The rise of toxic terminology: Losing anti-LGBT movement turns to corrosive labeling

"Gestapo" is a word with a very specific root. It's an abbreviation of Geheime Staatspolizei (meaning "Secret State Police")—that is the orgin of this very loaded term.  It refers to the Hitler era forces that played a key role in facilitating the Nazi's "Final Solution."  The term is an obviously painful allusion for many.

"Fascist" is one of those words that has essentially lost all of its context and become a quick go-to for those who'd rather demean than actually debate.  As current UN ambassador Samantha Power wrote in the New York Times back in 2004, "...fascism -- unlike Communism, socialism, capitalism or conservatism -- is a smear word more often used to brand one's foes than it is a descriptor used to shed light on them."  It is certainly true that, in modern political debate, many who wield this insult do so in order to hide the oppressive, rigid, authoritarian, intolerant views that they themselves are trying to impose.

"The KKK" is a term that I trust I don't have to explain. Same goes for "Al Qaeda." And even "jihad" is a term with which I will assume most modern readers have at least a passing familiarity.

To me, all of these labels are off the table of debate. I would never use them, as I am much more interested in sparring within the arena of ideas than I am within the toxic waters of character assassination. I would go a step further and suggest that the casual use of labels like the ones above say more about the agenda of the person who utilizes them than it does the targeted person or movement.

Unfortunately, the modern anti-LGBT movement does not seem to agree with me on this point.  In the year 2014, there has been a startling rise in the anti-LGBT far-right's employment of these terms and more.  As they continue to lose actual policy battles in legislatures, courts, and public opinion polls, a startlingly number of commentators have begun an all-out onslaught against the heart, mind, and character of the LGBT equality movement.  Far too many of the top voices on the other side seem to be okay with (or even eager to) persuade our fellow citizens that we, a long-denied and discriminated against population that truly wants nothing more than our rightful place at the table, are a pervasive force rivaling any of history's worst.  Rather than simply deny us of our rights and freedoms, a shocking many commentators seem hellbent on turning us into a legitimate social danger.

Some examples:


Conservative talk show host Jeffrey Kuhner:

American Family Association president:

Christian Post opinion pages:

Anti-LGBT activist Peter LaBarbera:

Breitbart columnist:

Religious news site VirtueOnline:

Lesbian conservative:

Conservative news and opinion site RenewAmerica:

BarbWire columnist:

RedState founder and Fox News contributor:

AFA sr. issues analyst:

TruNews host Rick Wiles:

Anti-LGBT activist:

Liberty Counsel spokesperson and Liberty Univ. Law adjunct professor:

NRA conservative with over 100K twitter followers:

Conservative radio host Steve Deace (in an exchange with Washington Examiner's Justin Green), directly comparing our "tactics" with Hitler:

It took me about ten minutes to find these examples. There are so many more. If you listen to the usual anti-LGBT or merely conservative radio shows, you will hear these words and phrases roll off the tongues of hosts, guests, and callers, as if they are perfectly normal things to say. Not all who engage on that side, of course. But far too many. This has gone from the realm of the fringe and entered into the more "mainstream" chambers of anti-LGBT commentary. And even the groups that are not coming right out and using the words are still adopting the tone (see the National Org. for Marriage's recent blog posts, most all of which are built around branding us as "radical extremists"). It's an extremely dangerous game they are playing.

But let's be clear: this is a concerted effort. This anti-LGBT movement has long known it needed to recast the script in order to make us seem like the antagonists, which is why they've always used words like "protect marriage" to hide their push for discrimination, why they've always framed courts or legislatures or media outlets that support our rights as being "biased," and why they've been so determined to make themselves look like the "victims" through the various "religious freedom" cases they keep trying to turn into national stories. This is more of that same strategy taken to another level. 

Sadly, I expect it will get even worse before it gets better. LGBT rights are going to continue to win because LGBT equality is the winning position. If this is what the waters look like now, I truly wonder what they will look like when we pass a federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act or when the Supreme Court hands down a ruling that finally grants marriage equality to all fifty states. This movement is already laying a groundwork that suggests we are on par with the worst tyrrants and dictators simply because we stand up for our lives and the fair treatment thereof. How will that all manifest when the folks who have dedicated to stopping our gains run out of options?

We must stay vigilant.