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Free Speech Drives Me crazy

Tim Danahey

Tim Danahey, Coffee Party USA Director of Public and Member Relations

The Coffee Party received a well-written and concise letter from one of our members who was concerned about the “outrageous” postings in our social media from one of our newsroom volunteers. The letter was complimentary of the Coffee Party principles and our objectives but stated some of the postings were beyond our standards as “the voice of reason”.

The letter was so nice and so articulate that I'd love to have the writer as a neighbor. We'd be having coffee and solving the world's problems on each other's back porch on a regular basis.

I personally agree with the writer. We joined the Coffee Party USA for the same reasons and to see social media postings that are beyond the Coffee Party USA norms make me uncomfortable, too. In fact, I've expressed my concerns to fellow Board members about this subject.

But do you want to know something? I am wrong.

The person who posts the “outrageous” articles in the Coffee Party USA social media is a good man, a principled person, and a passionate activist. He is to be admired and I am a better man for reading his posts. However much the partisanship and hyperbole disturb me and are contrary to what I believe, there exists an important core of truth amidst his inflammatory posts. I guess it's my responsibility to discount the polarizing tone of the post and choose to build my own beliefs upon the core he presents.

His free speech drives me crazy.

No matter how much I agree or disagree with the “outrageous” poster, I know the character and intent of the man. For that, he has my ear. For that, I know he will afford me the opportunity to express my disagreements and he will honesty consider my thoughts. You can't ask for more than that.

It reminds me of the book “A Magnificent Catastrophe” by Pulitzer prize-winning author Edward J. Larson. The book is about the first real Presidential election in the United States in 1800. The election was between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were also key players in this vicious and contentious campaign.

The venom spewed by the Federalists and Republicans (the Democrats of the era) was toxic. The backroom dealings were abundant.  In the middle of all this vitriol, political hate, and incivility, the people had to decide for whom to vote. The contests were as polarized as campaigns are today. The only difference was that people had many different sources of news and opinions. In Philadelphia alone, there were about thirty newspapers in 1800. Their orientation was split slightly in favor of the Federalists but the voters read as many as they could. The voters discussed the candidates in coffee houses, bars, and meeting halls. They elected Thomas Jefferson and the nation survived. 

The point is: It's hard to read some of these postings. If they are “off the wall” partisan, I will dismiss them and scroll past them.  Just like the Americans of 1800, I'll listen to reasoned stories from all sides of an issue, discuss them, and make up my own mind. They had thirty newspapers in one city. I sort through hundreds of internet sources from around the world. The sources that survive my filter are the ones who remain credible over time.