We’ve long railed against newspapers, cable networks, and radio programs welcoming bigot leaders from the Family Research Council and National Organization for Marriage to pass their hate rhetoric off as “reasonable debate from the other side.” It is not. Telling viewers and readers that gay parents shouldn’t raise children, that gay children are killing themselves because of their sexuality (and not institutional homophobia), that people can change their sexuality, and that marriage is an institution for discrimination is not reasonable debate. It is fear-mongering. Yet Tom Brokaw, the NBC special correspondent and former Nightly News anchor, doesn’t want a media landscape where scumbags cannot have a say.
“I don’t think you can shut down free speech,” says Brokaw when asked whether anti-gay leaders should be welcomed by the media. “We’re a free speech society. They’re entitled to their positions however wrong they may be. How do you begin to censor things?”
Here’s how: We don’t let racist, anti-Semitic, or gratuitously sexist speech on the airwaves. Not on CNN. Not in the Washington Post. Yet people who think gays are second-class are well represented whenever gay issues come up. With tonight’s expected DADT repeal vote in the Senate, you can be sure Tony Perkins will be given a chance to spew.
But Brokaw doesn’t want homophobes lumped in there with racists. Rather, have them come on and “just say that they’ve got strong opinions. You treat like them like anyone else. You cross-examine and ask them the right questions.” Except inviting them on the program legitimatizes these strong opinions. Believing that all gays are rapists may be “free speech,” but it’s not speech that national media should be distributing as a rational alternative to justice and equality.
You’re wrong, Mr. Brokaw.