Saturday, August 18, 2012

No Tears For the Family Research Council

The aftermath of Wednesday's shooting at the Family Research Council has gone down pretty much the way this writer expected it would. The far right jumped all over the incident, running their usual victimization routine. Tony Perkins, the current head of the FRC, did this little dance at a press conference the very next day:

"Let me be clear, Floyd Corkins [the shooter] was responsible for firing the shot yesterday that wounded one of our colleagues Leo Johnson. But Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations 'hate groups' because they disagree with their public policy. And I believe the Southern Poverty Law Center should be held accountable for their reckless use of terminology that is leading to the intimidation and what the FBI has categorized as an act of domestic terrorism."[1]

Most far-right media outlets are reading from this same script. That those at the FRC have chosen this route just reinforces the need to point out and condemn, as loudly and forcefully as possible, their anti-gay activities. Many shy away from such sentiment, their knee-jerk reaction being that, after such an ugly incident, it sounds uncomfortably like apologism for this would-be terrorist Corkins. They're wrong. It does nothing to excuse Corkins to note that the FRC's extremely ugly and sustained efforts to demonize a small and inoffensive segment of the population is morally repugnant, a thing to be condemned in the strongest terms by all people of good conscience. Shed no tears for the FRC; they haven't earned a one.

One is tempted to nab a cliché and say those at the FRC are extremely lucky they've managed to operate in the manner they have for as long as they have without having ever drawn that sort of reaction but the truth is that luck has nothing to do with it. The lack of violence aimed at them speaks to the forbearance--the often saint-like forbearance--of not only the community they attack and dehumanize but the whole of the liberal society they disdain and seek to dismantle at every turn ("should be held accountable"); the liberal society that makes a virtual civic religion of respect for the freedom of speech; the liberal society that extends to them the right to propagate their repugnant views and even their right to lie in furtherance of them--the latter a right they exercise with single-minded regularity. That they face as a consequence of their activities only the disapprobation of the Southern Poverty Law Center--and of every American worthy of the label--is both a credit to the society they disdain and a particularly damning indictment of their contempt for it. That liberal society will punish Floyd Corkins for what he did. If another Corkins appears, it will try to stop him and to punish him as well. And the FRC will be free to continue to spread its poison, just as it was before.

That doesn't mean it must continue though. But it will. Even something like Wednesday's attack, something that could have turned into a real horror show, apparently didn't inspire one moment of pause or reflection on behalf of anyone at FRC; no thought that maybe they'd gone too far and that maybe they should tone it down or--heaven forbid--even apologize for any of the poisonous lies they've spewed for decades. Instead, they're off blaming someone else and calling for their critics to be silenced so they can continue to do what they've always done.

And the FRC's critics should continue to hammer away at it. People dislike Tony Perkins and the FRC because of what Perkins and the FRC do, not because of what some third party says about them. No stain of guilt or of terrorist apologism can attach to those who denounce, in the strongest possible terms, the wretched work of the FRC, if said criticism is true and fair. And it is both. Perkins' efforts to intimidate the FRC's critics should only encourage them to be louder and even more active in their criticism. Something they should be now anyway.



[1] The big lie at the heart of this is that the Southern Poverty Law Center designated the FRC a "hate group" because of a policy disagreement. As the SPLC has noted, the FRC was so designated because of its decades-long record of peddling demonstrably false propaganda aimed at defaming and villainizing the gay community.

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