Soapbox Speakers

Speakers’ Corner news.

In The news about Speakers' Corner on September 15, 2013 at 4:13 am

Every Monday the news arrives, along with another episode of ‘Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade’.
For previous posts go to ‘The Weekly Posts’ in the archives.

For Sunday, July 20 

Tony the heckler/speaker doesn’t read the posts in this blog, which is probably a good thing. He says he can’t read them because he hasn’t yet figured out this ‘internet thing’. That’s understandable, given that he is still struggling to leave the 1950s.

So, it wasn’t last week’s post that prompted Tony to leave Helmut alone this week. It was just coincidence. This week Tony chose to abstain from criticising Helmut’s science, and instead, stood on his own borrowed milk crate and gave his listeners ‘the correct science’. All that meant, of course, was that we had two speakers spouting dubious science instead of one. Hardly an improvement. And, with Ray in full evangelical mode, anyone wanting to know how the universe began had a range of opinions to choose from. (It was a bit like a lucky dip – the kind in which the prize you get is worth far less than the price of the ticket.)

John August and Steve Maxwell were firing, and Mr Bashful and Helmut again traded insults to keep themselves warm. It was a good afternoon.

In the video below, Helmut recounts two brief anecdotes about a heckler in the mid 1970s.

This week in Steve Maxwell’s ‘Passing Parade’ we look at one of America’s most exciting Speakers’ Corner: Bughouse Square. Steve provides a link to this year’s special ‘Bughouse Square Debates Day’.

Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade.

A Pageant of World Soapbox Personalities.

The ‘Bughouse Square Debates’, in Chicago every July.

“Bughouse Square” (Washington Square) is in front of the Newberry Library on Walton Street Chicago.  From the 1860’s the square was a place of protest, and it grew into one of America’s leading soapbox venues. The square reached its heyday in the 1930’s. 

Over the years, thousands of speakers spoke there: the famous writers Carl Sandburg and Ben Hecht (Kirk Douglas’ script writer); poet Kenneth Rexroth; lawyer Clarence Darrow; and radical unionist, Big Bill Haywood, to name a few.

There were also the not-so famous: the artists, trade unionists, socialists, ‘single- taxers’, and Druids. There were geologists proving the world was flat, and geologists proving the Earth was a hollow sphere. 
 There were atheists, suffragists, and people who had been in communication with the inhabitants of Mars.  

Prohibitionists from the Moody Bible Institute also expounded their views in Bughouse Square. 

A prominent Bughouse Square identity was Slim Brundage, a beatnik poet and speak-easy manager of the nearby Dill Pickle Club.  

In 1968, Mayor Daley had the venue closed during demonstrations at the Democratic Convention.

On behalf of the Newberry Library, the late Studs Terkel, famous Chicago author, helped revive soapbox oratory by promoting ‘The Bughouse Debates’. 
 Every year, for one day in July, the people of Chicago pay homage to the soapboxers of the past by staging these debates. If you would like to know more about this year’s event:

If you would like to win a free, all expenses paid trip to attend this year’s Bughouse Square Debates, simply be the first to email us irrefutable proof that Tony is indeed an intelligent ASIO operative focused on bringing down Sydney’s Speakers’ Corner.

Next week: ‘The New York Commons’.

You will find Steve’s previous postings in ‘Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade’ at the very top.

The speakers and hecklers!

In Speakers and hecklers. on September 15, 2013 at 4:12 am

2013 Speaker highlights.

Helmut 4

The speakers at Speakers’ Corner are not shy and retiring. Or well mannered, for that matter. Some people say they’re a little eccentric, and there might be a skerrick of merit in that point of view. Whatever the case, they’re an entertaining bunch. Click here to see highlights of them in action.

The Speakers and Hecklers.

Steve Maxwell, historian and political commentator.

Steve Maxwell

In various personas, but always engaging, Steve talks about Australian history and politics. Click here for highlights.
To see more videos of Steve, go to the archives site.

From his book, ‘Soapbox Oratory‘ Steve writes: ‘In a modern city, there must be a place where strangers can meet and discuss the issues of the day without fear of persecution; where the right to retain one’s individuality is allowed.

Helmut Cerncic, metaphysicist.

Helmut once beat Arnold Schwartzenegger in a body building contest. He knows a lot about metaphysics, (more than Arnold Schwartzenegger), and is happy to explain why Isaac Newton was an ignoramus. But his battles with hecklers are fun.
Here are some highlights.
For more videos of Helmut, go to the archives site and to his own site, ‘Is Science the New Religion?’.

Mirko Terzic, 21st Century inventor.


Mirko has created a phonetic alphabet to be used world-wide, and it’s better than Esperento. He has solved the problem of perpetual motion and has diagrams explaining how to get free unlimited energy from hydropower. Mirko knows how to think outside the square.

Here are a few highlights of Mirko.
For more videos of Mirko go to the archives site.

Ray, Christian.

Ray is concerned about your soul.

 Ray is passionate about spreading the word of God. He takes the task seriously but isn’t confronting. He is a gentle man willing to answer your questions. Here are a few highlights.
For more videos of Ray, go the the archives site, the archives site.

Mr Bashful, the epiphany specialist.

Mr B 2

Mr Bashful, the epiphany specialist.

Mr Bashful calls his listeners his ‘grasshoppers’. (“You have much to learn.”) Among other things, Mr Bashful talks about New Age scams, happiness myths, and why we should burn the Mona Lisa. One thing he isn’t, is bashful.

Tony, atheist. (Speaker and  heckler)


New-Zealander Tony is a fervent atheist and scathing of the Catholic Church. When he is not berating Christianity he is either sinking the boot into other religions, or supporting Palestine. In this video Tony expresses a few of his well considered opinions. For more videos of Tony click here.

Scott, heretic. (Occasional speaker)


Scott is a young man adept at independent thinking. Calm, thoughtful and considered, Scott likes to take commonly held views and turn them upside down – not for the sake of it, but because he seeks the truth.  Here are a few examples.
For more videos of Scott go to the archives site.

Mitch: “All is consciousness”
(Occasional speaker)

Mitch 2

Mitch claims everything is consciousness – even rocks and atoms. Mitch’s theory answers questions posed by Eastern religions, it resolves divine paradoxes, it addresses the mind/body problem and the free will problem, and it answers other philosophical dead-ends. Even acknowledging that everything is consciousness is a step towards Buddhist enlightenment, says Mitch, because we experience a different reality. For a glimpse of his theory click here. For a more detailed explanation go to the archives site.

 Jovo (occasional speaker)


 Jovo is a charismatic man, which may explain why he is also known as ‘Rasputin’ and ‘The Wild Man of Serbia’. Throughout the world he is envied by monks, yogis and gurus for his ability to tap into a stream of consciousness and verbalise it. 


Heckler highlights – 2013

A gleeful looking Peter about to cause trouble.

A gleeful looking Peter about to cause trouble.

Is it any wonder the speakers are a touch testy sometimes, with hecklers like these guys? Click here to see the heckler highlights for 2013.

Peter the heckler.

Peter - best

Peter, a Speakers’ Corner heckler, enjoys challenging the speakers’ claims. But he doesn’t always win the encounter. Click here for a few highlights. For more videos of Peter, go to the archives site.

‘Oi’, the Speakers’ Corner Dog.


The Speakers’ Corner dog is eccentric. See Highlights 1 and Highlights 2.

Andrew, the exhibitionist. (Heckler.)

 Andrew used to be a speaker – he used to be the only flasher in the world prepared to stand up and talk about flashing, and support it. There are four entertaining videos of Andrew speaking.  Here is just one. For more videos of Andrew, go to the archives site.
His award winning book about the subject is available on Amazon.
But unfortunately for Speakers’ Corner, and for the public, and especially for the other speakers, he has become a heckler. He arrives at about 4.20pm and gives the speakers curry. If he is there, and you are there, you won’t miss him.

Arthur (Heckler)

 Arthur 1

Arthur is not what you call the shy type, and is generous with his opinion. I caught him searching for disciples.

David (heckler).

David is dead against any view supporting the existence of ghosts, telepathy, UFO’s, psychics, and any other new-age rubbish you might try to foist upon him, but when it comes to religion he is fervently agnostic. He leaves no stone unturned in his search for the truth.

John (Placid heckler.)

Philosopher, skeptic, atheist, and all around good guy, John makes his way to Speakers’ Corner just often enough to get a mention here.

Jack (Quiet observer)


“The old grey owl sat on an oak.
The more he heard, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Now, wasn’t he a wise old bird?”

Click here to hear a few words from Jack.

Kevin (visitor)


Kevin speaks out against forced medication with psychotropic drugs.



This column is for you, the passer-by!

In For the passers-by. on September 15, 2013 at 4:08 am

At Speakers’ Corner all passers-by are invited to step up onto The Ladder of Knowledge and speak, and become a part of Speaker Corner history. The brave souls who take the opportunity are a diverse lot, and enrich Speakers’ Corner considerably. 

How about you? Will you stand on The Ladder of Knowledge and tell us what you think?

 Click here to see the 2012 highlights.
(To see the full videos click here.)


   Click here to see the 2013 highlights.
(To see the full videos click here.)





Who knows what this guy said? But he said it well!

You can’t find the staff!


In the first few seconds of his speech on The Ladder of Knowledge, this brave fellow had to suffer Tony’s interjections. Tony seems to think any speaker is fair game - age and inexperience aren’t factors to take into account. One wonders: if a sparrow perched on the Ladder of Knoweldge, would Tony heckle it in a battle of wits? Who knows? Though one thing is for sure: the sparrow would win. Click here.


John August

John stood on The Ladder of Knowledge to talk about coal as a source of energy, and other stuff.  Click here to see what he said. He has opinions on all sorts of things. Here is his site.

The hug man.

The hug man

Mr Bashful was one of the lucky ones to get a hug from this warm fellow. Click  here.

A protestor.


This hirsute gentleman was protesting outside the gallery. I asked him why.



This passer-by delivered a few epiphanies of her own, but we can’t reveal what she said, and there is a clue in this excerpt to suggest why.



The wind was a nuisance, and Mirko more-so, but Poppy still managed to represent the charity, Plan International, with gusto. It was her day off, but you can see where her passion lies. Click here.



With a strong New Zealand accent, Jacob praised which country? Click here to find out.



Steve, a regular but silent visitor, explained why it was unjust and unacceptable to solely blame Japan and Germany for World War II. Click here.

J.S.T. (Jessica)

JST Jessica

There is more wisdom in this passer-by than in all of the hecklers combined. Click here.

Little French Girl.

Little girl

Despite her reluctance to speak it is easy to see this little girl is delightful. Click here.

Janet, of the Australian Heritage Dancers.

Janet best

Click here to meet a delightful young maiden from the Australian Heritage Dancers.

The atheist God? God of himself?


Brendon was understandably reluctant to get up onto the Ladder of Knowledge and speak, but his girlfriend Dana wanted him to. So, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.  He got up and did a good job. Click here.

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