A good example of false equivalency

I misunderstood a comment by the author of the letter to which I respond below. His letter was originally published almost exactly one year ago (publication dates don’t include the year), which means that it was the author’s reposting of the year-old link that was actually inspired by our online conversation. I think it’s fair to say that my reading of it as pre-meditated exploitation of a conversation that he initiated, and in which I was participating in good faith, led me to respond more harshly than I otherwise would have. For that I apologize to Mr. Dickinson. He obviously did not, as I suggested in my response, write this to deflect negative attention generated by the Grand Jury report, or the censure, or any other Delgaudio-related drama of the past year.

On the other hand, his point in posting the link to that thread was to say that he more strongly than ever endorses the idea that the reporting of hate group activity is the moral equivalent of the very hate group activity being reported, even openly warning that I, personally, could be responsible for “fomenting a hate attack” because I discuss the hate group activities of the Sterling supervisor. The veiled suggestion that I had best not continue reporting on his active campaign to incite fear and hatred of people like me is offensive.

In light of frequent media references to Supervisor Delgaudio’s hate group connection over the past year, the letter could easily have been published three days ago, particularly this part:

In 2010 the FRC was labeled a “hate group” by the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center. Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio’s Public Advocate has been labeled the same. It concerns me that the LTM habitually mentions that Supervisor Delgaudio runs Public Advocate and that it has been labeled a “hate group” by SPLC. A difference of opinion and free speech under the 1st Amendment does not qualify one for hate speech.

It will be interesting to learn why Mr. Corkins’s targeted FRC. For now, it seems that the only connection was that they appeared on the SPLC’s list of “hate groups.” Perhaps that list is becoming some sort of hit list for left wing extremists unable to deal with the realities of living with constitutionally guaranteed rights? In any case, I would appreciate it if the editors of the LTM would refrain from the gratuitous highlighting of Public Advocate as a “hate group.” It is both a false claim and, as we see now, potentially dangerous.

The trouble is, it isn’t gratuitous or a false claim. That’s exactly the critical difference between what these hate groups do (make false and defamatory claims about LGBT people) and what the SPLC does (records and reports on the false claims made by the hate groups, in their own words). The first behavior consists of making false claims. The second behavior does not.

There are no parallel hate groups systematically working to deprive the leaders of these SPLC identified groups, like Mr. Lively and Mr. Delgaudio, of their human and civil rights, nor is anyone habitually lying about them. SPLC reports what these groups actually say and do, as well as pursuing legal recourse if a group’s activity violates the law. There is good reason to single them out as hate groups.

It’s perfectly understandable that people working for these groups are alarmed at the connection between their designation as hate groups and Corkins’ use of the word ‘hate’ to identify targets. The aspect of being possibly targeted and hunted by unstable people is something we have in common, so we can agree on a distorted kind of equivalency there (at risk are a few individuals associated with these groups, compared to huge swaths of the LGBTI population). We can also agree, as Mr. Dickinson has already stated, that “physical violence is wrong from either side, whether it is beating up some gay kid in Wyoming or our very own homegrown local-yokel who tried to commit mass murder at the Family Research Council downtown last year because he thought they were hateful towards gays.” Of course we agree with that.

But that doesn’t change the fact that one party is making false claims, while the other is not. One party is using falsehoods in an active effort to deprive a disfavored minority of basic civil rights, while the other is recording and reporting what the first party is doing. They are not equivalent, they are different in kind.

Where keeping LGBTI people unable to advocate for ourselves by controlling civil law (see Russia, Uganda) is no longer an effective strategy, anti-gay activists have turned to using false equivalencies like the one quoted above. Defining the “us” and “them” as equivalent on the field avoids the need to be honest about opposing a civil rights movement, which is exactly what they are doing.

Deflecting criticism of Delgaudio

“Shooting Chicken in a Barrel” (Aug. 16) was apparently inspired by an online conversation with the author about what constitutes a “hate group,” detailed by Equality Loudoun on our blog.

The author is quite correct that “a difference of opinion and free speech under the 1st Amendment does not qualify one” as a hate group. It takes much more serious and harmful behavior, such as habitually lying about, defaming, and dehumanizing members of a disfavored group; Mr. Delgaudio’s organization easily qualifies to be on this short list. By the way, the Southern Poverty Law Center also designates Nation of Islam and the Earth Liberation Front as hate groups. SPLC is an equal-opportunity watchdog organization with decades of experience tracking hate activity and working with law enforcement officials. This newspaper is doing its job by reporting the significant fact that Mr. Delgaudio is the only director of a hate group to also hold public office in the United States.

Mr. Dickinson seems to think he’s setting up the Sterling supervisors’s many critics for a future imagined “attack” on Mr. Delgaudio or Public Advocate, perhaps like this one that actually appeared in a 2011 fundraising letter from the organization: “But late one night while sorting through pro-family petitions from supporters like you a thug crept in through a door, threw a blanket over my head and pummeled me with a rock.” (No police report was filed, but I’m sure you saw that coming.) This must be the latest strategy to divert attention from Mr. Delgaudio’s abuse-of-office drama.