Thoughts on the Family Research Council Shooting

One of the most troubling aspects of contemporary public life is the frequency with which violent episodes take on a political coloration. We have, actually, very little political violence in this country–almost none. But we have a lot of people who try to make political hay out of violence.

A wrong turn was taken in the Jared Loughner case. Loughner was a lunatic, so deranged that it remained doubtful for a long time whether he would even be competent to stand trial. There is no reason to think that his killing spree was politically motivated, and to the extent that he had a (crazy) political outlook, it was leftist; he listed The Communist Manifesto as one of his favorite books.

No matter. The Democratic Party and the media tried, incredibly, in retrospect, to blame Loughner’s shootings on Sarah Palin. There is no evidence that Loughner had ever heard of Palin, let alone seen her online map in which some states or districts were “targeted” for electoral victory. The dishonesty of the left’s effort was breathtaking, but who knows? It may have worked, to some degree.

Then we had the absurdity of the Aurora, Colorado Batman shooter being identified breathlessly as a possible Tea Partier by ABC’s Brian Ross. No such luck. Another nut.

Today a public school teacher named Floyd Corkins II walked into the Washington, D.C. office of the Family Research Council, armed with a recently-purchased 9 mm pistol. He was stopped by the guard; news reports don’t clearly explain why. Perhaps he had already drawn his gun, or perhaps he just looked suspicious. Some reports say he was carrying a Chick-Fil-A bag. He shot the guard, who wrestled him to the ground. Along the way, Corkins made observations about the political positions of the FRC, and, when the guard pointed a gun at him–it is not clear, to me anyway, whether the guard was armed or he took Corkins’s gun away from him–Corkins begged him not to shoot, saying something to the effect that it was nothing personal, he just had a problem with the FRC’s politics.

This is a photo of Floyd Corkins:

We now know that Corkins is a volunteer at a District of Columbia LGBT center. The organized gay community has properly, and I am sure sincerely, condemned today’s shooting. Online, however, gay activists and their allies have consistently smeared the Family Research Council as a “hate group” because it supports traditional marriage. Some activists have speculated that the shooting was staged by the FRC. The idea that the FRC and others like it are “hate groups” is widespread–almost universal, these days–on the left. Within the last week or so, the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled the FRC a “hate group” for no reason other than the fact that the FRC disagrees with the SPLC on gay marriage.

Today’s attack differed from some of its predecessors, like Loughner’s and James Holmes’s, in two important respects. First, Corkins was much less effective. He killed no one, and wounded only one individual, not too seriously. So today’s shooting is, legitimately, a lesser news story. For this reason, I think some of my fellow conservatives have gone overboard in complaining that various news outlets (e.g., CNN) have failed to cover the story adequately. Second, while the facts are barely becoming known, it already seems obvious that Corkins’s attack, unlike Loughner’s and Holmes’s, was political. There seems to be no doubt that he wanted to shoot up the Family Research Council because he disagrees with the FRC’s position on gay marriage. It is also reasonable to suspect–although presumably more will be known about this in due course–that he was influenced by the many left-wing and gay activist organizations that labeled the FRC a “hate group.”

So: is it premature to suggest that liberals should stop screaming that everyone who disagrees with them is a “hater”? This approach is, frankly, childish. People disagree about virtually every issue of public policy; gay marriage is one of hundreds such issues. Disagreeing with a liberal does not make you a “hater,” and liberals should quit trying to bully the rest of us.

Of course, denouncing proponents of traditional marriage as “haters” isn’t the only instance of over-the-top liberal rhetoric; on the contrary, hysteria is their stock in trade. Thus, we see Barack Obama claiming that Mitt Romney causes cancer, and Joe Biden asserting bizarrely that Republicans want to put someone–African-Americans, I guess, by a process of elimination–”back in chains.” Liberals should take a deep breath and re-think how they talk about public policy issues. If they are looking for haters, it would seem that the mirror is a good place to start.

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