The Impossible Protest:The Westboro Baptist Church At Kent State

I had one of my more interesting post-graduation journalism experiences yesterday, and it was almost too surreal not to type up. I’ll get to exactly how in a minute, but we’re going to have to take a step back and give some context first.

Last week, University of Missouri football player Michael Sam came out as gay. While this was well received by his teammates, family, and America in general, it’s the unfortunate truth that some backlash was to be expected. One of the more vocal detractors was Kent State wrestler Sam Wheeler, whose Twitter feed looked a little something like this:

sam-wheeler-michael-sam-tweets

Unsurprisingly, the higher-ups at Kent State were none too pleased about those and suspended Wheeler from the wrestling team. And that’s when the Westboro Baptist Church got involved. True to form, WBC took to Twitter and put out a press release denouncing Kent State as “bullies,” and announced a picket of the university in protest. Because, well, that’s pretty much what these guys always do.

After a brief internal debate on whether or not to give this group any more attention, I decided it was better to be shooting than staying home, and made tracks to the university. I found a place to camped down on the eighth floor of the library overlooking the two most likely protest spots on campus and kept all my social media open in case they showed anywhere else. I didn’t have much faith that they would show though. See, when an organization as hungry for attention as Westboro didn’t bother to put a date, time, or location on the press release, it made my journalism spidey-sense go all tingly that something isn’t right. And, my hunch was correct, the WBC never showed. Dejected counter protesters sulked away with their signs and rainbow flags like Linus missing the Great Pumpkin.

But then I got home and my buddy Phil sent me this:

Screenshot 2014-02-22 12

At first, I was worried that I had gone home early, but then I actually saw the thing full screen. I don’t know what bothers me more, the fact that they didn’t show, that they then Photoshopped one of their protestors into an old photo and then claimed they were there, or that it s just such a bad Photoshop. But it didn’t stop there. Oh no. This went on for most of the night. It only became a more inexplicable decent into madness.

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Now you, like me, are probably thinking that this has to be a joke, probably a fake account trying to mess with the WBC. But no, I can confirm after extensively reviewing this page and where it connects to, this is 100% the official Westboro Baptist account. I just don’t know what to say. There is a bus. That is a goddmaned hot air balloon! Do they expect anyone to believe this? Are they that far off in their own little world? Was the whole thing a joke to them? Did plan to get the entire campus into an anti-protest and news frenzy, only to pull the rug out from under us, and then pour salt into the wound with bad Photoshop? I’m just too baffled to know at this point. In the end, I decided that the only way to fight crazy is with more crazy, and responded with in the best way I could.

Rainbow Lasers!

For, what better way to fight bigotry than a Godzilla firing fabulous, rainbow lasers? Or, perhaps, you know a better way. I strongly encourage everyone reading this to save the screen-caps and shopping them again in the most awesome way you can. Link them back here by next Sunday (3/2/14), I’ll post them, and we’ll have a contest to see which one reigns supreme.

 

The Year In Review

A full year. Since I graduated. Since I proposed. Since I started freelancing. Since I started the site to keep myself in practice. I suppose that I should take a hard look back at 2013.

                Let’s start by looking at things from a purely objective standpoint and take a look at the numbers.

  • Numbers Total Hits: 9,709
  • Overall Average Hits Per Day: 27
  • Most Hits In A Single Day: 283
  • Total Number of Followers: 110
  • Total Number Of Posts: 205
  • 205 posts/ 365 Days= 56.1% of Daily Goal
  • Then again, I was working 60-80 hours a week the last two months of the year, so taking off November and December, we get 196 Posts /304 Days= 64.5%

 What do these numbers tell us? Well, they tell me that I need to do better. I While I have started writing, editing video, and dabbling more with graphic design, I haven’t come as far with branching my skills as I would have liked. And yes, I have been shooting daily, it hasn’t necessarily been what I want to be working on.

It might be fair to say that I’ve been… disconnected. After I graduated, I lost all of the resources available to me through the university. That doesn’t just include the photo gear and technology, but the connections though fellow students and teachers. Add all that to the fact that my car died early this year, and funds have been relatively low. So, with no money, no car, and no connections, it honestly felt like a year adrift.

But, those are just the numbers and the setup. What did this year in photos actually look like? (Be sure to click to open in theater mode. There’s a cut line for each one of these. )

Where does that leave me? I wouldn’t call the year empty, and I can’t say there was nothing fulfilling.  I wouldn’t say that I didn’t grow, but I still feel like I could have been more. I feel like I’m falling behind my peers. All I can do is try to keep at getting myself off the ground this year.

I photographed this collision with my cell phone on my lunch break. Thankfully, there were no fatalities. The photograph was picked up by one of the local papers.

I photographed this collision with my cell phone on my lunch break. Thankfully, there were no fatalities. The photograph was picked up by one of the local papers.

Still, with everything I shot this year, one photo stands out more than anything I did. It was the photograph I took on my lunch break with cell phone of the car crash. It reminded me how much I can care; not just about news, but about people. I had just finished Dave LaBelle’s Lessons in Life and Death, and learned just how much photographs of tragedy can help those involved cope and come to terms with those events. I felt like I had a responsibility.  It reminded me that no matter where I am, or what I’m doing with my life, that drive for journalism, and news is always there. I’m never going to give up.