Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Hold Off, Part 3 -or- Consider the Source (Especially When It’s You)

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve hovered over a Facebook status-post or comment box and then took my hands away from the keyboard, with the accompanying thought, “not now”, or “not smart” …

Well, let’s just say I could have gotten Charlie off of that train a few times over.

Our rapidly shrinking collective and individual attention span has combined with our rapidly shrinking collective and individual sense of patience to render an awful lot of us incapable of just waiting a damn second before expressing whatever thoughts have popped into our heads. And this, sometimes comically, sometimes very unfortunately, happens within easy reach of the kind of technology that allows us to end-run our common sense before our common sense even knows that a play is being run.

At best, this can lead to gentle mockery by friends inside the relatively safe confines of, say, Facebook-ish social media constructs. “TOUCHDOWN!!!!” … “No it wasn’t.” “Jackass.” … “Sorry. Saw the ref’s hands go up. Was jumping around and didn’t notice the other refs coming in and slapping him silly.”

Sadly, there are those who forget that Twitter, assuredly, and even Facebook, are Internet-visible ways of communicating one’s thoughts. Or who forget that even if you FB-post or Tweet and then delete it … it’s still out there somewhere. Most likely as screen-captured by someone who doesn’t know you personally and has zero qualms about re-posting your foolishness for the world to see.

And who forget that, unlike in many comments sections, your Tweets or FB-posts are easily traceable back to, well, you. Got some smart cookies out here in Internet Research Land. We can figure out who said That Really Stupid Thing.

And that’s just the Facebook or Twitter users who may not have any agenda other than hey I made a funny.

This past week, a probably fine American citizen spotted a photo of the young Obama daughters and instantly made a judgment about it. And it all went downhill from there.

It was the occasion of the annual Presidential pardon of a turkey, at the White House, the day before Thanksgiving. The President was making the usual mildly humorous turkey puns, while attempting to play seriously a game that many observers feel has ceased to be worth repeating – not because anyone is particularly offended by it, but because the joke probably got old after the first couple of pardons. (And heaven knows President Nixon should have refused to play that game.)

And in the background of this tableau stood the President’s two daughters. The video footage of this event revealed that the older daughter, Malia, age 16, was doing a better-than-average job of looking amused or at least tolerant of the situation. The younger daughter, Sasha, age 13, was doing an entirely age-appropriate job of at least not sticking her tongue out in disgust – the kid’s in middle school, for heaven’s sake!

But this particular photo captured both of them in a joint moment of can we go back upstairs now?

And since it is well-known that still photography is next to nobody’s best friend … one might easily look at the photo, grin a bit at the adolescent discomfort, perhaps even sympathetically … and move on to the next potential viral video or photo. (Through none of their own doing, First Family lives are far more scrutinized than almost any other American children’s lives. They’ll never have a normal, under-the-radar life ever again, because that’s the First Family’s lot in life.)

Not this particular fine American citizen, though.

This one looked at that photo and passed judgment. Hard.

And then published this message on her Facebook page.

It read, in part:

Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. … [S]tretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at the bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised, public events.

[Note to this fine American citizen: trying showing a little semicolon. -Ed.]

As I have suggested previously in this space, no, a Facebook page isn’t, strictly speaking, totally public, like Twitter is. But now, at the intersection of “Facebook pages can be viewed by more people than you think” and “you’re the communications director for a United States Congressman and therefore you’re generally more visible than the average Joe or Josephine”, stands a nice lady who’s in the middle of a tempest that neither she nor her employer probably needed.

Thanks to our Constitution and the First Amendment thereof, this fine American citizen enjoys freedom of speech. At least according to the letter of the law, no government official will come knocking at her door in the middle of the night and drag her away to a dungeon just because of something she said or published.

But people certainly came to this nice lady’s virtual door this weekend, and took the opportunity to drag her public reputation into a virtual dungeon called the “Tweeted Something Foolish And Will Never Be Able To Say I Didn’t” Suite.

Unluckily for her, another nice lady from an Internet cultural and political commentary site called TheRoot.com distributed the original Facebook post via Twitter (a/k/a “came knocking at the virtual door”), and the chase was on.

Even if this fine American citizen hadn’t been the communications director for a sitting United States Congressman, she might have gotten the same treatment from the Internets.

Even if that United States Congressman hadn’t been a member of the Republican Party – an organization whose membership, or at least a considerable segment of it, has spent considerable time and energy abjectly failing to play the traditional role of loyal opposition – though they’ve got the “opposition” part down – his communications director might have gotten the same online keelhauling.

Oh, but one more thing – and this is not so much a political commentary as an investigative observation. In the above quote, there’s an ellipsis. I left out a couple of sentences that do make it about so much more than teenager critique.

Here’s the full Facebook post, with italics added for emphasis:

Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at the bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised, public events.

I don’t bring this up because of my specific political affiliation, or anybody else’s.

I do bring it up because this nice lady’s intent is clear: take a verbal shot at the Current Occupant of the White House, whom your employer (and, conceivably, you yourself) don’t care for much – but cleverly disguise it by using an attack on his daughters to do it.

Regardless of party affiliation, I have always and everywhere said: for the love of Whomever! … in politics, leave the kids out of it. Don’t abuse a politician’s kids, particularly if they’re not out of the tenth grade yet – they didn’t ask to be born into the family of a political aspirant. And politicians, don’t send your kids out there to hold signs for you unless they’re old enough to know what’s going on. (And even then…)

One might think that if this fine American citizen had been a communications director for anyone, from Rep. Stephen Fincher (R.-Tenn.) to the local county dog-catcher, she might have had a couple of communications-training-oriented brain cells available to rub together, in order to generate the spark of a thought like, “may wish to think hard about this before clicking ‘send’.”

Especially if this person had, at one time, been the “New Media Political Manager at the Republican National Committee[,] where she was responsible for day-to-day management and online political strategy development for the Committee, completing national interactive strategies using email, Facebook, Twitter and other channels”.

Which she was.

But in any case, the reality is that as of this blog post’s “press time”, when one climbs onto the local Google search engine and types in her name, these are the first seven links that come up:

In the news: Republican aide faces backlash for criticism of Obama daughters’ ‘classless’ dress” (The Telegraph, UK)

Elizabeth Lauten Facebook rant targeting Obama girls shows …” (CBS News)

The Art of Online Apologies And Why Elizabeth Lauten … “ (Forbes Magazine)

Twitter hits back at GOP staffer who called Sasha and Malia …” (The Daily Mail, UK)

Elizabeth Lauten Faces Backlash After Scolding Sasha and …” (TheRoot.Com)

Should Cyber Bully Elizabeth Lauten Lose Her Job? – The …” (TheNewCivilRightsMovement.com)

Malia Sasha Obama Slut Shamed By GOP Elizabeth Lauten” (Refinery29.com)

This is a large part of why I haven’t been quite as effusive on Twitter, since opening my account this summer, as I could have been.


Then back away, and think on it awhile. Before the technology reveals you.


November 30, 2014 - Posted by | current events, Facebook, Famous Persons, Internet, media, news, politics, social media, technology | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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