At the end of the first long day back in the Big Dirty, Nancy and I fall back on the couch and click on the TV.
IFC is showing The Elephant Man.
Haven't sat through the entire thing in years, so sure, yeah, turn it on.
Sweet merciful Lord.
We are plunged into David Lynch's one true masterpiece.
Black and white. Hopkins. Hurt. Bancroft. The Elephant Man.
He is not an animal.
Halfway through, no, ten minutes in, we are both convulsing, sobbing, and Nancy gasps out:
"This is not entertainment. This is just crying."
I blurt/snot out agreement and we watch the whole thing.
See it again if you haven't seen it in a few years or if you haven't seen it three times. Seeing it with no sense of the visual shock is seeing it fresh, seeing it for what it is. Christ, we went through half a box of Kleenex.
Then, (and this post is becoming a TV diary, sorry about that) there's a special on Fred Phelps.
You've probably only heard about this fine man as a bit player in The Laramie Project. He's a hateful, organized, Kansas piece-of-shit fuck who's made it his own personal mission on this green earth to protest anything that gets TV coverage with bright black-on-yellow signs proclaiming "GOD HATES FAGS" and "YOU'RE GOING TO HELL" and other such incisive shit. Fred and his church are particularly attracted to such blazing, public media events as private funerals for guys and girls who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
THANK GOD FOR IEDS
GOD HATES YOUR TEARS
Real subtle player, our man Fred.
The documentary clearly lays out that he's an abusive, deluded, deranged motherfucker, but hey, is that actually a news flash?
Here's my solution, assuming the prick is still walking around. Give me some time and money and I'll break the bastard. Seriously.
Anyone with real money out there, listen to my pitch. Because everyone's missing the two cogent points.
1. He's an advertising genius.
Why do you think the signs are black on yellow? They pop on TV. Why do you think he protests soldier's funerals? He gets press.
His website is www.godhatesamerica.com. You're going to go to it right now, how can you resist? It's a great domain name.
He's Rove to the nth. He's got the zeitgeist around the neck and he's fucking it doggy-style and the whore zeitgeist is loving it. He's brilliant.
Don't argue with the man. That's what he's counting on. That's just more free press.
Don't condemn the man. Same thing. There's only one way to defuse a brilliant, virtually unassailable position.
Laugh at it.
Turns it around. Makes him angrier and sillier. Crown him as the rightful descendant of Andy Kaufmann. Praise, honestly, his audacious humor and media manipulation. Place him where he belongs, as a jester, as a fool. That's what he knows, inside, he really is.
He's too smart to be that ridiculous. And he thinks he's smarter than anyone who may call him on it.
It will kill him from within. His own spleen will spit bile, writhe up and do righteous battle and strangle his own leathery throat.
Again, this is all assuming he isn't dead and turning on a spit somewhere. I just saw him on TV, what do I know?
Here's what I'd do with some money:
Hire 20 people to track Fred's Crew to every event for a year and have them wave the seemingly exact same signs. His signs are his ticket to TV. We've all seen his signs. They pop.
Except our signs say:
God Hates God
God is Fred
Fred Hates God
Fred is God.
God is Gay
Gay is God
Goo Goo Ga Choo
Gabba Gabba Hey
Et cetera. Increasing absurdity. Only our people are paid ,which Fred's faithful aren't. And our people are actors, and they'll perform better in front of the camera, which is the only audience Fred cares about. And our people, straight-faced and sincere, claim to be Fred's people. We out-faithful the faithful. And we make every goddamned Phelps outing a beautiful surrealist comic performance, gentle and warped and silly and patient and inexhaustibly comic. Keep calmly repeating Tommy Smothers nonsense until they turn off the cameras.
Because Here's the Thing:
2. He's got nothing behind the advertising. That's his whole play. And that's his weakness.
Anyone that media-savvy in today's world can't resist the media. So we bring him into our home field and we blitz his dumb-fuck, Bible-based, backwoods, piece-of-shit Kansas hateful motherfucking ass. Blitz him all day long. With step two:
Invite Fred and his family to have a civil dialogue in whatever forum they want.
Invite him not as an opponent or an adversary, but as a wonderful, accomplished, curious comic. This will take the patience of Job, but it will work. He vomits stupid hate, we gently, easily point out the absurdity and wait for the response. He'll probably refuse the first fifty offers, explaining to anyone who asks that he doesn't want to talk to fags, fag-enablers, sinners or whatever the fuck else he calls us.
We just keep inviting him. It becomes a joke. He becomes the punchline.
The trick with these absolutely crazy, unhappy people is patience.
They're nuts. They've got nothing else. They assume they can out-wait any sane person.
You make them a very minor but diligently observed part of your daily schedule, get on with your life, and sure enough, ten or twenty years down the line you've reduced them to the self-admitted joke they've always been. And sometimes, if they're crazy enough, it happens a lot faster than that.
Or, we could just hire some guys and shoot the evil fucker in the heart ninety times.
Either way. Call me and we can discuss details, money and the salient points.
My point, long-winded though it may be, is that Fred may be our own American Elephant Man. Keep him in the dark, in the shadows, hide him, and he's a monster, some Other that we fear. Welcome him into the discourse and he may just quietly lay down and die.
If the soul of John Merrick is out there somewhere, forgive me for using your horribly painful earthly existence to make this argument and I apologize for associating you in any way with the twisted, ugly, wracked, choked visage of Reverend Fred Phelps. The man looks like he's trying to damn his own lips for the audacity of speech every time he opens his mouth to spew.
Look at the poor tortured bastard. Jesus. If hate were hair he'd be Sasquatch.
Long day at the corporate office. Nancy and I had two serious meetings, pulled both of them off convincingly. Continued rocking on the Melanie Stewart Dance piece, think that might turn out to be quite good. Need to focus on the screenplay the next couple of days, that could be money.
Emphasis on politics lately. Just writing down what comes out. Thanks for reading.