The value of dissenting opinions

Posted by on December 9, 2014 in Updates

This piece was originally published by Truckers Against Trafficking

By Marian Hatcher

Marian Hatcher

Marian Hatcher

Lately, I feel like I am in the cat bird seat. Being in survivor leadership and working for law enforcement, I have a unique view of efforts to effectively impact human trafficking. Recently the best way to describe what I see is that we have become small and large pockets in “Groupthink” mode.

Irving Lester Janis (May 26, 1918 – November 15, 1990) was a research psychologist at Yale University and a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley most famous for his theory of “groupthink” which described the systematic errors made by groups when making collective decisions.

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people when the desire for harmony overrides the ability of the group to make rational decisions. It can be caused by group cohesiveness, structural faults within teams, and certain situational contexts, and can negatively affect group decision making processes when members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus by suppressing dissenting viewpoints.

We struggle so hard in this movement to move forward in partnerships that we often feel we must name, rename or find new terms to describe the issues at hand to make sure everyone’s input is represented. We have protests, meetings, conferences and conference calls to discuss whether we agree on terms like abolitionist, advocate or activist, sex trafficker, pimp or manager, prostitute, prostituted individual, sex trafficking victim, commercially sexually exploited individual, purchaser or buyer (and God forbid we continue using the term “John”!!!)

Advocates, survivor leaders, government leaders and NGO’s are working diligently to address the problem and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Let’s not, however, lose sight of the importance of the individual voice and dissenting opinions. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in his historic dissenting opinion, Abrams v. United States (1919), stated ….”Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system, I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death,”…

Differing in language, terminology or branding of this human rights violation should not prevent critical thinking and collaboration. It should instead force conversation and reinforce listening–listening to the dissenting opinion, the less attractive idea, and those thoughts that cause us to squirm in our seats.

So indeed the desire for harmony sometimes overrides the ability for rational decision in modern day slavery efforts. We must avoid at all costs being overly concerned about those who disagree with us. For it is in that very disagreement that history will be made.