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'Niceguy' Eddie

Political Talk Show Host and Internet Radio Personality. My show, In My Humble Opinion, (original, huh?) airs on Tuesdays at 10:PM and Saturdays at 8:PM, Eastern time on RainbowRadio.

Feel free to contact me at niceguy9418@usa.com. You can also friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, and Tumblr, and support my Patreon. Also, if you don't mind the stench, you can find my unofficial "fan club" over HERE. ;)

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Test of our Principles

The worst part about being an atheist might be knowing that some people will, in fact, not have hell to look forward to.

The most despised man in America is getting his day in court.

The Right Scumbag Reverend Fred Phelps is arguing before the Supreme Court that his protesting at Military Funerals, waving signs saying “Gods Hates Fags” and so forth, is in fact Constitutionally Protected Free Speech, and that he should not legally or civilly penalized for this (at issue is a $5 Million Dollar suit against the Westboro Baptist Church) and that he cannot be other wise prevented from doing so.

You have absolutely no idea how hard it is for me to write this, so please bear that in mind as you read this and respond, but…

I hope he wins.

My hands were almost shaking and it made me feel ill to type that just now.

Because I hate Fred Phelps. I hate him and his entire band of inbred mutants at the WBO with a venomous passion that I can taste in my balls. There is almost no way in which this disgusting little boil on the ass of humanity doesn’t inspire a nigh murderous rage in me. I’m sure by now, that I don’t need to burnish my credibility in terms of gay rights issues. To put it plainly: I fully support every single aspect of the “radical gay agenda” that has ever actually been presented to me. (Most of the RW nightmarish fantasies about the homosexual community are just that: Fantasy.) To me, there is nothing at all radical about wanting to be treated just like every other human being; nor about asking that society stay the hell out of their way as you pursue happiness on their own terms, especially as nothing but tolerance is asked of anyone else as they do so. On transgender issues, I’ll admit that I have been less certain about my position in the past, but the more I’ve read and the more I’ve come to understand, the more I’ve come to realize that they don’t ask any more than the gay community or any other persecuted group of people does: They simply want to be allowed to be who they are, and live their lives without being punished for being who they are by a society that they ask nothing of but tolerance. I fully understand that now, and am shamed for ever having doubted that. And, if it were even possible, the more I’ve come to hate Fred Phelps.

It is also self-evident that his brand of Religion - aside from being no more that a near transparent veil for his raw, naked hatred of his fellow man - embodies every one of the all of the worst aspects of Religion in general. Because he doesn’t just hate homosexuals (and anyone else he feels he can brand as a “sodomite”) but has every bit as much hatred for those who don’t SHARE his hatred for them. “Sodomite enablers,” as he calls them, are every bit as bad as the Sodomites. Worse, apparently, because the Military funerals these pieces of white trash picket are no for gay soldiers! He pickets the Military simply because, as I’ve stated previously, America stands for tolerance, not bigotry; for religious freedom, not Christian theocracy; for equality, not discrimination; and for freedom and liberty, not the Government climbing into your bedroom.

And he can’t stand that!

He can’t stand any disagreement with his radical doctrine of hatred. He is not merely intolerant, but intolerant of tolerance. Intolerant of that almost uniquely, all-American value: dissent. Basically he is intolerant of anyone who is not Fred Phelps.

Quite frankly, I can think of no more despicable American than this man. There are arguably more dangerous Americans in the public forum: Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck come to mind, not to mention Rupert Murdoch and the entire brand of merry GOP Propagandists on his payroll. But there is no more despicable American that Phelps. None. Jack Chick is so distant a second that Phelps appears to occupy the entire “bottom ten” (or twenty) all on his own. To find another HUMAN BEING more despicable, you have to leave the country, and find some member of the Taliban, or Al-Shabaab, or Al-Qaeda... IOW: the Middle-Eastern, Muslim version of Fred Phelps and the WBC. And those guys are only “worse” because, as far as I am aware, no one from the WBC has ever actually killed someone.

So… why the fuck am I ROOTING for this ass-pit?

Well, I’m not really… I’m rooting for freedom.

It may seem trite, but how many times have you said, or heard a free speech advocate say, something like, “I believe in free speech. I’ll even defend the rights of the Ku Klux Klan to march, protest, etc...” (Or some such thing.) The POINT being that we are willing to defend the right to speak, even for those with whom we disagree. Or, as Voltaire put it:



“I disagree with what you say but I will defend to death your right to say it."

And we use groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazi’s, etc… as examples because:

1) They’re groups that pretty much EVERYONE disagrees with. So we reveal very little about our own personal politics and thus risk very little in using them.

2) They’re groups that don’t have much of a presence anymore, politically, and don’t pose much of a threat to our sense of well being. They’re kind of a cartoony caricature; a phantom example that we can use without any fear that our statement will ever REALLY be put to the test. They’re insignificant CLICHES that no one really takes all that seriously.

So we risk even less (nothing really) in using them as examples. And one could also argue that since most of us (in America, and in its media) are white and are likely having these discussions with other whites and these are groups that mainly hate minorities, there is a racial element as well that even further reduces our risk of using these examples. Two white people talking about the Klan? That’s hardly a test of their 1st Amendment principles, since neither is likely to ever be targeted by the Klan, even where it not basically a joke. They will never have to experience the Klan in their lives.

But Fred Phelps has managed to go beyond that safe, cartoon villain mold and become not only a significant public figure, but one that’s venomously despised by, everyone: Liberals, for his general message of hate; Conservatives for his Unpatriotic, Anti-Military rhetoric and tactics. (That… and there’s little that pisses of a Christian Conservative more than a serious allegation of being either a “fag” or a “fag enabler.”) So he hates - and pisses off - Gays and Straits, regardless of race, religion, political orientation, etc… There is no one in this country who is not a relevant target of his venom because this man, quite literally, hates America.

You may recall that George W. Bush – no great defender of free speech, IMHO – actually passed a law banning protests within a certain distance of military funerals. He may as well have called it the “Fred Phelps is an Asshole Law.” Most of my liberal and moderate friends applauded it at the time, concluding it would never effect more than the activities of Fred Phelps himself. Then I asked them: What it, many years from now, what if George W. Bush if granted a State Funeral by some future Republican President? This law could be used to prevent them from quietly standing along the route, holding a perfectly respectful sign expressing your personal regret that our nation went to war in Iraq, for example. Because that could also, very reasonably, be interpreted as “protesting at a funeral.” One can argue that it’s not a “Military Funeral,” but why exactly would an official State Funeral for the former Commander in Chief of the U.S Military, be excluded? I certainly don’t think it would. This DID get them to see the law in a different light, but I am afraid that with most of them, their hatred of Phelps continued to cloud their judgment on this most basic of freedoms.

If the protesters were protesting against the war - as opposed to against our national status as 'fag-enablers?' While many of them would still agree that this kind of protest takes things way too far, the ISSUE at hand would have been more relevant to them, and I’m pretty sure this might have changed some of their judgments about the law. But you’ll be hard pressed to find many people willing to defend Phelps that aren’t being paid to do so and in a purely legal capacity. So Phelps gave Bush an apparently reasonable way to close off a potential venue of Anti-War protests. So no one batted an eye, mainly because most Liberals are generally more decent than that by nature and wouldn’t consider picketing a funeral, as a family buries their child, anyway. But it was still a curtailing of our freedoms. A curtailing of dissent, even as that message came in the most offensive, possible form.

Certainly no man has ever wanted to express a more hateful message. Certainly no man has ever found a more despicable way of expressing that inherently hateful message. In short, no man has even gone farther to TEST THE LIMITS of his freedom of speech.

But that is exactly what makes this the perfect, if not the only really valid test of our principles. If we say that we support freedom, but not freedom for those who would abuse it, or use it irresponsibly? Then we don’t support freedom.

Pure and simple.

If we start getting into the business of deciding where people can speak, and what messages might be “too harmful…”

Then we don’t believe in free speech.

The fact that this diseased little toad have made every effort to break every single boundary of human decency makes him the perfect test case; maybe the ONLY real test case. Because if we say that “decency” can used as a limit on our speech? Then we don’t have free speech. If speech must “respect the feelings of others?” The we don’t have free speech. If certain kind of speech can be limited in certain places by our Government, or if Civil Penalties can be levied because to the (perfectly legitimate) mental duress that someone’s speech has caused?

Then we don’t have free speech.

Because concepts like “Offensive” “Decency” and “Respect” have been used, without a scrap of extremism or logical reaching whatsoever, to limit all manner of freedoms since the dawn of mankind. And American history, especially within the last Century, is replete with examples of this. As soon as you want to authorize judgment of the message, or it’s method of delivery, you allow the government to limit speech. Period. There’s simply no way around (or off) that slippery slope.

We needn’t be tolerant of intolerance in our personal lives, but we MUST stop short of allowing – and in some case encouraging – the Government to take away our freedom. Because right of someone to live their lives as a homosexual or a transgendered person is the same right that Phelps has to live his life as an asshole. And the way to protect freedom is to do just that: PROTECT FREEDOM.

I really am sick over this. I really am.  And win or lose, I will likely shed a tear about it either way. Either for there being one more nail in the coffin of our personal liberty, or for the necessary victory of such a vile, hateful, thoroughly despicable little man in order to protect that liberty. But that’s what it means to have principles. You must hold true to them, even when it pains you to do so. And my support of free speech absolutely goes that far, even as it makes my sick to say it.

And for putting me in the position of have to defend something so vile that it almost makes me nauseous to do so; and for possibly having to do so to against my friends; people with whom I am otherwise allied with, socially, politically, and philosophically and for whom I hold is such high regard and with the utmost respect? In the words of John Hammond, “I really hate that man.

All the same…

I hope he wins.

And I sincerely ask for your forgiveness for this.



(I'm going to go wash my hands now and try not to vomit.)

15 comments:

  1. Yeah, I disagree.

    I think it's okay to put some limits on free speech when it significantly infringes on the liberty of others without having a huge affect on the liberty of the person whose free speech I desire to limit.

    I don't think that this guy has the right to disrupt the funerals the way he does. If he wants to protest a couple of blocks away, he can STILL get his message across without impigning on the rights of the funeral-goers so very much.

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  2. I agree that this guy has the right to be as big an asshole as he wants to be, and to protest where he wants to protest without being criminally (not civilly) penalized. His freedom of speech protects him from government intrusion, but I also believe the family has the right to sue his ass for disrupting the funeral and causing them great personal anguish. People should start protesting outside of his church during sermons. See how he feels about it then.

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  3. @DellDolly, (part 1)

    You have no idea how easy it would be for me to agree with you. But I can’t.

    There’s nothing at all wrong with what you said, primarily because it’s YOU saying it. But let’s “contemplate the ‘if’s’” for a moment…

    First of all: IF [the speech?] ‘significantly impinges on the liberty of others.” The thing is…? SPEECH ALONE can’t do this. It can HURT, it can OFFEND. But by itself speech can not impinge AT ALL on my liberty. Now… when the ideas being exposed get picked up and promoted by politicians? And they pass laws based on it? Yeah… THAT can impinge on my liberty. But that door swings both ways. And less principled, less scrupulous people than the likes of thee and me can use (and have) the same logic to work against us. Think: “The Iraq War was to ‘secure our freedom,’ thus protesting against the war is a threat to our freedom.” Now... that’s BULLSHIT, of course. But how often have you found yourself calling BULLSHIT on the Right, the Government, the Media, etc… over the past 10 years or so? For me, examples of their tortured logic come up almost daily. BULLSHIT happens ALL THE TIME. So I can’t trust THEM with the same tools I’d trust YOU with.

    Second: “[if it doesn’t] have a huge impact on the liberty of the person who’s free speech I desire to limit.” Again… Is this different from the argument that prohibiting GLBT groups from meeting on school campuses doesn’t have a “huge impact” on their “liberty” because, after all, they could meet “a couple of blocks away.” (Or that they could have their club, without it being sponsored by the school?) More relevantly, it sounds a lot like the arguments being used against the expansion of the Park 51 Islamic Center. I’m not saying that you’re WRONG, or that you’re like THEM; only that while YOU will take this logic and apply it sensibly; many others will take the SAME LOGIC and apply it absurdly.

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  4. @DellDolly (part 2)

    And no matter how narrow the SC Decision is worded, it sets yet another precedent (like the Bong Hits for Jesus case) of the Supreme Court, or the Government, taking it upon itself to decide who can say what, and where. And future lawyers (working for people like Phelps, maybe?) we keep trying and keep trying and keep trying to apply it to something else. What’s more, what people consider “significant” or “harmful” changes over time. There is no way to make an argument that applies even to an extreme case like Phelps and at the same time guarantee that it can’t be applied somewhere else. And once it is, that will spawn a whole new round of cases where unpopular groups will see themselves being controlled. As I see, only by taking the position that “Congress shall make no law […] abridging the freedom of speech” can we guarantee that our freedom will be maintained.

    And yeah… inevitably some asshole like Phelps will go out of their way to find the boundaries of that and break them. But when a perfectly reasonable case is made by a perfectly reasonable person like you against him, inevitably some other shiester will seek to use that to his advantage. And I can see it now: If the WBC can’t assemble near a funeral, then they’ll argue that LGBT groups can’t assemble in schools. And frankly? I DON’T trust the Supreme Court to continue to make the right decisions in those kinds of cases.

    In fact, I’m willing to bet that they WILL rule against Phelps, for the very reasons you lay out (and maybe an extension of the TPM reasoning, which I’m not crazy about either, but that’s for another post.) But I fail to see why that logic couldn’t be twisted around to be used against, for example, the very groups that Phelps is so opposed to. And when THAT happens? I DO NOT trust that the Supreme Court will reach the right decision. (If I could, we would have had gay marriage some time during President Gore’s second term!) Maybe I’m being paranoid but the Roberts Court is far and away the most regressive in our lifetimes.

    So I am not willing to risk that. I’m not. Phelps will eventually die. He’s insignificant in the grand scheme of things - just an asshole that has caused people a lot of duress. But if we fall into that trap, the precedent that gets set can (and I believe WILL) continue to have a detrimental effect on our freedom of speech and assembly for generations to come.

    Seeing the shenanigans that the Right and the Supreme Court are capable of, I’d rather suffer Phelps, and not give them the chance.

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  5. @Silky977,

    You bring up an interesting point regarding CIVIL versus CRIMINAL Penalty. As that's legit, as it IS really what at the heart of the matter. (The $5 Mil in damages.) BUT I came accross something while looking into some other first ammendment cases earlier today: Who is it that decides the verdict in civil cases? The Judiciary (the Government.) And the authority of the Government is necessesary to enforce that ruling. So even while the award is being given to a victim, as opposed to the State, it is still being levied by the Gov't. So there IS still a free speech issue in play.

    As for people protesting outside his church? Frankly, I'd be surprised if it doesn't happen, though the good people of Westboro (?) might simply be that much better (or that much worse) than the likes of thee and me. And actually? I doubt he spends much time there anyway. He does seem to be on the road a lot. Lots of dead soldiers still.

    God I hate that I'm actually arguing on this fuckhead's behalf. This is making me ill.

    But, while I may seem paranoid about it, there is ample precedent for the expansion of precedents and for the broadening of previous decisions and there reasoning. It might not win me a lot of friends, but I'd rather suffer a single Fred Phelps every generation or so than continue to see our freedom curtailed and limitied one little speck at a time.

    And I realize I'm probably not making a lot of friends with this piece. I seriously hope that no one ever takes this as a defense of this monster or of his vile ministry. Andcan likely rest easy, because I have little doubt that this court will rule as both of you guys want them to in this case. The Roberts Court is not great defender of free speech, at least for individuals, anyway. And given the unsympathetic piece of shit we're talking about, it's not like I'd be HAPPY if they went the other way anyway.

    Thank you both for your comments.

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  6. I am so torn on this that I don't even know what to think about it.

    I'm completely, 100% with you on the issue of freedom of speech, and on the implications that beginning to limit it can have. Couldn't agree more.

    With that being said... I honestly don't know if I could bring myself (if I were a SCOTUS justice) to say, effectively, "Hey, Phelps. Go ahead and keep on truckin'. What you're doing is guaranteed protected by the Constitution!"

    Ugh, it's gross. Why do decisions like this have to be made?

    Honestly fuck the person who brought up this lawsuit. It can only turn out to be shitty either way.

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  7. Phelps' freak show tried to protest the SDCC because in his twisted world view people who read comic books are worshiping false idols and they were out numbered by the counter-protest only 3 or 4 of the Phelps freak show were there and there were well over 100 (some estimates were as high a 1000) in the counter protest.


    Back to the topic at hand, Phelps has the right to protest and say whatever shit he wants, as long as no one is physically hurt by it (you know the old saying about shouting "Fire" in a public place and causing a panic). But here is a kind of weird counter-argument to it some funerals are religious ceremonies and by protesting them, Phelps is violating someone else's Constitutionally protected rights to Freedom of Religion.

    I don't envy any of the Supreme Court Justices in this case especially if (and that is the key word here: IF) this basically boils down to Freedom of Speech vs. Freedom of Religion. Because nobody will really win if that is the case.

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  8. Put simply, I think Phelps should win the case, but I hope he is in a one-car fatal crash afterward, with his daughter on board and the grandkids given to the care of anyone but another Phelps from that "church".

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  9. Sammy - are you aware that the "church" has only about 70 members, and almost all of them are family members? I wasn't until last night.

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  10. @Metal Matt - Yeah, I know, right?! Actaully, this isn't really fault of the guy who brought the suit either. Not exactly anyway, assuming I understand you correctly. The original suit was filed by the family of one of our fallen soliders, suing Phelps for mental duress after they picketed at their son's funeral. And for sure, that's a reasonable action on their part. And they WON. A $5 Million Dollar award, IIRC. So, naturally Phelps appealed, and for better or worse the award was set aside, and the case has since moved up to the SC.

    Now... I'm basically OK Phelps him losing a tort suit in a local or state court. But when the SC rules on free speech issues? I get nervous. (And I think everybody should.) But since it's a dogfart like Phelps? People just want to see him LOSE. And who can blame them? But 20 years from now no one will remember the details of the case, or understand how this stupid precedent got set, if it ends up being used the way I fear it will, anyway. Yeah... if ever there was a worst case scenario for the defense of Free Speech, this is it.

    Thanks for your comment.

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  11. @Christoher Back - I seem to remember something about his little band of mutants protesting a comicon! I'm a pretty big comic book fan myself (or at least I was in college) so I found that to be absurdly amusing at the time. I'd forgotten it was Phelps though. The counter-protets signs were funny as hell, IIRC.

    Interesting point regarding Freedom of Religion and of Religious expression. I hadn't considered that angle at all. BUT since he's neither the government (and thank God for that! Can you imagine?!) nor thier employer, I don't know if you can really make the case, Constitutionally speaking, that the Religious Freedom of the families is being repressed in a way that the SC has jurisdiction over. Interesting point though. And has hostile as I can be to oprganized religion, I have very little tolerance of the outright repression of it's practice. I don't really see a Constituional case on that basis here, but I'll have to think about that a bit.

    And I don't envy the SC in this case either, though I really bet you they will rule against him. He's probably the only man hated equally by both Liberals AND Conservatives.

    Thanks for your comment.

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  12. @Sammy - LOL... I was very close to saying the same thing, but I had to resist. :) I really was trying to write a principled piece, even if I did feel UNCLEAN after finishing it.

    Thanks for your Comment.

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  13. @Anon - Yep. I didn't say "inbred" for nothing! :) And I really wonder what would happen if Sammy's wish were to come to pass. Would the movement just slowly die? Or would these genetic defectives of his just take the opportunity to spread out and found more of these temples of hatred?

    Thanks for your comment.

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  14. I hope he wins, too. I feel strongly about this not just as a card carrying member of the ACLU but as a very religious woman. Please don't get me wrong. I think he is despicable. My religious views are certainly not in line with him. But....if he does not win, when will someone in power decide they dont like what I say and limit me to where I can say it? This is my fear with this far right court. If they limit this hate monger then they would change precedence and the far right Taliban led by the likes of Romney and Beck and Palin could use it to limit what I say. My pro science views might hurt the feelings of some uber-religious teacher who feels it is insulting to suggest we descended from apes. Just the sight of one gay pride parade could cause psychological damage to a frantic fundamentalist and their families. Let him protest. I have a "God loves Fags" sign just waiting for my counter protest. What I would like to see is more Christians denouncing this guy and not just for his tone. His message sucks.

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  15. JLarue,

    Yeah, I hear you. And while it's easy to look at this and say, "but what Phelps is doing is nothing like that!", that won't matter two or three more expansions and interpretations of this precedent down the road! And it's not even that much of a reach because the CORE ARGUMENT here, while reasonable in THIS case, is the same argument being made by the Park51 protetsters.

    Even though it's wrong in THAT case, the LOGIC is the same: This is hallowed ground, and it's sacred to ME, and so your freedoms won't be protected here because you offend me. Now... Phelps isn't Rauf. But I'd say that the 9/11 firefighters are every bit as sympathetic as the families of our fallen soldiers, and the fact is that the logic of the precedent COULD be applied there, depending on how they reason it.

    And if they reason it so narrowly that it ONLY applies to Phelps? That's an admisison that there IS no legal rationale for it, and that they just despise Phelps himself. And that just shows that they can take free speech away from anyone they (don't) like.

    I'm glad to get some suport for this, but I still feel dirty over 'rooting' for an assbag like Phelps. I've actually asked some bloggers form the gay communtiy to come check this out. I feel like I really should be beatedn up pretty good over this by at least SOMEONE. For karma's sake. Take the curse off.

    Fuckin' PHELPS.

    *shudder*

    Thanks for you comment.

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