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November 4th, 2007


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11:01 am - Am rather amused.
News came down the wire last week that good ol' Fred Phelps and his anti-everybody-but-us Westboro Baptist Church would be visiting Boston to perform that special brand of picketing for which he and his family are known far and wide. When news hit b0st0n, I made the following comment:
I want to have a little band play one of those goofy comedy stingers ("shave and a haircut - two bits", rimshots, muted wah-wah-waaaaaah trumpets, etc.) to underscore the loud ranting he says.

Every thing he says, treat it like a comedy line. Take away his SERIOUS BUSINESS power.
While I knew I wouldn't be able to cobble together an insouciant band (especially with a trombone, which can make some of the funniest noises a brass instrument could ever hope to make) I meant it. Too often hate, especially Phelps' kind of hate which compels him to picket funerals of AIDS victims and soldiers killed in Iraq, is countered with more hate and yelling and shouting and physical threats. All these responses give Phelps power. He feeds off it. He can use it as a sounding board for further action and condemnation.

So, I figure, why not counter hate with laughter? Ignoring is a personal act. You can only get yourself to Just Don't Look, unless you have Paul Anka singing a song to help. You can't account for the actions of others. You've only got your own actions to worry about and if you feel as if you want to do something, hell, do it with laffs. Ignoring the hate doesn't make it go away, but if you get people to take it less seriously, you've diminished its impact and that's what counts. Fred Phelps is a coward and a bully and has gained his reputation from angering and condemning people he doesn't even know. He's gained his power to attract media attention solely due to his incendiary and confrontational tactics and the angry, shouty responses to them.

But the more you can make him look like a fool, the more you can point out that everything he says is a joke, nothing but complete and utter nonsense, the less power he has.

Some folks have taken the idea to heart and might be running with it today as Phelps spreads the hate around like so much manure. I won't be around to see it, but I hope it does something, if only to amuse those who are doing it.

(18 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:antikythera
Date:November 4th, 2007 03:15 pm (UTC)
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I've heard of this tactic. Apparently some Klansmen had egg put solidly on their faces by clowns a few months back.

http://asheville.indymedia.org/article/107Clowns
[User Picture]
From:antikythera
Date:November 4th, 2007 03:17 pm (UTC)
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Okay, that's not the best news source, but there are other articles elsewhere describing it.
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From:derspatchel
Date:November 4th, 2007 03:19 pm (UTC)
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That was mentioned in the original Phelps thread. Reading the entire story makes it all the more worthwhile, though the indymedia writing makes it seem more like a tale than a news story. Good on 'em.
[User Picture]
From:phonemonkey
Date:November 4th, 2007 03:17 pm (UTC)
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That's a wonderful idea, and it fits in with some stuff I've been saying for ages now.

"GOD HATES FAGS AND FAG-ENABLERS!"
*badum-CHING!*

"THANK GOD FOR 9/11!"
*mwap-mwap-mwap-mwaaaaaaaaaah*
[User Picture]
From:muse0fire
Date:November 4th, 2007 03:49 pm (UTC)
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I think that's a brilliant idea - would love to hear about the results!
(Deleted comment)
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From:gwynethfar
Date:November 4th, 2007 04:14 pm (UTC)
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I quite enjoyed Michael Moore's solution, which was to round up the most stereotypical queens he could find, load them into a pink bus, and chase Phelps around and let TEH EBUL GAYES confront him with friendly touching and earnest good wishes.
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From:derspatchel
Date:November 4th, 2007 04:22 pm (UTC)
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I liked when he brought a gay men's chorus over to (I think) Jesse Helms' house, and then serenaded the old man with "On The Street Where You Live."

Music! Dancing! Spectacles!
[User Picture]
From:muffyjo
Date:November 4th, 2007 04:54 pm (UTC)
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Hate is usually based in fear, and they seem to feel it's better to believe that the larger-than-life world offers them punishment instead of love or, at the very least, ambivalence. And that, my friend, is the cruelest joke of them all.

While I think all hate should have a laugh track, if only to inure the people listening to the message, it does seem additionally cruel to find that they are living in a self-fulfilling prophecy of a real-world who actually does find them pitiful.
[User Picture]
From:fancycwabs
Date:November 4th, 2007 05:08 pm (UTC)
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Things like this remind me just how much I want a trombone. I'm a passable trumpet player, but you can't do Miss Othmar on a trumpet.
[User Picture]
From:littlegirltoast
Date:November 4th, 2007 05:41 pm (UTC)
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I think that chuckling off the worst things other people do is only a viable and responsible uh response if you know that you are well and truly powerless to enact any measure of scuppering or prevention against them. I don't think that it is always or often or usually the best course unless you genuinely believe that there isn't much you can do about anything at all.

I'm glad that The Westboro Church just lost an $11 million lawsuit in Maryland. I'm glad that an aggrieved family finally brought substantial suit against them and I hope it destroys them. I'm chagrined to no end that it didn't happen before now - for something like a decade they've been harassing the grieving families and friends of AIDS victims, hate crime victims, massacred children... any place the pain runs deep, you'll find them cannonballing. But you start to pick on soldiers and all of a sudden it's "Okay, fun's fun but this time you've gone too far!"?

It would be easy for me, from the distance at which I stand, to chortle at their lunacy and crack jokes. But I'm not actively engaging in laying my best friend, my son or daughter, my children's playmates into the cold earth when I encounter them. I encounter them in a newspaper or on the internet, instead of hollering and jeering AT ME, ghoulishly celebrating the occasion of my gutting loss.

I think it bears taking seriously. I think this is a matter of sticking up for people in a poor position for sticking up for themselves. Why should it be up to a party of mourners to square their shoulders against this? I say it's up to those of us with the luxury of some distance to find a way to stop those motherfuckers.

And... yeah, I say that as a Canadian who genuinely can't do anything about it except exhort those nearer to the fire to take buckets up. I know it's easy for me to say.

Is everything easy untrue?
[User Picture]
From:maga_dogg
Date:November 4th, 2007 06:50 pm (UTC)
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I think the point is to go there and laugh in their faces.

Ridicule is not politically neutral. More than one presidential candidate has gone down in flames because they were too vulnerable to ridicule. If you argue with someone, you're at least giving them the dignity of serious treatment - if you mock them, you're effectively stating that their position is too idiotic to deserve that kind of consideration.

What Phelps, and other groups with similarly unpleasant views, want - what they have largely accomplished - is to get their hateful positions to the point where they're taken seriously, where they're taken as a legitimate part of political discourse, where they can get on a talkshow in mainstream TV, spout their views and not have the host laugh in their face. Ridicule undermines that.

I've just finished Colin Turnbull's The Forest People, which is largely about how conflict is handled in a anhierarchical society; ridicule is one of the most important elements, because as soon as someone's being laughed at their status as a serious adult member of society is called into question.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:November 4th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
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I think that chuckling off the worst things other people do is only a viable and responsible uh response if you know that you are well and truly powerless to enact any measure of scuppering or prevention against them.

At this point? S'all I got, friend. The fact that they've been raised and trained as lawyers means that if you try to slap a criminal case on 'em, they will play the First Amendment card all the way up as far as they can take the case. If they lose, it sets a dangerous precedent for any kind of protesting, and they know it. It's a Catch-22 and they know full well that they're cowardly hiding behind what the Right to Peaceably Assemble... though, honestly, "peaceably" is at question, innit?

It's a childish view. FIRST AMENDMENT! FIRST AMENDMENT! I CAN SAY WHAT I WANT! FREE SPEECH! FREE SPEECH! But they're not the first to hide behind it, and they won't be the last.

Now a civil case, on the other hand, is a different thing entirely. And don't think people haven't been trying to nail them down for years with one, and it's a darn good thing that they finally lost one in Maryland. However, if they've gone and hidden their assets as well as they have, the family's not going to get the money at all. I would hazard a guess that this was the first time someone had enough money and lawyer-fu to withstand their tenacious legal defense and win.

Right here and now, I don't have legal recourse for shit, and neither do most of the folks who wish they'd go away right about now. So you can either sit around wishing cancer upon them or counter-protesting to show your support for their current targets and your opposition to them.

The question is: Do you play angry just like them, or do you do something different? How do you put out the message "You have no power over us"?

Me, I wanna play the Do Something Different game. I wanna treat 'em like cartoon figures, and get people to laugh at them. Booing and jeering and angry epithets only go so far. So, then. Time to get silly. Frustrate 'em. Joke 'em if they can't take a fuck.
From:dcart
Date:November 4th, 2007 07:37 pm (UTC)
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I'm kind of a first amendment absolutist. I despise everything they stand for. I may not be able to rile myself up to defend to the death their right to say those things, but I do think they are precisely the kind of thing that makes the first amendment valuable. I don't think it's cowardly to hide behind the first amendment, but I think it's hyprocritical for them to hide behind when, if they had their way, no such protection would be afforded to anyone else.


I love your idea. I love that it uses your first amendment right to counter and mock their speech rather than trying to suppress them by force of the police or magistrates.
[User Picture]
From:nhradar
Date:November 4th, 2007 08:09 pm (UTC)
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Look guys, the BEST RESPONSE EVER already happened, about 4 years ago, in New Haven.

The guys from the Yale Record (the humor magazine) launched a Dental Hygiene protest caddy-corner from the Westboro Baptist protest when they came to town.

The cops wandered over,
"We just want to get this clear. This is a pro-flossing rally?"
"Yes, sir. Good Dental hygiene is frequently neglected."
"All right then."


[User Picture]
From:annilita
Date:November 4th, 2007 11:47 pm (UTC)
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PLEASE tell me they followed through. I think that is brilliant.
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From:kissoflife
Date:November 5th, 2007 04:34 am (UTC)
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*blows kisses* Another of your compositions turning to box office gold. Quelle suprise.

[User Picture]
From:hemlock_martini
Date:November 5th, 2007 05:06 am (UTC)
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This may be a joke I have overtold, and I apologise if I'm playing an old tune here.

But I have two words, and two words only:

"Yackety Sax."

Played during intro and exit. Also, during the speech.

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