“FRC’s own activities are what brought this down on them”

Classliberal2 writes in the comments to my earlier post about the Family Research Council and the recent shooting at its headquarters in Washington, DC:

The FRC is loudly claiming the “hate group” designation brought on this attempted massacre, and I think it needs to be pointed out, much more loudly and forcefully, that their own activities are, in fact, what brought this down on them.

People shy away from that, because they think it sounds too much like apologism for this would-be terrorist fellow, but there’s no way to look at the history of the FRC and come to any other conclusion.

And even after something like this happens, which could have turned into a real horror, it didn’t inspire one moment of pause or reflection on behalf of anyone there, no thought that maybe they’d gone too far and should tone it down — instead, they’re off blaming someone else, so they can continue to do what they’ve always done.

The Family Research Council has decided to treat this tragedy as yet another opportunity to defame its victims. First, they blamed the shooting on the Southern Poverty Law Center for standing up to the Family Research Council’s decades of hate and defamation against gay and trans people.  Then they went so far as to blame President Obama for the shooting.

Since the FRC has been shameless in playing the blame game in an attempt to milk this tragedy for political benefit, then so be it. Let’s do what they’re demanding we do, and talk about whose rhetoric is to blame for the shooting.

First, the shooter is clearly to blame.  And he probably has a screw loose somewhere (I don’t care how hateful an organization is, picking up a gun and planning a shooting rampage (which is what I assume he was planning), which is almost certainly going to end up a suicide mission, is more than a bit screw-loose-y)).  It’s also interesting to note that it’s difficult to remember even one recent act of violence that involved a gay person targeting the religious right – violence on our side simply doesn’t happen.  (Though, I’m not sure we even know the shooter’s orientation.)

Second, the absurd availability of guns in our country (the shooter reportedly got the gun legally) is also to blame. We can thank conservative groups, the Republican party, and Blue Dog Democrats for making guns so easily available to nuts like this shooter, and the shooters in all the previous mass murders.

Third, since the Family Research Council wants to talk, incessantly, about what motivated the shooter besides insanity – about how, in the FRC’s mind, words can absolutely positively push someone to violence – then let’s talk about whether words could push someone to violence, including the Family Research Council’s own words.

Is it possible, as the commenter wrote above, that the Family Research Council’s own decades of hate and defamation against the gay and trans communities, and more generally the religious right’s decades of defamation, finally pushed one of its victims, who was already unstable, over the edge?

Yes.

Does that mean that the FRC deserved to be shot at?

No.

But if the Family Research Council wants to make this debate about words inspiring violence, then let’s have that conversation, and make it an honest conversation that considers their words in addition to ours.

The Family Research Council says that the SPLC, and the rest of us, called them a hate group and that that caused someone to open fire on the FRC.  The thing is, the SPLC calls lots of groups hate groups, and you don’t see people regularly opening fire on any of those groups.  These include the Klan and white supremacists, who are pretty well-hated groups. Yet, there’s little violence against them.  Thus, the appellation itself does not historically seem to lead to violence.

Second, the FRC would like you to believe that calling an organization a hate group is enough to push someone to murder; but actually being a hate group, acting like a hate group, talking like a hate group will have no impact whatsoever on some unhinged person’s decision to take up violence.

That’s a bit naive (and I suspect the FRC is anything but naive).  As I explain in this other blog post, the FRC is essentially blaming the SPLC for exposing the fact that the FRC is hateful.  Are we really to believe that the shooter would have been fine with the FRC’s hateful anti-gay words and deeds – would have been fine being repeatedly mislabeled a pedophile – had the Southern Poverty Law Center not also added the moniker “hate group”?  Unlikely.

The thing is, it’s not really news to gay people, and our allies, that the FRC is hateful.  As victims of far right hatred for all these years, we knew about the FRC and its brethren long before the SPLC spoke out in 2010.  So it’s, again, naive to think that gay people, or our allies, were unaware of the Family Research Council’s anti-gay rhetoric until the SPLC decided to call them on it.  If we were motivated to violence by the fact that we thought the FRC was hateful, you’d think the violence would have happened long before the SPLC got involved because all of us thought/knew they were hateful the first time they wrongfully accused us of being pedophiles, oh so many years ago.

Second, the FRC is, in essence, (and pardon the cliché under the circumstances) asking us to shoot the messenger.  FRC would like you to believe that even if someone didn’t know about FRC’s hate before, the fact that they learned about FRC’s hate now via the SPLC, makes the SPLC responsible for any subsequent actions by any unhinged persons.  I explain the logical fallacy:

Isn’t it a bit like complaining, “Joe punched me because you told him I slept with his wife.”

But you did sleep with his wife.

That doesn’t mean Joe should resort to violence, ever. But you did sleep with his wife. So let’s stop pretending that the sinner here is the guy who caught you.

The Family Research Council has made a business out of calling out “sinners,” as they lovingly call us.  Yet when they’re called out for their sins, their accusers are accused of inciting murder with their words, and told to STFU.  So the FRC is saying that it’s okay to intentionally mislabel an entire class of Americans as pedophiles, but it’s not okay for the so-called pedophiles to say “stop.”

Not only is the Family Research Council’s anti-gay rhetoric so hateful that I think it could inspire one of its less-level-headed victims to violence, I also fear, and have said so many times before, that their hateful rhetoric could motivate one of their less-leveled-headed followers to violence as well.  And it wouldn’t be the first time “good Christians” took up violence against gays in order to be true to their God.

The Family Research Council has claimed for 20 years that gay men are after America’s children – either to convert said children into a Satanic lifestyle of emptiness, disease and death; or we simply want to rape th
e kids, a lot.

Now, I’m not a parent, but I am an uncle.  And if I met someone who wanted to rape, or kill, my nieces and nephews, God help him.  That’s all I’ll say on the matter.  The suggestion that such language might not inspire violence in the defense of children is ludicrous.

The Family Research Council, and more generally the anti-gay right, can’t have it both ways.  Either words can incite violence or they can’t.  Falsely labeling someone a bad person can either provoke violence, or it can’t.  The FRC would have us believe that our admonitions incite violence but theirs couldn’t.

But if words can incite violence, then it’s fair to examine all the words of all the parties to the dispute, not just the words of one side.

And if you examine what the Family Research Council, and really the entire religious right, has said – lied – about gay and trans people for the past two decades, not only is what they’ve said far worse than what any of their critics have said in response, but their language is so hateful, so damning, so incendiary on its face (and false, which only makes it all the more incendiary), that I believe it’s difficult not to consider the possibility that the religious right might share some of the blame for recklessly inciting the violence that finally, and sadly, unfolded this past week.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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