Kansas teen makes her point

November 30, 2011


Let’s talk about the smallness first.

Yes, the bullying is troubling, the thin-skinned aversion to criticism vexing. But in the end, it is the piddling, picayune pettiness, the sheer, Lilliputian smallness of the behavior that I can’t quite get past.

We are talking about Emma Sullivan’s tweet — and the governor’s response. For those who haven’t heard, it seems Sullivan, an 18-year-old senior at a high school just south of Kansas City, Kan., was listening to Gov. Sam Brownback speak last week at a “Youth in Government” program in Topeka. Sullivan, no fan of the governor, sent the following tweet to her Twitter followers, who numbered perhaps 60: “Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person heblowsalot.”

She had not in fact met Brownback, much less said mean things to him. It was a joke, spelled j-o-k-e, among friends and it would have come and gone in her normal run of tweets about Justin Bieber and the “Twilight” movies, except the governor’s office happened upon it while patrolling the ‘Net for mentions of his name. Next thing you know, a Brownback aide contacts Youth in Government, which contacts Sullivan’s principal. Rather than defending her right to free expression and telling both Youth in Government and the governor’s office to take a flying leap, the principal calls Sullivan to his office and berates her for “embarrassing” the school. He orders her to apologize.

Sullivan has refused. On Monday she was vindicated, as Brownback apologized to her, saying his staff “overreacted.” Geez, ya think? It is astonishing that an aide to the state’s highest official would have the time or the interest necessary to monitor — and seek to punish — what is said about him by a teenager to an audience of fewer than 100 people. Apparently, Kansas is a paradise where all the serious problems have been solved.

This episode seems par for the Zeitgeist, an era wherein our politics frequently feel shrunken and faintly absurd and elected officials often seem more concerned about manipulating and controlling the perception of their leadership than with providing leadership. Think Florida Gov. Rick Scott, making up a form letter for his supporters to send to newspaper editors praising his bang-up stewardship of a banged-up state. Think Mike Winder, a small town mayor in Utah who posed as a so-called “citizen journalist” and anonymously wrote articles quoting himself. Think President George W. Bush, whose administration paid newspaper columnists to write favorably about his policies.

It is not just the smallness, the ethical poverty of those tactics, that stands out. One is also taken by the contempt they suggest for the intelligence of the American electorate.

The nation’s symbol is, as you know, the bald eagle, prized for its fierceness and proud bearing. But if we are what some politicians seem to think we are, perhaps that symbol ought instead to be the cow, a docile beast, easily herded. I repeat: if.

Emma Sullivan, for one, is not yet bovine. And she did not “embarrass” her school; her principal did. No, her only “sin” was that she expressed an opinion, albeit rudely. She refused to be herded. She got out of line.

Good for her. That’s what Americans do.

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. His email is lpitts@miamiherald.com.


Maddy Griffin 6 years, 5 months ago

Great piece Leonard! Emma, looks like you've made the "Big Time".We'll know for sure when they spoof you on SNL.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

I get your point.

But, there are some important distinctions to be made here. First, she tweeted her friends - when you tweet your friends, feel free to use whatever language you like and insult anybody you like.

Next, she insulted a governor, who is a public elected official - as such, they should expect to deal with such things, and in fact the libel/slander laws are looser for them, reflecting that fact. Feel free to insult public elected officials, especially in tweets to your friends.

Finally, neither of these involves the kind of personal insults that flow on here, from both sides - I say that these should stop, from both (all) sides, and are quite different from the above two examples.

If you use them to justify personal attacks and insults on here, I think that's a mistake, and a bad idea. And, if you were a flaming liberal, I'd say the same thing.

Please don't get the idea that I think her tweet was anything other than immature and dopey, by the way. It's just that immature and dopey speech regarding politics is almost certainly protected under the 1st amendment.

beatrice 6 years, 5 months ago

"I never want to reminded by the left again about the importance of mutual respect and civil dialogue---ever."

So don't come back then -- ever.

Armstrong 6 years, 5 months ago

From the party of tollerance and understanding, nice

overthemoon 6 years, 5 months ago

Too bad your whole world view is divided up into left and right. You're missing a whole lot of other dimensions that would give you insight and lead to a much deeper level of thinking.

mom_of_three 6 years, 5 months ago

Because anyone with conservative views from the right are all peaches and cream? uh, huh, sure.

tolawdjk 6 years, 5 months ago

"Don't wish to banter, but you or any other leftist forum member (most of the forum) saying that to me is incredulous. In fact, this forum is a refuge for vitriolic, hateful left-wing and right-wing zealots."

There. Fixed it for you.

bklonnie 6 years, 5 months ago

You've got some serious issues there, buddy. It's your attitude and hatred that's continuing the great divide that's going on in this country. Pretty sad.

beatrice 6 years, 5 months ago

"In fact, this forum is a refuge for vitriolic, hateful left-wing zealots."

Is this why you can't stay away? Certainly you can find some forum full of hateful right-wing zealots who would welcome your comments. Try them out for a change.

asixbury 6 years, 5 months ago

The hateful language comes from both sides....you for example are bitching just to be bitching. Needless comments from a very bitter person. I'm not a leftist, either. I'm not apart of the right-wing. I am just me....so, I guess I can tell you then that you are riduculous.

woodscolt 6 years, 5 months ago

Incredulous that two out of the first four posts are of the vitrolic, and hatefull nature.

woodscolt 6 years, 5 months ago

Pitts' understanding of this situation goes lock and step with the majority of Americans. I can't imagine that I could be standing in front of Brownback lecturing me and not have had exactly the same thoughts Emma did and be repulsed by him enough to acknowledge it to my friends. I think her choice of words showed some constraint. Far stronger language could have been warranted by Brownback lecture. Pitt makes a good point. Brownback, did you think your audience was bovine.(or is it just you that is bovine) Do you think Kansas is Bovine. Sure, your supporters are but there is the rest of the country,(world) that isn't.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

Well, not so fast.

If she had such distaste for the governor, she certainly didn't have to go on this trip at all.

And, her tweet was dopey, immature, and lacking in any sort of actual content.

Name-calling is not a good substitute for substantive discussion and debate.

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 5 months ago

"...dopey, immature, and lacking in any sort of actual content." Sounds perfectly high-schoolish to me.

woodscolt 6 years, 5 months ago

She probably didn't have to go to the event...., I doubt you or I know that, but she did and she reacted to it. Her tweet was intended to an "audience" consisting of her friends and she had no idea Brownback would blow it out of that context. Who could have known that? Had she known that she might have made a much more involved statement. If I am at a gathering consisting of my friends my comments might be different than they would if I were speaking in public to thousands of people. Have you ever used sarcasm behind closed doors.

"Name-calling is not a good substitute for substantive discussion and debate." I think that is a pretty safe comment albeit out of context with respect to this situation. Also, keep in mind that name calling and a factual description may not be the same.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

She absolutely didn't have to go - in fact, some have commented that she had to "earn" the right to go on the trip. So, if she didn't want to stand and listen to Brownback "lecture" her, all she had to do was not go at all.

I agree with your comments about the intended audience.

It's not out of context - many are praising this as some sort of great exercise of free speech - while it may be an exercise of that, it is sorely lacking in any content, or ideas to discuss/debate.

bad_dog 6 years, 5 months ago

jafs, while I concur with your sentiments regarding the configuration of her comments and while the timing was not respectful to the speaker, the entity she was involved in is entitled "Youth in Government". not "Youth in Lockstep with Governor B." We also don't know whether her attendance was required as a member of this group. Nevertheless, she has the right to dissent. She just could have done it in a more appropriate manner and after the meeting concluded.

Just my perspective...

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

Of course.

I think the governor was wrong, and so was the principal.

I just don't think that makes her comments praiseworthy or filled with brilliant content.

verity 6 years, 5 months ago

Jafs, I don't believe anybody is trying to say that "her comments [were] praiseworthy or filled with brilliant content." That is all beside the point. What kind of comments have you made when with friends? I have certainly said things about Brownback when with friends that are a lot worse than what Ms Sullivan tweeted and I don't have the excuse of being a teenager. Not trying to be brilliant, just p!$$$& as h#!! about what the governor is doing.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

It's not besides the point for me, if I'm evaluating the whole situation.

Brownback et al are wrong for their reaction to her tweet.

At the same time, her tweet doesn't reflect anything that great about her either.

I'd have been much more pleased with her if she had engaged in some substantive discussion/debate about his policies/actions, challenged him on some of his hypocrisy, etc.

If you're angry about what he's doing, I suggest you do the same, and participate in the political process - if you're so inclined you can try to get voters more involved so we have a higher turnout, etc.

Another idea is that one can register as a Republican and vote in Republican primaries - if a more moderate R runs against him (Praeger), perhaps they can get the nomination. She'd be an improvement over him in my estimation.

Name calling and insults are much too prevalent in our society today, in my view, and serve no positive purpose, but rather degrade and lower the quality of conversations, especially political ones.

You need look no further than this forum to see that.

woodscolt 6 years, 5 months ago

I don't think there is any substance to trying to make a case for her choosing to go or not go. For a high school student, I think the process of going to the event and getting away from the routine of class is likely why she went. For her to comment to her friends as to the content of the trip is perfectly normal and acceptable. No one attending this event is responsible for Brownbacks actions and for them to comment on them is fair game.

To keep trying turn her comment into some kind of issue about civil discourse is misplaced.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

You commented that if you had to stand there and listen to Brownback lecturing, you'd have the same response. If you (or she) don't want to go hear Brownback lecture, don't go. It's pretty simple.

I agree the governor, and principal were wrong, and have said as much.

I just don't think we have to ignore the fact that her tweet was immature, dopey, and lacking in content.

If you think this sort of insulting nonsense is "perfectly normal and acceptable", I have to disagree. It's a sign of the failure of our society that insults and content-free name-calling are what pass for political discussion and debate.

I can comment on this in whatever fashion I like, by the way - that's an exercise of my free speech.

bad_dog 6 years, 5 months ago

Not to nitpick, but her tweet didn't lack "content". Whether it was appropriate content given the time and place is fair game for discussion but there was certainly content found offensive by some, else why the response from Gov. B's entourage?

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

Well, I consider name-calling and insults like this to lack content, regardless of who does it.

What conversation can ensue from "you blow and suck a lot"? What particular ideas are you presenting for debate/discussion?

woodscolt 6 years, 5 months ago

"I can comment on this in whatever fashion I like, by the way - that's an exercise of my free speech."

Right jafs, and so can emma, only you see it differently when it is her free speech were debating.

By the way, I haven't and have no plans on attending a Brownback lecture. However, your notion that if you disagree with the governor you should not go see him lecture is pretty flawed. I do listen to people I disagree with because without out that how could we have this "civil discourse" you keep hitching your anchor to.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

I have already said the governor and principal were wrong - how many times do I have to say that before you hear it? Yes, insulting and name calling of political figures is protected 1st amendment speech.

I never said she didn't have the "right" to do that - I have simply said that it was immature, dopey, and lacking in any content to do so.

Again, I never said if you disagree with him you shouldn't go see him lecture - I said that if you couldn't stand to do so without insulting him, you could simply not go.

What are we arguing about? Do you really think her behavior was flawless/impeccable and praiseworthy?

woodscolt 6 years, 5 months ago

"Do you really think her behavior was flawless/impeccable and praiseworthy? jafs

I think it was appropriate for what and whom (and from) it was intended for.

Take it away from that and try to make it appropriate for the masses and or a model for public discourse, no.

I have experience teaching secondary education and have had a lot of experience dealing with teenagers and I certainly wouldn't sink emmas boat over this. She no doubt has learned a lot from this ordeal and it will be up to her and her family, friends, and teachers to sort that out . I think it would be unreasonable to expect her to second guess everything she says before she says it based on this experience. When publishing your thoughts on the likes of twitter or facebook or even emails, a person should at least be cognitive of how far reaching those comments could become. However, that is a lesson for all who use social networking sites. The jury is still out on where that is going to go.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

Well, we'll see what she does or doesn't learn from it.

So far, any who have criticized her have been vigorously and forcefully opposed, as you have done.

Her parents have supported her publicly, without any hint that they find anything to criticize her for.

I think everybody should in fact be aware of how social media works, as well as the internet, and be mindful of that.

Who ever said anything about "sinking her boat"? I have simply said that I find her behavior immature and dopey, and I'd expect better from an 18 year old.

But, I realize that I am fighting what is almost certainly a losing battle, and that our society has become so uncivil and lacking in courtesy that this sort of thing is commonplace, and many find it acceptable.

woodscolt 6 years, 5 months ago

Jafs says "......... - I have simply said that it was immature, dopey, and lacking in any content to do so........" referring to Emma.

I think you should check this out to get a perspective on what is really immature, dopey and lacking of content. Oh go ahead and throw in vitriol and hateful and childish. This behavior is what you seem to be trying to hang on Emma. These people would agree with you.


jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

That behavior is bad as well.

But it's the same sort of thing that she did - how can you defend her and criticize them?

Once you open the door to name-calling and insults, that all comes in.

How is "he sucks and blows a lot" any different than "she's a whore"?

coloradoan 6 years, 5 months ago

You're judging this as if the only purpose of the trip was to hear Brownback speak. If I understand correctly this was a field trip to the Capitol, and would have involved more than just the Gov. speaking. So, even if she did not want to hear the Gov. speak, the other aspects may have made it worthwhile to attend.

Also, it is not unusual for officials to tentatively plan to attend, but with no guarantee of that. So the fact he was able to fit that in may not have been expected.

Anyway, all she needs for an example of name-calling and immature discourse is to read some of these blogs. Good grief.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

Good point - I hadn't thought of that.

Yes, and I've consistently tried to encourage people to act better on here, and refrain from insults, name-calling, etc.

Unfortunately, I've only had a very limited success in that endeavor.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 5 months ago

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.... this is over; watch what Muscular Sam does, not what he says or whom his minions monitor. There was a cute letter in the KC Star a day or two ago. Writer pointed out if someone is compiling all the negative comments about the Gov, they must be working very long hours.

midwestmom 6 years, 5 months ago

You made me smile long hours indeed!!!

imastinker 6 years, 5 months ago

I'm surprised she's allowed to be tweeting when she's supposed to be learning in school. What's up with that?

Also, it wasn't a joke, it was a LIE. Don't make it into something it's not. I agree with all your other points, but let's not make stuff up to make the story sound better. She lied about what she did, or in this case; didn't do.

woodscolt 6 years, 5 months ago

"Also, it wasn't a joke, it was a LIE." stinker says, The brownback backers are left so without a leg to stand on to be able to defend this indefensible action by the guv that they have to grasp at lies like your comment. You have to falsely convert the issue to being about a teenager lying and not the abysmal behavior of your guy, which is factual. This teen commented to her friends and was being sarcastic in her comment. She and the intended audience understood her as just that. Brownbacks dispicable behavior brought the comment out of that context.

I understand you have nothing to go on so make it into " well, that darn teenager lied, sammy is ok. BS

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

It's only in the rather distasteful world of partisan politics that one has to make an either-or choice like that.

Outside of that world, one can conclude that the tweet was dopey, immature, lacking in content, insulting, and deceitful (or a joke), and that the governor, principal etc. are also wrong here.

woodscolt 6 years, 5 months ago

I think it is only a choice if a person tries to make it into something that it wasn't. They are then able to create a choice they prefer for their reasons. I stated it exactly as it was meant, you and other posters want to make it into something it wasn't. This girls comment can only be turned into a "lie" when it is taken out of the context she intended. In her context, as it was meant, her audience understood it for what it was. Brownbacks immature reaction to the comment grew it into an unintended and out of context comment that brownback supporters are all to willing to choose. Why? They can't come out on top debating the governors indefensible behavior. Did a teenager make a derogatory comment representing her assessment of Brownback.? yes, she did. People edit text messages as well as tweets in order to make them faster to read (and type). Often to accomplish this, you have to get as much out of the few words you have. That means exaggerating your position. This girl did just that. She got her point across to her audience.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago


It was still dopey, immature, and lacking in any meaningful ideas.

You're the one making it into a partisan thing, by concluding that anybody who criticizes the girl is some sort of Brownback supporter.

I reject those sorts of choices - the girl was dopey, and Brownback (or his staff), and the principal were wrong to react the way they did.

woodscolt 6 years, 5 months ago

The girl is a teenager. She probably could have a pretty good and civil discussion with you or anyone about Brownback if she had the opprortunity. She is being judged by one "taken very out of context" comment.

I am all for civil discourse but this forum as well as todays political arena will likely provide the environment for such discussions. The supreme courts disastrous "citizens united" decision has pretty much guaranteed that. If you want to debate something that has pretty much solidified the death of civil discourse, you might go there . I think it had more to do about the death of civil discourse in politics than Emma. It brings to mind the poster that one protester was holding that claimed they would believe a corporation is a person when Texas executes one of them. Good day jafs.

woodscolt 6 years, 5 months ago

...."not provide the enviroment"..... that is

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

Not knowing her, I have no idea what sort of conversations she has with other people.

Yes, this is one comment, and my criticism of it is based on one comment, and that's all I know about her conversational skills/approach.

I don't blame her for the death of civil discourse, but I think this sort of behavior is an example of it, as are many of the comments on this forum, and elsewhere.

I'm not sure what your reference to CU has to do with this topic - that has to do with corporate spending on political advertising, not with civil discourse in politics. I don't agree that because of that decision, we now all have to engage in insulting/petty behavior - we all have the freedom to choose how we speak.

woodscolt 6 years, 5 months ago

It has everything to do with this topic. Among other tragedies it allows for big, undisclosed contributions to political campaigns and therefore political attack adds. Adds that are anything but truth challenged. The type of adds Karl Rove is famous for. Now they can be made with little or no transparency. It will cause and escalation in political attack adds and followed with fighting fire with fire and more attack adds financed anonymously. It gives the likes of the Koch Brothers and their ilk unlimited and undisclosed power to promote political discourse and lies. Used to be a politician had to state whether they approve of a commercial and now they can just have their favorite corporate provider obfuscate that . Disclosure of who sponsored the add will be a guarded secret. Think how many posters here would post differently if they couldn't do it anonymously.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

I generally agree that CU is a bad decision, for a number of reasons, and will have negative consequences for us.

And, yet, as free human beings, we still can all choose how we discuss things - we can insult and demean each other, or we can refrain from that.

Also, there are a number of organizations that monitor political speech, and "fact check" it, so anybody that's interested should be able to get some truthful information about political ads.

woodscolt 6 years, 5 months ago

Thats not my point. The fact that political attack adds are now able to be made without transparency will only fuel forums like this with their vitriol. Those who choose to fact check will and those who choose to run with the vitriol will. I think you can probably discern where the people on this forum will fall.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

Then those who make that choice are responsible for it.

Just as Emma is.

By the way, it's not at all certain that there won't be some transparency required - I think they're still working on that.

The world is unsatisfactory in a variety of ways, and yet we are all responsible for our own choices, and how we interact with it.

xclusive85 6 years, 5 months ago

While I agree she has the right to say/tweet whatever she chooses and the situation got out of hand, Emma lied! Her whole tweet was a lie except for possibly the heblowsalot part of it. She could have made her point and a similar joke without the lie.

mom_of_three 6 years, 5 months ago

She was joking with her friends....and jokes are not necessarily entirely truthful, are they??

Next time Brownback hosts any high schoolers (or any age), there will be a no phones policy, I bet.

tolawdjk 6 years, 5 months ago

So there I was, sitting at the bar, when two pigs and a duck walked in....

Oh wait. i was never sitting at the bar and two pigs and a duck never walked in. damn. I was going to tella joke, but since it's a lie, I can't.

She's not George Washington and it wasn't a cherry tree.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 5 months ago

"She's not George Washington and it wasn't a cherry tree." A story that was a lie in and of itself, made up by Parson Weems.

tolawdjk 6 years, 5 months ago

Have to wonder what your position would have been if it was the CEO of Ford and she was attending a private school? Would her behavior have been as laudable or would it have been verbotin?

beatrice 6 years, 5 months ago

Teachers grade students on their performance. The public, on the other hand, grade elected officials. Finals can be equated with elections. Obviously, the Governor does not receive a passing grade thus far from Sullivan. Do you not see the difference between teachers and elected officials?

verity 6 years, 5 months ago

Exactly. And the fact that the principal apparently folded to whatever pressure was laid on him is indeed scary.

Standing up for yourself when only you have something to lose is one thing, but knowing that standing up to a bully could have statewide repercussions on education in Kansas is an entirely different thing.

Fear is the way bullies get there way and it sounds like the Brownback administration has been using that to stifle dissent.

jayhawklawrence 6 years, 5 months ago

I am one of those who believe we need to investigate our politicians and their activities in government and make government transparent again. Brownback would be high on my list.

Our country has been taken over by special interests, lobbyists and money. What is most disturbing is the sophistication of some of these corporate funded political front groups and how they are now literally directing the activities and votes in our legislative bodies.

If you are a person who is committed to a right wing or a left wing group it simply means, in my view, that you have lost the ability to think for yourself and you are just a pawn of these groups who specialize in creating propaganda.

Most Americans hope for leaders with experience, knowledge and character who view public service as a noble profession. We hope for leaders who see the value in self sacrifice and living for the sake of others.

For the kind of politicians we are used to seeing of late, these are foolish notions.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 5 months ago

This entire thing was a tempest in a teapot created by, not Emma Sullivan, a teenager bumping along with her life and looking forward to the Winter Formal, Prom and graduation, but by Sam Brownback. (Even if he didn't personally make the complaint, his staffer did and he must take responsibility for it. ) By all means it was petty. The comment was petty and the response was petty. Thing is, if you have ever lived with a teenager, you expect petty things out of teenagers. It's being an adolescent. You don't expect a governor's office to respond in kind. Brownback's "apology" was flat out damage control. It wasn't until the furor reached international levels in London and Berlin that he decided to even say something about it. I really think he was hoping it would just die down and go away. He didn't even apologize to Emma. (In fact I don't think he even mentioned her by name in his "apology".) He apologized to his constituents and the media for the furor that was created but not for the actions that created it. (In other words it was a "politician's apology"; about as fake and insincere as it gets.) Poor BB. His last poll numbers were sitting at 40%. This ain't gonna help.

Linda Endicott 6 years, 5 months ago

I'm surprised that the poll numbers are that high...

Paul R Getto 6 years, 5 months ago

Autie. Leave Nancy Boy alone. He has to pack his lunch and get to work.

riverdrifter 6 years, 5 months ago

As I previously stated elsewhere, a high school girl pinned a clown suit on our guvner and it fits him perfectly. Even the staunch Republicans I know are finished with Mr. Brownback. Passed on a good buck this morning -just not good enough for the first hunt of the season. I got an hour-long yappy tongue lashing at a distance from 2 coyotes who resented me being on their turf.

Deb Stavin 6 years, 5 months ago

Don't worry, riverdrifter: those coyotes were lying! :-)

beatrice 6 years, 5 months ago

imastinker: "Also, it wasn't a joke, it was a LIE." xlusive85: "Emma lied!"

I guess next thing people will be saying is that a rabbi, an aligator and two penguins really didn't walk into a bar.

Jokes rarely are based on actual occurrences. Her tweet was a joke, since she obviously didn't say anything to the Governor's face.

beatrice 6 years, 5 months ago

Oops, I missed tolawdjk's 8:43 response. Basically said the same thing.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

There are many on both sides of the aisle who engage in double standards all of the time.

It's a bad practice, and all of them should stop.

Armored_One 6 years, 5 months ago

At what point does a joke stop being a joke? Usually it requires being elected as governor of Kansas, but I digress.

Nobody balked at the thought of suspending the freedom of speech for Phelps, but the perceived infringement of an 18 year old high school student's speech has you reaching for pitchforks and torches. Not a single person would have bat an eyelash if SCOTUS had ruled against Phelps instead of in their favor.

Rights are for everybody, not just the ones that you happen to either agree with or feel sympathy for. Honestly, laws were passed that targetted Phelps' actions directly, but I heard no chants for politicians to be recalled. One fool on a fool's relations board jerks the chain a little bit and the howls for blood and vengence almost shake the leaves off the trees.

You should all be ashamed. Proclaiming to uphold rights and liberties and int he same breath congratulating law makers for restricting those same rights and liberties for people you don't like.

Personally, I'd like to turn Phelps and everyone in his clan that can't breathe without methane into a popcicle and the stick would be their nasty damned signs. As American citizens, though, I'd much rather they be allowed to be vile, vulgar and hateful than to delegate them into some second class limbo where their rights aren't as important.

I hold the same opinion for the KKK, Black Panthers, and every other organization, clan or group that does not hold a meek, centristic opinion that they keep to themselves. Do Iike the hatred or bigotry in their messages? Not one syllable's worth. Do I want them to have less rights than I do?


Armored_One 6 years, 5 months ago

I specified no direct names, or since this is the Internet, no screen names, Liberty.

If you took offense, maybe you just wanted to be offended. But not even you, in your arrogant stance of supposed superiority, can deny that the vast majority of posters were very much in favor of suppressing Phelps.

Here, have another cookie and have a nice day.

Armored_One 6 years, 5 months ago

Done with your cookie already? Be careful. You might end up with a tummy ache.

As to the rest... shrug

Your opinion has been noted. Please have a nice day.

coloradoan 6 years, 5 months ago

AO - I think you're missing the point. Emma's tweet was not even sent TO the Governor, but to friends, and most of us say things to friends in a manner different from how we might state them in a public hearing, for instance. But even if she did say it to his face, he is a public official, elected to office by and representing the citizens of Kansas. Any statement made by citizens regarding policies, short of threats and outrageous defamation, are protected speech. That is one of the very types of political speech protected by the First Amendment.

The Phelps' actions differ, as I see it, in that while they may be addressing issues of public policy, they are targeting private citizens for obscene and harassing picketing and noise. If the same behavior was specifically and only targeted at elected officials on public property, so be it. It is the targeting of persons not elected, nor seeking election to public office or otherwise qualifying as public officials that makes the actions so unacceptabel, and as I see it outside the protections of the First Amendment, at least the unqualified protections.

Armored_One 6 years, 5 months ago

Does an elected official lose their 'status' as a private citizen once they are elected, though?

They are still allowed to have unlisted number, unpublished e-mail addresses, so on and so forth. If they are allowed the protection accorded to a private citizen, then they must, in fact, still be a private citizen.

It's their job performance, for lack of a better descriptive, that comes under public scrutiny, as well as the comments and actions that they make while executing that position. We certainly don't persecute the jerkoff at McDonald's that got our hamburger wrong three hours after they get off shift, do we? No we take our complaint to the manager, who in turns utilized the trickle down theory and returns the favor to the employee that screwed the proverbial pooch.

Were Brownback not the governor, would any of you care what his views on marriage were? Perhaps how he thought SRS needed to be organized and who he thinks should be in charge of that process?

He came into this job with at least a broad overview in his mind as to what he wanted to change and what he didn't want to change.

As to why any of this pertains to the topic of Phelps, it is very simple. While he did not run for governor, Phelps came close to becoming mayor of Topeka a number of years back, and maintained the same political stance then that he has now. Thankfully, the homophobic crowd is neither as vocal nor as massive as it once was, so there is an ever diminishing chance of that ever happening.

His stance, while based in religion, is still a political stance as well, thus making it as protected as any other call for political reform. His methods are beyond vile, but it is still political in nature.

I don't personally think her 'Tweet' was political in nature at all. It was, first and foremost, a lie. If your child looked at you and told you that they did something like that, not through the Internet, but in person, and then discovered that the child did not make such a statement to the someone, would you punish them for lying, or would you praise them for using their First Amendment rights?

If you lied to your boss there would be problems, just as there would be if you lied to your significant other. Her lie was directed at Brownback. Why should she not be required to apologize for it? An apology letter, in the scope of the universe, is miniscule when compared to the ending of a relationship or the losing of a job.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

It wasn't "directed" at Brownback, it was directed at her friends.

And, in fact, public officials can't sue for slander, libel, defamation, etc. in the same way that regular folks can - the standards are looser.

It's part of the package if you run for public office.

By the way, just because something is a lie doesn't mean it's not "political" speech - haven't you been paying attention? Many people lie about politics these days.

Do you have the same standards for all of those, including politicians who regularly lie and spin? That they should be "required" to apologize?

Your analogy is also off in the last paragraph - she didn't "lie" to Brownback. Perhaps if she had tweeted something about her significant other, or boss, who was monitoring her communications, it would be accurate.

Doesn't it raise some interesting questions about social media, privacy, and the correct scope of government monitoring to you?

Armored_One 6 years, 5 months ago

Considering Hoover was monitoring people long before the people that created the Internet were born, no, it doesn't overly phase me.

How many parents rifle through their child's belongings, only on a hunch that the child might be doing something wrong? Is that any less illegal in terms of illegal search and seizure? Or does that only apply to legal proceedings? Does a grounding, imposed by a parent acting as judge jury and prosecutor all at once, not violate those concepts? Or is it the fact that they are parents, charged with the safety of their charges, even if it is against their will, that supercedes the entire affair?

If I was to sit on a park bench, sharing a conversation with someone, would that coversation be private or public? I contend that it would be a public conversation, due to the fact that there is little no chance of directed privacy due to people walking past while one person or the other was speaking. The same issue applies to social media.

As the popular phrase goes, once something is on the Internet, you can't delete it. It is there permanently, and as such, should be fair game, so to speak, for anyone and everyone to use as is seen fit within the scope of the law. Cheating spouses have been caught via social media. Murder victims have been lured via social media. Are you going to sit down and say that the government is not allowed to look on the Internet?

weeslicket 6 years, 5 months ago

i could only read some of the commentary. mostly, i'm just glad all this brou-ha-ha will come to its tired expiration. also, i am glad governor brownback made his apology.

and off to work tomorrow we all go.

begin60 6 years, 5 months ago

I have met nothing but ethical poverty in KS, so Brownback must just be the leader-in-chief of this trend. What kind of brainiacs insist to be recognized as helpful when they are obviously only succeeding in terrorizing strangers? How can you be so thick not to realize strangers might not welcome you messing with them? That Kansans for you--- programmed to a tee to ignore commonsense decency.

bearded_gnome 6 years, 5 months ago

her lying (not a j-o-k-e) and saying that she had said something to Gov. Brownback, saying he sucks or blows (apparently not at the same time, lol) does not represent her school well at all and does not take any wisdom, insight, or courage.

in fact, pittsie, what the heck point was she making anyway?
we know that other left wackies have threatened the principal's life.
her tweet and the threats against her principal illustrate the acutely uncivil left in our country.

yes, the same people who presume to lecture us conservatives and real americans about civility. lol.

uncivil left in action: where'd she learn that language; and more to the point , where'd she learn that 'tude? home, of course! from left wackie parents.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

And where did you learn your uncivil language and attitude?

purplesage 6 years, 5 months ago

The insolent teen got caught being rude and disrespectful. I support the principal. He's right; it is an embarassment. Freedom of speech is one thing; respect - for the office and the individual who holds it - whether you agree with that person or not - is something quite different.

By the way - how do you suppose it would have been received if instead of Gov. Brownback the subject of the rude commentary had been President Obama? And, what if she had crossed the line and made a racial slur or insinuation? No one, including Leonard Pitts, would be coming to her defense, nor should they.

People are making this something it is not. The question is not the Constitution or free speech. We need to teach young people respect. That's all.

jafs 6 years, 5 months ago

That's not all, by any means.

I agree that she was rude, but that's not the whole story.

Please feel free to point out examples of president Obama monitoring social media and acting in a similar fashion.

The ACLU is against "hate speech" regulations, so they would have come to her defense for a racial slur.

Respect is one thing, and important, but freedom is also important.

Armored_One 6 years, 5 months ago

There's a freedom to lie? Wish I had known about that back when I was a teenager. I could have gotten out of a lot of trouble by simply invoking my Freedom to Lie rights.

Do you think she should be punished at all for lying?

If so, who do you think should be in charge of said punishment? What should that punishment entail? Should it be an ongoing punishment (I.E. suspension, in or out of school) or a singular event (I.E. writing a letter of apology)?

Do you have kids, and if so, do you allow them to lie, just to amuse their friends?

What is to stop this bimbette from lying later down the road, now that it has been firmly established that the Constitution can and will absolve you of your indiscretions, namely lying?

This was a BAD example to set, period. I have no sympathy for this child or the furor that came down on her head for it. She gave no thought at all to the outcome of her lying, although I will give her the allowance of not anticipating the governor's office monitoring social media to get a grasp on the current mentality concerning his continued efforts as governor.

Granted, I don't really fault him there, either. While this was NOT handled efficiently, his office was checking to see what the current mood of the voter's is.

Isn't that kind of what a politician should be doing? That he is not using this information that he is gathering to the best of his ability is obvious, but at least he is paying attention, even if it is only in passing.

I leave you, the readers, to ignite your flamethrowers and fill your buckets of napalm. Goddess forbid that I should sit down and actually try to fathom why someone would do something, rather than just reach for the nearest stone and chuck it, vaguely, towards Topeka.

We don't have a lack of morals in this country.

We have a lack of stop and think.

Oldsoul 6 years, 5 months ago

Can't believe the Ethics Professors on KCUR the other day said that not having to apologize was a Pyrrhic victory for this teen.

Armored_One 6 years, 5 months ago

The word 'victory' and this whole nonsense really don't belong in the same conversation, let alone the same sentence, but I suppose that is just my way of looking at it.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.