Friday, January 25, 2008

So close, but no cigar

On the face of it, it would appear two right-wing radio ratbags, Steve Price and Neil Mitchell, are suddenly coming to the defence of the humble homo against the insanity that is the Westboro 'God Hates Fags' Baptist Church.

Listen to Price interviewing Shirley Phelps-Roper here, and then jumping on his soapbox here. If you can stomach any more, listen to Mitchell's interview with the same subject here.

Steve 'do the kiddies really need to see the fairies?' Price doesn't exactly have a proud history championing all things queer, and neither does Neil 'OK to be straight, too' Mitchell. But I guess like Zemanek, Jonesy and Lawsie, conservative gay men probably make up a not insignificant portion of their audience, so they have to tread a bit more carefully here compared to their usual Muslim, union and/or single-mother bashing.

So both have stuck the boot into Roper in their interviews, with Price claiming such people are part of the reason why the membership numbers for organised religion are down, and Mitchell dismissing them simply as 'absolute nutcases'. In fact, listening to Mitchell he sounds genuinely astounded, as though he really had no idea just what Westboro is all about. Maybe he didn't, in which case hopefully he's learning something, which is never a bad thing.

The problem, however, is that it appears to have taken the death of a heterosexual actor, Heath Ledger, to spur them into action against the church and its funeral-picketing ways. Price in fact goes to great lengths during his interview/editorial to stress that Ledger was only ever an actor playing gay, as though by implication it would only be acceptable for Westboro to picket the actual fags at their funeral, as they did with Matthew Shepard and have done with dozens of other men and women over the years. I don't remember any indignation or outrage coming from the airwaves back in 1998 on this subject.

Admittedly, Price does manage to claim that 'even if (Ledger) was a raving gay (!), this church and its timing is completely out of touch', which is probably the closest to queer tolerance we can ever hope to expect from a shock-jock. But one wonders why Price and Mitchell even allowed Roper airspace to begin with, if they only ever planned to shoot her down. A cynic might think this was a ratings grab to get the crazy, controversial woman on radio to espouse her maniacal views, before pwning her before a captive audience.

One also wonders why it's taken the untimely death of a beloved, heterosexual local son to get the shock-jocks onto their soapbox about this church (and anti-queer 'Christian' extremism generally). Would they have done so if it had been, say, Rupert Everett or Sir Ian McKellen who had recently passed and whose funeral Westboro had announced they planned to picket? And why is it so important to both these men to stress that Ledger was only ever an actor playing a gay role? Surely the issue at hand is the offensive tactics of a bunch of religious whack-jobs, regardless of whether they're combatting 'fags' or 'fag-enablers', who in their dark minds are equal sinners anyway?

Will Price and Mitchell now get the Fred Niles and George Pells and Peter Jensens onto their shows, who I don't imagine (officially) condone Westboro's tactics, and suggest to them that it is perhaps their attitudes and actions that lay the ground for the Fred Phelps seeds to germinate - that Phelps is merely an extreme, but logical, extension of the sort of anti-queer propaganda espoused by relatively more 'moderate' figures?

Broadly, if it takes the death of Heath Ledger to bring awareness and condemnation of Westboro by shock-jocks, and consequently their thousands of listeners, then there is a positive to his tragic death. It just says a lot about the mainstream media that this is the case - not much of it good.

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At 25/1/08 1:54 pm, Blogger Jacob said...

I scoffed when I heard that they were planning on picketing Ledger's funeral in Perth. Were these idiots serious in their belief that anyone but their own country would have them? I hope they don't have supporters in Australia who would carry out the protest in lieu of the Westboro Baptist Cunts, I really do.

Of course, now we can look forward to another website called God Hates Australia, to go with God Hates America/Canada/Switzerland/Ireland/etc.

At 25/1/08 2:29 pm, Blogger Sam said...

You wonder where God finds the time to hate so many people/organisations/countries, what with running the universe(s) and known and unknown realms of existence and all.

I bet he's really behind on His ironing.

At 25/1/08 2:29 pm, Blogger Jeremy said...

Still, good to see WBC's insane homophobia giving your casual homophobes pause.

At 26/1/08 2:48 am, Blogger John said...

Great post.

As Rodney has noted on his website, Australian Baptists missed their chance to denounce homophobia.,23739,23104890-953,00.html?from=mostpop

Now we know why:

Rev Ross Clifford is a former CDP candidate:

Note how is says Phelps' actions are "counterproductive". Does this mean he knows more effective ways to spread hate?

At 26/1/08 1:26 pm, Blogger Jacob said...

Also: weren't they sued last year for $11m? The US government should repossess all their shit (including their church) and not give it back until they come up with the money.

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