God Hates Fags (www.godhatesfags.com) is on the face of it much like any of thousands of hate sites on the Internet. Except that Fred Phelps, who runs the site and is pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, has gained a fair bit of media attention for picketing everyone from Bill Clinton and the Supreme Court of New Jersey to the Boy Scouts for, in his view, ’siding with sodomites’.
God Hates Fags (www.godhatesfags.com) is on the face of it much
like any of thousands of hate sites on the Internet. Except that Fred
Phelps, who runs the site and is pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church
in Kansas, has gained a fair bit of media attention for picketing
everyone from Bill Clinton and the Supreme Court of New Jersey to the
Boy Scouts for, in his view, ’siding with sodomites’.
The tone of God Hates Fags is pretty much set in opening sentences of
its main page. ’This page is dedicated to preaching the Gospel truth
about the soul-damning, nation-destroying notion that ’it is OK to be
gay.’ ’God Hates Fags’ ... is a profound theological statement, which
the world needs to hear more than it needs oxygen, water and bread.’ And
One part that has particularly enraged gays is a perverse ’memorial’ to
Matthew Shepard, a teenager who was beaten to death last October for
being gay. The site gives a running total of the number of days Shepard
has ’been in hell.’
It’s no surprise then that since March, God Hates Fags has been matched,
blow for blow, by another web site, God Loves Fags
Where Phelps quotes Leviticus (’Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with
womankind: it is abomination.’ Leviticus 18:22), God Loves Fags quotes
the story of David and Jonathan (’I am distressed for you, my brother
Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was
wonderful, passing the love of women.’ 2 Samuel 1:25-26). As soon as
Phelps announces an upcoming picket on his site (such as one of the US
Open tennis tournament, planned for September 11-12), God Loves Fags
announces it as well, so that gay rights activists can go along and
shout just as loudly.
And so things might have continued, except that on the Internet, funny
things can happen. Neither Fred Phelps, nor Kris Haight and Rich Mackey,
who run God Loves Fags, reckoned on the guerrilla action which resulted
in the godhatesfags. com Internet domain being transferred from Phelps’s
ownership and control to Haight and Mackey. For a few days in
mid-August, anyone typing www.godhatesfags.com into his or her Internet
browser was taken to www.godlovesfags.com instead. Haight and Mackey
have insisted they had nothing to do with it. They simply woke up one
morning and found an anonymous e-mail notifying them that they were the
owners of their enemy’s domain. ’Please note that it was by no action of
our own,’ says a statement on God Loves Fags.
Phelps threatened to sue not only the owners of God Loves Fags but also
their Internet service provider, and it was in the face of this that
Haight and Mackey decided a few days later to give the domain back. The
action certainly got noticed: the number of page views on their site
prior to August 18 had totaled just 7,500. By August 21 it was 72,047.
Haight and Mackey received more than 1,100 supportive e-mails and 44
that were critical.
For people who are not professional campaigners, PR professionals or web
site developers, that’s not bad. It’s also unlikely to be the last
Internet guerrilla action of this sort. Corporations increasingly find
themselves in the firing line over ’hot-button’ issues such as gay
rights, abortion or the environment. That will happen on the Internet
just as much as in the physical world. While the task would have been
more difficult, it is not inconceivable that it might have been
mcdonalds.com that got transferred, or disney.com and shell.com. And
that might have been even more fun to watch.
- Stovin Hayter is editor of Revolution. All e-mails should be sent to