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February 3, 2012 6:36 AM   Subscribe

On February 6th, the infamous Westboro Baptist Church is planning a protest at Clayton High School in St Louis because of their support of the LGBT student body. The counter protest, however, has taken the form of a fund raising opportunity.

In addition to selling t-shirts, wristbands, and accepting donations during the protest, money is being raised through the Phelps-A-Thon website for local and national LGBT youth organizations. Clayton High School's website is providing information for scheduling, parking, protest signs, and donation information.

What is a Phelps-A-Thon? According to their website, "We turn the Westboro Baptist Church's hate into donations for groups targeted by their protests." Pledges can be made to match every minute of the Westboro Protest with a donation, or you can simply donate a flat amount.
posted by deanklear (42 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I hope they raise lots and lots of money and Fred Phelps hears all about it, flies into an apoplectic rage, and drops dead.
posted by orange swan at 6:45 AM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is not the first time that strategy has been used; I even recall the 'pledge $X per minute they're here' angle before.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:48 AM on February 3, 2012


These sort of counter-protests turn the church from a parasite into a symbiotic organism, but ignoring them is the better response. The church feeds on publicity, and would rather have the school conduct a counter protest that keeps the church in the news than not having the protest make the papers. I understand the impulse to do something when the fuckers come to town, but the moment you engage you've lost.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:00 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Clayton High School? Really?

I'm having one of those grinch-heart-three-sizes-too-big moments.
posted by eriko at 7:01 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Excellent. I hope this becomes a trend.
posted by zarq at 7:02 AM on February 3, 2012


We should just start treating these folks as a very freaky performance art troupe - loud mimes with bad signs, or something. Attend their performances, clap politely (or snap, beatnik-style), offer critique, and move on.
posted by jquinby at 7:02 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


(rats - on posting, what Bookhouse generally said)
posted by jquinby at 7:03 AM on February 3, 2012


Maybe this should be an AskMe, but let's say you lived 4 miles from Clayton High School, had a hairstyle that looked just like ever Italian Renaissance painting of Jesus ever and had absolutely no plans for Monday - what would you do?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:04 AM on February 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


I hope they raise lots and lots of money and Fred Phelps hears all about it, flies into an apoplectic rage, and drops dead.

That would be nice, but Bookhouse is right - Phelps is served by any publicity that comes out of these things, whether it's pro or con. "There's no such thing as bad press."
posted by me & my monkey at 7:05 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Clayton High School? Really?

I'm having one of those grinch-heart-three-sizes-too-big moments.
posted by eriko at 7:01 AM on 2/3
[+] [!]


It really puts my "We Don't Talk About The Gays" Whitfield to shame.
posted by gc at 7:06 AM on February 3, 2012


FTA:

"Would she rather just be able to ignore the pickets who have made their mark by demonstrating at the funerals of war casualties and others, claiming that the deaths are a show of God's wrath?

"I certainly understand that in a perfect world, ignoring them is a good approach," Losos said. "But in a high school filled with teenagers, some of whom feel directly attacked, I would rather channel their responses than ignore them completely."


posted by jitter at 7:07 AM on February 3, 2012 [13 favorites]


I understand the impulse to do something when the fuckers come to town, but the moment you engage you've lost.

I disagree. When it is reported that WBC has protested X, they've won that round. When it's reported that Organization X made $Y because of opposition to the WBC protest, they have lost that round.

It's a message that says "No, in fact, you are not speaking for the Baptist Church, or even Church-as-a-whole. You are a tiny, tiny minority, so tiny that there are a vast number of people willing to spend money on useless trinkets to show that they oppose you."

What WBC wants is them on top of the story. "WBC protests X" "WBC assaulted at protest X." What they are getting is "Organization X unites..." and "Organization X rejects..." and so on. WBC isn't the lede. WBC isn't the focus. WBC is just another "thing" causing other people to do Good Works (that, as a bonus, WBC opposes)

We can't ignore them, because *the media* does not ignore them. This doesn't ignore them, this pushes them off the lede, and in the media wars, that's a huge win.

And, as a bonus, some useful groups fighting the nonsense that WBC espouses gets funding.
posted by eriko at 7:07 AM on February 3, 2012 [20 favorites]


Remember: Phelps and his family do this for the sole purpose of lawyering up when 'denied' their right to do X, Y, or Z. While this counter-fundraising is great and all it really is disingenuous to think that Westboro's intentions are anywhere near truly religious in nature.

Lawyering up pays their bills, don't give them a reason to and eventually they'll fade away, or at least be less visible.

*sigh* One can hope anyway....
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:09 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


I disagree. When it is reported that WBC has protested X, they've won that round. When it's reported that Organization X made $Y because of opposition to the WBC protest, they have lost that round.

That might be how you and I measure winning and losing, but it's not how Phelps measures it. This is a business for him. He benefits when there's a conflict, when he can sue.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:15 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


A long time ago, I realized that the Phelps clan was probably going to do more for the acceptance of gay people in America than I ever would. College activist Mike, who thought the most bigotry he'd ever personally encounter was the church who led the charge against adding sexual orientation to the town's non-discrimination policy, would have laughed at that notion. But Older Mike, who saw that same church lead the counterprotest when the Pehelpses came to town to protest a military funeral, just has to laugh at the WBC.

When your "soft bigotry" means you have to line up along side real assholes, I think it forces you to examine your beliefs. And like it or not, counterprotests make people realize that the homophobic side isn't the only side, the largest side, or even the loudest side. And unfortunately, that's still a message that needs to get out there at every opportunity.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:21 AM on February 3, 2012 [16 favorites]


These sort of counter-protests turn the church from a parasite into a symbiotic organism, but ignoring them is the better response. The church feeds on publicity, and would rather have the school conduct a counter protest that keeps the church in the news than not having the protest make the papers. I understand the impulse to do something when the fuckers come to town, but the moment you engage you've lost.

I agree in principle, but do you trust that zero news media will show up? If not, the next best option is to raise tons of money for the victims of Westboro's campaigns of hate, and then send them a thank you card with a dollar amount.
posted by deanklear at 7:23 AM on February 3, 2012


I understand the impulse to do something when the fuckers come to town, but the moment you engage you've lost.

That's what my immune system said and my doctor concurred at my autopsy.
posted by DU at 7:23 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is increasingly clear that they are frauds who exist only to fment legal discord for their profit. They don't give a fuck about God. Ignore.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:29 AM on February 3, 2012


RolandOfEld: "Remember: Phelps and his family do this for the sole purpose of lawyering up when 'denied' their right to do X, Y, or Z."

I am convinced they also believe the hate they're spewing. My wife and her coworkers at an apolitical nonprofit receive vicious, antisemitic faxes from them on a semi-regular basis. There's no logic there. No possible gain other than to upset a small number of people and their families. Just hate.
posted by zarq at 7:34 AM on February 3, 2012


That's what my immune system said and my doctor concurred at my autopsy.

I think this is closer to "don't scratch it, you'll just spread the rash around."
posted by Bookhouse at 7:36 AM on February 3, 2012


I understand the impulse to do something when the fuckers come to town, but the moment you engage you've lost.

The Phelps clan is next to impossible to ignore, because they do truly despicable things purposely to enrage people, and we're never going to be able to achieve a unanimous refusal to take the bait. Setting up donation booths near a WBC demonstration gives people something positive to do with that rage and keeps them from trying to actively engage with the Phelpses. It really is win-win.
posted by orange swan at 7:37 AM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


These sort of counter-protests turn the church from a parasite into a symbiotic organism

Or it is the students--and others who fundraise off the WBC protests--who are a cleansing parasite on the WBC. Let's hope the cumulative effect is fatal (to the organization, not the sad individuals within it).

In the case of the WBC I don't think you can ignore them, because as was said above, then those they are targeting become even more isolated. The target of this counter-protest is not the WBC, it is those attacked by Phelps et al. The counter-protest is to let the victims know that they are loved, that if there is a God s/he doesn't hate them. Same as the "it gets better" campaign.
posted by postel's law at 7:37 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe y'all are right. In an ideal world, ignoring them and letting them become as noteworthy as a LaRouche protest would be ideal, but that's probably too difficult to achieve in the real world. The WBC knows how to game the system too well. But while raising money is nice, I still hold that it plays into the church's hands. Oh, well.
posted by Bookhouse at 7:40 AM on February 3, 2012


Isn't "phelpsing" is euphemism for some disgusting sexual act? Must remind myself to check The Urban Dictionary later.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:41 AM on February 3, 2012


I am convinced they also believe the hate they're spewing. My wife and her coworkers at an apolitical nonprofit receive vicious, antisemitic faxes from them on a semi-regular basis. There's no logic there. No possible gain other than to upset a small number of people and their families. Just hate.

I can't help but think there is possible gain for them in a situation like that. Like if your wife's organization (which I'm going to suppose has little to gain and a lot to lose from a legal battle of this sort) attempts to respond in some fashion, justified or not. Then they (Phelps) pull out some legal wrongful harm thing that they've researched/done before and boom via super lawyer powers: gain.

They're not stupid by a long shot and that's the only thing that keeps them alive. They're scary smart when it comes to legal stuff, keep that in mind with every move they make and it kinda explains away alot of their madness. I suppose there is maybe a bit of brainwashing-belief in them but I'd say it's subsidiary to the rest. They might not admit it, but it really is.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:56 AM on February 3, 2012


zarq: I am convinced they also believe the hate they're spewing. My wife and her coworkers at an apolitical nonprofit receive vicious, antisemitic faxes from them on a semi-regular basis. There's no logic there.

Not all of them. In fact, some seem quite ambivalent about their "cause".

So, once again, follow the money. Westboro Church is no more about religion than Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, or a cardinal's limo parked at the Vatican Palace.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:07 AM on February 3, 2012


When your "soft bigotry" means you have to line up along side real assholes, I think it forces you to examine your beliefs. And like it or not, counterprotests make people realize that the homophobic side isn't the only side, the largest side, or even the loudest side. And unfortunately, that's still a message that needs to get out there at every opportunity.
And, really, it's not that hard to get that message out. Make a sign, go to a march. It might just change your life.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:08 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ironically, I wonder if the over-the-top hatemongering of the WBC protests haven't shocked some fence-sitters into taking up the cause of LBGT rights... and inadvertently done more good than harm to the cause.

I mean, even if you are homophobic, you'd have to be pretty far gone to be happy that these whacks are the visible front line of your side.

Of course, I once thought that about Bachmann and the Tea Party, too...
posted by IAmBroom at 8:12 AM on February 3, 2012


Isn't "phelpsing" is euphemism for some disgusting sexual act? Must remind myself to check The Urban Dictionary later.

From the Urban Dictionary: Phelpsing, v. To smoke some pot, especially out of a bong. In reference to Michael Phelps, Olympic Swimmer.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 8:18 AM on February 3, 2012


But while raising money is nice, I still hold that it plays into the church's hands.

Anything other than everyone completely ignoring them does help the WBC, but really the amount that it can help them is pretty limited. Despite often making the news because of shock value, their views are not any more respected and they don't get millions of dollars for spouting hate like some of the big pundits do. At the end of the day they will always be a deeply dysfunctional group of extremists with very little power in the world to do much other than continue to exist.

Whereas counter-protests have a much better possibility of a positive impact for everyone else. For the actual targets of the WBC, the counter-protests are a way to feel empowered and strong in the face of attacks rather than feeling like victims. And for everyone else watching, it shows a clear divide between the two sides: bigotry, intolerance and hatred on the part of the WBC versus positivity, acceptance, and tolerance on the side of the counter-protesters. And in the press, there is no ambivalence about which side is in the right, the WBC are the clear bad guys and the ones who stand against them are the heroes. It's sad that people actually believe the sorts of hateful things the WBC people say, but I'm glad that their message is so visible because it gives people a chance to say "This kind of bigotry needs to stop", and hopefully years from now will be disturbing evidence of how bad the bad old times used to be.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:24 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, my heart is officially broken.
posted by orange swan at 8:27 AM on February 3, 2012




TedW: " Planned Parenthood has done something similar for some time."

One of my first FPP's was about that, back in 2004.
posted by zarq at 9:37 AM on February 3, 2012


Isn't "phelpsing" is euphemism for some disgusting sexual act?

I think you're confusing them with Fred Felch and his Eastboro Baptist Church.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:48 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


but the moment you engage you've lost.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:00 PM on February 3 [2 favorites +]


I completely disagree. The Phelps gang has made it extremely clear that they do not mind being ignored, and that they will not stop doing their evil shit. The best response to wankers like that is mockery and ridicule. Have some fun with it. Ridicule and piss-taking makes it clear to the target that they are not getting to you. Nobody likes being ridiculed. They can handle martyrdom or shunning - hell, arseholes like this sorry crew love that stuff. But nobody likes being relentlessly ridiculed.
posted by Decani at 10:23 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Then something else that might be done is to bring out a clown posse, complete with parody signs ("Dog Hates Flags!"). Hey, it works on the KKK.
posted by orange swan at 10:33 AM on February 3, 2012


But nobody likes being relentlessly ridiculed.

I dunno. Have you seen any of those Louis Theroux documentaries about them? Those people seem to have a superhuman ability to laugh in the face of sarcasm and mockery that inevitably drives any would-be confronter to madness.

Theirs is one goat that simply can't be gotten (at least on the battlefield of protest.)
posted by ShutterBun at 10:57 AM on February 3, 2012


I think the best hope we've got is that when Fred Phelps finally does kick the bucket, the WBC will splinter. I don't know though... they all seem to be very deeply brainwashed and have been living this way of life for so very long.
posted by orange swan at 11:10 AM on February 3, 2012


>> some seem quite ambivalent about their "cause".

The someone in that video appears to be Shirley Phelps-Roper, the second most public face of WBC (and possibly first as Fred seems to have receded in the past few years).
posted by K.P. at 12:12 PM on February 3, 2012


•Your donation is tax-deductible as Phelps-A-Thon.com is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization recognized by the IRS.

You know you're a fucking asshole when the federal government recognizes that arguing with you is a charitable activity.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:59 PM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, I'm off on Monday. Anyone want me to say anything to those shitheads?
posted by notsnot at 1:24 PM on February 3, 2012


notsnot: No thoughts on words but something that would be inverse eponysterical comes to mind, thanks to your username. But I'd hate to see your flicked boogers turned into an assault suit. (Though I'm sure headline writers worldwide, or at least at the NY Post, would appreciate the combination of phlegm and Phelps.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:58 PM on February 3, 2012


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