What to Do When Fred Phelps and His Cult Are Picketing…

OK, so again, this was a had-to post. The evil little trolls at the Westboro Baptist Church (Topeka, KS) were recently protesting a Jewish Federation (not sure where), because they’ve apparently decided it’s not enough to just bash LGBT folks, they also gotta get back at the “Christ Killers” too. Naturally. Anyway, the folks from Funny or Die were there, and well…you just need to watch. Yes, some of the language is graphic, in an attempt to mock the Phelps cult, but frankly, if you’re more disturbed by the words the interviewer uses than the words on the signs of these lunatics, you’re at the wrong website anyway…As a side note, I was picketed by these folks, along with several other speakers, at Kansas University, 15 years ago. It was among the great honors of my life…

18 Responses to “What to Do When Fred Phelps and His Cult Are Picketing…”

  1. I’m pretty sure the bible doesn’t use the word “faggot.”


  2. Poor, poor people.


  3. Brilliant mockery. I’ve always wanted those folks to protest near me, just to have the opportunity to have some fun. Or the Nazis.

    But what actually works better, Tim? Dressing up in clown costumes and doing funny videos, or ignoring them? Or staging a larger counter-protest that doesn’t interact with the hate-mongers? Is there any consensus on that?


  4. It doesn’t.


  5. @Dan:

    1. “Consensus?” Why would that even matter? If you’re looking for a way to “refudiate” their idiocy (Thanks, Sarah!), then “ignoring” them utterly fails that test.
    Also, “ignoring” them doesn’t make them stop — so they keep spewing their idiocy. Just like “ignoring” bullies back when you were in school, never actually makes them stop. Bullies — of all sorts — MUST be confronted.

    Maybe this is why what passes for “The Left” mostly doesn’t even bother to counter-protest, or stand up to Teabaggers? “Ignore them, and they’ll go away”, is quite frankly, short-sighted, and — in many cases — criminally stupid, in that it EXPLICITLY ENABLES them to continue to be that way, unchallenged.

    People “ignored” the godawful “B. Hussein Obama” nonsense when Right-wingers came up with it, despite the fact that it was racist/xenophobic/downright stupid, and look where we are now, with the “Mosque at ground zero” bullshit.

    If we’re voting, in order to create some kind of “consensus”, then I personally vote for: confront them HEAD ON — either directly, or by making them look too stupid for legitimacy.

    But no, “ignoring” them (in the vain hope that they’ll stop), just enables them, and makes them bolder.


  6. Henry: At the same time, you have to determine the time-to-reward matrix of your decisions. Counter-protesting these guys won’t turn their interest, and I honestly don’t know how much attention they get considering how much vitriol and hate they spew. It may be worth it to have an equally sized counter-protest to distribute alternate information and encourage discussion from passersby, but you’re not going to get into a dialogue with these people when they’re this riled up. Maybe on a discussion board or in a class or something, but not here.


  7. The problem and the danger of the Westboro Baptist Church, is that the Phelps family that runs it, are all lawyers or on the educational path to become one. They may be out of their minds but they know the law and how far up to the line to take these crazy protests while staying within their legal rights.
    @Henry, the problem with not ignoring them is that they love getting any sort of attention and getting any sort of national news media attention. They love show biz. You think they were phased by getting hauled into the Supreme Court? Their organization got national attention and even more followers, plus the Phelps being lawyers got every lawyer’s dream, a chance to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court and win.


  8. This is great mockery of a bunch of crazies. The make the movie “the crazies” seem like an old Disney movie by comparison! What a sorry bunch-and to think, there are lots of them. YIKES!!


  9. I agree wholeheartedly.

    Silence = Consent


  10. Thanks, Tim, this was truly hilarious 🙂


  11. @frederic:
    An “equally-sized counter protest” risks the appearance that the “two sides” (homophobia/hate vs. non-homophobia/basic human decency) are “equal”, either in terms of numerical support, or of validity. They’re not.

    @Danny: It doesn’t matter whether Phelps & Pals were “phased” or not. What matters, is that IF you permit them to go un-rebutted (and no, I’m NOT talking about “dialog”, with them here), THEY are the ones who get heard/seen, BECAUSE they “love show biz”.
    (Actually, what they’re doing is more along the lines of “political theater”).

    As to the other thing – “they’re all lawyers”:
    Gotta actually give ’em credit, if they bother to know what they’re doing. How difficult would it be for some “Leftist” organization or other to put out some sort of “guidelines for counter-protesting” document — some sort of “know your rights” type thing, so that COUNTERPROTESTERS could know how to “stay within their legal rights”?

    The ultimate “danger” of the Westboro Baptist church, is that they are REALLY GOOD at promoting the WORST aspects of Fundamentalist Christianity, and they get away with it, with nary a peep, because too many people think “ignoring them” will deprive them of visibility.
    Newsflash, folks: They are PLENTY visible already, and while YOU may (mistakenly) believe you’re taking the high-road by “ignoring” them, OTHERS aren’t: news-media, and whatever people can’t help but see them — which is the whole point of their actions, in the first place.

    “Silence = consent”: definitely, or at least, the APPEARANCE of consent, which is equally dangerous. in itself.

    As for “dialog” with people like that, I’m fully aware it’s impossible. But Counter-protest IS NOT about dialog. It’s about demonstrating — in as vivid, obvious, and blatant a manner as practical — that there IS at least one other “side” to the issue they’re protesting — at least ONE alternative to Phelps-style homophobia, in their case.

    The WORST thing about “ignoring them” — whether it’s Phelps, the Teabag movement, or whoever — is that it LOOKS like apathy. If blatant homophobes/racists/apologists for corporate plutocracy are what people see (because advocates of BETTER ideas are busily ‘ignoring’ them), then that’s what they’re more likely to BECOME, either because they’re simply unaware that there IS a better alternative, or because that better alternative is busily hiding from them, by being as non-confrontational and “reasonable” as possible, so it never comes to their attention.


  12. The Bible most definitely does not use the word ‘faggot’ to describe people, and the WBC idiots are not really Baptist. Their doctrine is Calvinist, which basically means that God has already chosen who will go to heaven and who will go to hell, and it is not up to mankind to choose. This statement of faith is on their website. So if that’s what they really believe, then what they are doing is pointless, because it doesn’t matter who repents; they might not get into heaven anyway. I have been in Baptist churches all my life, and no Baptist I know has ever actively engaged in hate speech.

    Furthermore, these rejects don’t seem to realize that most of the people in the Bible are Jewish–including Jesus Christ. So why are they picketing Hebrew colleges and Jewish Community Centers? That makes no sense, but then, nothing this group does makes any sense. I think Danny is right in that they just want attention. But I also agree that they need to be confronted. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be willing to have any kind of rational dialogue. I am thoroughly disgusted by these people, and I refuse to call them ‘Baptist’.


  13. Mr. Wise –

    Might I ask why in the world they would picket YOU?

    What the hell did YOU do to THEM?


    Tim Reply:

    they picketed me because i was at KU speaking about the connection between racism and heterosexism, and therefore, in their estimation, i was, to quote them “a closet fag.” simple enuf for bigots such as these


  14. “An “equally-sized counter protest” risks the appearance that the “two sides” (homophobia/hate vs. non-homophobia/basic human decency) are “equal”, either in terms of numerical support, or of validity. They’re not.”

    Unfortunately, by that reasoning, we need to outnumber every single reactionary protest with a counter-protest to be effective. I hope it’s transparent why that’s not going to work…

    If I could have every conservative and reactionary protest, website, etc. inundated with a hugely disproportionate left response, I would, but that’s not realistic.

    As for the rest of your points: The problem is that media does not report on protests equally. They will report this hateful crap because that sort of fascistic undercurrent is useful to them. They won’t report on the infinitely more massive anti-Iraq war protests across the globe, and when they do it will be unremittingly negative. So while silence is consent, we also have to be realistic about what is actually possible. The bad guys have bigger microphones…


  15. @Henry, news flash! They don’t care if you have any sort of rebuttal. They love any attention. You may feel better after launching your counter protest against them, but they will just keep going about being nutty and will rationalize you away as just another “heathen” going to hell. It’s a bit like that saying about arguing with idiots and being dragged down to there level and getting beaten by their experience.
    I actually prefer it when the crazies in life are actively vocal because then you can spot them and know who they are and exactly what they are about. It’s a lot better than them pretending to be pleasantly agreeable, and then meeting in a secret room where they discuss how we’re all liberal fags and are going to hell. I find that far more scary. That’s how bizarre plots to kill high patrolmen get cooked up, when you push these crazies underground.


    Frederic Christie Reply:

    Do they? They sure seem to freak out and yell for people who like any kind of attention.

    But we don’t care about them, we care about people on the street…


  16. no. fucking. WAY.

    they need to donate their collective ‘brains’ to science. i’ve never in my life seen such wild insanity passed about within one family.


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