Saturday 9 April 2011

Westoboro Baptist Church — lessons in lucrative offence

Four years after his first foray into the weirdly twisted unreality of the Westboro Baptist Church, Louis Theroux has been back, catching up with the Phelps' (what's left of them — they've had a number of defections) to see if they are still as committed to their extreme, fundamentalist ideology as before. It turns out they are, but now appear more organised, more media-savvy, more litigious and apparently just as crazy. The BBC documentary is currently available on YouTube (but may be pulled soon):

Part 1 of 4:

Part 2 of 4:
Part 3 of 4:
Part 4 of 4:

These people truly seem to be living in fantasyland, and though some of the cult members have left, the remainder appear just as committed as ever. Louis Theroux allowed them to self-condemn from their own mouths — as is his particular journalistic style — but nothing in this documentary gave cause for hope that the cult is on the wane. Particularly concerning is the continuing indoctrination of children, skewing their development in ways that will severely affect them for the rest of their lives.

The extremity of the Phelps' views has led some to speculate as to their genuineness. One such, El_Camino_SS, reports that "Fred Phelps is a Con Man". An article entitled "" lists a number of apparent facts about Fred Phelps:
  • He says God Hates Fags, God hates the US Govt., that God hates the US Military, God Hates you, and God justifies the killing of others.
    Phelps knows that saying 'God' and 'Hate' in the same sentence gets people worked up. He knows that. He knows that people have a knee jerk reaction to that.
  • He says that the US Govt. and the United States are evil.
    This is another hot button with people who love their country. It is intentional. It is designed to make you take a swing at him. He wants $50,000 from you. He wants a Powerball winner to swing at him so he gets 100 million dollars. It's that simple.
  • He goes after homosexuals, he goes after people who are making sacrifices. Phelps intentionally targets people that are being victimized, or good people doing their jobs to create more outrage. He kicks people when they're down. He does that so someone will come up and defend them. Then he will sue you.
  • His boards are laminated on hardwood, because he pulls them out of trucks at least five times a week. He also puts them in bright colors for attention, and makes absolutely sure that you can read them at all time. He's phishing you. Everyone must know that.
The thesis of the article is that the Wesboro Baptist Church is not interested in God, it's just interested in being as offensive as possible — within the law — in order to incite other people to break that law. Phelps will then sue for as much as he can get. Whether this is true or not isn't something that can be readily determined, but it's a hypothesis that seems to fit the known facts. What we need now, perhaps, is a proper test of that hypothesis.