As of recent, the Westboro Congregants have been calling off protests in exchange for radio time. They feel they can reach a broader audience by participating in radio interviews.
This is an interesting proposition. The Westboro Baptist Church would have the opportunity to speak freely, while the mourners would be shielded from their words and protests. Additionally, if a listener doesn’t want to hear it, they could choose to turn off their radios. Verbal exchanges can take place with the radio hosts instead of with mourners, providing them with a peaceful environment of which to mourn.
The question remains, are radio stations willing to interview the Westboro Congregants? And how do the listeners feel about this arrangement?
A Washington-based radio DJ, Bobby D., recently agreed to trade airtime in exchange for halting a protest scheduled by the Westboro Baptist Church at a funeral being held for two young boys who were slain by their father.
“I thought, ‘Hey, maybe I could do something here,’ ” Bobby D said. He knew the deal probably wouldn’t gain him new listeners and would no doubt offend many. But he said he remembered a dark time during high school when he lost his mother, and then his best friend. He said he couldn’t imagine how painful it would be to have Westboro congregants — or anyone else — protesting outside those funerals.
Westboro Congregant, Shirley Phelps agreed to call-off the protests in exchange for airtime with Bobby D. The interview was recorded on a Friday, and as long as no protests took place during that weekend’s funeral services, he agreed to air the interview on the following Monday.
Bobby D stated that the interview was very difficult to perform, as he felt as though he needed to rein in his outrage at some of Phelp’s answers, but he handled it very well.
And as with most things, there were a mix of reactions from listeners. Some were negative, as many did not agree with Bobby D.’s decision. Comments made on air and on his blog included statements such as “Trading air time for protests saves Westboro money in travel expenses and gives them a much wider outreach.” And “Bobby, you’ve been played”.
On the otherhand, others appreciated what Bobby D. had done, thanking him and other radio shows in helping diffuse and de-escalate the situation while providing a more appropriate venue for free speech.
Bobby D said he has no regrets. “I’d rather people be mad at me and hate my show than have these people ruin a day that was already going to be so horrible,” he said.
What’s your opinion? Do you think radio shows should trade radio time to avoid a funeral protest? Please share your thoughts.