Another controversial figure banned from UK

February 21, 2009 at 10:18 am (reaction, religion, voltairespriest, wankers)

The Times has a report on yet another ban from the UK, which rather creates problems of consistency both for those who argue free entry for speakers of hate on the grounds of free speech for all, and also for those who get their knickers in a knot when religion is criticised by people on the left.

Yes, it’s none other than swivel-eyed loony preacher Fred Phelps and his daughter Shirley, of the Westboro Baptist Church. Google their site if you must: I won’t link directly. Amongst other things they’re known for travelling far and wide, waving placards full of offensive bollocks at people (including other Christians) in almost any situation you care to name. Every interview I’ve ever seen with them reveals people consumed by self-righteous anger, or malevolent spite, depending on your perspective. Highlights have included writing vile statements praising homophobic killings, picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in the Iraq War, and being mean to Louis Theroux. The latter I feel is unforgivable, but that’s just a matter of personal taste. They’re known to the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. All in all, they’re proper religious-far-right ultra-reactionaries, as you can see.

Phelps and his offspring have been barred from coming to flaunt their bilious material at Queen Mary’s College, Basingstoke, where a play about the 1998 homophobic murder of student Matthew Shepard is being shown. One part of the Phelps’ response to this murder at the time was to put up a clock on their website counting up the amount of days that Shepard had spent in hell. They’re special people, as I say.

So… any takers for protesting the draconian decision to bar Fred and Shirley from coming to the UK? Those who stood up for Dutch far-rightist Geert Wilders are surely obliged in the name of consistency to stand up for the Phelps’ (and for that matter Louis Farrakhan’s, and that of any any other loon, goon or buffoon that you may care to name) right to freedom of speech. After all, surely in this Enlightenment-governed haven of civilisation we allow people the absolute freedom to tell people things they might not want to hear? What’s that you say? What do you mean, “no”?

Similarly those who seem to think that it’s a mark of progressive politics to be uncritical of reactionary religious beliefs (and that it’s “imperialist” to verbally bash such beliefs) may also have a problem. Although they’re usually far happier to allow bashing of Christianity at the same time as furiously hurling accusations of bigotry at those who criticise other faiths, in this case there’s a fly in the logically-inconsistent argument. You see, Phelps believes the Iraq War (and especially the death of troops in Iraq) to be a part of God’s judgement on the USA for, amongst other things (you guessed it) tolerance of gay people. Now surely such consistent anti-imperialism cannot be overlooked from a devout man who lives in the belly of the Yankee Beast? No? What’s that, the sound of vomiting I hear?

Speaking for myself, mind, I hope he gets run over by a truck. And then that it reverses back and forth over his church. But that’s just me: I’m a classy kind of guy.


  1. maxdunbar said,

    Another thoughtful and well argued post.

    It’s vital to have freedom of speech and movement. However, if you get some cleric applying for a visa who:

    – is not fleeing from persecution: does not face torture etc if he returns to his home country
    – is of means
    – has substantial criminal convictions, and is wanted by various governments for incitement to violence
    – whose only purpose in coming to the country appears to be to incite violence against some or all British citizens

    …then I think it’s reasonable for the Home Office to say: ‘Sorry, pal, no room at the inn.’ Migration officials have a place and a job and this is not to just sit there waiting for things to get blown up.

    The Wilders case is different because he’s an elected politician who was invited to come over and discuss his stupid racist film. The ban got Wilders more support and attention than he deserved. The Quilliam Foundation opposed the ban because they wanted to debate Wilders face to face.

    You could make a case for banning Fred Phelps and his crazy family because there’s a possibility that they could hurt, or even kill someone at this theatre. I don’t know if they have a record of violence but, having seen the Theroux documentary, I don’t believe it’s beyond them.

    Or, if they are allowed in, organise a counter demo at the theatre and step up security to make sure people can see the play unmolested.

    As for the anti-imperialist left – would an STWC/Westboro alliance be completely out of the question? The antiwar movement doesn’t exactly have a reputation for caring about gay rights! Of course it would depend what the Phelps clan thinks of Gaza: ‘Fag war’ or not?

    The worst thing about cases like this is that they completely overshadow and distort the fact that most UK immigrants are decent people who just want to find work and make a contribution.

  2. Lobby Ludd said,

    “Another thoughtful and well argued post. ”

    What is this, a school report or something?

    As it is, I’m not completely sure what is being argued other than ‘Why isn’t there any objection to barring Phelps, surely the free speech issue is just as important here?’ – not that that isn’t of interest.

    My guess it is simply that Phelps is so over the top that nobody will touch him. Who could argue, say, ‘Despite his controversial views, Pastor Phelps has articulates a not uncommon mood’, or some such guff?

    In the end we all believe, I think, that there is some justification sometimes to put a limit what could be argued as ‘free speech’ (shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre, being the cliche)

    I find it interesting that Phelps and his little band remain in one piece. It seems that even US Marines and families mourning their dead leave them to their provocations.

    I guess nobody cares what Phelps says, nor aboout his ‘right’ to say it.

  3. Lobby Ludd said,

    Perhaps I should add that I don’t think Phelps is shouting ‘Fire!’.

    He should be allowed to enter the UK, do want he wants and fuck off. He is just not worth caring about.

    ( There is usually a ‘public order’ type objection raised when ‘controversial’ people like Phelps wish to enter the UK. Perhaps it should be explained to Phelps that the police will deployed when they are notified of a problem and that they will not form part of his bodyguard. )

  4. said,

    You seem to be suggesting that no one has made the “free speech” argument in respect of Phelps. I for one have been entirely consistent on this issue: free speech for Phelps, free speech for Wilders, free speech for Qaradawi. And didn’t I hear Shami Chakrabarti on Radio 4 the other day making (belatedly) the argument in favour of allowing these people in?

    We have a political class who have discovered that calling for someone to be banned is an easy way of expressing disapproval of their attitudes. It’s a very dangerous development.

  5. Rosie said,

    My instincts are with Heresy Corner. I wouldn’t get off my arse to defend Phelps’, Wilders’ and Qaradawi’s rights – life is too short – but unless the authorities have good reason to anticipate that they are going to whip up crowds and call for immediate violence, I can’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed in, speak to their fetid supporters or wave their stupid placards and disappear again. This government is incredibly busy with this kind of thing.

  6. voltairespriest said,

    Indeed, assuming that my preferred scenario of Phelps getting run over by a truck doesn’t happen, I guess on balance I wouldn’t be hugely motivated to stop him coming in – nor indeed to defend his “right” to be here either. It just interests me that many people (pressent company not included obviously) don’t seem to see the logical conclusions of either of the positions that I mention in the article.

  7. Rosie said,

    I’m not sure about the word “right” when it comes to someone who is not a citizen of a country requesting leave to enter that country. I don’t suppose I’ve got a “right” to enter the USA, but I think it would be unreasonable of them not to let me in if I haven’t got a criminal record, or if I’m unlikely to commit a crime when I’m there. Never mind if I go preaching against Mom and apple pie or whatever. Have the Frothy Phelpses got criminal records?

    I did see their encounter with Theroux. He has built his career on interviewing absolutely obnoxious people so he looks quite good in comparison.

    As for Millband and his “fire in a crowded theatre” remark re Wilders, he must have heard that example somewhere. How does his mind work if he thinks that is a relevant example? I don’t imagine he or the person who briefed him thought it through.

  8. maxdunbar said,

    I’d be happy to see Phelps get hit by a bus, if that helps.

  9. Southpawpunch said,

    Marxist ABC:

    No immigration controls. Right of all to travel to any part of the globe.

    For religious toleration. Right of anyone to proclaim any religious reactionary rubbish they wish.

    No state controls on anything said, proclaimed etc be it racism, bigotry or, of course, a call to revolutionary arms.

    A educational message from Southpawpunch who may, by the looks of it (eg SWP call for what is a tantamount to a state ban of the BNP; various wannabe ‘lefts’ welcoming ban of Dutch MP or condemning Mohammed cartoons), be Britain’s last Trot.

  10. resistor said,

    Chas Newkey-Burden opposed the ban on the Hitler admirer Moishe Feiglin, try him.

  11. voltairespriest said,

    Do you ever go more than one minute in the day without thinking about Likudniks, Transistor? You must think about them more frequently than most men ponder about sex…

  12. maxdunbar said,

    Welcome back, Comrade Resistor!

  13. resistor said,

    Since you can’t claim I am off-topic, you resort to childish abuse. Which is what I expected. VP, you ‘ponder’ about sex, (perhaps in your pipe and slippers) what an odd choice of a word.

    ps for Newkey-Burden, thinking about Likudniks and thinking about sex is the same thing.

  14. Waterloo Sunset said,

    I agree with SPP. We should certainly organise against the likes of Phelps, but we shouldn’t line ourselves up with the state to do so. Apart from anything else, if I applaud them banning those I don’t like it gives them more legitimatacy to ban those I don’t want to see kept out. I saw this guy speak some years ago-'boa_Ervin. I suspect the current government would be highly likely to stop him doing so now.

  15. voltairespriest said,

    Actually Transistor you are off-topic in the sense of pursuing the same line that you write about on any thread, pursuing your own peculiar obsession with Israelis regardless of what’s being talked about. I’m just more inclined to take the piss than to delete your posts, although that could change.

    On “pondering” it’s a terms which tends to be used to describe what someone does when contemplating an unfamiliar subject so therefore “most men” is perhaps indeed a rather large overstatement. However unless you’ve found a woman who is turned on by incessant ranting about Zionists I suspect it might still be appropriate in the context 😉

    BTW I don’t own a pipe and slippers but who knows what future present givings could bring. Maybe I’ll ask for a set for Hanukkah…

  16. maxdunbar said,

    What woman isn’t?

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