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Only the Media Can Make Fred Phelps Go Away

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Most Kansans are familiar with the name Fred Phelps. Most Kansans wish Fred Phelps wasn’t a Kansan. Kansas senate candidates this year promised to “crack down on Fred Phelps’s protests.” I hate to tell them, but they can’t crack down on Phelps. Maybe they could restrict protests to a certain distance from a cemetery to create a larger buffer for mourners, but they can’t stop Phelps from spewing his ridiculous opinions because, like it or not, he is protected by the First Amendment.

On more than one occasion Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka have made the national news and prompted friends to ask me (a Kansan) about him. I calmly explain that he’s a minister with unusual and repulsive opinions who frequently protests military funerals and anything else that will get him attention. I tell people they can find out more about Fred Phelps at his website.  And then I tell people my honest opinion: Fred Phelps is a jerk.

Recently a Florida church gained a lot of controversial attention for planning to burn copies of the Quran. Phelps and his daughter were mad and were interviewed in the newspaper. They weren’t mad because the other church planned to burn the Quran or because of the potential international backlash of doing so. They were mad because they had already burned the Quran at their church and nobody cared.

Here’s the tricky part of the whole issue. If anyone tries to pass a law to restrict Phelps’s ability to protest, I’d have to vote against it. There’s nothing anyone can do to stop Phelps from preaching his filth without limiting everyone’s freedom of speech. But fortunately the freedom of speech that protects Phelps also protects me when I say that in my opinion Fred Phelps is an un-Christian lunatic doo-doo head. The only think anyone can do to stop Fred Phelps is to stop giving him media attention and take away his forum. Just because he holds up signs and yells a lot doesn’t mean you have to put him on CNN or put his photo on the front page; that’s what he wants! He’s like a stray dog; if you keep feeding him, he won’t go away.

Perhaps the best response (in my opinion) to the Westboro Baptist protesters took place in McAlester, Oklahoma this weekend. According to the Tulsa World, 1000 counter-protesters showed up and drowned out the handful of Westboro representatives with revved motorcycles and chants of “U.S.A!” Afterwards, the Westboro protesters found two of the tires on their minivan slashed and a town unwilling to help repair them. Smells like Karma.

The reality is that Fred Phelps has a tiny little church of misguided people who really don’t have a large span of influence unless the media gives them a forum. Without the media’s help, they’re just a pathetic little group of people waving pieces of poster board. Let’s stop making them more than they are.

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  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    CORRECTION:

    You write, “Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas City.”

    In fact, Westboro Baptist Church is located at 3701 West 12th Street, Topeka, Kansas, about three miles from the State Capitol.

    [Edited]

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    Alan, Thanks for your eagle eyed error detection, much appreciated. However, please send any future such matters to the editors group email rather than posting them as comments. Thanks again.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    I realize that you and the other BC editors go out of your way to shield these University of Oklahoma students from the real world of blogging. But sloppy writers should be publicly exposed for the frauds that they are, no matter how much BC’s editors love to pamper them.

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    No, Alan, you don’t realise anything, you simply make stuff up to suit your prejudices.

    In the real world, or at least the virtual world that we occupy, we editors don’t go out of our way to shield anybody from most anything, except in the comments space where we don’t like to see unprovoked nastiness.

    We do have processes that make managing certain things easier though and the way to get mistakes fixed is by emailing the editor list, as previously explained.

    As sloppy writing is not fraud in any sense of the word, it follows that your own writing in the preceding comment was sloppy, so consider yourself exposed as such.

    However, it is not BC policy to be needlessly unkind to anybody, so please follow the convention in future and email any other errors that taunt your eye.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    As usual, you are wrong. In this case, the label fraud applies because the blog’s author presents herself as a Master of Professional Writing. No such “master” would make the beginner’s mistake of not bothering to verify the city where Westboro Baptist Church is located–particularly not a “master” who also identifies herself as a Kansan.

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    But that isn’t what you said, is it, Alan? It seems silly to have to explain your original inaccurate critical remarks, particularly as you are now fully aware of the correct procedure, so I suggest we end this going nowhere fast exchange forthwith. In fact, however annoying it may be, I insist…

    Christopher Rose
    Blogcritics Comments Editor

  • Ruvy

    The Phelps Baptist Church of bigoted human trash won’t have any power at all if it don’t exist. Alan Kurtz was kind enough to provide the reading public with the address. I leave to others to imagine how to use the data.

    Cheers!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Ruvy, if you want to use this forum to advocate church burnings, why not “man up” as Sarah Palin likes to say? State so in plain English. Exhort the arsonists to do their thing. And why stop at Westboro Baptist Church? As long as they’re at it, the Klansmen or neo-Nazis or whoever takes up your call might as well burn down as many other churches as they can find. And when that’s completed, they can start on synagogues. Right, Ruvy?

  • Ruvy

    Welcome to the end of the thought process, Alan. Advocating any specific violence will get me banned, first of all. Second of all, were I to advocate such specific violence, I would do it to a Jewish group – specifically so that yahoos like the KKK and Neo-Nazis get the idea never to mess with Jews. And I wouldn’t do it on this site.

    After having lived in a country where I get to see what hate does, my conclusion is not to go to court, but to take direct action where needed, in a judicious and careful way. Striking terror in terrorists is my cup of tea, Alan. Whether you choose to drink from it is your business.

    The Phelps Baptist Church of bigoted human trash needs to be eliminated – before they actualize their hatred. In the right circumstances (like the economic breakdown you are on the verge of) the media will help Phelps along – pogroms sell papers.

    I deal in reality, Alan. You can deal in rhetoric.

  • Baronius

    Why would the press want to get rid of Phelps?

  • zingzing

    well, that’s a good question.

  • Clavos

    I would venture they wouldn’t. Ol’ Phelps sells a lotta papers.

  • zingzing

    the image that springs to mind is of newspaper money-men lining up for 69ing sessions with phelps.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Ol’ Phelps sells a lotta papers.

    Ridiculous, and of course completely unsubstantiated.

    Fact is, the media have long done an exceptional job of not covering the Westboro Baptist Church. Two months ago, when Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida announced his planned Qur’an burning on September 11, the WBC on its website denounced him as a false prophet and bitterly complained that they’d previously staged a public Qur’an burning but that the media refused to report it.

    On September 9, when Pastor Jones caved to pressure and agreed to not burn the Qur’an, the WBC jumped into the fray and proudly announced that they would not only burn the Qur’an on September 11, but one-up Jones by burning an American flag, too.

    On the appointed day, WBC did exactly that at their church in Topeka, which event was met with a resounding media blackout both nationwide and internationally. Only the Topeka Capital-Journal reported what happened, along with three local TV stations.

    It’s hard to conceive how the media could do a more effective job of ignoring Pastor Phelps and his clan than they’ve already done.

  • zingzing

    then again, phelps’ phollowers get their tires slashed in oklahoma and it’s all over the news, as the assholes couldn’t find someone willing to fix their tires so they could get the fuck out of town.

    and some other town in the midwest held an anti-demonstration against phelps’ followers, just blocking them from view in a show of solidarity with a dead soldier’s family.

    anti-phelps is as good as phelps-phelps to the media.

    phelps is phelps. anti-phelps is as good as phelps hisself.

    it’s easy to conceive of how the media could do a more effective job of ignoring phelps. they could ignore him. but they don’t. maybe that’s bad.

  • zingzing

    alan, you don’t really think the media is avoiding phelps, do you? if so, how do you know of him?

  • Clavos
  • Baronius

    I think the press is torn on how to report Phelps. They love the “rural Christian bigot” thing, because it fits their narrative. But the anti-Americanism doesn’t. If the average reporter saw one group of protestors burning the Koran and a group of counter-protestors burning the American flag, he’d love it. If he could get the right camera angle, he could have both fires in the picture. He’d secretly (or openly) admire the flag-burners for standing up against American religious bigots. But what to do with one group that burns both? To report on that, he’d need to do some research (strike one) into lunatics (strike two), and the result couldn’t be summarized in one sentence (strike three).

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Sometimes events rise to the level where our news media are essentially forced to cover Pastor Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. For instance, the lawsuit against WBC that is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Where would you advocates of media blacklisting draw the line? Do you propose that media should not report a case before the Supreme Court merely because it involves the WBC?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Oh, wait, I’ve got it! What we need in America, “land of the free” & all that notwithstanding, is state-controlled media! Like in those really cool communist countries. You can bet the compliant citizens of China, Cuba and North Korea would never hear of a Pastor Phelps in their midst. Those enlightened societies know how to deal with their dissidents. Why is America so far behind the curve?

  • Ruvy

    What we need in America, “land of the free” …., is state-controlled media!

    You have a state controlled media. you Americans are just too stupid to realize it.

    What you need in America is a culture that isn’t so pathetically sick. IN ISRAEL, anybody who defamed the name of a dead soldier at his funeral would get his teeth knocked down his throat – because in Israel, WE RESPECT THE SOLDIERS WHO DEFEND US! There would be no law suits – and NO SYMPATHY FOR THE SICK BASTARD WHO DARED DEFAME THE NAME OF A DEAD SOLDIER AT HIS FUNERAL. You Americans have no respect for anything – except your pathetic porno-culture, which you defend endlessly, waving your worthless constitution around like toilet paper.

  • Ruvy

    Someone should have cracked that asshole Phelp’s skull a long time ago. That is what garbage like him deserve.

  • zingzing

    ruvy, you should think about what you just said a little. it’s either completely silly or completely ignorant. why do you think we tolerate phelps?

  • zingzing

    as to our “state controlled media,” it’s pretty incredible that we have such a lax state. they really are doing a poor job controlling it. or maybe they’re doing a really, really good job. so good, in fact, that it appears to be pretty damn free. so many anti-government whack jobs are given air time. it must be a vast conspiracy that we are too blind to notice, right, ruvy? but you can see it from afar, and you can note its existence on an american website. and yet, the website continues to exist… god, they’re good.

  • Ruvy

    why do you think we tolerate phelps?

    He’s still alive and his church is still functioning. He should be dead and his church gone. Therefore, you tolerate the bastard. The same goes for the KKK and the neo-nazis. They should be dead – killed off. They are very much alive. Therefore you tolerate them.

    No tolerance of something means you get rid of it. You don’t – therefore you tolerate it. And you have a sick culture for your alleged “tolerance”. When you balance up the shit you tolerate against the things you bitch about to suppress – it’s just plain sick.

    Any problems reading the truth, zing? Remember. I left it cause I didn’t love it. And every time crap like this comes up, I’ll be right there to remind you what a sick culture you have, and why I have so much contempt for it.

    Later!

  • zingzing

    no, no. i’m asking what do you think the reason is behind our tolerance of phelps. i agree that we tolerate him.

  • Ruvy

    i’m asking what do you think the reason is behind our tolerance of phelps.

    Your values are all messed up! A guy who dies defending his country – and his dignity and the respect you should accord him – are worth far more than the abstract right to spit on his memory because he was a homosexual, for instance.

    When your values are this badly messed up, you have a sick culture. When your courts say it’s alright to desecrate a funeral – especially the funeral of a soldier who dies for his country – it is just plain wrong.

    That is only one example. But it will suffice.

  • zingzing

    such is the conundrum of freedom of speech. it’s unfortunate that phelps abuses his freedoms to broadcast his hateful message. but he puts the ugliness of his bigotry on public display a couple times a month, and that’s worth 100 gay pride marches right there.

    you’re missing the point in the end. he’s free to do what he wants to. if he wasn’t, we’d all be a little less free. he’s an old man. he’ll die one day and then he’ll be gone.

  • Ruvy

    NO, it is not a conundrum. There is no conundrum whatever. Certain values outweigh others. There are plenty of “peaceniks” here who want “peace” with the “Palestinian” terrorists. And they regularly call soldiers of the IDF nazis, etc., etc. But none of them will dare interrupt a military funeral, as much as they hate the military. If they did, they would be beaten to bloody pulps, and nobody would even think of coming to their aid. And if they sued in court, the judges would throw out the plaintiff’s case because they have all been to military funerals and all lost dead to a war or terrorism.

    You have a sick culture that does not know what is important, much less respect what is important.

  • Baronius

    Ruvy, do you disagree with Phelps about anything? You both claim to be warning America that it’s about to be leveled by G-d because of its sinfulness. On what grounds should he be silenced and you be allowed to speak?

  • The Caffeine-Free Herbal Infusion Party

    Here’s the acid test: Do you think the founding fathers, when they were advocating for free speech, meant that you could say anything you liked about anything or anyone without fear or favour. Do you think they’d have applied it if they thought it might drive people to suicide or ruin their lives and reputations through false claims and accusations.

    No, very doubtful; and nor do the laws of the United States in the various state and federal jurisdictions as they stand currently.

    Free speech has never been absolute in the US, although many people mistakenly believe it is. It has always had some limits applied to it from the outset.

    Examples: Hate speech can cross the boundaries into criminal behaviour by encouraging people to commit crimes. In those cases, those who encourage others to commit crimes are in many cases complicit; the type of thoing Phelps’s crew engage in can also cross the boundaries into defamation and libel. Actions for this are still being launched and won in US courts and remain on the statutes, in many cases from the old laws of the colonies.

    Doubtless Fred and his loony friends have also crossed the boundaries there, too.

    Here’s my view on those rights, especially as they apply to slanderous actions or speech that defame and libel and which might be actionable under American law.

    Americans have another right, possibly among many, even if not specifically included in the Bill of Rights: the right not to have their lives and reputations destroyed by the irresponsible speech or absurd behaviour of another person who hides behind the claim that they are simply exercising their rights to free speech.

    If you don’t read between the lines of the 9th amendment and find things in there that aren’t written there, that right might also actually be covered in the Bill of Rights.

    What does it say? These are not the only rights an American might have, or words to that effect? It’s at least widely held to address any rights that are not enumerated in the constitution, such as those that already existed in the inherited common law of England and which remain unchaged, the common laws of the original colonies and then the states, or others that have since been decided by the courts or through legislation.

    “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people”.

    I’d think the right to have a funeral without lunatics holding up placards outside and chanting filth, or calling the dead son who gave his life in the service of his country, a “fag” who will be going to hell, is certainly covered by that.

    And perhaps the use of the term fag in the pejorative in that particular context might be something the gay community could take up legally.

    I’d love to see a slew of 9th amendment cases hit the courts, so that at least legislators and the judiciary might have to address some issues and have a look at that very commonsense piece of the Bill of Rights, without finding things in it that aren’t there, or not finding things in it at all because it’s all too hard.

    Perhaps it also begs the question: what is freedom really, and does a piece of paper written 200 years ago by men FOR men and which is not a tablet sent down by God, really represent the be-all and end-all of what society can and can’t do?

    Even the founding fathers were adamant in regard to the notion that Americans would be able to change these things as it suited them in the future. There is plenty of documented evidence that they believed in the evolution of law and society asw circumstances in the future might demand. And their main issue with free speech appeared to be in regard to being able to express political, religious and philosophical viewpoints, no matter how radical at the time, without fear provided they didn’t cross the line of existing laws. That it applies in almost a blanket sense according to the wording and the in the judgement of the courts on many occasions is probably a good thing, but some of the bad has been swept up in it.

    I’d bet London to a brick that while they were discussing free speech, the founding fathers didn’t have people like Fred Phelps in mind at the time, nor neo-Nazi groups calling for the deaths of all jews and “niggers”, or at the very least the physical harming of many racial and religious minorities.

    Let’s get a grip here; commonsense has its place too in a modern, democratic society.

  • zingzing

    ruvy: “Certain values outweigh others.”

    yep. freedom of speech outweighs hurt feelings. phelps is a joke. it’s highly possible that one day, he’ll run into the wrong crowd and something violent will happen. that’ll be the day he’s won.

    “You have a sick culture that does not know what is important, much less respect what is important.”

    and you think beating someone to a bloody pulp and denying someone’s freedom of speech is the answer? think about that for a minute.

  • Baronius

    Zing- Phelps IS Ruvy. Doooooooom!

  • Clavos

    Stan, you gave yourself away with “I’d bet London to a brick…”

    Just sayin’ :-)

  • zingzing

    baronius–DOOOOOOOOOOOOM.

    learn how to capitalize. emoticon of winking knowingness.

    it is rather crazy that he’d beat up a man just because he replaces ruvy’s list of american crimes with “fags.” especially because ruvy has expressed similar ideas in regard to israel’s god judging israel because they let the homosexuals have a parade. just do a quick search of the internet for “ruvy in jerusalem gay pride parade” and you’ll see.

    so yes, ruvy is phelps. ruvy should beat ruvy up.

  • Ruvy

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

    Baronius, there is a huge difference between scumbags desecrating the memory of a man who has died for his country and homosexuals parading in public in the Land of Israel and celebrating the kinds of pagan worship that caused the Canaanites to be vomited out of this country (by our force of arms).

    Go back and read Leviticus 18 – the summary, Leviticus 20 – the summary; and then read the rules on witnessing for capital crimes in Deuteronomy. According to the Torah, homosexual behavior behind closed doors with no witnesses is not a crime for which one can be executed. ONE NEEDS WITNESSES! For a capital crime, ONE NEEDS WITNESSES to convict!

    In a parade, something done deliberately in public, the public are witnesses. And the homosexual parades in Tel Aviv are pretty raunchy! They come very close to the homosexual behavior done in ancient pagan temples in this country, and throughout the Middle East. One sees remnants of this in the “dancing boy” traditions of Persia, and the hidden homosexuality all over Arabia.

    In spite of all this, the idea that a soldier’s memory should be desecrated at his funeral goes against all norms of human behavior in THIS country. Of course, in YOUR country, where bombers turn weddings into funerals, where you have the sensibilities of Roman savages, respect for the fallen soldier ALSO falls into the dirt. You have a sick culture, and the thin veneer of Christianity that gave it some respectability once is now gone.

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    Ruvy, as the Comments Editor, I would say knock it off with the inflammatory remarks.

    As a standard humanoid though, I would say I have no idea what you are trying to express in your comment as it reads as incoherence to me.

    However, as you are already on record here as demanding that Israel uses some its “vast” nuclear arsenal on nuking Tel Aviv for being too liberal and full of the wrong kind of Jews, it doesn’t require too much insight to know the, er, logic of your “reasoning”.

    What I would particularly like to know is how you see a culture that is based largely on fairly ignorant, fearful and uninformed writing from several millennia ago as anything other than a sick culture itself?

    Another good thing to know would be where you get the over-reaching arrogance from to lecture people on how their countries should be organised or how they should live their lives?

    Given your hostility to people opining about Israeli matters, one would have thought you would be the first to mind their own business, but apparently not…

    Perhaps it is your own adopted culture that is actually sick and it is the sight of one that isn’t, one that you, perhaps rashly, bailed out on that enrages you so?

    Fortunately, I know quite a few other people who live in Israel, so I am confident that there are many decent people there that don’t think as you do, which is a relief.

    It is often a struggle to perceive any real difference between you and many of the people you so clearly fear, hate or despise. The constant foaming at the mouth you seem to have adopted as your style is certainly familiar from other zealots and just as unpersuasive…

    Perhaps showing us some of the happiness and fulfilment you have presumably found through relocating to Israel rather than this rather comedic doom and gloom line you choose to express would make you more persuasive?

    Failing that, should one conclude that the reason you post here so frequently is not out of concern but so you get the opportunity to boost your own ego and life choices by attacking those of others?

  • Ruvy

    Speaking to you as Comments Editor this is what I have to say. Your arguments are not worth answering.

    Finally, I’m not interested in persuading YOU of anything.

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    It is incredibly arrogant and also rather ignorant to make unsubstantiated assertions, which is your stock in trade, Ruvy.

    You affect indifference to defending your opinions but I suspect the truth of the matter is that you are fully aware that you have no defence against anything I wrote and that any attempt to do so would just make you sound even more extreme. No surprise there…

  • Ruvy

    Ruvy, do you disagree with Phelps about anything? You both claim to be warning America that it’s about to be leveled by G-d because of its sinfulness. On what grounds should he be silenced and you be allowed to speak?

    Baronius,

    Many claim that America will be destroyed for its sinfulness. There is a huge crowd world-wide who can see the obvious. But, I hold no signs to desecrate the funerals of the dead, and do not act to demean those who are alive – unless and until they seek MY death. Since Phelps and his crowd DO seek the death of my people, I feel something has to be done to prevent Jews from being the victims of “Christian love” yet again.

    It turns out that in March 2008, Irene wrote an article that drew the wrath, of all people, of Margie Phelps, of the Westboro Baptist Church. Do take a look-see at the 12 comments the article got. [Edited]

  • Baronius

    Ruvy – The Phelps guys burned a Koran and an American flag.

    Would you burn a Koran? No. But you’d burn Tehran if you had a chance. You’d slaughter “bad” Muslims in the streets. I know you would; you’ve discussed plans for it.

    Would you burn an American flag? I don’t think so. But you’re fixated on America’s downfall, and you hate American troops because you think they’re working against you. I’m sure that Phelps would say that he doesn’t hate America, but only hates the sinfulness of this potentially good country. That’s exactly what you say.

    If you were in the US, I could picture you protesting American immorality outside the funeral of a soldier who died defending American expansionism. I note that all your criticisms of Phelps revolve around the fact that you wouldn’t allow people to behave like that at the funerals of *Israeli* soldiers. But I can picture you protesting against Pashtun-hating, Palestinian-supporting men in US uniforms.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    zingzing, did I imagine it, or did we almost exchange ideas about what constitutes “inflammatory remarks” and whether or not they have a place on the Internet? In my opinion, such remarks are one of the most engaging and high-spirited aspects of this medium, and an indispensable part of what makes it unique.

  • zingzing

    yeah, we got the axe, al. i’m in a corner crying about it right. now. i’m sitting in a puddling mixture of tears and urine.

    inflammatory remarks are one thing. when they’re actually provocative. ruvy’s remarks just show him to be an angry, hateful person, which we already know. so they’re kinda useless except as an addition to the mountain of evidence we have already.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Alan, if you read up the thread, you’ll see Ruvy’s own remarks concerning the hierarchy of values, and free speech, according to Ruvy, is not an absolute right trumping all others. Whether you agree or disagree with this position, Stan the Man, see comment #31, presents a rather balanced view of the position, and I tend to agree with the general tenor. Stan had transcended here the usual limitations that happen to plague the good liberal: he’s doing his own thinking.

    Apart from that, however, don’t you think it’s rather fair to be judging Ruvy here by his own standards: if freedom of speech, again, according to Ruvy, isn’t absolute, why should Ruvy be given the kind of pass that he denies to others. Granted, desecrating funeral proceedings (Phelps incident) doesn’t fall into the same category as Ruvy’s occasional posting here. But then again, he was and is agitating at times for dropping nukes on Tehran or even Tel-Aviv.

    Perhaps we’re all too fixated on the notion of free speech, Alan, as though it were the answer and a kind of panacea to all the ills which plague a modern society such as ours – as a form of diversion, perhaps, lest we zero in on the really important things and causes of our discontent. Food for thought.

    Indeed, perhaps we really ought to strip this notion of free speech of its ideological and Orwellian bearings and start thinking in terms of responsible speech for a change.

  • Ruvy

    You really think you know how I think, don’t you? How little you know, and how ignorant you truly are.

    First of all, I would never desecrate a funeral – full stop. I respect the dead as I respect the living. I would certainly never desecrate a military funeral – full stop.

    Opposed as I was to the Vietnam war in my youth, I NEVER launched into diatribes about soldiers being baby killers – even though many were – out of fear of an enemy they did not understand. I did demonstrate against that war – but never carried my views to such an extreme to show disrespect for those who were sent overseas to defend my sorry ass. I am not that ungrateful or that stupid.

    As for those I want to see killed, I want to see foreigners in this country who incite Arabs against us killed off. They and the media who support them slavishly should be the first to die from live fire at the riots they provoke. Then come the self-hating Jewish traitors who support them. Only after that, would I want soldiers to target Arabs who attack us at these riots. The terrorists from FataH, Hamas, hizballah, and other organizations should, of course, be killed. The imams who push Wahhabi hatred should die also. But the vast majority of Arabs should not be harmed or humiliated or discriminated against, as they are peace-loving people who have a G-d given right to equal protection under the law.

    But this nation is at war. And these recommended killings are to protect the security of a nation at war.

    As to what I think American Jews should do, I refer you to this website. At least some Jews in America are doing SOMETHING. That is a comfort to me.

    Were I in the US, it is likely I would be as deluded as most American Jews are, though I would fully support the Jewish Defense Organization referred to above. My “re-education” and political orientation came about only because I wanted to move here. So, I’d know nothing about the Pashtun, etc., and probably would not be interested in them.

  • zingzing

    “perhaps we really ought to strip this notion of free speech of its ideological and Orwellian bearings and start thinking in terms of responsible speech for a change.”

    …that’s a doozy.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Why should Ruvy be given the kind of pass that he denies to others?

    Roger Nowosielski (#44), that’s the essence of Americanism. Why should Hermann Goering have been given a trial following World War II instead of just taken out and shot like a dog? Why is the U.S. Supreme Court considering the lawsuit against Pastor Phelps? We don’t treat our enemies as they would treat us; we treat them as we should treat one another, in accordance with our laws and the standards of fair play.

    As I see it, even if you’re right about Ruvy’s concept freedom of speech–that is, being relative rather than absolute–it’s irrelevant as to how we treat Ruvy. What counts here are American ideals, not Ruvy’s or your warped ideas about imposing constraints on free expression in favor of what you deem to be “responsible speech.”

    Personally, I cherish irresponsible speech, and love to rebut it at every opportunity. But I staunchly oppose banning it, either from this web site or anywhere else on the Internet.

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    Alan, although this site is hosted in the USA, it has never endorsed an American perspective per se. What counts here is not “American ideals” but the wider culture of the place, which is informed by US thinking of course, but not exclusively so.

    Ruvy’s view, if I understand it accurately, is that he can comment on any and all USA or other nation’s issues as he sees fit but that only people in Israel (and possibly not even all of them, just the right kind of Jew) can comment on it.

    I completely agree that we (an inclusive we, not just the USA) should treat people in accordance with our laws and strive to make those laws as fair as possible, something that isn’t the case currently with many laws.

    I also agree that irresponsible speech is to be valued or indeed cherished, not banned, but is it also something that should be rebutted at every opportunity? That is something I’m not so sure about…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Granted, Alan. We should never apply Ruvy’s standards to govern Ruvy’s behavior for then we become a nation of Ruvy’s. Also agree with you that the free speech concept defines so-called essence of Americanism. You’re still not addressing, though, the underlying question, the fetish that the notion of free speech had become. It’s as though we’re given this illusory freedom while the real freedom is being denied. And on this conception, free speech serves as a pacifier (because talk is always cheap), a kind of surrogate for meaningful and decisive action. And thus the charade of freedom continues while in reality, we’re in chains. Indeed, I view the notion of free speech as one of the greatest accomplishments of bourgeois ideology. And sure as hell, it’s still working.

  • Ruvy

    You’re still not addressing, though, the underlying question, the fetish that the notion of free speech had become. It’s as though we’re given this illusory freedom while the real freedom is being denied. And on this conception, free speech serves as a pacifier (because talk is always cheap), a kind of surrogate for meaningful and decisive action.

    Roger, instead of philosophizing about all these things, why don’t you do what others have done. Found an NGO and DO something. It is what I’m working on. A free tip for you – it’s easier to register NGO’s from the United States than from Israel.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Re #48: I directly addressed Roger Nowosielski, who like me is an American. I suggested how we ought to treat Ruvy, an expatriate countryman who is now an Israeli citizen.

    What you or other Brits may think is therefore beside the point. I imagine that King George III considered Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (1776) to be inflammatory and irresponsible. Fortunately, enough men with printing presses gave not a hoot what the King thought and distributed Paine’s pamphlet in spite of any Royal paine in the arse. Hundreds of thousands of Colonial Americans acquired Common Sense and made up their own minds as to its inflammatory and irresponsible qualities. They acted accordingly. I am their descendant. (My mother traced her ancestry back to a pre-Revolutionary Protestant clergyman, of all things.) So I too act accordingly.

  • Baronius

    Come on, Ruvy. Do you really think that the reason that most people think your comments are insanely violent is because you’re prophetic? Every serial killer has a mental list of targets and justifications, but when he devolves he’ll kill anyone for any reason.

    You won’t burn a Koran, unless there are Korans in Iran, which you’d incinerate completely.

    You wouldn’t hurt a bad Muslim, but when the chaos starts, you’re running out into the street with your knife, and you’re going to start making sound judgements about who deserves to live.

    You’d never disturb a funeral, but you want the bodies of those who betray Israel left hanging in the town square.

    If these comments of yours are true, are you really sure that you have any compunctions about anything at all?

  • Ruvy

    Ruvy’s view, if I understand it accurately, is that he can comment on any and all USA or other nation’s issues as he sees fit but that only people in Israel (and possibly not even all of them, just the right kind of Jew) can comment on it.

    My view is that one should comment on what he truly knows. I grew up in the United States and was active in American politics here, so I comment on American culture and politics (with certain limits – 9½ years does dull the blade of perception). I live in Israel, and participate to the degree that I am able to in civic life here, and do know the realities on the ground. So, I comment on the realities here, as I see them. And my perceptions do change over time.

    I rarely comment on events in nations other than these two unless I feel truly confident that I know what I’m talking about. And when corrected by a native or a resident, I usually defer to their knowledge – as they are there and I am not.

    As to Israel, Jews and Arabs who live here, or have lived here for a significant amount of time will likely have the same or better understanding than me. Whether I agree with them is another issue. But their standing to comment is something I would not question.

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    True enough, but just because both of you are Americans doesn’t mean that is the only perspective involved, so what anybody else thinks, regardless of where they are from, is relevant.

    Also, the inflammatory remark that started this debate was in fact an insult aimed at two commenters, nothing so loftily irresponsible as your example…

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    Ruvy, it doesn’t follow that just because you were in the USA for most of your life you truly know it.

    I know many people that have never developed a proper understanding of their country on many different levels and, in your case, where your perception of things is passed through your dogma for interpretation, it is possibly even more pronounced.

    I defend your right to believe anything you want to, but that doesn’t mean that it is either right or beyond challenge.

    On the other hand, I defend anybody’s right to have and express an opinion about anything they want to.

  • Ruvy

    Baronius, my comments contemplate violence because, unfortunately, this seems to be the necessary solution where others have been tried and have failed or where others have been tried half-heartedly and failed. So, my comments seem violent to you. When the situation in the States turns bad, you too will contemplate far more violence than you do presently. Be grateful that at present you do not have to contemplate violence and you can point at me and say, “he’s insanely violent.” The day will come when you will not. If you think of me at all then, you will either say, “Ruvy was right,” or you will feel sad that you have to contemplate violence as I do.

    Peace is a blessing. Enjoy it while you still have it. You will not have it for long.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Alan, if free speech is truly your ideal, you should welcome the fact that this is an international site and that all voices are welcome. I may be swayed at my weaker moments to lash out against different personalities, but in the larger scheme of things, personalities don’t matter, the principles do.

    Indeed, we all should be grateful for all these diverse voices, especially as they articulate their views of our own culture and way of life. Think of de Tocqueville, for example, and his invaluable analysis of early American society. We need that kind of input.

  • Baronius

    That’d be fine if you weren’t talking about blowing up churches in Kansas. But seriously, Kansas? If you think that violence is the only solution for the chaos that is 2010 Kansas, what situation doesn’t call for violence?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    For some reason, Ruvy, I don’t ever imagine Baronius contemplating acts of violence, no matter what the circumstances. I might, because of my temperament, but I can assure you of this too: it’d never pass the stage of contemplation.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Peace is a blessing. Enjoy it while you still have it. You will not have it for long.

    Ruvy (#56), did I miss something? Has peace broken out in the United States? I thought we were a nation at war.

  • Ruvy

    As I said, Baronius, peace is a blessing. Enjoy it while you still have it. If you do not do what is necessary to maintain it, you will lose it more quickly than you are likely to otherwise.

    Do not delude yourself that a mere number on a calendar should make you a more civilized savage than you were 100 years ago, or 200 years ago or 3,000 years ago. “Thoroughly Modern Millie” was not “thoroughly modern” in 1922 – she was just more of an obvious sex maniac than her mother.

    In a time of economic uncertainty, extremists like Phelps will be flashpoints of mass violence. The tools of the internet, Twitter and Facebook, will spread that violence rapidly, as will pagers and cell phones.

    You will face economic uncertainty very soon. The American balloon of “prosperity” is about to burst – permanently. Have fun!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I kind of look forward to times when we’ll be cut down to size. It might bring a requisite kind of humility to a nation known for its hubris. A new leaf for humanity, perhaps.

  • Clavos

    @#62:

    Not likely, Roger. Americans being who they are, they’ll just whine about the injustice of it all…

  • zingzing

    or wallow in oblivion.

    time to have a drink.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Although this site is hosted in the USA, it has never endorsed an American perspective per se.

    Re #48: Congratulations! You win the Easily Rebuttable Comment of the Day Award, hands down.

    Blogcritics is an American web site. It was founded by Americans. It is owned and operated by an American company (San Francisco-based Technorati). Its publisher (Jill Asher) is an American based in Silicon Valley. Its co-executive editors are Americans based in Chicago and New York, respectively. The overwhelming majority of its other editors, writers and readers are Americans. Most of BC’s commenters are Americans. The odd blog that attracts a cross-section from other English-speaking countries, such as “Unnecessary Pap Smears,” is the exception that proves the rule.

    Notwithstanding the fact that you, in your official capacity, have never endorsed it as such, Blogcritics is an American web site. To state otherwise is akin to me saying that there’s no water in San Francisco Bay because I have not endorsed it. Just have your trusted colleague Dr Dreadful drive over and jump in the Bay sometime (the sooner the better). He will, I happily predict, report getting wet.

    What is far more interesting is the number of anti-American commenters among BC’s regulars. These include nominal Americans such as Roger and Clavos, as well as foreigners such as Jordan, Ruvy and STM. All of these men, each in his own way, hates America as much as Osama bin Laden does. Perhaps regularly reading their comments in the course of your duties has skewed your own view of what perspectives Blogcritics conveys. But they are merely the loudest squeaking wheels and by no means represent the vehicle as a whole.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I do resent, Alan, calling me a “nominal American.” I am a naturalized citizen, that’s true, but that doesn’t make me “nominal” by any stretch, unless you’re inventing a nomenclature of you own. I paid my dues, served in the armed service, paid my taxes for a stretch, been here since 1961 as a matter of fact, a far longer span than the natural lives of many BC commenters, including Dreadful and Chris Rose.

    So my question to you is – on what grounds do you call me an American by name only? Because I’ve become critical of late of our government, it’s imperialistic policies, etcetera etcetera? I would have thought that the notion of civil disobedience and distrust of the government are as deeply ingrained in the American psyche as freedom of speech, indeed, even more so, for those are those proper occasions for responsible if not obligatory speech, and action. So what is it really that you are proposing? A kind of acquiescence whereby we keep on congratulate ourselves on a job well done?

    I’m sorry, but I don’t by this brand of patriotism, nor do I buy the notion of American exceptionalism to which you apparently subscribe. And let me assure you of this, it’s precisely because of this that I’m not a nominal American but more of an American than you’ll ever be.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Perhaps we really ought to strip this notion of free speech of its ideological and Orwellian bearings and start thinking in terms of responsible speech for a change. (#44)

    The charade of freedom continues while in reality, we’re in chains. Indeed, I view the notion of free speech as one of the greatest accomplishments of bourgeois ideology. (#49)

    I kind of look forward to times when we’ll be cut down to size. It might bring a requisite kind of humility to a nation known for its hubris. (#62)

    Roger Nowosielski (#66), I called you a “nominal American” only after reading the above statements from your preceding posts on this thread. Rest assured, I do not question your citizenship. But your words express anti-American sentiments. So wrap yourself in the flag if you wish, but your “Americanism” is nothing more than a legal fiction.

  • zingzing

    you can be an american and be critical of america. a lot about this country is shitty. but have a look around. you can say that about just about any country. maybe not finland. they’re pretty cool. except their treatment of the saami. bastards!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    zingzing (#68), I was careful to exclude you from “the number of anti-American commenters among BC’s regulars.”

    It’s one thing to say, as you do, that “a lot about this country is shitty.” But you wisely stop short of advocating, as Roger does, “stripping this notion of free speech” to “start thinking in terms of responsible speech” (#44) or writing, “The charade of freedom continues while in reality, we’re in chains” (#49), or saying that you’re “looking forward to times when we’ll be cut down to size” (#62).

    To the contrary, your comments #24, #28 and #32 on this thread place you firmly within the very American tradition that Roger, Clavos, Jordan, Ruvy and STM so despise. Like it not, you’re a better American, zingzing, than you’d probably feel comfortable admitting.

  • Baronius

    Roger isn’t being critical of America; he’s rooting for America to take it on the chin.

  • Baronius

    The first guy I ever heard use the expression “9/12 Republican” told his story this way. He said that if you meet for lunch with a friend of yours and he always talks about how he hates his wife, you think that’s just the way he talks. But one day the two of you look across the street of the restaurant and see his wife getting robbed and beaten, and he starts cheering. That’s when you realize he really hates her.

    I don’t know if Roger meant his comment #62 or if it was bluster, but if he did mean it then he’s an American in name only, a nominal American.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    You’re misquoting, Alan, to suit your purposes – I said, stripping the notion of its idealogical bearings.

    Yes, Baronius, taking it on the chin, if need be, whatever it takes, to find our way again. For me, America is an idea, not the present reality.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    USA USA USA

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I wasn’t wrapping myself in the flag, Alan, if that’s how you construed my response. And it’s sorry to see that you find it necessary to invoke such metaphors. As I stated a post ago, America is and ought to be an idea in the tradition of Whitman, Thoreau, Emerson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Norman Mailer. Shall I go on?

    It’s you who is displaying a narrow vision of love of country, not I.

    Remember the good Germans. Many turned out to be Nazis.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Jesus, Roger, now you liken good Americans to “good Germans,” who “turned out to be Nazis.”

    Does anyone wonder why I call you anti-American?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    U haven’t, Alan, just a cautionary tale where blind patriotism can lead.

    If you doubt my sense of allegiance, I invite you to read some of my earlier pieces on BC, on American Exceptionalism, and The Disappearing Americas – only a year or so old. Sorry to say, though, my thinking has since evolved. You may believe we’re still in Paradise; well, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve been expelled.

    Pleasant dreams.

  • zingzing

    f. scott fitzgerald? hrm. there are a few of his books i haven’t read, but i’d say he’s pretty critical of the american dream at times. or liked to display its emptiness at least.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    One of the first prophets of doom and gloom and the loss of the American Dream – The Great Gatsby, The Last Tycoon.

    Even Hemingway and the “lost generation,” Gertrude Stein, Henry Miller, etc, could well be included.

    Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls aren’t exactly pro-American novels.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    “America,” writes Roger (#74), “is and ought to be an idea in the tradition of Whitman, Thoreau, Emerson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Norman Mailer.” He subsequently expands on this (#78) by calling Fitzgerald “one of the first prophets of doom and gloom and the loss of the American Dream.” He also cites Hemingway, whose A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls “aren’t exactly pro-American novels.”

    America, then, is and ought to be a place of doom and gloom where the American Dream has been lost and where literary giants are revered because their works are not pro-American.

    If that is Roger’s ideal America, no wonder he hates his adopted homeland, believes “we’re in chains” (#49) and looks “forward to times when we’ll be cut down to size” (#62). What a dismal, unrealistic view of the United States by an embittered outcast.

  • zingzing

    well, i don’t think we should be fooling ourselves. fitzgerald wrote a perfect novel. and his critique of the american dream is purely because it is a dream. it’s fleeting and ultimately less than fulfilling. but it says something that it’s called that. it’s a self-critical notion. which, i would hope, makes it very american. it’s just too bad that sometimes that’s not true.

    nationalism is a curse and always has been. it’s as responsible for as much death as religion or any other ism.

  • zingzing

    just out of a little curiosity, i looked up who coined the phrase “the american dream.” surprisingly, at least somewhat, it was an american. from brooklyn. in fucking 1931.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    What could be more American than a guy from Brooklyn, right, zingzing?

    As for your preceding comment, though, aren’t you confusing nationalism with jingoism?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Wow, we’re getting melodramatic here, Alan. Is this for your benefit, to convince yourself of your rightness, or for mine.

    Hate was a word I never used. Nor do I consider myself an outcast. But tell you what, friend, I’d rather stand with the literary giants – you must have used this term pejoratively though you had good enough sense not to put it in scare quotes – then with the small-minded, petty people such as you.

  • zingzing

    alan: “aren’t you confusing nationalism with jingoism?”

    not really. jingoism is an extension of nationalism. without the latter, the former would not exist. i can be proud of my country, like during the olympics or hopefully, one day, the world cup. but nationalism’s dark side includes things that jingoism does not. jingoism, supposedly, is about foreign policy, but nationalism can cause its own excessive pride, including ethnic cleansing.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Right, my disenchantment with America is part and parcel of the evils of nationalism, but it had come first. It’s only later that I traced it, conceptually and emotionally to nationalism.

    I think your insights about Fitzgerald are spot on.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Ethnic cleansing! Are we still talking about America?

  • zingzing

    no, nationalism. a racial or ethnic conflict that results in cleansing would be an utter clusterfuck in america. luckily.

  • Clavos

    “Nominal American,” eh? Nobody’s ever called me that before, but I must admit it has a certain ring to it…

    And yet…all the libruls hereabouts accuse me of being a conservative…

    Go figure.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    all the libruls hereabouts accuse me of being a conservative…

    Not all.

    I have in the past accused you of being a liberal: a charge to which, as I recall, you confessed.

  • Clavos

    Ah, Doc. As is so often the case, you are absolutely right…

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Well, I’ve accused you of being a closet intellectual, and I haven’t heard yet a direct rebuttal.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Well, of course. Clavos isn’t really a redneck: he just plays one on TV…

  • Clavos

    …And plays him well, even if I do say so myself…

  • Gayle

    Everyone is trying to treat Phelps like he treats everyone. The best weapon in this case is prayer. We need to be praying that Phelps comes to recognized the love and mercy of Christ and he can turn his ministry to one of love and mercy.

  • Lucas

    The WBC is full of sick minded people! In my opinion, THEY are the ones going to Hell. How can anyone have the nerve to hold up a sign displaying utterly vulgar trash such as “God hates F—” or “God hates soldiers” or whatever and tell the families of those soldiers that their son or daughter is going to Hell?

  • Jamaica

    Quote- “Afterwards, the Westboro protesters found two of the tires on their minivan slashed and a town unwilling to help repair them. Smells like Karma.”

    Smells like money to me. This is exactly what Phelps and his family want to happen. When they hold up one their hateful, provocative signs designed to create fury in passers-by, they want violence and they want people to physically attack them. Then they can sue the town for failing to provide proper adequate protection from the mob just because they were exercising their rights to free speech.

    Phelps is not a religious man at all, he’s a fraud who uses his phony church to dodge taxes, that’s all. He has a gripe to pick with the gov’t and this is how he gets back at them for being disbarred years earlier.

    Kansas needs to take Phelps religious license away, and force him to pay taxes.

    The media should definitely ignore him, refuse to give him the soapbox and attention he craves. He is not newsworthy in any sense of the word.