Time for Your Shot—It's Just a Little Prick


So the Westboro Baptist Church—the "God hates fags" people—decided to picket the San Diego ComicCon yesterday, on the grounds that "They have turned comic book characters into idols." The fans in turn decided to picket the picketers. Bleeding Cool has posted a bunch of the signs and costumes on display. For example:

Bleeding Cool

This sort of response has happened frequently enough by now that Jeffrey Weiss suspects that Westboro Baptist is doing more to advance tolerance than to undermine it:

I'd like to offer a limited but real defense for the Phelpsists: They're an attenuated virus vaccine for the American body politic.

Such a vaccine takes a live disease virus and weakens it in some way. For the vast majority of people, the vaccine causes no serious side effects, and instead provokes an immune response that creates a long-term protection against the deadlier form of the ailment….

[I]n every case, in every city, Westboro's targets are forced to confront the issues raised by the protests. How does this community feel about hating homosexuals? Or Jews? What are the appropriate ways to respond to the pickets? How certain are we that we know the will of God as expressed in our sacred texts? What is the best and most effective way to recruit opponents to Westboro?…

What I've yet to find is anything more than a few isolated voices raised in support of the Phelpsists. They gain no converts to their cause, no support for their hatreds. Even those churches where members agree with some of the theology are so repulsed by the way the Phelpsists make their case that they distance themselves.

So Westboro provokes a beneficial response, while causing little or no lasting harm. Just like the vaccine.

Maybe so. Though I find it easier to nod my head at that when the Phelpsites are protesting the ComicCon than when they're protesting a funeral.

Weiss' full argument is here. The Bleeding Cool gallery is here. More photos from the protest are here. The secret origins of Fred Phelps are detailed here.