Comment Of The Day: “Don’t Cheer Mississippi’s Westboro Baptist Tactics Too Loudly: You Never Know Who Might Hear You”

An Ethics Alarms commenter with the evocative screen name of Fuck you, who is a bit behind on his surfing, or perhaps a really, really slow reader, was moved to author today’s Comment of the Day on a post from seven years ago regarding the tactics used by Mississippi law enforcement to foil a legal demonstration by Fred Phelps’ merry band of homophobes.

Why is this a Comment of the Day? It perfectly embodies the rudimentary, lizard-brain level of ethical analysis that predominates in the public, in much of the media, and among our elected officials. It is helpful, to me at least, to read such comments, for this is exactly the find of gut-level, emotion-based, legally and ethically ignorant reaction that my work exists to overcome. I’ll have more to say after the Fuck You has his say.

As an aside, it was nostalgic reading the names of the commenters on the original post. There, for example, fighting as usual, were liberal logic-cop tgt and uber-conservative Stephen Mark Pilling. Ah, those were the days…

Here is Fuck You’s Comment of the Day on the post, Don’t Cheer Mississippi’s Westboro Baptist Tactics Too Loudly: You Never Know Who Might Hear You—I’ll be back at the end:

Fuck you for this comparison. I know I’m coming in years later with this and I hope that others have already expressed a similar sentiment. I also understand the point you are trying to make. But still FUCK YOU. I sincerely hope that if you ever lose someone dear to you, these fucking hatemongers show up and protest that person’s funeral. FUCK YOU. Yes they have a right to protest but this type of shit should definitely qualify as a reasonable restriction, like yelling fire in a crowed theater.

FUCK YOU. This comparison is not only an insult to the Marine in question but also to the civil rights activists from decades ago that you just compared to the fucking WBC. FUCK YOU.

Once again Fuck you, you goddamn scum ass mother fucker. Oh, and FUCK YOU.

I’m back. Fuck You’s rhetoric reminds us, as do the current modes of expression favored by David Hogg among others, that angry and uncivil rhetoric is  a lazy device to cover up weak positions and to invite listeners to stop thinking.  Fuck’s—Can I call you Fuck?—objection to the post’s comparison between the Fifties era Mississippi law enforcement officials who fixed the system to allow KKK thugs and murderers to escape punishment for crimes against blacks and civil rights workers and the identical methods extolled by organizers of the  illegal conspiracy to block the Phelpsians is classic double standard reasoning, and exemplifies ethics-free thought. He doesn’t like “this comparison” because it is 100% correct, and exposes what is so wrong about the plot to silence the Westboro Baptist Church.  FY doesn’t support free speech, because he doesn’t get it. Like so many passionate citizens, he doesn’t want to guarantee freedom of speech that he doesn’t agree with.  Fuck doesn’t “understand” my point, because if he understood it, he wouldn’t be throwing a tantrum. Free speech and freedom of assembly are illusory if they don’t protect everyone, no matter how vile or unpopular their opinions may be. If you understand that, then you agree with the post. If you don’t agree with the post, then you don’t understand it.

Then FY sinks to a popular tactic these days–I got it several times in Facebook exchanges regarding the post Parkland shooting freak-out. “How would you feel if your son was killed in a school shooting?” In other words, “Why don’t you think like the people who have been made irrational by anger and grief?” Fuck presumes that being personally affected negatively by someone’s exercise of their free speech rights would and should change my values. Well, Fuck old chum, that’s why integrity is important. (Look it up.) Its is also why people who are emotionally distraught are terrible public policy activists, unless, apparently, they are teenagers.

He gets bonus points for the vague, Constitutional illiteracy of “this type of shit should definitely qualify as a reasonable restriction, like yelling fire in a crowed theater.” Yelling fire falsely in a crowed theater is not speech, but a criminal act designed to cause a riot. Fuck couldn’t define what “this type of shit” means in any way that wouldn’t also chill rights to protest many other events. As for the post being an insult to the Marine whose funeral the Mississippi officials and citizens stomped on the Bill of Rights to protect, a sentence midway through post—to be fair, maybe Fuck couldn’t read that far—was clear and decisive:

“So Sgt. Jason Rogers was buried in peace and dignity. The price of the funeral he deserved, however, was a government-assisted conspiracy to withhold the sacred rights he had died for.”

(This story was later shown to be a hoax. I didn’t change my analysis one bit, however.)

16 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Don’t Cheer Mississippi’s Westboro Baptist Tactics Too Loudly: You Never Know Who Might Hear You”

  1. This is why I only post here at Ethic Alarms. Mr. You’s diatribe is very common on most other sites on the Internet, and there is no reasoning with such an example of ignorance gone to seed.

    Thank you, Jack, for this safe space where reason and logic (usually) prevail.

    • I monitor a lot of sites and blogs, and it is astounding what moderators permit. Althouse is unusual in that she is a very strict moderator, but she also discourages long comments, which forfeits a lot.

    • I second sw’s observations about Chez Jack. Thanks again. I never look at comments anywhere else on the interweb. They usually start at Ms. You’s level and go down from there.

  2. I am always so shocked to see how many people cannot seem to grasp free speech concepts. I fear that we are losing our enlightenment values, and I see it everywhere now. People being convicted of crimes for telling jokes online. The insistence that “Hate Speech” is not protected by the first amendment (this even spread by network news anchors and college professors, who damn well know better).

    speech is not protected by the First Amendment if the speaker intends to incite a violation of the law that is both imminent and likely.

    Advocacy of force or criminal activity does not receive First Amendment protections if (1) the advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action, and (2) is likely to incite or produce such action.

  3. This, Jack, is a low-level example of what I call a “snap post.” A snap post is when you read something and you get so angry or so offended, or so whatever, that you completely cut loose, much as you might in real life if someone said something that pressed a button in you. Since this is digital in nature, you can’t hail off and hit the person, so you turn to the remaining tactics that you would use in life if you lost it: shouting, cursing, bullying, name-calling, and MAYBE some very shallow attempts at substance that are at best conclusory, at worst just more name-calling.

    In life, this might work better, depending on your size, how loud your voice is, who you’re yelling at, and whether you’re willing and able to take it to the next level of actual physical violence. All of those can combine with the rhetoric to intimidate the other person. However, online none of those things factor in, especially not in an anonymous environment like this one where few of us known who one another are, with the exception of yourself. We don’t know names, we don’t know addresses, and we have few ways of finding those things out. We also can’t size up who we could actually take out in a physical altercation and who we might lose to.

    It’s probably just as well, because we’d all like to think we are a little bit more intellectual and a little less thuggish than to settle our differences by attempting to beat each other senseless or kill each other. This isn’t high school.

    Come to think of it, a lot of the tactics used by the Mississippians were high schoolish: beating the crap out of an unpopular someone and then putting up the wall of silence when the authorities inquire what happened, blocking an unpopular someone’s car in and then refusing to unblock it, and taking it upon yourself to lock an unpopular someone up until an event is over are all high school behaviors. In this case a lot of people applauded because the unpopular someone is about as odious as someone can get and is roundly hated by just about everyone, just like you might have looked the other way when your class’s equivalent to Bob Denver or Dustin Diamond got his weekly dose of humiliation and pain, but it sets a bad precedent. If something like this can be done to one group it can be done to the next group everyone agrees they don’t like.

    In fact it WAS done not too far from me when a small Islamic center opened in town. We’ll tolerate most folks, but since we’re not too far from NYC, most of us saw the Towers fall, and a lot of us knew or were related to people who perished on 9/11, no one wanted this. The center was on a side street, and that side street was always dead last to be plowed, cleaned, or have the garbage picked up, and every so often in the summer, DPW would “forget” on Thursday, leaving a stinky pile of garbage until Monday. A mysterious someone would let the air out of all four tires on their van, and then they would be told by the gas station that the air pump wasn’t working. Another mysterious someone would heave a rock through the window, and they would be told that the local glass guy didn’t have the proper glass to fix it and wouldn’t get it in for a week or more, leaving them to search further afield. Of course the local cops had no idea who the mysterious someone was, and there never seemed to be any witnesses around who could tell them, however, they did get several anonymous tips about suspicious looking men and activity at the center, which they promptly and thoroughly responded to. After the local police finally showed up in full SWAT gear, claiming someone had tipped them off to someone making a bomb there, they banged up shop and left. You folks still want to applaud?

  4. When I was a child, I was a picky eater. While my mother was often nice enough to accommodate me, my father would not. He, like many before him, would often state something to the following, “Eat your food. There are starving children in China.” It took me a long time to realize what a terrible point this is. It is, like the above post, an appeal to emotion fallacy. As an adult, I can now deconstruct this argument.

    1. Me eating food does not help the people in China.
    2. It is not efficient to send this particular food to people in China.
    3. Forcing me to do something is likely to make me not want to do it (though I can see more related to this point).
    4. Like the “because I said so” I learn nothing of value. Maybe as a child, I can not understand, but logic, critical thinking, and reasoning can begin at almost any age.
    5. Ironically, in China, it is impolite to finish everything on your plate.

    Moving beyond the post, I can at least sympathize. I understand that in the post parkland shooting children are upset their friends and peers have been killed. Parents are upset their children have died. Having lived in China for five years, I understand that people are starving (ironically, one of the books I read over there talked about they were told to eat their food because of the starving capitalist in America). There was one time while I was in China, my child escaped our sixth story apartment.

    My wife had just left for work and I was taking a shower. Our two (maybe three) year old son was watching TV. When I got out of the shower, I saw he was gone and the front door was wide open. It took me fifteen minutes to find him and while he was gone I kept imagining every terrible scenario. The door to the roof was broken because the students in the building next to ours had a curfew and would break into our building, use the roof, and go towards there. It would have been easy for him to fall off. Finally, I found him in the elevator after I noticed all the lower Buttons were pushed.

    Never I have ever been so scared in my life. A coworker suggested getting a different door on the front of our building to keep the curfew kids out. While I thought it sounded like a good idea (after-all they were trespassing) later thought it would be unfair to burden everyone else in the building for a problem I could have fixed on my own (I bought a sliding lock he couldn’t reach.

    Later, another door was installed and we were given a code. Now we had to not only use it to get in, we had to let in visitors ourselves. We each had our own code we were not allowed to give out and it was noticed someone using a code that did not live there (it was an expat building) we could get in trouble. We always had a ton of visitors so this became quite a burden on us.

    When I came back front Iraq in 2004, we are on a bus back to our hometown (we were a reserve unit). About an hour from town, we saw a protest calling us terrible things. At first we were not sure it was for us, but afterward, we saw tons of people and banners for support. A week later, I was still doing army related things, I went downtown for lunch. A guy called me a baby killer. I told him to have a good day. Both were hurtful.

    In my haste, I might have agreed to willingly give up my freedom just because I was offended or hurt in the moment. If you are following the Parkland shooting, you will notice they are back in school with barriers, clear backpacks, and more law enforcement. Many of the students (like David Hogg) in the school are talking about their personal freedoms being violated and how it feels like a prison. I wonder if they see the irony in it all.

    It takes a wise man to look at an argument with logic and reasoning. I would argue it takes a wiser man to know when to step back and let cool heads prevail. No one will blame you for being angry at your situation, but you can hurt yourself (and others) if you’re not willing to step out of it.

  5. Second try to post…

    Is there any kind of “ethics incompleteness-principled” behavior that would be justified in regards to the interested parties in the protested [heckled]-funeral situation, such that one party’s First Amendment rights are legitimately chosen by the government, in favor of restricting another party’s same rights, in a given time and place?

    Just asking. There just seems to be “incompleteness” screaming in protest of the following, in application to that specific situation:
    So Sgt. Jason Rogers was buried in peace and dignity. The price of the funeral he deserved, however, was a government-assisted conspiracy to withhold the sacred rights he had died for.

    Leaving aside the emotional button-pushing that the Incestboro Craptist Church people knew they would be doing (I will NEVER use the name THEY choose for themselves), doesn’t the First Amendment exist also to protect against the equivalent of a “heckler’s veto?”

    Thinking of another situation: the more recent Charlottesville “assemblies” (where [incidentally] a car was driven, collided with someone, and that someone died). How reasonable is it to expect the government to maintain order when each of two groups, having converged on the same spot at the same time, are “inciteful-on-sight (of violence)” to one another?

    My questions might not be answered. But they are not going away.

      • Second try to post…(!) IT HAPPENED AGAIN!

        Why does this keep happening? I wish I knew.

        I thought I had solved the problem, a few weeks back: I would open my browser (Chrome), and click on my bookmark for EA. (I call it “EthAl” – to remind me of a crusty-but-irresistibly-wise woman. [I just now made that up, just to make an excuse.]) Then, I would click on the little gray tab next to the EthAl tab, to open another “channel” of Chrome. On that channel, I would click on the OTHER bookmark for, and log in there. Then I would go back to EthAl, browse a post or thread, read, think, compose my comment, fill in my email address (which seems very reliably to cause auto-population of the Name and Website fields), click on Post Comment, then review the Italicized “draft” before entering my WordPress login password AGAIN, and then click to post. Then I would wait a moment – usually that’s all it takes – and I can re-visit the thread where I posted, and see my comment, usually threaded exactly where I intended it.

        But today, I followed the procedure above, and after I clicked to post, I went back to the thread, and…no sign of my comment. There must be a buffer in WordPress somehow, because when I try to re-post the identical comment, it tells me “no,” I have a “duplicate comment.” So the only way I can get my second try to post is to add something like, “Second try…” to fool the filter or whatever it is, to post my “almost duplicate comment.” I pray that WordPress won’t make their duplicate-spotting algorithm any more sophisticated. So now, here we go again…I’ll let you know how it goes.

        I almost forgot to mention: Just before I click to Post, I select and copy my entire comment, just in case it gets lost in WordPress. That, too, has happened to me more times than I can remember.

        • I suspect you have some software that is not passing you sign in correctly. Could be a firewall set up wrong, or an over zealous ISP… or you pissed of the NSA. Those guys hold a grudge…

          AHEM! I mean to say, the folks at the NSA are the best and the brightest America, nay, the World, has to offer. We should be proud that they grace us with their oversight!

    • The problem is it’s easy to use loaded words like “maintain order” without a clear definition. Many vile things were done under oppressive regimes under the guise of maintaining order.

      Practically speaking, authorities should rightly monitor situations like Charlottesville and crack down on any illegal activity (from either side), but they are not the thought police. Angrily chanting at each other across the street is not actionable. The first person to elevate to physical action should be hastily escorted to the back of the nearest police car.

      This is similar to what is described above – people claim to want freedoms, but want the tables tilted toward their side. Give everyone “free speech”, but make theirs less “free.” Doesn’t work that way.

      And if you think about it for a minute, the first doesn’t protect against a heckler’s veto. It’s not a guarantee that you get your say, it’s a guarantee that the government won’t try to stop you. Your assertion is the same as saying a company has no right to fire someone who publicly asserts repugnant views.

      • I agree with the Shadow (I think I have waited my entire life to write that sentence)

        Your 1A rights are only there for protection from the government. They are not meant for the government to make sure your voice is heard: that is up to you.

        …the Shadow knows…

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