Should the Media Care About the SPLC Seal of Disapproval?

The Southern Poverty Law Center has put out a preview of its latest list of anti-gay “hate” groups, causing some furor over whether showing up on that list means that the media shouldn’t feature those groups in interviews. Dan Savage set off the discussion on CNN.

According to Karl Frisch at progressive media watchdog Media Matters, here is the transcript:

PHILLIPS: You know, it’s difficult to say what would be a solution [to anti-gay hate crimes]. But, could we start with more hate crimes legislation where bullies are prosecuted more severely?

SAVAGE: We can start with that, we can also start with… really, we need a cultural reckoning around gay and lesbian issues. There was once two sides to the race debate. There was once a side, you could go on television and argue for segregation, you could argue against interracial marriage, against the Civil Rights Act, against extending voting rights to African Americans and that used to be treated as one side, you know, one legitimate side of a pressing national debate and it isn’t anymore. And we really need to reach that point with gay and lesbian issues. There are no ‘two sides’ to the issues about gay and lesbian rights.

And right now one side is really using dehumanizing rhetoric. The Southern Poverty Law Center labels these groups as hate groups and yet the leaders of these groups, people like Tony Perkins, are welcomed onto networks like CNN to espouse hate directed at gays and lesbians. And similarly hateful people who are targeting Jews or people of color or anyone else would not be welcome to spew their bile on networks like CNN and then that really — we really have to start there. We have to start with that type of cultural reckoning.

The exchange has gotten attention at a number of activist group, progressive, and LGBT blogs. Via Joe Jervis at JoeMyGod, we learn that CNN pretty much knew what Savage was going to say about its inclusion of anti-gay groups on the show.

The exchange raises a journalism question we’ve asked before .

First, the “hate group” label that is a favorite in the LGBT and progressive world. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of “hate groups” is far from scientific and is often criticized for its role in SPLC fundraising. Mainstream media, understandably, is reluctant to use the SPLC “hate group” designation when describing organizations like those being criticized.

While the “hate group” list is interesting, it is also largely meaningless in terms of who the media should talk to and who they shouldn’t. Included in the current list of 18 groups–who all, apparently, aren’t going to show up on the final list–are organizations associated with white supremacist and Christian Identity movements, but also major players in the social conservative political world: Concerned Women for America, National Organization for Marriage, and Family Research Council. While activists may not like the work these groups do, labeling them “hate groups” based on SPLC’s designation and therefore off-limits for the media is nonsensical.

(UPDATE: CWA and NOM are not on the “hate group” list, while FRC is).

Instead, the media needs to do a better job of deciding when and how it uses groups considered anti-gay.

Part of the problem, of course, is relying on the same voices and people over and over again.  This is a problem on all-sides of the debate where the same people are called by CNN and MSNBC and Fox to talk about gay issues, both on the pro-gay and anti-gay sides.  If Perkins and FRC are overexposed, one could argue the same thing about a laundry list of gay male pundits and LGBT activist groups.

In addition to expanding the list of people who are interviewed and called, there needs to be more thought about when you need to include voices from FRC or CWA.  Not every show about gay issues needs to be controversial with dueling pundits.

But the reality is that many gay issues are controversial and there is opposition that needs to be represented in media coverage.  But instead of relying just on the same sound bite or press statement, we need to ask more probing questions, hold people accountable for their comments, and move beyond black and white.

12 Responses

  1. I find it telling when you speak of gay issues as controversial but when those same issues are straight issues, you have no problem at all. That is a glaringly shocking disgraceful depiction of your attempt to justify your prejudice as morality. It is a double standard and you feel privy to entitlements that you deem others not worthy of. For that and that alone you and people like you live in ignorance and bigotry.

    • While I’d personally like to believe gay issues are not controversial, I know as a journalist they are. Not all of them, of course. But issues like DADT, same-sex marriage, even bullying and who is responsible are controversial questions that require representation from both sides of the disagreement.

      That doesn’t mean that everyone deserves a platform, but journalists do have a responsibility to make sure they are being fair and accurate to all sides.

      • You do not have to give voice to “two sides” when one side uses their religious and hate to spew opinions and not facts. As a journalist your job is to present facts, not opinions, unless it is an oped piece. When journalists finally get back to the basics, who, what, where, when, why and how, you may get your credibility back. Until then, just putting two talking heads on, one pro and one anti, does not get the job done. Your statement about the list being “interesting” tells me that you haven’t done your research as the list is more than interesting. It has saved lives.

      • Well the SPLC is one entity that does indeed deserve a platform as far as i am concerned. I also happen to be grateful to them for this classification as well. Thank you for responding to me.

      • But your not “fair and accurate”. You want to have people on your show that you know are lying to create a drama where there wasn’t one.Your supposed to be a journalist, start acting like it. What your doing is best left to Oprah and Phil Donahue, not the news.

  2. By all means go ahead and give FRC a platform to spill their bile. Just remember to REMIND the public that when Mike Huckabee shows up at the annual FRC fundraiser, he’s doing no less that David Duke showing up at a KKK rally. He’s there in solidarity with a KNOWN hate group. Remember how Trent Lot lost his leadershiip seat for his great respect and love for Strom Thurmond’s segregationist positions? That’s what is going to apply to ANY politician who sucks up to Family Research Council. So just be sure to note, when you give the floor to FRC, that they are a HATE GROUP and then give them alllllll the press you want to. I mean, you’d do the same for *any* hate group, right?

  3. Quite correctly nobody calls up former KKK spokesperson David Duke to discuss whether Jewish people or black people should have equal rights. These groups are no different. The gay community deserves the same respect. It seems pretty simple.

  4. I very strongly disagree with this article.

    For one thing, the SPLC was careful to distinguish between groups it classifies as anti-gay hate groups — like the Family Research Council and the American Family Association — and those that are merely anti-gay, like Concerned Women for America and the National Organization for Marriage. Triplett seems to be confusing the two.

    Second, the SPLC doesn’t assign the “hate group” designation willy-nilly, and it laid out in detail the reasons why it gave it to the FRC and AFA. Both groups deliberately seek to demonize our community using dehumanizing and mendacious rhetoric. They have called for us to be criminalized and, in the words of the FRC’s Peter Sprigg, “exported.” The AFA’s Bryan Fischer even seemed to channel Scott Lively by asserting that we were behind the rise of the Nazis in Germany.

    This kind of rhetoric is simply beyond the pale, as are any groups that use it. Seeking out the views of these organizations legitimizes that rhetoric and, if you ask me, constitutes irresponsible journalism.

  5. 65 years ago, the KKK *were* treated as just another “major player in the social conservative political world.”

    DECISIONS had to be made, that the Klan was beyond the pale. Why shouldn’t that process happen again, to other groups that, by ANY sensible definition of the word, foster HATRED?

    SPLC made the brave decision, to call hate for what it is. I applaud them for it.

  6. Sir your wrong. When you invite someone on your show to spew facts that you know not to be true how is that informative? How exactly does that work? it isn’t that you just need to shuffle the deck of liars you need to tell the truth and challenge guest who aren’t. To many journalist care more about the drama then they do presenting the truth. Apparently you fall into the “more drama, less truth’ category.

  7. In conclusion reading really anything by you is really a waste of time because you seem to value the truth so little. How will we ever know when your lying or just lazy?

  8. […] is questions we’ve wrestled with before, when it came to the infamous Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate group designations.  While […]

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