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Citizens should be encouraged to speak out

Posted: March 7, 2012 - 1:02am

We’ve had a mini-explosion lately of local Web-enabled groups claiming to speak for one cause or another. Other than anonymity, a common factor is their general negativity.

One such group, in fact, even embraces the name of C.A.V.E. people – Citizens Against Virtually Everything – apparently failing to understand that the title is a public dunce cap for the willfully ignorant.

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver responded recently to those small (and often small-minded) groups, noting that very little of what they do promotes progress, but instead attacks anyone involved in making the community tick.

When private citizens or public officials are viciously attacked for voicing their opinions, it’s understandable that some people would want to shield themselves with anonymity. Yet when people use their anonymity to deliver such attacks, it not only makes it less likely that good people will be willing to speak out, but also more likely that those who do speak out are even less civil. And the cycle continues.

The answer isn’t more attacks. It’s more civil dialogue.

In that regard, I’ve been impressed with several local activists – including a couple who probably don’t consider themselves activists.

Most visible this week were the “lactivists” who gathered at the Evans courthouse as part of a group aiming to protect mothers from legal harassment when nursing their babies in public.

It’s odd to see the emotions stirred by such natural activity. After our story previewing the event, one woman said the nursing mom pictured in the paper should be arrested for indecent exposure – except there was no exposure, at all.

None of this would be an issue in a developing country where there are few options for feeding babies other than the correct one: breast milk. Yet here we are supposedly so civilized that women are threatened with public shaming if they do what’s natural. Bizarre.

Two other citizens were less visible in their efforts, but also are commendable.

Jim Mayfield recently visited county commission sessions to ask about enforcement of tree-planting rules for a small commercial development. He didn’t seem to feel like the county gave him a very respectful reception, and I tend to agree. Some of his details were incorrect, but he still earns accolades for being willing to speak up.

Also speaking out was Howard Baker. The county’s two dog parks have proven to be hugely popular, and Baker asked for more lights at Riverside. The county is having the lights installed.

I thought about all these folks as I followed the story of talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s insulting comments about a college student who spoke up on an issue she found important.

The fact that he took such a harsh tone with a private citizen who was voicing her opinion, whether he agreed or not, was just despicable.

Whatever their issue, and as long as they are civil, citizens should be encouraged to speak out – not discouraged through public ridicule. To do otherwise is to validate the very anonymity that so many public figures complain about.

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/
barrypaschal.)

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Comments (16)

Riverman1

ACAVE

I guess you missed the sarcasm with the ACAVE name. That's what Mayor Copenhaver-Boardman called people who speak up. He lambasted those who dig up minutes of old meetings and make things difficult for him. He was also asked whether he would ask Billy Morris to simply give the TEE Parking Deck land to the city and he became visibly upset, again noting those who make trouble digging up these things. ACAVE people went to Commission meetings also many times and made presentations. You can't get much braver than they are when taking on the Boardman's and Morris.

Riverman1

The Dunce Cap is ON...

The dunce cap is on whoever didn't realize the ACAVE name was in response to Deke's comments. There has been no group more public in their opposition to Morris, Boardman, Copenhaver. They have presented to the Richmond Cty Commission meetings often and commented in every way they can. I think they deserve an apology from the writer of this editorial.

Barry Paschal

I know where it's from

What you're justifying is the equivalent of someone saying, "Riverman, you're a goober," and you respond by starting the Riverman Is A Goober Club. It's a failed use of sarcasm when you use it to embrace willful ignorance and reflexive cynicism, which is the essence of the term "CAVE people."

Riverman1

Don't Get Philosophical

Those who try to be philosophical when they are wrong are still wrong. ACAVE people are active in every sense of the word. I admire them. I've been asked to join more than once, but I feel like I can do more here as an anonymous coward internet poster.

Barry, you know you were wrong on this one. You know the people. Al has set us both straight so many times on budget matters he makes us look like an abacus in the computer age. They have presented to hostile Commissions. What more could you possibly do to be involved in community affairs? Want to discuss their work uncovering the Morris dealings around the TEE fiasco?

Riverman1

Riverman Goober Club

I kind of like that. There's potential there.

Barry Paschal

You do realize...

...that my column plainly says the CAVE people are "one such group," as in just one example. But feel free to fixate on that one. They're used as that example because of their choice to embrace that name.

Riverman1

ACAVE is Not Anonymous

"Other than anonymity, a common factor is their general negativity."
"One such group, in fact, even embraces the name of C.A.V.E. people – Citizens Against Virtually Everything-"

The ACAVE group clearly has many vocal people who have stood up and shouted using their own names about real wrong-doings. Barry, for goodness sakes they stood up at Commission meetings and withstood attacks by Copenhaver Boardman. They presented visual productions concerning some matters. They don't get paid for this. Again, simply admit you were wrong using them as an example.

Riverman1

My posts are being held

Figures. It kind of detracts from the back and forth.

Riverman1

You Said Anonymous Groups

You said, "Other than anonymity, a common factor is their general negativity.

One such group, in fact, even embraces the name of C.A.V.E. people – Citizens Against Virtually Everything "

This group is anything but anonymous. They have stood up and presented copious information at Commisson meetings. They have produced visuals they used there. They were clearly identified when they took the podium. They do all this without being paid. You can make a point about the internet posters if you want, but you were wrong to use them as your example.

Barry Paschal

I know what I said

I know what I said. In fact, if you scroll up, you can read it again: ONE such group; A COMMON factor. "A," as in one. "COMMON" as in frequent. Not all, not always. And again: CAVE is noted, specifically, because of their embrace of a name that can only be considered an indictment of ignorance. Funny how you haven't noted the other common factor, "general negativity," which is far more of the focus of this piece, the point of which seems to be lost on you anyway.

Riverman1

We Are Making Progress

Okay, so we now agree ACAVE is not an anonymous group. But you say they possess a general negativity. I'd say they are questioning shady dealings and presenting pertinent facts. I'll give you that we can have a difference of opinion on that aspect, but I saw they found important wrong doings that were later Chronicle and other media stories. Barry, you know this is the same old tired story of traditional media being jealous of internet posters.

Barry Paschal

I know you'd like to think so.

No, this is the same old story of people being too wedded to their cynicism to be able to find common ground for the betterment of their community. Thanks, sadly, for re-confirming it.

Riverman1

Why Not Compliment ACAVE?

Instead of including ACAVE in with those who are anonymous and generally negative, why not praise them as you did the old fella who spoke up about the trees. We have learned ACAVE is not anonymous and has spoken up at Commission meetings presenting lots of research they did on their own that disclosed problems and questionable dealings. It sounds exactly like the type group and people you profess to admire. Would it be so hard to praise them?

Barry Paschal

Feel free

Much of the good work they've done is drowned with needless, pointless, petty negativity. I'm not a fan of cynics and cynicism, and tend not to have praise for it. An early version of this column actually included a shout-out to Al Gray and Lori Davis, a couple of exceptions to the rule (usually, though Al can be about as sunny as the Grim Reaper), but it didn't make the final cut. What the writer - me - felt most important to the theme did. As one of your fans in a different venue said: It is what it is.

Riverman1

Okay, But...

My problem is this piece was like talking about liberal Democrats, discussing their negativities and then including a conservative Republican in with them as your main example. This would probably bog the comments here down, but I'd be interested in what you feel they've done good and bad. We could discuss those points.

Riverman1

Ohhhh, "It is what it is."

I just caught that. Yep, I agreed with THAT column. Unfortunately, they didn't like pretty much the same thing said in their place. They said it was blaming the victim even though I was pretty much saying the same thing. It's okay, he is what he is. No one is perfect, especially not me.

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