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Dec 18 2012

Westboro Church back in the news

The Westboro Baptist church has not been in the news much recently but you knew that that would not last long. They are insatiable in their desire for publicity and have announced that they will picket outside the site of last week’s massacre.

It is hard to know how to respond to this group. Elizabeth Tenety suggests four possible options which can be summarized as counter-protest, engage with them, shut them down, and ignore them.

The WBC have free speech rights that cannot (and should not) be infringed. They know the law and stay within the boundaries that the law allows. While ignoring them would be the best, that is hard to do because they just keep upping their actions.

I think there is a fifth option, and that is mocking them. Just laugh at them, and make the whole thing into fun street theater, like Michael Moore did back in 1999.

Or as Red State did more recently

The WBC people are clearly trying to make people angry. Laughing at them and treating them like buffoons might be the best response. People with a message hate it when you don’t take them seriously.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Stacy

    Mocking them is usually the best strategy, I agree. But mocking them outside of a funeral? That could be tricky. I’m not sure fun street theater is appropriate in that circumstance.

  2. 2
    jaketoadie

    The Foo Fighters applied the laughing at them/making fun of them strategy fairly effectively last year when the WBC was picketing a concert of theirs:

  3. 3
    Marcus Ranum

    I feel the christian love emanating from them.

  4. 4
    ph041985

    I personally feel the most effective tactic is to ignore them. Anything else serves their purpose of getting attention and getting a response, any kind of response, from us. The only way they will go away is if they lose followers and funds, and they will keep getting both as long as they are in the news.

    Much like a kid in school getting made fun of by bullies, the best approach is to ignore them. Fighting back, crying foul, even stooping to their level, only emboldens them. Making fun of a kid who runs away crying, gets mad and tries to stand up for himself, or tries to turn the tables, is good fun to bullies. It is only when the target comes out of it unfazed that the antagonists can truly feel powerless.

    So I think the best approach toward the WBC is if they got zero media coverage whatsoever, in the similar vein of your previous post about mass killers.

  5. 5
    Kelsey Isabelle

    I agree – ignoring them is the best tactic. Engaging with them in any way is what they want. They’re trolls – don’t feed them.

  6. 6
    carollynn

    Comic con did it best:

    I tried making it a nice neat link but munged the code and so went back to a plain link. Sorry.

    http://www.urlesque.com/2010/07/23/comic-con-westboro-baptist-church-counterprotest-signs/

  7. 7
    Stacy

    I personally feel the most effective tactic is to ignore them.

    Well, there have been instances where ridicule worked well with them. If people just laugh, without getting emotionally worked up or confrontational, they pack up and leave early. I know that happened at one of the sci fi cons this past year, though I’m too lazy to look up which one it was.

    As I said above, I don’t know how appropriate ridicule would be at a funeral. Another tactic is for counter-protesters to form a line in order to hide the WBC and their hateful signs from the eyes of the mourners. Grieving people shouldn’t have the extra burden of having to see that crap at the funeral of their loved ones.

    Much like a kid in school getting made fun of by bullies, the best approach is to ignore them.

    That approach doesn’t really work with bullies.

  8. 8
    Arkady

    @Stacy, you might be thinking about the awesome Comic-Con counter protest:

    http://www.comicsalliance.com/2010/07/22/super-heroes-vs-the-westboro-baptist-church/

  9. 9
    baal

    I really like the human wall / signs approach for the WBC. It’s also important to mention that the WBC makes the majority of it’s income from suing the people that they provoke. Anti-WBC folks need to keep it light and funny as well as non-violent to keep these horrible people from having easy cases.

  10. 10
    deepsix

    I was surprised to see the Red State Update video. Those guys should be more well known. They’ve put out some hilarious stuff.

  11. 11
    Brandt Hardin

    Where in Christianity is hate-mongering an involved practice? What are Fred Phelps and the WBC afraid of anyhow? Rainbows? Unicorns? A flaming pink queer apocalypse? I attempted to address this with a portrait of the good reverend on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/03/fred-phelps-and-westboro-baptist-church.html Drop in and let me know what you think!

  12. 12
    Acolyte of Sagan

    Don’t mock ‘em, shoot ‘em instead; see if they’re so keen to praise their god when the ‘bullets of judgment’ are slamming into them rather than defenceless and innocent children..

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