The hatred veto
To no one’s great surprise, the mainstream press has not generally treated the shooting at the Family Research Council offices in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday as a big story. NewsBusters notes that of the major network news operations, only ABC broadcast an in-depth report. NBC and CBS gave the story about 20 seconds apiece.
Here’s how Brian Williams of NBC reported it, quoted in its entirety: “In Washington today, police say a man with a gun walked into the offices of the conservative lobbying group the Family Research Council, and opened fire. He never made it past the lobby. He shot a security guard in the arm before the guard was able to subdue him.” In other news, it rained somewhere yesterday.
LifeNews has some more details about the incident: the shooter, Floyd Lee Corkins II, is described by his parents as having “strong opinions with respect to those he believes do not treat homosexuals in a fair manner.” He was a volunteer for a gay and lesbian group in D.C. (The group has firmly denounced Corkins’ violent actions, saying “No matter the circumstances, we condemn such violence in the strongest terms possible. We hope for a full and speedy recovery for the victim, and our thoughts are with him and his family.” The victim in question, heroic security guard Leo Johnson, is recovering from a gunshot wound to the arm.)
Corkins was carrying a backpack stuffed with “15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches, a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol, two additional magazines loaded with ammunition and an additional box of 50 rounds of ammunition when he came into the building,” according to the FBI. There have been reports he was trying to gain access to the interior offices of the Family Research Council, by posing as an intern. The sandwiches were probably part of his cover story – or perhaps he meant to drop one next to each of his victims. He was packing enough ammo for a full-scale massacre, if he’d gotten past Johnson.
The FBI affidavit says that when Corkins encountered Johnson, he “said words to the effect of ‘I don’t like your politics.’” After he was subdued, he allegedly pleaded with the injured security guard, “Don’t shoot me, it was not about you, it was what this place stands for.”
This has all the trappings of precisely the sort of “hate crime” or “domestic terrorism” the media has been breathlessly eager to pin on conservatives and the Tea Party over the past few years. From the utterly deranged efforts to blame a nebulous “climate of hate” created by conservative rhetoric for the Tucson shootings, to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg speculating that the Times Square bomber was “somebody with a political agenda who doesn’t like the health care bill or something,” the rush to judgment has consistently been swift, casual, and wrong.
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, mentioned the Southern Poverty Law Center and HRC in a statement that called the Corkins shooting “the clearest sign we’ve seen that labeling pro-marriage groups as ‘hateful’ must end.” He went on to say that his own organization “has always condemned all violence and vilification connected to our ongoing national debate about the meaning and definition of marriage.”
“For too long national gay rights groups have intentionally marginalized and ostracized pro-marriage groups and individuals by labeling them as ‘hateful’ and ‘bigoted.’ Such harmful and dangerous labels deserve no place in our civil society and NOM renews its call today for gay rights groups and the Southern Poverty Law Center to withdraw such incendiary rhetoric from a debate that involves millions of good Americans,” Brown concluded.
The NOM president has it exactly right. The “hatred veto” has no place in civil discourse, because it is the negation of civil discourse. “I’m not listening to a word you say, because you’re a hater” is not an argument; it is a declaration that the time for arguments is past. It’s a lazy cudgel against dissent, not a reasoned response.
Of course, it’s very useful for one player on the field of social discourse to grab a referee’s whistle and blow down the opposing team’s plays. The point of such tactics is to declare the opponent’s case illegitimate, without having to bother with a response. And if the other side is fundamentally illegitimate, it’s not a stretch to see some people concluding they don’t really have a right to speak at all. No one has an absolute right to shout “fire” in a crowded theater… or, according to certain leftist politicians, open a hate-chicken restaurant in defiance of “Chicago values.”
By the same token, the actions of a violent psychopath do not invalidate the arguments of well-meaning gay marriage advocates. We don’t need a “psychopath’s veto,” either.
I am a supporter of the traditional definition of marriage. I do not hold the slightest animosity toward homosexuals. Of equal importance for the purposes of this discussion, I don’t assume supporters of same-sex marriage are driven by hatred, either, and the case I would make in support of traditional marriage requires no presumptions about the deep-seated motivations of those who challenge it.
In fact, beyond a general respect for long-standing tradition, my own interest in defending traditional marriage is clinical, and might even fairly be called mathematical: I don’t believe a civilization can survive without strongly encouraging the formation of stable families which tend to raise a large number of children. I’d prefer to see the government less involved in this (and just about every other) social process, but that’s not likely to happen any time soon. In any event, society itself must offer the necessary encouragement, and I doubt this can be done while treating the union of men and women exactly the same as alternative partnerships.
Nothing about those beliefs requires the assumption of bad faith or destructive intentions on the part of those who disagree. To be sure, some people do disagree in bad faith. There are opponents of same-sex marriage who dislike gay people… and proponents who dislike straight people, religious people, or established traditions. But the existence of such individuals doesn’t automatically discredit well-meaning people who find themselves on the same side of a huge and important social issue. The thoughtful are not accountable for occasionally receiving the sympathy of the crude.
Is the Southern Poverty Law Center a “hate group” because it hates the Family Research Council, and tries to silence them by calling them a “hate group?” I’d rather not give the hatred veto to anyone. That goes double for the psychopath’s veto.