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Perkins Fears Chilling Effect But Doesn’t Mind Big Freeze

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins is taking aim at the Southern Poverty Law Center, particularly their Hate Group List/Map. Perkins’ opposition to the Hate Group List/Map is nothing new–his organization has been on the list since 2010–but his most recent effort attempts to do more than merely discredit the list as being biased against conservative Christians; he’s attempting to place a causal connection between the Hate Group List/Map and Floyd Lee Corkins’ shooting up of the Family Research Center’s office building on August 15, 2012.

A bit of context here, from

Corkins entered the lobby armed with a loaded semi-automatic pistol, 100 rounds of ammunition, and 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches. He started firing at FRC’s building manager Leo Johnson who heroically tackled the shooter after a gunshot shattered his arm.

Corkins had been infuriated by anti-LGBT demonstrations around the country, particularly those surrounding the Chick-fil-A controversy. During an interrogation, Corkins said:

 I wanted to kill the people in the building and then smear a Chick-fil-A sandwich in their face… to kill as many people as I could.”

So where does the SPLC fit in to all this? During the same interrogation, Corkins was asked why he targeted the FRC. He told interrogators that he went online in order to find specific anti-LGBT organizations and that, upon doing so, found the Hate Group List/Map at the SPLC–for Corkins, a resident of Herndon, Virginia, FRC’s proximity and notoriety made them a convenient choice.

So what’s Perkins’ angle here? Corkins pled guilty to crossing state lines with guns and ammunition, intent to kill while armed, and committing an act of terrorism with the intent to kill. Those are hefty charges. What exactly is Perkins wanting?

Perkins said in a statement:

The SPLC’s reckless labeling has led to devastating consequences. Because of its ‘hate group’ labeling, a deadly terrorist had a guide map to FRC and other organizations. Our team is still dealing with the fallout of the attack, that was intended to have a chilling effect on organizations that are simply fighting for their values.

What I find interesting here is Perkins’ use of “chilling effect.” According to, “chilling effect” is defined as:

… a term in law and communication that described a situation where a speech or conduct is suppressed by fear of penalization at the interests of an individual or group. It can affect one’s free speech.

I guess it depends on what is meant by “fear of penalization at the interests of an individual or group.” It seems that “at the interests of an individual or group” is key. While a chilling effect is primarily concerned with laws involving penalization by authorities–consider here England’s libel law–it may also involve pressures felt by people or groups embracing an unpopular minority opinion within a society at large. We could think back on the 2003 burning of Dixie Chick paraphernalia, the Danish Muhammed cartoons of 2005, and the backlash against teenage skeptic Jessica Ahlquist in 2012.

This leaves us with more than a handful of considerations–far too many to be dealt with here. And while I’d be curious to hear arguments in favor of Perkins’ claim, I’m far more concerned with the potential fallout were the SPLC’s Hate Group List/Map to be deemed guilty of creating a “chilling effect” on certain opinions. This, to me, is of central importance as it would, in theory, have ramifications well-beyond what Perkins’ may wish to admit. Let me list only a few of my own, focusing only on what I believe to be relevant, in particular, to Perkins and the FRC:

  • Could preaching that gay and lesbian behavior is an abomination–Perkins thinks it should be illegal–that leads to social destruction and that unrepentant gays and lesbians will go to Hell qualify as having a chilling effect on gays and lesbians, as well as their advocates?
  • Could individuals or groups opposing the LGBT community he held responsible for the murder of gays and lesbians on account of their preaching from texts in the bible that they interpret to mean that homosexual behavior is sinful and that gays and lesbians are deviant, depraved and even predatory?
  • Could insisting that abortion is murder–at any stage of development after conception–have a chilling effect on people speaking openly about their beliefs regarding contraception and abortion?
  • Could individuals and groups opposing contraception and abortion be held responsible for the murder of abortion doctors on account of their writing and speaking about organizations that support comprehensive sex-education, the use of birth control, and a woman’s right to choose?
  • Could a case be made that conservative Christians use the bible to identifying beliefs and activities (and, consequently, people and groups) that they believe to be hateful, destructive, and potentially dangerous in a way akin to how some may use the SPLC List to identify people and groups advocating beliefs that they believe to be hateful, destructive, and potentially dangerous?

The possible (or even potential) chilling effect that could result were Perkins to get his way would extend well-beyond religion, of course. It would effect how people and organizations discuss issues including but not limited to feminism, family values, war, the death penalty, patriotism, the environment, torture, the Constitution, and even animal cruelty. Most relevant here, it would have a particularly dramatic impact on activism and advocacy!

As the editor-in-chief of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, Mark Potok, said:

The FRC and its allies on the religious right are saying, in effect, that offering legitimate and fact-based criticism in a democratic society is tantamount to suggesting that the objects of criticism should be targets of criminal violence.

In short, Perkins’ insistence of a causal connection between Corkins and the SPLC Hate Group List/Map, if applied in principle across the board, and if allowed to reach its logical conclusion, would lead to the mother of all chilling effects: an entire culture frozen in fear of being penalized at the interests of an individual or group for speaking openly about their beliefs and identifying people and groups standing in open–and at times aggressive–opposition to those beliefs.

Free speech is messy, no doubt; and we should never grow weary of placing blame where blame is due, admitting causal connections to one degree or another wherever and whenever they are actually relevant; but there’s more than a handful of excellent reasons why everyone ought to be really worried about Perkins’ line of reasoning, recognizing that fear-mongering over an alleged “chilling effect” could, if not resisted, lead to a Big Freeze on free speech as we know it.

Calls for Torture After Boston Bomber #2 Not Read Miranda

So after a wildly insane pursuit and shootout, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (aka Boston Marathon Bomber #2) has been apprehended and is in custody. Enter: Hysteria.

Let’s begin with the fact that Tsarnaev, an American citizen, wasn’t read his Miranda. While this may be the kind of thing that gets Sen. Lindsey Graham’s neoconservative jolly rocks off–which may be, in itself, a sure signal for worry–it’s symptomatic of a graver matter. As Scott Lemieux writes:

Miranda does not require us to be indifferent about the distinction between coercive and non-coercive interrogations, and indeed its logic suggests that we shouldn’t be… To refuse to inform Tsarnaev of his rights–outside of the acknowledged emergency exception to Miranda–sends the opposite message. It’s the message of the previous administration–i.e. that the rule of law and the “war on terror” are incompatible, that slapping the label “terrorist” on a suspect means that professional procedures that respect the rights of the accused can’t work. That isn’t right–it’s wrong in terms of the values it represents and it’s wrong in terms of the underlying assumptions that less respect for the rights of the accused means more effective crime control.

Still, all research, constitutionally-assured rights, and sound moral reasoning to the contrary, America is not at a loss for people who think torture works. Take Compass Media Networks’ Todd Schnitt, for instance. Schnitt goes so far as to post this little dandy on Twitter:

Screen shot 2013-04-20 at 1.22.35 PM

Really? Why stop there, Schnitty? Hell, why not go balls-to-the-wall with this line of (im)moral reasoning?!?! How about bamboo shoots under the fingernails or in the meatus of the urethra? Why not dust off the old Judas Cradle? And there’s always the Brazen Bull! Jeez, with his brother dead, why not do a little body desecration for the ol’ Polaroid? There’s no end to the wretchedly wicked things folks like you could come up with! Water-boarding is so Bush-era.

In all seriousness, though, it’s in moments like these that civilizations may best be seen for what they are. Tragically, people groups, like individuals, often fail to recognize the ways that small and subtle changes accumulate over time, and how, for better or worse, they reveal not just what they’ve become, but who they are. It’s my hope, however, that when push comes to shove, the American people will hold fast to the discipline of proportional justice, being fully-cognizant of the fact that our national claims to fame are about to once again endure trial by fire.

UPDATE: Sam Seder posted this on Twitter regarding the emergency “public safety” exception for Miranda.

Screen shot 2013-04-20 at 2.22.08 PM

Day 82 (M 4/10/12) Immediate Effects

April 10,2012

Summary: Show Notes are updated in real time during the show.
Circumventing the MI Constitution with ‘Immediate Effect’ procedure; Is the media to be trusted?; Rick Santorum suspends his bid for President; illusions of racism;

Art Keller, former CIA officer, writer on intelligence and national security issues.

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Show Notes/Links

Hour 1: Circumventing the MI Constitution with ‘Immediate Effect’ procedure. Rachel Maddow called out House Republicans for using it 93% of the time over the past 450 bills, with no official roll call taken, including the Emergency Financial Manager Law. Turns out the Democrats were doing it too.

“And then they wonder why we do not trust our elected officials.” ~ Dilyn Corner’s comment on our Facebook Page

Hour 2: Is the media to be trusted?; Rick Santorum suspends his bid for President; Commentary on John Derbyshire’s article, The Talk: Nonblack Version in Taki’s Magazine. Commentary on Confessions of an Iraq War Whistle Blower.

Hour 3: Former CIA officer and writer on intelligence and national security issues, Art Keller joins us to talk about Iran, is there a threat, the problem of heated rhetoric in international relations, what to make of the rhetoric coming from Republican Presidential candidates concerning Iran’s nuclear program. Keller is the author of Hollow Strength (15% off coupon code: paleoradio), a thriller novel about the CIA and Iran.

Day 60: Rethink Everything

Guest: Hear Matthew Abel, Executive dir of MI NORML talk about the Repeal Today campaign.

Also today:
-Are Parental Rights Absolute? What about when it comes to deciding whether or not to teach evolution or tolerance toward LGBTQ persons in homeschooling.
-Religion and terrorism
-Rethinking our philosophy on war
-Could we allow elected officials to use technology to telecommute to save money and keep them close to home where their constituents live?
-How can we revive faith in govt?
-Candidates need to stop fearmongering against Iran.

Press4Pax Listener Contest Winner! Congratulations to Cindy Ross, the winner of this week’s contest winner. Cindy will be receiving a book very near and dear to Jeremiah Bannister’s heart, signed by Jeremiah with a personal message to you.

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