If We Don't Call it 'Hate,' What Shall We Call It?

One of the best lessons I ever got in professionalism came from a boss who said, Don’t just bring me a problem. Bring a solution, too. Great advice. Suggesting a solution — even if it’s unworkable, a mere starting point for discussion — shows you’ve thought seriously about the problem, and you’re not just an alarmist hack or concern troll.

That advice comes to mind now that some pundits, both conservative and liberal, want the SPLC to drop its “hate group” terminology. Go ahead and make that case, but if you want to us to take you seriously, you have to answer this: What term should we use?

I agree no one should be accused of hate merely for opposing same-sex marriage. Fortunately, neither I nor the SPLC has ever called labeled anyone a hate group on those meager grounds. For instance, here’s why SPLC named the Family Research Council a hate group:

The Family Research Council (FRC) bills itself as “the leading voice for the family in our nation’s halls of power,” but its real specialty is defaming gays and lesbians. The FRC often makes false claims about the LGBT community based on discredited research and junk science. The intention is to denigrate LGBT people in its battles against same-sex marriage, hate crimes laws, anti-bullying programs and the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Also at that link, you’ll find a damning list of quotes from FRC leadership, especially the blood libel that gays are after your kids.

More generally, the hate groups identified by the SPLC are guilty of one or more of the following:

  • Distorting scientific research to demonize gays, even over the researchers’ objections. (FRC has done this)
  • Calling for the criminalization of homosexuality.  (FRC has done this)
  • Accusing gay men of recruiting children and being more likely to molest them than straights.  (FRC has done this)
  • Advocating the death penalty for gays.
  • Holding gays responsible for Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

If we are not to call these groups hate groups, then what are we to call them?

That’s not a rhetorical question. These organizations fall in the same genre. Their work belongs in the same oeuvre. They are a collection of groups who employ aggressive dishonesty in open pursuit of an overriding goal: denying basic civil liberties to LGBT folk. What shall we call that genre?

Christian? No, their fundamental strategy of bearing false witness disqualifies them; so does their violation of Christ’s dictum to love your neighbor; besides, too many Christians abhor these groups.

Anti-gay? No, that doesn’t go far enough.

How about Groups that distort scientific research to demonize gays, callforthecrimininalizationofhomosexuality-accusegaymenofrecruitingchildren-andbeingmorelikelytomolestthemthanstraights-advocatethedeathpenaltyforgays-andholdgaysresponsibleforNaziGermanyandtheHolocaust?

That’s unwieldy.

But we do need a term. It’s not enough to call out these transgressions one by one. They are not isolated misdeeds. They represent a pattern of behavior, and we need a name for that pattern.

If you don’t want that term to be “hate,” then what do you prefer? I’m open to suggestion. Just show me you’re serious by doing more than bemoaning a problem. Tell me your solution.

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12 comments to If We Don’t Call it ‘Hate,’ What Shall We Call It?

  • 1
    John Kusters says:

    The SPLC uses this language, and I have to say I prefer it to “hate”:

    Extremists in the U.S. come in many different forms – white nationalists, anti-gay zealots, black separatists, racist skinheads, neo-Confederates and more.
    The Intelligence Files database contains profiles of various prominent extremists and extremist organizations. It also examines the histories and core beliefs – or ideologies – of  the most common types of extremist movements. In addition, it illustrates connections between individuals, groups and extremist ideologies.

    Unfortunately, the term “extreme” has been watered down so much in current politics that it won’t stand out even if it’s the most accurate term I can think of.

  • 2
    candide001 says:

    Why would you want to accommodate them on this?  No matter what term we choose, it will have a negative connotation and they will contest its validity.  “Hate” is both reasonably accurate and emotionally effective.  In French, we also use “discours de haine,” “crime haineux”, and “incitation à la haine homophobe,” for “hate speech,” “hate crime”. “inciting hatred of homosexuals.”  For groups we tend to specify the focus of the hatred, whether racial, or religious, or homophobic.   For something like FRC we might say “un groupe d’extrémistes chrétiens homophobes” (a group of Christian homophobic extremists) or simply “un groupe homophobe.”  If we would use those here in the US, they would protest that they aren’t really homophobic since they don’t “fear” gays.  Then we would have to accommodate them on the word “homophobia”.  If we use the word “anti-gay” they would protest that they really aren’t anti-gay because deep down they love us and want us to give up our sinful ways. You should know by now, they will keep moving the goal posts.  What’s the point?

  • 3
    Neil says:

    Words like love and hate are often used in general ways that require a fair amount to be unpacked for greater clarity. Sometimes it might help to qualify the term hate group with a more definitive line like, political organisation dedicated to an agenda to lower the status and legal rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender persons. Most of the time due to need for concision, especially in the media, it’s more straight forward to call an FRC a hate group.
    I’m trying to think of alternatives but all I’m coming up with so far is malicious mess and slander party. That sounds like people having fun. That might be applicable to an organisation like FRC on one level but I feel hate group is a more complete descriptor.

  • 4
    JCF says:

    Think the word “hate” works just fine…
    …but sometimes I wonder whatever happened to the wonderful (famously) feminist term “chauvinist”. In any dichotomy of power, a chauvinist not only believes the empowered in-group has a (God-given) right to power-over, but aggressively CHAMPIONS the empowered in-group to aggrandize MORE power-over, at the expense of the less-powered side of the dichtomy.
    Back in the heyday of feminism (the 70s—barely remember ‘em in my misspent youth!), to say that someone was a “male chauvinist” (w/ or w/o the porcine appendation ;-)) was not only to convey that said male(s) were pressing the cause of male supremacy, holding women down (sometimes literally), but described them w/ just the right amount of appropriate disgust.
    If there were ever a time when using the term “hate” might, for whatever reason, not be favored, I think that calling someone a “heterosexual chauvinist” would be highly accurate (if understated). Just my 2c.

  • 5

    […] excellent comment on why he’s suspicious of “civility talk,” and this blog post: If We Don’t Call it ‘Hate,’ What Shall We Call It? A hat tip as well to David Blankenhorn’s post, for the link to Milbank’s op-ed. Share […]

  • 6

    […] excellent comment on why he’s suspicious of “civility talk,” and this blog post: If We Don’t Call it ‘Hate,’ What Shall We Call It? A hat tip as well to David Blankenhorn’s post, for the link to Milbank’s […]

  • 7
    Another Matt says:

    There’s always the popular “Lying For Jesus.”

  • 8
    Christine says:

    A “bigoted organization”? A “prejudice-promoting group”? An “oppression movement”?
    Yeah, I agree they wouldn’t like the alternatives any better.

  • 9
    Matthew says:

    You say that anti-day doesn’t go far enough.  That seems to be the crux of the issue.  Some would say it goes far enough.  The FBI also investigates hate groups but they tend to limit their monitoring to those that make specific threats of violence, engage in criminal activity or are criminal organizations.  The SPLC’s criteria for inclusion are a bit softer and don’t require criminal activity but mere dishonesty, libel and slander.  Some argue that such groups should not be labelled as hate groups at all but merely considered to be homophobic, racist, white supremacist, sexist, whatever.  The SPLC list also includes those that have engaged in crimes. Perhaps there needs to be two separate lists, one for criminials and one for liars.  Those that the FBI monitors and those that they don’t.  The FRC might legitimately not want to be lumped in with groups that have committed murder and terrorism like Aryan Nations.  Also, inclusion on the list seems to be somewhat arbitrary.  Some churches have argued for the death penalty for gays but they are not listed on the SPLC web site.  Some more transparency by the SPLC about how they make their decisions, if we we could watch them debate the pros and cons of various groups/people, why some are there, why some are not, who they have debated or considered or not could be useful.  One does not get to see the internal workings of the SPLC in this way.  If they were more transparent that could be a good thing.  If they were a govt. organization and subject to the open meeting law we could hear the various rationales offered for each group.  “Hate”is fine as the appropriate word to me.  But I think there are other issues at work that cause some to wonder if such “lists” are problematic regardless of what word we use. 

  • 10
    IT says:

    The FRC is not a religion.  It is a professional political advocacy group that is anti-gay. The words it uses and the lies it tells would not be acceptible if applied to any other group besides LGBT. Would they?  

  • 11
    Fg68at says:

    For FRC:  LoveGaysInTheJailGroup :-) 

  • 12
    CD Demetrious says:

    I hate cold-I hate rain-I hate purple-I hate liver-I hate carbs-I hate mornings-I hate Mondays-I hate my job-I really hate my boss-I hate that song-I hate that show-I hate this-I hate that…
    “Hate” is now cliche and, like all cliches, its meaning has lost impact.
    “Hetero Supremacist Liars”
    How could they argue that?  Say they’re not hetero?  Say their “lifestyle” is not superior?  Say they don’t lie (in the face of documented evidence to the contrary)?

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