Nail, meet hammer.
Dan Savage, the gay activist and organizer of the It Gets Better Project, slammed CNN today. Better yet, he was on CNN when he did it.
Now, overall I tend to like CNN, and I normally roll my eyes when people (usually conservatives) attack the network. But CNN is guilty – along with other mainstream news networks – of at least one thing. It’s something that’s bothered me for a long time, and it’s something that continues to bother me every time I see it (which is, unfortunately, often).
I get extremely irked when I see segments like this:
The reason I get pissed off is not because I don’t like a good argument. But as a gay person, something about seeing a major news network that’s not Fox News present two sides of an argument over an LGBT issue as if both sides are perfectly legitimate really bothers me…to the core. When I see bigots like Maggie Gallagher of NOM and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council being given airtime on supposedly legitimate networks like CNN, I can’t help but feel that the network is just giving them a platform to spew their vile, anti-gay hatred to a broad audience. It just doesn’t seem right to me.
And that’s why I was thrilled when I saw Dan Savage take on CNN about this very issue during an interview today.
The segment started off with CNN host Kyra Phillips (who has her own controversial history when it comes to gay issues) reporting some horrifying (but, sadly, not surprising) statistics from the Southern Poverty Law Center (which just added 13 groups, including the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, to its list of anti-gay hate groups). The statistics show that a gay person is twice as likely to be the victim of a violent hate crime than an African American, four times more likely than a Muslim, and fourteen times more likely than a Latino. She then skipped to some It Gets Better videos and introduced Dan Savage to respond to the statistics, claiming that “we [CNN] are just astounded by these numbers.”
Savage had a lot of important things to say. He (rightly) tied the high numbers of anti-gay hate crimes to the virulently anti-gay speech of right-wing politicians and hate groups under the umbrella of the Christian Right. This rhetoric, according to Savage, includes promoting “the idea that gays and lesbians are a threat to the family, a threat to the institution of marriage – they’ve even claimed, United States Senators have claimed, that gays and lesbians are a bigger threat to the planet than climate change. And when you have that kind of hateful, apocalyptic, demagogic rhetoric, some people will act on it.” All, unfortunately, very true. Phillips then pointed out the progress society has tangibly made on LGBT issues – citing the possible repeal of DADT and the popularity of Ellen – and went on later in the interview to ask what Savage thought should be done as a “solution” to the violence against gay people. This is where things got really interesting. Savage’s response:
We need a cultural reckoning around gay and lesbian issues. There was once two sides to the race debate…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, a 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.
He had me there. But he went on, indicting the mainstream media – yes, even CNN, by name.
There are no 'two sides' to the issue of LGBT rights. 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 CNN.
The charge was never addressed by Phillips, and the interview was ended shortly after his remarks.
Watch the video:
Savage is absolutely, 100% spot-on in his criticism of CNN, and the rest of the mainstream media. How ridiculous of CNN to point out the statistically high rate of violence toward gay people and act aghast, while simultaneously not having a policy against giving a platform to anti-gay hate groups like NOM and the Family Research Council. I’m not saying that CNN is solely responsible for anti-gay violence, but surely they have to realize they’re part of the problem. By presenting LGBT equality as a topic worthy of a debate between two opposing sides – one side arguing for equality and the other side openly calling for the criminalization of homosexuality – news networks are sending a message to bullies and other haters that their viewpoint is legitimate. Even legitimate enough for national television.
Bravo, Dan Savage. We need to keep sending the message to the mainstream media that it’s not okay to give a platform to bigots and hate groups.