“Fake” in the sense that I’m not sure that those people actually believe what they say out in public.
By this post, I think everyone from the white house petition to anon should take everything Westboro Baptist Church does with a “grain of salt.”
Basically, this is a post arguing not to take the Westboro Baptist Church that seriously.
If you’re somewhat tuned into the news the past 10 years or so, you’ve likely encountered news clips about protesters at funerals holding up signs reading “God Hates Fags.” The latest controversy was in Newtown, Connecticut, where these same protesters claimed the shootings were God’s judgment.
These protests and claims that God Hates Fags comes from one group, the Westboro Baptist Church. They run the site godhatesfags.com.
Currently, the online White House petition to recognize them as a hate group is one of the largest in history.
They seem to be universally reviled. They fight with everyone from Tyra Banks to Fox News anchors. They fight with soldiers and gay activists. From my always-skeptical view, it’s all entertaining stuff.
Currently, the hacker group, Anon seems to be picking fights with them and messing with their websites, which prior to the attacks, looked more like satire than actual hate.
I couldn’t help but read up on the history of the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps.
Turns out that in the 1960s and 1970s, he had been a civil rights lawyer in Kansas.
Civil rights lawyer. Think about that for a second.
This means fighting for the rights of black people in a time when not many people would take up their cause. I don’t think that is was a decision casually made, particularly when there was vandalism and probably threats on their lives in Kansas. I don’t think it was a decision made for the money, particularly when the clientele didn’t appear to be money-wielding. Apparently a third of the civil rights cases at one point were from the Phelps law firm.
A CNN Article from 2010 profiled Phelps, found that he was successful at winning these battles.
It was in the 1980s and 1990s that this public persona seemed to do a 180; it was less about Fred Phelps and more about Westboro Baptist Church. The group gained attention and notoriety when it protested the death of Matthew Shepard in 1999.
Since then, Westboro Baptist Church has been out and about at lots of public venues, protesting military funerals, and AIDS victims. They do 40 pickets a week all over the country. Just this year, I remember a few of my classmates going out there to try and film them. They’ve even been at my two other schools.
Before anon took their site down, they had a website dedicated to hating each and every country: God Hates America, God Hates Spain, God Hates the Philippines, etc. When those sites were working a few days ago, there was a negligible inconsequential paragraph, but lacked anything that actually made me hate them. It was a paragraph about the age of sexual consent.
It’s a bit strange compared to actual hate sites and message boards. The feeling I get from visiting hate sites is that there is nuance, some “depth” to their hate. The “depth” includes building a whole mountain of evidence about a perceived injustice. They cite stats, particularly with white supremacist sites, where they go on and on about the crime rates for blacks. Hate sites will go out of their way to collect anecdotal evidence of wrongs committed against their group; they’re very into citing specific examples and instances of when someone of [insert offending racial, ethnic, geographic, political, religious, sex orientation group here] did something harmful to my [insert morally correct racial, ethnic, geographic, political, religious, sex orientation group here].
After spending a few hours playing amateur digital forensic internet archaeologist, a few things don’t add up, at least in my hypotheses.
I would like to really believe that Westboro Baptist Church is just one big reverse social engineering act for the sake of uniting people for the civil rights of LGBTQ causes.
So what is it that makes me think they are fake, or at the very least shouldn’t be paid much mind?
- No one seems to know how they get their money. They have a very small congregation of between 50-75 people.
- They don’t seem to threaten or incite any violence; don’t really read much about any physical confrontation with them. They don’t advocate or appear too occupied with separating or segregating gays or pinpointing them out.
- Westboro Church’s members are mostly family; most of the family is lawyers, 11 of them, meaning they all have had relatively good education. They appear to fight with everyone outside, claiming they are about the only saved people on earth; it seems a tough pill to swallow given Fred Phelps’ all-inclusive civil rights history. They do nothing to even disown that civil rights history. If there’s any movement that needs a bullshit story, a family with 11 lawyers seems like the perfect armor to concoct and guard that.
- They don’t really preach about reasons people should join them.
- Ironically, a bunch of Fred Phelps’ cases are about the separation of church and state; usually the cause of atheists.
- Incidentally, the one person public about his defection from the church is one of his sons, an atheist. Seems like his son acts as the voice of reason.
- Despite being backed by a lawyer dynasty, the Westboro people don’t really cite much evidence when picketing any cause. Everything just seems to go back to God’s Will. Other than the official anti-gay activism creation story, their evidence isn’t really tied down to specific acts, characteristics, but random bible verses.
- When they do attack gays, they don’t really pin down anything specific, other than the act of sex. The ‘most’ they’ve said is that Matthew Shepard is burning in Hell, a horrible thing to say to anyone especially in grieving. But if you’re trying to draw attention to a larger cause, it will definitely boost attention. But ultimately, there is no follow-up or nuance on that statement, no reacting to or collecting any evidence about the type of person Shepard might’ve been. Instead, they categorically dismiss him because of sex acts and orientation. The rhetoric seems superficial.
- Even their Anti-Semitism has been judged to be a cut different than the ones traditionally aimed at phylogeny, as they aim at blaming Jews for supporting gay rights. God’s will is the trumping argument for everything, which as they are showing is hard to argue against.