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The Cure For Bad Speech Is More Speech – Take One

May 23, 2012

credit: cliff1066

As Molly Ivins was fond of repeating, our Founding Daddies got some things wrong but they got a lot of things gloriously right.  Freedom of speech is one of them.  We should use it more often…and more creatively.

Here’s one great example:

Todd Stave is the landlord for and part-owner of a suburban Maryland women’s health clinic that performs abortions.  Anti-abortion protesters demonstrated outside the clinic.  Then they showed up at his daughter’s middle school.  Then they started calling his house—repeatedly.

In response, Stave “decided to treat (the protesters) as human beings, too — people who would share that human desire for privacy, that unsettling feeling that comes when someone knows precisely where you live. Stave asked his volunteers to call each activist who had called him, offering thanks for the prayers, but adding that the clinic would stay open. There should be no arguments or anger, he said: “If you can’t be Christianlike in your demeanor, don’t participate.” What he didn’t expect was the interest he would draw. Within 48 hours, he had about 5,000 volunteers. By now, 10,000 people have signed up.”

As a result, the protesters’ calls to Stave—and their harassment of his family—have all but stopped.

Stave has now started an organization, Voice For Choice, that aims to build on the success of this tactic.  From the Voice For Choice website:

“We use email, telephone and social media in peaceful, person-to-person counter-protests against groups that target abortion facilities, providers and patients, as well as their families and communities. We don’t question anyone’s right to express opinions and ideals; we challenge their bullying tactics and their contempt. “

The cure for bad speech is more speech.*

*The origins for this saying are generally traced back to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’ concurring opinion in the 1927 Whitney v. California case:  “To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the processes of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence. Only an emergency can justify repression.”


From → History, Politics

  1. Captain Quirk permalink

    “Stave asked his volunteers to call each activist who had called him…”

    How do you do that? How do you know who called you, so you can call them back? I get robocalls all the time — mostly “to lower my credit card interest rates”, etc. — and I have no idea who’s behind them. If I did, I’d report ’em to the FTC.

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