20 Feb In Defense of Scoundrels by Kaiser Leib
Update: A much more credible looking Anonymous press release indicates that this was most likely bait for a honeypot set by the WBC. I am pleased by this development -KL
“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”
-H. L. Mencken
The pastors and parishioners of Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) are not doing God’s work in the world. Were we a society given to dueling, Fred Phelps would find himself quickly outmatched, and the amount of honor in the world would be increased. The WBC consists entirely of the deluded, the greedy, and the evil. Were the men of that congregation to live to search for one another with Geiger counters, I should not be displeased.
The somewhat-organized internet group Anonymous (or, more accurately, a portion of that group) has declared war on the WBC. Were this another group – perhaps, say, one formed specifically to combat the WBC’s actions – that declaration might be laudable. However, in that very same press release, the author refers to Anonymous as the “Voice of Free Speech” – which would seem to be in contravention to the notion of limiting the activities of these bigots.
The Mencken quote at the top of this post is completely true. Infringement upon the right to speak freely must necessarily begin with restrictions upon speech which is deemed dangerous, subversive, or harmful. Indeed, government restriction of speech would necessarily end there: the definitions of subversive and dangerous would simply have to be expanded. The problem is that once we’ve decided that our rights may be disregarded, it becomes very difficult indeed to regain them. For my part, I do not believe that God hates anyone – even sodomites, warmongers, or people who talk at the theater.
Furthermore, there has already been a rousing, appropriate, admirable and decentralized response to the WBC’s activities. The Patriot Guard Riders, for example, perform a wonderful, non-violent and completely voluntary service in defense of the hearts and minds of the WBC’s targets at funerals. Hemant Mehta over at friendlyatheist.com points to another excellent method for countering the WBC’s protests elsewhere:
As private individuals, the Anonymous members (“Anons”) have the right to do as they please, so long as they do no active violence against the WBC, its property or its members. For my part, I would prefer to see a different tactic undertaken, that which a great many people have chosen on their own, without IT security skills, national organization, or malice: to stand up for what is right, and exercise their own rights to free speech.
The pen is mightier than the sword, and the tongue is sharper. The best way to defeat either is with your own.