Forward to next post: Open thread 130
Noting that representives of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church (the “God Hates Fags” people) are currently visiting Brooklyn in order to denounce godlessness and fagitude at such institutions as Brooklyn Technical High School and Congregation Beth Elohim, an editorial in the Brooklyn Paper offers some sound advice:
One of the dozens of commenters on our online story about the Westboro bigotry said counter-protesters at a similar hatefest once dressed as pirates, held stuffed toy parrots and yelled out “Arrrgh, mateys” every few minutes. The media ended up covering the pirates more than the bigots.Aside from the fact that it’s startling to see the techniques of street theater being matter-of-factly discussed in a newspaper editorial, these are also good approaches because, like the website God Hates Shrimp and the Chicago anti-Westboro demonstrators who held up signs reading “God hates the new Facebook,” they wrench the frame. They remind everyone that the world is larger than the dismal mutterings of a tiny family cult.
We think Brooklyn can do even better. Here are some suggestions:
* Buy an ice cream cone and eat it really messily—so messily that news photographers can’t help but take a picture of the disgusting scene. Say you are protesting the tyranny of neatness in America today.
* Dress up in antebellum garb and hold signs indicating your contempt for the Tariff of 1833. If asked, say you are a Whig.
* Wear a black-and-white-striped shirt, a beret and white face paint and perform a mime piece in protest of the widespread hatred of mimes worldwide.
* Dress up as Mr. Met and wear a huge “Kick me” sign. (OK, that’s not a counter-protest. That’s reality.)
Addenda (compiled by TNH):
Fred Phelps does not believe what he is doing. This is a scam.Thanks also to Avram Grumer, for providing supporting documentation:
It’s a business. They travel the country, set up websites telling you exactly when they’ll be there, and using the most inflammatory statements all over the place, just to get someone to violate their rights for profit. Then they sue the military, the police force that was to protect them, and everyone that is around them for money. This is a sham, and it is a trap to get people sued. Every member of his family is an attorney. Phelps does not break the law. What he does is try to make you break the law by trying to punch your sensibilities about everything you hold dear, and then sue you and everyone municipality around him to the max.
This is a scam. Whether he believes his posters or not is irrelevant. He’s using this as a moneymaking scheme. Lay one finger on him, do one thing that violates him, and he will sue you, and more importantly, the city, the police department, the US Military, and any private property owner he happens to be standing on to make money off of it.
[A]ccording to this timeline from the Southern Poverty Law Center, Phelps filed about 400 lawsuits during his 25-year legal career (1964-1989), mostly against the federal government, including a 1984 lawsuit against then-President Reagan for sending an ambassador to the Vatican. Phelps’s estranged son Nathan claimed that Fred would deliberately file frivolous suits hoping his targets would settle to avoid having to pay for an expensive legal battle.The Fred Phelps timeline is the work of those lawful good paladins, The Southern Poverty Law Center. They published it in the SPLC Intelligence Report as an accompaniment to their article about Fred Phelps’ abuse of the city of Topeka:
More relevant to the matter at hand are 1993 award of $43,000 to Phelps’s WBC arising from complaints about his picket lines; the 1995 case where Phelps’s grandson spat on a passer-by during a picket, was sued, and the WBC counter-sued; and the 1997 filing of a $7 million lawsuit against the city of Topeka, for failing to protect his picketers.
That timeline ends in 2000, so it doesn’t include the more recent lawsuit against the state of Missouri, over a state law limiting the right to protest at funerals.
All concerned agree that the WBC really does hate gays. But at least one church member has said openly that if all homosexuals disappeared, congregants would find some other reason to picket.Another sidebar, On the inside, discusses Fred Phelps’ abuse of his family.
And Suzanne James, who recently resigned after eight years in the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office as director of victim services, says Phelps’s opposition to homosexuality obscures a deeper purpose—promoting himself and hurting others.
“I’m so tired of people calling him an ‘anti-gay activist’,” James told the Report. “He’s not an anti-gay activist. He’s a human abuse machine.”
I’m not sure who came up with the link to About Fred Phelps on the God Hates Fred Phelps website. It’s a good link.
Finally, one of our readers, posting pseudonymously in the comment thread as SuedByAWBCMoppet, comment #21, has written about his or her own experience of having “…been sued by a member of WBC for violating their civil right to protest.” I recommend it.