Hate, Demonization, and Violence in Uganda
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Jan 29, 2011 at 03:25:21 PM EST
In the wake of the Tucson massacre, Chip Berlet wrote an essay at Talk to Action which opened:  
The idea that vitriolic political rhetoric can lead some people to carry out acts of political aggression or violence against the demonized targets is hardly controversial among social science scholars. The first step is to identify an enemy "Other."

Now the international media spotlight has turned to those American evangelicals, notably Scott Lively, whose demonization of gay people in Uganda has contributed to a climate of hate, violence, and possibly murder.

Political Research Associates (PRA), which published a ground breaking report on the role of American evangelicals in whipping up anti-gay hate in Uganda stated:  
David Kato, an openly gay human rights activist and advocacy officer at Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was attacked in his home in Uganda on January 26 and died on his way to the hospital. Kato had received death threats since October, when a local newspaper, Rolling Stone, published his photo alongside a cover story that charged homosexuals with recruiting children.

The targeting of Kato and other LGBT Ugandans follows an intense demonization campaign fostered by right-wing Christian activists from the United States.

Indeed, Rev. Kapya Kaoma's investigation for PRA highlighted the role of Christian Right activists including Lively and the serial vilifier Rick Warren. While the motive for the shocking crime has not been established, it has resulted in a firestorm of media attention as the years long hate campaign may have played a role in this high profile murder. American religion writer David Gibson even wonders if Kato is the Gabrielle Giffords of Uganda.

Giles Muhame, editor of the Rolling Stone newspaper that outed Kato and dozens of others, told Reuters that he did not want to see Kato murdered but added: "We want the government to hang people who promote homosexuality, not for the public to attack them. We said they should be hanged, not stoned or attacked."

Pastor Martin Ssempa, who was close to Rick Warren until Warren publicly split with him following the 2009 outcry against the Ugandan anti-gay bill, told the BBC that Kato's death was not the result of homophobia but instead underscored the problem of "gay-on-gay bashing."

And Member of Parliament David Bahati, who has ties to conservative Christian politicians in Washington, told Uganda media that Kato's murder was unfortunate but was likely due to thieves seeking money Kato had been sent by gay activists overseas. Bahati said police should use the occasion of Kato's killing to "dismantle the illegal networks, particularly financial, which are being used to facilitate gay activities in Uganda, especially in schools. In Uganda most people feel like vomiting when they come across gay practitioners or activists."

In the end, Kato's brutal death, like the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and the suicide of the gay college student Tyler Clementi in September, shocked the nation because it showed in vivid detail what ugly language looks like when it is embodied in actions -- whether those words inspired the deeds or not.

In the United States, at least, the shock and grief of the Arizona massacre led to the catharsis of a communal memorial service and a degree of self-examination. Uganda may have further to travel.

Here are some quotes from Lively's 2009 antigay speech in Uganda:  

"The gay movement is an evil institution that's goal is to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity in which there's no restrictions on sexual conduct except the principle of mutual choice."

"The real danger of the gay movement is its necessary goal of the elimination of this moral system in order to achieve this [sexual freedom]"

"...That is the gay agenda...it is the recreation of society on a different moral foundation and the problem with that is that moral foundation will lead to social chaos and destruction."

Lively, best known for his book of holocaust revisionism, The Pink Swastika (which tries to blame homosexuality for Nazism), now tries to downplay his years of harsh anti-gay rhetoric and insists that his influential speech and visit to Uganda had nothing to do with Kato's murder. But his current claims ring hollow in light of his braggadocio when he was for a few moments, a big man in Uganda.  

"Stephen Langa, was overjoyed with the results of our efforts and predicted confidently that the coming weeks would see significant improvement in the moral climate of the nation, and a massive increase in pro-family activism in every social sphere. He said that a respected observer of society in Kampala had told him that our campaign was like a nuclear bomb against the "gay" agenda in Uganda. I pray that this, and the predictions, are true."


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