Doing good science is amazingly -- and I think not coincidentally -- like
doing good democracy.  Sharing information and skeptically assessing it --
testing it against other knowledge -- is key to advancing in both areas.
In both politics and science, we can scream "I'm right!" or scream "You're
wrong!"... or we can take the time to lay out the details of the ideas
asserted, expose their weaknesses or missing information, reveal anything
overlooked or suppressed, discuss it to death... test it to failure... and
by so doing, arrive at a more educated understanding, and a more effective
public practice.

US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote: "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." Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357

That link and the famous quote are the opener to a good, open-access
article on counterspeech as the only democratic, non-violent remedy to
disliked speech.  The authors of "Counterspeech 2000: A New Look at the Old
Remedy for "Bad" Speech"
several prominent cases, on different scales and involving different actors:

1. effective and ineffective responses to a hate-group chapter publicizing
itself through participating in roadside cleanup in Missouri;
2. a supermarket's choice to favor lawsuits over news reports on unsafe
food handling, instead of conventional public relations;
3. a massive internet "education" campaign by the maker of an herbal diet
supplement to counter unfavorable news reports before they even aired;
4. the U.S. anti-smoking media campaign funded by the tobacco industry
5. efforts to attack a NYC exhibition of art seen as "sacrilegious."

In these clearly summarized cases, they highlight several issues I find key
for understanding how and why counterspeech works:

(1) Many kinds of counterspeech are available, from informal and post-hoc
to highly organized and in advance; from affordable to artistic to
outrageous to quietly effective.  As someone noted, white segregationist
structures weren't dismantled by MLK's elegant philosophy and speech but by
the fact that 10,000 of his friends were standing with him as he spoke.
Pick the right form of counterspeech for yourself, your issue and your

(2) Counterspeech is ultimately, and often immediately, more effective than
violence, lawsuits, and economic attacks that simply seek to silence
speech. That's not just an ideal or a belief.

(3) Counterspeech is deployed in "the court of public opinion" or "public
marketplace of ideas", rather than in actual courts, which may be both far
more expensive and, often, less effective.  The authors feel corporate
lawyers seem not to have learned this; is this because as lawyers, they see
everything as a lawsuit?  Just as sometimes angry people use counterspeech
more to vent their rage than to change things?  The authors note,
counterspeech can have "a purgative role, allowing a dissatisfied message
recipient to ventilate his or her thoughts rather than engage in
destructive conduct"; that's good, but counterspeech should be more than,
as Joy Ann Reid puts it, "throwing your socks at the TV screen" whenever
the idiots are spouting BS.  Counterspeech should be focused on driving out
the false and fallacious speech, to remedy the public situation, not just
to deplore or oppose it.

(4) Counterspeech has been called too weak by some.  It may be more
difficult to mount where time is not available (as Brandeis noted); where
less-powerful socioeconomic minorities have unequal access to tools (e.g.
money, publicity); and where hatefulness has intimidated or traumatized
those who would counter such speech (i.e. bullying). We're all learning how
to stand, and ally, against bullying; are allies the best remedies for the
other problems (time and tools) as well?

(5) Successful counterspeech draws media attention and thus amplification.
Nowadays, 18 years after this review's publication, this includes social
media as well as news media, and may also be considered to include
"business as media," that is, businesses and business leaders who join in
and even lead counterspeech movements (for example, Penzeys Spices
Patagonia <>).
Why are businesses increasingly more visibly political? Because, as this
2016 Stanford business review article says
<>, while
it depends on who your customers are, in general, "national retailers seem
to have decided that the progressive pressures are the safer option...the
progressives have won the cultural war."

(6) Counterspeech campaigns must be strategic and informed as to the "Who,
What, How, and When" of their speech. This is basic communications:
(a) who is to be reached by the counterspeech? (the "target audience")
(b) what media should be used? (billboards, internet, PSAs, etc.)
(c) what types of appeals will work best? (fear, humor, facts, children's
voices, scientists, religious authority, etc.)
(d) how often should the counterspeech be made (one big march, hourly ads,

All of the SftP's members who are longtime activists on the streets, on the
campus, and in city hall will recognize that now we're onto the "Basics of
Organizing," as the great Shel Trapp of Chicago
codified very simply in his pamphlet of the same name.  Trapp's Basics of
Organizing is the best short manual I know (about 22 pages), and it's free!
Also, as a totally pre-internet document, it's still amazingly on-point as
to how ordinary people WIN even if they have little money or skills.

Shel Trapp: The Basics of Organizing

Get your copy downloaded (Mitchel, you must already have one - or ten - in
the original form! Who else does? Herb?)

I actually am sending that link to *The Basics of Organizing* out this very
morning to the members of my local county's Medicaid for Idaho Organizing
Team -- I am in Idaho, often called the "reddest of red states," and we are
WINNING the campaign to put Medicaid Expansion on the statewide ballot next
November.  And we're learning a LOT in so doing, and building a new
movement of citizen activists who know what to do.

We are winning health care for 78,000 Idahoans without (the state is only
about 1.5 million).  These are mainly low-income, working adults.  Every
year some die because they can't afford health care.  Despite the largely
paid-for, effective federal offer of Medicaid Expansion, Idaho's GOP
governor and legislature turned it down because of hatred of Obama and all
things federal.  Despite the fact that:
-- they have no plan of their own.
-- in 2015 the governor's own working group recommended taking Medicaid
Expansion (as a number of smarter Republican governors like John Kasich
-- the proof that it gets people healthier and better able to work;
-- the people without healthcare aren't shiftless moochers but working
adults at painfully low pay (mainly in agriculture, construction,
restaurants, health care).
-- the political risk that denied healthcare and affordable housing,
demands for a raise in the state's minimum wage will just keep growing.
-- Medicaid Expansion will solve the crippling problem of county property
taxes currently being drained to cover "indigent" emergency room and
hospital costs;
-- it will support those red rural counties by keeping their hospitals open
(the campaign has found, as Maine did in their successful ballot initiative
last November, that the support is just as strong in rural areas as urban);
-- it will expand jobs in healthcare by letting 78,000 people finally start
going to the doctor, dentist, physical therapist, mental health worker,
addiction treatment plan, drugstore, etc.

What a perfect issue to introduce a lot of the "resistance" to the joys of
actually using the tools of government (citizen ballot initiatives and
existing federal programs) to end a huge problem, instead of just sitting
at home yelling at the idiots on TV.

We're actually lucky that Idaho is such a backwards state, because there
are so many things to improve.  It's fun to collect signatures for
something that over 60% of the state already supports!  But many people are
afraid to support it publicly - to do more than sign their own name.
That's the "suppression" of speech that blankets my region like a wet
cloud, comprised of equal parts race-baiting politics and gay-baiting
Mormon religion.  So our campaign is also advancing the goal of teaching
people once again how to speak up in civility, about civic issues.

The statewide grassroots organization (Reclaim Idaho) that wrote the
medicaid expansion petition also focuses on education and public land
conservation -- so next we may move on to science education, and countering
climate change.  Meanwhile, we'll see about electing new representatives on
that ballot next November as well.

What are YOU involved in doing to change and improve things where you live?


Claudia Pine

On Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 4:21 AM, Mandi Smallhorne <[log in to unmask]>

> Hi Larry and Claudia,
> I think we’re the only ones still active from the original team of
> moderators – as I remember it, Kamran pulled out; and Herb has expressed
> his wish to be uninvolved – he is retired and very engaged in music
> composition now.
> What do we do? I have all the email addresses of members; I have been
> considering sending each an individual email, asking them what they would
> like to see covered in this forum, maybe a three-to-five question
> questionnaire. That way you’d avoid getting into a to-and-fro on the list
> itself. And if we invited comment, that might be interesting.
> I just feel that the dominance of Maggie Zhou and Mitchell is toxic for
> many, and we need to yank it out of their hands somehow. I don’t want to
> banish them, but dilute them. (I cannot believe that on a science forum, I
> am reading posts that seriously quote Mike Adams from Natural News. I keep
> wanting to yell, “You do know that this man is mates with Alex Jones? You
> know, doomsday rightwing conspiracy theorist, tight with Trump?”)
> More posting from the rest would be ideal.
> So I have thought maybe I could post science I find in my routine trawl
> through the science info sites I belong to, such as EurekAlert, to provoke
> a bit more discussion or response from others? I could also post links to
> science blogs such as ScienceBabe.
> What do you think?
> Regards
> *Mandi Smallhorne*
> Freelance science journalist and writer
> President:
> African Federation of Science Journalists
> SA Science Journalists Association
> Board member:
> World Federation of Science Journalists
> PO Box 2826
> Wilropark 1731
> Johannesburg
> South Africa
> Tel: 27 11 672 3555
> Cell: 27 82 881 8270

Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged
as those who are
― Benjamin Franklin

The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a
revolution.  -- Paul Cezanne