Friday, March 16, 2007

A Necessary Dialog on Hate

I make a point of not giving hate-mongers any more free press then they deserve. However, I also believe in a fine line between ignoring a situation that needs to be discussed and acted upon by society and discussing something simply for discussion's sake. With this most recent news, I feel that this new black eye upon our state calls for a serious discussion. ~LiberalLucy

While I spent time serving in leadership at MSU's Student Government, ASMSU, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a certain chairman of the school's Young Americans for Freedom chapter. Kyle Bristow served on the Student Assembly for several months as a representative of the James Madison College until he was recalled by his college in a special election because of his words and actions (see below).

During this time, I had a chance to speak with Bristow several times about various miscellaneous student government issues. I was unnerved by this young man, who outwardly looked pleasant and quite innocent despite appearing painfully uncomfortable in public situations, mainly because he spoke with such hate and anger in his voice. I've met hundreds, even thousands of politically-charged people in my short life. Never before had I encountered someone who seemed so closed-minded and full of hatred.

What scares me is that Bristow, who spews from a pulpit built of intolerance and injustice, is attracting others to his cause. He's a self-proclaimed devout Roman Catholic, (he calls himself a Freedom Fighter), who is proud of his community service, and his bragwall on his website of photo-ops with famous ultra-conservatives is enough to make any good American's stomach turn.

Bristow worked quite diligently on the creation of Catch An Illegal Immigrant Day which was later condemned by the student government, the student body, the university administration and the Lansing community as a whole. From MSU President LouAnna K. Simon

In my view, the tactics being suggested are demeaning to individuals and to the values of Michigan State University.

Immigration policy is, without question, an important issue for national debate, one that has serious implications as the U.S. strives to remain competitive in the new global economy. Part of our responsibility as a university is to address this issue in a balanced and scholarly way-without resort to offensive gimmicks as a means of drawing attention to the topic.

I consider the tactics of "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day," as reported in Thursday's State News, a way to mock and demean, not to educate; a way to exclude, not include, voices. And inclusion is one of MSU's core values.

This week, MSU's YAF had the distinction of becoming the very first university-affiliated group to be classified as a hate group by the Southern Law Poverty Center, the full report will be out next month. This is a big deal, namely because the SLPC has been long-regarded as the definitive social watchgroup of America for hate groups. Unfortunately, the YAF chapter becomes the 26th group in Michigan that the SLPC classifies as a hate group.

The national Young Americans for Freedom is not on that watch list. YAF is a conservative group who does not propagate the same discriminating statements on a regular basis as the MSU group. In fact, when you read their founding statement, their tenets are much like any other well-established and respectable conservative group. (I tried contacting the national YAF group, but their phone has been disconnected and my email requests were not returned.) In fact, while other university groups are listed and linked to on their website, there was only one link for Michigan YAF (CMU and U of M-Ann Arbor also has chapters, and they appear to follow the dog and pony show at MSU) and it was down. Makes you wonder.

Just in case you aren't fully disturbed yet, get a load of this "Media Strategy" as emailed by Bristow to his followers.

1. All media questions regarding the hate group status go directly to Professor Allen at first until we establish that the media won't spin it.

2. Prevent all dissent in YAF from appearing in the media. If we are seen as being divided, then the media will argue that I am a whack job, even by YAF standards. This will hurt us more than anything.

3. I will mention how mainstream YAF is - Ronald Reagan was the honorary chairman, Sen. John Tower was a member, Barry Goldwater's supporters started it and Dan Quayle was a member.

4. I will mention that we support the ideas of the great majority of America. Most of America believes in the sanctity of marriage, want to secure our borders, oppose affirmative action and believe that abortion is wrong. If these views make me a hateful person, then I am proud of it. People at LI (Leadership Institute) suggest that we make a mockery of the whole thing by pointing this out.

5. If The State News mentions that you saw the "evil of YAF's ways" or something, all I can do is have you talk to them (only with my permission.) ? You cannot apologize for anything YAF has done, cannot say bad things about me, cannot say that YAF is divided on any issues and cannot say that we need to do things in a better way. Any of these items can be twisted around to make us look bad. Regardless of whether or not The State News takes interest in the Between the Lines or City Pulse article, you must not speak to the media unless you have my permission (not even on your own behalf because it still represents the group). Don't even tell them the time or day of the week without my permission.

Of course, if that's not quite enough, check out these choice statements from Bristow.

"I believe abortion is absolutely despicable. It hurts women ... It raises the chance of breast cancer. It allows men to abuse women."

"It's sad all these groups exist to advocate for all these different groups based on their ethnicity or skin color. Personally I would like to see these groups go away."

"Homosexuality kills people almost to a degree worse than cigarettes. It's sad these groups are complicit in murder."

"Planned Parenthood ... They're pretty much an advocacy group for infanticide. It's a blight on the MSU community. It's a slap in the face."

- From video interview,, this format taken from Between the Lines

Between the Lines, Michigan's weekly for the LGBT community, had another great profile into Bristow, as did Lansing's City Pulse.

As much as this sickens me, it also leaves me fearful. I see Bristow with his American-as-apple-pie face, a member of our society, our state, our community, trample and spit upon the very liberties and freedoms we uphold. Here we see the double-edged sword of the First Amendment really begin to gleam.

How does this make you feel? What, if anything, do you feel should be done about Bristow, the MSU YAF, their hate-mongering and other groups who preach a similar message of hate and discrimination?

(Cross-posted on Michigan Liberal and Daily Kos)


Anonymous said...

It's amazing how liberals only respect free-speech when they agree with the message.javascript:void(0);
Show Original Post

YAF was founded in 1960 and is mainstream. Do I really need to list the dozens and dozens of alumni and alumna who have went on to careers in state and national politics as legislators, congressmen, senators, and even a president: Ronald Reagan.

They're no more "radical" or "hate group"-like than some of the groups on the left-of-center side. I don't see anybody - except YAF - attacking Tom Hayden for statements he has made in the past, and has failed to apologize for; like statements calling John McCain a "liar" for describing his times as a Vietnam prisoner of war.

This story is a joke. And oddly, according to the Lansing State Journal, they are only being listed as a hate group because they oppose illegal immigration and support traditional marriage - which makes me wonder if anyone who makes "anti-gay" statements will be listed by the SPLC?

LiberalLucy said...

You should have read the post more clearly, Anon. This post wasn't criticizing YAF, it's the MSU's chapter of YAF (and there's a question to whether or not Bristow properly affiliated his chapter with the national group) that is the cause of concern.

The SPLC specifically says that there's nothing about the YAF organization as a whole that merits examination by the SPLC.

Just for the record, I always respect free speech for everyone, no matter how much I hate the message. The purpose of this post was to create a little more free speech around what elements of our society have 20 year-olds so full of so much evil that they turn out like Bristow. Bristow is a reflection on what is wrong with our society. Conservative thought is good and necessary part of what makes our political system so great. Hate-mongering has no place and only serves to make the respectable conservatives look worse than they really are.

I know if I were a conservative right now I'd definitely be circling the wagons around Bristow and the rest of the looney bin that is the MSU YAF chapter.