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#heblowsalot
November 24, 2011 10:14 PM   Subscribe

High school student Emma Sullivan posted a tweet disparaging Kansas Governor Sam Brownback while on a field trip to the State Capitol. Brownback's staff called Sullivan's principal and complained. This has not resulted in postive PR for Brownback.
posted by reenum (130 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
You really would think a Governor's staffers would have heard of the Streisand Effect by now.
posted by unSane at 10:18 PM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know there's almost some weird "respect your elders" logic if this was a grade 8 student or something, maybe, but Emma Sullivan is of voting age.
posted by mek at 10:21 PM on November 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Cyberbullying is serious. Just ask Sam Brownback.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:30 PM on November 24, 2011 [19 favorites]


The Streisand Effect is just a theory. Brownback is teaching the controversy.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:31 PM on November 24, 2011 [28 favorites]


In Sam Brownback's defense, teenage girls are mean.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:32 PM on November 24, 2011 [22 favorites]


She's 18, and legally an adult. What she posts on Twitter is none of the school's business, unless she was making threats against the faculty, staff, or fellow students. She did none of that, and was expressing an opinion.

If I'd gotten called into the principal's office and ordered to write a letter of apology, I would have taken my inspiration from Cartman on South Park. *cues bullhorn* "HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO SUCK MY BALLS, MR. GARRISON?"
posted by mrbill at 10:36 PM on November 24, 2011 [37 favorites]


If Brownback doesn't have anything better to do than have his staff bitch to high school principals about their students' tweets, he really just ought to refund his salary and fuckin' go home.
posted by notsnot at 10:37 PM on November 24, 2011 [44 favorites]


I hereby volunteer to help her draft the most scathingly-polite-and-respectful-yet-backhandedly-vicious apology letter possible. I will note that I am exceedingly practiced in this line of work.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:38 PM on November 24, 2011 [36 favorites]


Oh Kansas. Oh high school. Oh Sam Brownback. How I do not miss you. At all.
posted by sleepy pete at 10:38 PM on November 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


Isn't it kind of creepy for politicians to follow the private activities of high school students?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:40 PM on November 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


He's like the Kevin Smith of state government!
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:41 PM on November 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Just browsing Emma's twitter history suggests she might take a cue from Brownback on policing Twitter presence. "Please stop praying loudly in the middle of panera, & stop yelling in chinese #imuncomfortable". Sure, you have a first amendment right, and I'm pretty sure Brownback's campaign can live without the endorsement of a teenager itching to leave the state, but this doesn't mean I have to support annoying and tweets.

I guess what I'm saying is that there's a lot of reason for young liberal women to not like the guy, but Tweeting "u suck" isn't a very effective way to draw people to your cause. Hope she does better with round two.
posted by pwnguin at 10:42 PM on November 24, 2011


hrm. that was supposed to be "annoying and catty" tweets.
posted by pwnguin at 10:45 PM on November 24, 2011


I found her argument compelling.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:46 PM on November 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


pwnguin - I don't think the finesse of her statement is the really the story here.
posted by Think_Long at 10:47 PM on November 24, 2011 [23 favorites]


I think it's sort of weird that she got in trouble for being "disrespectful" but not for lying. The BoingBoing post is especially weird, with the author describing Sullivan's tweet as "what she wished she could do".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:48 PM on November 24, 2011


Tweeting "u suck" isn't a very effective way to draw people to your cause.

I'm pretty sure she wasn't intending to draw people to her cause? I'm pretty sure she was joking to her like-minded followers under the assumption that grown-ass politicians and school officials had more important things to deal with than policing her words.
posted by brookedel at 10:51 PM on November 24, 2011 [22 favorites]


OK, regardless of everything else, if you didn't find this quote chilling then there's no helping you:

Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag:
“We monitor social media so we can see what Kansans are thinking and saying about the governor and his policies,” Jones-Sontag said.

“We just felt it was appropriate for the organizers to be aware … because of what was said in the tweet.”
Just wanted to let you guys know that someone in your highschool doesn't like the governor! Not saying you have to punish her for her opinion, but, you know, it wouldn't hurt.
posted by auto-correct at 10:52 PM on November 24, 2011 [92 favorites]


I feel that someone should say "you suck" to the Gov's face at every public appearance he does from now on.
posted by empath at 10:55 PM on November 24, 2011 [23 favorites]


Twitter, I've a feeling we're still in Kansas.
posted by chavenet at 10:56 PM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I understand that someone on Justin Bieber's staff has also called the principal to say that the pop star will not be marrying Miss Sullivan, and demanding that the yearbook be edited to reflect that.
posted by taz at 11:02 PM on November 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


First tweet on the hashtag when I opened it: "how did that conversation even go? 'this is gov brownback's office. i'd like to report a teasing.' http://bit.ly/tu5M2N #heblowsalot" which immediately processed through my little brain as Brownback looking at a fierce high school student and her iPhone, begging: "don't tease me, bro!"
posted by immlass at 11:04 PM on November 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wow, wtf did they think was going to happen? It's mind boggling that people are still that ignorant of how social media actually works.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 11:09 PM on November 24, 2011


Yeah, Brownback is a douche and the Principal is at least as big a douche for not standing up for her student.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:12 PM on November 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


“We monitor social media so we can see what Kansans are thinking and saying about the governor and his policies,” Jones-Sontag said.

.... So that we can make your life miserable if you say something we don't like.

I think that's ordinarily called an abuse of power.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:14 PM on November 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


It fills me with a little cheer to see that the top tweet for 'Sontag' at the moment is still about the Susan variety...
posted by i_cola at 11:33 PM on November 24, 2011


I guess what I'm saying is that there's a lot of reason for young liberal women to not like the guy, but Tweeting "u suck" isn't a very effective way to draw people to your cause. Hope she does better with round two.

Was there a cause? My understanding is that this was a silly tweet by a teenage girl that hurt Brownback's feelings, which is somehow much worse, or I guess much more pathetic seeming on Brownback's part, than if she had had some sort of cause.

Also eloquent and nuanced in 140 characters impossible grumble grumble get off my lawn grumble. No really, the snow is starting to come, please stay off the lawn or it will won't grow back properly next spring and I'll have a brown lawn issue.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:35 PM on November 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the last time I read the name 'Shawnee Mission, KS,' it was in that Thomas Frank book.
posted by box at 11:40 PM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think Shawnee Mission East principal Karl R. Krawitz rather #blowsalot too. This is ridonkulous.
posted by NoraReed at 11:47 PM on November 24, 2011


Think I'll start the #sambrownbacklookslikeapigfucker hashtag.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:48 PM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


@sherriene (Sherriene Jones Sontag, Brownback's PR flack) also had this to say:

“That wasn’t respectful,” responded Sherriene Jones-Sontag. “In order to really have a constructive dialogue, there has to be mutual respect.”

“It was important for the organization to be aware of the comments their students were making.” Jones-Sontag says. “It’s also important for students to recognize the power of social media, how lasting it is. It is on the Internet.”
posted by mattbcoset at 12:01 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


That wasn’t respectful

#obvious #smh
posted by eddydamascene at 12:07 AM on November 25, 2011


If politicians want respect, they should behave like respectable individuals.
posted by delmoi at 12:13 AM on November 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


I guess what I'm saying is that there's a lot of reason for young liberal women to not like the guy, but Tweeting "u suck" isn't a very effective way to draw people to your cause. Hope she does better with round two.


So, what, she should have a fully developed series of talking points for every random tweet she makes just in case she gets called out on them? Maybe a position paper so her Twitter feed can be taken seriously? Does everything have to be activism?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:13 AM on November 25, 2011 [18 favorites]


Yes I am at the twilight marathon and yes I know that its gonna be long but I get to stare at edward for 8 hrs #breakingdawn
OMG U GUYS, THIS TWEET MIGHT HURT HER CAUSE!!!!
posted by delmoi at 12:14 AM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


“It’s also important for students to recognize the power of social media, how lasting it is. It is on the Internet.”

Because in ten years she is reeeeally going to regret her lighthearted attempt at bigamy:

Dear edward and jacob, this is the best night of my life. I want u. Love, ur future wife #breakingdawn

Come on! You can't be both Team Edward AND Team Jacob? That's just ridiculous.
posted by book 'em dano at 12:25 AM on November 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


d'oh. "You can't be both Team Edward AND Team Jacob" as a declarative statement, not a question. Obviously. #theybothblowalot
posted by book 'em dano at 12:28 AM on November 25, 2011


sigh.
posted by infini at 12:29 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


So who is the bigger wuss: Brownback for getting all hurtz (one thinks that with a name as Brownback he would've developed a thicker skin) or the school authorities for not laughing in his face about this?
posted by MartinWisse at 12:51 AM on November 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think it's entirely appropriate for the principle to jump her shit if she was tweeting while on a school sponsored event with the organization that funds the school and provides the ability for these children to enjoy unique experiences which further their education.

The governor's office had every right to call her out, and did it in exactly the correct manner. And the principal was fully in the right to reprimand her for her actions while under the authority of the school.

All she had to do was wait until she was home. Which clearly she didn't.

During the session, in which Brownback addressed the group, Sullivan posted on her personal Twitter page:

“Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot”


She's a typical idiot teenage girl. All she had to do was wait until on her own time to make the snide remarks. But that wouldn't make her out to be an awesome liberal rebel and earn her mad respect from her totally awesome friends. Man!
posted by LoudMusic at 12:52 AM on November 25, 2011


I think it's entirely appropriate for the principle to jump her shit if she was tweeting while on a school sponsored event with the organization that funds the school and provides the ability for these children to enjoy unique experiences which further their education.

The governor's office had every right to call her out, and did it in exactly the correct manner.


Hopefully the Governor's PR department were keeping an eye out for gum chewers also, and notified the principal of any disrespectful mastication during the assembly.
posted by Sweetmag at 1:10 AM on November 25, 2011 [18 favorites]


Personally, I think Brownback is a jerk and deserves to be mocked, and that his staff reporting it to the school and the principal disciplining the student is absurd...but doesn't anyone else find it difficult to rally to this girl's cause when she bragged in a tweet to her followers about doing something that she didn't really do?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:18 AM on November 25, 2011


“That wasn’t respectful,” responded Sherriene Jones-Sontag. “In order to really have a constructive dialogue, there has to be mutual respect.”

Sam Brownback doesn't respect Emma Sullivan's right to make decisions about her own body, so I don't see why she owes him a damn thing in return.
posted by brookedel at 1:26 AM on November 25, 2011 [46 favorites]


Not really, dear Vanya, as I take her comments about as seriously as her friends or anyone else (except the Governor's office!) would have.
posted by Sweetmag at 1:27 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


but doesn't anyone else find it difficult to rally to this girl's cause when she bragged in a tweet to her followers about doing something that she didn't really do?

I don't. In my opinion, the content of the tweet isn't so much what's at issue here. The overbearing and draconian response of Brownback's staff and the principal are the issue.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:27 AM on November 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


I think it boils down to.. why should anyone care what a high schooler is tweeting, except her friends. The government shouldn't (barring planning of harm to self or others), indeed the government reeeeeealy shouldn't.
posted by edgeways at 1:41 AM on November 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


I can't say I'm unhappy she found out there are real world consequences to what you say online. Like it or not, it's a very teachable moment.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:58 AM on November 25, 2011


SAM BROWNBACK is an anagram of SMACK BARB NOW.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:28 AM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


--She's a typical idiot teenage girl--

LoudMusic, I wasn't persuaded by your surrounding argument but I allowed that it was validly held. Then I see this and I lose any residual respect I held for the substance of your thoughts.
posted by peacay at 2:45 AM on November 25, 2011 [38 favorites]


I think it's entirely appropriate for the principle to jump her shit if she was tweeting while on a school sponsored event with the organization that funds the school and provides the ability for these children to enjoy unique experiences which further their education.
This is ridiculous. It doesn't make any difference where she types out her tweets. If she's not supposed to be tweeting on a field trip, then criticize her for the action, not the content.
posted by delmoi at 2:48 AM on November 25, 2011 [22 favorites]


LoudMusic: Do you have a 10ft high electric fence surrounding your lawn?

I'm not sure I'd be trusting @sherriene to be dealing with my Twitter. Last tweet was 4 Oct and it was her 7th since 1 Jun. Not exactly a Social Media Kingpin...
posted by i_cola at 2:55 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sam Brownback seems to be unpopular with many young people these days.
posted by biddeford at 3:01 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Land of free speech
posted by gt2 at 4:07 AM on November 25, 2011


We have a high school student making a rather inarticulate insult on Twitter during a school trip and being called out for it. Were it nearly any other organization, she would deserve a scolding for quite honestly being a bit of a jerk.

Trouble is, this is a legal adult citizen calling out the government. This is something that was considered so important by the organizers of the country that it's the first thing they did when they realized the Constitution had to protect the people. Out of all free speech, the freedom to disapprove of the government on public grounds was the part most feared of being restricted. It's a pretty crude and unimpressive way of doing so, but this speech is specifically the sort of thing that the constantly revered Founding Fathers decided was a Big Deal.

I'd understand if Brownback simply disapproved of it in an interview. I'd even understand if his office mentioned disagreement in a PR release. Attempting to coerce another public official into punishing a student for this steps over a really important line. By trying to quash this speech in such a manner, Sam Brownback only proves that he just doesn't get the point of America.
posted by Saydur at 4:14 AM on November 25, 2011 [71 favorites]


We monitor social media so we can..." make an utter balls-up of our response, generate negative publicity out of all proportion to the original incident, and still somehow draw a salary as a PR professional. Impressive!
posted by Abiezer at 4:18 AM on November 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


“We monitor social media so we can see what Kansans are thinking and saying about the governor and his policies,...”

lurk moar
posted by klarck at 4:23 AM on November 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Were it nearly any other organization, she would deserve a scolding for quite honestly being a bit of a jerk.

She said that he sucks. I have said that restaurants sucked, or that store managers I've had trouble with sucked, or that the parking at an overcrowded, under-parking-spaced event sucks. I guess I deserve a public scolding by the owners of McDonalds/the CEOs of chain stores/the owner of the mall for being a bit of a jerk? I don't know, I just don't think a public scolding from a major public figure is ever really deserved just for saying "this sucks" on Twitter, no matter whether it's the government or not. I don't follow you.
posted by titus n. owl at 4:35 AM on November 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


so does gov blowback suck a lot?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:40 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I had said something this disrespectful when I was that age and it got back to my parents or school, I would have gotten chewed out by the former and detention at the latter. Saying "he blows a lot" in a public forum about a politician who was taking time with our school to try to teach us something? She doesn't have to like him or his policies, but I hope my own daughter will be able to express more nuanced opinions. I would support my daughter for criticizing the governor for cutting school funding, but not for posting "he blows" to twitter.
posted by onlyconnect at 4:45 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hope my own daughter will be able to express more nuanced opinions.

You know she only has 140 characters, right?
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:51 AM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would support my daughter for criticizing the governor for cutting school funding, but not for posting "he blows" to twitter.

Well, I would certainly admonish her for tweeting it. But, I would also acknowledge that it was her right to do so. She is, after all, 18.

However, the response by the supposed adults in this story are so over the top as to be farcical. Especially on the part of Brownback's office. Was there not a single adult calling any shots in the Governor's office with enough worldly knowledge to say "It's just a kid tossing-off a line on Twitter. This is a non-event. Get back to work"??? I mean...christalmighty, does everyone have to be wide-eyed true-believers these days? Is there no such thing as objectivity?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:54 AM on November 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


I guess I deserve a public scolding by the owners of McDonalds/the CEOs of chain stores/the owner of the mall for being a bit of a jerk?

While I disagree with his end point, LoudMusic brought up something that makes sense. If McDonalds sponsored a trip for you to visit headquarters with some group, and while you were there, you tweeted "This guy sucks!" about whoever was in charge at the time then I'd say if that guy were to tweet back at you "Hey. Not cool man. Low blow." that's well within reason. "Scolding" might have been a bit too harsh of a word, but even that would be within rights if possibly a bit excessive. Such is the private sector. The point stands that this was speech delivered from public grounds about a public figure, so it should absolutely be protected. Brownback's office handled this remarkably poorly.
posted by Saydur at 4:56 AM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


She should parlay this into a full ride at Harvard or Yale.
posted by Renoroc at 5:06 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


"It's just a kid tossing-off a line on Twitter. This is a non-event. Get back to work"??? I mean...christalmighty, does everyone have to be wide-eyed true-believers these days? Is there no such thing as objectivity?

OMG its The Twitter!! A negative tweet!! Do something quick!! remember what happened to Egypt? Wait... Qantas... no, Dell... eek, help etc
posted by infini at 5:15 AM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


How much damage can one tweet do, anyway? The comment above by onlyconnect, when restricted to 140 characters, says If I had said something this disrespectful when I was that age and it got back to my parents or school, I would have gotten chewed out by th.

The only way tweets have much importance is by having an enormous amount of context surrounding them. During the wedding, if the bride says "I do" versus "I don't", the difference isn't between four characters or seven, it's all about the context. The tweets themselves are far too short to carry much meaning by themselves.

Brownback's office created much more context than a tweet ever could. It's stupid to shoot a fly with a cannon, because you will create a far bigger explosion than a fly ever will.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:29 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know she only has 140 characters, right?

How about "Brownback cuts ed funding then tries to show he cares about youth by speech at field trip. #dontbelieveyougovernor" I'm sure there are a million more cutting things she could say without using "suck" or "blow".

but I would acknowledge that it was her right to do so.

Do schools really allow tweeting during classes or outings? I'm surprised by this.
posted by onlyconnect at 5:32 AM on November 25, 2011


How about "Brownback cuts ed funding then tries to show he cares about youth by speech at field trip. #dontbelieveyougovernor"

Well, that may be more articulate (given the constraints of the medium) but it just seems less effective to me.

There's a reason that four-letter words are four letters, not 8 or 9.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:42 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Under that rubric wouldn't it be even more effective if she'd tweeted at the governor to fuck off? Because if my daughter did that she'd be grounded.
posted by onlyconnect at 5:54 AM on November 25, 2011


Government. Citizen. Free speech. Freedom.

I submit that is you are willing to let this discussion devolve into questions of "respect" then you are completely missing the important issues.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:01 AM on November 25, 2011 [30 favorites]


wouldn't it be even more effective if she'd tweeted at the governor to fuck off? Because if my daughter did that she'd be grounded.

I don't share your sensitivity to four-letter words. To me, words are just words, just utterances made by exhaling breath while modulating my throat, oral cavity, and the position of my tongue. These utterances create a corresponding disruption in the air flow around me which propagates to other human's ears, where an intricate process of signal analysis breaks down that vibrational flow into sinusoidal subcomponents which continue into the auditory processing portions of my brain and are then reassembled into coherent language-patterns that I learned by living in a particular culture.

Swear words differ from culture to culture. If I didn't grow up in Mexico then it won't bother me if someone says chinga tu madre, but since I grew up in medieval England, it does bother me when someone says thou gorbellied brazen-faced gudgeon!

Words can't hurt us. Tweets can't hurt us. We have better things we can be angry about.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:08 AM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Could somebody point me to the Supreme Court ruling that extended the leave-your-First-Amendment-rights-at-the-high-school-gate doctrine to all social media, ruling that all of cyberspace is subject to school disciplinary rules?
posted by acb at 6:29 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


How about "Brownback cuts ed funding then tries to show he cares about youth by speech at field trip. #dontbelieveyougovernor" I'm sure there are a million more cutting things she could say without using "suck" or "blow".

Indeed. I know when I'm looking for biting critique of the political establishment and innovative policy solutions, I head straight for the Twitter feeds of teenagers. Think what Obamacare could have been if he'd only paid closer attention to 18-year-olds on field trips.

I'd also like to say for the record that I'm deeply unimpressed with the way these beans just lie here on the plate. Would it kill them to assemble themselves into the sculptural form of Rodin's Thinker or arrange themselves artfully in a vase? Foam, you pathetic plate of beans. Foam!

I mean, honestly.
posted by gompa at 6:32 AM on November 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


Free speech means free speech even when it's a bit immature and not terribly insightful. Period. This is nothing less than an elected official using the power of his office to retaliate against and intimidate a citizen who has criticized him, and the relatively unnuanced nature of that criticism shouldn't distract us from what is, in fact, a pretty flagrant disregard for the democratic process on the part Brownback and/or his staff.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:33 AM on November 25, 2011 [22 favorites]


Foam, you pathetic plate of beans. Foam!

Blow, you brown baked beans. Blow!
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:42 AM on November 25, 2011


I may be old fashioned, but I think that skepticism of politicians and willingness to question them and express one's disapproval of them is one of the key qualities of engaged citizens. This is what democracy is all about.
posted by jayder at 6:44 AM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


acb - read any student handbooks and guidelines recently ? It's pretty established well before on-line came about that things done outside school can get you in trouble inside of school.
posted by k5.user at 7:02 AM on November 25, 2011


He is used to ass-kissing. His name is brown back, after all.
posted by Flood at 7:02 AM on November 25, 2011


I can't decide if I'd prefer that the newly back-formed verb "brownbacking" be defined as "aggressively responding to any perceived slight on social media, no matter how slight" or "goading a pubic figure into massively overreacting to disparaging social media comments."

Being from Texas, this reminds me of of former governor who complained about a web site lampooning his white house bid by saying "there ought to be limits to freedom". Now I know it's not only our idiot who thinks this.
posted by Mad_Carew at 7:32 AM on November 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Shawnee Mission East principal Karl R. Krawitz called the situation a disciplinary action. 'It is a school issue, a private issue, not a public matter,' he said."

OK, so maybe on to Plan B, then?
posted by Mike D at 7:32 AM on November 25, 2011


Do schools really allow tweeting during classes or outings? I'm surprised by this.

That is not at all the issue, here. The issue is government officials abusing their position to attempt to quash dissenting opinion.

Tell me with a straight face that if she had tweeted, on school time, "OMG gov brown back is soo nice!" that she would have been called out by state officials for simply tweeting on school time. Somehow, I don't fucking think so, and that's not even what the gov's pr flak is claiming. They expressly want her punished for voicing, however crudely, dissenting opinion - a hallmark of American freedom.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:33 AM on November 25, 2011 [14 favorites]


When I was in grade 7, I was caught up in a class-wide punishment for talking. I wasn't talking, I was reading quietly (as I had been allowed to do, after finishing my work), and I felt that being forced to participate in the class-wide punishment was monstrously unfair. So, in my essay on 'why we shouldn't talk in class', I explained how unfair it was. At length. I was mean, vicious, and rather unfair myself. I wasn't nuanced or subtle. I rather upset my teacher further.

However.

My parents backed me up. Not the specific words I used, but the right to express myself. They didn't punish me for speaking my mind. They said that if there were further consequences from the teacher, I'd have to deal with it, because actions have consequences, but they would not punish me for having and expressing an opinion, no matter how juvenile and mean it was.

This reminds me of that. I am a big, big fan of freedom of speech. It applies whether you are being nice, or being cruel. If you are right, or if you are wrong. If you are being clever, or exceedingly stupid. The content of free speech has consquences - depending on what you say people might shun you or argue with you or think you're an idiot - but actually having and expressing an opinion, that act itself, should always be allowed.

So what she said was stupid, or disrespectful, or not 'nuanced'. Who cares? She has the right to express it. Period.
posted by sandraregina at 7:50 AM on November 25, 2011 [18 favorites]


Of course my daughter has the right to say the governor sucks. That doesn't mean as a parent I'm going to say "sure, tweet whatever you want.". It's my job to teach my kids not to be lunkheads. I think everyone has a point re the governor's office potentially punishing protected speech, but just because my kid CAN say something doesn't mean that as a parent I will encourage it by saying "good job for telling the governor to fuck off!". (and I'm a democrat myself.)
posted by onlyconnect at 8:08 AM on November 25, 2011


No, they're right. Haven't you read the First Amendment? It's right there: "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of respectful, nuanced, articulate speech. #teamjacob"
posted by Zozo at 8:08 AM on November 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


The Declaration of Independence in 140 characters.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:23 AM on November 25, 2011


Let's put the fear of twitter into all politicians!
posted by telstar at 8:24 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Under that rubric wouldn't it be even more effective if she'd tweeted at the governor to fuck off? Because if my daughter did that she'd be grounded.

Really? You'd ground your 18 year-old, old enough to vote, legally adult daughter for swearing? Control issues, much?

The thing with teenagers? They're actually people, and they have opinions and personalities that may not reflect those of their parents. When they reach a certain age - and at my house, that age is WELL before the age of 18 - you need to get over yourself and let your kids figure out who they are, what they believe, and how they choose to express those beliefs. They're not going to learn a damned thing if they're treated like naughty toddlers instead of young adults.

Your house, your rules, I suppose, but damn. When my 19 and 15 year-old sons say that our governor is a thundering fuckwit, the response isn't "Go to your room, you're grounded!", but rather "What leads you to this conclusion?" Turns out, teenagers can think!
posted by MissySedai at 8:24 AM on November 25, 2011 [28 favorites]


If I had said something this disrespectful when I was that age and it got back to my parents or school, I would have gotten chewed out by the former and detention at the latter.

What age? She's 18. She's an adult. What she tweeted is more mature than a lot of tweets I've seen from 60-year-olds.

Saying "he blows a lot" in a public forum about a politician who was taking time with our school to try to teach us something? She doesn't have to like him or his policies, but I hope my own daughter will be able to express more nuanced opinions. I would support my daughter for criticizing the governor for cutting school funding, but not for posting "he blows" to twitter.

So you would support the governor's office watching and policing what your daughter says on Twitter (or what you say, for that matter) and publicly calling her out for saying it, nuanced or not?

Of course my daughter has the right to say the governor sucks. That doesn't mean as a parent I'm going to say "sure, tweet whatever you want.". It's my job to teach my kids not to be lunkheads. I think everyone has a point re the governor's office potentially punishing protected speech, but just because my kid CAN say something doesn't mean that as a parent I will encourage it by saying "good job for telling the governor to fuck off!". (and I'm a democrat myself.)

The daughter in question is 18 years old.

I'm all for adults saying that Brownback blows -- because he does. So does everything he stands for.
posted by blucevalo at 8:27 AM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually, I'm all for anyone saying it, not just adults.
posted by blucevalo at 8:28 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


but just because my kid CAN say something doesn't mean that as a parent I will encourage it by saying "good job for telling the governor to fuck off!". (and I'm a democrat myself.)

Well, fine - whatever. But if the governor's office were to call your house to report your kid said something he didn't like? That's fucking creepy and rude bullshit right there.

It's good to know these Republicans are all about smaller government. Unless you have a uterus. Or an opinion they don't like.
posted by rtha at 8:38 AM on November 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


I can't even believe people are defending Brownback and his crew. We're totally okay with blatant censorship and punishment for expressing opinions now?
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 8:45 AM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Could somebody point me to the Supreme Court ruling that extended the leave-your-First-Amendment-rights-at-the-high-school-gate doctrine to all social media, ruling that all of cyberspace is subject to school disciplinary rules?

This could be the test case, and that's exactly how the Roberts Court would rule.

Don't give them ideas.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:04 AM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I guess the governor is working at making sure that everyone knows how very accurate "he sucks" is.
posted by jeather at 9:06 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


We're totally okay with blatant censorship and punishment for expressing opinions now?

I know. I find some of the responses here to be almost as disturbing as the actual event. Try to imagine how this whole thing went down. The governor's staff came across this tweet, did some investigating, and found out it was a student at a particular school. They then called the principal of that school to have the student reprimanded for making a negative comment about the governor. In the absence of further information, one has to assume that this is basically standard operating procedure for the governor's staff.

So, if the governor came across a "Brownback sux" tweet by a factory worker in his state, would he call up the owner of the factory to ask him to reprimand the employee? No direct threat or anything, just that as a personal favor to the governor, so that good relations can be maintained with the state, it would be nice if the factory member would apologize in writing? That sort of thing?

And if the governor came across a critical article written by a cub reporter at the Wichita Eagle, would he call up the Editor-in-Chief and ask him to tone it down, just, ya know, to keep things friendly, wouldn't want the paper to fail a workplace safety inspection or anything.

Or are we to believe that this call was only made because she was a high school student? He only tries to suppress negative opinions among the young and powerless. So he's not an authoritarian, just a bully?

Bottom line is that it is unconstitutional for the head of state to use coercive power to quell dissent. And yes, "he sucks" absolutely counts as dissent. This whole thing has the potential to go from a molehill to a mountain. Brownback mountain.
posted by xigxag at 9:11 AM on November 25, 2011 [50 favorites]


I am shocked that a young woman would make such an opprobrious remark about one of the distinguished gentlemen ruining our country.
posted by winna at 9:43 AM on November 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


I was disappointed when the second article said she hadn't actually made such comments.

So in '93 as a HS senior, I did the California Youth & Gov't program through the YMCA. At our big model gov't thing at the state capitol, Governor Pete Wilson came to address us. He threw the floor open to questions after he talked for awhile about how great it was that we were so involved and interested in government.

The Youth & Gov't crowd promptly and respectfully tore him a new asshole over his decisions as governor. They grilled him on budget issues, law enforcement priorities, policy positions, all of it. They cited specific bills by their numbers. They threw out dates and direct quotes from the governor. It was everything the media is supposed to do but doesn't.

And then I got to be part of the Y&G media crew that interviewed him for our happy little mock media program. I remember trying to adjust the video so he didn't look so green, and then realizing that no, that wasn't the equipment. That was the effect of the Q&A session with a fat audience of well-informed teens.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:59 AM on November 25, 2011 [20 favorites]


Man, I wouldn't ground my 5-year-old for saying that the governor could fuck off, never mind an 18-year-old voter.

Did anyone else tweet anything of any kind when they were on the field trip? If they did so, and weren't punished, than the issue isn't the fact of tweeting, it's the content of the message. And that's pretty dangerous grounds to be suppressing speech.
posted by KathrynT at 9:59 AM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Between this and the IT chief debacle, it's clear that Brownback should stay away from computers and stick what he knows best, like hiring folks from Florida for much higher salaries than their previous counterparts, closing SRS offices in the larger cities in the state and costing us federal funds by eliminating state arts funding.
posted by rewil at 10:17 AM on November 25, 2011


Do schools really allow tweeting during classes or outings?

Let's see, even assuming 30% cellphone ownership, that's 10 cell phones per 30 students. I don't know the scale of this trip, but there's often two adults per class (less I'd guess for older students, who aren't liable to get left behind and can escort their peers to the washroom in the event of illness) and field trips often pack multiple classes into the outing (ie all seniors). Said field trippers are no longer sitting in neat desk rows, and may be using phones over the course of the trip to capture photographs, or during periods where it would be really intrusive to police, such as in the washroom. 'Are you texting, or defecating in that cubical?!" "Both!"

Add a parental policy that "I got you that damn cell phone because pay phones are getting scarcer and I need to co-ordinate with you to pick your kid brother up/assuage my parental paranoia/co-ordinate the byzantine inner workings of a modern social life"

So you have at least ten phones, none of which are known-to-be-owned, two adults and a host of other things more important to watch out for, from incipient morning sickness, to bullying. And nobody would have batted an eye if her text had been "This is so exciting, gov = awesome!" I think the worst possible consequence for impolite texting is a gentle correction from an adult- but that's merely an etiquette violation and not the end of the darn world. "Please wait until after the public speakers have left to tell the world how much they suck" - but that wasn't what she got in trouble for. She got a civics lesson, alright.

Anyway her tweet wasn't even specifically talking about -why- he sucked, it was examining the audacious feeling of being adult enough that you can tell people they suck in polite adult speak. Which I imagine she did, via a pointed question during the actual visit.
posted by Phalene at 11:02 AM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's the matter with Kansas? Fragile Ego Syndrome.

Hell, they could make a movie out of it, Emma leads a normal life while a battered and cane wielding Brownback follows her around and harasses her.

You could call it... Unshakeable. You'd make millions.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:17 AM on November 25, 2011


Under that rubric wouldn't it be even more effective if she'd tweeted at the governor to fuck off? Because if my daughter did that she'd be grounded.

I remember once back home in India, we had a guest who was part of the administration of a conservative college. I was 19 years old. I disagreed with many of their policies and was trying to express to her why I thought they were bad. Somewhere in the middle of this explanation out popped a fuck, I think I said something was fucking stupid. Her face stiffened and I apologized and tried to get back to what I was talking about, but the damage was done.

Afterward, I had a conversation with my mother about it. She agreed with me that the policies were stupid and that she understood how strongly I felt about it. Still, she said, the use of fuck was counterproductive -- after I used that word, it became so much easier to dismiss my opinion. She said that I needed to consider my audience and my words more carefully in the future. That was it -- there was no question of grounding or punishment of any sort, but it's definitely something that stuck with me. I'm glad that she realized at 19 I was both old enough to express myself how I wanted and to accept the consequences of that expression.
posted by peacheater at 12:08 PM on November 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


This thread neatly demonstrates why I hate the notion of "respect", as it's always claimed as a right by douchenozzles who don't deserve it and certainly haven't earned it. You got scum like Brownback who can earnestly propose and enact the most horrible policies, but everybody gets their panties in a bunch because somebody thinks he sucks. You can be well respected but a moral monster, just use polite language.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:33 PM on November 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


rewil: " it's clear that Brownback should stay away from computers and stick what he knows best, like hiring folks from Florida for much higher salaries than their previous counterparts"

Playing devils advocate a bit, the CIO position is kinda underpaid. The last college I worked at hired their new CIO away from the State of Kansas. IIRC, the CIO I work under now earns more than if he were the CIO of the entire state administration (which we are technically/theoretically part of). This isn't to excuse the diploma mill appointee, but rather to suggest that previous counterparts are underpaid.
posted by pwnguin at 1:00 PM on November 25, 2011


Hey, Governor Brownback. Since you and your staff monitor what's being said about you online, here's my two cents: Governor Brownback, you are a flaming asshole. Your staff are fucking idiots. Oh, and Principal Krawitz, you're an embarrassing tool and a shitty example of a public high school administrator.

Have any problem with what I think and say? You can contact the mods via the 'contact form' (link is in the lower left hand corner of this page). Don't be surprised if their response is a resounding 'BWAHAHAH!'
posted by ericb at 1:08 PM on November 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


*(lower right hand corner)*
posted by ericb at 1:10 PM on November 25, 2011


Pretty sure forcing her to apologize must be SOME kind of first amendment violation. I know school kids have some speech limitations under the 1st amendment, but the limitations have to do with maintaining a calm learning environment. In this case, she disturbed nobody - she was tweeting, not bothering anyone in class. Plus, even if discipline were appropriate, I have a hard time understanding why forcing an apology TO A POLITICIAN FOR CRITICIZING HIM! can possibly be constitutional.
posted by yarly at 1:24 PM on November 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Still, she said, the use of fuck was counterproductive -- after I used that word, it became so much easier to dismiss my opinion.

I like that story, but this effect really does work both ways. Slipping in the odd "fuck" might even benefit you in some cases, and being well-spoken and informed and educated with studies and mountains of evidence on your side will get you dismissed as an egg-head up in your ivory tower who's probably some kind of socialist elitist something something. I guess it's more a question of knowing your audience. I think anyone following an 18-year-old's Twitter feed is probably going to have no problem relating to someone expressing their dislike of the governor in terms like "#heblowsalot," and I don't think a normal 18-year-old high school student is expecting or aiming for an international audience when they write something like that.
posted by Hoopo at 2:30 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sam Brownback doesn't respect Emma Sullivan's right to make decisions about her own body

In other news: Abortion Case Loses Ground, but Issue Stays Hot in Kansas
posted by homunculus at 3:47 PM on November 25, 2011


I guess he showed HER who has the power!
posted by BlueHorse at 8:31 PM on November 25, 2011


What gets me about this -- and, really, about any politician who presumes to stifle someone's unfettered speech -- is that politicians are IN OFFICE because they use largely corporate money to buy airtime and cynically ear-fuck the public with lies, exaggerations, seedy innuendo and half-truths. And yet ... and yet ... when a small person, bankrolled by no special interests, presumes to share her own salty opinion about such a politician using her own social media account, the power of the state is used to intimidate her. It's fucking outrageous.
posted by jayder at 9:23 PM on November 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Playing devils advocate a bit, the CIO position is kinda underpaid. The last college I worked at hired their new CIO away from the State of Kansas. IIRC, the CIO I work under now earns more than if he were the CIO of the entire state administration (which we are technically/theoretically part of). This isn't to excuse the diploma mill appointee, but rather to suggest that previous counterparts are underpaid.

I was thinking more of the SRS upper management, to be honest. Rep. Davis and Brownback's office have been going back and forth over the governor hiring Robert Siedlecki Jr. and spending more on higher management salaries and closing the Lawrence office to make up the difference.
posted by rewil at 9:26 PM on November 25, 2011


For fuck's sake, the level of authoritarian worship in this thread is astounding.
posted by odinsdream at 7:26 AM on November 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Seems to me the principal had a duty to defend the rights of the student, not the dignity of a hot-air-inflated politician. Why bother teaching the sanctity of "our rights as Americans!" if you're going to turn around and pull a stunt like this? I mean, the governor is a politician and acts like one. No surprise. The principal is not acting like an educator, and should be canned.
posted by Goofyy at 7:45 AM on November 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


So, what,the next Adult* bitching about the results of the next civil election is going to get a call from work saying "$Politician and his office are unhappy with your tweet?" Jesus.

I wonder how many affirmations and proofs whoever called up the school had to provide to prove s/he was really calling from Brownback's office. Were I the principal, I'd think it was a troll or prank and hang up unceremoniously.

*of which Emma technically is, being 18, but for the sake of argument lets say someone older like 25+
posted by Hakaisha at 3:54 PM on November 26, 2011


"It’s troubling that Brownback’s staff is so thin skinned that they felt the need to call down the government’s wrath on a high school student who had the audacity to criticize the governor. If nothing else, one would think a state governor’s office has better things to do than troll the internet looking for young dissenting voices they can intimidate.

Moreover, there’s no question that the high school principal violated Sullivan’s First Amendment rights. Although public school students’ right to free speech is not unlimited, schools are generally only allowed to discipline students for speech that is disruptive to the school’s learning environment. It is difficult to imagine how a single tweet criticizing a controversial politician during a field trip could have disrupted this high school’s ability to educate its students.

Moreover, because the school district violated Sullivan’s clearly established federal constitutional rights, she is likely entitled to have the district or the principal pay her attorney’s fees if she decides to bring a lawsuit challenging this unconstitutional disciplinary action. In other words, the district could be wise to settle this case immediately if Sullivan decides to bring them to court."*
posted by ericb at 5:28 PM on November 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


She's decided not to write the apology letters. Good for her.
posted by auto-correct at 4:32 PM on November 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Her parents also have some actual perspective, which is refreshing.
posted by mek at 5:41 PM on November 27, 2011


"I raised my kids to be independent, to be strong, to be free thinkers."

You, go , Mom!!!
posted by ericb at 6:06 PM on November 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. Brownback apologizes. From the updated story on Yahoo:
"My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms. I enjoyed speaking to the more than 100 students who participated in the Youth in Government Program at the Kansas Capitol. They are our future. I also want to thank the thousands of Kansas educators who remind us daily of our liberties, as well as the values of civility and decorum. Again, I apologize for our over-reaction"
posted by maudlin at 11:10 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


And that rare beast, an apology for what was done, not for 'any offence taken' or the other usual mealy-mouthedness. Still sucks, I'm sure.
posted by Abiezer at 11:15 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow. Brownback apologizes.

Translation: Please don't make me publicly debate an 18-year old girl on any issues.
posted by odinsdream at 11:23 AM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Either you believe in freedom of speech or you don't. It is not popular speech that will be suppressed. No one was ever detained by the government for saying that things are alright and the government is doing a great job. It is precisely when speech is unpopular, disruptive, and even obscene that is must be protected. Otherwise there never was freedom of speech at all. Either you will not protect the right of a fellow citizen or you will. There are no half measures in this.

I may not agree with what you say, but I will god damned goat fist fucking defend your right to say it.

also #heblowsalot
posted by The Violet Cypher at 11:49 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


When can we expect her principal to apologize?
posted by jayder at 12:20 PM on November 28, 2011 [3 favorites]



When can we expect her principal to apologize?


Maybe she's waiting for Sullivan to write her talking points.
posted by odinsdream at 8:02 PM on November 28, 2011


Question is, would she have said this to his face?
posted by IndigoJones at 7:31 AM on November 29, 2011


Teen At Center Of GOP Governor Tweet Controversy Gets Bullied At School.
posted by ericb at 11:24 AM on November 30, 2011


When can we expect her principal to apologize?

The principal says he never asked her to write a letter to the governor, and Emma Sullivan is admitting that the claim wasn't true.

So I guess the principal deserves the apology now.
posted by rewil at 10:32 AM on December 2, 2011


"The governor should know we did not force any letter of apology. There were no threats if she did not – they were not even discussed. We did not take her phone, imposed any sanctions, suspend her from school, removed her from any activity - nothing – simply write a letter of apology."

Or I guess he brought the idea of a letter up but there were no threats of discipline attached? I'm finding that part of the e-mail unclear. The idea of it makes sense if you approach it from the perspective of someone wanting to give advice to head off a media storm, "this would be a good idea" sort of thing.

Although, like the Star points out, immediately trying to correct the forcible apology news earlier once it got out into the greater internets would maybe have been an even better (if probably futile) idea.
posted by rewil at 10:50 AM on December 2, 2011


I think we can safely dismiss the principal's statement; it's bullshit on multiple levels.

"We didn't force her" to write a letter of apology - well, a high school principal suggesting it may sound and feel very much like he is forcing her to write the letter. He's in damage control mode right now; of course he will downplay what he told her to do.

And the bit about "she lied to her friends when she sent the tweet"? Out-fucking-rageous. This principal should be fired for maligning this young woman. Anyone with a moderately functional sense of humor knows what it is to make a tongue in cheek joke to friends: "How was your trip to the governor's mansion." "oh it was fine, I went up and told him he #blowsalot." I guarantee you this was intended -- and was received -- as a silly joke by her friends. Not a "lie."
posted by jayder at 6:23 PM on December 2, 2011


I think she lied. It wasn't a joke. It was at least a wild exaggeration. Or, as one of the website put it, a "wish". But it wasn't a joke.

That doesn't have any bearing on Brownback's staff's reaction, nor on the principal's. Last I checked, it's not a punishable offense to tell untruths to one's friends in public schools. Even if it were, it's absurd to attempt to enforce such a rule.

I'm mystified at why anyone, like yourself, feels the need to rationalize and justify what is obviously a lie. She tweeted that she "told him" he sucked "in person". She didn't. Personally, I wish she had. It's kind of absurd that we've reached a point where a teenager lying to her friends about confronting irresponsible authority in public is both punished by authority for a confrontation that didn't exist and is widely supported by others for a confrontation that didn't exist.

Now, while that isn't very inspiring, it is inspiring that she decided that she will not write the apology letter, and said that she refuses to write it because she's not actually apologetic. That deserves praise.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:20 PM on December 2, 2011


Why do you care whether or not she told him he sucked?

Because she "lied" to her friends about it?

I have a way, with friends, of telling "tall tales," and it's more just a goof than a thing said in the expectation that it would be believed. This struck me as a tall tale.

But even if she DID lie, it has no bearing on her moral standing vis a vis the offending tweet. The principal's and governor's reactions are not more excusable because she lied.

I think it was lowdown and reflective of a deeply impaired sense of decency that the principal would call attention to her "lie." Filthy bastard.
posted by jayder at 9:59 AM on December 3, 2011


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