Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A particularly audacious heckler's veto

To refresh: A heckler's veto is when a group objects to something and uses the threat of their own disruptiveness or potential violence to get that thing removed or banned. Or, when someone else who opposes that thing uses the specter of some other (real or imagined) group's potential disruptiveness or potential violence. Basically, the message is "Force these people to stop this or else we'll (they'll) throw a raging fit about it." You can see examples of heckler's vetoes being attempted in different situations, with greater or lesser success, in these previous posts.

A heckler is, of course, a person who attends a performance of some kind, not to appreciate it, but to get in the way of it happening, thereby spoiling it for the actual audience. And a veto is the power to call a halt to something. The main problem with a heckler's veto is that it transfers blame-- it says nothing about the harmfulness or potential harmfulness of the thing being objected to, and everything about the willingness of the objector(s) to cause harm. Anybody could scream, make a fuss, or physically attack people or property for any reason, but in a heckler's veto they try to attach this behavior to some object, practice, or speech which they don't like in order to get that punished or banned, when really the person who is being disruptive should be. This would seem obvious, but unfortunately it often isn't. Either out of sympathy for the heckler's bruised feelings ("This is an expression of their outrage-- you shouldn't be allowed to provoke them; this makes the harm they caused your fault") or a simple angry teacher response ("I don't care who caused the disruption/damage; I just want it to stop!"), sometimes the heckler's veto works.

That's why I'm concerned about a ridiculous but possibly effective ploy being pulled by opponents of the opening of a new clinic which would provide abortion services in Wichita, in the same facility previously owned by Dr. George Tiller (murdered in 2009). It will be called South Wind Women's Center and run by Trust Women founder Julie Burkhart, who used to work with Tiller. But pro-life group Kansans For Life has, completely unsurprisingly, been attempting to fight the new clinic in any way they can think of. Right now they are attempting to have the area re-zoned, because-- get this-- it's bad for the neighborhood to have the disruption that constant protesters cause. Protesters like who? Why, Kansans For Life!
Kansans for Life is gathering petitions to ask the city to rezone the building. David Gittrich, development director of the group, said that when Tiller operated his clinic, a lot of traffic, police calls and other problems plagued the neighborhood. 
“It was not a quiet, peaceful neighborhood when that place was open,” he said. 
Alissa Kirby, an office specialist for Kansans for Life in Wichita, said Tuesday that the group had gathered 10,554 signatures on petitions so far and hoped to have 20,000 to deliver to the Wichita City Council by Feb. 5. 
And they have a stated intention to heckle protest the clinic for...well, forever:
Gittrich said his group won’t stay away from South Wind. 
“It’s never going to happen. Abortion is never going to be accepted in this country. We’re never going to be quiet and let it go on,” he said.

Read more here:
Well, you know what? Abortion is accepted in this country by two thirds of Americans. "We're never going to be quiet and let it go on" is a statement made by opponents of gay rights, of miscegenation, of racial integration, and probably every other civil rights cause there has ever been. Eventually those people do shut up and let it go on, because they realize they've lost. The opponents of gay rights are on their way to realizing it, and the opponents of abortion will realize it eventually. Sometimes the people in charge do favor the heckler, but history does not.


  1. I always wondered how the people who were determined to be wrong by history felt about it afterwards.

    I'm thinking of the cops that sic'd dogs on marchers. Women in temperance unions that would walk into saloons and break everything with axes, Commies, Nazis, etc. I guess they would try to rationalize things afterwards.

    Some people want to make out like abortion, legalized drugs, liberalism, and stuff will make civilization collapse. It makes me think of this, really.

    Gretchen, what thinks you?

  2. "Terrorism - the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes."

    War on Women - Chapter 10 million


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