12/02/2006

This is news?

The Tribune ran a piece today about an employee of the Montana Secretary of State's office, Bowen Greenwood, who 'outed' himself as Neomadison on What's Right in Montana.

Um, that was 17 days ago.

As a point of reference, that was the same day on which the Tribune reported that Kitzenberg had switched parties. Can you say "old news?"

Further, in referencing the post in which Superman revealed his Clark Kent netroots, the Tribune failed to even include the link.

Note to the 'old media': More color photos and graphs ain't the answer. Please forgive my Spadian syntax, but it's called the 21st Century. You might want to join us.

And, as far as the substantive suggestion that Greenwood was doing something wrong, I agree with Wulfgar's point that, as a practical matter, Greenwood's postings could cause political problems for his employer. The suggestion, though, that public employment requires some sort of "full disclosure" before one can express non-libelous/slanderous views on political matters flies in the face of our most precious Amendment. I think we all, on both sides, need to start moving away from the idea that there are some political beliefs that are just "wrong."

If we start from the premise that all political positions are legitimate, why is it my business what a government employee believes, or what he posts on a public forum on his own time? If Wulfgar is correct that no government employee can post anonymously, then it means that every time a government employee states a political position, it had better be done publicly with his or her moniker firmly attached. That would mean that we are entitled to know the political views of everyone who draws a taxpayer check. I respectfully disagree.

5 comments:

Wulfgar said...

And I respectfully submit that you are grossly misstating my position. I invite you to show when I have ever written that no state employee can comment anonymously.

Bowen's case is rather more unique than many, isn't it? He isn't simply a govt. employee, he is the mouth-piece for the SoS of the state of Montana. Further, Bowen's anonymity was an obvious sham, one for which he attempted weak laughter after he left all those clue as to his identity, har, har , har. There is willful deception with the intent to protect position and identity, and then there's willful deception only to be deceptive. By Greenwood's own admission, he was attempting the latter (poorly, considering how many of us already saw through the BS.)

Further, you equate commenting with posting ... that's a no-no. At Greenwood's former website, Election Daze, he himself claims that it would be improper for him to continue blogging with his new position ... and then he continues blogging at another website. That's suspicious, to be certain, not to mention highly hypocritical. And one does have to wonder, if Bowen is such a committed writer, proudly standing behind his work, then why doesn't he restore the archives of Election Daze? Any clue?

Finally, I find two things remarkably strange about your defense of Greenwood. You, yourself, undertook a major (and well accomplished) effort that 'outted' a certain public official for anonymously commenting rather repugnant things on the internet. If the right to anonymous free-speech were as absolute as you allude, then doesn't the 'practical matter' become meaningless? Of course it does. Rights are trump. And second, many of your commentors, with defense of yourself, appear to believe that certain rights should be curtailed if it serves the safety of the public good. Given your thesis here, do you find anything worth reviewing in that stance concerning the subversion of rights?


Greenwood's employment is at the request and will of Brad Johnson. I've never questioned that, nor do I do it now. But I will take a good long look at Johnson when next he asks for my vote. He works for me, and all Montanans. He should consider carefully employing someone who blatently insults and willfully deceives the electorate. Wouldn't you agree?

a-fire-fly said...

Hold on now. If Sam Harris had actually commented anonymously he may have gotten away it. He had the right to comment as "Sam". He did not have the right to comment as "Sam, a Judge from Great Falls, these are my election results".
As some guy named Sam, he could have sworn, lied, and talked about porn all he wanted. As Sam the Judge, he had a responsibility to uphold certain ethical standards.

I am torn on the Bowen issue. I think it would probably have been best for him to retain his anonimity or stop blogging, but I don't agree that public officials should have to disclose who they are if they are bloggging as private individuals.

WolfPack said...

Wulfgar,

I am not as familiar with Bowen's online history as you so maybe you can enlighten me. Has Bowen posted something that was unethical or displayed an abuse of power in his state job? If not, his posts do not compare with our local JP. If he has just been spouting his political beliefs then I don't see the problem. As with anyone else in the bloging world, does it matter who he is when evaluating the strength of his arguments? I would prefer that government employees do not use the credence of their agency/office to legitimize their posting. Bowens words should be evaluated on their own and all this outing discussion seems like a desperate tactic by those who disagree with Bowens views but are uncomfortable debating him in an intellectual fashion.

Wulfgar said...

Wolfpack, you appear to misunderstand the argument at play here. Though Geeguy accused me of being the defender of the ideal, it is rather more the case that I stand in defense of pragmatism, while the arguments in defense of idealism lay raher more with Geeguy than with me. If he holds that free-speech is a defense of anonymous posting, then the content of such posting is out-of-bounds for review, isn't it? That is regardless of whether it is a perceived abuse of public position, as you find Harris's comments to be.

If you wish to discuss malfeasance, Bowen has refered to political adversaries as allies of terrorism, traitors. Do you think that that should be debated with no regard to the fact that he is the public voice of our Secretary of State? Not when he, himself, taunts with the idea that he is above reproach based on the ignorance of his adversaries, and not the strength of his arguments. You don't need to be as familiar with Montana blogs as I am to see that very thing in his supposed 'self-outing'. ASk yourself this question: Considering the number of us who knew his identity before the election, why are we suspect for not outing him before Nov. 7, and yet now we are suspect that we think he is a tool for hiding behind the pretense of a nyah-nyah-nyah moment?

Firefly, you posit two possible courses of action for Greenwood, but ignore the most obvious one: he could have simply stated, "I am Bowen Greenwood, my opinions are my own and do not represent the official that I work for". A simple disclaimer was all that was required, and yet so many seek to attack anyone on the left who might have any tangental relationship to governance or state pay. That's hypocricy of the worst sort, a hypocricy that Greenwood himself hails and celebrates. If you wish to make a distiction between his behavior and that of Justice Harris, you'd best deal with that distinction ... or lack thereof.

GeeGuy said...

It's way too late, and I want to discuss this in detail but not tonight after the great Griz win (I'm basking, alright?).

But I do want to say this, Wulfgar. It was not my intention to "accuse" you of anything. As much as we disagree, I have more and more often come to find that I believe your positions are usually somewhat (somewhat!) reasonable, though usually cloaked in strong, bordering on outrageous, rhetoric. In other words, my post wasn't intended as a slam, and I hope to explain why tomorrow (although my kid has a basketball tournament).