Shortly after Floyd Lee Corkins II reportedly walked into the office of conservative lobbying group the Family Research Council and shot an unarmed guard, the president of the Christian fundamentalist group, Tony Perkins, knew exactly who was to blame, saying, "Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations as hate groups because they disagree with them on public policy."
The SPLC has labeled the Family Research Council a hate group primarily because of the conservative Christian organization's opposition to same-sex marriage and other gay rights issues. When most Americans think of hate groups, the neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan come to mind. However, the SPLC has a much broader definition, as does much of the Left.
Newspaper reports indicate that Corkins is a gay rights activist who had a backpack full of Chick-fil-A sandwiches when he carried out this crime. He even allegedly said something to the effect of "I don't like your politics" before pulling the trigger.
Perkins is absolutely right about the SPLC. The Southern Poverty Law Center is reckless when it comes to who or what it designates a hate group. However, Perkins is wrong to blame the SPLC for this shooting. If some lunatic shot a neo-Nazi or a Klan member, that would not be Southern Poverty's fault either. Unlike the Family Research Council, neo-Nazis and the KKK are actual hate groups, but no sane person believes merely pointing out this fact would be to somehow justify murdering their members.
And no sane person would believe that when Jared Lee Loughner shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others in 2011 that it was somehow the fault of the Tea Party. Yet much of the Left did. Never mind that it wasn't even clear what Loughner's politics actually were — his two favorite books were reportedly The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf — this crime was the fault of Loughner and Loughner alone. And yet liberals were more than eager to pin this tragedy on the Right. I recall MSNBC's Chris Matthews harping for a full week on the fact that Sarah Palin's PAC group had used a "target" image over certain congressional districts, including Giffords, as if this somehow made the former Alaska governor responsible.
Can words or rhetoric drive people to commit heinous acts? Yes. But so can normal and healthy political discourse, heated or otherwise. This says far more about the person than our political discourse.
Perhaps the best commentary to date on such disturbed figures comes not from an ideologue but comedian Chris Rock. In 1999's Bigger and Blacker, Rock asks, "Whatever happened to crazy? What, you can't be crazy no more? Should we eliminate crazy from the dictionary?" No we shouldn't. A crazy person believes shooting a congresswoman and others is somehow a rational act. A crazy person believes going into a conservative group's office, guns blazing, is somehow going to help gay rights. A crazy person thinks blowing up a government building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, is a smart political move. But that didn't stop President Bill Clinton in 1995 from blaming conservative talk radio "hate" for motivating Timothy McVeigh. Unfortunately, blaming one's ideological opponents for the acts of irrational people is nothing new.
The truth is, sometimes the motivations of a killer are a mystery. As The Daily Caller's James Antle notes in a column about the Family Research Council shooting: "In truth, nobody knows what thoughts were swirling through the suspect's head. Whether they support gay marriage, oppose abortion, or want to index the minimum wage to inflation, peaceful proponents of a political viewpoint shouldn't be held responsible for the violent extremists in their midst."
As the Giffords incident reminded us, it is the Left that has been the quickest to attribute random acts of violence to conservatives using the most ridiculous logic imaginable. Though Family Research Council President Corkins immediately blamed the SPLC, most of the Right did not immediately pile on, suggesting that such violence was somehow the fault of the Left at-large or the rhetoric of gay rights activists. That would be absurd.
Some people are just crazy. Period.
Jack Hunter assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his latest book, Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse. He is also the official campaign blogger for GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, and he co-wrote Rand Paul's The Tea Party Goes to Washington. You can hear Southern Avenger commentaries on The Morning Buzz on 1250 WTMA.