[UPDATE: This story was, it now turns up, just another hoax. Fred Phelps doesn’t even have a son. I hate web hoaxes, whether I’m sucked in by them or not. But I’m cutting this one a little dispensation, because I needed a good laugh, and this sure provided it. ]
I am awash in shame. Since early this morning I have been bursting into uncontrollable laughter at another human being’s pain, as he was subjected to an experience of unimaginable existential and surreal horror. It is schadenfreude beyond question, not unethical in itself—feelings are not unethical—but taking joy in the misfortune of others is not a sound foundation for ethical conduct.
I’m not going to rationalize this: I should feel sympathy for the victim. Nonetheless, and even though he was attacked without provocation, and for exercising his First Amendment rights, there are some unusual mitigating circumstances:
- The victim was David Phelps, son of Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church infamy.
- He was ranting on during a radio interview in a mobile studio, and had just said, “God hates fags.”
- Suddenly, a 500 pound naked man known as “Billy the Fridge” burst out of a bathroom roaring, “Leviathan! Leviathan!” (see, now I’m laughing again: I’m a horrible person…) and..
- …proceeded to sit on Phelps, saying, “Who’s your Daddy now, Davey?”
- An eye-witness later claimed that he saw Phelps being pursued down the street outside the mobile studio by a naked fat man.
That last part was the one that got me. There, see, I’m laughing again.
We have been puzzling about what to do about the Westboro Baptist Church and its disgusting ritual of shouting anti-gay epithets at the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers, and I admit that having a 500 pound naked fat man sit on him never occurred to me. I can’t condone it; it is assault and battery, and both a crime and a tort. Nor is it ever ethical, if you are a 500 pound fat man, to chase someone down a street. Indeed, it is arguably not even ethical to be a 500 pound naked fat man, at least in public. It is certainly wrong for any of us to sanction such behavior by cheering it on, or doing anything to encourage other naked obese people to ambush, sit on and pursue members of the Westboro Baptist Church.
And now I’m laughing again.
I’m so ashamed.
Facts andGraphic: The Daily Mail