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Jobs, Westboro, and the return of the forbidden fruit

BY CHRIS STEINKE | OCTOBER 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs is dead, and everyone now knows the real reason behind the iCloud's timely development. It could be argued that Jobs and his company made the most beneficial impacts on the human race since God finished up on the seventh day (what with the first personal computer, the iPhone, and of course, the Oregon Trail mini-game).

Not everyone recognizes the societal gains of the Apple revolution. Following the announcement of Jobs' death, Margie Phelps, a leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, tweeted, "Westboro will picket his funeral. He had a huge platform; gave God no glory & taught sin."

The announcement was sent from Phelps' iPhone.

Sure, I'm all for the First Amendment and all, but can someone please explain the discussion this church is trying to provoke?

"Oh, I'm going to hell? There's nothing I can do? Well, shit."

The Westboro Baptist Church is infamous for protesting high-profile funerals and holding signs that say "God Hates Fags" (its website is godhatesfags.com). Members picketed Michael Jackson's memorial service (which could have had some moral justification), and they can always be seen at the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers.

That's the members' bread and better. Dead soldiers. Phelps' Twitter bio reads, "The soldiers are dying for your sins & coming home in bits and pieces in body bags."

Dying for my sins, eh? They probably would've picketed Jesus' burial, too, right?

The Supreme Court ruled that the Westboro's funeral protests were protected speech in March of this year. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. was in the majority.

"Because this nation has chosen to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that public debate is not stifled, Westboro must be shielded from tort liability for its picketing," he wrote.

OK, I'm down for some public debate (Feed, troll, feed!).

Does Apple "teach sin"? No, it doesn't. Technology is neutral. If anything, Apple leans on the side of moral righteousness. I — I mean, my friend has been searching "porn" in the App Store for months now, and nothing ever comes up, he says. Oh, well. That's what the web browser is for, he supposes.

Sure, Apple products can facilitate sin, just like it can facilitate medical advancement. You can use technology to help you do basically anything. Phelps herself used an iPhone to organize her own protests — not to say sin and Westboro protests don't function harmoniously.

Westboro uses children in its protests. It has them hold "God hates fags" signs and everything, which is fantastic rhetorical strategy. Try debating with a bigoted child. If you've seen Fox News interviews, you know how that kind of thing goes. They don't listen to you. They just yell and scream so they can't even hear your opinion, an opinion they don't care to hear, anyway.

So… debate. What's their side here again? That Jobs didn't use his influence to glorify Jesus? Well, Jobs was a Buddhist, so explains that — but even if he was Christian and did use Apple as a vehicle to promote Jesus, it likely would have done society more harm than good.

For example, Jobs approved a mobile app that claimed to cure homosexuality. Thousands protested, it was removed, and it hurt the brand's image. Similar efforts would damage Apple's capital viability and would thus impede the growth of technology and therefore the spread of globalization and human knowledge.

But hey, Westboro is successfully making its views known. Telling people they're going to burn in hell for eternity does create publicity — Brother Jed knows that. Did you see the crowds around him last week?

If Brother Jed and the Westboro Baptist Church are aiming to cure society, they should take a look at themselves. They should consider the advice provided by one of the most positively influential men in human history.

"Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition." (Steve Jobs, June 2005).


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