The Governor vs The Teenager
This week, a local news story (something that rarely happens here in Hooterville) has gotten the attention of the national media and it’s a good one. But first a little background on the players…
Kansas Governor, Sam Brownback
is quite the charming character (end sarcasm). He supports building a fence between the United States and Mexico (because Kansas, being a border state has a huge problem with Mexicans), wants a two-year limit on welfare that would result in the starvation of thousands of children in his state (gotta get those mooching kids off the gub’mint tit), thinks Intelligent Design should be taught in schools (because that pesky science is interfering with his personal Fundamentalist Christian dogma), has gutted a woman’s right to access for safe and constitutionally legal abortions (a lofty position from someone who will never face an unwanted pregnancy) and blocked the nomination of a Federal judge – not because she was gay, but because she had attended a same-sex commitment ceremony (yes, he’s a homophobe). Getting the picture? Enter one 18-year old perky blonde, Emma Sullivan…
Kansas Youth in Government sponsors events for high school students interested in politics and government. Ms. Sullivan was in attendance at one such function where Governor Brownback was a featured speaker. Now, Emma Sullivan, based on the e-mails we’ve shot back and forth, appears to be a bright, level-headed, socially conscious young lady, not prone to disrespect. She has a Twitter account where she had 65 followers. Pay attention kids because that number is relevant. While listening to Governor Brownback bloviate during this event, Ms. Sullivan availed herself of her constitutionally protected right to free speech and tweeted the following:
Now, this young lady didn’t stand on the steps of the Capitol building in Topeka and shout this, she didn’t blog it, she didn’t say it out loud – she Tweeted it to 65 of her friends, presumably, most of them other teenage friends. Enter Governor Brownback’s staffers. Apparently, they regularly monitor social media, culling anything that bears the esteemed Governor’s name and came across this Tweet. Being a public figure, one would think the Governor’s staffers would have seen Ms. Sullivan only had 65 Twitter followers (the Governor has around 3,000), and shrugged it off. But no, oh no, that’s not what they did at all. The Governor’s staffers contacted Kansas Youth in Government to complain about Ms. Sullivan’s perceived blatant display of disrespect toward the Governor and wanted something done about it. And done something was…
Our good friends at the Kansas Youth in Government program contacted Ms. Sullivan’s principal, one Karl R. Krawitz, who immediately summoned Ms. Sullivan to his office for an earnest discussion on free speech. It would seem that the principal at Shawnee Mission East High School, whose phone number is (913) 993-6600, and whose e-mail address is [email protected] (for those of you so inclined to congratulate him for his fine leadership *or not), advised Ms. Sullivan that she had embarrassed him, the school district and herself with her Tweet and he demanded, yes demanded that she write letters of apology to both Governor Brownback and the Kansas Youth In Government sponsors. He claimed her Tweet brought shame on them all and because of her, he was forced to do “damage control”. The Washington Post reports Krawitz even gave her talking points to hit in her letters of apology. Emma Sullivan, being the obedient, polite Midwestern girl she is, initially agreed to do that over the Thanksgiving break to merely put the incident behind her. Enter the national media.
Now, while I’m not generally a fan of the corporate media, I have to give them props on this one. For once, they presented the story in a straight-forward and factual manner. Kudos to the media and kudos to everyone who read her story, contacted her and encouraged her NOT to apologize to anyone. I was her age once. I was raised in a similar environment and at her age, had thoughts and opinions I didn’t keep to myself either. I was called into the principal’s office more than once for it too. I refused to apologize for my opinions but nothing bad ever happened to anyone because of it. In fact, I would submit to you that standing up for my beliefs and understanding the basic tenants of free speech has served me pretty well in this life – but this isn’t about me – it’s about Emma Sullivan and what she’s learned in the aftermath of her foray into speaking truth to power…
On Sunday, Sullivan said she’s decided not to apologize to Brownback. “I would do it again,” the 18-year-old told The Washington Post. She hopes her Tweet will spark a dialogue about free speech and has stated she’s even willing to sit down and talk with Governor Brownback. Doesn’t sound like that’s something in the works based on the response from Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag who stated in an interview with The Kansas City Star, “…constructive dialogue requires mutual respect. It was important for the organization to be aware of the comments their students were making.” She added, “It’s also important for students to recognize the power of social media, how lasting it is. It is on the Internet.” Yeah, it is on the internet, along with your idiotic response, Ms. Jones-Sontag. What you’re saying is that Governor Sam Brownback and his staff are so thin-skinned, they got their little feelings hurt by a girl and are hell-bent to exact their pound of flesh for same. Because Brownback and his staff wield power and influence, they thought they could embarrass this young women and make an example out of her.
How’s that working for you, Governor Brownback? You got #pwned (look it up, Sammy Boy) by a girl who just schooled you in freedom of speech, respecting other people’s opinions and public relations debacles. You’ve failed miserably at the first two and excel at the last. At this writing, Emma Sullivan now has 7,363 Twitter followers and the hashtag #heblowsalot was trending on Twitter for several days. Governor Brownback has 3,171 followers on Twitter. So, instead of him and his staff putting this to rest, saying it was a misunderstanding, distancing the Governor from it by claiming it was a staffer who had done it without his knowledge – hell, even I know how to spin a story – the Governor has remained silent and his staffers have doubled-down on their idiotic position.
This got me to thinking: (peacemaker that I am) this has all been blown so far out of proportion, it’s moved from the ridiculous to the sublime, so I’m offering my services to Ms. Sullivan, free of charge, as a professional writer to pen her apology to Governor Brownback. It would go a little something like this:
Governor Sam Brownback, Capitol, 300 SW 10th Avenue, Suite 241S, Topeka, KS 66612-1590
Dear Governor Brownback:
I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for hurting your delicate sensibilities by Tweeting my opinion about you to 65 of my teenage friends
you pussy. I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt. I would have thought a 50-something year-old man who has spent as much time in public service as you have could tolerate a little criticism , but I was wrong because you’re clearly a girl. My bad. I’ve teased teenage girlfriends with more than this and it didn’t send them tattling to my principal. But, your Governorship, while I’m here, I’ve decided to make a full confession for all the things I’m sorry for where you’re concerned, so I hope you’ll indulge me in this full disclosure of the thing for which I am repentant…
I’m sorry you hate women so much you’ve spent most of your time as leader of our fine State of Kansas making sure that Planned Parenthood clinics, where so many poor women rely on their services as their only form of affordable health care, have been effectively shut down, leaving tens of thousands of women without access to any healthcare at all. I’m sorry you’re so close-minded you believe Planned Parenthood’s only function is to provide abortions, when in fact, they provide reproductive counseling and contraceptives to poor women and are, in fact, the leaders in preventing abortion in Kansas.
I’m sorry you hate children so much you would refuse Federal subsidies that would have paid for more teachers and more free or reduced lunches to feed kids who rely on these programs as their only source of nutrition. Did you know, Governor, that more than 25 percent of the children in our state live in poverty and those children face hunger on a daily basis? I’m curious if you’ve eaten today
, you asshole.
I’m sorry you hate education so much that you would rather see schools closed and the arts go unfunded in the name of your
Fascism idealogical pedagoguery.
I’m sorry you hate free speech so much, and feel so threatened by the criticism of a teenage girl, you
are a sissy would permit your staff to use my school administration to bully me into an apology over a personal opinion because you are a Fascist. Hate to break it to you, Dickhead, Governor, but when you run for public office, you run an almost certain risk of having some of your constituents disagree with you and your sad attempt at trying to embarrass me has backfired on you. Free speech comes with personal responsibility and I’m willing to accept whatever comes my way for speaking my mind. I find it sad you and your staff view ME as the bully you’re not willing accept my right to differ with your public policies that have a direct negative result on my life.
Mostly, Sir, I’m sorry that you did not choose a more isolated profession where you would be free of public scrutiny from registered voters, such as myself. Might I recommend another line of work, say, somewhere outside the borders of our Democracy-loving nation
like Communist China? I hear Mexico is nice this time of year… and your party is working hard on building a fence between our two nations – a fence that would keep you safe from the likes of people like me.
Emma Kate Sullivan
Emma, darling, feel free to use any or all of my letter. No charge, honey. And for the record – #heblowsalot.
The judges results are in and Emma Sullivan has defeated the Governor in a knockout. May I introduce Emma Sullivan, undisputed champ-een of Freedom of Speech in the Great State of Kansas!
Carol Baker is a political writer, satirist, and co-host with Vicki Childs of our Here Women Talk weekly internet talk radio show called BROADSIDED. You can hear their show every Thursday at 11 am Eastern/10 Central/8 Pacific.
Heinous messages if hate start on the mother’s breast
Dear Emma A.K.A. #emmakate988, thank you for NOT being a troubled teenager. You know what I mean (the important things in life that your parents have taught) have a social conscience. It was okay to tweet to your then 65 Twitter followers #heblowsalot. You did nothing wrong. You broke no laws, you were simply sharing with YOUR friends. Do not let this incident keep you from expressing your right to have an opinion and more importantly your right to vocally expressing that very opinion. I’m quite sure you’ve learned a valuable lesson in this extremely overblown reaction. This is all really quite simple.
Fantastic article that includes a perfect letter to a tool (a.k.a. governor) of Herman Cain’s brothers by another mother. Thank you Carol Baker !
I get the fact the Gov’s office overreacted, and I get that Freedom of Speech exists, and I get that this girl should HAVE to apologize for the comment she made…
…but has the level of enlightened dissent in this country really stooped to the level of “…just made mean comments and told him he sucked…”? Again, I’m all for free speech, and I’m all for people voicing their opinion, but really?
That’s what is held as a paragon of free speech? Really?
Well, at the age of 18, I don’t imagine my vocabulary was much more sophisticated than “sucked” either – but we get better at expressing ourselves as we grow older and have more experiences. So yes, I suppose this does pass for free speech because, if it doesn’t, where exactly do you propose we cut it off? Should it be where Ann Coulter, supposedly educated and refined calls John Edward a faggot? Should we cut it off when Rush Limbaugh calls the first lady “uppity”? Should we cut it off when Glenn Beck refers to Liberals as Nazis who are coming to kill you?
When you turn off someone else’s microphone, you turn off your own. You damned right it’s free speech – even when we don’t care for it. And she didn’t have to apologize. She refused to apologize and rightly so.
I don’t think the discussion about “cutting it off” ever needs to enter the discussion, at least not in terms of what a governor’s response should be. His staff should be reasonably criticized for overreacting; I only read about the story through your site, though, so I’m not entirely sure what happened. Either way, complaining that a student should “show more respect” is not the best use of time for a governor’s staff.
However, parading this around as “free speech” is an altogether different scenario. Free as it may be, it’s not good speech, and this girl deserves criticism for a vacuous, empty criticism that offers nothing of value. Should you choose to put something like that in public, it should be expected to be roundly criticized as such (much like referring to anyone as a Nazi or a faggot).
What is Brownback (or could have been anyone – what if that was a teacher she was referring to) suppose to say to that? No, I don’t suck, and you suck for saying I suck? That seems to be a pretty pointless, meaningless conversation.
Yeah, fine. It’s free speech. The sky is blue, and water is wet. So what? I hardly would classify the entirety of this episode “sublime” just because an 18 year old girl refused to apologize when she tweeted her feelings that the governor “sucked” and hastagged it with “heblowsalot”. It seems pretty ridiculous that anyone is touted as a champion of good values here.
Oh for God’s sake! She Tweeted it to her friends. 65 friends and the comment was scoured out by the Governor’s office. She didn’t Tweet it TO the Governor. She’s a 18 year-old with an opinion and because you don’t like the word “sucked”, she should be scorned as making a ‘vacuous’ comment? Is there really any other kind between teen-aged kids? This was a conversation eavesdropped upon between children and the bruhaha that ensued was at the Governor’s staff’s own doing.
I never said the entire episode was sublime. I said it had gone from the ridiculous to the sublime. She became a champion of free speech when grown-ups decided what was appropriate conversation between teenagers – and adults, who should have known better, attempted to both punish her for it and suppress a innocuous comment that hurt NO ONE. Let’s be clear, I never said what she wrote was Shakespeare – I said she had the right to say it without repercussion – and she did. And I will continue to defend her for same. And Sam Brownback AND his staff #blowsalot. There. I said it.
So, basically your argument is that Freedom of Speech insulates you from criticism of your opinions, and if you’re a teenager, you’re excused from exhibiting intelligent discourse?
In retort: expectations of mediocrity and irresponsibility #blowsalotmore.
When I take the Gold Medal in the eye-rolling competition at the Olympics in 2014, I’ll have you to thank for the workout. First, I didn’t say freedom of speech insulates you from criticism. Nowhere did I say that. Nowhere did I even infer it. What I said was, she shouldn’t have been punished for her comments that were made to her FRIENDS and culled by the Governor’s office. Second, I didn’t get the memo stating that all teenagers using Social Media had to write like journalism school graduates or they were automatically disqualified from either using the medium or having an opinion. And who exactly shall be the judge and jury on intelligent discourse? Have you ever BEEN to Kansas? Are you aware of the Governor’s record? While her commentary doesn’t necessarily fall within your strict guidelines of what is considered intelligent discourse or rise above some imaginary level of mediocrity you have imposed, those comments had the charm of being true – which is more than I generally get from the Governor’s office. I think I’ll take the truth spoken in a less than upper crust vernacular over a sweetly spoken lie any day of the week.
I think demanding form over substance is shallow. #blowstoinfinityandbeyond
Really, Rob-I’m so grateful someone else gets the “Freedom of Speech” thing. Thank everyone who dare speak up and offer an intelligent, spirited opinion, even if it differs from our own. Really
Update: Emmakate988 now has 13,138 Twitter followers, including HWT. This post, Carol, is fantastic. LMAO. OMG. My side hurts from laughing so hard. I’m tweeting this blog. It rocks. #heblowsalot. Carol, can you get Emma on HWT radio?
I tried to get her for an interview, truly I did – but she was booked solid for interviews this week – even offered to tape it at her convenience but I think she and her parents just want things to get back to normal as soon as possible and i have to respect that. We did share several warm e-mails and she has read this… her response, and I quote: “I love the column! Thank you!”. She’s such a good girl and I respect her desire to get things back on track. I confess – I had more fun writing this than anything I’ve written in a very long time…
I could tell you had fun with this. It’s brilliant.
Update. In the last 30 minutes or so, her Twitter followers have gone from 13,138 to 13,217. Now that’s what you call viral.
Well, she had less than a thousand when I started following her on Thanksgiving day and the 7,000+ number was culled just this afternoon – but Governor Brownback, the principal and the moronic staffer named in my column were named “Worst Persons In the World” on Keith Olbermann’s show tonight! SCORE!
Ok, so I read that the idiot Gov. sent her an apology. Good for him. Now, he should fire the doofus that demanded an apology from her.
Oooh. So sorry he thought he could let this story lie for 7 or 8 days, hoping he’d win this one. The blowback on Brownback has been so fierce, he couldn’t just sit there and look like the impotent human being he is, so he finally blamed it on the staffer – like this was the first he’d heard of it. It sucks to be called out for it, but that’s the ONLY reason he’s apologized. Too late, Gov’ner!
Right on Sista!!! Amen, in the year of our Lord.
Now, I challenge you to send Mr. Brownback this blog and tell all of us how to contact his office and let him know of our feelings too. #sherocksalot
Well, let’s see now… how to contact the Governor… OH, HERE IT IS! e-mail him at [email protected]
Write to him at: Capitol, 300 SW 10th Ave., Ste. 241S, Topeka, KS 66612-1590
Call him at:
Voice – 877-KSWORKS (877-579-6757)
Local – 785-296-3232
For the Hearing Impaired – 800-766-3777
That should just about cover everyone…
I swear we were separated at birth! Carol, I just love how well you state what many of us are thinking! Unfortunately, Kansas isn’t the only state loaded with jackasses in high positions. There’s plenty to go around, whether they be governors or school principals. Thank you for another exceptional blog.
My sister from another mister, Fawnda… no Kansas isn’t the only State run by morons. I don’t live there, but close. In my state they want to do away with child labor laws. Good thing too – I hear school is way over-rated and that coal doesn’t dig itself…
I heard them talking about this on 550 AM KTRS..,and he kept calling this girl a dumb kid…what about most of Congress tweeting…during the President’s State of the Union? Are they dumb guys? Or just assholes??? What happened to freedom of speech…and don’t his “people” have more important things to do than tracking down a tweet by a teenager???
Of course not – because everyone in Kansas is financially secure and employed – don’tcha know? 😉