Friday, September 25, 2009

Ignore Them.

Since yesterday I've seen a lot of internet chatter about the Westboro Baptist protest at Brooklyn Tech and the counter-protestors who vastly outnumbered them. The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Brooklyn Paper and GLSEN had some interesting material. But it was the reader comments on these stories that made me think further into the situation and, eventually, act on it.

Just about anyone who hears about those sad, impacted agent provocateurs from Kansas gets outraged. I sure did. But the more righteously indignant responses I saw, the calmer I became. Righteous indignation has more to do with me than with the injustice against which I purport to stand. It's not useful. So I looked for a useful response, and noticed something interesting: a lot of people were talking about the people being protested, but no one seemed to be talking to them. That's significant. It indicates a self-defeating propensity for self-righteousness. Be careful with that self-righteousness, folks. I've handled plenty of it, and let me tell you, that shit gets in your eyes and blinds you.

I love the idea of attending any and all Westboro Baptist protests in order to stage a peaceful, silent counter-protest in which I stand with my backs to them and shine all my love on the objects of their hatred. It's a beautiful image. But before galloping to the rescue it behooves me to first consider whether I am, in fact, a knight in shining armor. Even more important is the question of whether my rescuee needs or wants to be rescued. So I got the Westboro Baptist protest schedule from one of the commentors...

I want to stop here a minute to let that sink in: Westboro Baptist publishes a protest schedule on They publish a sodding protest schedule. Doesn't that tell you something right there? There is nothing more valuable to these wankspouts than attention.

So I got the Westboro Baptist protest schedule, Googled the institutions about to be protested, and made some calls. The results didn't surprise me. Specific responses follow, but they can be summed up thusly: We don't want help. Ignore them.

NY Chabad of Great Neck: "We don't want help. The more we respond, the more we achieve their goals."

Dr. Vitow, Principal of North Shore Hebrew Academy High School: "It takes two to tango. In this case there's only going to be one because we're not going to be here."

Principal Kaplan of Great Neck North High School: "Our kids are going to leave and ignore them completely. We've responded vigorously to ourselves to be tolerant, compassionate and loving."

Great Neck Synagogue: "The consensus of all the synagogues and schools is to ignore them.

There you have it. I'm left with a warm feeling of channeling my mother that's right up there with making a batch of apple pies. She sure wasn't right about everything, but she was right about this: "Ignore the bullies."

Please pass this message along to anyone planning a counter-protest of a Westboro Baptist protest: Don't do it. Those being protested don't want your help, and you'll only be giving them the attention they so desperately want.


  1. As a Kansas boy, I find their behavior disgraceful. Luckily they are only a small family of nut jobs. Sure, they are loud, but they do more harm than good fort their own cause.

  2. Thanks for commenting! Yeah, I agree - they're so far out on the fringe that, if one can get past the initial revulsion, one realizes that they are nothing without the anger they so desperately need to have reflected back at them.

    I think of the perpetuation of anger in engineering terms. A carnot cycle can't run without energy inputs. Anger is energy, and it can't maintain itself without inputs either. If you don't become a boiler, the engine stops.

    The problem here is that this is very different than many truly threatening forms of hate. Some commenter brought this home to me when he said something along the lines of "We can't ignore the Westboro protesters because that's what people did with Hitler..." Well, no. People *followed* Hitler. No one is following these nutbars; they're pure, 100% agent provocateurs. So the benefits of ignoring them become clear.