Celebration of the Majority’s Jeering
Fully expecting scurrilous attacks that deliberately miss my point, I was going to put this one aside, but it nagged at me at periods throughout the day, as I constructed a client’s two-flight deck stairs, so here it is: Am I alone in finding there to be something discomfiting about the Providence Journal‘s making this a front page story?
Hundreds of Rhode Islanders turned out on street corners Friday in opposition to the anti-gay, anti-Jewish message of a tiny group of demonstrators from Kansas. …
Various counter-protesters chanted — “Go Home” or “Gay is the Way” — and for a short time the shouts unified in obscenities.
The Westboro Baptist Church crew is certainly deserving of jeers, but there’s an aftertaste of mocking the infirm to this episode, and a belch of moral preening in making it the stuff of newspaper celebration. Is this really the sort of lesson that we want to teach our young? The Phelps family has absolutely no power but that of controversy; students and others amassing by the hundreds to oppose them is nothing if not safe (one could call it sport, even). And for their public display of the clear majority opinion in the state, they’ve been rewarded with just about the highest-profile reinforcement that Rhode Island has to offer.
Now, I am absolutely not saying that the counter-protesters should not have participated, and I’m not disagreeing with their general statement. What made me decide to post on this topic, however, was my total certainty that I’d have precisely the same reaction if the “tiny group of demonstrators” were of the left-wing-nut variety and the counter-protesting majority were right-leaning. Promoting such displays of force against minority viewpoints is a precarious principle, even when that minority contributes nothing to the public debate.