The link below is to a story in the Advocate which is an interesting read.  I have a few real problems with the notion of shutting down the anti-gay speech, but I think there are some nuanced points missed here that should be articulated. My comments follow a snip from the post:

The Advocate spoke with Brokaw about complaints against news networks that give airtime to gay rights opponents.

“I don’t think you can shut down free speech,” he said. “We’re a free speech society. They’re entitled to their positions however wrong they may be. How do you begin to censor things?”

Last month, Dan Savage of the It Gets Better campaign criticized CNN on air for interviewing antigay leaders such as Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled a hate group. He said the attention legitimized the idea that there are “two sides” to gay and lesbian issues.

Brokaw argued that coverage of antigay viewpoints serves a purpose in that it can generate the kind of outrage that prompts nationwide conversations. He said the issue reminded him of his earlier years reporting on the civil rights movement, although he declined to draw a direct comparison.

I think the world of Dan Savage’s project, “It Gets Better,” but I disagree with him here in the way this is reported. There are multiple sides to gay and lesbian issues. Even that phrase “gay and lesbian issues” is problematic. Savage’s desire to silence the anti-gay voices is little different than the tactic they take towards LGBTQ voices. Speaking specifically about the Tony Perkins comments. I don’t believe the fact that he was interviewed legitimated his Perkins comments. What legitimated them was the fact that the CNN interviewer wasn’t adequately prepared for the interview and didn’t question the what Perkins presented as “research.”  Nor, did he give Mark Potok  from the SouthernPoverty Law Center a chance to rebut Perkin’s claim. CNN allowed garbage bull shit to be legitimated because they failed to allow it to the last word on the subject. What Brokaw is suggesting can be good about divergent viewpoints can only exist when those speaking facts and the truth are allowed to counter the false stories, lies and misinformation.

I think we do a disservice when we lump all LGBTQ issues together under the banner of gay and lesbian issues, as if these “issues have a proponent side and an opponent side. Generally speaking, the opposition is more unified in their opposition to anything that remotely touches gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer rights issues. For me a great example of this is the way the ACLU has no position on Hate Crimes, but is a strong supporter of many other LGBTQ rights issues. the anti-gay crowd just hates it all. Their position is well known. But if we don’t see nuanced differences between various LGBT issues than this dichotomy exists between supporters and opponents. I think in reality, if we tease out the differences, then all anti-gay voices are no longer valid spokespersons to be opposed to any one issue or another. At the same time, I’m not sure why Dan Savage gets to be a spokesperson for all things LGBT Rights?

Different issues have different nuanced points and there are good experts out there for all, but when everything is treated as simply being a “lesbian and gay” issue, it blocks the ability for these nuanced points or more experts to be voices.

So, in conclusion, good reporting requires an amount of adequate preparation and research, and the choice of spokespersons on either side of an issue is critical, as well as allowing them adequate time to make sure that facts and the truth are what the viewer are left with at the end of the segment. I believe one reason why mainstream media is failing so much is this lack of focus, research, preparation, and commitment to balanced stories. They often equate have a speaker for and against as balanced, and that is a fallacious idea, expect in a pure opinion type scenario.

Brokaw get this. He also said:

Asked how antigay views should be presented, he said, “You just say that they’ve got strong opinions. You treat like them like anyone else. You cross-examine and ask them the right questions.”

Chris Matthews didn’t do that. He didn’t ask the right questions or push them on their so-called facts. Matthews and CNN was to blame here, not Perkins (even if he is a slimy liar). The Family Research Council isn’t a hate group because they oppose gay rights, or because they vocalize that position. They are a hate group because they use lies, misinformation and false science to try and support their rhetoric.I wrote about this last week when it happened, as well as the SPLC’s pronouncement.

It the importance and weight of the Souther Poverty Law Project’s pronouncement is to mean anything and have any affect, we have to be willing to draw a clear delineation between hate speech and anti-gay speech. It may be true that most often they are the same thing, but the distinction allows for Free Speech and the requirement for dialogue to be filled with facts and the truth.

One Comment

  1. Here is another blog post that discusses this topic more generally than the article I was responding to:
    http://talkaboutequality.wordpress.com/2010/12/07/should-we-give-a-megaphone-to-the-bigots/

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