Recently the Southern Poverty Law Center, a left-wing “hate-watch organization” released a report titled Agenda 21: The UN, Sustainability, and Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory with the aim of shaming anti-Agenda 21 activists. In the interest of full disclosure, I will mention that I know personally at least two of the people mentioned as ‘right-wing extremists.’
The paper seems like a niche item: SPLC gins up these reports on ‘extremists’ and inflates accounts of ‘hate groups’ in the U.S. in order to scare donations out of its members. But the entire thing is a great example of the limits of self-proclaimed ‘tolerance.’
In case you don’t know, Agenda 21 (which sounds very ominous) is a statement of intent created by the United Nations in 1992 to ‘encourage’ green use of buildings and transportation, a goal that the SPLC clearly endorses. In practice this goal means subsidizing certain businesses over others, removing options from the market, and channeling resources to projects that citizens don’t necessarily want or use.
The SPLC, in addition to reporting on hate-groups, also runs tolerance.org, a website devoted to teaching tolerance and respect for diversity. But that respect for diversity apparently ends when it comes to other opinions. The stated purpose of this report is to ‘shame’ these activists, to “call out” the activists who are “ridiculous to the point of utter absurdity” and whose claims are “baseless propaganda” and “hysteria.” Not once does the SPLC consider that, however outlandish the leading figures, that there may be a reason why people are upset by Agenda 21.
There is a real property and civil rights issue in trying to tell people how they can live, or where, or what transportation they can use. I say this as someone who knows global warming is a real and persistent threat that must be dealt with. Agenda 21 also easily lends itself to conspiracy theories about the New World Order and our United Nations overlords, etc.
The anti-Agenda 21 activists are not violent, not even potentially. Their greatest crime, according to the report, seems to be causing the resignation of nine members of Baldwin County Planning and Zoning Commission after weeks of protest.
The leading figures of anti-Agenda 21 activism are easy to ridicule; they talk about black helicopters and agents of the New World Order. But what about the more moderate citizens who agree with them enough to show up at protests? What convinces them?
One of the things that creates new extremists are reports like this. By belittling the opposition, the SPLC is shutting down any possibility of dialogue. By being so intolerant, by refusing to even try to understand the core of the opposition, the SPLC is perpetuating the divide between these two groups. This watchdog group is ensuring that neither group ever understands the other.
We live in a time of severe and worsening political partisanship, and demonization like this just cements the idea that it’s ‘us vs. them.’ Further conversations becomes impossible.
It’s time for the left to realize that intolerant tolerance just creates new extremists.