I have declined to comment on the Fred Phelps spectacle, in part, because the Phelps clan strike me as pathetically ordinary examples of what Jerry Brown's campaign called Meg Whitman. [Forgive the California-centric reference . . . if you haven't followed that
amusing story, I'm referring to an impolite term for "working" women that rhymes with door.] That is to say, the Phelps' are attention seekers of the lowest sort and, therefore, taking note of them is to do precisely what they want. Thinking about them makes me feel dirty. Taking note of them in writing has always seemed to me to be something even worse. I really don't like gratifying that kind of element.
Having said that and unfortunate as it may be, it turns out that there actually are aspects to the Phelps case that raise important and rarely well-articulated aspects to the whole free speech debate. Ben Boychu
k writes a studied and thoroughly reasoned commentary on the question over at Infinite Monkeys. He leans heavily on two of his greatest (if idiosyncratic in that combination) inspirations: H.L. Mencken and Hadley Arkes. The result is certainly worth a read (possibly, over a drink of something stronger than coffee) and a discussion. Have at it.