Thursday, March 3, 2011

Free Speech, Anonymous, and Hate Groups

If you spend enough time researching these guys
you find out they hate just about everyone
including over one billion Chinese people who
finance our national debt.
As writers, free speech is really important.  However, is there a point where free speech should be curtailed?

Yesterday, as most everyone knows already, the Roberts led Supreme Court decided that the hate group known as the Westboro Baptist Church could continue their protests at soldier's funerals, etc. Here's the link to the New York Times article.

Chief Justice John Roberts said, "Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain...But under the First Amendment...we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.” Instead, the national commitment to free speech, he said, requires protection of “even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”

These protestors believe that God is
punishing America for a growing
acceptance of homosexuality.
I side with Justice Alito (the lone dissenter) when he said, "Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case."

The case he's talking about regards Matthew Snyder who was killed in Iraq in 2006 and whose funeral was protested by the Westboro Baptist Church. His father sued the group in 2006 and won $11 million in damages. (The figure was later reduced to $5 million by a judge.) But in the 8-1 ruling on Wednesday, the Court said the church could not be held liable for inflicting emotional distress on the families of deceased soldiers. The justices said the speech was protected because the protests were on a matter of public concern, on public property and conducted in a peaceful manner.

Alito noted in his dissent, however, that the father of the soldier was not a public figure, but "simply a parent" who wanted to "bury his son in peace." Alito said the father suffered "severe and lasting emotional injury" as a result of the church's "malevolent verbal attack." He added that such vicious verbal attacks that make "no contribution to public debate" are not protected when they inflict "severe emotional injury on private persons at a time of intense emotional sensitivity."

Well, I agree with Justice Alito and I think what happened yesterday quite frankly, was bullshit. I do want to hear what you guys have to say on the matter though, so if anything, please leave a comment with regard to this question: Do you think that First Amendment Rights should be upheld for hate groups like the Westboro Baptist church in picketing the funerals of dead soldiers? Not that any of our opinions matter'll just be an interesting read to see what you all have to say on this.

Above is a video of an interview between Shirley Phelps and a source from the infamous Anonymous Hacker group in which I was amused and honestly proclaimed, "Bravo!" to Anonymous.  I know they're a criminal organization but there's this strange part of me that sees them as a twisted version of a modern day Robin Hood...committing crime yes...but kind of standing up for the little guy (meaning you and I) by using the tools and intellect available to them.  As a writer, I think this organization is fascinating and my brain churns at the kinds of characters that might be involved with this group.


  1. Pesonally I'd love to kick those Westboro's fucker's asses, but I have to side with the Court here. You can't start drawing lines on free speech or soon it won't really be free anymore.

    Of course like trolls on the Internet if we ignore them at the funerals and don't cover it in the media then eventually they'll have to look for another publicity stunt.

  2. If dehumanizing metaphors are banned from the radio as hate speech, why should this "church" be allowed to do this in person to people? Even watching the video shows these people infringe on the free speech of others. She never let anyone speak if she could help it. No where in the Bible does it say you get to decide if someone is going to hell, how pretentious that they think they're all knowing to decide here who will and will not.

    More importantly people shouldn't hear hacking and always assume Anonymous. Anonymous always takes credit when they do things, it's obvious the "church" probably spread the threat for more media attention. But there are plenty of hacker groups that go softer and carry a bigger stick. Besides calling them immature is underestimating the coordination and sophistication going into such attacks. Brilliant job by that guy for using 9000 and serious business memes.

  3. Without giving a great deal of analytical thought, my gut reaction is kind of parental, and also sides with the court. Those bad bad people of WBC can behave odiously, but they will have to accept the natural consequences of their bad bad choices. And they won't be good.

  4. It's horrible. I hate it that they are being allowed to continue such hateful behaviors, but I understand why the court ruled as it did.

  5. The WBC is so ridiculous in my opinion. I hate that they're able to continue spouting their drivel and hatred without any consequences--but, it's the way the US works. Speech is speech and you can't control it.

    Can't say I support criminals but, go Anonymous! They definitely have a Robin Hood sort of feel right now.

  6. I wish the Supreme Court would just add sexual orientation to the protected groups list. If this was about race, they would absolutely be shut down and these nuts NEED to be shut down. Honestly though, What I'd like to do is remove their children and educate them with FULL free speech so they can see what wack jobs their parents are. That kind of hate poisons everything it touches.

  7. Oh. My. Gosh. Terrible.

    I think this is just one of the reasons I'm a writer: So, I can kill off characters like these in my manuscripts.

    Oh, wait. Does that make me as prejudiced as them?


  8. Are they the twats that desecrated Matthew Sheppard's tombstone? I keep telling people Canada & USA are the same, but apparently, below the bible belt it's something else. We don't have those people here.

  9. Yes, Ben...these are one and the same. I think they are universally hated by most Americans though. Their church (despite being well known) only has like 100 members in it. I will never understand why a group is so proud of being despised.

  10. Yeah, sometimes people become even more empowered by hate than a popular fan following. Everything is a matter of perspective, right? I just don't understand what compels them to act this's really sad.

  11. I respect the Supreme Court, but I don't agree with the ruling. This wasn't debate. This was the harassment of a private citizen by a private group of citizens, and I don't understand why one can't sue the other because what they used to harass him with was words. It's just as vicious as if they threw bricks at him.

    You should check out Nate Phelps[], the estranged son of the pastor. He's a LGBT advocate and has a very thoughtful opinion on the ruling.

  12. We actually discussed this in U.S. History today. We decided that while the verdict was legally accurate it was morally wrong. But then, our legal system is messed up anyway, half the time.

  13. I'm not sure that allowing a group of people to harass another group of people at their son's funeral should be considered allowing free speech. There are limits to free speech in this country-- we limit them all the time and I think the court pretended that they didn't know that when they do.