Alex Blaze

The Phelpses Get Radio Time, and GLAAD's Revisionist History Erases Homophobia

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 15, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Media
Tags: Arizona, Fred Phelps, fundies, glaad, Jared Lee Loughner, Mike Gallagher, shirley phelps-roper, WBC, Westboro Baptist Church

After the state of Arizona passed emergency legislation to keep protests 300 feet from funerals and burials and someone organized a human shield westboro_baptist_church_drones_church.jpgbetween the funeral and the Westboro Baptist Church, a right-wing radio show has offered some free radio time to the WBC in exchange for them canceling their protest of the Arizona shooting victims.

Not to belabor the irony, but after a long, national conversation about violent rhetoric in the national discourse, Shirley Phelps-Roper will be taking to the radio to talk about God's plan for the destruction of everyone who doesn't believe the exact same stuff she and her father do.

The national discussion about violent rhetoric has been messy and incoherent, with few people even agreeing on what violent rhetoric is and most big-media liberals looking to score points and give their audience some red meat while proposing few solutions (other than to hate Republicans, but that's not really all that much work for many liberals).

Be that as it may, if we're talking about the sort of rhetoric that leads to violence, then Fred Phelps and Company should surely be mentioned. While most Americans are either repulsed or completely ignorant of who they are, there is a certain kind of person who might be drawn to their black-and-white world, their angry, vengeful God, and their easy explanations for every tragedy that always put the blame on society in general for conformity and stupidity instead of the Truth that only Fred Phelps and his followers know.

While The Mike Gallagher Show, which is giving Fred Phelps this platform, might legitimately think that they're doing something good for everyone, all they're doing is taking a message that several hundred people might have noticed that afternoon at some distance from the funeral and syndicating it nationally where the sort of people who might be looking for a simplistic explanation for everything bad in the world.

The fact that Mike Gallagher will probably say that he doesn't agree with the Phelpses at all, that the WBC is terrible, etc., will just be icing on the cake for people looking for an ideology that can sufficiently piss off everyone, the right, the left, and people who don't care about politics. That might not be important to me or you, some people get off on ideas that are roundly condemned by everyone.

GLAAD has a petition up, which might help if The Mike Gallagher Show legitimately thinks they're helping and isn't looking at this as a publicity stunt.

I should point out that this part of their press release (via email) annoyed me to no end, where they explain to whatever hapless journalist assigned to this story who the WBC is:

For more than 20 years, the Westboro Baptist Church has cynically and maliciously exploited the suffering of countless brave and patriotic American families by protesting the funerals of innocent victims and fallen heroes. Westboro Baptist Church has held up signs at the funerals of fallen soldiers, saying "Thank God for IEDs," "Pray for More Dead Soldiers" and "God Killed Your Son." Before the families of victims of September 11th, they held up signs saying "Thank God for 9/11" and "God Hates America." Westboro has picketed the funerals of hate crime victims with placards reading "God Wants Your Son Dead" and "God Hates Fags."

Indeed, "for more than 20 years" they've been "protesting," but the "brave and patriotic American families" and "fallen soldiers" didn't see "Thank God for IEDs" until about a decade ago. Before that they just protested gay people's funerals and the funerals of people who died because of HIV/AIDS and the media didn't care because they were just good Christians protesting the perverts. Then they got the bright idea to protest the soldiers who were killed in Iraq and suddenly the media noticed they existed and roundly condemned them as the worst people in America.

Yeah, the worst thing about WBC is that they protest The Troops, the real, straight (please don't ask), American heroes and the innocent (so they can't be sexual, much less gay) victims of national tragedies. If only they had stuck with fags.

I would have hoped that GLAAD wouldn't perpetuate that revisionist history, but here we are.

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Pam Daniels Pam Daniels | January 15, 2011 5:11 PM

I want an honest answer… What should GLAAD have done or not done?

Should GLAAD have ignored this or do you think they could have done something else that might have been more effective in your opinion? I have no argument with what you wrote. There is an old saying in media “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

I really want to know what you think GLAAD could have done better!



Written a more historically accurate blurb on the history of WBC that specifically explained their history w/ LGBT people and HIV/AIDS.

bigolpoofter | January 15, 2011 6:05 PM

In my opinion, GLAAD would have served its constituencies better by completely ignoring the Phelps cult broadcast offer by a right-wing broadcaster. As they chose, instead, to draft a petition and press releases, they were intellectually dishonest in straight-washing the legacy of the Phelps cult and failing to expose the use of children as agents of their message of hate-- a few links to pics of kids on the cult family of websites would have a great indictment of these perverts!

I have come face-to-face with the Phelps cult here in D.C. several times over the past fifteen years. At the 97 march they clung to their protest corner and scurried away like the insects they are, leaving their hateful signs behind. Before the millennium march to nowhere, I stood a few feet from them on the subway. During two funerals at Arlington I served as a human barrier between them and the grieving families. Then, around Obama's inauguration I followed the clown wagon from D.C. back to a hotel near my home--it took all of my strength to not commit arson and destruction of property... that would have only kept them in town longer and let them play victim more!

Paige Listerud | January 16, 2011 4:09 PM

If GLAAD, in its press releases, does not want to go into LGBTQ ancient history with Fred Phelps and his family (and sadly, in American media terms, the 80s and 90s are ancient history) then the least they can do is call attention to the anti-queer sentiment at the root of all WBC's current polemics against dead US soldiers and the massacre of Gifford's constituency gathering.

America has become more tolerant of LGBTQ people AND THEREFORE God is allowing her to be attacked by terrorists; a few states in this country sanction same-sex marriage AND THEREFORE American soldiers are coming home dead ('cuz it's not like that's ever happened in any other war we've been in before, right?); Gabby Gifford is pro-LGBTQ AND THEREFORE God has sent a shooter to mow her, and everyone around her, down.

It's not just about pointing out their homophobia--it's about pointing out every crazymaking link in their chain of skewed, millenialist, bring-on-Armageddon "logic." GLAAD had a chance to do that and fucked it.

GLAAD press release is hardly "revisionist history". It's simple PR.

You noted that the mainstream news media never noticed the Phelps cult until they started picketing the funerals of soldiers. Mr. and Mrs. Straight America don't really care whether the funeral of some unknown, abstract gay person is picketed, but if it's one of the lionised soldiers, they DO care, even if they have zero connection to that unknown, abstract soldier. Same with the victims on the Arizona shooter.

So GLAAD is following the lead of countless PR campaigns before them and focusing where the attention is. Had they focused only, or even largely, on the cult's previous obsession only with the funerals of gay people, most mainstream news media and their consumers would think, "yeah, yeah, yeah, everything's always about you gays," because that's how the rightwing media has framed us—constant whiners and complainers who are always butting in to claim victimhood.

In that context, GLAAD's mention of the funerals of hate crimes victims seems to me to be the right balance, playing within the very narrow focus that the mainstream news media is capable of, while reinforcing the correct attitude of treating the cult as pariahs.

Press releases and media campaigns don't exist to teach history (or anything else for that matter), but to make something happen or not happen. GLAAD is merely capitalising on the attention an issue has.

Not to belabor the irony, but after a long, national conversation about violent rhetoric in the national discourse, Shirley Phelps-Roper will be taking to the radio to talk about God's plan for the destruction of everyone who doesn't believe the exact same stuff she and her father do.

My 1st thoughts exactly.