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.