I was reading this article about how the UK Home Secretary was questioned about her decision to publish a list of 16 people unwelcome in Great Britain that included radio host Michael Savage and Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps.
I'm sure I've mentioned before on this site that I have sort of a soft spot for the Westboro Baptist Church and the Phelps clan among homophobes. Sure, I don't find myself ever agreeing with anything they say, but they're just so honest about their homophobia and present it with such rawness and utter inability to bring themselves to care about how they'll be represented in the media. James Dobson wants to control the airwaves, Pat Robertson wants cold, hard cash, Rick Warren wants everyone to love him, but Fred Phelps just wants to speak his awful truth to anyone who'll listen. There's something endearing about that.
So here's a bit from a conservative member of Parliament who was none-too-happy that Michael Savage was on that list:
Do you realise the disrepute you have put this country in in the eyes of many right-seeing people and left-seeing people in the US?[...]
For the Home Office to produce a name and shame list was a self-evident gimmick and demeaning to Government.
It has now produced a completely avoidable legal action which is producing splendid publicity for Michael Savage.
Where are his words for Fred Phelps, who was excluded for the same reasons?
The truth is, most Americans never heard of Fred Phelps until Bush was in office. Before that, there was limited coverage of his protests of AIDS victims' funerals in the queer and alternative press. Even a segment Michael Moore produced for TV Nation was censored by the network. But after the war in Iraq started, and troops were being sent back in caskets, and the WBC started protesting their funerals, only then did people think that he was such an awful scourge that his protests had to be legislated against.
Let's not pretend that the reason most straight people think Phelps is such a terrible person is because of his homophobia. He crossed a line people without lots of political power or good connections in the GOP aren't allowed to cross: he insulted the troops.
While I think that his protests of soldiers' funerals are, in fact, a sign that he's a terrible human being, I don't think that they're any worse than protesting the funeral of a gay AIDS victim. Yes, respect the troops as people and realize that the way we honor them is to only send them into combat when absolutely necessary, but their lives aren't more valuable than everyone else's.
But the WBC/Phelps position (not tactics) has its own twisted logic to go with it. If respecting GLBT rights is awful and against God, then the country that harbors those sorts and even has states giving them rights is going against God, right?
And yet the Robertson/Dobson/Labarbera/Gallagher crowd is notorious for draping their political beliefs in American flags. While they'll generally say that "the culture" is awful and that America will fall down the slippery slope into Sodom if any LGBTQ legislation is passed, they never seem to be able to say that American, today, is an awful place for things like the Lawrence decision and Will and Grace.
No, it's always someone else, like Hollywood elites, San Francisco values, or activist judges. No matter how a part of American culture any of those things are, America herself is never at fault.
Taken one step further, if they think that American values are bad, then why are they the first to jump to defend the troops? The Respectable Homophobe crowd never seems to make the connection that, if their belief that the troops are defending America in Iraq is true, and if their belief that America's values are going down the gutter is true, then aren't the troops defending pro-homosexual, etc., values?
If the troops are defending a country whose culture is awful, then why aren't they out there protesting the troops with Phelps, or at least speaking out against them?
Oh, that's right, their coalition with the neocons and the security conservatives would be upset if they actually expressed their real opinion about America. And their cultural background precludes them from engaging in any criticism of America, even if all their so-called political activism is constantly and directly critiquing mainstream American culture.
So, back to the topic at hand, what's really the difference between Michael Savage and Fred Phelps? Michael Savage has advocated violence against trans people:
The wages of sin are death. You're gonna cut off your willy, you're gonna walk around in women's clothes, you're gonna hook -- you're gonna wind up dead under a freeway, Johnson. It's not gonna be an HBO special about your travails and how surgery made you a happy woman. I never understand these people.
And advocated violence against lesbians:
[A presumed lesbian a caller described] is a -- the type that stuffed ovens in Hitler's concentration camps. Whenever I hear anyone preaching to me about how compassionate they are, I reach for my Glock. That's all I can tell you. They can all drop dead.[...]
They're the Nazis -- the cryptofascists walking around.[...]
They're the ones that Hitler used to stuff ovens with human beings in the concentration camps, only now they pose as compassionate, wonderful human beings. They don't fool me for one minute.
And said called all gays were inherently rapists:
You have to explain this to them in this time of mental rape that's going on. The children's minds are being raped by the homosexual mafia, that's my position. They're raping our children's minds.
And advocated killing 100 million Muslims:
And so unless [liberals are] reined in somehow or taken out of power, we're going to die as a nation. I swear to God that's what people are saying to me. And these are intelligent people, wealthy people. They are very depressed by the weakness that America is showing to these psychotics in the Muslim world. They say, "Oh, there's a billion of them." I said, "So, kill 100 million of them, then there'll be 900 million of them." I mean, would you rather die -- would you rather us die than them? I mean, what is it going to take for you people to wake up? Would you rather we disappear or we die? Or would you rather they disappear and they die? Because you're going to have to make that choice sooner rather than later.
As far as I know, Fred Phelps has only rejoiced in people's deaths, he hasn't actually advocated killing people (if you know of an instance in which he did, let me know and I'll update. I don't have a perfect memory).
And yet the right is all upset that Michael Savage is being excluded from the UK, but not a word about Fred Phelps. Personally, I'm against a country excluding people because of their political beliefs, which the US also has a tradition of doing. In the age of modern telecommunication, they aren't going to keep that speech and those ideas out of their country by excluding a person's body. Besides, who are they to decide who's hateful and who's not in an effort to protect their people's fragile little minds?
Still, I'd like to see the right defend Phelps with as much energy as they're defending Savage. To me, there isn't much space between them in terms of politics, so it'd be nice if the wingnuts were consistent.
But any semblance of logic or consistency is the last thing on the right-wing agenda.