Opinion: Don’t let bigots get what they want


Jacob Meyer

A Loyola student confronts a Westboro Baptist Church member on June 28, 2018. Photo credit: Jacob Meyer

Tyler Wann

I spent my Thursday morning outside of Loyola at the counter protest. I was angry and, like many others, felt an obligation to stand up for my values against people who were so aggressively opposed to them.

I stood there on St. Charles Ave. surrounded by all of my friends and allies until the protesters packed up their stuff and moved on, as the rush of victory swept over the crowd. We had stood together as a school and driven away hate from our campus and, thanks to all of the news coverage, everyone had watched us do it.

It wasn’t until I noticed the protesters retweeting the coverage of the event that I realized that all of this happened exactly as the protesters had wanted it to.

Because, when it comes down to it, that’s always been their game. Their website, which I will not be linking here, says that they believe in predestination – the idea that our fate has been decided by God. As such, they say that they don’t protest because they expect to change anything. They don’t expect to win anyone over to their side. They’re here to make a lot of noise. And I think we may have helped them make a lot more noise than they would have by themselves.

They made the news on at least two different stations before they even came to the city because of the counter protest. Before they were even here they were already drumming up hype for the big event.

That’s why they send out the schedule a week in advance; so that everyone from students to reporters has the heads up to fit them in their schedule. They took the liberty to give us the time and place so that we could come hear their message because they think that they and their message are important.

And I think we may accidentally be giving them that validation.

I don’t have the numbers on the protest itself, but over 200 people RSVP’d to the counter protest. There’s only 70 people in the church, and only four showed actually showed up to Loyola. When your only goal is to preach your message to as big of an audience as possible, last Thursday would have been considered a great success.

Four people stood outside for less than thirty minutes and got at least two different news stations to cover them and a large crowd to show up. The news coverage, the crowd, the Facebook event, all of it came together to widen their audience way more than they could have done on their own.

Every time someone does a story on them, that’s one more result on a search engine that helps spread their name around, which is why I refuse to name them in this piece.

I love that the Loyola community can organize something like this, that they can come together as a group to ensure that no one feels like they have to stand against hate alone. I’m definitely not saying that there’s anything wrong with standing up when you feel as if you’re values are being threatened; I was out there with everyone else. But honestly, I’m not sure that those values were being threatened Thursday morning.

The protestors are not lawmakers. They aren’t changers in any way, and they don’t believe that they are. They don’t represent any large majority of the population; both Christians, Atheists, and everyone in between condemn them. They aren’t protesting a government official or a piece of legislation. They are literally just here to make as much noise as possible, not to change anything.

So, at the end of the day, they are utterly inconsequential. This isn’t a kind of hate that you can fight in a traditional way. While, I’d like to believe that anyone can change their mind through rational debate and empathy, I don’t see that happening with this group.

It struck me how unfazed all of the members of the church were at the counter protestors. They’ve done this a thousand times, at a thousand different protests, and they don’t intend to stop anytime soon.

We may not be able to change them. But it’s also important to remember that they can’t do anything to us either, besides wave obscene signs. The truth is I don’t think we need to stand and fight against them because, by the end of their protest, nothing had changed. And, save for a few red faces and bouts of high blood pressure, nothing ever changes after any of their protests.

They’re inconsequential. And it’s great that Loyola kids have the courage to stand up in the face of hate. But let’s save that zeal for an actual threat. Because they aren’t worth our time, and honestly I think that four people holding obscene signs to a crowd of no one would have been a lot funnier.