Media Matters' Erin Fitzgerald: Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups Are Using The “Media As A Battleground” To Promote “Cloaked Discrimination”

MMFA Program Director Tells This Show Is So Gay Why Media Outlets Should Start Labeling Designated Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups

From the April 20 edition of This Show Is So Gay With Ken Schneck:

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KEN SCHNECK (HOST): So let’s talk about the Eliminate Hate Campaign. Where the heck did this come from? We need it and we need it badly.

ERIN FITZGERALD: So this came from a project that we started this time last year. When you monitor the media every day, you notice these microtrends and you start to develop hunches. We noticed that in any given news cycle that anti-LGBTQ hate groups were never labeled in media publications, or at least it seemed infrequent to us, where with other extremist ideologies, generally that label is included. So we did what good researchers do and we did a study. We looked at top publications and we found that publications used [Southern Poverty Law Center] SPLC’s designation for all other extremist ideologies but rarely, if ever, used it for anti-LGBT hate groups.

SCHNECK: You found that over a half a decade of research shows that journalists more often than not fail to identify anti-LGBTQ hate groups as such. So we have to do our two part question here: first, why is that happening and then second, why is it important that these anti-LGBTQ hate groups be designated as such?

FITZGERALD: I wish I understood why it was happening. I think a lot of the pushback, particularly at the anti-LGBTQ hate groups, is that people think that SPLC designates them as such because of their biblical views on marriage or because they aren’t comfortable with trans[gender] kids and their kids sharing bathrooms together and that’s actually not true. There’s three things that trigger an SPLC designation: if an organization engages in serial misinformation or spreads malicious lies with the intention of denying people rights, or engages in incendiary and inflammatory name-calling, or attempts to criminalize LGBTQ people. Which I think are three fairly stringent benchmarks and I think that we can all agree that they are pretty heinous things to be doing.

SCHNECK: Yeah, and so -- with a campaign like this, how do we set out to do this?

FITZGERALD: Well, I think it’s multi-pronged really because these anti-LGBTQ hate groups are very good at coordinating with one another and they’ve been doing this for a long time sort of under the radar. There are groups like the American Family Association and Alliance Defending Freedom, who operate under the guise of being conservative Christian organizations and that’s actually not true at all. They’re mega organizations that have a lot of funding and they sort of obfuscate their true intentions by using this “religious freedom” language. After marriage equality passed, they regrouped and came out with a new strategy and that’s around “privacy” and that’s around “religious freedom” -- and really it’s just cloaked discrimination. Their talking points are very valid; they sound very believable. So if you are in middle America, if you’re my mom or dad and you hear them on ABC or CBS, you’re going to not understand the context of the work that they’ve done previously. ADF is a big proponent of the criminalization of LGBTQ people and they’ve been for decades.

SCHNECK: I think that some of our listeners out there need to maybe be reminded and maybe i’ll speak from the “I”: Oh, that’s right! These organizations actually do have sway over a wide swath of Americans out there.

FITZGERALD: They do! They do because their talking points are very much centered around personal beliefs and religion and not -- they don’t really talk about -- they’re not out right homophobic in the way they used to be. They’ve really streamlined and savvied up around their communications strategy and they’ve used the media as a battleground for that.


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