Hate groups, hate speech
I don’t want to beat a dead horse and I refuse to get drawn into a flame war, but expressing one’s regret that a transgender activist like Roz Kaveney and a lesbian separatist like Sheila Jeffreys can’t find common ground given the prejudice against them both in society at large (see this piece in The Guardian for more), or that the left has historically failed to form united fronts against its much more disciplined and opportunistic adversaries, as I did in this post, is rather a far cry from drawing moral equivalences between rapists and their victims.
Free speech absolutist that I am, I don’t believe in silencing anyone–though I see no problem with quoting a person’s or a group’s statements and characterizing them as true or false or, as is sometimes my wont, hateful. As much as I detest name-calling, I don’t have a problem with a group like the SPLC (for whom I have written from time to time) formally naming organizations that programmatically demonize whole classes of people, knowingly and deliberately spreading falsehoods about them, as “hate groups.”
I find it risible (though not at all surprising) that a group like the Family Research Council, that conflates homosexuality with pedophilia and that seeks to make not just same-sex marriage but same-sex relations illegal, hypocritically deems itself blameless whenever a gay person is the target of unprovoked violence but flaunts its victimhood when a deranged gunman targets them, blaming the SPLC for giving him “a license to shoot,” as Tony Perkins did a few days ago.
And I find it contemptible when Dana Milbank, writing in the Washington Post, deplores the SPLC for its “recklessness” 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.”
Offensive, certainly. But in the same category as the KKK?
How is it absurd? The only way someone could draw such a nice distinction is if they don’t consider homophobia to be as offensive as racism or antisemitism, if they don’t see homosexuality as being every bit as innate and immutable a characteristic as race, gender, or ethnicity. Such views might be ubiquitous, they might even be “mainstream,” it’s not against the law to hold them, but they are clearly hateful.
“Late Thursday,” Milbank continues, drawing the same kind of spurious moral equivalency that I am accused of, “the law center fired back at Perkins, defending its categorization of the FRC as a hate group because it “has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people.”
The center said that Perkins should stop putting out “claims that are provably false” about gay people.
Yes, Perkins should stop doing that. But even if he doesn’t, the Southern Poverty Law Center should stop listing a mainstream Christian advocacy group alongside neo-Nazis and Klansmen.
Why should they?
If you enjoyed this post, please go to my Facebook page and “like” it (there is a button that will take you there on the top right hand side of this page). You can also follow me on Twitter.