Listen to FRC president Tony Perkins talk about the deplorable shooting that took place at his group’s headquarters yesterday:
[The shooter] was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations as hate groups because they disagree with them on public policy.
Naturally, you want to tear your hair out. You want to mention that if the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “hate” designation is an incitement to violence it’s an awfully ineffective one (of the 1,018 hate groups active in 2011, less than one-tenth of one percent suffered violence); that, leaving aside other forms of violence and suicide, in 2011 alone, 30 people were murdered in the U.S. simply for being gay—the largest number ever reported; and you want to mention that the “public policy” in question isn’t the placement of a traffic light, it’s the acceptance of the full humanity of LGBT Americans (although to be precise the “hate” designation isn’t for the FRC’s opposition to equality, it’s for the group’s consistently distorted and hostile language).
NYU Law Professor Burt Neuborne adds:
I wish Perkins would not use a double standard… When opponents of abortion engage in astonishingly bellicose speech where they call people ‘murderers’ and they virtually encourage people to take their lives and some nut acts on it, Perkins keeps his mouth shut. I don’t see him criticizing that speech. The truth is, you can’t pick and choose what kind of rhetoric to condemn.
Why a person commits an act of violence like this one is an incredibly complex question to answer—and it may well have to do with rhetoric. Language most certainly does have power (on that score, the FRC isn’t wrong). Unfortunately for Perkins and the FRC, attempts to draw any equivalency between the hateful statements that landed the FRC on the SPLC’s list and the label of “hate group,” are preposterous. That label simply hasn’t historically been an incitement to violence the way that, say, dehumanizing statements about the innate criminality of LGBT people have.
But even participating in a debate over whether the labeling of the FRC as a hate group had anything to do with this crime is absurd. I’m reminded of Stephen J. Gould’s argument against debating any stripe of creationist: they don’t seek to win the argument, they ‘win’ by giving the appearance that there even is an argument; that the question is debatable.
In the clip below, CNN’s Zoraida Sambolin does a good job challenging the messaging of NOM president Brian Brown: