Various anti-gay conservative groups have been exploiting Wednesday’s shooting at the Family Research Council to push back on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate group” labeling. The event was indisputably a tragedy that has been roundly condemned, but it is now being used a political cover for anti-gay rhetoric. Unfortunately, various journalists are catering to the argument, as exemplified by two Washington Post columnists.
Dana Milbank engaged in some impressive double talk over the issue of the “hate group” label. He called out FRC’s Tony Perkins for suggesting that the SPLC provided the gunman with “license” to shoot, but in the same piece suggested that “hate group” labeling is “reckless,” arguing it could “stir up the crazies”:
Human Rights Campaign isn’t responsible for the shooting. Neither should the organization that deemed the FRC a “hate group,” the Southern Poverty Law Center, be blamed for a madman’s act. But both are reckless in labeling as a “hate group” a policy shop that advocates for a full range of conservative Christian positions, on issues from stem cells to euthanasia.
I disagree with the Family Research Council’s views on gays and lesbians. But it’s absurd to put the group, as the law center does, in the same category as Aryan Nations, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Stormfront and the Westboro Baptist Church. The center says the FRC “often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science.” Exhibit A in its dossier is a quote by an FRC official from 1999 (!) saying that “gaining access to children has been a long-term goal of the homosexual movement.”
The violent history of the KKK and Aryan Nations are obviously quite different from that of anti-gay groups, though it’s worth noting that Tony Perkins has happily spoken in front of white supremacy groups before and even once rented a KKK Grand Wizard’s phone bank. Milbank seems content to focus on these differences, but in doing so he fails to notice the obvious similarities. Groups like the KKK, or even the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, might not function as a “policy shop” per se, but the effect of their efforts is no different. Groups that promote white supremacy and heterosexual-supremacy both publish and promote rhetorical fuel designed to foster hate, disdain, and bigotry against groups of people throughout society. Milbank seems to (incorrectly) believe that “hate” requires a certain threshold of hostility, oblivious to obvious tactics by conservative groups like FRC to polish their public image and save their vitriol for being-closed-doors meetings. Indeed, GLAAD’s Commentator Accountability Project exists primarily to point out that anti-gay activists are more candid about their views with “friendly” conservative audiences than they are when speaking to the mainstream media. By ignoring these tactics, Milbank essentially argues that promoting hate against LGBT people simply isn’t as bad as promoting hate against people of color.
Similarly, Jennifer Rubin complained that there is a double standard about who can be accused of perpetrating hate crimes, laughably claiming that “anti-Christian bias in the media is still acceptable in a way that anti-gay bias is not.” This is demonstrably untrue, with anti-gay Christian voices overwhelmingly dominating the media on LGBT issues. Rubin’s argument requires that she similarly subscribe to the conservative appropriation of Christianity, implying that any criticism of the extreme views of groups like FRC constitutes a smear on all people of faith. She even accused ThinkProgress of “turning itself inside out to insist killing someone for his or her religious-based views is not a hate crime. (You can Google, if you must.)” She purposely didn’t link, because our post actually made the case that Wednesday’s shooting could very well have been a hate crime.
The case being made against the label of “hate group” is weak, and intentionally distracts from the truly valid reasons the label was ever applied.