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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: How can geeks help solve social problems in a splashy way?

In my day, the great debate was “Star Wars or Star Trek”? Today it appears to be Harry Potter or Twilight? (Openminded and ecumenical fans have always known that there was no need to choose, that there is always plenty of passion to spread around.) The half-not-kidding jokes about Your Favorite TV Show or Movie as religion have long been a way to deride geeks, dorks, and nerds in a way that, say, equally ardent fans of professional sports never are.

So this tickled me: Comics Alliance reports on a spoof “protest” at San Diego Comic Con yesterday in which costumed supergeeks pushed back against the notorious Westboro Baptist Church — you know, the “God hats fags” idiots — who were there in San Diego to inform Comic Con attendees that they’ll all be burning in hell for eternity. Why? WBC explains (as quoted at Blastr, which used to be called Sci Fi Wire):

Are you kidding?! If these people would spend even some of the energy that they spend on these comic books, reading the Bible, well no high hopes here. They have turned comic book characters into idols, and worship them they do! Isaiah 2:8 Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made: 9 And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not. It is time to put away the silly vanities and turn to God like you mean it. The destruction of this nation is imminent – so start calling on Batman and Superman now, see if they can pull you from the mess that you have created with all your silly idolatry.

Fans were ready:

(Many more hilarious pictures at Comics Alliance.)

And it got me thinking: Fans have always been a socially active group — you’ll invariably find blood drives and food drives and other charitable endeavors as part of the fun at conventions such as Comic Con. But those kinds of things inevitably get lost in whatever media coverage a convention gets: The guy in the Klingon getup makes for better TV than an auction to benefit children’s reading programs. (Though you’d think a guy dressed up like a vampire donating blood would be good TV, too.) What other kinds of events could fandom organize that would, like this anti-Westboro protest, be good theater as well as good deeds?

How can geeks help solve social problems in a splashy way?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • JoshDM

    Forget social; geeks can use their mad sci-fi chemistry skills to create a reagent to safely transform all oil spilled into the gulf into oxygen for the waters to re-absorb.

  • Brian

    Geeks could use Uwe Boll films to demonstrate what happens if you don’t support art education in schools.

  • JoshDM

    Also interesting to see you’re apparently now following Comics Alliance.

  • MaryAnn

    Also interesting to see you’re apparently now following Comics Alliance.

    I’m not. I don’t follow every site I link to. In fact, I don’t follow most of the sites I link to.

  • Sandy

    Geeks, dorks, and nerds like to congregate and talk about what they love most, play games, collect stuff, watch movies, etc. The first thing that comes to my mind would be great if conventions could be created for the purpose of fundraising for worthy causes.

    They are also doing it right at making fun of the Westboro crowd, instead of getting angry.

    And off-topic here,but after reading what the WBC folks said above, I all of a sudden had that feeling I was being Trolled. I had a vivid daydream of walking into their church on Sunday and discovering everyone with beer and weed, watching the news coverage of themselves, and laughing their asses off at the number of people they upset that week.


  • Adina Adler

    It looks like someone on Facebook has reported this page as abusive, because the link doesn’t follow. Sigh. There also doesn’t seem to be a way to tell Facebook that there’s nothing at all abusive about a page.

  • Alli

    Just this year, the Harry Potter Alliance raised over $123,000 for their Helping Haiti Heal project. The money supported Partners in Health, and they were able to send five planes full of medical supplies to Haiti. I must note, though, that the Nerdfighters helped quite a bit in that project, and there were other fandoms involved.

    The HPA just won $250,000 from Chase, so it will be interesting to see what they do with that. In the past they’ve donated thousands of books, supported equality legislation in the US, raised money for projects in Darfur and Burma. It’s pretty cool that a bunch of young people took the underlying themes from the books (love, tolerance, choice) and are trying to make the world a better place because of it. I guess satan whorshippers are pretty caring people.

  • D

    The difference between fandom and religion is that fans know their idols aren’t real.

  • CB

    That somber-looking Trekkie with the “God Hates Jedi” sign is just so perfect. Some of the other pictures are funny, but nothing gets across the message like that. So awesome.

    Unfortunately, when I try to think of ways for us geeks to solve social problems, all I come up with is:

    Nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

  • MaryAnn

    There also doesn’t seem to be a way to tell Facebook that there’s nothing at all abusive about a page.

    No, there isn’t. There’s also no way appeal to an abuse report.

    Stupid Facebook…

  • Kassia

    Hey, would that be another fellow Nerdfighter up there? :D

    I think geeks can do a ton, like with the HP Alliance. We just need something big to bring us all together. We need to realize that although you may be a fan of one thing or another, someone else may be equally as excited and involved with another thing as you are about yours, and embrace the excitement. (For the record, I’m both a Twilight and a Harry Potter fan.) With the HP Alliance, one thing they did that was so successful with their recent Haiti fundraiser was they got other fandoms to help, with things like the Nerdfighters and people from Lost podcasts, and even a few Twilight sites promoted the HP Alliance to win the $250,000.

  • msilfan

    The Penny Arcade webcomic people have been raising money for kids in hospitals for several years:


  • Left_Wing_Fox

    The Penny Arcade “Child’s Play” Charity has also been a juggernaut of goodwill, providing toys and games to children’s hospitals.

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