Now Let’s Have a Talk about Hate Speech and the “New Tone”

SPLC Hate Map Screen ShotEarlier today, Floyd Corkins II, who shot an unarmed security guard and intended to shoot several others at the Family Research Center, pled guilty to three felony charges. Corkins, who attacked the conservative advocacy organization shortly after the Chik-Fil-A gay marriage flap, admitted to the FBI he intended to “kill as many as possible and smear the Chick-Fil-A sandwiches in victims’ faces, and kill the guard” because the FRC opposes gay marriage. He also told agents he chose the FRC from a “hate map” published on the web site of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that frequently designated conservative organizations along with Islamist and Neo-Nazi groups as “hate” groups.

Once he was done there, he planned to go to three other places in DC, also chosen from the SPLC’s “hate map”.

After years of thinking it over, Floyd Corkins finally had a plan.

He’d bought a gun and learned how to use it. He’d loaded three magazines. And he had stopped by Chick-fil-A to pick up 15 sandwiches, which he planned to smear in the dying faces of staffers he expected to kill at the Family Research Council in Washington.

It would be a statement, he said, “against the people who work in that building,” according to documents filed in U.S. District Court, where Corkins pleaded guilty on Wednesday to three charges related to the August shooting at the conservative policy group.

Corkins told Judge Richard Roberts that he hoped to intimidate gay rights opponents.


“They endorse Chick-fil-A and also Chick-fil-A came out against gay marriage, so I was going to use that as a statement,” prosecutors quoted Corkins as telling investigators.

I’m not willing to say the SPLC is responsible for Corkins’ attempted rampage. They didn’t put the gun in his hand, drive him to the FRC, or pull the trigger. Corkins’ crimes are his alone. On the other hand, they do owe the FRC and the rest of the country a huge apology. They turned up the rhetorical heat until it was hot enough to ignite Corkins’ long-simmering rage. They decided to paint the FRC, and anyone who opposes gay marriage as purveyors of “hate”. Corkins simply extended their overheated and irresponsible political rhetoric to a fairly easy-to-reach conclusion — hate is evil and evil ought to be punished — then set out to do something rather final about it.  Note that Corkins’ real goal that day wasn’t simply to kill but to kill and make a statement. He wanted to shove those sandwiches into the faces of people he shot. He wanted to strike back against the “hate” in a way he thought would clean up, well, how did the SPLC describe the FRC’s business? Ah. Here.

“As people who care about human dignity, we have a moral obligation to call out the FRC for its demonizing lies and incendiary rhetoric about the LGBT community,” the statement said. “The fact that we list the FRC as a hate group because of its demonizing propaganda does not make us the hateful one. Spreading demonizing lies is what is dangerous, not exposing them.

Do you see how easily a man like Corkins, stuffed full of this sort of crazy but completely routine left-wing talk (see the SPLC and Paul Krugman after the Giffords shooting), could take that “moral obligation” to its logical end and seek justice as a man who cares about “human dignity” against the “demonizing” and “dangerous” people who spread “lies” and “propaganda”? We can easily imagine how he could see himself as noble, a knight in the service of dignity, a protector of the helpless victims of evil. That is what the SPLC’s lack of any reasonable control wrought.

No, they didn’t fire the gun, but they surely gave Corkins all the motivation in the world to take down the bad guys. For that, the SPLC ought to show some humility and contrition. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.