The Westboro Baptist Church is trolling you July 2, 2013 6:08 PM   Subscribe

At this point, the Westboro Baptist Church seems to show up and do something offensive, in a play for media attention, every time someone dies heroically or tragically. Do we need to help them? This church has, like 40 members, and it is not actually news that they show up to picket funerals again and again and a-freaking-gain. I didn't flag the comment about it in the Yarnell thread because it's not, strictly speaking, off-topic. But I think it would be a better world if, when these guys show up, hoping to get yelled about on the Internet, we fail to oblige.
posted by escabeche to Etiquette/Policy at 6:08 PM (72 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Agreed.
posted by cribcage at 6:10 PM on July 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Haters gonna hate. Internet gonna react strongly.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:10 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Agreed.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:19 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am personally one hundred percent in favor of ignoring attention-getting jerkoffs instead of giving them attention, yes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:20 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


This goes for WBC too.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:21 PM on July 2, 2013


(actually I guess it's harder with them considering the nature of their protests, but still)
posted by Drinky Die at 6:22 PM on July 2, 2013


There should be a filter that automatically reroutes Westboro Baptist to Landover Baptist.
posted by tservo at 6:32 PM on July 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Has ignoring trolls every really been a successful overall strategy for stopping them? Does hiding one's head in the sand and pretending there is no problem really help to eliminate the problem? Do bullies work more effectively when left to their own devices or when they are confronted?
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 6:36 PM on July 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Has feeding the trolls ever been a successful overall strategy for stopping them, either? This particular group is well-known for doing what they do specifically for the attention. Do you think we should give them our attention? If so, why?
posted by palomar at 6:37 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]




Does hiding one's head in the sand and pretending there is no problem really help to eliminate the problem?

I think there's a distinction worth making between declining to rebroadcast something and literally pretending it does not exist. If I responded to every wrong-headed or foolish or needlessly provocative thing I encountered by turning around and telling everybody I met about it, I'd mostly just come off as an obnoxious person with no filters. There are better ways to confront and rebuke bad ideas and organizations than to do their any-publicity-is-good-publicity work for them.

WBC suck. They're an odious murmuration of bigots and cynics who exist more or less for attention, and scrabble for it by declaring the intent to do something shitty and letting everybody else shout about it to advertise. Ignoring problems do not necessarily make them go away in the general case, but in their specific case there would be no more effective method for undercutting their fundamental schtick than to not bother to mention it for them.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:44 PM on July 2, 2013 [25 favorites]


For the most part, I agree with the point that it's important to call out hate speech, if for no other reason than to demonstrate to third parties/bystanders that it is not normal or acceptable. The thing is though, that there is pretty much no chance that anyone is going to think that it's normal or acceptable to say that those firefighters deserved to die because they were complicit in America's indulgent and sinful ways or whatever. No one believes that. Quite likely, the Westboro Baptist Church doesn't even believe that.
posted by kagredon at 7:21 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Podkayne of Pasadena: "Has ignoring trolls every really been a successful overall strategy for stopping them?"

It really depends on the troll. Some are withered by the searing light of public attention, while for others thrive on that light, like a plant thrives on sunlight.

When there's a new group, it makes sense to try the sunlight approach.

However, people have been shining the light on the Westboro Baptist Church for 15 years now, and it's pretty clear that paying attention to the trolls has not been a successful strategy for stopping them. There's gotta be a point where you say, "You know what, we've been trying this approach for a while, and it doesn't work. Let's try another approach." I'd say 15 years is easily long enough to make that decision.
posted by Bugbread at 7:35 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Couldn't we just kill them? I mean in a Christian way. Like nail them to a cross or throw them to the Lion's Club or something?
No. Not the Lion's Club. That would be cruel.
Jeez. I can't believe I even said that....

Just nail them to a cross. In private.
posted by Floydd at 7:39 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I completely agree. They don't deserve the attention; they're not relevant to anything. All we do when we talk about them is feed into their persecution complex, which encourages them to keep going. Also, you're right, this is a tiny amount of people who are powerless to affect anything. And the thing I detest is seeing that all they need to do is threaten to show up in a town for everyone to scurry around staging a counterprotest - and then they don't show up anyway. It's a chump's game. Screw 'em.
posted by Miko at 7:41 PM on July 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


I enjoy seeing creative, thoughtful counterprotests. Like the rainbow house. And I'm fully in favor of shining a light on racism and homophobia in public forums.

I appreciate the sentiment, but disagree with it. I don't plan on self-censoring on this topic in the future, sorry.
posted by zarq at 7:45 PM on July 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I like the idea of changing this into a positive thing. Having the WBC show up to picket your funeral means you must have been a pretty righteous person.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:46 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


They don't deserve the attention; they're not relevant to anything.

Try being on the receiving end. You may feel differently afterwards. They targeted my wife for years because of what she does for a living. Said vile antisemitic shit about her and about my kids.

Ignoring them solves nothing.
posted by zarq at 7:55 PM on July 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


Has ignoring trolls every really been a successful overall strategy for stopping them?

Yes, actually. History is littered with "message" organizations that simply failed to get their message out.

In particular the yearly turnover on the Southern Poverty Law Center's hate organization list is immense. Organizations come and go but the only ones you know the names of are the ones that get press.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:56 PM on July 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm sure that was terrible, zarq. But opposing them in particular, celebrating them and nominating them for further attention, solves nothing either.

I loved the spirit of the Rainbow House, too. What did they do with it?
Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Westboro founder Fred Phelps and a frequent spokesperson for the group, told Kansas City’s Fox 4 she “loves” the paint job. “What he does is he keeps the eyes of the whole earth on this message. Now everyday all people are thinking about is God will not have same-sex marriage,” she said.
They are not bad at PR.
posted by Miko at 7:59 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been meaning to do an Ask about this for a long time. Do they even actually protest anymore? Or do they just send out preemptive press releases? I agree with OP that there's really no advantage to bringing them up undercurrent to every new tragedy. We don't all have to be their press agents.
posted by themanwho at 8:02 PM on July 2, 2013


Sometimes there is a divide between being right and solving the problem. We delete posts that are just "WBC is being awful again!" and people can decide how they feel about linking to them in their comments, but I don't personally feel that saying that they're up to their same old shit again does anything except further their goals and does nothing for my own personal ones.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:02 PM on July 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


To Tell Me No Lies' point: the SPLC's hate group resources: Hate Map, hate group listing, Hate & Extremism page. This group is not an especially significant one seen against this larger landscape.

I don't oppose anyone's wanting to detest this group. I understand completely. I've just decided to stop giving them any more of my brainspace. They work to spoil other messages and distract good people, and I don't want to assist them in that effort any more.
posted by Miko at 8:06 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


zarq: "Ignoring them solves nothing."

Does paying attention to them solve anything?
posted by Bugbread at 8:14 PM on July 2, 2013


I loved the spirit of the Rainbow House, too. What did they do with it?

It's not about what WBC does with it. It's about standing up and saying, "they are doing this, and it is wrong" and thereby sending a message to the general public. No one is going to successfully win the hearts and minds of WBC members. When people leave that cult, they do so on their own.
posted by zarq at 8:21 PM on July 2, 2013


Yes, agreed. as I've said before on MeFi, WBC essentially operates a cult where trolling with controverisal protests in order to incite public outrage (from right, left, and center) is way of brainwashing and controlling the group cohesion of their members, including kids, against the outside world - and hiding behing the 1st Amendment while doing so.
posted by Bwithh at 8:47 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Does paying attention to them solve anything?

Maybe.

My wife and her co-workers were targeted by WBC because they are Jewish and work for a Jewish organization. When blocking phone numbers proved useless, her company got the police and then the FBI involved. Once the Bureau stepped in, the faxes, which had been coming in multiple times a day apparently slowed to a trickle. Once a day. Once a month. Once every few months. The interval between them has grown less frequent. They still get them. Over the years, each time a fax has been received it has been reported and sent to the authorities. Somewhere, there is a record on file that harassment has been taking place, in case the problem escalates.

So, yes. In that specific case, paying attention and reacting to them did help turn active harassment into a disturbing, occasional annoyance.

I'm sure you can understand that psychologically-speaking, it's pretty hard not to keep other, more horrifying incidents in mind when you're receiving daily faxes that say (among other things) Jesus hates you and your filthy children and you're all going to suffer eternal torment in the fires of hell. Because you're Jews. The LA JCC shooting in 1999. The Seattle Federation shooting happened in 2006. The Toulouse day school shooting happened last year. We still live in a world where crazy extremists could conceivably target Jews and the organizations they work for. The WBC doesn't shoot people or outright advocate physical violence, as far as I know. But it was pretty damned unsettling.

Anyway, returning to the topic at hand. I posted to MeFi once a few years ago about someone who used a WBC picket as a fundraiser. What I was trying to say earlier is this: if I thought a similar event happened to be MeFi-worthy, I'd still consider posting it. Don't think it's likely, but wouldn't want to rule it out.
posted by zarq at 8:50 PM on July 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


Yes, actually. History is littered with "message" organizations that simply failed to get their message out.

How can "history be littered" with something that, by your very own definition, has been kept out of the public consciousness?

Was it Burke who said that all it takes for evil to persist is for good men to do nothing? Wise words. And then there's zarq's story above - from personal experience.

Pretending that something does not exist is certainly easier than actually being troubled by it's existence and there is always a segment of the population that believes "out of sight , out of mind " actually works. In reality it only works to relieve oneself of the troubling thoughts which accompany the acknowledgement of evil, and it relieves the persistent nagging notion that maybe one should do something about it.

The WBC issue does not need less attention - it needs far more. It needs enough attention so that enough people are sickened and troubled by the filth that they represent to actually go and do something, something legislative and civilized, about it.

This is how things actually get done in society. It's how injustices are made right again. It is how we, as a culture, evolve into something better.

Or we can ignore them. We on metafilter can choose to not be troubled by the pain that they cause to people like zarq and countless others. We can turn our backs on any such discussions and talk only about nicer happier things. It's certainly a much easier path.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 8:53 PM on July 2, 2013


The WBC issue does not need less attention - it needs far more. It needs enough attention so that enough people are sickened and troubled by the filth that they represent to actually go and do something, something legislative and civilized, about it.

I agree with you. And I'm all for talking about the WBC in public forums.

But by the same token Metafilter doesn't tolerate activism. By design. A post that's only "these people are bad and what they are doing is bad and we should do something about it" doesn't meet the site's standards. That's a good thing.
posted by zarq at 9:02 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


zarq: "her company got the police and then the FBI involved."

That is a very, very different thing than we're discussing here. I don't think when people say "Let's ignore WBC" they're saying "in every single way, including not reporting their crimes to the police", but "let's not give them publicity".

Podkayne of Pasadena: "How can "history be littered" with something that, by your very own definition, has been kept out of the public consciousness?"

Whether something has or has not happened in the past has nothing to do with public consciousness. If a record of something is created, then it is part of history. Some of those things are well known by the public ("America and Germany fought in world war 2"). Some of those things are not well known by the public ("Skablom was a short-lived ska band formed by brothers Mike and John Blomquist. They wrote one song, which was hosted on mp3.com, and downloaded two times")

Podkayne of Pasadena: " We on metafilter can choose to not be troubled by the pain that they cause to people like zarq and countless others. We can turn our backs on any such discussions and talk only about nicer happier things. It's certainly a much easier path."

Could you be any more insulting? "Sure, you may claim that you hate WBC and don't want to bring up every insane thing they do because you believe it gives them publicity, and you don't want them to have any more publicity. But you're lying. You're really just insensitive, using the excuse of 'not giving publicity' when really you just don't want to be troubled by the pain, or you're lazy, using the excuse of 'not giving publicity' when really you just want to choose the easier path. It's not because you actually don't want to give them publicity."
posted by Bugbread at 9:09 PM on July 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


Podkayne of Pasadena, for what it's worth, I'm pretty sure everybody here agrees that WBC is very bad. People know about them, and agree that they're bad.

The question is, when a tragedy happens and WBC issues a press release saying "hey, we're going to come do our thing at the funerals! neener neener, everybody look at us!", should we take explicit notice of that here, derailing the conversation about the tragic event, or should we ignore them and deprive them of attention.

Ignoring them here, preventing them from distracting us from the event we intend to discuss, doesn't prevent anybody from counter-protesting or otherwise working against them in the real world.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:11 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"These people are bad and what they are doing is bad" posts can be found extensively on Metafilter. Bad laws, bad companies, bad hiring practices, bad politicians, bad politics, bad people. We have posts on such things weekly, if not daily. No one is saying that we should take up some sort of site-wide petition or have a mefite political meetup about any of the above topics. I am saying that we should not exclude some group from our consciousness just because they are persistently troubling.

I don't think that WBC has been particularly "done to death" on MeFi, any more so than troubling politics or that annoying election every 4 years or ... whatever. There are lots of annoying issues in the world. Take them away one by one and you are left with SLYT cat videos and Steampunk Doctor Who paraphernalia and a community of only those who choose to only concern themselves only with such things.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 9:14 PM on July 2, 2013


Could you be any more insulting? "

Why yes, yes I can :)
But I won't be other to suggest that you explore your own very heated reaction to the concept.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 9:17 PM on July 2, 2013


We can turn our backs on any such discussions and talk only about nicer happier things.

You are being insultingly reductive here. It is not helping your argument.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:17 PM on July 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


That is a very, very different thing than we're discussing here. I don't think when people say "Let's ignore WBC" they're saying "in every single way, including not reporting their crimes to the police", but "let's not give them publicity".

I disagree. They're related.
posted by zarq at 9:19 PM on July 2, 2013


Podkayne of Pasadena: "But I won't be other to suggest that you explore your own very heated reaction to the concept."

My very heated reaction to the concept comes from being indirectly called a liar, and either lazy or callous. Call it a personal quirk of mine that I don't like being called those things.
posted by Bugbread at 9:21 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I took it that the proposal in this thread was, let's not always be sidetracked into a brief derail about WBC whenever they announce they're going to besmirch some event we are talking about. We can safely ignore them and just continue discussing the wildfire, or the bombing, or the court ruling, or whatever thing they are trying to steal some spotlight from.

I did not take either of these proposals to be on the table: "don't report specific actions of theirs to the authorities" or "never mention them on MeFi under any circumstances."

As ever in MetaTalk, we are discussing how to handle things in discussions on MetaFilter, not discussing how to act in the wider world.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:22 PM on July 2, 2013 [12 favorites]


Fair enough, LM.
posted by zarq at 9:26 PM on July 2, 2013


Has ignoring trolls every really been a successful overall strategy for stopping them?

What's the point of stopping them? How would one go about stopping them? They have a right to be assholes. You have a right to not pay attention to them.
posted by empath at 9:36 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


What empath said. And…

Many people have written that they are some sort of con organization that makes money and feeds on publicity. If you publicize them you are helping them, that’s actually their game plan, or business model some say. Many believe that they don’t even believe what they say, if you fight back you’re falling for the con.

The other point is that practically no one on Earth actually supports them. There is no "movement" to fight, just a few assholes. It’s not like you need to turn public opinion against them.
posted by bongo_x at 10:10 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


How can "history be littered" with something that, by your very own definition, has been kept out of the public consciousness?

Historians are a dedicated bunch. Bureaucracies leave behind an amazingly rich vein of information about social groups, although in truth they document a lot more births of organizations than deaths. In any case that information can be mined not only for successful organizations but also those that failed.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:23 PM on July 2, 2013


I never would have known we weren't paying attention to them without this thread. It's a paradox or some damn thing.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:00 PM on July 2, 2013


They're no threat to anyone, they carry no great influence, they're just ridiculous attention-seekers. So yeah, the best thing to do with such people is to not give them attention. I feel bad for their kids, though.
posted by Decani at 11:40 PM on July 2, 2013


I can't help but be reminded of these guys: Even now, Sithrak oils the spit
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:19 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


They are rotten on all levels: haters of the harmless, insulters of the grieving, entity that burns up valuable energy of good people and returns nothing good, poisoners of the online atmosphere, overdone topic of discussion, etc. Even if it would somehow be a great post otherwise, delete it if it's about them. Don't talk about them being bad and don't, if it ever happens, talk about them somehow redeeming themselves.

In fact, we should start by deleting this thread. I'm not kidding. Waste no more time thinking about them than the time it takes to click Delete.
posted by pracowity at 1:25 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


The WBC issue does not need less attention - it needs far more. It needs enough attention so that enough people are sickened and troubled by the filth that they represent to actually go and do something, something legislative and civilized, about it.

This would, I think, involve substantially limiting US 1st Amendment rights, and doesn't seem likely. This is what WBC shields its activities with. In another country with weaker and less sacred freedom of speech protections - say Canada or Germany, WBC would have probably been raided and shut down quite quickly. I'm not knocking the 1st Amendment, I think it's overall a vital net plus for the US. But this is an example of one downside.

The WBC, through its obnoxious exercise of its US 1st Amendment rights ( but, well, rights they are ), are highly antifragile.
posted by Bwithh at 1:46 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


It is not a binary choice to ignore/engage with trolls. The third option - short, sharp, ridicule - is available.

In WBC's case, ideally the whole world would ignore them. But they are skilled at keeping themselves in the public consciousness and skilled at generating coverage. And they are also the useful idiots to people who don't like them but who don't much like gays - and my view is that sometimes the very out and proud responses are counterproductive in that they reinforce every negative stereotype about gays haters have. Nonetheless, WBC are the pointy end of a culture war.

But ridicule is a fine option. In short bursts ridicule steals the oxygen. Lots of people want to feel like they are battling against the status quo as the one_true_believer but who wants to be laughed at? The trick is to ridicule them with as little engagement as possible. Stop them having the credibility of being a player in virtue of people wanting to engage with them.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:10 AM on July 3, 2013


In particular the yearly turnover on the Southern Poverty Law Center's hate organization list is immense. Organizations come and go but the only ones you know the names of are the ones that get press.

Slight derail but it's not the lack of attention that kills hate groups. It's conflict between the small number of people invested in radical right causes. They are far more disorganized than one would think. WBC is an anomaly because it's run by a large, close-knit family. It's likely to die out once Fred Phelps dies.
posted by vincele at 5:30 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This church has, like 40 members, and it is not actually news that they show up to picket funerals again and again and a-freaking-gain.

I've been curious about this: Have they even been showing up lately? I keep reading news about how they plan to protest (at Newton, etc), and about counter-protests that do take place, but not that WBC has actually protested. I couldn't tell if they've just taken to announcing that they're going to be somewhere or if the media only reports on counter-protests.
posted by amarynth at 5:53 AM on July 3, 2013


In particular the yearly turnover on the Southern Poverty Law Center's hate organization list is immense. Organizations come and go but the only ones you know the names of are the ones that get press.

This doesn't actually speak to whether ignoring them is a decent strategy. Hate groups aren't disappearing because they said 'Well, nobody's listening to us, might as well pack it in.' I'm sure it happens occasionally, but I think they're mostly disappearing in the petty drama and mismanagement that takes out all kinds of organisations, especially small ones.
posted by hoyland at 5:59 AM on July 3, 2013


I've been curious about this: Have they even been showing up lately? I keep reading news about how they plan to protest (at Newton, etc), and about counter-protests that do take place, but not that WBC has actually protested. I couldn't tell if they've just taken to announcing that they're going to be somewhere or if the media only reports on counter-protests.

When the IRS finally break down the doors over unpaid revenues, they find that Phelps and his odious kin have long since departed for Bermuda, leaving only a script that scrapes Google News for occurrences of the word "tragic" and autosends an email threatening to picket the event to AP.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:03 AM on July 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


In that specific case, paying attention and reacting to them did help turn active harassment into a disturbing, occasional annoyance.

I also think that's something very different - an entirely appropriate response to an actual act using entirely appropriate, and effective, channels.

I see that as very different from generalized chitchat about them in the context of wholly unrelated events - or events that would be wholly unrelated if not for the clutch of loonies hopping up and down and saying "look at us!"
posted by Miko at 6:18 AM on July 3, 2013


I'm totally in favor of a really high bar for WBC posts. Comments, I think it's up to the person making them, but I agree they are tedious.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:28 AM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been curious about this: Have they even been showing up lately? I keep reading news about how they plan to protest (at Newton, etc), and about counter-protests that do take place, but not that WBC has actually protested. I couldn't tell if they've just taken to announcing that they're going to be somewhere or if the media only reports on counter-protests.

For the 2011 Tucson shootings, WBC claimed they were going to show up and protest at the funeral of 9-year-old victim Christina Taylor Green. Angel Action came to Tucson to organize counter-WBC protests. In the end, the WBC didn't show and we heard they had agreed not to come in return for a radio interview. I don't know for sure, but I suspect similar deal-making has also been happening since then.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:36 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


As I understand it, the WBC have a business model that revolves around threatening to turn up and picket and then sueing people who try to stop them w/r/t their first amendment rights. That is to say, they don't actually believe any of it, but it's a legalistic scam, cynical to the point of sociopathy. Is this the case, and if so, why are they seen as a legitimate, though extreme, religious organisation rather than the shakedown artists that they seem to be?
posted by Grangousier at 6:38 AM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Miko: "Now everyday all people are thinking about is God will not have same-sex marriage,” she said."

How's that working out for you then, Shirley?
posted by chavenet at 6:43 AM on July 3, 2013


I've been ignoring Sarah Palin, because she was once a public figure, and is now just a parasitic life form subsisting on media attention. She really is going away, pretty soon, she'll be showing up at car lots, promoting the big 4th of July sale. Westboro Baptist Church is an active hate group. We don't ignore the KKK or other hate groups. WBC's strategy is Get Media Attention, and they do get attention. More and more, the attention they get is WBC is coming to Tragic Funeral to suck some dregs of attention from the pain of sad people, and the response from reasonable people is We will use our freedom of speech to dilute you and keep you from causing more pain. We should be highlighting every one of these events. When I talk to people at work or in line at the grocery, people who don't care much about gay equality and who are kind of 'ick' about it if they think about gay marriage, i.e., gay sex, about WBC, they are appalled and disgusted, and they feel compassion for the victims of WBC's action, and they feel compassion for gay people being the focus of so much hatred.

WBC is a vigorously active hate group. We should be exposing them to the light, not just with mockery, but by showing the anti-WBC protestors, and exposing the evil of WBC. I am proud of every single person who has shown up to counter-protest. And every time somebody sees WBC on the morning shows, and thinks, what cruel screwed-up people using religion as a vehicle for hatred, they also see how hatred works, and maybe they stop their teenager from using 'gay' as a derogatory word. We should be highlighting and celebrating anti-WBC protests. Ignoring WBC is not going to happen; they are going to get media attention because they keep lowering the bar on how degraded they can be, and we should be subverting that attention.
posted by theora55 at 6:55 AM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I was googling WBC and the Ariz. firefighters' funerals, and found that even the folks at freerepublic have their hate on for WBC, and a link to here.
posted by theora55 at 7:01 AM on July 3, 2013


I don't really see why it is particularly important to ignore them. I also disagree with the idea that they do their thing for the attention; I'm pretty convinced they believe what they say, and the attention is just a means to get their word out, not an end in an of itself.

Anyway, with that said, this is exactly how the WBC should be treated, and I honestly don't get why it doesn't happen more often.
posted by Flunkie at 7:10 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you think we should give them our attention? If so, why?

There really is now "we" though. If you feel criticism or comments about them are attention then you're free not to "give them" attention. Others feel that criticism or comments are just that, and not giving them attention and some feel it's great to discuss utter bullshit. It matters not really how small they are, things can die and things can grow.

There is a fundamental disagreement here and I hope that people are allowed to freely criticize, comment, or not.
posted by juiceCake at 8:26 AM on July 3, 2013


in the Yarnell thread

WBC is picketing Shields and Yarnell? This cannot stand.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:28 AM on July 3, 2013


How the notion of "stopping them" get any traction? You don't stop shit like that, you hold it up to the light, and pelt it with the ridicule it deserves.

By ridiculing them, you draw line in the sand for people to notice: Polemic rhetoric isn't useful only to the Dark Side, Luke.

Sunlight kills germs.
posted by mule98J at 9:16 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


"We don't ignore the KKK or other hate groups. " We sort of do, I think. I mean, I certainly see more stories about the WBC than the KKK (or other hate groups) even though the KKK (and other hate groups) are more prolific about their spreading of hatred.

Perhaps the WBC focusing on military or otherwise beloved groups (instead of minorities as the KKK and other groups does) is why they get more attention than other hate groups (that often assault and even murder targets of their hatred).

And while there are more posts that mention or are about the KKK in the blue than the WBC, those posts seem more historical and not posts about the current actions of those other hate groups. So I think we (metafilter, and society at large) give the WBC more attention than is warranted.

Relatedly, yesterday I posted to the green a strategy for attempting to minimize the exposure of WBC. (I reject the premise that my strategy is anti free-speech, as I don't advise for government intervention to stop their hate speech).
posted by el io at 9:42 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was googling WBC and the Ariz. firefighters' funerals, and found that even the folks at freerepublic have their hate on for WBC, and a link to here.

Incidentally, chapters of the KKK and racist biker groups come out from time to time to counterprotest them as well.
posted by vincele at 9:43 AM on July 3, 2013


Previously: KKK vs. WBC
posted by zarq at 10:00 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, chapters of the KKK and racist biker groups come out from time to time to counterprotest them as well.

If ever there was a time to pray for a sharknado...
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:13 AM on July 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


This doesn't actually speak to whether ignoring them is a decent strategy. Hate groups aren't disappearing because they said 'Well, nobody's listening to us, might as well pack it in.'

I'm thinking the other way around: if the group was gaining public attention it would be much more likely to attract new members and funding and thus to stick around more than a year.

I'm sure it happens occasionally, but I think they're mostly disappearing in the petty drama and mismanagement that takes out all kinds of organisations, especially small ones.

I'm sure that happens too.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:07 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, please don't use the word 'murmuration' to describe the WBC. A murmuration (collective noun) is a lovely thing. Here in the West Country they publish likely roosting times in the autumn for sightseers.

From the website: To find out exactly where the starlings are currently ring the Avalon Marshes Starling Hotline on 07866 554 142 and listen to the answer message, or email starlings@rspb.org.uk
posted by glasseyes at 10:20 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Leave this to me.
posted by clavdivs at 7:04 AM on July 5, 2013


And the thing I detest is seeing that all they need to do is threaten to show up in a town for everyone to scurry around staging a counterprotest - and then they don't show up anyway. It's a chump's game. Screw 'em.
posted by Miko


Yeah, that happened just last week in my town. A local soldier died and WBC put a flyer on their site claiming they were going to picket his funeral. The local population lost their mind. The WBC coming to protest was covered in the local paper, the local television stations, and flooded my facebook from local people.

There was never any evidence that they were in the area, and soon it became evident they weren't coming at all, despite a very weird game of "I think I saw one at the Holiday Inn by the beach". Of course, they never showed up, but they completely took over all local news and discussion.

When a few people would propose the idea that we were giving them exactly what they wanted, that ignoring them would be more effective, we were told one of three things: feel free to ignore everything else negative in your life, why don't you join them, and the always difficult to fight "if they come, we're ready, if they don't, no harm done. We stood up to them". There were even people that thought they didn't show up because we were ready for them.

Actually, much of the hateful nonsense towards the idea that maybe ignoring them was a better answer is summed up best by this comment:

Or we can ignore them. We on metafilter can choose to not be troubled by the pain that they cause to people like zarq and countless others. We can turn our backs on any such discussions and talk only about nicer happier things. It's certainly a much easier path.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena


I don't know what the answer is, but it's not giving them 24/7 coverage. The people that believe the more light we shine on them the better are mistaken, but at the very least, the antagonism they show towards those also hate the WBC but believe we should ignore them is not helping.
posted by justgary at 1:59 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


When a few people would propose the idea that we were giving them exactly what they wanted, that ignoring them would be more effective, we were told one of three things: feel free to ignore everything else negative in your life, why don't you join them, and the always difficult to fight "if they come, we're ready, if they don't, no harm done. We stood up to them". There were even people that thought they didn't show up because we were ready for them.

Thanks for that justgary. One of the things I think is so weirdly vexing about WBC is how they use people's negative feelings about WBC basically against them. I do not in any way deny that the active hateful things they do are upsetting and scary and truly shitty. It seems like more and more lately, recently, what they do is threaten and then watch the actual negative wave that washes over people be almost entirely self-generated. And then it drowns out the issues we should be caring about like our fallen soldiers, dead friends, complex civil rights issues. It's textbook trolling.

There should be a way that people can appropriately respond to their real threats and actions, but calling them out for the tiny shitty group they are. They are "effective" such as it is, partly because people make them effective in their fighting about and over them and putting them on the news and on MetaFilter.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:22 AM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't know what the answer is, but it's not giving them 24/7 coverage.

No one has suggested doing so on Metafilter. No one is doing this on Mefi, nor is this conceivably ever going to happen here.
posted by zarq at 2:07 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


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