Home Trolling For God: 5 Things You Can Learn From Westboro’s Social-Media Playbook

Trolling For God: 5 Things You Can Learn From Westboro’s Social-Media Playbook

Say what you want about Westboro Baptist Church. The Topeka-based hate group is notorious for picketing military funerals with “God Hates Fags” signs. (It believes tolerance of homosexuality has caused God to tip the military scales against the U.S. and its soldiers).

But it’s also crushing it on social media—which means it may have something to teach you.

Take, for example, Tuesday’s “God Hates The Media” protest tour of Silicon Valley. Targeting nine tech companies—including several that make the social-media platforms it exploits—the reliably headline-grabbing church plans to brave nearly 70 miles of some of the worst traffic on God’s green earth.

See also: The Westboro Baptist Church’s Silicon Valley Protest—An Illustrated Guide

Will the hateful faithful make it to all nine purveyors of cybersodomy? They say yes, but it doesn’t really matter. For it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for the canny social media mavens at Westboro to blow a golden opportunity for self-promotion. The group even—as expected—capitalized on the recent death of a celebrity to ensure outraged media coverage.

“We’re going to try and get to what we can, but quite frankly, at this point  the preaching’s been done,” Westboro elder Steve Drain told ReadWrite. “All these tech companies know we’re coming and have shared it with their audience, other companies have put out stories.”

OK, fine. You don’t like the Westboro Baptist Church. Who does? But think about it: This church only has about 40 members. How many headlines in major news outlets has your parents’ church scored since 1998?

So here lieth the five unholy commandments of social media self-promotion as divined by ReadWrite from Westboro’s Elder Drain.

Let Them With Nothing To Tweet Cast The First Stone

The greatest enemy of any small political or religious movement is obscurity. Groups like Westboro are accused of cheap publicity stunts in order to gain attention. So?

In an increasingly crowded media landscape, rising to prominence is a bigger challenge than ever. Are actions like Westboro’s Silicon Valley protest tour just ways for the group to get people like me to write stories about them? Sure. On the other hand, here you are reading about them, too.

“We’re after as many eyes as many ears on this message as we possibly can, Drain says. “How the message lands on your heart is God’s prerogative. We’re just supposed to say the words in as many ways as possible and in as many venues as we possibly can to get you to listen.” 

Westboro distills the doctrine that all PR is good PR to its essence: All bad PR is good PR. 

Pending The End Times, Thou Shalt Use The Tools Of The Idolaters

Protesting Twitter, Facebook and other companies responsible for the same social media networks used by Westboro to spread their message is opportunistic and, to the extent it matters, hypocritical. But that’s silly. 

Just as Sartre pointed out that it’s impossible for an avowed communist to live free of hypocrisy under capitalism pending the revolution, Westboro must live in society as it is today: decreasingly hostile to the LGBTQ community, awash in social media.

“When we say ‘God hates Twitter,’ it’s because of Twitter’s agenda, not because of of the technological advances,” Drain says. “We’re not Amish. “What we’re saying is the way you use the platform is unrighteous. The way you use the platform is evil.”

The lesson to you and me? Quit complaining, live off the land and use whatever tools are at hand to get your message out.

Thou Shalt Not Fake It Until Thou Maketh It 

Many in Silicon Valley evangelize about products they may or may not believe in. Westboro’s disciples are fanatics. They believe in what they’re selling, and that makes a difference. 

“We’re performing obedience to God the Lord Jesus Christ who told us to love our neighbor as ourself,” says Drain. “Rather than willy-nilly Hallmark conception of what that means, God gave us a specific meaning there. In Leviticus 19:17-18, you’ll see the Bible definition that how you love your neighbor as yourself is that you warn them when their sins are taking them to Hell.”

That works for Westboro because, to its believers, there’s no homophobia like real homophobia. It’s easier to sell what you really believe in.

Be Not Like Apple Post-Steve Jobs; Be Bold, Innovative And Forward-Looking

The path of least resistance for a group like Westboro, steeped in Old Testament beliefs about gays and others they deem aberrant, would be to reject modernity.

Instead, like radical Islamists in the Muslim world, Westborovians recognize that they need to meet their secular enemy in its den … and that means online. Everywhere online. On Sunday, for instance, Westboro members conducted a Reddit AMA. 

Along with multiple websites and affiliated Twitter accounts, Westboro is on Pinterest and Twitter. It doesn’t bother with YouTube channels. “We used to have a couple, but YouTube kept pulling them down,” Drain confirmed to ReadWrite. “There are a LOT of people who put our content up on YouTube, break, Vimeo, ebaumsworld, etc., as soon as we publish it on our websites.”

Considerable time and resources go into planning new ways to present the Westboro message, Drain says. “A lot of people will spend their disposable income on jetskis or a trip to the south of France. We spend our money on those resources necessary to make good video productions or go on a trip to San Francisco.”

Never stop innovating.

Let Go And Let God

After you’ve done your best—whether it’s trying to land a big client or fighting bumper-to-bumper Teslas from Mountain View to Palo Alto to get your brightly-colored sans-serif signs in front of the right media cameras—you have to have faith that things will work out in the End Times.

“We believe in absolute predestination. All events are foreknown,” says Drain. “We’ve done everything to reach the audience.We’re just supposed to preach as many ways as we possibly can to get to you, whether it’s wearing a shirt or holding a sign or doing a Reddit AMA.”

Lead image by Burstein!

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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