Does rhetoric spark violence? Most gay men and lesbians would answer with a resounding yes. Many activists believe a right-wing, antigay campaign launched earlier this year fanned the flames of intolerance flint ultimately killed Matthew Shepard. They point to the remarks of Senate majority leader Trent Lott, who compared gays to alcoholics and kleptomaniacs, as well as the ex-gay ad campaign.
That Trent Lott is no doubt one of the most bigotted politicians of modern times. But at least he didn't say homosexuals attack everybody, bite their mothers and ruin property with rivers of diarrhea. And keep in mind that Lott might have been referring to, you know, a small subset of homosexuals with some syndrome he made up. No, seriously, how is what David Kirby said about autistic children any different to what Trent Lott said, or to this, or this?
Why is discourse important? Let me again quote David Kirby:
Brian Levin, a criminologist and director of Stockton College's Center on Hate and Extremism, cites a rhetorical link to all hate offenders. "They share prejudicial stereotypes that label certain groups of people as appropriate targets for attack," says Levin. "For a certain segment of impressionable, misguided, and violence-prone youth, derogatory statements made in the social and political discourse are perceived to give them license to brutalize gays and lesbians."
So what happened since 1998? Did David Kirby forget all about this? Was he unwilling to rock the boat or something? I want to give Mr. Kirby the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he never heard of the "Autism Every Day" video, since he's not really that connected to the autism community.