Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Together We Make Meaning: Westboro Baptist Church hits the Lorde Concert


Recently, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, Fred Phelps, passed away. Westboro Baptist Church is infamous for its extremist ideologies and hatred toward homosexuals and has been called "arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America" (Southern Poverty Law Center). Many would remember the Westboro Baptist Church's picketing of a military funerals, carrying signs reading "fear god" and "god hates fags" among others. 

Recently, members of the Westboro Baptist Church went to the singer Lorde's concert in Midland Theatre in Kansas City, Mo., on Friday to protest the singer for "serving herself and teaching other young people how to be indolent rebels" (Sieczowski) one day after Phelps' death. However, as the protesters arrived, the Lorde fans held up a sign reading "Sorry for your loss".

The way that the Lord fans reacted to the hatred that the Westboro Baptist Church hurled their way supports the idea that meaning is co-constructed. "The process of co-action is not simply an exchange of words alone. As we coordinate movement together we are also co-creating meaning (Gergen 98). Meaning is created through language, between the two parties. The Lorde fans could have chosen to retaliate and hurl vitriol back toward the church members. Instead, they chose to use a message of compassion, offering sympathy for the death of their deceased leader. This created a completely different meaning of the interaction. 

This has huge implications for the way the situation played out. Conflict between the two parties could have led to insults at best, violence at worst. This shows how powerful reframing a situation can be on its outcome.

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