The Hate Debate

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 17 2012 @ 9:08pm

by Gwynn Guilford

Reflecting on the shooting at the Washington, DC, Family Research Council shooting on Wednesday, E.J. Graff sounds off:

Some LGBT bloggers are angry with the National Organization for Marriage for denouncing LGBT groups’ rhetoric as potentially inciting this violence. They cite FRC’s truly extreme antigay views, and support the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of FRC as a hate group. And it’s true: FRC’s rhetoric and positions are absolutely vile…. But how did progressives respond to the shootings at the Sikh temple, the Holocaust Museum, to the record number of threats on President Obama’s life, to any abortion-clinic attack? What about the Atlanta bombings, in which Eric Rudolph bombed a lesbian club, an abortion clinic, and the Olympics, in that order?

Here's how: By denouncing not just the individual shooter but also the rhetoric that helped focus and heighten that particular unhinged person’s homicidal impulses. For the first time, I'm starting to understand Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity several years ago. Is there any way for us all to dial down the rhetoric, just a bit—pro-gay and anti-gay, progressive and conservative? FRC isn’t actually killing gay people in the streets. The Republican Party has its point of view, even if you disagree with it.

Dreher takes the Southern Poverty Law Center's categorization of the FCR as a "hate group" to task, referencing Dana Milbank's point that it's "absurd" to lump the FRC in with the KKK:

The accusation of “hate group” and “hater” is thrown around so much by the cultural left that it has ceased to mean anything other than “someone who disagrees with the cultural left.” But some people take this talk seriously, just as some on the Right take self-righteous paranoia by movement loudmouths seriously. And some people have guns.

In a way, the SPLC's hate-labeling approach – as well as more general "-ist" baiting – has created a moral equivalency that blurs the distinction between mere disagreement and out-and-out bigoted persecution – one in which you can tag any sort of calling out of factual distortions as "hate." But it's interesting that, as far as I have read, nothing has surfaced saying what exactly had influenced Floyd Corkins to say "I don't like your politics" and shoot Leo Johnson. The media mentions the LGBT community center he volunteered at, but we don't know if the shooter had heard of the SPLC's designation, or to which of FRC's politics exactly he was reacting. But cue Tony Perkins, who now accuses the SPLC of giving "license" to the shooter to perpetrate the attack. The American Family Association likewise says that the SPLC is "to blame for [the] shooting." Steven Benen calls Perkins out:

For Perkins, there's a chain of events that points to causality — the SPLC condemned the FRC for its anti-gay work; Corkins may have seen the SPLC's condemnation; the suspected gunman was apparently deranged enough to want to commit acts of violence against his perceived enemy; ergo the SPLC bears some responsibility for Corkins' actions. Except that doesn't make any sense, and Perkins surely knows better.

Emphasizing that nothing ever excuses the use of violence, John Aravosis then pulls no punches about the deviousness of FRC's use of fake science and non-logic in advancing its policy agendas:

[I]t's not their policy positions per se, it's their strategy of willfully and systematically lying in order to defame, and discriminate against, an entire class of American citizens - but it really does still amaze me that after everything this organization has said, and continues to say, about gay people, they have the nerve to lecture their victims about being mean. It's genius, really. If they call you a pedophile, it's just their religion.

Gary Bauer, who used to head up FRC, alluded to “a disturbing level of intolerance and hate aimed at those who share traditional values,” as though an epidemic of Corkins-like crimes besets the nation (which is not to dismiss that this was a crime driven by hate, to be clear). The SPLC's website write-up of the FRC explains its rationale, offering some choice quotes of what the FRC passes for research. FRC senior vice president Rob Schwarzwalder maintains similar arguments in this interview.