A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.
This column was published on December 4, 2014, and in recent days, it has once again become topical, so let's have a second look.
Our local Democrats are having a free speech problem, aren't they? And yet it doesn't prevent their pompous piety as it pertains to "human rights," requiring frequent recourse to the irony sickness bag.
Clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression and conduct have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality.
― Hannah Arendt
One month ago, the Floyd County Democratic Party suffered an epochal beating in county (midterm) elections. In the aftermath of the electoral carnage, the party’s relatively youthful and web-savvy "reformist" core paused to take stock of future options. Surveying the rapidly shifting political terrain with a collective eye trained on the future, these characteristically near-sighted operatives took a bold and innovative step to reboot the tottering, leaky and spluttering local party machine.
They gazed into the mirror, and blocked me on the Democratic Party’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
On that very day, as the untrammeled heavy truck traffic thundered past my Spring Street residence on a one-way arterial street the very existence of which contradicts the party’s incessant claims to care about topics like revitalization, quality of life, public safety and other nagging reminders of its perennial impotence, I conducted my own survey of the political landscape … threw back my head … and laughed, loud and long.
Surely this bit of childishness represents the acme, the pinnacle -- the very highlight -- of my career as a pestiferous gadfly.
I haven’t stopped laughing since then. At precisely this pivotal moment of inexorably changing mathematics, when the Floyd County Democratic Party might have initiated an honest dialogue with its long-neglected left wing – as inhabited by genuine non-Dixiecratic Democrats and a formerly reliable but rapidly disillusioned cohort of left-leaning fellow travelers – for succor, it has chosen instead to espouse censorship and express its abiding hostility to ideas.
We hardly need Adam Dickey as chairman for that, do we? After all, while Ted Heavrin may be out of office, it isn’t like he’s dead or anything.
Granted, social media is only one aspect of the local political scene, but censoring Facebook and Twitter suggests delicious irony given the party’s recent giddiness over its generational shift. Instead, it’s “meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” though arguably worse. The upper echelons of the party, as seamlessly interwoven with its last, fading bastions of strength in City Hall, now openly offers themselves to the world as New Albany’s native version of The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.
In the movie, (Robert) De Niro plays Mario Trantino, an Italian bicycle racer that gets involved in a Brooklyn gang war. Kid Sally Palumbo (Jerry Orbach) operates his gang under the auspices of mob boss Baccala (Lionel Stander). Trying to get out from under the boss' thumb means killing Baccala, but Kid Sally's gang proves unequal to the task and backfiring schemes make funerals an everyday occurrence. When Kid Sally's sister (Leigh Taylor-Young) starts dating Mario, who is then in the middle of pulling a scam on Baccala, Kid Sally sees his chance at last.
However, even an inept, cartoonish mafia is by no means the best comparison. Rather, what we have here is a willful failure to communicate, as embraced by functionaries who see their bland bureaucratic banality as a symbol of new age organizational prowess.
Here, reprinted in its excruciatingly mundane entirety, is my correspondence with Adam.
I'm going to ask you a direct question: Is the Floyd County Democratic Party acting to censor me on social media, and if so, what is the reason for it? I will publish the answer or non-answer at the blog no one reads. Thanks.
Roger, thank you for your inquiry. FCDP encourages public activism as part of the Democratic process and strongly supports an individual's first amendment rights to express their political viewpoint.
In regard to the administration of our social media sites, we invite thoughtful, respectful and constructive dialogue on those sites. We strive to manage a positive online space where individuals can feel free to express themselves. Accordingly, when we created the social media sites, we also established a social media policy. For reference, that policy is posted on our Facebook site under "Notes."
FCDP Social Media Policy
Floyd County Democratic Party – Indiana invites thoughtful, respectful and constructive dialogue on our Facebook page. We strive to manage a positive online space where our constituents can feel free to express themselves. We understand that some conversations around articles, blog posts, events, videos, organizational initiatives and other content on this page or linked to this page can create strong opinions which can lead to debates and passionate responses.
For that reason, when comments or posts descend into derogatory remarks, personal attacks, inappropriate content or confusing streams of irrelevant content, we reserve the right to remove comments on our pages and potentially move the conversations offline (either onto e-mail or discussions via phone). We want to see your comments and posts that:
- Are "on topic" and that respond to the content in our posts
- Are responses to comments left by other readers
- Are reasonably brief and to the point
- Have a positive/constructive tone
- Are open to being contradicted by other readers
- Might disagree with the content in the article or post, but never insult the writer of the article or blog post, or other commenters
We will immediately delete, without notice, comments and posts, that:
- Are unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, hateful, or contain racially, ethnically or similarly objectionable content
- Are personal attacks, including name-calling or celebrations of another person's misfortune
- Are injurious to the reputations or privacy of the Floyd County Democratic Party’s officers, volunteers, candidates and elected officials
- Are false statements or unrelated to the Floyd County Democratic Party’s programs and mission
- Contain advertising or spam
- Are incomprehensible or do not contribute to reasonable dialogue
- Are disruptive, including personal conversations better suited for private messaging
Violations of Floyd County Democratic Party – Indiana’s Facebook community rules will cause a commenter to be blocked from making future posts or comments on the Facebook page.
I hope this addresses your concern. Thank you again for your inquiry. Please let me know if you have trouble accessing the social media policy.
Impressive. Can you clarify the human element of the policy, i.e., has it been applied by committee, or is there a sole social media arbiter?
There is a committee that manages the site.
Final question: Can you specify my offense? Thanks.
The decision was reflective on a pattern of violations that covered most of the examples listed under the second set of bullets.
There isn't a social media committee.
Damn. Mr. Disney really has it in for me, eh?
Following the midterm election, William Greider appraised the Democratic Party as a whole, nationwide.
How the Democratic Party Lost Its Soul, by William Greider (The Nation)
... The tattered authenticity of the party matters more now because both the country and the world face dangers and disorders that demand a fundamental reordering of the global economic system. This requires bold action, at a time when neither party is confronting the threatening situation. The Republicans are a wholly owned subsidiary of the business-finance machine; the Democrats are rented.
What we need is a rump formation of dissenters who will break free of the Democratic Party’s confines and set a new agenda that will build the good society rather than feed bloated wealth, disloyal corporations and absurd foreign wars. This is the politics the country needs: purposeful insurrection inside and outside party bounds, and a willingness to disrupt the regular order. And we need it now, to inject reality into the postelection spin war within the party.
I’ve been a fellow traveler for a very long time, always examining the bill of ballot fare as presented by both local political parties. With a recurring feeling of nausea, I’ve held my nose and voted mostly Democratic. Occasionally I’ve expressed active support for a Democratic aspirant, and almost without exception, the outcome has been disgust, disappointment, self-flagellation and yet another evening of commode hugging.
I cannot and will not support censors, and you should not, either.
Censorship as practiced by the likes of Chairman Adam plainly reveals a fundamental intolerance, and it intolerance is the local goal, I might as well follow the sage advice of Abraham Lincoln and opt for the unalloyed variety as practiced by the Republicans.
Or, conversely, we all might choose to approach politics in New Albany as principled, progressive independents, because in the end, it isn’t the word “progressive” that sets us apart from this planet’s petty Chairman Adams -- although our local Dixiecratic backsliders most assuredly are not progressive in any remotely coherent sense.
Rather, it’s the word “principled.”