself is to allow the movement's opponents to define it.
Unfortunately, much of the scholarship on the militia movement produced in the last ten years has not broken free from the influence of the narrative of 1995. Too many scholars have relied on the reports and books generated by the Brown Scare as primary evidence of the character of the movement. Others who have avoided this first error have nevertheless allowed the narrative of 1995 to unduly influence their research agendas. Finally, even the best scholarship on militias tends to inappropriately conflate the militia movement with other movements on the far right of American politics and to overstate the influence of millennial thought on militia ideology. . .
The final academic legacy of the Brown Scare is an emphasis on the allegedly close association of militia groups with other far right organizations, such as white supremacist groups, Christian Identity ministries, common-law courts, and tax protest societies. The narrative of 1995 lumped all of these disparate far right groups together in the "Christian Patriot movement," a misguided simplification that has led a number of senior scholars to blur the lines between different groups with quite different worldviews . . .
Since the turn of the millennium, three scholars have begun the task of freeing scholarship of the militia movement from the narrative of 1995. . . As an historian, I hope to contribute to this field an insight gained in the study of other partisan political crises in Ameerican history: in evaluating the ideology of an insurgent movement, one must not allow the movement's partisan allies, much less its partisan enemies, to speak for it. (pp. 7-11)
Indeed. And as important as this principle is in historical scholarship, it is even more vitally important, even deadly important, that such bias not enter into the decision making loop of law enforcement. Yet this is exactly where we are today.
But, you may ask, how do you know that SPLC is writing these MIAC and DHS reports? Why because they have told us. From the Washington Times story yesterday by Audrey Hudson and Eli Lake, "Federal agency warns of radicals on right":
Mark Potok, director of the (SPLC's) intelligence project, said the Homeland Security report, "confirms that white supremacists are interested in the military. There is some concern, and there should be, about returning veterans, one need only think of the example of Timothy McVeigh, who was in the first Iraq war."
Mr. Potok added that he was generally pleased with the report. "Basically, the report tracks fairly closely with what we have been saying for some time now. They mention us a couple of times, though not by name," he said.
Yes, well, isn't that special? The moral panic whipped up by the Narrative of 1995 has now been embraced by the federal government and by many state law enforcement organizations and will guide their decisions in the coming months and years. People can, and have been, killed needlessly over such lies and stupidities.
My suggestion? Arm yourselves with the truth. Buy a copy of Prof. Churchill's book. And after you are done reading it, donate it to your local sheriff or state "fusion center." If left unchallenged, the "Narrative of 1995" could get us all killed.