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Anonymous warns Westboro Baptist Church, ‘stop now, or else’
February 20, 2011 10:01 AM   Subscribe

This past week, in an open letter to Fred Phelps and his controversial Westboro Baptist Church, the hacker activist group Anonymous issued an ultimatum: "... we give you a warning: Cease & desist your protest campaign in the year 2011, return to your homes in Kansas, & close your public Web sites. Should you ignore this warning, you will meet with the vicious retaliatory arm of ANONYMOUS." Yesterday, the Westboro Baptist Church took up the gauntlet, telling Anonymous, "Bring It!" [flyer].

Excerpt of Anonymous's letter:
"Being such aggressive proponents for the Freedom of Speech & Freedom of Information as we are, we have hitherto allowed you to continue preaching your benighted gospel of hatred and your theatrical exhibitions of, not only your fascist views, but your utter lack of Christ-like attributes.

... ANONYMOUS cannot abide this behavior any longer. The time for us to be idle spectators in your inhumane treatment of fellow Man has reached its apex, and we shall now be moved to action. Thus, we give you a warning: Cease & desist your protest campaign in the year 2011, return to your homes in Kansas, & close your public Web sites."
posted by ericb (252 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Westboro Baptist Church previously on MeFi.
posted by ericb at 10:02 AM on February 20, 2011


*makes popcorn*
posted by mrbarrett.com at 10:02 AM on February 20, 2011 [22 favorites]


Mob vs mob.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:02 AM on February 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


*brings the beer*
posted by Thorzdad at 10:02 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sweet.
posted by R. Mutt at 10:04 AM on February 20, 2011


*sets up DVR*
posted by jadayne at 10:05 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Popcorn, peanuts, cold beer! Get your snacks here folks, Beer's Ice Cold, Too Cold to Hold!
posted by deezil at 10:05 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Park and lock it! Not responsible!
posted by Thorzdad at 10:06 AM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


WBC is convinced that THE LORD is on its side so when anon takes it down, it is just god's will.
posted by birdherder at 10:07 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh my.
posted by RyanAdams at 10:08 AM on February 20, 2011


Oh, Freddy baby ... you ought to have laid low. Fighting in the legal arena simply does not prepare you for this. You're like the cartoon villain that everyone wants to see get punched in the face: nobody but your pathetic band of followers will cry for you. It'll be hard for people not to side with Anonymous.

Although I am not sure how Anonymous will take it when Phelps starts siccing flying silver spheres with prongs on them, much less deal with the little Jawa guys.
posted by adipocere at 10:09 AM on February 20, 2011 [37 favorites]


Ironically it seems like anon is feeding the trolls.

When is anon going to go after the Koch brothers?
posted by idb at 10:09 AM on February 20, 2011 [106 favorites]


I'm not a fan of vigilantism but...oooh, this is gonna be good. On the other hand WBC does have a point that this is just going to get them more publicity...I mean, they're not trying to really change people's hearts and minds right? They're just publicity hounds and scammers.
posted by JoanArkham at 10:09 AM on February 20, 2011


What exactly is the Legion of Anonymous planning on doing? They say "we're going to target [Westboro Baptist Church's] web sites" — what will that entail?
posted by orange swan at 10:09 AM on February 20, 2011


Last night, CLW recorded a tribute to Fred Phelps and the WBC, The Devil's Sperm.
posted by Catblack at 10:10 AM on February 20, 2011


God Hates Newfags
posted by Burhanistan at 10:11 AM on February 20, 2011 [82 favorites]


Now to get serious for a moment...
As much as I would love to see Anonymous torch WBC, I find it somewhat odd for them to make such a bold, unprovoked and public threat. I mean...Has WBC actually done anything against Anonymous? Is this in retaliation for anything? Beyond WBC being simple assholes, of course.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:11 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, because their attack on Scientology shut that hive of scum and villainy right down, and Mastercard are now having second thoughts on prohibiting funds from being sent in support of Wikileaks.

And as Thorzdad points out, what's the provocation? It seems like Anonymous wants to keep their public image as vigilante hackers alive.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dang. How're Fox News and its brethren gonna have to stretch this one to make Anonymous come off as purely villainous?
posted by NoraReed at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Theroux's most hated family in America.

Fred Phelps is the reason I took out a PO Box.

To be fair, I am pretty sure God does hate lousy hackers. He's also not fond of butterscotch.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is Anonymous seeking wider popularity and support by going after barrel fish that nobody likes.
posted by bonefish at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2011 [18 favorites]


I think this is more people using the guise of Anonymous to fuck with WBC, rather than some sort of "natural" 4chan/Anon beef vs WBC.
posted by stifford at 10:15 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


OK, so they take down their Web sites and then...? This isn't HBGary -- I'm guessing the Phelps clan isn't big on email. They don't really live online, other than those two sites, right?

This is like the US shooting missiles at tent encampments. I don't know if Anonymous is used to being on this end of asymmetrical warfare.

Don't get me wrong, I'd like to see chaotic neutral defeat chaotic evil. Anonymous has the will and the energy, but I don't know if they have the right tool set for this job.
posted by PlusDistance at 10:16 AM on February 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


This is Anonymous seeking wider popularity and support by going after barrel fish that nobody likes.

So? If it hurts Phelps, that's a good thing.
posted by kafziel at 10:16 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you think Fred Phelps is a seriously messed up man, but you haven't read Addicted to Hate, you don't know the half of it.
posted by Flunkie at 10:17 AM on February 20, 2011 [25 favorites]


Although Phelps is a pain in the ass, his like can easily be handled by counter protesters and groups of vigilanti bikers at funerals. If Anonymous wants to take on true evil, there are targets more worthy of being brought down.

*cough* teaparty *cough*
posted by tomswift at 10:19 AM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


WBC is perfectly within the pattern of Anonymous targets. They go after the oppressive, stupid, self-important, pompous, little-liked, and public.

It's more unusual when Anonymous goes after targets because they've truly been provoked. HBGary was the exception, not the rule.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:21 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The WBC are far from barrel fish. They have won judgements and have established some amazing case law. They always put me in a mental quandary. I would take a bullet for freedom of speech (this made me real popular when the discussions of flag burning came up while I was enlisted), but to me, free speech is not speech without consequence. We don't need laws protecting popular speech. Counter bad speech with intelligent speech, etc., but at the end of the day I wish there was a solution for these fuckheads. Banishment is appealing to me, but who would take them?
posted by cjorgensen at 10:22 AM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


We should not be helping WBC get more media attention. Flagged as a bad idea.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:22 AM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


EFGuary 26, 3013 AD: excerpt from Religion 101, Cattur-Day Saints University:

"Yes, Anonymity is the dominant faith NOW, but you must understand that back when it began, it was a largely reactionary force, adopted by the fringes and margins of society. The idea of becoming 'faceless' was based less on our current conception of ego-ceding humility -- which actually appeared rather later in the Philosophy of Anonymity -- and more on a pragmatic desire to act without dominant social structures catching its practitioners. The earliest DDOSes are most instructively viewed within the context of their predecessors, such as Martin Luther's 95 theses. On Monday, we discussed Anonymous's first efforts opposing Scientology, but today I'd like to talk about the Westboro Lulz of 2011."
posted by Greg Nog at 10:22 AM on February 20, 2011 [109 favorites]


For the record, I think that this is the best way to deal with the WBC.

Although perhaps this is the funniest.
posted by Flunkie at 10:23 AM on February 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


I fear that this won't end well, as both sides aren't afraid to throw the baby out with the bath water. It will be entertaining, sure, but at what cost?
posted by narwhal bacon at 10:24 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The title is: "Open Letter from Westboro Baptist Servants of God to Anonymous Coward Crybaby “Hackers” BRING IT!" It ends with the line "GOD HATES FAGS & LOUSY 'HACKERS!'"

What's hilarious here is that Anonymous comes off looking like the more adult, reasonable, and rational side in this.
posted by quin at 10:24 AM on February 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Aw, man. Chaotic Neutral versus Neutral Evil. This is going to be awesome.

So, what crimes do you figure Anon will find evidence of on the WBC's e-mail servers? Child pornography? Drug smuggling? Money laundering and funding terrorist organizations? Or just good old-fashioned tax evasion and barratry?

(Is anyone making book on this?)
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:25 AM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


The best way to deal with WBC is to ignore them. They are trolls.

Unfortunately, since they're media whores, they're hard to ignore, so the second best way to deal with them is to leverage their hate into something positive, such as with a fundraiser or as a tool to force similar movements into having to distance themselves from WBC's beliefs.

That said, the only way to embarrass them would be to unveil Fred Phelps' hypothetical gay porn stash or to uncover, as Faint of Butt suggests, some sort of legal malfeasance.

As much as I'd like to believe that Phelps is an avid consumer of child pornography (or equivalent), I'm pretty sure their operations are legally above board. I'm not expecting much of this beyond lulz.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:26 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't wait to see how angry the WBC get when all those unordered pizzas show up at their door!
posted by Catblack at 10:26 AM on February 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


tomswift: 4chan previously has messed with the Tea Party.
posted by castlebravo at 10:29 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Surely WBC is Lawful Evil. They always work right within the boundaries of legal limits, they have very strict rules by which they interpret the world around them, they seek to impose those rules on others who aren't members of their group...
posted by hippybear at 10:29 AM on February 20, 2011 [22 favorites]


Despite using -fag as a suffix for pretty much any category into which a person might place themselves, Anonymous is fairly gay-friendly, so Phelps and crew are natural targets. Plus, it's a public relations (for the) win if you're beating up on a bunch of near-universally despised bozos. And it is an excellent chance to sharpen your claws.

It'll start with websites. Don't be shocked if it goes further. Anonymous can and will interfere with people in the real world if online isn't good enough. I mean, sure, it might start with some clever shoops of Phelps in a leather harness or repeated contacts from the m4m section of the nearest Craigslist outpost to Fred ("Make the reverend have a stroke, win a prize!"), but they have credit cards, bank accounts, any number of vulnerabilities that extend far beyond just DDoSing someone's website into unreponsiveness. Phelps' gang does very well in the legal world but that simply does not matter to these people. Recall the HBGary IRC logs — all of that legal posturing about how the two corporations weren't really all that related was simply waved aside as the mumbo-jumbo it was. He doesn't have a lot of skill in any other level of reality and he is about to find that out.

His best strategy now is to provide insufficient lulz; his greatest hope at this juncture is the prospect of something else distracting Anonymous. I don't think that this will happen because Phelps simply does not know how to not respond. He is a guy who always escalates and that will not work out for him here.
posted by adipocere at 10:29 AM on February 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


[update] Feb. 25th 2011 - Westbro Baptist Church to Anonymous: "Stop Brining it now, please."
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:29 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


If someone would do the courtesy of drafting a Phelps-esque instigator open letter to Anonymous 'from' the GOP or the governor of Wisconsin.... that would be awesome.

inb4 sage, DDos or GTFO
posted by wowbobwow at 10:31 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hope they destroy each other. The world would be better off without either "organization".

I'm so tired of supposed liberals celebrating a bunch of kids doing stuff for the lulz as some sort of vigilante heroes. Does nobody remember when Anonymous waged all out war against the feminist blogosphere for no particular reason? This included shutting down Shakesville's servers pretty much permanently (they moved back to Blogspot because of that).

These people are not heroes and I refuse to celebrate when they go after someone I dislike, whether Scientology or WBC, because I know what they have done in the past and I know they don't do these things out of these awesome cool motives, but just for the lulz. They want people like you to like them and defend them when they break the law for "good". But if they get bored doing that, they'll be back to trashing your stuff for no particular reason.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:36 AM on February 20, 2011 [35 favorites]


"And so, class, that's how the Great 4Chan War started. Turn your video screens on, and we'll watch an interactive piece about the beginnings of the Holy /B Republic."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:41 AM on February 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


I know they don't do these things out of these awesome cool motives, but just for the lulz. They want people like you to like them and defend them when they break the law for "good". But if they get bored doing that, they'll be back to trashing your stuff for no particular reason.

I don't think they ever stopped trashing stuff for lulz. Anonymous is the internet's collective id, and I don't think anyone here on MeFi (at least nothing approaching a majority of commenters) has ever called them heroic. They do a lot of crappy things, and then sometimes something beautiful happens.

Like this.

It's like having a crazy, violent neighbor who sometimes trashes peoples' cars in the middle of the night... and a profoundly annoying door-to-door salesman who rings your doorbell every hour on the hour for six weeks. It's not that you're rooting for the violent neighbor, but when you notice the salesman knocking on his door, it's hard not to smile.
posted by verb at 10:43 AM on February 20, 2011 [52 favorites]


aaaaaaaaaand their website is down
posted by nathancaswell at 10:43 AM on February 20, 2011


What a nasty trick! It's still up. Thanks for making me go there!
posted by cjorgensen at 10:46 AM on February 20, 2011


I thought Anonymous wasn't anyone's personal army... As much as I detest the WBC it seems they are a symbol of free and open speech no matter the cost.
posted by muddgirl at 10:47 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I *think* this is exactly what makes America great, though I can't quite remember why.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 10:47 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


isn't loading for me...
posted by nathancaswell at 10:47 AM on February 20, 2011


I feel like we're watching the quarterfinals of the Crazy Groups Of Loud People tourney bracket.
posted by cortex at 10:47 AM on February 20, 2011 [43 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: "Mob vs mob"

WBC is not a mob, it's a small family headed by a child molester.
posted by wierdo at 10:48 AM on February 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


I *think* this is exactly what makes America great, though I can't quite remember why.

That free speech makes assholes obvious and thus easily avoidable.
posted by jonmc at 10:49 AM on February 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


aaaaaaaaaand their website is down

isn't loading for me...


To be fair, WBC was organizing some protest here in my corner of the world, and I tried to look at their website to get the full scoop. I never could get their website to load. Whether this is because it was super busy, on a small pipe to begin with, or was being traffic shaped by my ISP, I still haven't figured out.

I think they just have a crappy webhost.
posted by hippybear at 10:51 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


We need the list of their legal firm's clients so we know who to boycott. A big 'board of shame' of their sources of funding would be interesting to see. Surely all of their income doesn't come from suing over freedom of speech issues.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:51 AM on February 20, 2011


.
posted by clavdivs at 10:51 AM on February 20, 2011


Well, this is a thing that's going to happen.
posted by HostBryan at 10:52 AM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Trolls trolling trolls.
posted by SouthCNorthNY at 11:01 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


GOD HATES FAGS & LOUSY "HACKERS!"

That'd make an awesome t-shirt. To wear, say, at Defcon.
posted by Nelson at 11:02 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


WBC protested at my work once. Of course, they protested from like 7:30-8am. At a tech company. Maybe a few salespeople saw them.

(of course, they only care about the media, and I think there was a tiny bit of media coverage. As best I can remember, they were protesting us because of the whole Dan Savage It Gets Better project)
posted by wildcrdj at 11:04 AM on February 20, 2011


I think the hackers are all riled because they misread it as "God hates faqs".
posted by hanoixan at 11:06 AM on February 20, 2011 [52 favorites]


Anon going after Westboro just makes martyrs out of Westboro.
posted by blucevalo at 11:07 AM on February 20, 2011


How about we all let the Dueling Douchebags fight it out and go get beers instead?
posted by jonmc at 11:07 AM on February 20, 2011


If you don't believe in free speech for offensive people like WBC, I don't think you really believe in free speech. That said, harassment is a different matter and some of what they do comes pretty close or even crosses the line... in my (uninformed) opinion, naturally.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 11:08 AM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anonymous doesn't have strategic goals like going after people nobody likes, they just pursue lolz. Yet, there is a grain of truth in you assertion bonefish, namely some anons are going after WBC because WBC inspires lolz anyways. So anonymous' may score very weakly on their "marginal lolz" here. Do you care about gross or marginal lolz? Or maybe the LOIC fans just want an easy target after after amazon and visa trounced them.

I'm still predicting the hot target for internet vigilantes the next couple weeks will be Muskegon MI County Tony Tague for his persecution of a youtube singer, seemingly timed to distract the public from his ongoing failure to catch a serial killer. A youtube guy going to jail for a grandstanding prosecutor and parental overreactions just sounds like a perfect storm. <shrug>
posted by jeffburdges at 11:10 AM on February 20, 2011


Anon going after Westboro just makes martyrs out of Westboro.

You have taken my breath away with how unlikely that outcome is.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:10 AM on February 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


My hope is that Anonymous got a copy of everything on WBCs servers before their warning, so that any frantic cleanup of anything illegal won't do WBC any good. And no, it's not just their web-sites, they'll be harassed in various interesting ways.

I like this whole thing, and I like Anonymous, regardless they take matters into their own hands. But if people don't take matters into their own hands, if people just put up with what those in power say, those who create and enforce unjust laws, then we have things like designated protest areas, and unions who moan but won't strike and put up firm picket lines. So Anon is maybe showing the way? Or a way, in any case, an alternate to standing around moping over the ills of the world...
posted by dancestoblue at 11:10 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


twirlip said it best in a previous thread:

Anonymous is like the T-rex at the end of Jurassic Park: it's not heroic, and I wouldn't want it to ever notice me, but I cheered when it took down those fucking velociraptors.
posted by slimepuppy at 11:11 AM on February 20, 2011 [39 favorites]


Despite using -fag as a suffix for pretty much any category into which a person might place themselves, Anonymous is fairly gay-friendly... So, they are going after the homophobe fags? *Tries to bend mind around neologism*
posted by Tashtego at 11:12 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


We need the list of their legal firm's clients so we know who to boycott.

Fred Phelps is an attorney who founded his own law firm, Phelps Chartered. He was disbarred in Kansas in 1979. "In 1989 nine federal judges filed a disciplinary complaint against Phelps and five of his children, alleging false accusations against the judges. In 1989, the complaint was settled; Phelps agreed to stop practicing law in Federal court permanently, and two of his children were suspended for periods of six months and one year." *

Phelps Chartered has two attorneys, both family members: Jonathan Phelps and Margie Phelps.
posted by ericb at 11:13 AM on February 20, 2011


This is like when I'm on the subway and two strangers start arguing loudly and I'm trying to figure out who's the craziest.
posted by fungible at 11:14 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where does WBC get funding? Seems like a really tiny congregation, but somehow they can afford to lawyer up and travel hither and yon for their protests. I guess they have enough fans out there to bankroll their activities?
posted by wowbobwow at 11:15 AM on February 20, 2011


You have taken my breath away with how unlikely that outcome is.

Well, martyrs to those who share Westboro's goals. I should have clarified that, sorry. Didn't mean to take your breath away.
posted by blucevalo at 11:15 AM on February 20, 2011


From working in the mass media, I know first-hand the WBC is huge fan of sending copious faxes. They are relentless faxers. At a time when faxing is being phased out, WBC embraces the technology as way to get their message directly into the news room. Sure there are other fax spammers in the world, but WBC takes it to a new level. I wonder if Anon can do anything about that? Is there such a thing as telephone line virus that knocks out fax machines?
posted by archivist at 11:16 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Their site won't even take
a ping now.
posted by quazichimp at 11:18 AM on February 20, 2011


Funding supposedly come from winning lawsuits. They provoke, someone reacts, they sue, they win and collect. Repeat. Phelps calls it "bleeding the beast".
posted by tula at 11:19 AM on February 20, 2011


When Hannity calls you a "sick, soulless, human being" you know something's very very very wrong.
posted by symbioid at 11:20 AM on February 20, 2011


Megan Phelps-Roper, 24-year-old granddaughter of Fred Phelps on Twitter:
"Thanks, Anonymous! Your efforts to shut up God's word only serve to publish it further. God did that! Our response to you? Bring it, cowards."
Her Twitter page.
posted by ericb at 11:20 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Round 1.
posted by madred at 11:21 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


--- godhatesfags.com ping statistics ---
14 packets transmitted, 0 packets received, 100.0% packet loss


yaaaay
posted by nathancaswell at 11:21 AM on February 20, 2011


I mean, when you dislike gay people and he calls you that. He calls us liberals that all the time!
posted by symbioid at 11:21 AM on February 20, 2011


When Hannity calls you a "sick, soulless, human being" you know something's very very very wrong.
Eh. Maybe. But maybe very very very right.
posted by Flunkie at 11:23 AM on February 20, 2011


I'm confused. Did WBC write the first letter apparently from Anon?
posted by madred at 11:24 AM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Tashtego: "Despite using -fag as a suffix for pretty much any category into which a person might place themselves, Anonymous is fairly gay-friendly..." So, they are going after the homophobe fags? *Tries to bend mind around neologism*"

"*fag" are reserved for members of the community. So there are certainly homophobe-fags, just as there are gayfags on 4-chan, but Westboro would just be referred to as assholes.

And jeffburges, your consistent use of 'lolz' for 'lulz' needs a trollface.jpg
posted by danny the boy at 11:24 AM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Is there such a thing as telephone line virus that knocks out fax machines?

Black faxes.
posted by ryoshu at 11:24 AM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, martyrs to those who share Westboro's goals.

Oh yeah, this reminds me of a question I had. What are Westboro's goals? Is there a coherent (or at least consistent) unifying principle behind, say, "God hates fags," and, "Thank God for 9/11," and protesting at some 9-year-old's funeral, and everything else they do, that I'm missing? Even one that exists in Phelps' delusional extremist mind? It seems to me that there is no real intent behind any of this other than attracting attention. Which does make this Anonymous thing a real feeding-the-trolls situation.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:25 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


‘‘Now that the gauntlet has been thrown, though, Anonymous must wrestle with the Westboro problem. In the chatroom discussing a potential Operation Westboro, opinion is divided. Some urge a full-on attack on Westboro's website, godhatesfags.com : ‘Defacing their website does seem like a good thing to start off with… 'Just kidding. God LOVES fags.'

Others realize the self-defeating nature of an attack on Westboro: ‘going to go with the, no to opwestboro, they're just protestfags who are really good at using the same troll line on the right people to get a reaction. we've got better shit to do.’ (That ‘better shit’ would be operations in support of protests in Bahrain and Libya.)

An Anonymous associate we spoke with seemed uncertain if anything will come of the war of words. ‘I think at this point its just mud slinging. Typical Trolls Trolling Trolls moment. But after Megan called them out they might do something now.’

Eh, should be more entertaining than protesting a soldiers' funeral.” *
posted by ericb at 11:25 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Finally, a worthy counterpart to Anonymous in terms of bloviated bombast in public proclamations.
posted by nanojath at 11:26 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anonymous is like a Greek god. Sometimes they do great good, sometimes they do great evil, but most people would be better off by not attracting its attention.
posted by empath at 11:27 AM on February 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


When Hannity calls you a "sick, soulless, human being" you know something's very very very wrong.

Or you're sentient.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:27 AM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


My thoughts are a little disorganized on this still, so bear with me here.

It strikes me that this is monumentally stupid on several levels. First, there's just the simple fact that organizations like Westboro absolutely thrive on this kind of conflict. This is what drives them. Anonymous is handing pure methamphetamine to adrenaline addicts.

Second: what do they hope to accomplish? No matter how much cyber harassment they engage in, Westboro is real life, in meatspace. Even if their web presence and electronic communications are completely disrupted, they can just have physical meetings in their church. They already get their message out through the compliant media on a regular basis. The Web is not important to Westboro's existence, and even if they're completely removed from it, they'll be mildly inconvenienced at worst.

Third: the potential consequences here are frightening. Phelps understands the law very well, and jams his screaming face right up at the very edge of what it will allow, but as far as I can see, not so much as a whisker actually crosses the line. This is much of how Westboro prospers... they incite people into physical violence, and then sue them into oblivion. Because the law is such a restrictive force in their lives, they're extremely good at using it against their enemies.

What Anonymous does is clearly illegal, and by engaging in these tactics, they give Westboro a giant club to beat them with. This isn't just civil-suit territory, which Phelps is very good at prosecuting, but rather, SWAT teams raiding their houses and locking them up for decades.

Further, the Feds already have big issues with Anonymous, what with their infiltration of HB Gary and the very embarrassing revelations that the government is enmeshed with completely unethical organizations. Even if the Feds don't care for Westboro, they hate Anonymous, and this will give them a great excuse to release the hounds.

I think, in other words, that Anonymous is taking a serious risk of total destruction by declaring this war, to the point that people who are only loosely affiliated, and don't have anything to do with this particular action, could see serious jail time.

It's so frustrating to see this stupid behavior. The risks are so high, and the potential payoff is so ridiculously low. Unless they already have damning, irrefutable evidence of criminal behavior by Phelps sufficient to jail him for a lengthy duration, the chance of any meaningful victory is just about nonexistent.

tl;dr version: No matter how stupid Westboro is, they pretty much can't lose. No matter how smart Anonymous is, they pretty much can't win.

If you're "in" Anonymous (which probably is hard to define), and happen to be reading this, get the hell out. Run for the hills. Only a fool declares war without already being certain of victory; your outfit has declared war on an irrelevant target for no possible gain. You are running a very real risk of devastating consequences for no benefit whatsoever.

After the HB Gary hacks, you guys aren't in the kiddie pool anymore. Out in the deep water, there are sharks.
posted by Malor at 11:28 AM on February 20, 2011 [25 favorites]


What are Westboro's goals? Is there a coherent (or at least consistent) unifying principle behind, say, "God hates fags," and, "Thank God for 9/11," and protesting at some 9-year-old's funeral, and everything else they do, that I'm missing?

I presume they want the US to make homosexuality illegal, start persecuting all gays and lesbians and same-sex practicing bisexuals until they either are all in jail or dead or have left the country, and then establish heterosexual-only law that is strictly enforced, all with the goal of having God stop punishing the US by having people die in wars or domestic violent acts.

I'm not sure they have really thought through things beyond that. The idea that people would stop dying because we stop homosexuality from happening is a bit odd, but in the world of WBC's magical thinking, that seems to be what they believe.
posted by hippybear at 11:29 AM on February 20, 2011


Where does WBC get funding? Seems like a really tiny congregation, but somehow they can afford to lawyer up and travel hither and yon for their protests. I guess they have enough fans out there to bankroll their activities?

They say the most offensive shot they can do induce people to violate their first amendment rights, then they sue for cash. It's a racket.
posted by empath at 11:31 AM on February 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Anonymous, though lulzy, is not stupid. I am curious if the particular difficulty of this situation will lead them to try some more sophisticated, less-obvious tactics against Westboro.
posted by fake at 11:31 AM on February 20, 2011


Second: what do they hope to accomplish?

Lulz.
posted by ryoshu at 11:33 AM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


What are Westboro's goals?

Their goal is to make money. I don't know why people keep buying into the idea that the Phelps clan actually gives a shit about gays or god or religion or whatever.
posted by cmonkey at 11:35 AM on February 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


They say the most offensive shot they can do induce people to violate their first amendment rights, then they sue for cash. It's a racket.

Fred Phelps is a Con Man -- "Why the Westboro Baptist Church is a Scam."
posted by ericb at 11:39 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yesterday, the Westboro Baptist Church took up the gauntlet, telling Anonymous, "Bring It!"

closeted homophobes confirmed for brawl
posted by fleetmouse at 11:39 AM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Malor, I'm confused. Do you not think Anonymous has people who are well-versed in law? These aren't just the kids who used punters and phaders on AOL anymore. They weren't in the kiddie pool before HBG, and they aren't now. You'll always have the idiots who do their own offshoot and claim Anon, but as a whole there are some brilliant people within their grasps and I don't think they have anything to be afraid of given their technical capabilities on top of those who know internet law.

If they take down the sites, that's enough. If they take down the sites and people hear about it, cheer about it, that's enough. If they take down the sites and put up messages Phelps would never want up there, that's enough.

But I have a feeling that if they go full-steam on this, it will be much better than that. And it will be to an extent that Phelps and family can't even fathom right now. And they will sit on that information until they find things even more incriminating. We might even forget that Westboro was on their radar until months down the line.

This isn't your after school computer science club, and they damn well know they are trolling trolls and how to get the most out of it.

The lulz are just obvious and come with the territory. I'd love to see what else comes of it should they choose to put their resources into it.
posted by june made him a gemini at 11:39 AM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dammit, cmonkey!
posted by ericb at 11:39 AM on February 20, 2011


Yeah, Westboro Baptist doesn't actually have that much of a notable web presence, do they? And they're pretty intractable anyhow. Pretty much the only way Anonymous could win this is by ensuring in perpetuity that Westboro never fields a web site again. Anonymous may be good at what they do, but that seems remarkably unlikely. And it's kind of a waste of resources.
posted by koeselitz at 11:40 AM on February 20, 2011


Is there any record of which lawsuits they've won and how much money they've gotten?
posted by desjardins at 11:41 AM on February 20, 2011


"[A] commentator chimes in with a link to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Phelps Timeline from 2001, which definitely shows a pattern, “Before the end of his legal career in 1989, Phelps will file some 400 suits, mostly in federal court. Estranged son Nathan Phelps will claim later that part of his father’s strategy is to file frivolous lawsuits in the hope that his targets will settle to avoid the costs of defense.”

The claim is strengthened by another commentator, under the handle “SuedByAWBCMoppet,” who explains that he/she was sued for “verbally abusing a minor” after getting into an altercation with the family on the sidewalk in front of his/her home. “And [I] have NO doubt and plenty of personal experience that they WILL sue you in civil court if they possibly can. I recommend not engaging them, at all…. I caution you not to engage them, not to confront them. That’s exactly what they want.”

On the whole, we get a more in-depth picture of the WBC crowd. More than just an extreme form of Fundamentalist, Phelps seems to be a lunatic, a cynical con-man, or some combination thereof.*
posted by ericb at 11:45 AM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't know why people keep buying into the idea that the Phelps clan actually gives a shit about gays or god or religion or whatever.

I mean, it's not really hard to see why people buy into it. In some ways it really doesn't matter what the ultimate goal is, whether it's to incite hate or to enact legislation or simply to make money. They stuff they do, the things they say, affect people on a level that I feel could best be described as the deepest kind of knee-jerk. Yeah, it's knee-jerk, but if you were whacked on the knee with a very, very heavy hammer that hurts like fucking hell.

Westboro Baptist is a troll, sure. They feed off attention, feed off misery and pain and hate and sorrow. To the average person, it makes no difference whatsoever what their goals are. They picked funerals, for crying out loud. Funerals.

Which is why I sort of have to understand - or at least identify with - what Anonymous is doing. It's dumb, and juvenile, and probably unproductive. But Westboro is so deeply, deeply awful that I cannot help but understand the ultimatum.
posted by ORthey at 11:48 AM on February 20, 2011


picked = picket.
posted by ORthey at 11:49 AM on February 20, 2011


Estranged son Nathan Phelps ...

From his website:
"Nate Phelps is the son of Pastor Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church, which gained infamy from their protests at soldiers’ funerals around the United States. He is the seventh of thirteen children, and was taught his father’s extreme version of Calvinism from an early age. This was accompanied by extreme physical punishments and abuse, extreme dietary and health requirements, and other extreme expectations. Nate left home at midnight on his eighteenth birthday, and moved to California where he built a new life away from his family. He later moved to Canada, and only recently began speaking out about his story after a chance encounter with a reporter while driving a cab in Cranbrook, British Columbia. Nate has now spoken about his story to many groups around North America, and even returned home to Topeka in 2010 to tell his story to the people in his hometown. Today Nate lives in Calgary, Alberta and works for the Center For Inquiry. He is a vocal LGBT advocate, and speaks out against the dangers of religion and child abuse."
Nate Phelps interviews:1, 2.
posted by ericb at 11:50 AM on February 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


Malor, I'm confused. Do you not think Anonymous has people who are well-versed in law?

Of course they do. But they can't use it as a weapon like Phelps can, because they're breaking it. Knowing the law is no defense against that, and most of their cyber-intrusion attempts are completely illegal. And with the various applications of the racketeering laws, even if the hacks originate from, say, China, if they can be traced back to Anonymous, people who are simply affiliated with the organization, but otherwise uninvolved, can be put behind bars for prolonged durations. Those racketeering laws can be used for freaking anything.

Someone is going to make a mistake. Look at what happened with the DDOS attacks on PayPal.

If they take down the sites and people hear about it, cheer about it, that's enough.

That's exactly wrong, because it means people will hear about Westboro. Even negative attention is good for them, and being cyber-attacked is a great chance to be painted as the underdog, helpless before the criminal online masterminds.

Phelps, in other wirds, benefits from any successful cyber-attack. By declaring Westboro as an adversary, Anonymous makes them stronger, no matter what they do to the electronic infrastructure.

With crazies like Phelps, about all you can do is wait for them to make a mistake and do something illegal, or die of old age.
posted by Malor at 11:52 AM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Their web presence is probably only the first step. The scariest thing about Anon is how vast of a physical network it is, and how Phelps' own neighbors could just as easily be on 4chan making their own plans. Anon started online, but it is by no means synonymous with internet-only debauchery.

Furthermore, if they choose to go after Westboro, imagine all of the people who have had to deal with them coming into their towns, picketing, trampling over services for their lost soldiers. Regardless of if those people have heard bad things about Anon in the past, Phelps has done a damn good job of ensuring those people have a good reason to go against him should the call arise. And as we all know, when Anon aims their sights at someone, the media loves it.
posted by june made him a gemini at 11:52 AM on February 20, 2011


DDOS attacks on servers like that are laughable, sure, but they've proven themselves successful otherwise. Like I said, the media laps it up, but it's harder for people to associate with trying to take down a server, as opposed to taking down a disgusting human being.
posted by june made him a gemini at 11:55 AM on February 20, 2011


Fighting the WBC is like getting angry at the Dark Side. Yeah, you've got every reason to be angry, and they deserve everything you can throw at them, but no matter what you do you're always going to end up with Emperor Palpatine rubbing his hands together and cackling in glee.

Fred Phelps wants the world to hate him. Not just dislike him, or disagree with what he says but defend to the death his right to say it, but really seriously loathe him. Like Flunkie said upthread, if you've not yet read 'Addicted to Hate', you don't know the half of how messed-up this man is. It's long and it's horrific - detailed accounts of violence and abuse and general foulness of all kinds, as related by Phelps children who've since left the cult - but it's very, very much worth reading if you want an impression of how Phelps and the WBC work:

"I'm not exaggerating. My father would literally scream-not talk, scream-of-consciousness non-stop insults at us for hours. "His mouth was, for all the years I knew him, the most foul, vulgar, cursing mouth you've ever heard. There's nothing he wouldn't say, including cursing God openly. I watched him, one day, stand at the back of the church auditorium just outside the kitchen door, and literally jump up and down and scream curses at the top of his lungs, like a grown-up two year-old man."

"Sometimes Pastor Phelps preferred to grab one child by their little hands and haul them into the air. Then he would repeatedly smash his knee into their groin and stomach while walking across the room and laughing. The boys remember this happening to Nate when he was only seven, and to Margie and Kathy even after they were sexually developed teenagers. Nate recalls being taken into the church once where his father, a former golden gloves boxer, bent him backwards over a pew, body-punched him, spit in his face, and told him he hated him."

"I remember getting home from school the day [the news of one son's girlfriend's death] appeared in the papers," says Mark, "and my dad came dancing down the stairs, swaying from the knees and clapping his hands, singing: 'The whore is dead! The whore is dead!' "He paraded around the house, singing and laughing with that maniacal giggle he has, 'the whore is dead!'"

I don't know what the hell Fred Phelps wants from this world, but I get the feeling 'a fully-functioning website' is not #1 on the list.
posted by Catseye at 11:55 AM on February 20, 2011 [19 favorites]


Again, june: Anonymous can't win, and Phelps can't lose. They can't take anything away from him that he wants, and he can take plenty away from them if they screw up even a little bit.
posted by Malor at 11:57 AM on February 20, 2011


The best way to protest the WBC would be to get a horde of gay porn stars to each change their name to Fred Phelps and to may lots of really awful, awesome gay porn and then to stage a massive conspiracy with every media outlet ever to have every interview with Fred Phelps begin with a 20-minute confused prologue where the host keeps asking Fred what it's like to be a gay porn star, and then he says no, I'm not a gay porn star, and then the host says "oh, sorry, I've confused you with someone else," and he says yes, you probably did, and then the host says "you're that OTHER Fred Phelps," and he says yes, I am, and then the host says, "the one who's an even bigger gay porn star," and it just goes on and on until the last time you cut to Fred Phelps and now he's just an angry skeleton with smoke rising off of him.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:02 PM on February 20, 2011 [53 favorites]


Their goal is to make money. I don't know why people keep buying into the idea that the Phelps clan actually gives a shit about gays or god or religion or whatever.

Can't speak for others, but I never knew the guy was suing people left and right. God knows I love Mefi but I cannot tell you how much it frustrates me that we have some of the smartest minds on the planet sharing so much knowledge, but it is scattered all over the place. There is no place that holds the learned lessons, or a place you can elevate the favorited comments and insight so that we can "stand on the shoulders" as it were. I know there is some lightweight version of this on the wiki. I just wish it were on the site itself. I'm sure I'm not the first person to wish for this.
posted by cashman at 12:04 PM on February 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


EMERGENCY PRESS RELEASE: OPERATION WESTBORO

So, anonymous. One idiot has decided to post a press release against Westboro? I have a bad feeling about this operation. Everyone's watching us now, but this bullshit is taking away valuable resources that could be used, you know, actually fighting dictators, not failtrolls? THINK BEFORE YOU SAY SOMETHING STUPID.

But there's no way Anonymous can go back on it's word now. So, I, a good old /b/tard, will help guide you newfags to succeeding in this assault, trolling them in the best way possible, without getting pwned in the worst way possible.

I have every reason to believe this was a trap. They want more people to sue, so they posted an operation to attack their site.So please, Don't DDoS. Use anon's good ol' life-ruining methods.


From the news link above.

The theory in the last para makes a fair bit of sense, actually.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:04 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think Phelps actually benefits from publicity. It's not like he survives of donations -- it sure sounds like his squalid life is supported by nuisance lawsuits, and he could just as easily spend his life suing his city government, or a local postman, or a neighbor's dog. What is he going to get out of Anonymous? They're not a Fortune 500 company, their a loosely affiliated group of internet griefers, and, if one screws up, he'd gain as much financial benefit as he would were he to sue the kid who lives next. Probably about the amount he blows on one cemetery protest.

If I have a complaint about this, it's that it is vanguard vs. vanguard politicking. Phelps has now real power, and represents nothing. Anonymous has no clear political agenda. It's at the sideline for the real issues. The best we can do is point out that Phelps represents the extreme of the social function of homophobia -- to marginalize a minority group, and make the, despised, for the sake of scoring political and financial victories. He may be different from those who supported prop 8 in philosophy and tactics, but there are similarities between his use of homophobia and theirs.

That being said, he's an asshole, and if they can make him miserable, however briefly, I will applaud it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:05 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are a few things you could do to the Phelps clan to make things right. If abuse could be proven, those poor children might be taken away by human services and given to families that could actually teach them love, and the abusers might even face charges.
posted by koeselitz at 12:10 PM on February 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


I really couldn't care less what the Westboro Baptist Church have to say. They're nuts, they say vile things, I don't care. But it'll be fun to see Anonymous take them down.
posted by catwash at 12:12 PM on February 20, 2011


In order for Anonymous to be successful, they need to change their tactics a tad. Pulling out the same hateful rhetoric that we are all aware of will be preaching to the choir. A better tactic would be to find things that shame them to their followers. I'm willing betting dollars to donuts that Phelps has mails he doesnt want the congregation to know of.

TL;DR: Yes, I'm betting donuts
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 12:14 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


full of sound & fury, signifying nothing.
posted by jcworth at 12:20 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Again, june: Anonymous can't win, and Phelps can't lose. They can't take anything away from him that he wants, and he can take plenty away from them if they screw up even a little bit. -- Malor

I'm not so sure about that. Phelps has so far survived because he stays just within the law, leaving no lawful way to take him down.

Anonymous doesn't care if their approach is lawful. They also don't care if their approach is at all organized, or effective (at least, in the short term). If they are serious about Phelps as a target, they will just keep trying things until one of them sticks.

If he is as abusive to his family as the stories say, maybe that will be how they take him out. Anon seems to be unkind to abusive people.

Not to mention, if you think Phelps has nothing to lose, then Anonymous has even less to lose. They are not an organization with leadership, financing, and a 5-year plan. Anonymous is nothing more than a name used by anyone who wants to claim it in the name of lulz.

A better tactic would be to find things that shame them to their followers. I'm willing betting dollars to donuts that Phelps has mails he doesnt want the congregation to know of. -- I love you more when I eat paint chips

His followers are all his family, and they have all been brainwashed in the most honest and most literal meaning of that word. I don't see that tactic working.
posted by CrayDrygu at 12:23 PM on February 20, 2011


In order for Anonymous to be successful, they need to change their tactics a tad. Pulling out the same hateful rhetoric that we are all aware of will be preaching to the choir. A better tactic would be to find things that shame them to their followers. I'm willing betting dollars to donuts that Phelps has mails he doesnt want the congregation to know of.
I'm not sure that I understand this.

His congregation essentially consists of the members of his family who he has thoroughly dominated into submission, not of people who view him as some sort of paragon.

And what kind of mails are you talking about? Emails? First, I seriously doubt that Phelps himself is terribly invested in the internet. I would actually be surprised if he has an email account, and if he does, I'd be surprised if he uses it. Second, what are you expecting? Gay porn? If so, and even if it's found, so what? None of his followers would question him on it, and even if they did, he would spin it as keeping track of what the fags are doing, and then bully them into submission again.
posted by Flunkie at 12:23 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


http://anonnews.org/?p=press&a=item&i=494


Dear Phred Phelps and WBC Phriends,
So we've been hearing a lot about some letter that we supposedly sent you this morning. Problem is,
we're a bit groggy and don't remember sending it. Our best guess is that you heard about us on that
newfangled TV of yours and thought we might be some good money for your little church.
You thought you could play with Anonymous. You observed our rising notoriety and thought you
would exploit our paradigm for your own gain. And then, you thought you could lure some idiots into a
honeypot for more IPs to sue.

posted by nathancaswell at 12:25 PM on February 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


In order for Anonymous to be successful, they need to change their tactics a tad. Pulling out the same hateful rhetoric that we are all aware of will be preaching to the choir. A better tactic would be to find things that shame them to their followers. I'm willing betting dollars to donuts that Phelps has mails he doesnt want the congregation to know of.

Phelps has no followers. His church is a combination chapel/living compound where he and his extended family organize a grueling schedule of daily protests around the nation, angering as many people as they can until someone throws a rock or denies them a protest permit or yells at a kid, and they sue.

That is what Phelps' "Church" is. it's not a fringe religious group, it's a legal troll wrapping itself in the language of hyper-calvinism. The Klu Klux Klan has taken steps to distance itself from the Westboro Baptist Church, for crying out loud.

There are no followers to shock. There are no supporters to undermine. There are no sympathetic listeners to convince.
posted by verb at 12:26 PM on February 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


That last press release is on the masthead...

To Anonymous: It's a trap. They've got their ports wide open to harvest IPs to sue. Don't DDoS, and boycott Operation Westboro. If you really want to continue messing with them, just send them a few male prostitutes and faxes of goatse. Nothing more.
posted by nathancaswell at 12:27 PM on February 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


They can't take anything away from him that he wants, and he can take plenty away from them if they screw up even a little bit.

This.

Regardless of our judgement of the white feather on the scales of balance, this is something to always consider in your strategy before the start of any PR or smear campaign.
posted by infini at 12:37 PM on February 20, 2011


Yeah, no way to fake a masthead.

People keep saying the site is down. I keep checking and it's not. I'm done doing this.

For the curious, it is not down. Link goes to http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com/ This is the best way to check without visiting a site full of vile.

Whether or not Anonymous is taking them on I am done swimming in this sewer. You guys have fun.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:38 PM on February 20, 2011


I think what I'm liking about this is, is that if Anonymous manages to contain itself for the time being, we may just see a nice real life version of the old Italian notion that "revenge is a dish best served cold". That is, do nothing to Westboro Baptist until your anger cools. Then, slowly, thoughtfully, coolly, at your own methodical pace, destroy them completely.

And if you do it really well, the corpse is never found, so there is no indictable offense. Westboro Baptist just disappears into the ether, maybe to be found in a hundred years in the proverbial cement foundation of some ancient football stadium in New Jersey.
posted by philip-random at 12:38 PM on February 20, 2011


Yeah, no way to fake a masthead.

Oh my god I never thought of that!
posted by nathancaswell at 12:39 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


And if you do it really well, the corpse is never found, so there is no indictable offense. Westboro Baptist just disappears into the ether, maybe to be found in a hundred years in the proverbial cement foundation of some ancient football stadium in New Jersey.

So, are you suggesting that Anonymous actually physically kill the members of Westboro Baptist Church? Because they don't seem to care what happens to their web site.
posted by verb at 12:40 PM on February 20, 2011


I'm so tired of supposed liberals celebrating a bunch of kids doing stuff for the lulz as some sort of vigilante heroes. Does nobody remember when Anonymous waged all out war against the feminist blogosphere for no particular reason?
Well, anyone can 'be' Anonymous. Probably the people who went after HBGary are not the same ones going after WBC. And probably not the same ones who went after the Feminist Blogsphere, etc.

And anyway both "Anon" and WBC are publicity hounds. WBC doesn't even need it's website, so frankly even if they do get shut down it's a 'win' for them since I've seen their flyer around and now they are reaching more eyeballs.

Also, Isn't it weird how media savvy WBC seems to be? Usually cults are insular, but these guys are on twitter and seem to be pretty media savvy. In fact I just found this black-eyed peas parody complete with a parody of Niki Minaj's accents. WTF? Just bizarre.
Further, the Feds already have big issues with Anonymous, what with their infiltration of HB Gary and the very embarrassing revelations that the government is enmeshed with completely unethical organizations. Even if the Feds don't care for Westboro, they hate Anonymous, and this will give them a great excuse to release the hounds.

I think, in other words, that Anonymous is taking a serious risk of total destruction by declaring this war, to the point that people who are only loosely affiliated, and don't have anything to do with this particular action, could see serious jail time.
I doubt the feds will go out of their way to protect WBC. WBC would need to spend years in court in order to even figure out who to sue.
Their web presence is probably only the first step. The scariest thing about Anon is how vast of a physical network it is, and how Phelps' own neighbors could just as easily be on 4chan making their own plans. Anon started online, but it is by no means synonymous with internet-only debauchery.
Oh come on.
posted by delmoi at 12:40 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am metaphysically confused. I agree with Anonymous' supposed ideals of free speech but am confused by it's suppression of free speech that it does not like.

I am not confused in real life. Worthless scum like the WBC and Fred Phelps deserve every bad thing that can be thrown at them . The need to be wiped from civilized society and removed to a place where they can only interact with themselves. In a more enlightened society like Canada or England they would have already been thrown in jail. Here in the U.S. the same legal loopholes that allow then to harass others also allow huge corporate and/or ultra-wealthy interests to whip the uneducated into hate frenzies to serve their own perverted needs.

I have never been more tempted to join the Anonymous fray until now - and that includes the Chanology project. I dearly hope and pray to the Internet gods that Anon gets full access to email servers and finds something legally incriminating there.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:44 PM on February 20, 2011


I am metaphysically confused. I agree with Anonymous' supposed ideals of free speech but am confused by it's suppression of free speech that it does not like.

It sounds like it's more of a response to a provocation. One that was probably instigated by WBC itself Anyone can put out a press release as "anonymous"
posted by delmoi at 12:49 PM on February 20, 2011


The church is doomed. You can't survive a martyrdom when what brings you down is your own retarded emails and inconsistent internal memos.

Seriously. The techniques anon uses are well-known and well understood, and pretty easy to guard against. The problem is, few organizations actually do this.

Of course, by "doomed" I mean "more of a laughing stock than ever before." The actual core members will not be swayed from their bone-headed beliefs by any rhetoric or logic.
posted by clvrmnky at 12:54 PM on February 20, 2011


I wonder ... Let's say I could magically snap my fingers and make every member of the WBC disappear. Like, an abducted by aliens type of disappearance that leaves no evidence.

Would anyone really notice they were gone? Sure, there'd be no picketing at funerals. But does anyone like them? Do they have a following that isn't already part of their inner circle? Do they have fans? They have Twitter followers and the like, but I gather that most follow them ironically at best. Do they have real go-go-Fred-you-show-those-fags kind of fans?

Would murdering them all create martyrs for a cause?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:54 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, are you suggesting that Anonymous actually physically kill the members of Westboro Baptist Church?

No. No real life murders suggested; just complete removal of the organization known as Westboro Baptist from the mediascape forever by any legal means necessary.

And this is just a suggestion informed by an optimism (perhaps very naive) that Anonymous really might find it in themselves to be paladins* of a sort.

* and when I say paladin, I intend the D+D interpretation

posted by philip-random at 1:03 PM on February 20, 2011


Would murdering them all create martyrs for a cause?

That's not how you *hurt* them.

What you do is you hold a DANCE, so you corrupt their children with the devil's rock-and/or-roll music. Tearing them away from their loving families forever.
posted by mikelieman at 1:04 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


What you do is you hold a DANCE, so you corrupt their children with the devil's rock-and/or-roll music.

I don't know, it could lead to dancing.
posted by jonmc at 1:06 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Only one way to find out...

Create a fully functional holodeck so we can test out our theories without actually killing anyone? Won't that take a lot of time?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:11 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


What you do is you hold a DANCE, so you corrupt their children with the devil's rock-and/or-roll music. Tearing them away from their loving families forever.

They seem pretty comfortable around hip-hop.

Seriously, these people are TROLLs. What they're doing is a kind of bizarre performance art. I actually don't think they take themselves as seriously as people seem to think they do. This isn't like HBGary where you can take them down by embarrassing them.
posted by delmoi at 1:14 PM on February 20, 2011


I have every reason to believe this was a trap.

And, then there is also this at the AnonNews.org website:
"TO THE CONGREGANTS OF WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH

We know that YOU in fact posted the Open Letter supposedly from Anonymous.

We know that you thrive on attention.

We know that you are short of money.

We know that this is a trap.

We know how you work. You don't give a flying fart about what your God thinks. But you know that putting God and Fag in a sentence together is guaranteed to make someone angry. You push it. You really push it. But you stay within the law. And then when some poor fool snaps, you sue them for infringing upon your rights.

Some of Anonymous thinks you're the worlds greatest Trolls. This is bollocks. You're in it for the money.

No doubt some of us will fall for it. But know this: most of us don't give a damn. You are shamelessly riding on the /b/andwagon after Anonymous' recent mass media coverage in order to get more publicity and more idiots to sue.

Yarbles to you.

WE ARE ANONYMOUS.
WE ARE LEGION.
WE DO NOT FORGIVE.
WE DO NOT FORGET.
EXPECT US.

But we're not all idiot newfags.

Peace out /b/rothers."
posted by ericb at 1:16 PM on February 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


I so don't get how Anonymous works. I don't even understand where they came from -- I just started seeing news items that took it for granted people knew Anonymous.

Is it just a chat group? Could, like, I just go and join their secret/totally-not-secret/anonymous organization? Is there a Cabal? I can't imagine a group like that without a Cabal.
posted by meese at 1:20 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is it just a chat group? Could, like, I just go and join their secret/totally-not-secret/anonymous organization? Is there a Cabal? I can't imagine a group like that without a Cabal.

Congratulations, you're part of Anonymous now.
posted by verb at 1:23 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Westboro Baptist Church: 'Exploitation of the Children.'
posted by ericb at 1:23 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meese, it works like Beetlejuice. You said "Anonymous" three times. You're in.
posted by raztaj at 1:25 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


And who could forget WBC's hit music video -- 'God Hates the World'* [05:33].

* -- sung to the tune of 'We Are the World.'
posted by ericb at 1:26 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aw, but I don't wanna be a hacker!
posted by meese at 1:26 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's some basic misunderstanding about how WBC actually operates. Comments like

We need the list of their legal firm's clients so we know who to boycott.

and

Seems like a really tiny congregation, but somehow they can afford to lawyer up and travel hither and yon for their protests.

both indicate an assumption that they've got a significant amount of revenue from either business or charitable sources.

Here's the thing: they do all their own lawyering, and they don't have any external legal clients. One of the daughters is still a licensed attorney and does all of their legal work. The recent Supreme Court case? Argued by the daughter.* So they don't really need any clients, nor do they really need to spend money on litigation: they can do it all themselves, relying on the tithes of the other members to fund their activities.

They really don't seem to be in it for the money. No one other than themselves donates to them, and they seem to be basically bankrolling their own operations. Furthermore, they don't generally act as plaintiffs as far as I can tell: they do outrageous stuff hoping that other people will sue them, as their activities are, by and large, completely within the bounds of the First Amendment.** But they don't seem to drive fancy cars, own big houses, have outrageous sex lives, or do tons of blow. Except for the batshitinsane part, they're more or less regular folks.

I know something about them as my former employer insured a ton of churches nationwide but explicitly reserved the right not to write policies for churches who were fixin' to get themselves sued. Really, really cautious underwriting practices. So we kind of kept an eye on stuff like this.

*And completely fucked it up. A first year law student could have made the winning argument there: this is protected First Amendment speech. That's it. But they offered some cockeyed, crazy argument that neither needed to be made nor is a clear winner. Weirdos.

**Which is perhaps evidence that the First Amendment is not actually an unmitigated good.
posted by valkyryn at 1:28 PM on February 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Just fyi, anonymous isn't necessarily suppressing free speech here so long as they abandon the loic attack after the news covers it. It'll ultimately just create more publicity for WBC like Malor says. Is that a bad thing? I'm not worried. lol

If you're interested in constructively razzing WBC for the lulz, you should simply stage gay weddings at WBC protests, thus tarring & feathering the larger anti-marriage-equality crowd.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:35 PM on February 20, 2011


Phelps has no followers. His church is a combination chapel/living compound where he and his extended family organize a grueling schedule of daily protests around the nation ...

Exactly.
"The church - which consists almost exclusively of Fred Phelps, a 76-year-old preacher, and 75 members of his extended family...

... It claims to have conducted 25,000 pickets since its formation in 1991, almost all of them anti-gay. Mr Phelps first drew national attention when he protested at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay man beaten to death in Wyoming in 1998.

The church reckons its spends $250,000 a year on air fares and other protest expenses. The bills are paid by the family, which includes 10 lawyers among Mr. Phelps's 13 children."*
10 lawyers in the family! As above, it's a fucking RACKET.
posted by ericb at 1:36 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


10 lawyers in the family! As above, it's a fucking RACKET.

Hey, kids, let's form a church. Tax-free. Yoo-hoo. Sue, sue, sue!

Kind of reminds me of another racket -- one formed by a Sci-Fi/Fantasy pulp author.
posted by ericb at 1:41 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ok, I'm reading the Addicted To Hate piece. Why the fuck isn't this guy behind bars? It seems enough of the kids are outside the... fuck. Really, really angry right now. There's abuse, victims, witnesses. Why isn't there a case?
posted by Leon at 1:41 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


As above, it's a fucking RACKET.

No, it isn't. Again, they really don't have any external clients. They've got a dozen, maybe two dozen people who do the protesting full time. That leaves upwards of fifty people who have day jobs. If they each make $40k a year--and some probably do make more--and tithe 10%, that's $200,000. Put it at $60,000 and we're already at $300,000.

Conclusions:

1) It takes a surprisingly little amount of money to raise this much ruckus.

2) It really doesn't take all that many super-dedicated people to raise that much money.
posted by valkyryn at 1:43 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can't it be that the Phelps clan is just plain old evil without them also having to be greedy? Money is a more attractive goal than political oppression for most people, but this lot is, almost by definition, not most people. Trying to prove that they're hypocritical either about the money or about their actual moral stances distracts us from advancing an argument that their position is, inherently and independent of their conduct, abhorrent.

Let's not lose focus.
posted by valkyryn at 1:45 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


We need the list of their legal firm's clients so we know who to boycott.

Uh ... their legal firm consists of a family member or maybe two who still have not been disbarred. Their entire church, their lawfirm, their life, is all Fred Phelps and his family. As far as I am aware, they only have law degrees to further their own causes through myriad frivolous lawsuits. Their only clients are themselves, because they mostly just sue others. Fred himself used to be a lawyer, self taught if I recall, but had passed the bar. But it's just because he is abusive and completely obsessed with maintaining his own internal fictions. As long as his grip is powerful enough on those few he can actually control, this will continue. I don't think the WBC will exist once he finally dies, however.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:48 PM on February 20, 2011


Can't it be that the Phelps clan is just plain old evil without them also having to be greedy?

Indeed. I think the point that's being made (at least by me) is that they don't seem to demonstrate any sort of religious motivation in the sense that we're used to talking about. Their protests are hit-and-run media set pieces, and they have a history of hitting anyone who steps on their toes with lawsuits. I don't find that hypocritical, really, just noting that they are professional flame-bait -- and that means that the stuff other people have suggested, like "Find their sources of funding! Embarrass them! Shock their supporters!" just don't make sense.

A case certainly can be made that they're evil. They're sort of the social-debate versions of patent trolls.
posted by verb at 1:49 PM on February 20, 2011


As above, it's a fucking RACKET.

No, it isn't. Again, they really don't have any external clients


What I mean is that it's a racket -- not necessarily money-making, but one using the veil of religion and their ugly behavior to entice people to lash out at them, so that they can sue them. Proceeds are not grand, but seem to be enough to keep the cycle continuing.
posted by ericb at 1:56 PM on February 20, 2011


I guess it's sort of weird. For the first time ever, I kinda feel bad about what's going on here. These people in the WBC are very public, but the only reason they exist is because Fred is an abusive fuck who created this world around him to protect himself. This world consists of his family, and the only reason they haven't abandoned him has to do with the complex nature of abusive relationships, as well as some cult-like behavior. Fred is evil, but is a tortured man, and the WBC is the external product of his internal shit. I agree, we could do without him, but it's just one pathetic guy who is far too good at protecting himself in his tiny fortress.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:57 PM on February 20, 2011


I've read the "Addicted to Hate" article linked above, and I feel sick to my stomach. And I'm trying to figure out how the Phelps could be dealt with and not coming up with much. WBC is, as others have said, not really a church, but rather an extremely dysfunctional, large family headed up and controlled by a lunatic patriarch who gets off on being hateful and abusive. And since most of the family have legal degrees, there's little that the law can do to them. They know the law and they keep just enough on the right side of it to stay out of trouble. They are monitored by a number of organizations, all of which would love to shut them down, and they'd be all over it if they had legal cause to put any of them in jail. You might get them if you could get inside information but they're too insular to allow for that.

Basically the only hope I see is that Fred Phelps will die and the Phelps family will splinter. And of course that's bound to happen sooner rather than later, as Fred Phelps is 81 years old. It's an awful thing to have to say about another human being but that horrible, horrible man has done nothing but cause trouble and pain in his life. Thank heavens he has never been successful in running for public office. What damage he has caused has mostly been to his own family, and otherwise he's simply obnoxious and a nuisance. He has no influence. He has not made any systemic changes in the world. And someday he'll be gone and beyond being able to harm anyone.

Let's not let him provoke us into unproductive or actionable behaviour in the meantime.
posted by orange swan at 2:02 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


And I'm trying to figure out how the Phelps could be dealt with and not coming up with much.
I'm sorry to link to it twice in one thread, but I truly believe that this is the best way to deal with the WBC.
posted by Flunkie at 2:05 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anonymous: It's a trap!
Twitter is on fire with the news of an upcoming troll-on-troll feud of Anonymous vs. Westboro Baptist Church. In case you missed it - in an Open Letter, Anonymous allegedly told the anti-gay, fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church to stop the hate now or else "the damage incurred will be irreversible" and "neither your institution nor your congregation will ever be able to fully recover." The Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) struck back, telling Anonymous to "bring it!" and that God hates "lousy hackers."

In-between the two, this other Open Letter from Anonymous gained less attention, but told WBC that Anonymous knew it was a trap, and the short-on-money, thrive-on-attention WBC was in fact behind the first Open Letter supposedly from Anonymous.

WBC has made an awful name for themselves with their hate preaching, pushing the limits of freedom of speech with their hate speech. Many Christians find WBC's messages extremely far from Christ-like. Some would call WBC the ultimate IRL (in real life) trolls for such vile acts as provoking mourners outside of funerals for servicemen and women killed in combat. While picketing soldier's funerals, they hold signs such as "Thank God For Dead Soldiers." WBC, led by Rev. Fred Phelps, also picketed funerals of six Arizona shooting victims and are notorious for their anti-homosexual messages and "God Hates Fags" signs.

Shortly after WBC threw down the gauntlet, and Twitter was set ablaze about the oncoming war, an emergency press release was posted on AnonNews which urged Anonymous not to use DDoS attacks.

Before I could break out the popcorn and settle in to watch the fight, Anonymous News Network posted on Facebook, "V: I was just gonna ignore this for a good long while because it was a stupid call, but looks like Westboro Baptist Church (of "GodHatesFags.com" fame) wants to pick a fight with Anonymous. They're attention-whoring idiots. Meanwhile, on the IRC, a channel #OpWestboro has been started to discuss what to do. It's come down to either overwhelming force or ignoring them entirely: no middle ground."

And then, in perhaps the ultimate slap in the face or just for lulz, Anonymous seemed to yawn at WBC while telling them, "Next time, don't call us. We'll call you."

Anonymous released a press release warning others within Anonymous that it's a trap and urging them not to fall into honeypots meant gather IPs for WBC to sue. It also mentions that Anonymous supports free speech, quoting Beatrice Hall, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
posted by ericb at 2:07 PM on February 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Fred should be put in prison for the physical abuse he inflicted on his family, honestly, but he's an old man who has survived this long in this way, and I don't know what anon plans to do about all the tragedy involved with this small group.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:07 PM on February 20, 2011


And I'm trying to figure out how the Phelps could be dealt with and not coming up with much.

You beat the WBC by counter-protesting them. They're cowards, they won't come out if there is going to be a mass force against them. They cancelled one of their provocations in Temple University in Philly last year because the word got out that people were planning a counter-demonstration.

If anon could do that (with the guys in Guy Fawkes masks and all) I think that would work.
posted by graymouser at 2:10 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


quoting Beatrice Hall, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Isn't that misattributed to Voltaire, thus someone French who said that?
posted by infini at 2:15 PM on February 20, 2011


I like Flunkie's link above, where a student set up a charitable donations station across the street from a WBC protest and collected money for the charities targeted by the Phelps. If that happened at every WBC protest site, you'd harness the publicity they generate and give all the people who hate what they stand for (in other words, practically everyone who isn't named Phelps and even some who are) a way to metaphorically spit in their faces. Yes, great idea.

And now it seems this whole Anonymous threat was fabricated by the Phelps. They really are all about aggravating people into doing something actionable so they can sue them. Amazing.
posted by orange swan at 2:16 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I hope anonymous just ignores them altogether.
posted by bz at 2:22 PM on February 20, 2011


So it's a trap? Is this shaping up that Phelps is out-trolling Anonymous?
posted by Nelson at 2:25 PM on February 20, 2011


infini, Anonymous is right. There was an FPP a few months ago about how Anonymous* was a Woman including the Evelyn Beatrice Hall quote.

*The anonymous of quotes not of trolls.
posted by vespabelle at 2:35 PM on February 20, 2011


Moralfags gonna be moral.
posted by Jimbob at 2:38 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, here's the thing, anon, if you're in it for the long game. The WBC is going to be gone sooner or later. Fred is old enough where he doesn't go to most of the protests anymore. Without him, no WBC. All I'm saying is, time is on your side. Not as much lulz to wait out an old man's time on this earth, but the fucker is batshit crazy and has no desire except to survive at any cost. His battlefield is the courtroom, not the internet.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:41 PM on February 20, 2011


Decisions about whom Anonymous targets are made by whoever shows up in their operations IRC channels, then individual Anons choose whether to participate in a particular Op. So, if you don't like the way Anonymous currently operates, the most effective way to influence the organization is to get involved yourself.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:41 PM on February 20, 2011


No, but thanks for the suggestion.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:44 PM on February 20, 2011


I'm sure anyone involved really doesn't care about my opinion anyway. Just doesn't look like something worth getting into, with the potential for not many lulz.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:46 PM on February 20, 2011


Whether I agree or not (and I definitely agree), at least they are doing something besides making popcorn.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 2:51 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Only people who have won The Game can join Anonymous.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:03 PM on February 20, 2011


Given WBC's propensity to picket the funerals of US servicemen and given the overlap between veterans and bikers and given the willingness of some members of the biker community to employ less-than-savory but often extremely efficient methods of conflict resolution, I'm kinda surprised that Phelps hasn't just "disappeared" never to be seen again.

Not that I would advocate that. At all. Nope. Not me. Never.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:06 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


SHIT I JUST LOST
posted by nathancaswell at 3:11 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not crazy about this if they zero bank accounts. But if we find out which members of the Westboro Church are gay, well okay.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:20 PM on February 20, 2011


What are Westboro's goals?

I still somehow feel that at the heart of this, deep down Fred just wants a big cock in his ass. And even now, one foot in the grave, he still wants it.

I'm not saying that is his entire raison d'être but it's likely a good part of it.
posted by Ber at 3:22 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Completely unrelated to the rest of this thread, I had a reaction to the end of ericb's Youtube link (worth watching, good 8.5 min compilation w/ titles related to the WBC.)

After showing a few WBC children talking about how 9/11 was a good thing, the clip ends, without warning, with footage of the second plane impacting. I had an emotional reaction to this, and it brought up thoughts of the discussion of trigger warnings in the recent Penny Arcade thread (though I'm sure it's only a similar thing, not quite the same.)

It occured to me that probably for many people watching, 9/11 was too distant, or now maybe too historical, to automatically have the same emotional reaction. (Or maybe they've already watched that particular footage again and again too much, whereas I've only watched it a handful of times in the past.) And I realized that there are lots of other historical things I've seen during my life, like footage or photographs related to Hiroshima, that I should have had the same emotional reaction to. You kinda have defense mechanisms, I think, to prevent you from totally thinking through what your eyes are seeing sometimes.
posted by XMLicious at 3:29 PM on February 20, 2011


Some people just don't get around to dying fast enough.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:58 PM on February 20, 2011


I still somehow feel that at the heart of this, deep down Fred just wants a big cock in his ass. And even now, one foot in the grave, he still wants it.

That sounds like the makings of a country song

One foot inthe grave
a big cock in the ass
an ice cold beer
and the green, green grass....

(keep it comin, kids)
posted by jonmc at 4:36 PM on February 20, 2011


Regarding Malor's point that this is a bad idea because the WBC will sue...sue who? Anonymous does what they do and gets away with what they do because they're--wait for it--anonymous. The feds have certainly been trying to track these people down since the whole Scientology fracas a few years ago, and have been unsuccessful. And the HBGary incident certainly increased that by an order of magnitude. So with this WBC attack, Anonymous isn't putting themselves in any more danger than they're already in. The feds are on it, make no mistake, but they can't track them down.

Fred Phelps probably feels like he'll be able to sue once these "hackers" are caught. They won't be caught. And Anonymous will be able to do more than just DDOS attacks: bank accounts and cash I'm guessing. Perhaps donations to LGTB foundations?

I do think that this give the WBC publicity, but I'm not so sure people really get so riled up about them anymore. In the sense that it's becoming more and more clear that the WBC is just a scam that thrives on publicity and lawsuits, and (I fervently hope that) people will gradually just come to ignore them, which would result in the "church's" demise.
posted by zardoz at 4:41 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, sometimes Anonymous does things I really agree with and sometimes they do things that make me go "meh" and sometimes they are confusing because they're a leaderless vigilante organization. The Phelps cult might stick around a little while after the patriach dies, but the problem with such such a rigid hierarchy is that when the head dies, the body follows. By design, Anonymous will be around longer than the Phelps cults, so I'm going to call this one now.
posted by fuq at 4:42 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought Anonymous wasn't anyone's personal army... As much as I detest the WBC it seems they are a symbol of free and open speech no matter the cost.

Nope, that's Anonymous! :)
posted by Area Control at 4:43 PM on February 20, 2011


I still somehow feel that at the heart of this, deep down Fred just wants a big cock in his ass. And even now, one foot in the grave, he still wants it.

Really, really worth reading the Addicted to Hate piece above. It doesn't give the impression that he's a sexual creature at all. There's no suggestion of sexual abuse, for example. He comes across as a fire-and-brimstone prophet - full of hate, craving power and with something broken in his head.

I suspect that the people saying it's about money are wrong, too - the money's just a means to an end - keeping the fiefdom running. I'm about halfway through, and though I don't give a damn about picketing funerals, but I'd happily string the man depicted here up from the nearest lamppost.
posted by Leon at 4:45 PM on February 20, 2011


From Addicted to Hate

While this is the theology of predestination, one that in less vengeful minds is a mainstay of many Protestant sects, in Fred Phelps' mind it has become a green light to hatred and cruelty.

Therein lies Phelps' secret power. He is representative of large swaths of US Christianity. The only difference between Phelps and some other fire-and-brimstone preachers I've heard is the lengths to which he goes to get into the public eye. The man is a master publicist and I salute Fred Phelps for eloquent illustration of the depths of the depravity of the holy book that Christians call their guide.
posted by telstar at 4:58 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I seriously doubt that any good, other than some potential inconvenience, may come of a cyber-assualt on WBC...but I really, REALLY can't think of anything good or wholesome or remotely useful about them. The first amendment gave us porn and the WBC? That kind of makes my head hurt.

I'm at least doing my small part by never eating at this establishment for sharing the same insane ideology--it may only be a sandwich, but if enough people quit eating there it could be a revolution (or not...). That and I can't eat at a place with a deliberately misspelled name. I worked with a kid who swore that "fillet" was ACTUALLY "fil-a." How sad is that?

Ok, now I'm rambling. Apologies...
posted by ironbob at 5:02 PM on February 20, 2011


It doesn't give the impression that he's a sexual creature at all. There's no suggestion of sexual abuse, for example.

Have you gotten to the point where he forces his wife to spend days at a time in their bedroom with him, refusing to let her leave even when it meant their then small children went uncared for?

I don't think he's a closet gay, though. I think he is full of hate and rage and he vents it upon everyone he possibly can. It's clear from the article that his public demonstrations began once his children became too old to beat, that it's an activity he could use to give his family's anger a focus and that would keep them together and under his control.
posted by orange swan at 5:04 PM on February 20, 2011


The feds have certainly been trying to track these people down since the whole Scientology fracas a few years ago, and have been unsuccessful

At least 40 search warrants were executed after the Wikileaks motivated attacks on paypal, amazon, etc.

Anonymous members were arrested in the UK and The Netherlands

Anonymous themselves have admitted that most of their ranks are not all that computer savvy, and they leave themselves susceptible to identification. Does that mean that Anonymous is on its way to being "taken down"? not really. But it's naive to think that they're all hiding behind an impermeable veil of secrecy.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 5:05 PM on February 20, 2011


Therein lies Phelps' secret power. He is representative of large swaths of US Christianity.

What? No he isn't. At all. If you actually believe that, you must not know much about US Christianity.
posted by dersins at 5:08 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is it wrong to secretly hope that Anonymous somehow gets the WBC and the Scientologists to beat up on each other for awhile?
posted by narwhal bacon at 5:11 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was told there would be cake.
posted by Sailormom at 5:12 PM on February 20, 2011


Have you gotten to the point where he forces his wife to spend days at a time in their bedroom with him, refusing to let her leave even when it meant their then small children went uncared for?

Yeah, but - and forgive me if I'm not clear, because I'm not sure of the best way to frame it - he watched TV, ate too much and took speed, too, and none of those consumed him either. He sates physical urges, but he isn't driven by them. He stopped taking speed, and fasted until he dropped the weight. He's a very weird combination of will and rage, but I still don't think the core is sexual.
posted by Leon at 5:21 PM on February 20, 2011


He is representative of large swaths of US Christianity.

Yes, yes. In exactly the same you are representative of large swaths of US rocket scientists.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 5:21 PM on February 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sexual abuse isn't usually actually about sex.
posted by wierdo at 5:26 PM on February 20, 2011


Or rockets.
posted by Sailormom at 5:29 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


he feds have certainly been trying to track these people down since the whole Scientology fracas a few years ago, and have been unsuccessful.

As "to sir with millipedes" says, yes, a whole bunch of them got nailed after the DDOS attacks. And remember, modern police power is insanely authoritarian. Once they know that someone's a member, they can tap freaking everything and trace contacts. It's nowhere near as easy as HB Gary was trying to make it out to be, but I guarantee you they have the actual attention of the US Government now. With Scientology, it was just a bunch of kids fucking with a bunch of kooks, not a high investigative priority. Now that they're digging into uncomfortable areas the government is embarrassed about, and giving grief to good corporate citizens, their profile is much higher, and the Feds do employ some extremely smart people. If one or more of them gets assigned to the Anonymous case, you could easily see a whole bunch of people go down, anonymous no longer.

It's not really possible to 'destroy' an organization that doesn't entirely exist, so that part of my prior comment was overstated. But you could easily see a large fraction of the current ringleaders taken out of action. There would still be an Anonymous, but it wouldn't be the same outfit anymore.
posted by Malor at 5:32 PM on February 20, 2011


"He is representative of large swaths of US Christianity."

Yeah, like the Yugo is wildly popular in the US.
posted by JB71 at 5:35 PM on February 20, 2011


Therein lies Phelps' secret power. He is representative of large swaths of US Christianity.

Now, normally I jump on the whole No True Scotsman thing something fierce when Christians try to distance themselves from a distasteful member of the belief-circle. But there are legitimate cases in any ideology or belief group where someone runs with a particular snippet of belief, twirls it around their metaphorical finger, and turns it into the rallying cry for their particular brand of WTF crazy.

Christianity is full of contradictions, or paradoxes depending on what side of the rhetorical fence you inhabit. Phelps has taken one of the extremes present in one of those paradoxical doctrines (God is love, but he hates evil) and turned it into an easy one-step flamewar button. He is resoundingly condemned by Christian leaders, by individuals, and by pretty much everyone who crosses his path. Not because they are afraid he's letting the cat out of the bag, but because he is actively pissing on really basic Christian doctrine in the pursuit of media attention and lawsuit cash.

If you have problems with Christian doctrine and cultural dominance, engage and address the pervasive stuff rather than arguing that there are lots of "secret Phelpses" out there. It's like equating casual sexism with rape: both are serious problems but lumping them together ensures neither argument will be taken seriously.
posted by verb at 5:47 PM on February 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Regarding Malor's point that this is a bad idea because the WBC will sue...sue who? Anonymous does what they do and gets away with what they do because they're--wait for it--anonymous.

One example is suing people who run Tor nodes, if anyone participating in attacks uses them. If the WBC started this because they make their money off of nuisance lawsuits, it's not necessarily that they want to make money off of the people participating in Anonymous; just off of the fodder for nuisance lawsuits that those people might create if they don't entirely think through what they're doing.
posted by XMLicious at 5:53 PM on February 20, 2011


(Think in terms of the people donating large amounts of high-quality, high-speed bandwidth to the Tor network, not the people running Tor nodes on some spare box off of their home connection.)
posted by XMLicious at 5:57 PM on February 20, 2011


DDosing through Tor would be a total dick move.
posted by delmoi at 5:59 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think most of what needs to be said about WBC can be found right in Addicted to Hate:
He leads a brief tour through his church. It adjoins his office: a long room, with a low ceiling and a rusty red carpet and dark, oaken pews. It has enough seating for twice the current congregation of 51....

Indeed, with only a few exceptions, since 1958, the 'congregation' at Westboro has been just the Phelps family. The benefits of calling one's own family a church?

First, one can go into fundraising for oneself instead of gainful employment. Each of us can at last be our own favorite charity. Second, bango to those pesty property taxes. Third, if one owns a business, they can operate it from within their church at a fraction of the honest overhead.


Fred Phelps is basically just an insane man with a psychologically abused and now also insane family, who has become a household term in much of politically aware America because they go out and troll people IRL, and act like the world's biggest possible dickheads about it. Some soldier died in Iraq, guess what that's cause God Hates Fags! It's like if every time a passenger jet crashed due to mechanical failure NORML staged a protest claiming it was because of the drug war. Dickheads

But really, who cares? It's one stupid family and they really can't make themselves known to more than maybe a few hundred of the 300 million people in this country on any given day

Oh, hi CNN!

In the same way that websites that delete or ignore trolls don't attract them, a country that just ignored disturbed, grandstanding idiots like this would see those idiots languish away on their decrepit farms or wind up in a mental hospital somewhere. Instead we get the media dredging through every square foot of cultural muck to find, lookie here, a stupid crazy man who will make liberals just froth with disbelieving rage. Loot at the buttons he pushes!

Fred Phelps should just be the town lunatic from bumfuck nowhere, worthy of a character study but little more. 300 years from now no one will know his name, because his impact on this world is pure infotainment; sound and fury, signifying nothing. And the world burns down around us and look, citizens, look at the funny circus!
posted by crayz at 6:01 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah woops, /blockquote after paragraph 3
posted by crayz at 6:02 PM on February 20, 2011


DDosing through Tor would be a total dick move.

Well, I'm sure that no one trying to take part in an Anonymous attack would pull any dick moves. ;^) But I was using that as an example of the ways that people being careless in attacking the WBC could actually end up doing exactly what they want, not as an example of something that would necessarily be common.

I'm sure that the core Anonymous people understand all of this, but this still isn't necessarily an entirely bad idea on the part of the WBC as a way to make money off of nuisance lawsuits or accomplish their other goals.
posted by XMLicious at 6:04 PM on February 20, 2011


Update: Anonnews Press Release

Basically WBC is trying to catch Anonymous members to sue them. This is getting interesting.
posted by Flotsam Rosewater at 6:20 PM on February 20, 2011


Whoa. Does this mean that the "real" Anonymous (leaders) are saying that there is to be no attack? So this was just some poseurs getting headlines?

Damn. All that popcorn I popped...
posted by zardoz at 6:39 PM on February 20, 2011


Not just poseurs, quite possibly the WBC itself. It sounds like Phelps was way, way ahead of this guy in figuring out that if you can find the right business niche (the business of being crazy, in Phelps' case?) then any publicity is good publicity.
posted by XMLicious at 6:58 PM on February 20, 2011


So by the way, if anyone reading this thread is running a Tor node, you probably want to block outgoing traffic to WBC IPs for a few weeks, at least. (I think that there's some way in the Tor software to announce that you've got such a block in place so that people trying to view the WBC web site are re-routed to other nodes, if you want to.) Maybe take copious datestamped notes about doing so, just in case.
posted by XMLicious at 7:11 PM on February 20, 2011


Basically WBC is trying to catch Anonymous members to sue them.

Suing random people on the internet is a poor plan for making money. When you pick a fight with some guy in front of his house, at least you go in knowing (1) his identity, and (2) that he owns a house. With IP addresses, you have to actually file the lawsuit, subpoena the ISP, etc, etc before you even find out whether the target has any assets. Even the RIAA couldn't make the economics work out, and they were a competent and respectable organization (relatively speaking).

The people that make up Anonymous are the sort of people you might sue to intimidate or silence. Or maybe you want to fuck up their life because you hate them for some reason (but then you'll usually have more than an IP address). But you don't sue them for the money. Doesn't make sense.
posted by ryanrs at 7:40 PM on February 20, 2011


if anyone reading this thread is running a Tor node, you probably want to block outgoing traffic to WBC IPs

My tor node, like my open wifi, is mostly for deniability.
posted by ryanrs at 7:46 PM on February 20, 2011


"Some men just want to watch the world burn." -Alfred
posted by Stu-Pendous at 8:16 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


My tor node, like my open wifi, is mostly for deniability.

Good point. I should have said, "...if anyone reading this thread is running a Tor node for the sake of the Tor Project, instead of purely for personal utility..."
posted by XMLicious at 10:17 PM on February 20, 2011


If I was Anonymous, I wouldn't even bother touching Fred Phelps actual web site (godhatesfags.com).

I'd buy up some other domains, like "fredphelps.com", "westborobaptistchurch.com", "god_hates_fags.com", etc., etc.

Then, I'd load up pages with lots of gay porn pics.

And if I was Anonymous, I would presumably know how to game Google, like businesses do, to get those pages to be the only front page results when Google users entered "Fred Phelps", "Westboro Baptist" or "God Hates Fags".
posted by marsha56 at 10:31 PM on February 20, 2011


Err, scratch that. Load up instead with pics of gay weddings, gay pride parades, gay families, gay teachers, gay-straight alliance clubs, etc, etc, etc. Or do both porn and everyday life pics, I don't know. Whaddya think?

(I'm sure there reasons why none of this would work, or someone would have already done this, right?)
posted by marsha56 at 10:46 PM on February 20, 2011


Why waste the time? Phelps is an asshole, but he's a powerless asshole. His message resonates with no one.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:04 PM on February 20, 2011


I love that so many people think they're going to destroy Fred Phelps by embarrassing him. People: Mr. Phelps has a defective embarrassment gland. Your plan will not work!
posted by ryanrs at 11:32 PM on February 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't think we have gotten anywhere near the bottom of what's happening here. Fred Phelps trying to entrap Anonymous? Neither he nor anyone in his very limited circle of followers appear to be tech-savvy enough to come up with any strategy, even a crappy one. If you believe the premise of the second Anonymous Communique, this looks more like the work of an ego-driven but incompetent enemy of Anonymous - maybe Aaron "HMGary" Barr? Or someone within the Church of Scientology trying to work his way up its 'pyramid' by getting 'kills' of some of its enemies? Or, maybe even somebody in the US Security Heirarchy? Whoever it is may have faked the original Anonymous 'communique', then contacted Phelps offering to 'fix' the problem, most likely under a false identity. Yes, it sounds like a bad spy novel, but then, real-life 'black ops' rarely resemble GOOD spy novels.

Or much of this may be a rift within an organization that has no formal organization... if supposedly sophisticated orgs can so often have one hand not know what another is doing, why SHOULD Anonymous not have the same problem? Even the second communique is, by its own declaration, the work of about 20 "members" of a how-many-thousand "member" informally connected group?

But as ryanrs and others have pointed out, there is no way to discredit Phelps when he has no credibility (and no shame).

Still, there are a lot more chapters yet to be written in this bad spy novel. I look forward to reading condensed summaries of them.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:40 AM on February 21, 2011


Is Anonymous letter to Westboro Baptist Church fact or fiction?
posted by ericb at 4:28 AM on February 21, 2011


or the work of a bored CCN staffer? without the media attention, Fred would be just another unknown wacko heading up his minuscule gaggle of philosophically inbred yokels, virtually all of whom are his own descendants. Not so long ago, his website was perceived as being either a timecube.com with a nasty bent, or a semi-clever parody of religion.

we have television to thank for the "Westboro Baptist Church". and the army of barely literate droolbags who slurp up its daily vomit.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 5:21 AM on February 21, 2011


telstar: He is representative of large swaths of US Christianity.

Those of you bagging this might want to have another look at US "Christianity" and at telstar's comment. The claim "the theology of predestination ... has become a green light to hatred and cruelty" is hardly a radical one.

That's not to say all Protestants are bigots of course or even that a belief in predestination predisposes one to bigotry. It is pretty innocuous though to note that many bigots use Protestant theology to justify their bigotry. (And of course other theologies are used as well).
posted by GeckoDundee at 6:00 AM on February 21, 2011


Anonymous is a very loose organization with no figureheads and ostensibly no "leaders". Sure, there are people who are more tech savvy and who might manage the avenues of communications (E.G.: their IRC channel, some of their websites or twitter feeds) but when it comes right down to it, anyone with an internet connection can stand up and say "Anonymous is now going to attempt to cease production of kumquats in Tierra del Fuego," and saying it makes it essentially true. There are actions going on in other countries around the world under the mantle of "Anonymous" that I can guarantee you the primary organizers of these communication channels in the United States have no idea about.

If I had to make a guess, I'd bet that someone within Anon. decided to write the press release and posted it. The elders of anon, realizing this might be a bad idea, and a distraction from their relatively new, anarchic strain of social activism, decided to respond initially by saying "This stinks, but if you're going to do it, do it right." and then followed that up by saying "The WBC is attempting to engage in some subterfuge here. We're not going to give them the time of day." Honestly, I think that's about the smartest tack they could have taken.

There is nothing worthwhile or platform advancing (for anonymous) in attacking the WBC, because as many people have mentioned upthread, there's not a lot there. The WBC is wholly an invention of the media, that would have been ignored were it not for the national attention they've gotten for their protestaculars at the funerals of dead soldiers.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 7:25 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the second press release is even more problematic, image-wise, than the first. If Anonymous is truly leader-less, then a declared attack on the WBC is as valid as a declared attack on anyone else. Unless there's more convincing proof, I think it's unlikely that this is a false flag attempt by the WBC.
posted by muddgirl at 7:36 AM on February 21, 2011


I had a fun counterprotest idea for the WBC when they were going to come to Tucson after the Giffords shooting..

My buddy and I were going to set up a booth selling "GOD HATES FAGS" signs, except make them *really* nice...great design, hand painted letters etc. so the WBC looked like a bunch of cheap asses.

Then our buddy was going to come set up another booth with hate signs across from us.

We would then get in a price war/shouting match until a third friend showed up with HIS signs...

Then when a reporter asked me what's going on I'd say how I moved to Tucson to get into the hate sign business, but the market was getting saturated and I hear these assholes at the WBC brought their own and why weren't they supporting the local hate sign market?

Then I'd start making ennui signs.
posted by chronkite at 8:26 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I had a fun counterprotest idea for the WBC...

I think a quote from the Farrelly Brothers is instructive here:
Mental: Briefcase ain't here, they must've taken it with them.
J.P. Shay: Well, he's gotta come home sometime.
Mental: Maybe we should trash the place, send them a little message.
J.P. Shay: [looks around] I don't think he's gonna get that message, Joe. I mean, the guy's got worms in his living room.
posted by rhizome at 9:22 AM on February 21, 2011


I don't think it actually was a false flag operation. I think some misguided person thought WBC would be a perfect target, but then arguments of the sort Malor has been throwing out there must have caught on with the core nucleus of Anonymous.

If Anonymous is truly leader-less, then a declared attack on the WBC is as valid as a declared attack on anyone else.

What's funny is that, even though Anonymous is leaderless and anyone can "join" at any time, an action isn't an Anonymous action unless other members of Anonymous play along. Since WBC does not appear to have been hit by anything significant, it's safe to say that this mission was "annulled."
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:24 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, I get what you're saying, Sticherbeast, but I think this whole thing reveals a real 'flaw' in the structure that Anonymous is trying to create:
So we've been hearing a lot about some letter that we supposedly sent you this morning. Problem is, we're a bit groggy and don't remember sending it.
Clearly someone wrote that memo - someone in Anonymous, according to Anonymous' own definition. How can they claim that no one speaks for Anonymous when it's clear that some people DO speak for Anonymous? How can they claim that they have no leaders when it's clear that some people's opinions hold more weight than others?

Of course, some say,
We know that YOU in fact posted the Open Letter supposedly from Anonymous.
this would be easy to verify if true. But it sounds more like rumor to me.
posted by muddgirl at 9:31 AM on February 21, 2011


I agree that they're mistaken that no one can "speak" for Anonymous, but this idea is inextricable from how Anonymous itself is a gestalt. "Speaking" for Anonymous gets you nowhere unless a critical mass of Anonymous agrees with you.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:34 AM on February 21, 2011


...which means that the leaders of Anonymous are those who can best raise support for their pet projects? Which is different from any other organization how?
posted by muddgirl at 9:36 AM on February 21, 2011


I'm not sure what you're asking, muddgirl. Anonymous is not some revolutionarily structured anarchist organization, but it does lack official leadership. You have a core nucleus of people with similar goals and willingness to commit certain acts. Certain ideas fit into the gestalt and other ideas don't. Ideas go in and out of fashion with the group.

IMHO, it's more like an online subculture than anything else.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:40 AM on February 21, 2011


I'm not really asking anything I guess... just trying to figure out how the self-perception of Anonymous is reflected in their philosophical presentation to the world vs. their actual organization and effects. I think this case in particular is very illuminating.
posted by muddgirl at 9:55 AM on February 21, 2011


I was told there would be cake.

Actually, you have a choice: Cake or Death.
posted by ericb at 10:01 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had a fun counterprotest idea for the WBC when they were going to come to Tucson after the Giffords shooting..

My buddy and I were going to set up a booth selling "GOD HATES FAGS" signs, except make them *really* nice...great design, hand painted letters etc. so the WBC looked like a bunch of cheap asses.

Then our buddy was going to come set up another booth with hate signs across from us.

We would then get in a price war/shouting match until a third friend showed up with HIS signs...
That doesn't sound like much of a counterprotest. More like a counter-performance art that no one gets.
posted by delmoi at 1:00 PM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


"It's the assholympics"
-my pal Chisa

Sorry I called it a counterprotest, but I think anyone who has a half a brain would "get it".

Fight ridiculousness with more ridiculousness, from an angle absolutely no one expects or can defend against.

Anyway, we didn't have to do it because Arizona shut Phelps down like Walter Peck shut down the containment unit in Ghostbusters.
posted by chronkite at 5:32 PM on February 21, 2011


>>Therein lies Phelps' secret power. He is representative of large swaths of US Christianity.

>What? No he isn't. At all. If you actually believe that, you must not know much about US Christianity.


I am a confirmed Lutheran from a US red state. Now very, very ex. I sure wish I knew less about US Christianity.
posted by telstar at 7:41 PM on February 21, 2011


It would be pretty hard to make more profession signs than the WBC. They aren't like your average Tea Party person with a misspelled sign. Theirs are professionally printed. The design may suck, but it's not like better design singes would make them look like amateur haters.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:22 PM on February 21, 2011


I hope this is the right thread on anon, because I was musing upon this today at work taht the two concepts don't go together - you can either be anon or you can have an overweening ego. Together they don't kinda work.
posted by infini at 9:39 AM on February 22, 2011


LURK MOAR NEWFAGS

No seriously, when you aren't at work, head over to 4chan.org/b/. scan through some threads. Maybe post something, or don't. Congratulations, you are a member of "Anonymous". Sometimes the assholes posting gore and lolcats get bored and decide to fuck with people. Maybe you will join them.

That's all it is.

Keep that in mind next time you discuss "anonymous" as a group, or entity, or laughably discuss their "core leadership"
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:33 AM on February 22, 2011


> That's all it is. Keep that in mind next time you discuss "anonymous" as a group, or entity, or laughably discuss their "core leadership"

That's really an oversimplification, though. The average user that posts anime pr0n or whatever is probably not of the the same core group that develops the LOIC and other DDoS tools. That's not to say there isn't an overlap, and that the l337 haxx0r5 aren't also heavy into pr0n, but it's still an oversimplification.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:37 AM on February 22, 2011


Congratulations, you are a member of "Anonymous"

Well, yeah, that's what they say. Except when someone isn't. That's what I'm trying to tease out in this thread, so if you have something to contribute as to why whomever posted the first memo isn't a member of "Anonymous", I'd be glad to hear your expert opinion.

Keep that in mind next time you discuss "anonymous" as a group, or entity, or laughably discuss their "core leadership"

Yeah, again, this is what I refer to as the "self-perception" of some people who identify as Anonymous, and also it is part of their presentation to the media, but when it comes down to their specific actions and their specific mission statements, they contradict the notion that no one speaks for Anonymous (because clearly the first memo was issued by someone who "doesn't speak for Anonymous", while the second memo was issued by "people who speak for Anonymous". It's hard to get to the bottom of what Anonymous actually means when any sort of discussion about them is dismissed with "We are all Anonymous, get over it!" Because it's evasive and clearly not true.
posted by muddgirl at 10:37 AM on February 22, 2011


Well, I don't know what else to tell you.

If you find the TRUE face of anonymous, the one that runs counter to apparently every description of it given to you thus far, I look forward to reading about it.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:48 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Think of Anonymous as a subculture or a tribe. Does anyone speak for all punks or all Jews? Are there trends that get adopted by these groups or rejected by these groups? Are there divisions within these groups? Are there common threads through these groups' behavior? Does the fact that there is no central "punk" leadership mean that "punk" means literally nothing at all?
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:52 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I never said that Anonymous means nothing at all. If we think of Anonymous as a subculture then how can the following be true:
No seriously, when you aren't at work, head over to 4chan.org/b/. scan through some threads. Maybe post something, or don't. Congratulations, you are a member of "Anonymous"
I don't become a punk by merely visiting a punk club. I don't become a christian by attending a church.

I think this is the crux of my issue - it's clear that Anonymous differentiates an ingroup from an outgroup, yet they claim that they don't, and they market themselves heavily on the idea that they don't. I'm fascinated by this dichotomy, but maybe I'm the only one.
posted by muddgirl at 11:59 AM on February 22, 2011


same core group that develops the LOIC and other DDoS tools.

so if you have something to contribute as to why whomever posted the first memo isn't a member of "Anonymous",

Just because a member of Anon proposes an op doesn't mean that the bulk of them are going to act on it. Stitcherbeast nailed it when he called it a gestalt. Anonymous is just the predominant opinion in a few backwater IRC channels at any given time. Technically adept users—as well as users experienced in other raids—are easy to recognize and are usually listened to more closely than obvious n00bs.

This self-policing structure is what mostly keeps the new guys out of trouble until they get the hang of it. Older Anons recognized that this was either a trap or a seriously stupid idea, and offered the new guys some tactics that are less likely to get you vanned.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2011


Gah, I messed up. Was supposed to start with:

same core group that develops the LOIC and other DDoS tools.

Those are old pentest tools that got some hivemind code cobbled on by skiddies. I don't think the guys who put them together are around anymore.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 12:04 PM on February 22, 2011


I find it interesting as well, but I don't think it's quite so mysterious. Just as showing up to one punk show doesn't make you a punk, although many outsiders would think you were one if you had a mohawk and a DK jacket, sending out one email missive in the name of Anonymous doesn't make you "really" Anonymous, because doing so is not automatically recognized by the rest of Anonymous. This is actually very similar to behavior amongst punks and Christians, because there are all kinds of easy ways to superficially mark yourself as belonging to these groups - cut your hair a certain way, dress a certain way, perform certain rituals - but you would not necessarily be recognized as such by those actually in the group.

What makes Anonymous different is that it was born out of a certain internet protocol - anonymous image boards - where no one has any identity by design. There has also been a bit of media give-and-take with the birth of Anonymous. Some anons have bought into the idea that Anonymous can be a force for social change, but others think it should revolve more around stupid pictures and guro threads.

So, a division develops between those factions, with the social change Anons - the "moralfags" - developing their own sub-subculture, and even then there's a division between those who want Anonymous to fight against Evil and those who are just in it for the lulz.

Since not everyone has equal skills when it comes to organization and tech ability, a core nucleus of Anonymous develops, even though there's a rotating roster and the structure is informal. Also, the media is all-too-eager to oversimplify Anonymous into being a "hacker organization," even though membership is fluid and probably only a minority of anons are really "hackers" in any real sense. Still, there are shared cultural norms, even though these have evolved over time. There's also still quite a bit of interplay between 4chan and what we call "the hacker group Anonymous," even though the latter categorization is a bit manufactured.

I disagree that Anonymous claims there is no difference between the in-group or the out-group. There is an extremely strong tacit assumption that members of Anonymous are steeped in their culture and share their goals. The door's open for any good faith members. While I doubt the first memo was a honeypot by the WBC, the argument makes sense that a memo intended to cause trouble for Anonymous, tricking them into a dangerous situation, wouldn't "really" be Anonymous. Either way, the gestalt has turned against the first memo, so there probably never will be an attack on WBC from Anonymous, at least not in the near future.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:22 PM on February 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


4chan

Don't forget all the other chans. Back in the day it was all about 711chan /i/. That's where the good shit happened.

I just started a sentence with "back in the day".

FML.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 12:28 PM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


David Pakman Show: Shirley Phelps-Roper Admits Fred Physically Abused His Kids
Shirley Phelps-Roper indicated today in an interview with David Pakman of The David Pakman Show that the Westboro Baptist Church has been targeted by Anonymous, the group alleged to have taken down Mastercard and other websites in response to their handling of Wikileaks in recent months. The authenticity is being called into question, and some have denied that anyone representing Anonymous ever issued the letter which circulated over the last few days.

During the interview, Phelps-Roper said that she is not afraid of Anonymous, and denied the claims made by Pakman that the church's website has already been down all day. Phelps-Roper also likened Anonymous to "the Pharaoh of Egypt," adding that "God...already has punished and will punish...Anonymous."

When confronted by Pakman with claims made by her estranged brother Nathan Phelps during a previous interview with Pakman that her father, Fred Phelps, physically abused his children, and that physical abuse is prevalent in the Westboro Baptist Church, Phelps-Roper indicated that hitting children is part of "teaching children exactly like their creator told them to do it," causing Pakman to ask later in the interview whether police involvement was appropriate.

In addition to making ad hominem attacks on David Pakman and Phelps-Roper's estranged brother, Nathan Phelps during the interview, she also added that her newest granddaughter, expected to be born today, February 21, 2011, would start being taught the ways of the church, including their anti-gay views, as soon as next Sunday.
posted by ericb at 4:58 PM on February 22, 2011


Greetings Westboro Baptist Church,

If you're reading this, it means that Anonymous has lost its patience with you, likely because you've threatened us again after we denied you a war.

posted by nasreddin at 10:10 AM on February 24, 2011


I'm disappointed that some anons fell for the bait, although I'm sure whoever did the dirty work was hiding behind seven proxies.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:23 AM on February 24, 2011


Anonymous Hacks Church Web Site During Live Interview -- "The Anonymous hacking collective this morning defaced the Web site of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in the middle of a live radio show that included a church spokeswoman and a member of Anonymous."
posted by ericb at 2:37 PM on February 24, 2011


Why would you warn the enemy that you're coming?

I dunno, worked like a charm for Bruce Willis in those Diehard movies.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:10 PM on February 26, 2011


whoops. wrong Anonymous thread for my above comment...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:13 PM on February 26, 2011


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