If you haven't heard (and how could that be??) that Oklahoma state representative Sally Kern made some vociferously homophobic and inflammatory remarks about LGBT people recently, take a listen.
Working with the Victory fund on the media surrounding that has been interesting - and challenging. It seems Rep. Kerns has (surprise, surprise) gotten a lot of nasty emails from folks angry at her comments. After over 500,000 listens on youtube.com and exposure in local and national media, what was she expecting, flowers?? The local Muslim community in Oklahoma City has spoken out not only against her equating gays (and Muslims) with terrorism, but on how her speech is divisive and wrong. The silver lining is that folks like her help build coalitions and bridges, probably not her intent, but thanks Rep. Kern!
But here is the thing: instead of actually thinking about what she has said (LOTS of misinformation and outright lies), she has decided to go the martyr route, saying she is getting death threats.
In the most recent Associated Press article even the authorities are not buying it:
A fellow lawmaker contacted the OSBI on Monday and suggested that agents go through the e-mails, some of which might be threatening, OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said. Kern said Monday that she had not received death threats. On Tuesday, she said, 'It's changed,' but she did not elaborate.
Brown said Tuesday, 'There are a lot of e-mails to the representative that say, 'You ought to die,' rather than, 'I am going to kill you.' I wouldn't characterize them as death threats, she said.
Rep. Kern, if you can't take the heat get out of the state senate.
When I was at GLAAD, highly visible campaigns against the hate speech of Dr. Laura, Michael Savage and Eminem (to name a few) were met by hundreds of pieces of hate mail and of course, for the truly courageous, middle of the night voice mail. And they call us sissies! For the most part, they were the usual "you will burn in hell" rhetoric but some were over the line, like "I'll stab you in the head" (a direct lyric of Eminem's, not that he has any influence over his fans, something he asserted regularly).
So if someone really threatens her, they should be taken to task and dealt with - but the reality is that you reap what you sow - and when you sow hate, you will get some very angry responses from the people you malign and attack. Free speech is best combated with more speech, as I learned at GLAAD, and the cream always rises to the top. Note Laura's descent into radio purgatory and Michael Savage's cancellation after telling a caller he wished he would "get AIDS and die." You reap what you sow when you are held accountable.
We'll see how this plays out - other OK and national politicians are finally starting to call for her censure, no public official who represents a diverse constituency should get away with this.
In his open letter to Rep. Kern, Victor Fund President Chuck Wolfe said it best:
What you said was not okay, but that's not because most sensible people disagree with it. It's because your words give aid and comfort to those who would hurt, maim and even kill people who are different from you . . . .
Just this past fall, Steven Domer, a 62-year-old gay man was brutally murdered right in your home state of Oklahoma.
Authorities believe that Domer was strangled Oct. 26 by two members of a white-supremacist group who targeted Domer because he was gay.
"The point of the Victory Fund's releasing your speech was to draw attention to the fact that even elected leaders like you are saying some nasty and potentially dangerous things about your fellow citizens," Wolfe wrote. "Our mission is to elect people to counter your hate and bigotry with honesty and courage."
For more info and to get involved go to www.victoryfund.org.