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Hiding behind the 'hate' label

by Jeremy Hooper

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 At 4.48.09 PmEarlier today, I showed you the clip of conservative talker Glenn Beck, regular host to some of the anti-LGBT community's most vicious voices, claiming that people who hate gays have no place calling themselves fans of his show. And while I and others have made it clear that this is a completely hypocritical thing for him to say, considering his not inconsiderable role in promoting animus against LGBT rights, there is another element we should discuss here. There's a larger problem at work.

Namely, we need to talk about the label "hate" and how folks on the far-right use it as an escape clause. Because of the way they've structured their movement, as being about "protecting" rather than discriminating, and because of the way so many of them see their faithful cause, as being against "sin" rather than "sinner," the anti-LGBT voices, from the ones at the top rungs of power to the ones whose reach is limited to Facebook commenting, use the word "hate" (and its relative, "homophobia") as an out. There is literally nothing they will say or do, from vowing to take away our marriages to literally trying to "cure" us, that they will not then justify as an act of "love" rather than hate.

Heck, even the notorious Westboro Baptist Church uses this trick, claiming that their "God Hates" messages are warnings that constitute "the most loving thing" you can tell doomed people. It is, as a notion, so fully ingrained within the anti-LGBT DNA that I'm not sure many of them even realize they're using it as a trap door. Some surely do, opportunistically going to war against "hate" labels as a a way to throw people off of the person-targeting work that the use for political access and profit. But others surely buy right into the "we don't hate anyone" claim, having been told it or some variation of it from birth. The framing of the whole anti-LGBT rights debate is so mucked up because of the decades of spin that we all just kind of casually accept the conversation on the terms that the "we don't hate anyone crowd" uses.

The thing is, most of us who fight for LGBT equality couldn't care less whether the various engagements of the anti-LGBT crowd are officially stamped with the "hate" label. I know I couldn't care less. What I care about are the objective words and actions that these figures put on the record. I care about the laws they propose and oppose; the vicious comments that they use to raise their profiles; the junk science they use to attack our rights, families, or even our sexual orientations themselves; the culture of fear their words help keep alive; the overseas hostilities they help foster; and so on. Sometimes it might easily fit into a box that we can largely agree to be hate (Westboro), but it doesn't have to have that label to still be nasty, awful, detrimental, or even inhumane. I personally don't care if the media calls Tony Perkins or Matt Barber or Bryan Fischer or Glenn Beck's good buddy David Barton a "hater"—I only care that they accurately represent them, holding them accountable for their own public engagement!

So back to Glenn Beck and his putting his own listeners on notice: I have to wonder what, exactly, he concede to fit into the "hate" box. Does it have to involve violence? Does it have to involve death threats? Does it have to involve picketing funerals? If someone who says the kinds of things that his own stable of friends routinely say does not qualify, then what must a listener do to sufficiently "hate gays" enough to be ostracized from Beck Manor?

Personally, I think the better answer would be for Glenn Beck to stop looking at this whole thing through the lens of "hate" or not and start looking at it through the judicious framing of right versus wrong. Who is making life better for the world's LGBT people and who is cruelly condemning people? Who is working toward peace and who is fueling the kind of climate that allows Mr. Beck's decided foe, Vladimir Putin, to feel comfortable enough to say the things he has said? Who is pushing toward a world with more peace and who is working to rob certain kinds of humans of their internal wellbeing? Who is pushing an agenda that comports with legal truths and who is unfairly discriminating in a way that flies in the face of America's cherished freedoms?

Who is having a well-rounded conversation about a rich and vibrant population of human beings and who is hiding behind "hate" labels?

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