Time for a rant. I have heard the phrase, “ignore them and they’ll go away” many, many times in my life. On some occasions it’s actually true, but more often than not it’s a worn out axiom that fails to understand that turning the other cheek doesn’t always work.
Let’s take, for example, the pulsating, festering boil on the ass-cheeks of humanity, the Westboro Baptist Church. This odious family of religious fundamentalists show up at funerals to protest carrying signs like “God hates fags”. They don’t discriminate in who they protest, including protesting the funeral of the nine-year-old victim in the recent Tucson shooting. Legally they are doing nothing wrong so long as they obey all ordinances on where protesting is allowed, but morally they are bankrupt as an unemployed homeowner on a leveraged McMansion.
When people debate the WBC the advice of “ignore them and they would go away” comes up quite often. However, it’s not true because it fundamentally ignores the reason for these peoples’ actions. They are not some curious bee flitting about for a few seconds before moving on to find a fragrant flower. These people have an agenda, a cause to which they rally. They may wish the attention, but whether they receive it or not will not dissuade them from their mission.
People simply can’t grasp the mind of a fanatic. They do not respond rationally. Logically, if someone is not getting any attention in their efforts, they will likely stop and move to something else. Fanatics don’t work that way. They do what they do not out of some need for attention, but rather because they believe that they MUST carry out their mission.
One would never say that if you ignore suicide bombers, they’ll just go away, and yet they apply that same logic to people like the WBC. That’s not to say that the WBC people are dangerous, just that they share a similar concrete mindset like suicide bombers. They are fanatics. They will not simply “go away”. The only way to deal with these sorts of people is to expose them, to shine a bright light upon their activities and recognize them for what they are. Instead of ignoring them, we should be investigating their every activity and showing everyone just how idiotic they are. Only when everyone agrees that they don’t want to put up with the WBC’s ass-hattery any longer will they ever back down.
That’s not to say that the freedom of speech should be stifled. However, there are means outside of government intervention to deal with fanatics. Cut off their money supply, provide them no services. Being an idiot is not a protected class, and choosing not to serve these people would eventually force them to hole up in their compound, never able to purchase the necessary supplies to continue their harassment. There are other means, such as counter-protesting, that can show these people that their way of thinking is not the only one. They have freedom of speech, but not freedom from consequences.
And so I finish this rant with a plea: never believe that ignoring something will make it go away. Instead assume that if something is wrong, if something is distasteful, you are well within your rights to let anyone and everyone known how you feel. Only by spreading your opinion can you push back against these fanatics. Only by standing up for what YOU believe in can you stop them from spreading what THEY believe in. Speak up. You have freedom of speech just as much as they do.