Douchebag Decree: Ernest Perce V, Slavery Billboard Defender

"ye olde douchebag decree" in blue letters with a light blue hand-drawn douchebag in the background, and "BITCH HEREBY DECLARES THE FOLLOWING PERSON A TOTAL DOUCHEBAG" in small letters in red underneath.

In an attempt to protest the Pennsylvania state House’s recent designation of 2012 as “The Year of the Bible” (which is admittedly messed up), two atheist groups went the fight-douche-with-douche route last week and erected a slavery-themed billboard in “one of the Harrisburg’s most racially diverse neighborhoods.” Ostensibly meant to highlight the hypocrisy of the “Year of the Bible,” the billboard instead pissed people off because it’s racist.

billboard depicting an illustration of a shackled black man. Text reads: Slaves, obey your masters. This lesson in the Bronze Age brought to you by the year of the bible and the house of representatives.
Yeah, I don’t see how you guys failed to realize this was racist.

Luckily, someone tore the billboard down after just one day, but that doesn’t erase its hateful, completely ineffective message. Instead of making the Bible look bad (the alleged intention), the image served as a reminder to the Harrisburgians of the horrors of slavery and the racism that still exists in this country. Said Aaron Selvey, a Harrisburg resident, “That image, that was my ancestors. That represents their struggle and all the pain they went through. I don’t think a lot of people understood how offensive that is. Schoolchildren will just see that black face and the words. They don’t understand the context.”

As if posting a massive “slaves obey your masters” billboard wasn’t enough, the douchebaggery continues in the form of Ernest Perce V:

Ernest Perce V, the Pennsylvania state director of American Atheists, said he won’t press charges against whoever damaged the billboard he designed, and said he, too, is a victim after receiving death threats.

“We hope people can see just a little bit of discrimination we get,” said Perce, who offended local Muslims last year when he dressed as a “Zombie Muhammad” in a Halloween parade.

Perce and the atheist sponsors of the billboard said they are dismayed that people were offended by the image instead of what he called injustices in the Bible and legislators naming 2012 “The Year of the Bible.”

Perce said he will proceed with a 25-billboard statewide campaign against the Bible and the legislation.

Did you catch that? Not only does Perce, the designer of this billboard, plan on making 25 more, he wants people to see him as the victim of discrimination here—not the members of the community he defiled with a huge slavery poster. Are we supposed to be thankful that he’s “not pressing charges”? And all this after he just wrapped up a lawsuit that involved him dressing up as a “Zombie Muhammad” and offending the Muslim community with his douchebaggery. And HE was the plaintiff! You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

The billboard has been replaced with an ad for the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra, but something tells me we haven’t seen the last of Ernest Perce V. Next Halloween is only seven months away, after all.

Previously: Liz “Women in the Military Should Expect to Get Raped” Trotta

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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20 Comments Have Been Posted

Definitely a douchbag

However if you follow the link about the lawsuit, he was the plaintiff because he claimed that he was attacked due to what he was wearing. I was under the impression that it's not okay to attack people because of the clothes they wear. The lawsuit was dismissed due to lack of evidence, however if that is what happened, than he had every right to sue in that instance.

That being said, I completely agree with everything else and about the billboard.

Good point

Good point, CalicoCat. To be honest, I don't know much about Perce's previous lawsuit beyond the two blog posts I just read about it today, but considering that he was dressed like a "Zombie Muhammad," claimed the judge was Muslim (the judge identifies as Lutheran) and thus biased against him, and called the man who allegedly attacked him a "Muslim immigrant," it struck me as unfounded and kind of ridiculous. Perce offended an entire community yet HE was the one pressing charges, and less than a month later he appears to be involved in a similar situation with a different community.

That being said, of course I hope he wasn't actually attacked. No one should be attacked because of what they're wearing, even it is an offensive Halloween costume.

My understanding is that he

My understanding is that he was certainly attacked, but I believe he sued claiming his religious rights were violated or something like that? So I think the case was thrown out more because the judge won't treat atheism as a protected religion, or treat wearing a zombie Muhammad costume as a valid and protected expression of that religion...maybe. I'm paraphrasing a bit here. A friend linked to the audio of the trial, which is available on You tube, but I really don't have the stomach to go back and listen to it to verify the facts. Though I believe he did not sue simply because he was attacked - which appears he was. I had the same feeling as you, Kelsey, not wanting to condone the attack of a person or to say "he deserved it"...but he seemed really racist. This billboard incident really confirms that.

'Mechanicsburg Police Officer

'Mechanicsburg Police Officer Bryan Curtis told Pennsylvania’s WHTM-TV, “Mr. Perce has the right to do what he did that evening, and the defendant in this case was wrong in what he did in confronting him.”

He added, “I believe that I brought a case that showed proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and the case was dismissed, and I was disappointed.”'


I'm no marketing expert, but wouldn't it make a gazillion time more sense to use an image of a preacher at the pulpit and a chapel full of people? How did anyone honestly think this was a good idea? I'm all for freedom of religion - including freedom to not have a religion - but there is absolutely no way this billboard can be justified as anything but the biggest fail in just about every way possible.

The only thing I can think of

The only thing I can think of after reading this is how similar all religious fanatics, or in this case, non-religious fanatics, really are, using offensive and oppressive campaigns to force their ideologies onto others. Blech.

Quit making atheists look like douches!

This is so frustrating to me, because I am an atheist, and I think the idea to protest The Year of the Bible is actually a good one. Why do it this way? Why make such a maligned group look like the jerks we're already perceived as? This guy is a racist jerk. This and the Richard Dawkins b.s. makes me so angry. I just want to scream, "Guys! I want to be on your side! I want to respect you! Why do you make it so hard?" Please don't let this douchenozzle effect how you see atheists. Most of us are appalled by his behavior.

Protesting the Year of the Bible

Heck, I'm Catholic and I think it's a good idea to protest "The Year of the Bible". How could people that aren't Christian not be offended by such a thing? It's absolutely ridiculous and seems like a set up for trouble. That being said I think there's a difference between religious people and religious fanatics just as there is a difference between atheist people and atheist fanatics and I'm sure that most readers of Bitch recognize that difference.

This. Exactly.

I agree with Foxy wholeheartedly! There are extremists and fanatics within every group, not just religious ones. Everyone gets their fair share of offensive nutjobs.

"Guys! I want to be on your

"Guys! I want to be on your side! I want to respect you! Why do you make it so hard?"

That's every religion ever. Catholicism had the Priest incident, Baptists have to contend with Westboro, Muslims have to contend with the extremists they show on television, so on and so forth. The fact that you have a religious inclination (even an inclination to non-religious) means your ALWAYS going to deal with that.

I'm Atheist as well, I agree with the rest of it. But this single line is so invalid.

"the image served as a

"the image served as a reminder to the Harrisburgians of the horrors of slavery and the racism that still exists in this country."

Yes, as it should have - and slavery being a horror, it should make people realise that considering the Bible a text that anyone should be celebrating or basing their morality on is completely inappropriate!!! The billboard is only as racist as the racist Biblical doctrine it is quoting. The Year of the Bible is a celebration of its doctrines and ideas, including racism, sexism, slavery, forced marriage and homophobia, to name just a few.

Stop being offended by the billboard and start being offended that anyone would celebrate the Bible. Its a book that destroys lives because people rely on its teachings to justify their prejudice and hateful actions.

"Stop being offended by the billboard"

"The Year of the Bible is a celebration of its doctrines and ideas, including racism, sexism, slavery, forced marriage and homophobia, to name just a few. "

Certainly, and I agree that the "Year of the Bible" should be protested and critiqued!

But not like this.

If you read the Huffington Post article linked to at the top, you'll read passages like this: ---

"Stanley Lawson, president of the Greater Harrisburg Branch of the NAACP, said his group didn't advocate taking the sign down, "but, boy, was I pleased it was done."

"It caused a lot of hurt and a lot of pain in the community. I've gotten more phone calls about this than I have about any issues in the past three or four years. It wasn't just elderly people, it was young people, across the board."

Selvey, the man who visited the billboard site and made the comparison to Detroit, called the billboard a hit to his soul.

"That image, that was my ancestors. That represents their struggle and all the pain they went through," he said. "I don't think a lot of people understood how offensive that is. Schoolchildren will just see that black face and the words. They don't understand the context."

So --are you saying that Lawson, Selvey, and the NAACP should _not_ have concerns about the potentially racist effects and the racial tensions provoked by such a billboard being erected in their town, in their neighbourhoods?

Good intentions do not erase the potential negative effects of such a billboard. I cannot believe that African-American atheists, for example, had much power of decision-making when this billboard what being dreamed up. White people don't generally have to suffer these kinds of negative race effects, and so have much greater trouble perceiving and understanding them.

I don't live in Harrisburg. And I'm not African-American, I'm white. But I think it's essential to listen to, and follow the lead of, the people who are affected by racism.

And I've learned that it's a bad idea for people who are not from a particular community to tell people in that community what they should or should not be offended by. If I'm not living there, and in the same social position, I'm not the best judge. So when Lawson, Selvey, and the local NAACP say it's a problem, I believe them. Especially when it tallies with other things I've been learning from feminists of colour over the years.

slavery in the Bible is the problem

I'm black, and what I feel when I look at this image is anger that some slaves of African decent in the US were told that it was their religious duty to be slaves. (Let's not extrapolate and claim that I said all slaves everywhere all the time...) It's historical fact that the Bible was used to justify slavery, and THAT is what this billboard is about. The billboard shows an African or person of African decent who is enslaved, and quotes the Bible as saying "Slaves obey your masters." I'm hugely aware of isms in everyday life, but I am not at all understanding why this billboard is seen as racist.

Douchebag Nominee?

Could I nominate Walter Block for your next douchebag decree? He's a professor of economics at Loyola University who published one of the most sexist rants I've read in our campus paper the Maroon. Here's a link:

He starts of whining about how in polite society, he can't use the title "Mrs." anymore. But then he really goes off the deep end saying that most feminists are "socialists, communists, liberals and ugh 'progressives.'" This all leads into a really disgusting rant about his dislike for take back the night marches.

A choice quote:

"But wait: there is one benefit to "Take Back the Night" marches, and I do want to be fair: whenever rapists contemplate these events, they keel over in laughter. They are laughing so uproariously that at least during these times they are incapable of raping anyone."

I’m heartened that most of the comments on the site have been of justifiable disgust.

But the punch line of this whole thing? Dr. Block was scheduled to have a debate on the issue of the wage gap between men and women, but he backed out at the last minute. That’s right this tenured professor who kicked up a shit storm by publishing this misogynist piece decided that he wasn’t comfortable with a two way conversation about these views.

The paper printed some responses my favorite though is from the University President who had this to say:

“I have consistently defended the idea that a university worthy of the name "university" ought to be a place of where positions can be argued and explored. However, a university ought to also be a place where people can critique arguments. If this column by Professor Block was submitted to me as a paper in my philosophy class, it would earn the grade of F for its total lack of argument. It is a string of empirical assertions without one piece of evidence.

Thank you,
Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J.
University president and a feminist”

The full response is here:

The sign is not "racist".

The sign is not "racist". Anyone who thinks so doesn't understand what that word means. People are merely seeing something unpleasant and playing free word-association without first forming a complete thought.

Kelsey Wallace is clearly a

Kelsey Wallace is clearly a supporter of vandalism and assault when used to silence speech inimical to religion.

This piece is a disgusting display of infantile far left mentalities that show deep hostility to liberal values. How showing a historical image of slavery and quoting a religious text that was used to justify slavery is "racist" is beyond me, a woman of colour. Wallace never actually constructs an argument of course because like most angry far left types, the accusation suffices as a form of evidence. In that regard I have an increasingly hard time telling the far left and far right apart, especially when the far left fanatically defends religion.

Ernest Perce billboard

Do you have any actual reason and evidence for accusing the billboard of racism, or is it just more fun to poison the well? If quoting racist Bible quotes is racist, then is it also racist to quote Martin Luther (anti-Semite) or Mark Twain (anti-Indian)? If depicting a slave is racist, then is every depiction of slaves racist? You're not whining about films like Glory or Amistad, both promoted by massive billboard campaigns in all neighborhoods leading up to their release. I'm all for questioning Perce's actions, but labeling his actions racist just because you don't agree with them is inaccurate and irresponsible.

wilful misunderstanding

This sort of problem will always arise when a public personality makes the mistake of assuming that a certain level of intelligence and (eek!) tolerance exists out there. Even those who get the intended message can put on a mask of wilful misunderstanding and mock outrage if it suits them. In the war for hearts and minds, no-one fights as dirty as the defenders of God. But if you wanna bitch, Kelsey, why not bitch at the jerkoffs who made this stupid resolution 771? They are the ones who are wasting YOUR money.

Legislatures; "Atheists"; "Feminism"

adjective: facile

(esp. of a theory or argument) appearing neat and comprehensive only by ignoring the true complexities of an issue; superficial.
synonyms: simplistic, superficial, oversimplified

Not Racist

[rey-siz-uhm] Show IPA
a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

Please show me where this billboard meets any of the criteria in the definitions above.

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