99 Problems: Vol. 3

I watched Fall from Grace (K. Ryan Jones, 2007) this afternoon. While it’s a decent documentary, covers the facts fairly, and views pretty throughly, I’m interested in the intent behind such a film.

The film is about the Rev. Fred Phelps, head of the Westboro Baptist Church. He and his family are infamous for their protests against homosexuality and the military around the country. Most notoriously, there those charming fuckers at military funerals that say the reason soldiers are being blown up in Iraq is because “God Hates Fags” and “America Loves Fags.” You’ve seen them. They’re the ones with neon and rainbow colored signs wearing short, jean shorts…or, well, the neon rainbow sign carriers with the short, jean shorts spreading hate messages.

A huge point of the film is that the publicity the Phelps family receives from media around the globe is only helping their cause. Every time Rev. Phelps sees himself on the news or reads about himself in the papers, he figures that his message is traveling further and reaching more people. Every time someone approaches their group to argue with them, they figure that their message must be important enough to get attention.

So someone made a documentary about them.

It’s a rocky slope. On the one hand, you want people to be aware of the issues involved in hate groups and first amendment rights. You want to teach those of us not living in The Middle about what fundamental groups are capable of. On the other hand, you don’t want to encourage the members of these groups further by spreading their publicity.

If we support the first amendment and their right to protest, then there isn’t anything legally we can do about them. In fact, the ACLU defended them, and as supports of gay rights we better support the ACLU, right? So perhaps the best defense against Rev. Phelps and his family is by making them irrelevant. Obsolete. Legally, we fight for gay rights and for the acceptance of gay rights. And in the mean time we ignore them. It’s important to start conversations about such a group. It’s just tricky to do so without making them feel happier and more justified.

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Filed under 99 Problems but a Bitch Aint One, Whitney

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