Twitter, Politics, and Blowing A Lot


So here’s an interesting question. If your teenager tweeted that the governor of your state “blows a lot”, what would you do?

For me, it would depend entirely on who the governor was and if  he or she really did blow a lot. For example, I would take real exception to a teen saying NY Governor Andrew Cuomo blows a lot because I think his engineering of the passage of same-sex marriage legalization was masterful and a real step in the right direction for greater equality in this nation. He totally doesn’t blow a lot. But if we were talking about Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas who’s an ardent anti-choicer and who, as a Senator, frequently voted against increases to medical research funding despite being vocally in favor of better research for cancer, well, yeah I would agree that he blows a lot.

Now, should a teenager who just met Governor Brownback on a school trip be tweeting her derision about him in real time? This is a question that arose this week when a teenager met Governor Brownback on a school trip and tweeted that he blows a lot right afterwards. My feeling is that if she wasn’t breaking any rules set by her school or parents about social media use, then she’s within her rights. The governor’s staff, however, found the tweet and got upset and told her school principal about it. The principal at first tried to get the girl to write an apology but she refused. The school later backed off on that, shortly after the Governor responded to his staff’s thin-skinned reaction by saying “Dude. It’s Twitter. She’s a teenager. Get over it.”

Which is the least blow-y thing I’ve ever heard of Sam Brownback doing and I’m glad that he did it. I’m sure he’s since then resumed his busy gubernatorial schedule of blowing a lot by cutting funding for education or attacking women’s access to healthcare or something.

The question of rules for kids relating to social media, school, and free speech is so complicated that I’m considering never teaching my son to read. It’s something that parents and schools are going to have to figure out as we go. And I’m probably going to have to figure out how to cover my own social media tracks so my son doesn’t follow my bizarre online example of being a wiseass until he’s smart enough to know where the lines are and what the consequences of crossing them are.

But I don’t think this girl in Kansas crossed any lines. There don’t seem to be any policies from her school or her mom and dad about what she’s allowed to tweet. And – and this is very important – she is 18. That makes her an adult who is entitled to all the rights of the Constitution including the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. There is no caveat on the First Amendment that says one cannot express grievances against the government using hashtags like “#heblowsalot”. In fact, I’m pretty sure Ben Franklin would have made liberal use of such hashtags if he were alive in the age of Twitter. For any government entity, even a misguided staffer monitoring online activity related to the Governor, to suggest that a citizen, an adult, and potentially a registered voter should apologize about her opinion about an elected official, well, that is actually and truly unAmerican. It doesn’t matter how crude or inarticulate her opinion is, it’s protected speech.

And that? Doesn’t blow a lot.

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9 comments for “Twitter, Politics, and Blowing A Lot

  1. November 30, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    I don’t see the issue. She’s 18 and didn’t break any rules. Maybe if the governor didn’t blow, she wouldn’t have had to call him out on it….

  2. Laura
    November 30, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    I’d love to see more kids like her. She’s aware of what’s going on in her state, and isn’t afraid to stand up and speak up.

  3. Amy
    November 30, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    I actually think the Govenor redeemed himslef for a minute by not making a big deal of it. We are all allowed to voice our opinons…I think Gov Kasich blows but that is because he is a douche. The guy admitted that he doesn’t read Ohio newspapers and he is govenor of Ohio.

  4. SherryH
    December 1, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Good on her for having a strong, (hopefully) informed opinion. And also for not backing down on her right to free speech when her school demanded she write an apology. I remember reading an article (can’t remember where, though, sorry…) that she said she’d be glad to sit down and talk with the governor – but she didn’t think they’d find much common ground, politically.

    Good on Gov. Brownback for waving it off as “she’s allowed to have an opinion” and apologizing for his staff’s overreaction.

    And my mind is now blown, imagining Ben Franklin with access to blogging and Twitter. I daresay he’d have used them to best advantage, and prolifically.

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