ActivismReligion

Anonymous Tells Westboro Baptist Church to Cease and Desist

Anonymous has written an open letter to Westboro Baptist Church informing them to cease and desist or face the consequences.

You remember Westboro Baptist Church right? They are a family run organization led by Fred Phelps. They show up at funerals of dead celebrities, children and soldiers of war with signs that say things like, “God Hates Fags” and, “Thank God for 9/11.” And Anonymous is the hactivist group best known for attacking Scientology and defending Wikileaks.

We have been discussing the ways we should and should not try to get our messages across to the public and this is an interesting example of bullying for a cause. Which side is the bully in this case? That is technically debatable. I for one am rooting for Anonymous.

Read the open letter/warning to Westboro after the jump.


Open Letter to Westboro Baptist Church

AN OPEN LETTER FROM ANONYMOUS

February 16, 2011

TO THE CONGREGANTS OF WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH:

We, the collective super-consciousness known as ANONYMOUS – the Voice of Free Speech & the Advocate of the People – have long heard you issue your venomous statements of hatred, and we have witnessed your flagrant and absurd displays of inimitable bigotry and intolerant fanaticism. We have always regarded you and your ilk as an assembly of graceless sociopaths and maniacal chauvinists & religious zealots, however benign, who act out for the sake of attention & in the name of religion.
Being such aggressive proponents for the Freedom of Speech & Freedom of Information as we are, we have hitherto allowed you to continue preaching your benighted gospel of hatred and your theatrical exhibitions of, not only your fascist views, but your utter lack of Christ-like attributes. You have condemned the men and women who serve, fight, and perish in the armed forces of your nation; you have prayed for and celebrated the deaths of young children, who are without fault; you have stood outside the United States National Holocaust Museum, condemning the men, women, and children who, despite their innocence, were annihilated by a tyrannical embodiment of fascism and unsubstantiated repugnance. Rather than allowing the deceased some degree of peace and respect, you instead choose to torment, harass, and assault those who grieve.
Your demonstrations and your unrelenting cascade of disparaging slurs, unfounded judgments, and prejudicial innuendos, which apparently apply to every individual numbered amongst the race of Man – except for yourselves – has frequently crossed the line which separates Freedom of Speech from deliberately utilizing the same tactics and methods of intimidation and mental & emotional abuse that have been previously exploited and employed by tyrants and dictators, fascists and terrorist organizations throughout history.

ANONYMOUS cannot abide this behavior any longer. The time for us to be idle spectators in your inhumane treatment of fellow Man has reached its apex, and we shall now be moved to action. Thus, we give you a warning: Cease & desist your protest campaign in the year 2011, return to your homes in Kansas, & close your public Web sites.
Should you ignore this warning, you will meet with the vicious retaliatory arm of ANONYMOUS: We will target your public Websites, and the propaganda & detestable doctrine that you promote will be eradicated; the damage incurred will be irreversible, and neither your institution nor your congregation will ever be able to fully recover. It is in your best interest to comply now, while the option to do so is still being offered, because we will not relent until you cease the conduction & promotion of all your bigoted operations & doctrines.

The warning has been given. What happens from here shall be determined by you.

WE ARE ANONYMOUS.
WE ARE LEGION.
WE DO NOT FORGIVE.
WE DO NOT FORGET.
EXPECT US.

*Edit 2/20/11 WBC responds: Here
And Anonymous responds: Here

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics. She is the fearless leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+. Tip Jar is here.

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77 Comments

  1. Playground rules: The only thing that stops a bully is a bigger bully.

    I had a minor bout of identity theft a few years ago, and I can only imagine the cyber a** kicking that ANONYMOUS can deliver.

    However, I totally applaud them for taking a stand against the crazies.

  2. Meanwhile Uganda is about to join the countries in which homosexuality is a capital offence. Maybe Anonymous could put some effort into counteracting such actual evil, rather than merely engage in publicity battles with offensive wingnuts none will ever take seriously.

  3. @Rillion: Yeah. I am rooting for Anonymous because Westboro is just awful but I don’t think either are in the clear. It’s an interesting look at how difficult it is to do what is correct when emotions, faith and free speech are all involved.

  4. So it is to be war, then.

    I think it’s difficult to quantify exactly what Anonymous is. It’s a stand-alone complex, a complex agent system… It consists of whoever it consists of at any given time, and its motivations and reasoning are always in a complete flux.

    A warning such as this is a rare, rare thing as a result – and sadly, I don’t think WBC has the sense to take it as seriously as they need to. And one thing Anonymous will not countenance is not being taken seriously. And when called to be, it has enormous destructive power… WBC will be squashed like a louse.

    I can’t really make a value judgement here. Nor would it really be productive to. Anonymous cannot be stopped or even effectively attacked or, hell, just examined with what’s available to those in power today. Target some members, and the hydra just sprouts more heads. It has no leaders, no identity. It has little, if any, consciousness of its own, at least not a coherent one. It is what happens when a total is more, and at the same time less than the sum of its parts.

    Information warfare is still a new field. It’s very difficult to fight a war on such terms – and against an enemy like Anonymous it is all but impossible. Anonymous is more like a natural disaster than anything else – inexorable, most of the time incomprehensible to those it strikes, and utterly remorseless in its actions.

    I almost feel pity for WBC.

  5. Going after the WBC is almost too easy. I am interested in the results, though, because they are bullies. Not because they say god hates fags, but because of how they make their money to keep going.

  6. Hmmmm.

    Let’s have a looksee here:

    One side operates publicly, in the open, proudly displaying their identit(ies).
    The other side hides begind the anonymity of the ‘net. No names, no pack drill.

    One side acts peacefully, making their point quietly yet forcefully.
    The other side threatens (only “threatens”, I hope) some sort of unidentified but real physical and/or commercial violence.

    One side vigorously exercises their first amendment right to free speech.
    The other side seeks to restrict that right through acts of violence.

    Who’s the bad guy here?

    Guys – get a grip.

    You’re playing into their hands. Haven’t you got a better counter-argument than violence? Are you so afraid of their arguments that you must silence them? Have you got nothing better to say yourself?

    The opposite of love is not hate. It is complete and utter disinterest.

    If everyone ignored them, they’d go away, but you folk want to make glorious martyrs out of these apalling creeps.

    For shame.

  7. Internet Hate Machine #1 versus Internet Hate Machine #2.
    Neither is worthy of support, and Anonymous least of all due to the crimes they commit. Not cool, not funny, totally inexcusable.
    I just don’t accept that intimidation from anyone is an acceptable way to get your point or message across.
    Westboro are in it for the crazy, Anonymous are in it for the LULZ .

  8. TTBOMK Phelps’ clan has made a living suing people who make statements like the ones in the open letter. Anyone who screams back at them in kind they hit with a slander lawsuit. Written denunciations obtain a libel suit. He has several sons who have graduated or at least been to law school and you do not have to pass the bar in order to represent yourself (I think it’s called “pro se”). The insults and outlandish behavior are WBC gaming the legal system. The suits are nuisances which I understand they settle for small amounts since it costs more to take them on than to settle. If I am right then ignoring them will cut off their revenue.

    (useful trivia: I learned to remember the difference between slander and libel with the following mnemonic. Slander starts with an ‘s’ as in “speech” and is spoken, Libel starts with an “L” as in “literary” and is written).

  9. @jeffr: Ummm, no, I think maybe you don’t know who/what Westboro is.

    From what I’ve seen at Co$ protests, anonymous is mostly assholes. But your claim that Westboro makes their point “quietly?” Are you serious? And Anon hasn’t threatened any violence from what I can see. Censorship, yes, which is reprehensible. But not violence.

  10. TKingDoll just Tweeted this: “If you don’t stand up for the things you don’t like, when they come for the things you do like, you’ve already lost”. Neil Gaiman.

    It is her favorite quote, and she said she regretted using it to defend the WBC. I agree with her. Anonymous claims to defend free speech, and WBC’s hate-filled rhetoric and demonstrations are the ultimate test of Freedom of Speech.

    That being said, I hope Anonymous kicks the shit out of those WBC bastards.

  11. I don’t see what Anonymous can do. Big deal if WBC doesn’t heed their warning. What are they going to lose? Their website? That just doesn’t matter to a bunch of backwoods hate-mongers like this. They don’t too much with their technology. They have no sponsors, no big group of supporters. Unless Anonymous has plans to hack their bank accounts or something like that I don’t see what harm they can do to this group. Scientology has a lot of things going on, and they try and mask that behind various corporations and other organizations that are all just fronts for their religion. So they have a lot to attack and exploit. WBC is a small group of loons, not anywhere near the same.

    That being said, anything that hurts the WBC is good in my book. I’m all for free speech, I understand they have a right to do what they do, but if something bad were to happen to them I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. There’s just no reason to spew such hatred the way they do.

  12. What about perfectly innocent websites that just happen to have routes that traverse the same Internet backbone connections as these self appointed police fill with their pious attacks?

    A bully is still a bully even if they use a computer.

  13. To me this is like the old Mad magazine Spy vs. Spy cartoons, (call it Thug vs. Thug) you never really cared who won, it was more about how painful the takedown was.

    I hope there are lots of bloodied noses and I care not whose.

    Anonymous is fighting the good fight and they think that are justified in any tactics they feel are necessary; they are, quite simply, wrong.

    They make me want to root for WBC and damn them for that, damn them all to hell.

    I think I need a bath now, yuck.

  14. It’s quite simple to me. If you value freedom of speech and think that people have a right to speak their mind, regardless of how fucked up their ideas are, then what Anonymous is doing is wrong. Saying that doesn’t require the barest scintilla of support for the WBC, apart from the general recognition that they are, in fact, people. Hacking into someone’s web site and shutting it down might not be literal violence, but it is definitely an attack and an attempt at censorship. There are a million and one ways to speak out against the WBC, but this shouldn’t be one of the ones we condone.

  15. @Rebecca Watson: “We will target your public Websites, and the propaganda & detestable doctrine that you promote will be eradicated; the damage incurred will be irreversible, and neither your institution nor your congregation will ever be able to fully recover. ”

    Destruction of property is violence.

  16. @Rebel 16: Yeah, they really really overpromise … stupid DoS attacks and black faxes are probably on the docket. For one thing, how sophisticated is the Westboro network infrastructure anyway? I mean, disrupting their internet service may be as easy as dialing their phone?

    Scientology was hurt, but it’s still around after all. Although, I do give Anonymous props for getting us the Tom Cruise video

  17. Freedom of speech inherently = freedom to have to deal with the consquences of the things you say. Westboro is about to finally learn that.

    As far as Anonymous not being able to do anything or being powerless, that’s excruciatingly naive and ignores historical fact. These are the same “kids” who used MSpaint to vandalize the logos on the FBI (and other “secure” government organization) website for no reason other than the laughs.

    “Violence” is hyperbolic and silly as an accusation. These are young punks who are basically the world’s greatest pranksters, not violent bullies. Their wording is designed expressly to antagonize and troll the kind of kneejerking, overacting, easily manipulated tantrum-throwers they target.

    They are simply the epic-scale version of ordering 10 pizzas to be sent to someone’s house or leaving dog poo on their doorstep. They will mock, insult, and harrass these bigots, because it’s fun (not for any high moral reasons of course). It’s really quite simple and easy to understand: a few actually moral/interested Anon paint a target on WBC, then a horde of angry/bored/obnoxious kids who are looking for an excuse to be obnoxious kids, trample that target for amusement. Why WBC rather than genocidal regimes in Africa? Because WBC is an achievable goal that’s clear and concrete and can have a bullseye painted on it.

    The Spy vs. Spy thing is pretty accurate. But one spy IS going to win this time, bet on it. And it won’t be Phelps.

  18. As boundless as my dislike of WBC is, they really have met their match here in terms of assholism. As much as I love much of his poetry, Anon has unfortunately jumped the shark with this sort of nonsense.

    As we breathe, there are pro-democracy demonstrators in the Middle East putting their lives and the lives of their families on the line for a greater cause – not, you’ll note, hiding behind lame masks and pseudonyms. Anonymous will earn my total respect if they actually put anything of themselves at risk through their activities – after all, the unsigned hate letter has for centuries been the mark of cowardice and impotence.

  19. Amy,

    I never liked the “Westboro Boys.” The Reverend Phelps really is a sick person. His protesting of the funerals of gay people and our soldiers probably makes even other homophobes uncomfortable. The guy’s a nut job. Seriously what good does he think his funeral crashing is gonna do? Even if there was any truth to his bigoted views on homosexuals, (which there is not) what good could it possibly do, other than to tick people off? I really don’t think he is made fun of enough.

  20. @Rebecca Watson…
    @jeffr: Ummm, no, I think maybe you don’t know who/what Westboro is.

    Yes, as an Australian I have yet to experience WBC first-hand. So they chant, do they? As well as displaying disgusting placards. Boo hoo.

    @Rebecca Watson…
    And Anon hasn’t threatened any violence from what I can see.

    Then look again:

    Should you ignore this warning, you will meet with the vicious retaliatory arm of ANONYMOUS: We will target your public Websites, and the propaganda & detestable doctrine that you promote will be eradicated; the damage incurred will be irreversible, and neither your institution nor your congregation will ever be able to fully recover.

    Yeah… that’s pretty ambiguous I guess.

    Sheesh!

  21. I refuse to honor Phelps with the honorific, reverend. I qualify for the honorific myself, but people like Phelps and Falwell have made it a four letter word to me. I stand with the Patriot Guard Riders of Georgia, so that might tell you something else about my opinion of the Westboro Terrorists. I believe in no gods. But Phelps and his spawn make me believe in evil. And they make me afraid.

    Anonymous … what can one say? They remind me of my teen anarchist phase. I thank Zeus that there was no Internet and no Google circa 1969. No record of my impossibly stupid teen arrogance survives. I have credible deniability now. Kids today cannot say that. Woe is them who want to get a big buck job one day.

    As sad and silly as I think Anonymous is, I hope they bring those evil bastards down and grind them into the dust their imaginary friend made them from.

    And you know what is the saddest and scariest thing about the Westboro Terrorists? They actually do what the Bible tells them to do. If more Jesus lovers ever get around to actually reading their Bible and behaving like it commands them to do, there bloody well be open warfare across the lands.

    Keep your powder dry.

  22. Aside from the emptiness of the threat (what do the WBC care if their websites crash? It’ll just bring them publicity, and publicity of any kind is what they thrive on.), this is an attack on free speech, pure and simple. Anonymous don’t like what the WBC are saying, so they’ll try to censor it through threats and criminal vandalism.

    I’m shocked that some otherwise reasonable people here are actually supporting this online thuggery.

  23. This wouldn’t be much of a debate or all that “complicated” for something we didn’t happen to agree with.

    Yeah, real bold move going against WBC, ’cause they have so much mainstream public support. Oh wait, the opposite of that. What is the point of this? Anon even said it – everyone on the planet except themselves already thinks they’re vile.

  24. @Mick: Yea, free speech for everyone means you’ll eventually have to tolerate someone who makes you want to vomit. At times some people will even make you want to punch them in the nose or crash their web site or put salt in their coffee. Not acting out on these feelings says something about you I think.

  25. @jeffr:

    They are not just holding these signs for emotionally stable people to see. They are harassing the grieving families of war dead and risking the rights to protest and free speech for the rest of us.

    Even if you didn’t give a rat’s ass about the families (which any reasonable person would), it is still a threat to the rights they try to hide behind. They are using the right as a bullet shield to continue to commit acts of harassment, risking all Americans’ rights in doing so.

    But, it is a valid point that this just garners more publicity for the WBC. Whether that further exposes them and their awful practices (and ridiculous views) for the insanity that it really is or turns some fence-sitters to their cause, I cannot say. It’s not all that shocking that some morally righteous hackers are standing up, though. It was bound to happen some time.

    Since one of the keys to making important changes is speaking up, I still give a kudos to Anon for doing what they think will help grieving families. It’s clear where their intentions lie and it’s sweet of Anon to try.

  26. WBC may be a bunch of pricks, but at least they are legal pricks. They know how far their rights extend, and tip-toe right up to the edge of the line. But they never cross it.

    Anonymous, OTOH, are a bigger bunch of pricks, and do not respect the law at all.

  27. It doesn’t have to be Anonymous or nothing, many counter protests to the WBC have raised money, promoted awareness, and just simply laughed at them. Far better than compromising free speech principles. One of my favourite (from Wikipedia):
    On December 12, 2008, the group picketed a production of The Laramie Project at the Boston Center for the Arts. Local activists held a Phelps-A-Thon in response. Supporters pledged online to donate for every minute WBC protested. The event raised over $4,600 dollars for an LGBT-rights project, Driving Equality

    I also found the language of Anonymous slightly disturbing, sounded like it comes out of the old Testament, wrathful vengeance much?

  28. Sigghhhh…

    OK. I give up.

    Give these creeps the publicity they crave. I’m beginning to see how frustrated they (?) must be if they have ever tried to debate logically.

    Hey! Here’s an idea! Why not put up a huge billboard denouncing their actions! That’ll really get ’em!

  29. There’s really only one really good way to protest/react to the WBC:

    Wait ’till Freddy dies of natural causes, and then have loads of gays attending his funeral, holding up placards showing their respect for the deceased, and their support for his family and friends.

    I know, it’s never gonna happen, but it’s this kind of thing that might show the rest of them how fucking wrong they are; any retalliation would only make them stronger in their convictions.

  30. I really don’t see this changing anything. Westboro will roll around in the publicity and possibly try to sue and then continue to spout “God hates Fags.”

    Anonymous will laugh about how they stuck it to them and then go back to using “fag” as a suffix while hypocritically going on about free speech.

    As much as I really hate Westboro, I really find it hard to root for either. Instead I can only hope for some kind of double KO in which they both take each other out.

  31. I don’t believe in vigilantism… but I”m very confused because I totally agree with the position of anonymous across the board. On the other hand the WBC actually does more to unify people than they do damage with their rhetoric, so it’s a very interesting moral conundrum.

  32. To be honest, I find this whole situation fascinating. As someone who’s not in any way American, it’s easy to look at it all from outside as a really interesting example of how the principle of freedom of speech has become (almost?) axiomatic in your society.
    And, of course, I can see the very good reasons for that- many of which have been expressed very well above by several of you. I’m not going to go into those, because, to be honest, I agree with most of them entirely. They’re good arguments!
    However, where I come from our respect for freedom of speech and expression is tempered slightly by laws against incitement to hatred and violence. You can say what you like, as long as you’re not advocating- directly or indirectly- for violence towards others. Again, there’s good reasons for that. Speech doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It influences people. You don’t have to look much further than Uganda to see a very current example of how hate speech translates to very real violence against very real people.
    Which is why I would be every so slightly wary of lauding absolute freedom of speech as a universal principle- as an axiom of a civilised society, so to speak. Yes, in the vast majority of cases it is essential. However giving it a supreme importance over other principles seems to me to be a somewhat privileged stance. It’s easier to defend when you’re not a member of the group that hatred/violence is being advocated against, when your ass isn’t on the line.

    Of course, not sure what this has to do directly with Anonymous. I think that it mainly means that I get their point. I get that freedom of speech is incredibly important, but so is freedom from hate speech.

    And, well. Being honest? I would loooooove to sit back with a nice cup of tea and see the WBC get a bit of a comeuppance.

  33. Look folks, DoS is a form of civil disobedience, like a picket or a sit in, you take your self ( or your IP) and you put it in the way of something, it is NOT violence.

    Now clearly DoS is probably not so effective vs WBC, but if you look at what Anon did to Aaron Barr, that seems like a much more useful attack, which is also illegal, and non-violent.

    I think it is very likely that WBC is doing something illegal , and doing a public dump of their hard drives may take them down. Since that is consistent with Anon strategy, it make more sense to have a realistic privacy vs free speech debate than to make this fairyland violence vs free speech argument, which is not consistent with anything Anon at large has done.

  34. Anon is going to hit them where it really hurts…they’re going to buy up all the poster board in a 50 mile radius around WBC.

    (BTW…I think Phelps and all are dancing for joy over the new publicity-generating opportunity of being threatened by Anon.)

  35. Look folks, DoS is a form of civil disobedience, like a picket or a sit in, you take your self ( or your IP) and you put it in the way of something, it is NOT violence.

    A picket or a sit-in is (usually) Constitutionally-protected free speech. Civil disobedience is breaking the law, but doing so peacefully. Hacking someone’s web site and shutting it down is neither– it’s an attack on someone else’s property.

    I think it is very likely that WBC is doing something illegal

    The Supreme Court is in the midst of deciding that right now. How about we all let them do their job?

  36. The hate speech of WBC does rise to the level of violence. It isn’t physical violence, it is psychological violence. If you beat someone up psychologically, the person is still beat up, and still has the psychological side effects of being beat up. That being beat up can cause PTSD, and a large number of stress related physical symptoms. It shortens people’s lives, causes adverse mental health problems, increases cardiovascular disease and so on. WBC is attacking people gratuitously. People who have no connection to WBC other than that WBC has decided to attack them.

    I think that Anonymous can do plenty. They need to go after the money. If they drain the bank accounts of the WBC and each and every member of the WBC, that will pretty much put the WBC out of business.

    Maybe it isn’t strictly legal, but I think it is a moral and ethical thing to do. WBC has broken the implicit social contract we have with each other to not be a total asshole and douche. I hope that Anonymous is successful and that none of them are caught.

  37. Longtime lurker, first time poster, yadda yadda yadda.

    To paraphrase Indiana Jones: WBC – I hate those guys.

    BUT I can’t endorse or excuse Anonymous’s tactics here. The irony of their stated “aggressive” commitment to free speech has already been pointed out. If the First Amendment only protected popular speech, freedom of speech would be an empty slogan. To use an analogous situation from the late 70s, the Illinois Nazis planned a march in Skokie, IL (home to many Holocaust survivors). The ACLU defended their right to do so on First Amendment grounds, despite the fact that many of the lawyers on the case were themselves Jewish. Unless I’m falling for an urban legend, the ACLU lost a lot of donor support in the Jewish community for their defense of the Nazis in the Skokie case, but I give them credit for holding to their principles even though they knew they were defending total a-holes.

    DDoS attacks are not “violence,” sure, but they are aggressive (not to mention illegal). Suppose an anonymous group of anti-vaxxers coordinated a DDoS attack on Skepchick – would we say that they were simply exercising their free speech right to criticize Skepchick’s viewpoint? “But we’re right and they’re wrong!” Well, yeah, of course I agree with that, but in the end who gets to decide who’s right and who’s wrong? The Supreme Court? Anonymous? Skepchick commentators?

    I have more to bloviate, but this post is already too long, so flame away :)

  38. OK, bloviation part deux.

    To correct an earlier (common and understandable) misperception, there is no “absolute” right to freedom of speech in the US. If the Supreme Court were to rule that the WBC’s disgusting tactic of picketing funerals is not protected by the First Amendment I would be delighted.

    Also, although as I said I don’t endorse their tactics, that’s not to say I would shed a tear for the WBC if Anonymous carries through on their threat. I do have my doubts that it will have the intended effect, however. In a similar vein, although I oppose capital punishment on principle, I didn’t shed any tears for Tim McVeigh, and were I given the magical power to go back in time to prevent his execution I surely would not do so.

    Lastly, I’m troubled by the notion that WBC (or any hate group) is doing “psychological violence,” and therefore is undeserving of First Amendment protection. That argument could be used to nullify the right to express any point of view that you disagree with (“I believe that the MMR vaccine caused my son’s autism, and your arguments to the contrary are doing unspeakable violence to my psyche!”). Just sayin’.

  39. @Rillion:
    Just remember who called the fight out, it wasn’t Anon. It was WBC. They deserve the beating they will get. The government and FBI should have done something about them a long time. If they won’t – Anon will. At least Anon is going to be doing some good this time around. I don’t like Anon most of the time, but this I think is the best option Anon could do.

  40. DoS is vandalism.

    DoS is not civil disobedience or any other nice collection of words or thoughts wrapped around a less nice concept. It is a criminal act, pure and simple. It is vandalism that has very real costs. For people not involved in some fortue 500 enterprise, the costs are imposed on the object’s ISP and the DoS extends to many if not all of the ISP’s other customers. The people who have to clean up the mess are the ISP’s overworked and underpaid network and systems people.

  41. 1) I agree with the things the letter says and I do think any and all bullying against Westboro is justified.

    2) The letter was most likely sent by someone from within Westboro. The level of trolling on display here is amazing.

    3) Anon have answered. This sounds more authentic:

    http://anonnews.org/?p=press&a=item&i=491

    Most of all this is a delicious tale of who-can-you-trust-when-everyone-is-anonymous and just the kind of internet entertainment I eat up. Good stuff!

  42. @DanielZKlein:
    Interesting… I disagree that the letter was probably sent by someone from within WBC, it sounds like something an Anon would write, it definitely doesn’t sound like something from the church…
    So to me, it seems like someone who is relatively new to Anonymous’ cyber-activism has written this, someone who knows enough about how Anonymous sounds, but not enough about how it works… in other words, someone who would be known as a “newfag” there. The problem is of course that there can never be any “official” statement from Anonymous as it doesn’t have any real members, any real leadership, a few more respected individuals at best… well have to see how this plays out, but I suspect as long as there’s nobody with at least a little experience behind this, not much will happen.

  43. @davidh:
    Not their go-to insult. A newfag is someone who is new to their site.
    “Fag” is pretty much their word for guy, they use it because it’s offensive, and they live to offend. In other words, a gay guy is a “gayfag”. Yes, seriously.

  44. @schleprock:

    Censorship is simply inexcusable in terms of free speech and the website most certainly falls under that heading. What they say on the website (that they own) is their own deal. Anybody looking up “godhatesfags” is likely not going to be surprised by what they find, anyhow.

    I think Anon fancies themselves the online equivalent of the Patriot Guard Riders (bikers who rev their engines to drown out the noise and hold American flags to hide the signs from the grieving families). If they were, it would be great. “The more people like the PGR, the better”, I say. There is nothing more sweet than surly bikers using their right to rev their engines and carry oversize American flags to protect the families of war dead from harassment.

    In the case of the funerals, the WBC is committing acts of harassment against people who have lost loved ones and I would gladly see them answer for that crime. If you were to run along with somebody and shout horrid things at them, you would still be in the clear but after you have been repeatedly asked to cease and desist and you continue to harangue that simple passerby, that is harassment, not free speech. But online, it is their site and their place to say what they want. If you are stopping somebody from exercising the right to free speech when it is really, just that… that is censorship. Censorship is wrong. I very strongly dislike the messages of the WBC but if they want to put those messages up on their own website, that’s their dillio… ya feel me?

    If Anon wants to do something about the funeral picketing, they should organize ways to counter-picket or to do something akin to the PGR. That is fine. That is them using their right to shield troubled families. Brilliant. But if they do something to damage the site, that would be (legally) the same as slashing their tires or tagging their house to stop them from picketing. It is intentionally damaging personal property.

    I am not comparing this online, clandestine act of kindness (because it is kind of them to try) to physical violence. I am simply saying that legally, there is very little difference between this and physically damaging physical property. The WBC owns that URL and interfering with it is (as kind as it is) not incredibly productive and illegal. There are plenty of ways to counter the WBC without breaking laws that are there for very good reasons. But again, what they are doing (or threaten to do) is in now way, anywhere as serious as physical violence, which would not be appreciable so much as it would be despicable.

    As my unending adoration of the PGR shows, I am greatly appreciative of efforts to help these families. I don’t care if it is giving the WBC the publicity they want, so long as mothers don’t have to listen to the church and see their signs at the funerals of their brave sons and daughters. I think it is very sweet that anon wants to help but I think that this would be slightly misguided, is all. Their energy and passion is so useful, but the way they are choosing to direct it is not.

  45. I am far more impressed when Anonymous goes after the powerful who abuse their power than on weak idiots.

    When they exposed how a subsidiary of HBGary Federal, a provider of classified cybersecurity services to the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community and other US government agencies, was pitching the Chamber of Commerce to help them use the same security services to harass journalists and activists, I think they were doing a public service. If the DOJ won’t investigate abuses of our civil liberties by quasi-governmental organizations on behalf of large corporations and lobbying groups, the only hope we have is for those groups to be publicly exposed by those outside the government.

    I’d really rather have Anonymous go after The Family than Westboro. Their ties to African governments that seek to kill homosexuals in the name of religion deserve more public exposure. And goodness knows that they aren’t going to be investigated by Obama’s DOJ when he’s rushing to kowtow to them at their National Prayer Breakfast every year.

  46. I agree with the view that the real test of freedom of speech is when the most disgusting, vile, evil people still retain some rights.

    While I would not waste the brake pads on my bus if a Phelps family member stepped off the curb, it is best to ignore them.

  47. @schleprock:

    Yes, I am agreeing with you. I think it is a point that really needs to be driven home that, while it may be very kind of Anon to TRY to do something, that something could be more productive and make less of a perceived victim of the WBC.

    I also had to throw in the mention of the PGR because they do something TOTALLY legal and TOTALLY effective at protecting these families, as opposed to what Anon threatens which does nothing to soften the effect the WBC has on the grieving and breaks a law that is there for a reason.

  48. Ususally I can come here to read interesting articles written from an agreeable point ofview, but now its been 2 fails in the past week! “I for one am rooting for anonymous” – Really?! The anon.group are not only breaking the law,but they are attacking free speech which is very vital, especially for skeptics like us who are in the minority. The WBC is operating within the law and their right to behave like assholes is protected.

  49. @mikekoz68: Oh boo hoo. I’m so sorry that some opinions from what is apparently the collective-conscious-mind-borg of Skepchick.org doesn’t match up with your view of the world. Besides, I said they were both bullies and that who was worse was debatable . But yeah, if I’m gonna sit on the couch and root for one side or the other it’s definitely not gonna to be for the irate, hate-spewing WBC clan. They may not always get it right but at least the cyber geeks have potential.

  50. The WBC are loathsome bullies. They deserve to get a solid dose of their own fucking medicine 21st century style.
    Anon is probably mainly obnoxious kids but, well, hooray for obnoxious kids. DoS is is far as I’m concerned much closer to “speech” than what WBC spend most of their time getting up to, which would (in any civilized country) be considered unlawful harrassment and land them in jail as opposed to “protected free speech”.
    And Anon are putting something on the line here – there is a risk of getting caught and punished by the law. It’s happened and will happen again.
    So: Go, obnoxious pranksters, go!

  51. Amy, Rei Malebario et al:

    Hey, look, I get it. The WBC are truly loathsome (as are the KKK, Aryan Nations, etc. etc.). On a purely emotional, visceral level I would love to see them get a (metaphorical) punch in the nose as payback for the hate they dish out by the truckload. I believe there’s a desire for righteous vengeance deeply ingrained in the human psyche (cf. movies like “Death Wish,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Taken,” “Man on Fire,” & I could go on & on, not to mention the “eye for an eye” ethos of the Old Testament).

    But (of course you knew that was coming) this is a skeptical web site devoted to critical thinking. This is only my perception, of course, but it seems to me the “Go Anon Go” camp is mostly arguing from the gut instinct of wanting to give a bully his comeuppance without engaging the other camp on questions of principle, legality, effectiveness, etc. To wit:

    1) Is the solution to bullying more bullying? Will this make Phelps & his noxious crew re-examine their bigotry? Or might this action just further harden them so that they double down on the hate? My personal hunch is despite whatever fleeting satisfaction might be gained from a DoS attack it will have absolutely no effect on the WBC’s actions over the long term.

    2) IANAL, but whatever the legality of the WBC’s funeral protests I think it’s pretty clear that their web site falls under First Amendment protection. Does the commitment to the principle of free speech mean tolerating speech that you find repugnant? (I think it pretty clearly does). Is free speech a vital right for the freethought community, who often find ourselves in the minority in our society? (I think so). We frequently (& correctly) point out the hypocrisy of various religious figures: should we be going around opening ourselves to (justified) charges of hypocrisy by cheering on illegal actions that attempt to deny the free speech rights of those we disagree with?

    At the end of the day I just don’t think you can bully a bully out of bullying (you might get a bully to leave you alone by punching him in the nose, but he’ll just take his frustration out on another, weaker victim). That, plus my belief that freedom of speech means putting up with viewpoints with you disagree violently, is why I just can cheer on Anon in this matter (whether it’s an “official” Anonymous action or a rogue element it doesn’t matter, I’m not sure how you could distinguish anyway).

    Like I said, I understand at a gut level the emotion underlying this issue, & I’m prepared to get flamed up one side & down the other for this post. But if anyone in the pro-Anon camp could respond with an argument other than “The WBC have it coming” (I daresay they do: cf. Gandalf on whether Gollum deserved to die) & will engage with some of the specific points in this post (or point out where they have been dealt with up-thread, my bad if I missed something) I’d be very interested.

  52. @schleprock: I think most of the people in the “go Anon go” camp actually agree with you that it is a purely emotional response without well thought-out consequences and is not in the long run consistent with our goals. So is eating a 1-pound chocolate bar…

    I think a better solution would be to somehow trick the WBC into acting the way they hope their opponents act, and then for the SPLC or a similar organization to sue them out of existence. Hoist on their own petard. Much better than a stupid DoS attack on the web site they probably don’t even care about.

  53. Amy:

    But yeah, if I’m gonna sit on the couch and root for one side or the other it’s definitely not gonna to be for the irate, hate-spewing WBC clan.

    Well, yeah, if I were forced to root for one side or the other of course I would root for Anonymous over the WBC. But that’s a false choice: you don’t have to root for either side. It is perfectly logical & consistent to oppose the putative Anonymous DoS attack on principle while continuing to fervently wish the WBC would crawl back under the rock whence they came never to be heard from again.

    Not rooting for Anonymous is not equivalent to rooting for the WBC. I don’t think that you can use the fact that the WBC are worse bullies than Anonymous (which I would agree with) to justify Anonymous’s actions.

  54. @DataJack:
    “Censorship is suppression of speech or other communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.
    The moralfag division of /b/ does not qualify, imo.
    You can’t have child porn either, so perhaps that ship has already sailed.

  55. @genjokoan: “DoS is not civil disobedience or any other nice collection of words or thoughts wrapped around a less nice concept. It is a criminal act, pure and simple. It is vandalism that has very real costs.”

    No, it is just obstructing traffic, not metaphorically, actually. DoS is obstructing traffic by doing something which is legal ( asking for data) but doing so in a manner, and coordinating it so that providing the data becomes infeasible due to the concentration of traffic, just as walking on bridges is legal, but enough people make them impassable (see Egypt)

  56. Speaking of Anonymous, I’ve just read an article at Csicop.com, from a representative of Anonymous, claiming that they kept the online communications going when Mubarak tried to shut it down. And that Anonymous gets alot of the credit for formenting and supporting the revolutions occuring now in the Middle East.

    Props to them if it’s true. But is it true? Or are they taking credit, innocently maybe, for events taking place without them?

    http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/skepticism_in_the_face_of_evidence_is_no_virtue

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