“What a Brownback!”

November 29, 2011

There’s an old saying about public figures attacking newspapers who say things they don’t like: “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”

Well, it seems we need to update that for the 21st century: “Never pick a fight with a teenager who has a Twitter account.”

It’s a lesson Governor Sam Brownback (R-KS) learned the hard way:

It’s not every day someone turns your name into a noun. But welcome to the big leagues, Kansas Gov. (and former Sen.) Sam Brownback, and all because you trained the state’s resources on an 18-year-old senior at Shawnee Mission East High School who tweeted something mean about you.

Recall the ancient history of last week, when Emma Sullivan boasted on Twitter that she said a “mean comment” to the governor during a Youth in Government event in Topeka where Brownback was speaking. She ended the tweet with the hashtag “heblowsalot.” Team Brownback declared war on the teen and told on her to Shawnee Mission East High School principal Karl Krawitz. Krawitz called Sullivan into the office and demanded she apologize. She refused. Brownback apologized Monday.

Now Brownback faces the wrath of the Twitterverse, including this tweet from @MildlyRelevant: “Gov. Brownback’s office tattled on a high school girl who tweeted ‘#heblowsalot.’ I’m tattling on them for being a colossal Brownback.” There you have it: a proper noun.

Was Emma Sullivan a mouthy jerk? Sure. Just as I’m sure you’re all shocked someone in high school would do something like that. In fact, that a teenager would say something stupid and immature when showing off for friends (and followers) is so unusual and outrageous that it left a state governor and former US senator no choice but to crush her like an insolent bug:

Mr Brownback’s office contacted the school and complained about the tweet.

The following day Emma wound up in the principal’s office, NBC Action News reports.

She said: ‘He laid into me about how this was unacceptable and an embarrassment.

‘He said I had created this huge controversy and everyone was up in arms about it … and now he had to do damage control.’

She said she was told to write a formal apology to the governor, which so far she hasn’t done.

Emma said: ‘I don’t agree with a majority of the things that he is trying to pass.

‘I believe that it is my right to state my opinion.’

The school’s principal said: ‘This is not about political views since none were given in the tweet – it’s about being respectful with a public official whether we agree or disagree with their viewpoints.’

Yeah, right. I imagine what this was really about was the phone call the principal got from Topeka and vague hints of future “career advancement difficulties” if he didn’t force Miss Sullivan to GROVEL BEFORE THE ALMIGHTY GOVERNOR!!

I doubt the principal was all that concerned about the principle.

Not that I’m defending Sullivan’s behavior; she was a smart-alecky, immature jerk of a not-uncommon variety, and maybe her parents should have had a word with her about “respectful disagreement.” But she’s a jerk who also happens to have a right to free political speech, even if said speech is expressed in a manner more befitting an 8-year old, not an 18-year old legal adult with the right to vote.

But if Emma Sullivan was a jerk, then Governor Sam Brownback was a jackass who tried to punish someone for exercising their right to free speech (a right he swore to protect as senator and which is guaranteed under the Kansas constitution) and in the process punched so far under his class that, like President Obama attacking a radio host, he made himself look like a fool.

Or, to use the new buzzword, a “Brownback.”

The real lesson here, I think, is the illustration of the arrogance career politicians of all parties are prone to, where they think they’re protected by some form of law against lese majeste. Far from it; if you’re a politician in a democracy, you have to live with the reality that some people are going to say mean things about you.

And if Governor Brownback can’t handle that and keeps acting like a Brownback, then perhaps the voters of Kansas should give him a lesson in democratic humility at the next election.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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