As of this morning, Brownback's apologized to the teenager, saying his staff "overreacted".
As of this morning, Brownback's apologized to the teenager, saying his staff "overreacted".
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."Even if we include the Incorporation Doctrine, which holds that the Bill of Rights in equally binding on state governments, there is no violation, as the State of Kansas did not act to abridge the rights of the tweeter. They took no criminal or civil action, but simply reported her comments to the organization that brought her to the Governor's office. If a student had come to my office as part of a Junior ROTC event and behaved ths same way, and it was brought to my attention, I'd have informed her school and stated that unless she apologized, she would not be welcome at future events at my office. Expecting someone to take responsibility for their speech does not abridge their right to speak.
The Brownback case created in many Americans:
1. the perception that the young woman was being punished by a government official for political speech, and
2. the perception that the government official's staff went to extraordinarily lengths to both find and punish a form of speech that the young woman intended to be private.
I agree with you that the punishment was not all that horrendous; she was basically asked to write an apology. And if the young woman had done something egregious (like lobbing a personal insult to his face), or had posted such an insult under her own name on the DUmp (or similar message board), then you and I would be on the same exact page. Even if she had been merely sulky or rude to the Governor's face, laughed with her friends when his toupee fell off, talked during his speech, or simply rolled her eyes at him, we'd still be on the same page.
The problem was that the young woman did none of these things. In fact, she did nothing to his face at all. She posted a private comment for a small group of friends, one that she never dreamed would be hunted down and used against her.
And here is where you and I disagree.
Your opinion is that posting on Twitter for a small group of friends is the equivalent of being rude to the governor's face. My opinion is that the younger generation uses Twitter and other social media as private space and that this is NOT the equivalent of taking someone on publicly, even if you are tweeting in the same room as the Governor.
The young woman was doing the 21st century internet equivalent of talking to her friends in a booth at McDonald's, i.e., a private gathering. The Twitter comment was not meant to be publicly rude in real time to the Governor; it was meant to blow off some steam with friends in a private space that did not include the Governor at all. Her intent, therefore, was not to be public but private. (And how many of us have said things in private about politicians? ) In other words, she may not be the rude little girl you think she is, which is part of what is making you very angry at her. Most people are raised to be polite in public but we let our hair down in private. Understand that she really thought she was making a private comment to her friends. Under ordinary circumstances, comments to our friends about a politician never get back to him or her.
In order to read the comments, the Governor's staff had to do a search and track them down. Once the comments were tracked, the staff also had to make a judgment call as to their relative importance. The young woman's Twitter group was pitifully small. Yet the staff made the call that somehow this immature comment to a very small group of high school students was somehow injurious to the Governor. Then they had to decide to act, and what they did was to go to the school and have the principal force an apology out of her, complete with "talking points." This whole scenario caused the perception of Brownback's staff as being over-zealous and threatening.
You may disagree ENTIRELY with this perception, but this was the overwhelming perception, especially among young people and users of social media.
The perception was hugely important in Brownback's response. That is why I said it was a good PR move for Brownback. PR is all about handling perception, and the response was absolutely correct: Brownback was perceived to be punishing political speech so he reaffirmed his support of the First Amendment. Brownback's staff was seen as being overzealous (even "fascist" by some), so Brownback apologized for overstepping. The case, which could have filled much air time in the 24-hour cable news orgy, is now past and will be all but forgotten in a few days. Very smart PR.
As I have tried to show you (above) there is a huge difference between real-time space and internet space. This younger generation has never lived without the internet. They have learned their distinctions between public and private space as users of the internet. Public message boards and public comments under one's own name on newspapers, blogs, etc. represent public space, and the kids are bound to be more careful in what they post there. Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, are considered private space because they create the illusion of privacy by allowing you to limit who can access and read your posts. This privacy is not really private: a Google search can turn up a short portion of the comments on someone's Facebook page even if the entire page is not accessible. Twitter feeds can be accessed by signing up to be a "follower".The introduction of Twitter to the case doesn't change what happened, it simply means that it played out more publicly than it would have otherwise.
I imagine that government officials and CEOs of corporations might have even better access to information on the internet, even to ostensibly "private" info on social media. A security clearance might give you much more access than the average person. And of course, intelligence agencies regularly troll Facebook and Twitter.
Actually, she really needs to learn that the internet is NOT private, ever. She needs to learn that social media can be monitored (and clearly are) and that nothing she says on the internet is secure. Nothing she posts is secure. Nothing. If she has private comments, she either needs to say them in person or develop a code that will not allow them to be deciphered. There is no privacy on the net. Once someone has your real name, they can go to any one of a number of websites, pay $50 or less, and get ALL your public records, including address, phone, close relatives, property deeds, etc. If that person really wants to hunt you down, they can go to mapquest or Google earth (or google maps) and find exactly where your residence is and what it looks like.In other words, she needs to learn discretion.
The internet has made all space PUBLIC space. That is what this young lady has to learn. Save private comments for in person interactions.
I thoroughly agree with you here. But it's an uphill battle when the nasty pundits make much better money than objective or respectful ones. The kids learn what brings success and they might push your ways aside for what looks more successful.My job as a parent, and the school's job in loco parentis, is to teach kids to be better than the lowest common denominator on TV. The function of things like a program that allows students to interact with politicians is not to bring those kids down to the level of MSNBC, but to get them to see beyond the shallow sound bytes and learn the substance of governing.
The school's lesson was meaningless to her, even before the media outcry, because the way she saw it, she made a private comment in private space, not a public comment in public space. She felt she was being unfairly punished; after all, she didn't say anything to Brownback's face, nor did she make an overt comment on a very public website. She used social media, which, to her, is just "talking to your friends." In fact, to her (and to many others) Brownback was in the wrong here since his actions invaded her online privacy.And what their schools teach them. In this case, the school was going to teach her not to insult people who extend favors to her and her organization, but the media outcry has instead taught her that she can get away with anything if she can get someone in the media to throw a tantrum on her behalf. This was a teachable moment, and the wrong lesson was taught.
The real lesson for this girl (and the rest of us) is that the internet is NEVER private. Every comment you make must be written for public consumption as if you are stating in on the village green.
And Twitter? I wonder if the girl knows that the National Archives is saving EVERY Twitter post ever made?
So it's public and permanent.
That's the lesson.
The young woman was doing the 21st century internet equivalent of talking to her friends in a booth at McDonald's, i.e., a private gathering. The Twitter comment was not meant to be publicly rude in real time to the Governor; it was meant to blow off some steam with friends in a private space that did not include the Governor at all. Her intent, therefore, was not to be public but private. (And how many of us have said things in private about politicians? ) In other words, she may not be the rude little girl you think she is, which is part of what is making you very angry at her. Most people are raised to be polite in public but we let our hair down in private. Understand that she really thought she was making a private comment to her friends. Under ordinary circumstances, comments to our friends about a politician never get back to him or her.[/QUOTE]
Agreed.It's certainly one of them, but the others, civility, politeness and respect are far more critical. People who treat others well in private don't need to worry about their public personas being tarnished by their private behavior.
To me this is all about being rude (not free speech). While it is a broad brush all you have to do is go to DU to see that the far left is quite OK with rudeness as long as it is towards a conservative. Then it is a "smack down", and billed as "the truth" and "free speech".
When the liberals and the media got involved and labeled it "free speech" they affirmed to this girl that rudeness is OK as long as it is towards someone you don't like. They also affirmed that it is OK to act in such a manner that your school/employer/etc is shown in a negative light. These are not mainstream values/beliefs and instead of learning a lesson that will be a benefit to her in the future she has learned that rudeness pays. They do her a grave disservice.
Wouldn't the reporting of the girl to her school also constitute free speech?
But the point is it would have never gotten back to the staffers if she said it on the bus. And if the bus had staffers on it, the girl would not have said it.True, she didn't do it to his face, she thought that she was doing it behind his back, but if she had made the comment on the bus, without benefit of social media, and it got back to the staffers, the reaction would have been the same. Badmouthing someone who has been gracious enough to spend time with your organization is rude and inappropriate.
The first part of your first sentence is correct, but the second part is not. This wasn't just a matter of "overhearing". No one was looking over her shoulder (accidentally and unintentionally) while she was tweeting. This information had to be sought out, searched for. The only equivalent for that in a live, real-world situation is having the Governor send out staffers undercover to the local McDonalds to hear what teenagers are saying about him and then writing letters to their school to complain. That was why people got upset.No, it's the equivalent of talking about him rudely behind his back, but loudly enough that someone overheard it who felt some loyalty to the governor and reacted.
The actual content of the comment has no bearing on how the comment was found and used. I agree with you that it was a rude comment and that she wasn't being truthful. But lots of people say rude and untruthful things about politicians in private and political staffers don't typically come to track down the people who made these comments and/or inform their principals, bosses or other authorities except in totalitarian states and paranoid monarchies. The internet is unique in that innocuous private comments that no one would bother to physically track down in a democracy can be so easily tracked that the political freedoms of democratic societies may be affected. That is the underlying fear that bubbled up as a result of this girl's case.It was also a dishonest comment, because she didn't actually do what she claimed to have done.
And this goes exactly to what I was saying about the internet: NOTHING is private. I am sure the girl had no idea that a "private" twitter feed whose membership she could control could STILL be found in a general keyword search. That would surprise a lot of people.From what I've seen, the search was a broad keyword search with the governor's name, and when it came up, the staffer read it and was confronted with a situation in which a student was claiming that she had made a rude comment to the governor in person, and tracked it down.
I'm with you on this. The younger generation does not have, in general, a sense of honor. (Wow, I do sound like a fuddy duddy, don't I.) Honor and integrity were things we were brought up on. Honesty was an important thing. Respect for the position (if not the person holding it) was also important. But that kind of background involves a religious or ethical perspective and lots of moral training. These kids are being raised by the media, which, of course, has neither honor, integrity, nor honesty.Then we need to do a better job of educating them.
Partisanship muddies the waters and it's not really part of the case itself. However, I understand that many conservatives feel that had Obama been the target, the media would have had less sympathy for the girl. My opinion--and it's just opinion, I have no facts here, so you can feel free to ignore it--is that Obama's staff has far more important kinds of internet postings to worry about than some high school girl's bitchy comment. You can imagine the kinds of threats any President might be worried about, especially a Black president. I daresay that the staff is far more worried about white supremacist or neo-nazi websites than about high school girl Twitter feeds. However, I do think that all kinds of postings are evaluated and stored, and the President (whoever it is) has the best internet security apparatus around. There are law enforcement professionals at the FBI and within the Secret Service who can much better assess true threats and know what to flag and what to ignore. I imagine lots of little bitch postings have been ignored, since they don't represent a real threat, and since calling attention to them would actually hurt the President's credibility.Part of the reason for the perception is that it was presented that way in the media, without rebuttal. As others have said, if it had been Obama on the receiving end of it, the media would have told us in great detail about how rude the kid was, not to mention how important it is to guard what you say on social media.
Brownback's credibility suffered here. An assessment of the post indicated that, while rude, stupid, and untruthful, it did not rise to the level of something that deserved the governor's attention. This was no death threat, nor was it a true threat to his reputation. Sixty Twitter followers, all high school students? No. By demanding an apology, Brownback called attention to the post and, more importantly, called attention to the fact that his staff had tracked down a private post not meant for him or for the general public. That is what scared the crap out of the public. But people have to remember: NOTHING IS PRIVATE ON THE NET.
I am with you on this. I worry a lot about this upcoming generation. My friend in DC hires new people for staff positions, and she tells me that these kids have a lot of feelings of entitlement but don't know as much as our generation did when we came out of school. She said that some of these college grads can't even write a memo.Civilizing kids is always an uphill battle, but if we don't want to see our civilization go downhill, it must be done.
Agreed. If you act with integrity as a general rule, you have a whole lot less to be sorry about later.It's certainly one of them, but the others, civility, politeness and respect are far more critical. People who treat others well in private don't need to worry about their public personas being tarnished by their private behavior.
Last edited by Elspeth; 11-30-2011 at 07:16 PM.
The girl is completely unimportant here. What is important is that a politician's staff was able and willing to track down a private posting of a political nature on the internet and demand an apology for it. The First Amendment protects political speech, but that doesn't mean that politicians, governments and intelligence agencies aren't tracking down all kinds of political comments (and other information) on the net. It shocked many internet users that these postings were not as private as they thought, and that government officials were tracking them down.
Most people (including the girl in the story) do not realize how easy it is to track down such postings. Just because you can limit your Twitter feed to a handful of personal friends does not mean that no one else can find comments you made on your Twitter feed through a Google search.
In order to understand where I am coming from here, you have to put aside your knee-jerk feelings about this girl and your desire to bend her over your knee and smack the crap out of her. You can feel that way, but put it aside.
My contention was--and is--that Brownback's retreat and apology was good PR, not because of the girl (put her aside) but because many internet users were alarmed by the actions of his staff and by the staggering lack of privacy on the net (which, of course, has nothing to do with the Governor, but with which he was now tainted.) Much of this alarm is due to the fact that internet users have a false sense of privacy on the net. Young people, in particular, have been brought up on the internet and do not realize how heavily and completely it is monitored by many different interests. These kids have a false sense of safety on the net and post much of what they think, feel and do. They post personal comments, photos, vacation plans, etc. under their own names, especially on Facebook and Twitter, which have "privacy" settings limiting who sees the Facebook page or Twitter thread. However, Facebook and Twitter postings will show up in a general search (like Google) and privacy settings can be overridden by law enforcement and people with security clearances (including high level politicians). THERE IS NO PRIVACY.
Brownback was smart to apologize and reaffirm the First Amendment. It made the story go away and it got the panicked masses calmed again, so that they continue to provide lots of information to corporations and intelligence agencies every time they post. :) And if you had a tinfoil hat smilie, I'd put it right next to the sentence in which I opine that perhaps complete transparency, total information awareness of every person on the planet is what the internet is ultimately about, and that Brownback let the cat out of the bag with his little demand for an apology from a rude student.
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