Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Westboro Legacy

Rachel Maddow reflects on the positive (yes, positive) legacy of Fred Phelps: And she's right: by embodying the worst humanity has to offer, by being so utterly and obviously horrible, he accidentally brought out the best in others.

But I think Phelps had a more insidious role: as the bigoted wingnut bigoted wingnuts could deny.

Phelps' sheer cartoonish nastiness allowed other bigots to contrast themselves with him--usually with fatuous platitudes like "love the sinner, hate the sin"--without disavowing the evil, destructive beliefs they shared. By being such an unappealing character, he made it easy for other right-wing fundamentalists to condemn (i.e., distance themselves from) him... ...even when they essentially agreed with him on policy.

In effect, they recast the question of LGBT people's fundamental humanity as merely one of etiquette: it's perfectly okay to deny human rights to gay people, but it's just plain tacky to come out and say you hate them. Just as conservatives deny that anything short of Klan membership can be "racism", right-wing fundamentalists pointed to Phelps as the only real manifestation of anti-gay hatred. Point at Phelps to avoid confronting the sheer vicious immorality of a belief that someone's existence is inherently "sinful".

So good riddance to Phelps. He was a largely inconsequential distraction who sucked up much more than his share of the limelight. The best possible result of his passing would be a broader recognition that he was never really alone--and much more scrutiny of like-minded hatemongers such as LaBarbera, Fischer, and Franklin Graham.


Victor said...

I never thought of it this way.

But yeah, he was SOOOO far out there, that even the people who basically agreed with him, couldn't be seen to agree with him.

Victor said...

Also, too - to be THAT hateful, that man had a lot of inner demons.

Ten Bears said...

Satan is laughing with delight.

Animals, bow down to gods. Human Beings, do not.

No fear.