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KKK vs. WBC
May 30, 2011 5:28 PM   Subscribe

"Protesting members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church were met with an unlikely group of counter-protesters Monday at Arlington Cemetery...a branch of the Ku Klux Klan from Virginia called the Knights of the Southern Cross"

A little googling shows that these two hate groups actually have a history of, well, hating each other. And the Tea Party.
posted by 445supermag (125 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Brian: Excuse me. Are you the Judean People's Front?
Reg: Fuck off! We're the People's Front of Judea!
posted by jaduncan at 5:30 PM on May 30, 2011 [53 favorites]


Scorpions in a jar! Wait, is that unfair to scorpions?
posted by bearwife at 5:40 PM on May 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


both groups are correct in their accusations, NOT 100% accurate, but like 25% correct, being on the inside of a motivated group makes looking from the outside completely blocked. By not joining either group, one can criticize both groups and give a objective view.
posted by taxpayer at 5:44 PM on May 30, 2011


Different hate groups that hate everyone that is different than their membership hate each-other? That doesn't make either one at all more okay.
posted by jeffamaphone at 5:45 PM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


/Prays for meteorite strike.
posted by Artw at 5:45 PM on May 30, 2011 [25 favorites]


They're both assholes. And that's the best thing I can say about either of them.
posted by rtha at 5:46 PM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I just want to know how I too can spend most of my life protesting various events. How do those folks from the Westboro Baptist Church do it? Don't they have jobs? Did they get a grant from Satan or something?
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:46 PM on May 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


So can we finally conclude that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" is one of the biggest lies ever turned into a cliche?
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:48 PM on May 30, 2011 [21 favorites]


Westboro Baptists hate people like this, Knights of the Southern Cross hate those same people like this.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:48 PM on May 30, 2011 [22 favorites]


I just want to know how I too can spend most of my life protesting various events. How do those folks from the Westboro Baptist Church do it?

In all seriousness, a lot of WBC income comes from civil settlements regarding people infringing their right to protest. Some people have wondered if it's essentially a bunch of professional litigants with a good shtick for generating potential claims.
posted by jaduncan at 5:51 PM on May 30, 2011 [21 favorites]


posted by rtha 3 minutes ago [+]
I just want to know how I too can spend most of my life protesting various events. How do those folks from the Westboro Baptist Church do it? Don't they have jobs? Did they get a grant from Satan or something?


As I understand it the whole thing is a huge moneymaking scam where they enrage people into doing things that they can sue them for. They probably get a ton of goverment money/tax breaks too for being religious.
posted by Artw at 5:52 PM on May 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wish we'd stop giving the WBC publicity.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 5:53 PM on May 30, 2011 [29 favorites]


wtf, this is like fighting cancer with herpes.
posted by elizardbits at 5:54 PM on May 30, 2011 [34 favorites]


Satanic Grants:

All are eligible. Everyone that applies is approved. Cost of application just one drop of human compassion (you won't even miss it).*


*Grants are worth exactly $6.66. Apply as often as you need to.
posted by oddman at 5:54 PM on May 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


I hear the Jefferson Memorial is accepting protestors, they should head over there and terrorize the tourists.
posted by stbalbach at 5:55 PM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Perhaps this is the sign of the apocalypse?
posted by Leezie at 5:57 PM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Haha!

<spoilers> It's kind of like how Sons of Anarchy is about a violent biker gang trafficking in guns - how do you write an antagonist for this group who are even less sympathetic and aren't a cliche, like another gang or the popo?

White Supremacists, of course! When you've run out of "bad guys," just use Nazis!
posted by porpoise at 5:57 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the article: LaBonte insisted he is not a racist nor a "hate-monger," but said he believes the white race is "slowly and most assuredly being denigrated."

Denigrated?

He formed a branch of the KKK because he believes the white race is being bad-mouthed? Slowly and most assuredly, no less. What's their rallying cry? "Hurry up and pull those sheets out of the dryer! We're being besmirched!"

What an idiot.
posted by amyms at 6:02 PM on May 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


I wish we'd stop giving the WBC publicity.

I wish we would give them more.
I wish we would shine the light of exposure and accountability so brightly on their ill begotten selves that they dry up and blow away like ashes after cremation.

...seconds vote for meteor strike. Or at least a 50 foot giant kid with giant sized magnifying glass
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:02 PM on May 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


wtf, this is like fighting cancer with herpes.

Cancer = Crab
Herpes = Snake

YouTube to the rescue!
posted by Sys Rq at 6:02 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the enemy of my enemy is my friend I think I need to stop having enemies and friends altogether.
posted by tommasz at 6:03 PM on May 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Denigrated?

Forget for a moment what that word means and take a good, long look at it. Now imagine what a white supremacist who does not know what that word means might imagine it to mean.

Racists are racist.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:07 PM on May 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Did they get a grant from Satan or something?

For an instant, I pictured this whole Westboro Baptist thing was actually funded by a top secret, black project wing of the NEA back in the 80s, designed as a performance art piece to test the limits of the 1st Amendment via ultra conservatism rather than with, say more traditional left-leaning public art that challenges contemporary mores. Like some devious, hidden, art-centered Illuminati.

If only it were that simple. We just get stuck with a bunch of bigots with signs, a couple of buses, on too much free time. Dammit reality, be more creative!
posted by chambers at 6:13 PM on May 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


I wish we would shine the light of exposure and accountability so brightly on their ill begotten selves that they dry up and blow away like ashes after cremation.

You don't really understand how this works, do you?
posted by ixohoxi at 6:13 PM on May 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wtf - the KKK is still allowed to exist? How a "forward thinking" state like America can allow this is beyond me. But what do I know; I only come from a country that had a racial revolution fifteen years ago and... Jesus. H. on a bucket.
posted by New England Cultist at 6:14 PM on May 30, 2011


So what am I missing ??
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:14 PM on May 30, 2011


If the enemy of my enemy is my friend I think I need to stop having enemies and friends altogether.

"The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy. No more. No less."
posted by amyms at 6:17 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Forget for a moment what that word means and take a good, long look at it. Now imagine what a white supremacist who does not know what that word means might imagine it to mean.

Racists are racist.


Sys Rq, I think even racists can use a dictionary.
posted by jaduncan at 6:18 PM on May 30, 2011


Sys Rq, I think even racists can use a dictionary.

Well, yeah, but it does other things besides holding doors open.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:21 PM on May 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


Denigrated?

Forget for a moment what that word means and take a good, long look at it. Now imagine what a white supremacist who does not know what that word means might imagine it to mean.


When I do that, I can't help but think racists would be all for it. I mean, it's like the opposite of getting supernigrated, or just plain reverses the regular nigration process.
posted by Shepherd at 6:23 PM on May 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


This meeting teaches me that all war is not bad. And that we should arm these groups when they meet each other. For self-defense only.

Can we get some other groups up in here?
posted by hal_c_on at 6:23 PM on May 30, 2011


Wtf - the KKK is still allowed to exist? How a "forward thinking" state like America can allow this is beyond me. But what do I know; I only come from a country that had a racial revolution fifteen years ago and... Jesus. H. on a bucket.

Allow it? Well, for better or worse, America believes very strongly in - or, if you prefer, fetishizes - free speech. They're allowed to exist because the idea of forbidding an organization purely on the grounds that we dislike what it has to say is repugnant, and blatantly unconstitutional. It's illegal to lynch a man; to destroy a woman's home because of her race; to do things that are, well, harming someone. Just spouting racist nonsense? Entirely permissible. And I like it that way; forbidding speech sends a signal that there's something worth banning, something that might be worthwhile to dig out and listen to. Let the KKK exist. Let no man stand in the way of their absurdity and hate and silly bigotry. To deny them speech is to give them power; I'd rather say to everyone else "Okay, you've heard what they have to say; we have forbidden none of it; we have prohibited not one word. Pretty fuckin' bad, right? Okay, my place for beer and burgers."
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:24 PM on May 30, 2011 [17 favorites]


Wtf - the KKK is still allowed to exist?

First Amendment to the United States Constitution
posted by nathancaswell at 6:26 PM on May 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wtf - the KKK is still allowed to exist? How a "forward thinking" state like America can allow this is beyond me.

In a free country, you're entitled to hold any opinion you want, even toxic and malevolent ones. None of the rest of us have any business intervening unless and until those opinions are translated into concrete action of some kind.

The freedom to live how you want and hold what opinions you want is what holds a gigantic country like this one together; the more regimented and authoritarian the central authority becomes, the less likely it is that this vast population will stay united. The continued liberal/conservative tension in the country really boils down to both sides wanting to impose their views and lifestyles on the other.

And, from a slightly different angle, punishing people for having opinions you don't like is creating thoughtcrime.
posted by Malor at 6:26 PM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wtf - the KKK is still allowed to exist? How a "forward thinking" state like America can allow this is beyond me.

We may be thinking of different Americas.
posted by entropone at 6:30 PM on May 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wtf - the KKK is still allowed to exist? How a "forward thinking" state like America can allow this is beyond me. But what do I know; I only come from a country that had a racial revolution fifteen years ago and... Jesus. H. on a bucket.

Here we believe that even the assholes should have freedom of speech, lest their bile become forbidden fruit for other would-be assholes. Not prohibiting their speech seems to work against them better than prohibiting it would.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:32 PM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, for crying out loud.

See? Every time people try to catch Jake and Elwood, something's going to go wrong.

You'd think these people would've figured it out by now.
posted by droplet at 6:39 PM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


The KKK aren't allowed to actually lynch anyone anymore, so they bait people instead. But the WBC got all the good lawyers.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:39 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wtf - the KKK is still allowed to exist?

James Madison wrote in 1785 a very good piece on this, although this particular one is about religious support by the state, it has many good points about the problems and slippery slope that apply to forbidding organizations that hold views contrary to the majority or the population.

Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments

Besides, just banning them will not make them go away. Organizations like the KKK flourish in secrecy, allowing a feeling of victimhood to help recruitment.

And strange as it sounds, Superman had a big hand in dwindling the ranks back in the 40s. Bring it out into the open, and their power dwindles.
posted by chambers at 6:42 PM on May 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


"wtf, this is like fighting cancer with herpes."

Hey! That is a perfectly viable treatment strategy!
posted by Blasdelb at 6:42 PM on May 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


How a "forward thinking" state like America can allow this is beyond me.

This is the price of freedom. It only sucks until you're the one the majority doesn't like.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:54 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


In fairness, the free speech argument only applies to the Ku Klux Klan in its most recent history. Prior to that, it's arguable they ranged from a criminal conspiracy to an outright terrorist organization. Any member could - or should - have been arrested during those periods. We all know why they weren't.
posted by Jehan at 6:55 PM on May 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


To deny them speech is to give them power; I'd rather say to everyone else "Okay, you've heard what they have to say; we have forbidden none of it; we have prohibited not one word. Pretty fuckin' bad, right? Okay, my place for beer and burgers."

Yum
posted by America at 6:58 PM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


The idea of the KKK going head to head with the WBC reminds me of this.

And to those of you who wonder how the WBC can afford to spend their time protesting, the WBC is not really a church. It's a very large dysfunctional family headed up by a horrible, controlling man, Fred Phelps. I would think those who protest either take turns doing so part-time, or, if it's a full-time job, are supported financially by other members of the family.

I wish there was a way to take away the tax exempt status of the WBC. If there were I'm sure it would have been done by now. Laws have been enacted to force them to behave better at funerals, i.e., they are limited as to how close they can get to the actual funeral. Everyone hates them and would like to see them disbanded. I think our best hope is that once the monstrous Fred Phelps, who is well along in his eighties, kicks the bucket the family will soon splinter and stop protesting.
posted by orange swan at 7:05 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


"wtf, this is like fighting cancer with herpes."
Hey! That is a perfectly viable treatment strategy!
Yeah I was going to say. It's actually something that's been experimented with, using modified herpes virus to attack cancer cells.
posted by delmoi at 7:07 PM on May 30, 2011


Wtf - the KKK is still allowed to exist? How a "forward thinking" state like America can allow this is beyond me.

Understand that Americans on the whole are offended by the very idea of the state suppressing any kind of speech or association, no matter how awful. Our largest civil rights organization has defended neo-nazis in court and fought legislation meant to ban the Phelps gang from protesting within 300 feet of a soldier's funeral.

More than once I've heard or read people from other liberal democracies talk about how backward we are for allowing hate groups to speak and march. Is there really a prevailing attitude in the rest of the world that we should respond with censorship instead?
posted by abcde at 7:09 PM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


"That's a fag church? Really? Back home we call them queer churches, it's just more politically correct." Redstate Update meets WBC (and Dunlap tries to get a date with one of the WBC women).
posted by 445supermag at 7:10 PM on May 30, 2011


I was going to suggest that they are experimenting treatments with rabies, but it didn't seem like we needed any more crazy in here.
posted by maryr at 7:11 PM on May 30, 2011


"(and Dunlap tries to get a date with one of the WBC women)."

and sexual harassment stays wrong and disgusting, especially when used as a political weapon
posted by Blasdelb at 7:17 PM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


In a free country, you're entitled to hold any opinion you want, even toxic and malevolent ones. None of the rest of us have any business intervening unless and until those opinions are translated into concrete action of some kind.

No, that's completely wrong. We are entitled to counter-protest, to educate and otherwise peacefully oppose those we disagree with. What we have no business doing is using government as our vehicle of intervention.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:24 PM on May 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


Whoever Wins, We Lose
posted by brundlefly at 7:26 PM on May 30, 2011


Whoever Wins, We Lose

But if they both merge somehow, perhaps they will create an organization that hates itself so much, it will just stay home and protest itself. An Ouroboros of hate, if you will.
posted by chambers at 7:30 PM on May 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Is there really a prevailing attitude in the rest of the world that we should respond with censorship instead?"

As a general rule, most continental (European) democracies justified free speech/religion/assembly as a way of creating a more peaceful and harmonious society where people weren't killing each other over such things, and provided other benefits to the state and its citizens.

Anglo-American democracies, on the other hand, justified (and continue to justify) it as a good in and of itself not as an instrumental good that serves another good end. It IS the good end. As John Milton wrote in Areopagitica, which influenced many later thinkers on the topic of the "First Amendment" freedoms (speech, press, assembly, religious exercise): "Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter."

Milton was trying to convince Parliament that letting people publish whatever they wanted, specifically including minority religious opinions (though not all of them, Catholics were right out), actually made God happy and was therefore a good thing in and of itself. God wanted people to seek truth; people could best do that without censors shutting down dissent and running the risk of silencing, accidentally or through malice, someone speaking an unpopular truth. Like, you know, Jesus or someone.

Next can we fight syphilis with malaria?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:32 PM on May 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


Can we just reiterate that, unlike the KKK, the WBC is very likely not even a sincere hate group, but a moneymaking scam trolling for lawsuits, trying to bait people into attacking them in ways they can sue them for.
posted by straight at 7:42 PM on May 30, 2011


First Amendment to the United States Constitution

So, in effect, using free speech to defend a movement based on hate. Nice. You don't have to actually lynch someone for an ideology to take root.
posted by New England Cultist at 7:42 PM on May 30, 2011


What made you think they were supposed to like each other? Was it because both the KKK and WBC are right-wing extremists and measurably vile? On what grounds should that be sufficient for them to find harmony with each other?
posted by at by at 7:43 PM on May 30, 2011


So, in effect, using free speech to defend a movement based on hate. Nice. You don't have to actually lynch someone for an ideology to take root.


? It's the constitution, you don't like it, amend that shit. That's the way the motherfucker works.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:50 PM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Could a typical young WBC member, armed only with a knife, (say, six or eight inches long) be trained to consistently "win" fights with a KKK opponent? Assume no element of surprise.
posted by stbalbach at 7:59 PM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


? It's the constitution, you don't like it, amend that shit. That's the way the motherfucker works.


Does the fact that it hasn't been amended to maybe exclude those who propagate hate speech mean something? Thanks for the invite though; lucky for me, my country's constitution already frowns upon that sort of thing.
posted by New England Cultist at 8:00 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, in effect, using free speech to defend a movement based on hate. Nice. You don't have to actually lynch someone for an ideology to take root.

Very myopic view of the situation. It protects abhorrent speech in exactly the same way it protects the speech of other unpopular minorities, to say nothing of critics of the government.

When the government gets to decide what constitutes hate speech, who's to say they're going to make those decisions fairly or correctly? I'd rather have my government protect speech I dislike, personally. But, hey, your government also protects you from the corrupting influence of violent video games. I'm sure you have no problem with that since you're so eager to have elected officials telling you what you are and aren't allowed to see or hear.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 8:10 PM on May 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


So, in effect, using free speech to defend a movement based on hate.

No one here is defending WBC or the KKK. Defending free speech is not the same thing as endorsing the content of the speech, nor does it indicate approval of the person who's speaking.

It's morally and emotionally painful to defend free speech when the speaker is saying something vile, but if we start telling people they can't say "God hates fags" then how much longer will it be until I can't say "I hate war" or "Sarah Palin is an idiot" or "I just discovered that my mayor is embezzling from the city"?

It's slippery, but we have to defend the slope for everybody, not just the people we agree with.
posted by amyms at 8:13 PM on May 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


Thanks for the invite though; lucky for me, my country's constitution already frowns upon that sort of thing.


You win 5 internets
posted by nathancaswell at 8:13 PM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd rather have my government protect speech I dislike...

We then seem to be in the same boat then... wait, South Africa protects me from video games? Trust me, they have better things to do.
posted by New England Cultist at 8:14 PM on May 30, 2011


As a member of a minority group that wasn't discussed about much growing up due to the majority of society's wishes, I'll defend the first amendment rights of these two groups of assholes all night long.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:17 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your profile says you're in NZ, which has a habit of banning the sale of "objectionable" games outright. That's the kind of gov't "protection" I can do without. Same goes for hate speech laws.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 8:18 PM on May 30, 2011


Your profile says you're in NZ

Assuming much? Yes, I am IN New Zealand.
posted by New England Cultist at 8:21 PM on May 30, 2011


you're in NZ, which has a habit of banning the sale of "objectionable" games outright

Do you mean the one they banned in 2003 that encourages players to kill anyone in sight in the most gruesome way possible? Manhunt? Yea, we'll take responsibility for that. Natch.
posted by New England Cultist at 8:24 PM on May 30, 2011


Meanwhile, a group of free-speech advocates were arrested by the US Park Police at the Jefferson Memorial for silently dancing.
posted by schmod at 8:25 PM on May 30, 2011


But not for anything they said.
posted by maryr at 8:28 PM on May 30, 2011


A little googling shows that these two hate groups actually have a history of, well, hating each other.

Haters gonna hate.

lucky for me, my country's constitution already frowns upon that sort of thing.

Lucky for you then, that you needn't sully your fine sensibilities in the US any longer than you must.

(I mean, really, dude, listen to yourself. You sound like the archtypal "ugly American," always happy to tell the natives what they're doing wrong. You think hate groups should be legally prohibited? Fine. Maybe you have a point. Maybe someone in another country is wrong. But that's not the way we do things. And that attitude is gonna get you exactly as far as it gets a bitchy American in Auckland. You don't care? Well, that's fine, too. Have fun. Knock yerself out.)
posted by octobersurprise at 8:40 PM on May 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Everyone believes they have enlightened views and live in modern times, and yet, very little time has to pass before many popular views become abhorrent. Even though we'd like to believe we've got a good handle on right and wrong, history will no doubt show that we have drawn the line in the wrong place.
posted by 445supermag at 8:43 PM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lucky for you then, that you needn't sully your fine sensibilities in the US any longer than you must.

Dude, I'm far from enlightened. I'm saying that I'm surprised that, since the US Constitution's inception, certain notions have seemingly not been considered in light of the fact that time goes by and things change.

South Africa had a revolution, and in the space of 15 years - my god, how things have changed. The country is by no means perfect. Poverty and corruption abounds, but the country is actively participating in a discourse with its past, present and future. I am simply surprised that this is not happening in more countries. But you are right. Maybe I am wrong.
posted by New England Cultist at 8:50 PM on May 30, 2011


There is a discourse in the U.S., and the consensus is the state shouldn't be allowed to tell us what thoughts we can communicate. Period.
posted by abcde at 9:09 PM on May 30, 2011


There is a discourse in the U.S., and the consensus is the state shouldn't be allowed to tell us what thoughts we can communicate. Period.

As long as those thoughts are not libel, slander, threats to the president, fighting words, etc etc... Though, obviously, the US exceptions are exceptional.
posted by pompomtom at 9:20 PM on May 30, 2011


...the consensus is the state shouldn't be allowed to tell us what thoughts we can communicate. Period.

But they do?
posted by New England Cultist at 9:24 PM on May 30, 2011


Sys Rq, I think even racists can use a dictionary.

I believe most racists weren't comfortable having one in the house after that show with Emmanuel Lewis got so popular.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:26 PM on May 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Free speech is subject that I think people from either side of the Have It/Limit It debate just will never really be able to see from other people's point of view. I read about things that happen in England all the time and I experience real confusion, because I tend to assume laws there are the same as here. And then I remember that they don't have any guarantee of free speech. (Or separation of Church and State, which is the other big one that trips me up.)

And likewise, people not raised American don't understand why we let the KKK have parades and shit. While to us Americans, the reasons are obvious.

For one thing, I think it's important to note that freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble, and freedom to petition the government for redress of wrongs, are all parts of the same Constitutional amendment. Americans therefore tend to take all these freedoms together. If you threaten one, you are, in a sense, threatening all of them. These are among the very basic principles of democratic and fair government, as we understand it.

While we are certainly willing to accept that certain forms of expression or certain opinions are bad, we're not willing to undermine our basic principles of government in order to prevent them.
posted by threeturtles at 9:29 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The first sign you saw coming up the metro escalator at 11am in Arlington today was held by a counter-protester standing in front of the WBC douchebags, and it said "Don't Feed the Animals." I think it held up remarkably well. Altho, for all the furor, the WBC scum were only there for a couple hours tops, as they had already completely pissed off when the heat picked up an hour or two later.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:32 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


And then I remember that they don't have any guarantee of free speech.

Actually, they do, just as the US does. The difference is that it's not expressed in a single sentence and then later limited by years of case-law.

The difference is simply where the line gets drawn. Appeals to this notion that the US has 'absolute' freedom of speech and other nations have something less are appeals made in ignorance.
posted by pompomtom at 9:33 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


And then I remember that they don't have any guarantee of free speech.

Er, yes they do. See above comment.

Or separation of Church and State, which is the other big one that trips me up.

There's separation of Church and State in US politics? Dear god...
posted by New England Cultist at 9:35 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kevin Smith (movie writer/director) caught the attention and ire of the Westboro Baptist Church. So he played to the publicity and invited them to see his new movie (Red State (once they were done protesting it)) and even offered them the stage to give a review afterwards. They accepted but it was too filthy for them and they left about 15 minutes in.

Unexpectedly two ex-church / disowned family members (Josh Phelps-Roper and Libby Phelps) had come on their own and stayed to the end. When Kevin caught wind of their presence he invited them up on stage and a compelling and revealing half hour interview (starts just after the 53 minute mark) about the inside workings of the Phelps clan, their thoughts on Star Wars, sex and the special brand of batshit bonkerness practiced, broke out.

The lawsuit thing is a canard.
posted by phoque at 9:36 PM on May 30, 2011 [13 favorites]


"Protesting members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church were met with an unlikely group of counter-protesters Monday at Arlington Cemetery...a branch of the Ku Klux Klan from Virginia called the Knights of the Southern Cross"

And then the spaceship nuked them from orbit. The end.
posted by jefbla at 10:02 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had written a really nasty comment about this. But then I took a couple of Vicodins for my recent tooth extraction. The tooth was a fucking brand new wisdom tooth that just decided to appear a few years ago. It was U shaped and essentially came in with a cavity already formed or something. The pain didn't really start until a few months ago. But it got really bad recently. The oral surgeon had to chip it out of my jaw in pieces.

After the painkillers and a few beers all I can think is that some things should be extracted and forgotten. But people aren't bad teeth. And unlike bad teeth, they have a right to cause excruciating pain to all those around them. OTOH I don't have to like it any more than dental surgery. Actually the combination of the KKK and the Phelps shitholes are very much like oral surgery.

It sucks and I wish it didn't have to exist. But it fucking does. And it will continue to happen. And that fucking sucks.

Shit that made no sense. Do teeth have a right to cause pain? I am so not makings sense now.
posted by Splunge at 10:26 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's separation of Church and State in US politics? Dear god...

I've been trying to decide how to respond to this, but I am honestly not sure if you are being intentionally thick, are trolling for lulz, or are shooting for some sort of worldly irony and missing. But at any rate I really don't get the impression that you're participating in the discussion in good faith. Despite that...

Suffice it to say that yes, there is separation of Church and State in the U.S., in the Enlightenment sense of not having an established church or in basing the legitimacy of government by asserting a divine right of a monarch. That doesn't mean that religious people can't engage in politics, because to forbid them from doing that — however offensive and/or crazy their religion might be — is believed to be worse than just letting them try.

In the sense that the system requires a certain amount of faith in the democratic process to separate, over time, useful ideas from toxic ones, it is somewhat similar to the free speech issue, but it is a complex topic on its own, as contentious issues involving the governing of hundreds of millions of people tend to be.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:55 PM on May 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


pompomtom: Man, I left myself wide open for that comeback. But I wasn't being clear. By analogy, consider if I said "people should be allowed to ingest whatever substances they want. Period." That means to say that the right to ingest substances should be a hard and fast rule, even with really harmful things like crack or heroin. Obviously in a strict sense there are exceptions: I'm not literally saying you should be allowed to ingest beer that you stole or ingest the second chemical in a binary explosive, or even, necessarily, poison. What I'm really talking about is the activities normally up for grabs in the debate about drug use.

For what it's worth, incidentally, I think most of things you listed should be legal or at least dramatically liberalized.
posted by abcde at 10:57 PM on May 30, 2011


Suffice it to say that yes, there is separation of Church and State in the U.S., in the Enlightenment sense of not having an established church or in basing the legitimacy of government by asserting a divine right of a monarch.

That's all good and well. But when a president decides to invade a country based on religious morals and ideals, what you basically have is a big FAIL.
posted by New England Cultist at 11:02 PM on May 30, 2011


abcde I'm sorry, you've completely lost me with your ingestion analogy.

The consensus in the US is that you should have freedom of speech, except for certain things.
The consensus in the many other countries is that you should have freedom of speech, except for certain things.

The difference is how those certain things are defined. The example I would think of immediately is that, as I understand it, the US's 'fighting words' includes Australia's 'incitement of racial hatred' - each of which are circumscribed.

I think your analogy is trying to say 'oh obviously, those things excluded in the US aren't part of the discussion', but I presume it can't be that simple.
posted by pompomtom at 11:08 PM on May 30, 2011


Getting back to the article, I think that people need to realize that there is no longer any such thing as "the" KKK; there are instead smaller groups which claim the label and may or may not work together.

Also, this quote from Fred Phelps's daughter is interesting:
"People like them say it's white power ... white supremacy," Phelps said. "The Bible doesn't say anywhere that it's an abomination to be born of a certain gender or race."
given her father's past as an (opportunist) "civil rights" attorney.

Also, though a non-believer, I don't think the state should prevent religion from influencing public opinion; this is a role any private entity can play, and it is different than being given privileged access to the levers of power through legal "rights" accorded to a specific sect.

New England Cultist, do you think Desmond Tutu should be able to influence public discourse in South Africa? Or would that be too much religious influence on government?
posted by dhens at 11:30 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


New England Cultist, do you think Desmond Tutu should be able to influence public discourse in South Africa? Or would that be too much religious influence on government?

Desmond Tutu does not incite violence against or condemn minority groups.
posted by New England Cultist at 11:39 PM on May 30, 2011


Desmond Tutu does not incite violence against or condemn minority groups.

I agree that the first of these should not be considered protected speech, but the second? What does it mean to "condemn" something? To say their religion frowns on something/someone? This, though distasteful to me, does not seem to merit government intervention.

What if the government in power decided that what Tutu was saying was somehow injurious to white people? Not that it is, of course, but when you allow the government to decide what is "good" and "bad" speech, you go down this road. What if your comments were construed as inciting hatred towards Americans? Surely we'd be justified in censoring them. Before you claim that this is ridiculous, remember that people in power may not think so, and if they are allowed to back up their conceptions of acceptable speech with the police and taxation powers of the state, we won't be able to argue about what is ridiculous or not!

I am surprised by the willingness to fall back on the state in order to enforce proper ideas. The revolution of which South Africa is so rightfully proud overturned a system which embraced such heinous practices, such as banning.
posted by dhens at 11:57 PM on May 30, 2011


one of the best speeches i've ever heard about the US's approach to free speech was in the movie "the american president"

"America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say, "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours." You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.

Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free."

posted by nadawi at 12:01 AM on May 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


I am simply surprised that this is not happening in more countries. But you are right. Maybe I am wrong.

I thought the whole thing about suppression of free speech in New Zealand was about the suppression of the continuing slow-motion genocide and oppression of the Maori. But I'll understand completely if you claim that it isn't happening. After all, you are limited to what your government will let you say.
posted by happyroach at 12:34 AM on May 31, 2011


...about the suppression of the continuing slow-motion genocide and oppression of the Maori. But I'll understand completely if you claim that it isn't happening. After all, you are limited to what your government will let you say.

Have you ever BEEN in New Zealand? Mate. And your sentence makes no sense whatsoever.
posted by New England Cultist at 12:41 AM on May 31, 2011


Are you confusing NZ with another country?
posted by New England Cultist at 12:42 AM on May 31, 2011


Congratulations on your successful scorched earth campaign to derail this thread, New England Cultist. Mission accomplished.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 2:41 AM on May 31, 2011


to sir with millipedes: I really was trying to make a point, not aiming to derail anything. Eh. If anything, it's a sign that certain societies still have trouble confronting their past.
posted by New England Cultist at 3:10 AM on May 31, 2011


If anything, it's a sign that certain societies still have trouble confronting their past.

Just like all the white South Africans who've fled emigrated since 94? Sure they supported the end of Apartheid just as long as they don't have to live there.
posted by 6550 at 3:23 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


In all seriousness, a lot of WBC income comes from civil settlements regarding people infringing their right to protest.

Can anyone with legal background back this up or walk me through how this works? I've heard this rumor too, but I can't really wrap my mind around how exactly they could live off of these settlements. Do you seriously just sue someone or a city or organization for "infringing on your civil rights" and get a big stack of money? I don't think it works that way.
posted by windbox at 4:30 AM on May 31, 2011


The Phelps are a family of lawyers, as Fred Phelps demanded that all his 13 children to go to law school and almost all of them did go. Fred Phelps himself is a disbarred lawyer, and four of his children are estranged from the family, but that still leaves a lot of lawyers, especially when I bet some of the in-laws and grandchildren were made to go to law school as well. So, it costs them very little to go to court. Their modus operandi is to be very provacative and get people so angry that they do something illegal, such as attack a member or members of the WBC, and then the WBC can sue for damages.

But I think they must not get all their income from lawsuits. Their annual travel budget alone is an estimated $250,000. I'm thinking most of the Phelps clan must have regular jobs and that Fred demands a hefty "tithe" from everyone's income. This is a man who forced his children to earn the income to support his huge family. He made his children run around town selling candy for hours every day, every day of their childhood, and beat them with the handle of a mattock if they didn't sell enough.

Another interesting prospect is that there is currently a $5 million dollar judgment against them as a result of a lawsuit brought against them by the father of one of the soldiers whose funeral they picketed. The father sued them for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The WBC is appealing, and I'm sure they'll keep appealing as long as it's at all possible, but I'm curious as to what will happen if they finally have to pay it. Surely they can't raise $5 million dollars.
posted by orange swan at 6:00 AM on May 31, 2011


The money they make from lawsuits is really just a pittance in the grand scheme of things, but it's enough to pay their travel expenses, and they are their own in-house law firm so they don't lose any money in lawyers' fees. Apparently their firm also makes money as a "normal" law firm representing other people.

As an additional source of income, several of the family members work for the Kansas Department of Corrections (or did, as of 2007), which is pretty disturbing.
posted by amyms at 6:01 AM on May 31, 2011


Eh. If anything, it's a sign that certain societies still have trouble confronting their past.

Wow. You are so right. You're unearthing a near-decade's worth of suppressed memories. I mean, I'd totally lost all memory of the entire Bush presidency. Sure, my nephew went to war in Iraq (and came back permanently fucked up) but you know what? I'd forgotten about that until now! Result: you are BLOWING MY MIND
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:51 AM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's all good and well. But when a president decides to invade a country based on religious morals and ideals, what you basically have is a big FAIL.


Don't fool yourself - he was just opening a new war market.
posted by entropone at 6:52 AM on May 31, 2011


Inner City Blues By Marvin Gaye
Memorial Day Message to the Tea Party by Sarah Palin

Rockets, moon shots
Spend it on the have nots
Money, we make it
For we see it you take it
Oh, make you wanna holler
The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life
This ain't livin', This ain't livin'
No, no baby you betcha, this ain't livin'
No, no, no

Inflation no chance
To increase finance
Bills pile up sky high
Send that boy off to die
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life
Make me wanna holler
The way they do my life
Dah, dah, dah
Dah, dah, dah

USA, USA, USA
Drill baby drill


Hang ups, let downs
Bad breaks, set backs
Natural fact is
I can't pay my taxes
Oh, make me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands
Yea, it makes me wanna holler
And throw up both my hands
Crime is increasing
Trigger happy policing
Liberals keep fleecin'
Panic is spreading
God knows where we're heading
Oh, make me wanna holler
They don't understand [down in Washington]...
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:30 AM on May 31, 2011


WBC vs. Knights of the Southern Cross vs. Kenshiro, Fist of the North Star

FIGHT!

Whoever wins, we get covered in gore.
posted by longbaugh at 8:00 AM on May 31, 2011


Hate groups gonna hate groups...
posted by djrock3k at 8:28 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hate groups gonna hate groups

Shouldn't that be "Hate groups gonna hate hate groups"?
posted by dhens at 9:20 AM on May 31, 2011


Noting that his list of things to hate was growing ever longer, Fred Phelps sighed, and feeling the weariness of his ongoing struggles, added in "Ghosts".
posted by quin at 9:26 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shouldn't that be "Hate groups gonna hate hate groups"?

Going for simple symmetry, but it's all good, baby!
posted by djrock3k at 9:55 AM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you ever BEEN in New Zealand? Mate. And your sentence makes no sense whatsoever.

Of course you're going to say that. After all, you don't want to get in trouble with your government censors, riiiight? I'll just assume you're either afraid to talk about the situation, or support your government's actions.

More to the point, given that you support censorship, how can we trust that you actually are saying the truth, or even saying what you want to say?
posted by happyroach at 11:01 AM on May 31, 2011


The strange thing about new england cultist's claims about NZ is that they aren't even correct: NZ has the National Front [Wiki link], who are pretty much idealogical counterparts of the KKK. They aren't generally well-liked, but they have the right to form political parties and hold protests just the same as anyone else. So it's not like (a) the KKK attitude is unknown in NZ; (b) it's censored or repressed.

(btw, happyroach, you don't really believe there's a genocide going on in NZ, right?)
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:28 AM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


(btw, happyroach, you don't really believe there's a genocide going on in NZ, right?)

That's the wrong question, since in this situation belief is irrelevant. The real question is, since new england cultist favors censorship, how can we believe his denials?

Given that you pointed put that he's manipulated and suppressed information for his own ends, the value of any information he gives is zero.
posted by happyroach at 1:51 PM on May 31, 2011


happyroach, New England Cultist is a woman. (Not trying to derail, but if people opt to identify their gender on their profiles, it would be a decent thing to recognize.)

/lecture
posted by bakerina at 2:02 PM on May 31, 2011


how can we believe his denials?

Since you haven't offered a cite supporting the thing he's denying, and which you initially alleged, why should we listen to you, either?
posted by rtha at 2:05 PM on May 31, 2011


Well, that's sort of what I was getting at, whether you were making a rhetorical point or a statement of your own belief. Sorry, tone can be hard on the internet.

On re-reading the thread, I'm not sure if NEC was directly talking about NZ when she expressed surprise that the Klan could exist; possibly NEC was talking about Sth Africa. And NZ does have hate speech laws which are stronger than the USA's. I'm trying to dig up some cases where people were prosecuted under these laws, but the database isn't playing nice.

There was some discussion upthread about the differences between the UK (and Westminster systems, I guess) and US. I think it's interesting to compare the (UK) Bill of Rights 1688 with the US Constitution - there's a lot of similarity, but the UK one is clearly concerned with protecting the powers of Parliament vs the King, rather than the people vs the government, so you get "freedom of speech and debates... in Parliament" (and, unrelated but amusing to me, the right to bear arms...applied to Protestants only...).
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:12 PM on May 31, 2011


happyroach, New England Cultist is a woman.

There is, sadly, a lot of assuming going on in this thread.

I am still baffled by the fact that some people seem to think that

a) New Zealand has draconian laws that prevent people from speaking out against the government. There are protests in front of the Beehive almost on a monthly basis.

b) that I am for censorship. Not sure how that came about - maybe because I defended the government's decision to ban a game like Manhunt for its excessive violence, or Postal 2 for its high impact violence, animal cruelty, homophobia, racial/ethnic stereotypes etc. I'll defend that. NZ and Australia tend to blend in the minds of too many who do not live in Australasia. Australia as banned way more games that NZ, whose count stands at about four games thus far.

Yes, NZ has people who propagate hate speech. Let me get on my dusty soapbox and wave my stupid little minority flag. Ok, now I'll get off. That was stupid way of saying that I have been affected by freedom of speech in a negative way, and that I have seen on too many occasions the effect it has had on others - in a very bad way. It's a beautiful thing to strive towards, but I think it's ultimately a bit of a pipe dream, and perhaps, an easy way to avoid responsibility. Anywhere. Not just in America. But yes, my initial reaction was about the KKK within the context of American history.

Just like all the white South Africans who've (fled) emigrated since 94? Sure they supported the end of Apartheid just as long as they don't have to live there.

At this comment I will only laugh. Natch.
posted by New England Cultist at 3:08 PM on May 31, 2011


Also, stop saying "Natch."
posted by nathancaswell at 3:40 PM on May 31, 2011


Also, stop saying "Natch."

Dude, Freedom of Speech.
posted by New England Cultist at 3:51 PM on May 31, 2011


New England Cultist, I think you'd find many, many Americans sympathetic to your view. Public discourse in the US concerning the limits of free speech has been going on for a long time, and it's not like your position is so radical to us Americans that it makes our heads explode with cognitive dissonance.

But when you say things like:

- a "forward thinking" state like America
- lucky for me, my country's constitution already frowns upon that sort of thing
- There's separation of Church and State in US politics? Dear god...
- If anything, it's a sign that certain societies still have trouble confronting their past.

it comes across as a very smug and self-satisfied essentialization of an issue that is and has always been complex, and hence a dismissal of the people who don't find the issue similarly simple. Which tends to promote negative reactions from those people.

I imagine you'd agree that once people start making blanket statements blasting all white South Africans, or bringing up war-traumatized relatives in order to show how personally they are taking your comments, the conversation has devolved to a non-productive state. Can we all take a breath and keep it civil?
posted by DLWM at 4:24 PM on May 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Can we all take a breath and keep it civil?

Apologies if anything I said sounded uncivil. I didn't mean it that way.

I am going to chalk it down to my approach to talking about politics in a different way over in NZ and SA. I think my background has engendered in me an approach to being very blatant about a government's approach toward its people.

South Africa has no political skin anymore; it's a raw body. And wherever the last vestiges of supposedly healing skin can be found someone pulls it off again. The approach is to scrape it open again and make it bleed. It needs to heal a thousand times over, and then some. The inadequacies of both pre-and post-Apartheid ruling cannot be ignored. They are faced head-on on a daily basis. It makes it frustrating to view similar situations that have not yet reached this emotionally raw stage.

As for New Zealand, it's pretty entertaining here to see the PM and other members of parliament being ridiculed and laughed at. Regularly.
posted by New England Cultist at 5:02 PM on May 31, 2011


It's a beautiful thing to strive towards, but I think it's ultimately a bit of a pipe dream, and perhaps, an easy way to avoid responsibility.

I would also posit that alternative models, which micromanage rights more, that just making certain groups or views illegal on a case by case basis, is an easy way to avoid responsibility as well. To forbid an action, like speech, is to empower it far beyond what it could be by itself, and make that action itself a weapon against the state. So we bring it out in the open, however distasteful the idea is, and make the argument there.

With the USA, the 'strive towards a pipe dream' design was kind of the point when the Constitution was designed. It had a system designed to check and balance the parts of government, because they knew the system would be gamed by those who wanted to control it all. It added, with great difficulty, a list of absolute rights that would never be realized to an absolute extent in the real world, but the ideal was set. As times change, interpretations change, but the absolute stated rights stay there, just a bit out of reach of attainment or dismissal. It's the carrot dangled in front of the horse, reminding him what he's really after.

It's a decent attempt at a fault-protected system, with the 'fault' being humanity's natural tendency to fall at times to the darker angels of our nature. The system holds the rights above the argument, and let the fights concern how to implement those rights within society, rather than the removal of those right entirely.

It's a messy system that is still learning to walk, like a baby or a drunkard. Stumbling, screaming, pooping itself; you get the picture. It ain't pretty, but if the experiment works, eventually it'll get you where you're trying to go. It got the USA this far, and for all the faltering steps, outright stumbles, and hypocrisy galore, progress has been made, and a more complete realization of those rights are still waiting, just up ahead.

Hey, if it was easy, we'd have done it already.
posted by chambers at 5:58 PM on May 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


It makes it frustrating to view similar situations that have not yet reached this emotionally raw stage.

I think "emotionally raw" has been done in the U.S., most particularly from 1861-1865.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:45 PM on May 31, 2011


Understand that Americans on the whole are offended by the very idea of the state suppressing any kind of speech or association, no matter how awful.

Most Americans, anyway:
" ... if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison." — Sen. Rand Paul, last Friday, on Sean Hannity's radio show.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:08 AM on June 1, 2011


The idea of the KKK going head to head with the WBC reminds me of this.

Dunno why, but it reminds me of the original South Park, where Jesus wrestles Santa.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:38 AM on June 1, 2011


The issue, New England Cultist, is not so much your straightforwardness--it's the assumption of ignorance and the idea that you know what's going on in the US moreso than we do. And then there are things like this:

It makes it frustrating to view similar situations that have not yet reached this emotionally raw stage.

The idea that the US has any system that is similar to apartheid is arguable, but quite a stretch, especially when you're talking about how we should limit free speech further (!) Limiting free speech was a huge part of apartheid. Are you arguing that the government allowing the KKK freedom of speech is similar to the government sponsorship and enforcement of apartheid? Or what?

The idea that race relations (if that's what you're talking about) or arguments about the war in Iraq have never been "emotionally raw" in the US is very wrong and betrays a certain ignorance of US history.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:48 AM on June 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


This reminds me of a story an ex-girlfriend told me about the hotel she worked at where they had a rented convention space simultaneously for Amway and Johovah's witnesses. It was amusing to watch them evangelize each other during the breaks. Two wrongs don't make a right, but it is amusing to see them try.
posted by dgran at 6:05 AM on June 3, 2011


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