Who’s a hate group now?

W. James Antle III Managing Editor
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Anyone who eats at Chick-fil-A “deserves to get the cancer that is sure to come from eating antibiotic-filled tortured chickens.”

So declared Roseanne Barr, the washed-up comedian who like Dick Gregory seeks to extend her 15 minutes of fame through far-left politics. The TV Land refugee later backed down, but only after denouncing “Christian liars” who supposedly mischaracterized her inflammatory statement.

Before pulling up to the drive-thru window, one Adam Smith mused that the “anti-gay breakfast sandwich always tastes better because it is full of hate.” He then made a video of himself harassing a young restaurant employee, in which he berated her for Chick-fil-A’s donations to “hate groups.”

Both incidents were widely mocked as examples of boorish and obnoxious behavior. But do such comments create a climate of hate that could lead to violence?

The “hate group” Mr. Smith mentions is almost certainly the Family Research Council. Yesterday a gunman attacked the socially conservative organization’s headquarters, wounding a security guard.

The Southern Poverty Law Center considers the Family Research Council a hate group. The Human Rights Campaign has repeated this smear.

The argument is that agreeing with the more than 40 states that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, President Obama’s position until May, is hateful. Taking socially conservative positions on marriage and other issues supposedly promotes violence against gay and lesbian Americans.

Except that there are reports that the shooter in this case may have been moved to violence by the fact that he disagrees with the Family Research Council. He may even have been carrying Chick-fil-A materials in his backpack.

It is unknown whether the details of the initial reports will be corroborated later, as we have learned from previous media rushes to judgement against the tea party during past incidents.

But if agreeing with the Family Research Council and disagreeing with the Human Rights Campaign is an incitement to violence, then why should we be surprised to see violence? Might not those who see the stakes of the “culture war” — itself a martial term to describe disagreement over social issues — take up arms?

Isn’t a political climate in which the Family Research Council hates and Chick-fil-A diners deserve cancer a violence-inducing environment?

You would think so based on past history. Bill Clinton blamed the “anti-government” rhetoric of radio talk show hosts and Republican congressmen for creating a climate conducive to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Clinton resurfaced to repeat these concerns about the tea party.

“Because of the Internet, there is this vast echo chamber and our advocacy reaches into corners that never would have been possible before,” Clinton warned The New York Times. (Does that make Internet inventor Al Gore an unindicted co-conspirator?)

Barack Obama honorably eschewed this tactic when Jared Loughner shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. But many of his supporters and sympathizers went where the president feared to tread. Jacob Weisberg argued in Slate that the tea party “did make it appreciably more likely that a disturbed person like Loughner would react, would be able to react, and would not be prevented from reacting, in the crazy way he did.”

After all, Weisberg reasoned, “anti-government, pro-gun, xenophobic populism” would make it easier to get a gun, harder to get health insurance, and considers some of what the federal government does unconstitutional and therefore illegitimate.

Why doesn’t this logic apply equally to progressives who compare social conservatives to the Taliban and warn of an impending “Christianist” theocracy? What influence does their rhetoric have on a disturbed person like Floyd Corkins, who allegedly took up a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun against a “hate group”?

In truth, nobody knows what thoughts were swirling through the suspect’s head. Whether they support gay marriage, oppose abortion or want to index the minimum wage to inflation, peaceful proponents of a political viewpoint shouldn’t be held responsible for the violent extremists in their midst — especially when they are quick to denounce violence carried out in the name of their cause.

But yesterday’s events should remind us that disagreement isn’t a hate crime. The acts of violent lunatics should not become an excuse to suppress legitimate political groups.

W. James Antle III is editor of The Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow him on Twitter.