Westboro Baptist Church: attention seekers fuelled by the media?
For those of you who don’t know, Westboro Baptist Church is an independent family church known for it’s extreme stance against homosexuality and it’s protest activities, which include picketing dead soldiers funerals. Over the years they have appeared on numerous talk shows, such as Jeremy Kyle and The Tyra Banks Show, and hit the headlines more times than I could possibly keep count of.
They are topic of conversation yet again as they prepare to lead yet another anti-homosexuality protest at Lansing Eastern High School In Michigan. Website LSJ published an article stating where the ‘church’ would be picketing and at what time while also adding a quote from the schools superintendent who said “our plan is to make sure our students are safe and in class out of harms way…we’re not really interested in engaging in any conversation.”
Surely by publishing the date and time of the protest LSJ are attracting MORE attention to the matter as members of the public will come out to heckle the protesters. Ultimately their presence will cause more harm than good and by highlighting that they will be in town the media are playing in to the protesters hands as they are attention seekers who get a kick out of causing controversy.
Westboro Baptist Church is gonna be in my county tomorrow protesting. Smh. I feel like something bad is gonna happen down there.
Whether the press is negative or not they are still gaining publicity and spreading their rhetoric of hate around the world, which is highlighted by the fact that after over 20 years of protesting, they are still the topic of conversation on news and social networking sites.
RT @tredmond15: Just heard on the news westboro baptist church is coming back to EL in 2 weeks
The Westboro Baptist Church, which is made up of members of the Phelps family, are attention seekers who picket events (or threaten to picket events) which are likely to attract publicity. For example, a few months ago they announced they would picket Whitney Houston’s funeral and then posted photoshopped images to make it look legitimate. The story was covered by the Mail Online and The Huffington Post (to name but a few)
The article gained a hoard of negative comments but when will people learn that for people like the Westboro Baptists, negative publicity is still publicity! The only way to deter people like that is to simply ignore them, yet the media are unable to do so which is proven by a new story to hit the headlines, this time in music magazine NME.
The Phelps family most recently protested outside a Radiohead concert in Kansas City, USA where the religious organisation described the band as “freak monkeys with mediocre tunes” before going on to say ” you try to get the people to look at the nonsense and not the Wrath of God that abides upon them. Look at the circus monkey over there and the fluffy setting, blah blah…”
By protesting at a music event the Westboro Baptist Church are getting their message heard by a whole new audience and by reporting on it NME are taking it beyond the attention of the concert goers and making the 376,000 people who read the magazine each week aware of who they are as well.Not only that, but band producer Nigel Godrich tweeted a picture of the picket with the caption “Highlight of the tour so far… Being picketed by westboro baptist church this evening.. Hoorah!”
He only tweeted two days ago and it has already had 50 retweets and 25 people ‘favouriting’ it, which is playing right in to the churches hands. Cultural news site Flavorwire is aware of the “hate-mongering, attention seeking antics” by the Phelps family, yet it still published an article about them in which they even refer to them as entertaining.
Despite all the media coverage, others also believe that media attention is doing more harm than good. Kelly French hit the nail on the head when she wrote on Yahoo! Answers that “too many media outlets give WBC attention, and all this does is inspires people to try and ‘talk some sense’ into Church members. This only makes the Church’s willpower stronger as they know their propaganda is working…”
In a documentary by Louis Theroux last year, he meets a man who had been converted to the church while also filming a documentary about them. This proves that the publicity given to the Phelps family is doing more harm than good. Now things are getting worse as Journalism Professor at Michigan University, Tim
Boudreau, has INVITED the Westboro Baptist church to speak at the university on the 23rd of April.
According to the website, Central Michigan Life, Boudreau invites a controversial speaker to his class each semester “to better demonstrate an understanding of the freedom of speech.” Boudreau says that the students are “excited about having a chance to talk, discuss and debate with people who are in the news…” which is giving them celebrity status to some extent. They have appeared on so many talk shows, news programmes and magazines that people are really interested in them and what they have to say which is quite worrying.
They have now also taken their campaign one step further by producing a parody video to Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’, conveniently named ‘Read It’ in which Rebekah Phelps dons a t-shirt saying ‘God Hates Fags’ while singing homophobic lyrics out of tune. It seems like the Phelps family were on a roll that day as they also wrote lyrics in the tune of The Beatles song ‘Yesterday’ and Paul Simons ’50 ways to eat your baby’ which they named ’50 ways to eat your baby’. I must say I didn’t really understand parts of the video which featured a baby wearing a t-shirt reading ‘my parents are gay’ and a sign saying ‘you eat your kids’.
Westboro Baptist Church member Fred Phelps Jr posted the video link on Twitter and refers to the video as good’ which causes me to question not only his mental state but his hearing too as certain members of the Westboro Baptist Church clearly need to miss a few protests and invest in some singing lessons. Thankfully this video hasn’t been re-tweeted or shared on any other social networking sites and finally some positive information is starting to circulate as an article by Nate Phelps, who escaped Baptist Church, is getting a lot of attention.
Nate Phelps: Life After the Westboro Baptist Church huff.to/Iz3fX1 via @HuffingtonPost
In the article, Life After The Westboro Baptist Church, Phelps describes what it was like growing up in a family with such strict, negative beliefs that “violently quelled any defiance”. He then goes on to talk about how he escaped on his 18th birthday after years of isolation and punishment. It is interesting to read and to get an inside perspective on how the Westboro Baptist Church operates.
Having said that, I can’t help but think that this is further fuelling the fire. Again the Westboro Baptist Church are being portrayed in a negative light which is attracting attention with 2,483 people liking it on Facebook, but they are obviously used to critisism and reply with the most unhinged responses. For example, on Twitter, Westboro member, Rebekah Phelps-Davis re-tweeted this from a member of the public “@EradEcator: @AbiWBC @KJVMatt @jaelphelps I hope you all choke and die” and responded with, “yes, well, the hypocrites’ hope shall perish”. This proves that nothing affects them and by re-tweeting it she is sharing it for other people to see and be amused by as well.
RT @AwkwrdWhenSober: GROUP PLANS 5th ANNUAL PROTEST OF WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH bit.ly/Hybbt8 (via @millionfagmarch)
They even promote protests which are against them, like the one above. Promotion has begun to rally protesters to the annual ‘Million Fag March’ which takes place in Topeka, Kansas (the home town of the Phelps family) each year. This just highlights how popular the Wesboro Baptist Church has become. Whether it is for a negative reason or not, they have affected people so much that they feel the need to travel to Kansas in order to protest against them. Obviously they aren’t bothered about the protest, as Rebekah Phelps highlights above, and will more than likely bask in the attention from members of the public.
On the web page above which details the march, the creators stress that they want to “turn the tables” on the Baptist Church by using the same laws they use to shield themselves. They then go on to say “we believe that ignoring a problem will make it go away”, but the obvious response to this is how do you know if you haven’t tried? I have given numerous examples of the media and the public drawing attention to the Westboro Baptist Church with new stories emerging every day.
They have caused controversy yet again by praising god for the earthquake in Woodward, Oklahoma which killed 5 people. And as if the people of Oklahoma didn’t have enough to deal with, local site ‘The Examiner’ thought it would publicise the hate fuelled comments by the church for all to see.
4/9/2012 Woodward, OK Tornado and Huge Hail Footage – Part1
Margie Phelps has caused uproar on Twitter by saying she is ‘thanking god’ that five lives were lost in the Tornado. She then posted a video of the Tornado with the hash tag #OkayShouldHaveObeyed. Obviously a number of people have responded with hate fuelled messages for the church.
RT @ADHopper1: Westboro baptist church thanks God for the people killed in Oklahoma tornado. Smh. How bout we show up on their doorstep? #Punks #FalseFaith
It appears that Margie Phelps’ comment has taken the attention away from the victims and their families as people are more concerned with directing hate towards the family, which obviously they won’t take any notice of anyway. At the end of the day, if Margie Phelps wasn’t trying to get a reaction from the public she wouldn’t have posted her comment on Twitter for everybody to see. It isn’t hard to understand. Media platforms, like The Examiner, the Mail Online and The Huffington Post may have good intentions by reporting on the negative wrong doings by the church, but they are ultimately just fuelling their desire to continue.
I hope that the media and the public will stop giving the Westboro Baptist Church the attention it so obviously craves, but judging by the latest stories to emerge and the reactions they have generated, I can’t see it happening any time soon.