It is one thing to document objectively crimes that target individuals because they are members of a particular identity group. It is another thing to frame people who follow a biblical definition of marriage, worry about children of same-sex parents, or want stricter immigration policies as demons and crazies. The organizations that monitor such “hate” bear the trappings of social science—charts, statistics, on-the-ground accounts of “hate incidents,” and an ostensible bird’s-eye viewpoint on the realities. But the data are couched in imagery, titles, and metaphors that are anything but scientific.
Human Rights Campaign, “the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization,” has hosted Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Nancy Pelosi at its annual dinner. It also maintains an “Export of Hate” web page, a rogue’s gallery, with police-sketch drawings and criminal record-like descriptions (“Base of Operations”), of individuals it claims are “American extremists who are working tirelessly to undercut LGBT people around the world at every turn.” The group has a page devoted to Robert Oscar Lopez, who drew the attention of HRC with a 2012 essay recounting how troubling it was for him to grow up with his mother and her lesbian partner.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, whose assets now approach half-a-billion dollars, is famous for its “Extremist Files” and “Hate Map,” which CNN broadcast to the nation last year. It professes to be a reliable watchdog, helping media and law enforcement track militant racist, homophobic, and Islamophobic organizations. But look at the photo at the top of the “Extremist” page. It shows Klansmen on the street, with armed police officers nearby and a man with a club about to strike. The time looks like 1970. Why insert a 50-year-old image of an era long past at the head of today’s list of so-called hate groups?
In 2015, SPLC profiled 12 women who oppose Islam—Ann Coulter, Jeanine Pirro, and Laura Ingraham, among others—and called them “The Dirty Dozen.” Remember that the characters in the original 1967 film were killers, thieves, and rapists.
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is an advocacy group that uses “a progressive social justice framework” to ensure the civil rights of South Asian Americans. It issued a study in January that examined Donald Trump’s first year in office and declared, “the dramatic surge in rhetoric rooted in anti-Black, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant sentiment in 2016 and 2017 has fueled a palpable and unparalleled atmosphere of hate and suspicion.” The language is heated—“dramatic surge,” “unparalleled atmosphere”—as is the title, “Communities on Fire,” which implies that neighborhood invasions by Muslim-haters are happening in cities across the United States. The cover shows the torch of the Statue of Liberty in the top right, while a tiki-torch recalling the Charlottesville marchers fills the bottom left, its flame drifting threateningly toward Lady Liberty’s fingers.
Such sensationalist fare is what accompanies the “research” findings, but the media echo them nonetheless. Now that SPLC lists the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) as a “Designated Hate Group,” the label sticks. When on March 22 an ADF attorney joined a panel at a White House forum, the very first sentence in a Newsweek story called him “a representative of a conservative Christian organization described by LGBT advocates as a ‘hate group.’” The SPLC designation popped up two sentences later.
The lurid visuals and verbiage make clear a ludicrous irony. It is that these righteous believers in tolerance and harmony loathe and despise the people they profile. The rhetoric they use to describe putative “haters” plainly doesn’t match up with the individuals who work at Alliance Defending Freedom. Listen to Robert Lopez, or to Charles Murray, Brendan Eich, Christina Hoff Sommers, Barronelle Stutzman (the florist brought to heel in the state of Washington for refusing to serve a same-sex wedding, though she’d been friends with those gay customers for years), and many others who’ve been accused of hate in recent times and the exaggeration becomes obvious.
Liberalism isn’t supposed to be so acrimonious, but the people prosecuting the anti-hate campaign must enjoy what they’re doing. That gap between real people and the image of them in the reports is filled up by the satisfaction SPLC, et. al., take in demonizing an opponent. When they mouth the words inclusion, justice, diversity, and tolerance in the course of smearing conservatives, conservatives shouldn’t waste one second defending themselves, but instead reply, “No, the balance of intolerance falls squarely on your side.”
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