05/16/2012 05:48 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

When Bigotry Is a Mirror

On Oct. 4, 1976 the Chicago suburb of Skokie received a letter that set off a controversy that lasted for years. The letter was from Frank Collins, the leader of the National Socialist Party of America, a Nazi organization that hated Jews, blacks, and gays. Frank's father, Max, had changed his name from Cohen after his release from a Nazi concentration camp. Revelations about Frank didn't stop with his Jewish origins. He was imprisoned for having sex with young, black boys. Until those revelations, he was one of the most prominent anti-Jewish, anti-black, anti-gay fanatics in the Chicago area.

Billy James Hargis led a major "anti-communist crusade for Christ" and founded an ultra-right-wing college. He denounced liberals, homosexuals, and the civil rights movement, backed up with the singing group from his college, "The All-American Kids." Hargis, it seems, seduced several male members of the choir, along with one female.

Benjamin Freedman was a Jewish doctor who converted to Catholicism and then spent his life campaigning against an alleged Jewish plot to take over the world. Freedman gave large of sums of money to the anti-Semitic paper Common Sense, which published infamous Jew haters such as Eustace Mullins and Elizabeth Dilling.

Recently, I had an online discussion with a right-wing college student. He cited, as evidence for his position, someone who is gay himself -- yet someone whom I've heard denounce other gay men as "fucking faggots."

The entire history of the debate over gay rights is littered with the remains of anti-gay activists who turned out to be gay. Ted Haggard denounced gays from the pulpit and then hired male prostitutes in private. George Rekers wrote a Christian book on curing homosexuality and then was caught vacationing with a hired male escort from

The John Birch Society had no problem finding black speakers willing to terrorize white, middle-class conservatives into believing that Moscow was behind the civil rights movement.

Why such people exist is debatable. That such people exist is undeniable. Their existence, however, is not proof for the positions they take.

The Birchers were absolutely convinced that the presence of some blacks in their campaign proved that the civil rights movement was wrong. The religious right will trot out "ex-gay" converts any chance they get and then forget about them when their charade is exposed. The crazy theories of Benjamin Freedman are not evidence that there really is a Jewish world conspiracy and that Freedman was a "defector" from it.

Nor does quoting such people mean that one is free of bigotry. Many a bigot believes that if he cites someone such as Freedman, then he can't possibly be anti-Semitic. After all, he is citing a Jew. Similarly, some assume that quoting an anti-gay gay means they aren't bigoted. Citing a bigot, even one who is a member of the group against whom he is bigoted, does not exonerate you. If anything, it shows how desperate you are to justify your position.

There will always be those individuals willing to prostitute themselves on behalf of those who would happily round them up and send them to the camps. Their existence raises many disturbing aspects of human psychology. However, there is one thing their existence does not do: justify the bigotry they promulgate.