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Defame and Punish


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Christopher Rufo

How left-wing NGOs mobilize private and public assets to silence critics.
Christopher F. Rufo
Jan 26, 2024



The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project recently procured a cache of government documents that expose a disturbing pattern: left-wing NGOs seeking to mobilize the state against political opponents on specious accusations of “violent extremism.”

According to the report, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) urged Washington State’s “unified counterterrorism” center to investigate me, Daily Wire host Matt Walsh, and social-media influencer Libs of TikTok, under the false pretext that our reporting on gender theory in schools and transgender medical interventions constitutes “hate,” “extremism,” and “violence.”

The campaign to mobilize law enforcement against critics of gender ideology or critical race theory is not a limited affair. The ADL and a related organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), have developed it as a scalable, repeatable tactic to silence political opponents.

The playbook is simple. The SPLC and ADL paint a target on an individual critic, then mobilize a decentralized network of private and public assets to degrade, censor, and punish that target. On the private side, the groups activate left-wing journalists to smear the target in the press, demand that social media companies censor the target’s online speech, and encourage left-wing editors to denigrate the target on his Wikipedia page. On the public side, the groups send notices to state and federal law enforcement, hoping to mobilize the government to open investigations and intimidate critics with the threat of state repression, even incarceration.



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EXCLUSIVE: ADL Alerts Law Enforcement to Matt Walsh, Chris Rufo, Libs of TikTok

Mary Margaret Olohan

January 24, 2024

FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL: The Anti-Defamation League flags “online amplifiers of LGBTQ+ hate” as extremists to be examined by law enforcement, an email obtained by The Oversight Project shows.

The revelation indicates that the Anti-Defamation League, “the leading anti-hate organization in the world,” is specifically pushing law enforcement to scrutinize viral dissenters against transgender ideology, such as The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh and The Manhattan Institute’s Chris Rufo. The email was obtained by The Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s news outlet.)

The ADL has historically focused on anti-semitism, but in recent years has directed heavy attention to hate and extremism. The ADL has described content pushing back against transgender ideology as both “dangerous” and “false,” claiming that this content inspires “real-world extremist activities, threats, and even violence.”

“The ADL, and similar organizations, are a key driver of government weaponization,” Mike Howell, the director of the Oversight Project, a division of the Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. “They provide the phony predication and intellectual cover in order to point the people with guns at their enemies. Our investigative work continues to expose examples of these groups driving government action.”


The Extremist Landscape


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