A few times each season, some chucklehead decides to jump onto the field and try to make himself famous with a streak across Fenway’s expansive green lawn. Never seen this? That’s because the TV cameras don’t show the streaker. In an effort to deter fame-seekers, the cameras will show anything but the distraction on the field.
We have streakers in politics too—so called “nuisance candidates” who run for office every cycle, never put together a legitimate campaign operation but then complain when they aren’t included in televised debates. They can be a particular annoyance to those working with serious candidates, but the truth is that if they qualify for the ballot, they have every right to be in the race and the individual media outlets can make a judgment whether to include them in their campaign coverage.
Today I write to ask—beg—the media to ignore a far more vile streaker that is due to visit Rhode Island on August 1. Readers may be familiar with an organization called the Westboro Baptist “Church” (WBC) that has scheduled a protest at the State House to oppose the first day that same-sex couples can legally marry in Rhode Island.
I put “church” in quotes because they are not an affiliated Baptist church, they are a hate group that has figured out that our Constitution protects them—and if they pretend to be a “church” there are tax advantages too. They are, at most, a few dozen people from a Kansas family that travels the country to stage protests at the funerals of soldiers who have died in combat as part of their “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” campaign and put out press releases and tweets that celebrate other people’s misfortunes. Their assertion is that everything negative in the world is a result of God’s displeasure with same-sex couples. Their most recent hateful spewings include, “Thank God woman died while riding roller coaster in Texas”, “Thank God Glee star struck dead” and “Thank God for air quality advisory in New York!” So, in addition to being anti-American, anti-gay, anti-Catholic, anti-Islam, anti-Hindu and anti-Judaism, the WBC is apparently anti-breathable air as well.
While state and federal laws were written specifically to prohibit the WBC from protesting at funerals, the truth is that our Constitution protects free speech and our right to assemble. What does a society like ours do when we find that the very things that we hold most dear allow organizations like the WBC to spread their hatred and hurt so many innocent people? Counter-protests give them an inflated sense of importance and create a legitimate news story. Our most powerful weapon is our complete and utter disinterest in their protest.
So please (begging here) if you are a member of the media, don’t give them any opportunity to showcase their hate speech. While we’d like to see them leave Rhode Island like a streaker leaves Fenway (in zip cuffs), instead we should give them the kind of respect they deserve by pretending they were never here at all.