Should We Give a Megaphone to the Bigots?

7 Dec

Over the past few years, we’ve seen all the nuts falling from the trees. Nowadays, it’s difficult to find a news program from CNN, MSNBC, Fox or anywhere else that doesn’t offer differing viewpoints on the topics of the day – no matter how bigoted those viewpoints might be.

But how far should the media go in giving a platform to bigots, racists, homophobes and the like? Julie Bolcer at The Advocate points out a brief interview with Tom Brokaw on a red carpet recently. Brokaw pointed out the fact that sometimes it’s outrageous anti-gay viewpoints that spark conversations nationwide. “You just say that they’ve got strong opinions. You treat like them like anyone else. You cross-examine and ask them the right questions.” Brokaw said.

As a journalist, one would think that you should be fairly removed from the topic you are reporting on, but it would seem with the evolution of news programs from most of the major cable networks, that commentary on these issues has become standard.

Anderson Cooper joined the fray earlier this year when he interviewed former Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell after Shirvell had harrassed and stalked openly-gay University of Michigan student body president, Chris Armstrong. Cooper was less-than-kind to Shirvell stopping just a few inches short of calling him a lunatic on national television.

And our beloved Rachel Maddow used her bully pulpit to eviscerate ex-gay therapist Richard Cohen, when he tried to explain his methods of “curing” homosexuality. While never being rude to Mr. Cohen, it was clear that Maddow found all his techniques to be…let’s say “outside the box.”

But do these appearances help in the struggle for civil rights by pointing out the shameless bigotry and hatred being displayed by individuals like The National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown or Maggie Gallagher? Or does it hurt us by giving a national platform to these otherwise fairly anonymous individuals?

There’s also the bigger question of freedom of speech – which is the usual line of defense for the networks when questioned as to why they allowed these people on their shows. This argument doesn’t hold a lot of water for me really though, as you can still speak out without being handed a national platform to do so.

I tend to believe the former, but I live in a major metropolitan area where most of the people I know share similar politics with me. With such a huge influx in LGBT stories in the media the past few years, is it necessary to offer a counterpoint, even when it’s as offbeat and bigoted as some of these examples?

3 Responses to “Should We Give a Megaphone to the Bigots?”

  1. Adam December 7, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    I think the 24 hour news cycle and ratings plays a big part. They need to make news out of non news. Especially since rhetoric these days tend to be on the aggressive, inflammatory side. It seems bigots and extremists fit right into that narrative.

    As far as civil rights is concerned, these people do not deserve a pulpit.

  2. Erin December 8, 2010 at 7:11 pm #

    While I see your point, I disagree…

    I hate conservative talk radio and Fox news for almost never presenting opposing viewpoints, because as a result, the viewers are encouraged to see the world from one perspective only, and we know how damaging that can be. I am glad that shows like Maddow pay heed to the other opinion, if only to eviscerate them.

    It is also important because it reminds us that these crazies are out there! As a liberal woman living in a liberal city with like-minded friends, it is easy for me to forget that these types of people actually exist. There are many LGBT people that live in less liberal areas that are forced to listen to this type of hateful bigotry on a daily basis. Hearing people spout hateful anti-humanistic rhetoric invigorates me to continue to fight for your cause.


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