John Grisham and Morris Dees: Birds of a Feather?

Al Benson Jr.
19 August 2009

A couple years ago someone gave me a copy of one of John Grisham’s books which I really enjoyed. After reading it I picked up several more, some at used book stores. They were well written and Grisham could spin an interesting yarn that held your attention, especially about lawyers, since he had once been one. Although I didn’t totally agree with all of his viewpoints, nonetheless I felt that in many instances he attempted to understand the Southern mindset, and he lived here, not up in New York or out in Hollyweird. He also wrote about some places I have been to, the Mississippi Delta country, Memphis, Northeast Arkansas, and a few other spots. As you read his books you could picture some of the places he wrote about, and it was, in a sense, almost an armchair vacation to read some of his stuff. I realized that, being a best–selling author, he’d have to have somewhat caved in to the current gods of political correctness, but it seemed he had done so without making a big deal of it.

All of that being said, very recently, I took my entire stock of John Grisham books and turned them in at our local used book store. Henceforth, no Grisham books will line my bookshelves. I have to admit, I hadn’t thought very much about John Grisham’s political views beyond the fact that they probably weren’t quite the same as mine. Someone had told me he was a Christian and I thought, somewhere along the line, I had read that he had taught Sunday School. But, then, so did Jimmy Carter and that was no recommendation for him.

Whatever he did or didn’t do, I was recently sent a copy of a letter, (actually two copies of the same letter from different sources) where John Grisham was writing to encourage people to support Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center. His letter started off:

I’m writing to you about Morris Dees, an Alabama lawyer and a friend, who needs your help in his fight to put dangerous hate groups out of business…In 1971, he founded the renowned Southern Poverty Law Center to carry on his fight for justice. Since then Morris and his colleagues have filed a series of lawsuits that have put dangerous hate groups out of business…But their work is far from over. That’s why they need your help.

He then prattled on about how the number of “hate groups” in this country has increased 50% since 2000, and on and on ad nauseam. I could hardly believe it when I read it. My first thought was “Is Grisham this naive, after all the stuff he’s written about lawyers and politicians?” My next thought was “No, he’s really not naive. This is, unfortunately, probably where he has been all along—just like Obama. He literally can’t do other than what he’s doing here. He doesn’t have the mindset for it.”

How terribly sad! So now he’s openly touting Morris (Sleaze) Dees’ seamy outfit. Let’s take a brief look at this outfit Mr. Grisham is so anxious to have you toss your hard-earned money at. For one thing, Mr. Dees’ organization hardly needs your financial help to combat what he refers to as “hate groups.” His organization is literally awash in financial contributions—the golden goose and the cash cow all rolled into one! Ken Silverstein, writing in Harpers back in November of 2000, told us 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 his $55 million. But as it approached that figure, the SPLC upped the bar to $100 million…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.

Most of this loot is raised through direct mail pleas. In fact the Philanthropy Institute gave the SPLC an “F” rating for how it administers those funds it collects. Most of those funds seem, strangely, to remain at headquarters, with a mere trickle finding its way down to the “poor and oppressed” whom Dees claims he wants to help.

JoAnn Wypijewski wrote in The Nation in February of 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.

Too bad Mr. Grisham didn’t do a little homework before issuing his plea for help for Dees’ poor, struggling “civil rights” organization!

And then, there are those “hate groups.” Supposedly, according to Grisham (wonder where he got his figures) they have, as already noted, increased by over 50 percent since 2000. He then goes on to inform us that the backlash against Obama’s election “in certain quarters” along with the difficult economic times, have acted to create a perfect environment for the proliferation of these “hate groups.”

The message here is rather plain—if you dare to disagree with the great Obama, then you are a potential “hater” just like those folks that protest his socialist politices have suddenly become “right-wing extremists and low-level terrorists.” These are the labels they arrogantly pin on any of the American people who are not outright socialists. It seems, in retrospect, that Dees is willing to go after those hate groups that will bring in the big bucks via donations. According to an article written by Dr. Boyd Cathey in 2004 for the League of the South:

In 1986 the SPLC’s entire legal staff resigned in protest over Dees’ refusal to address the issues of homelessness, voter registration, and affirmative action which they considered more important to poor minorities—but much less lucrative than appealing to largely white benefactors about the evils of the Klan.

Dr. Cathey noted that, at one point, the SPLC claimed that the state of Ohio was rife with right-wing “hate groups.” It listed forty hate groups in that state. Dr. Cathey said:

David Martin, an investigative reporter for the Cleveland Scene checked those claims and found them woefully exaggerated and disingenous. Instead of the ‘haven for hate’ claimed by the SPLC, Martin found that most of the cited groups were marginal, miniscule, and practically non–existent. One of the “groups” listed was a ninetly–year old sight–impaired man who had once published a newsletter.

This same situation is typical for many other states. Often the separate “hate groups” in a given state tend to be chapters of one particular organization in that state that Dees and his cohorts don’t like and so they are all listed for that state as separate “hate groups.”

This is what John Grisham is asking his readers to contribute their money to in these hard times. With his books on many of the best–seller lists, I’m sure Mr. Grisham has many more dollars to throw at Mo Dees than most of us do. So I’d suggest that he give a very large contribution to the SPLC if he thinks Mr. Dees’ outfit is so great. “

As for "me and my house” from now on we will pass up any future Grisham books. If Grisham can so easily ask for money for a leftist organization like the SPLC, then he no longer needs my readership of his work and he no longer has my respect.


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