The Anti-Defamation League Is Following the Southern Poverty Law Center Into Self-Induced Oblivion

by | Sep 14, 2023 | Culture War

This isn’t the first time a litigation nonprofit targeting hate groups has transformed into a hate group itself.

Last week, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) unexpectedly found itself in the media spotlight, as Elon Musk publicly threatened to sue them for allegedly mounting a public pressure campaign to force advertisers not to do business with X (Twitter). The new focus on the ADL brought several accusations over many years to the forefront of America’s conscience, and reminded us how badly the group has strayed from its original mission.

The current CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt—a former member of the Clinton and Obama administrations—has ruined the organization’s credibility by injecting woke politics into it. The whole sorry affair brings to mind the institutional capture that has destroyed another venerable progressive organization: the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has lost all credibility since the 1980s.

ADL Hires A Woke CEO

It seems unlikely the ADL will survive under its original vision. Like the SPLC, it’s more likely it will continue to spiral down as another of the radical leftist intersectional attack organizations, able to raise and spread around gobs of dark money on the back of its long-lost reputation, at the beck and call of the professional left.

The ADL was founded in 1913 and did good work to fight anti-Semitism for over 100 years. Though it strayed into sexual politics in the 1950s and 1960s by strongly endorsing abortion “rights,” while also advocating for lax border policies, it mostly stuck to its core message. The ADL gained a trusted reputation for calling out anti-Semitism regardless of the party or political leanings of the perpetrator.

Then, along came the retirement of its long-time director, Abe Foxman. In 2015, the board selected a new CEO, Greenblatt. Greenblatt’s resume reflects a radical professional upbringing, a marked shift from the steady and nonpartisan direction of his predecessor. He served in both the Clinton and Obama administrations. Under Obama, Greenblatt served as the director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation— essentially, an administration-level community organizing role.

Greenblatt also has the Aspen Institute on his resume, serving at one point as director of the institute’s Impact Economy Initiative. Lest the reader doubt his dedication to radical left causes, in a 2011 interview Greenblatt described his goals with Aspen:

We are living through a period of history when forces such as globalization and technology have accelerated the pace of change to a breathtaking rate. In these turbulent times, as the country seeks new approaches to job creation and economic renewal, a number of experts increasingly acknowledge the relationship between national competitiveness, social impact and environmental benefit.

Sounds nice until one examines the implications of balancing competition with social impact and environmental benefit. In fact, that sounds a lot like ESG. As we will see, Greenblatt has carried these radical motivations into his current position.

How Did the SPLC Lose All Credibility?

Much like the ADL, the Southern Poverty Law Center began with high-minded ideals and a singular focus to provide legal assistance to minorities facing racism. The SPLC found in the 1980s, however, that fundraising off race-baiting and fear-mongering paid very, very well, especially as an IRS-recognized nonprofit. The SPLC has taken precious few individual cases over the past four decades, preferring to fund radical leftists causes.

Its infamous “Hate Map” has been roundly and repeatedly debunked, so much so that in 2014 the FBI famously stopped promoting the SPLC—and the ADL—as anti-hate resources on its website (much to the chagrin of Media Matters).

Unfortunately, it appears the FBI and SPLC have kissed and made up, in order to target their common enemy: the Catholic Church.

Within the past few years, Jewish leaders have taken a strong stand against the SPLC, observing that the Hate Map makes things more dangerous for Jews in America. In 2020, for instance, 100 Orthodox Jewish leaders sent a letter to Amazon:

… a coalition of 100 Orthodox Jewish rabbis sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, warning that Amazon Smile relies on a deceptive and dangerous “hate map” to exclude mainstream conservative and Christian organizations from the company’s charity program. They insisted that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) actually makes America more dangerous for the Jewish community by downplaying the very real threat of radical Islamic organizations connected to terrorist groups.

The rabbis condemned the SPLC’s list of “hate groups” as “unfair, unreasonable, and biased.” Indeed, the SPLC routinely brands mainstream conservative and Christian organizations “hate groups,” including them on a list with the Ku Klux Klan.

This is just another example in which SPLC’s modern radical leftist world view has completely skewed its mission, further eroding it into little more than a leftist attack group focusing on mainstream conservative thought.

ADL Radicalizes Even Further

Signs of Greenblatt’s radicalization of the ADL started to emerge early in his tenure. In 2017, Greenblatt announced a new ADL initiative to head hate off at the pass. In one, ADL announced a partnership with Big Tech to stop “cyberhate,” with a new Silicon Valley think tank:

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and other leading technology companies are joining with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the world’s leading organization combating anti-Semitism and hate of all kinds, to establish a Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab to counter the growing amount of hate speech online. Engaging engineers and focused on technical solutions, the companies and ADL will collaborate to exchange ideas, investigate areas of common risk and opportunity, and seek to devise new approaches to identify and address cyberhate.

This may seem a minor point, but “combating anti-Semitism and hate of all kinds” indicates significant mission creep under Greenblatt’s vision.

In a previous announcement in 2017, Greenblatt announced the source of seed funding for this new venture:

At SXSW, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt announced Sunday that ADL has secured seed funding from Omidyar Network to build a state-of-the-art command center in Silicon Valley to combat the growing threat posed by hate online. The center will employ the best technology and seasoned experts to monitor, track, analyze and mitigate hate speech and harassment across the Internet, in support of the Jewish community and other minority groups.

Greenblatt unveiled the plan Sunday at SXSW while discussing “The State of Hate” on stage with Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith.

ADL’s center on cyberhate, technology, and society will pioneer new strategies in the fight against online abuse, drawing from ADL’s three decades of expertise monitoring, tracking, and combating hate on the public and private web. It will author reports and data; provide insights to government and policy makers; and expose and stop specific cases of online harassment and cyberbullying.

For those unfamiliar with Omidyar Network, it is a relatively low-profile leftist dark money group typical of the more familiar radical nonprofits. Formed by eBay founder and billionaire Pierre Omidyar, the eponymous nonprofit has radical goals for the remaking of American society. On its website, it features its white paper, a “call to reimagine capitalism in America:”

Markets are not “naturally” occurring. They are not inherently free; they are built. They are deliberately shaped by ideas, norms, values, culture, capital, politics, laws, and, of course, power  and people. The balance between markets and government in any society is always contested and evolving.

(Page 4)

Later, the think piece states:

We believe our economy should embody values like dignity, economic security, and the freedom to fully engage as equals in our economy, democracy, and society. In the past, these and other values have been too often subordinated to a singular focus on individual liberty (most especially for white, property-owning men).

(Page 6)

Perversely, the Omidyar Group then confesses its sins against humanity by participating in the market:

Many others who did not aim to rig the system nonetheless benefitted handsomely from it, including ourselves – Omidyar Network specifically, and modern philanthropy as a whole. We had little to do with the invention or deliberate perpetuation of this worldview but played by the new rules without fully examining the implications of the underlying assumptions and outcomes. We and many others were beneficiaries of further concentration of wealth, power, and opportunity, and at times its unwitting advocates.

(Page 5)

So a self-loathing, anti-free market billionaire has agreed to work with the woke CEO of the ADL to combat “cyberhate,” after identifying individual liberty as the driver of all of society’s ills. Any doubt where they will train their aim in combating hate online?

ADL Faces Fierce Backlash

As Greenblatt has steered the ADL into ever more radical politics, some have reacted with alarm. Cornell Professor William Jacobson, founder of the Legal Insurrection blog and foundation, has tracked the ADL for many years. On September 5, after Musk publicly speculated about suing ADL, Jacobson wrote:

Greenblatt’s tweet unleashed a torrent of animosity that had been building, including among people (like me) devoted to fighting antisemitism. Now everyone is talking about ADL.

But I’ve been speaking out against ADL for a long time, as have some other people frustrated how ADL took a good purpose – fighting antisemitism – and weaponized it for leftist political purposes under Greenblatt, much as SPLC weaponized the fight against racism for leftist political purposes. Both ADL and SPLC wield enormous power to ruin lives and businesses through putting people on “hate” lists, and leverage those lists to try to deplatform people and censor lawful political speech. These “hate” lists also are huge moneymakers for both ADL and SPLC, driving massive donations to these wealthy organizations.

Earlier in 2023, the New York Post wrote of a prominent Jewish journalist, Gerald Posner, who became so disgusted with Greenblatt’s antics he created a competing organization dedicated to fighting genuine anti-Semitism, which Posner believes ADL has strayed from. Posner and his wife founded Antisemitism Watch as a nonpartisan counterpoint to the ADL.

In a long piece for Commentary (very much worth the reader’s time), Seth Mandel blasted Greenblatt for straying from the core mission of the ADL and fully embracing radical woke politics. He pulled no punches in his conclusion:

Greenblatt’s attack-the-messenger philosophy is discouraging. His tetchy, defensive attitude is his way of ensuring he will not learn from mistakes but instead double down on them. His resentment of the Jewish communal figures who came before him is petty and petulant. His partisanship is toxic. And his hostility toward religious freedom represents a historically ignorant tempting of fate for the leader of a Jewish institution. Perhaps this won’t all lead to disaster. But if we should be so lucky, it will be in spite of Jonathan Greenblatt.

Even CNN criticized Greenblatt in 2022, after he changed and broadened the definition of racism on the ADL website.

As Mandel wrote, it seems the ADL has crossed the Rubicon, transforming itself from a venerated organization with a rock-solid reputation forged on sticking to its core mission, to a mere leftist cudgel bent on fundraising, and using its reputation to bully those it deems unworthy of civil discourse. Institutionalized wokeism at its worst.  

Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Effort to Undermine Democracy. You can find all his work at

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