John Hanlin

Sheriff in Oregon shootings is “Sandy Hook Truther,” via Facebook

America has endured yet another mass shooting, this one at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.  The local county sheriff on the case is John Hanlin, and Sheriff Hanlin is making news for all the wrong reasons: his bizarre postings to Facebook.

Apparently, at at least one point in his life, Sheriff Hanlin was a “Sandy Hook truther”:


For those of you who are fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with this concept, Sandy Hook “truthers” believe that the massacres at Sandy Hook were a staged, false-flag operation, executed by the government as part of an effort to crack down on constitutional rights – in this case, gun control.  Yeah.  Wow.

Sheriff Hanlin has since deleted the video – a little late for that, don’t you think?  The Sheriff was asked about the posting in a CNN interview, but responded, “I know what you’re referring to, but that’s not a conspiracy theory that I have.”

Note to all law enforcement officials – and really, all public officials: If you post crazy videos like this, the opinions in the video will be assumed to be your own.  That goes double when you add comments like, “…makes me wonder who we can trust anymore…” and “Watch, listen, and keep an open mind.”

This kind of content should never be shared, in such a positive manner, by any elected official, and the Sheriff shouldn’t be at all surprised that he is being questioned over this.  I will also add that I think it’s an appropriate question to ask.

Anthony Caruso

A career killer: Using social media to make fun of your boss while being racist!

This one was a fail on many different levels.

Lt. Anthony Caruso was a 23 year veteran of the Newark Police Department, pulling down a salary of $133,000.  That changed last week, when Lt. Caruso was fired for comments he made about Ras Baraka, the city’s African-American Mayor.

In the comments, another person made a Facebook post to Caruso’s wall with a picture of a gorilla and the comment “Lmafo….How’s your mayor?”  Caruso responded, “Exactly!!!!”  And that ended Caruso’s career.

According to the City, policies are in place which prohibit “employees from making any comment or opinion that defames the department or is derogatory in nature towards the City of Newark or any of its employees.”  Honestly, I suspect that Lt. Caruso wouldn’t have had a problem – at least not this bad of a problem – had he just insulted the Mayor.  However, doing so in a racism manner was such an error, on so many different levels, that his firing was clearly justified.  As always, this just proves that public employees are under a different microscope – and a different level of scrutiny – than the average person.

What is even more interesting – and depressing – about this scandal is that Caruso wasn’t the one who made the post.  He just said “Exactly!!!!” but clearly, this is enough to imply that he agreed with the racist post, thus putting him into the realm of unacceptable social media content.

Tweets and Consequences

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Mike Halstead, former Sun City Police Chief

Local police chief retires after anti Black Lives Matter Facebook post

Until recently, Mike Halstead was the police chief of Sun City, North Carolina.  That changed when Halstead abruptly retired following the following Facebook note that the outgoing Chief made about the Black Lives Matter movement:

Often, there is ambiguity in a Facebook status – a possible alternative interpretation which could lend credence to the argument that the author didn’t mean the post in any racially inflammatory way.  Here, that’s simply not the case.  Later in the note, Halstead says that he instructs his officers to “shoot a thug” if necessary, and referring to a movement fighting for racial equality as “an American born terrorist group” is simply, and clearly, racist.

Unsurprisingly, this note resulted in the end of former Chief Halstead’s career.  The end came at an emergency meeting called by Sun City Mayor Zander Guy, who called the meeting to deal with “personnel issues.”  Halstead attended the meeting but abruptly left it.  According to published reports, Chief Halstead run Sun City’s police Department for 13 years and had been involved in law enforcement for 35 years.

Further reading into this article reveals that Sun City left themselves open to this, to some extent: While their personnel policy does govern how officers should present themselves on social media, it doesn’t have any specific social media policy.  As incidents like this have proven time and time again, having specific policy is vitally important in order to prevent a lawsuit or confusion about expectations among public officials.  In addition to the obvious (don’t be racist!), this is the lesson of this disaster: make sure that your organization has a social media policy, so it is able to prevent situations like this, or appropriately deal with the aftermath.

By the way, the website where I first read about this incident (STATter911) has a fantastic acronym for these type of fails: SMACSS (Social Media Assisted Career Suicide Syndrome).  A sadly accurate acronym if I’ve ever heard one!

Alec Shelbrooke

Hey, BBC, maybe don’t make fun of deaf people…even if they are Members of Parliament

Two weeks ago, during a debate in Parliament, the BBC Newsbeat Twitter account sent out this tweet:

Alec Shelbrooke

Yup, that looks pretty bad: It looks like Shelbrooke is taking a nice nap.

Here’s the thing: MP Shelbrooke was, in fact, wide awake.  He is partially deaf, and listening to the speakers in order to follow the debate.  So, the BBC just made fun of a deaf man who was trying to do his job.  Nicely done there, guys.

To their credit, the BBC apologized for the tweet:

Naturally, not everyone was particularly forgiving:

It’s not as if the BBC – or anyone – should have to fact check every possible angle of a social media before sending it out.  That’s not possible, and it will delay all tweets sent by an unacceptably long length.  That being said, it does go to show the importance of having informed people run your social media accounts, as someone who was more knowledgeable about British politics would likely have known that Shelbrooke was partially deaf and prevented the tweet from being sent in the first place.  Let this be a lesson to you in your social media strategy: Ensure that the people operating your social media know what they are doing and what they are talking about.

Twitter campaign donations

Twitter & Square partner to allow for political donations via Twitter

You can now donate to a political candidate via Twitter.

As noted by Bloomberg, Twitter and Square have partnered to allow you to allow candidate to solicit and collect donations via Twitter.  The partnership allows users to click on a tweet, fill out the necessary information and make a donation with a debit or credit card.

The system, which the New York Times bills as “seamless,” works like this:

To make it work, campaigns will create a Square Cash account, which gives the campaign a unique web handle, known as a “cashtag.” Then, when anyone shares the cashtag on Twitter, a donate button will appear that, when selected, will open a window for a user to input their information and donate using a debit card. And after they’ve done it once, the app saves their information, allowing for one-click donating the next time.

Previously, candidates, of course, could tweet out links for how people could donate.  However, that would take users to a separate URL, and as anyone who has every made a mobile purchase on their phone knows, those systems could be clunky and awkward. This system, since it’s integrated with Twitter, is much more advanced.  It is quicker, easier for donors to operate, and easier to tweet about.  It’s also smart for Square, since it gives candidates yet another reason to use their system as opposed to another, like PayPal or Google Wallet.  Additionally, this will make it easy for supporters to tweet and share donation information about their selected candidates.

Chalk this one up to the latest integration between the campaign, fundraising and social media world.  This could also be important to more than just Presidential candidates – since it is available to political candidates of all levels, it can be important to hooking in your already existing social networks into your fundraising apparatus.  Frankly, I’ll be using it when I run for reelection – and I may open a Square account instead of a PayPal one.

Tweets and Consequences

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Virginia State Senator under fire for sexist tweet

State Senator Richard Black (R) is running for his first reelection against Dr. Jill McCabe.  He’s now under fire for the sexist implications of the following tweet:

Senator Richard Black Tweet

The sexist implications of such a tweet are obvious: It’s hard to see how being a pediatric surgeon is somehow less valuable than Senator Blake’s contributions to society, which have involved herpetology (the study of amphibians). You can’t help but wonder if the same tweet would have been sent had Dr. McCabe been Joe, not Jill.  At the same time, Dr. McCabe is a wife and mother – does that count for nothing in Senator Black’s estimate?

Incidentally, the tweet has been deleted from Senator Black’s account, and no mention was made of the deletion (on Twitter), or why.  However, in a statement, a Black spokesperson said the tweet was deleted only because Senator Black appeared in a tweet in a military uniform, without the standard disclaimer that the Department of Defensive didn’t endorse his candidacy.  Okay, sure.  They also said that the comparison was made because Dr. McCabe was calling Senator Black a politician – so the Black campaign wanted to make sure that they pushed back by talking about all of the other things that Senator Black was.

Naturally, Virginia Democrats and McCabe supporters blasted the tweet:

There’s no two ways of saying it: This was dumb.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  If Senator Black truly wanted to push back against the notion that he wasn’t just a politician, he could have easily discussed all the other things he was – without belittling a woman who is a wife and a mother.  The tweet clearly discounts the effort and importance of both of those roles, and that’s just dumb.

Whenever sending out any tweet, always think twice about any of the possible implications.

donald trump

Donald Trump holds #AskTrump. STOP. DOING. THAT.

Frequent readers of the blog know that the dumbest thing which a controversial elected official can do is hold a social media Q&A, using a hashtag.  Even if you are able to generate positive traction, the negative news stories will drown out the positive ones.  So, guess who decided to hold #AskTrump last week?

And, how did it go?  Here are some samples:

And how did the media cover it?  Not well.

So, let’s review the follow equation…call it Schlossberg’s Principle of Hashtags:

Controversial figure + Open request for input on social media = Media fail


Tweets and Consequences

Like the blog?  Get the book!  Tweets and Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avoid A Career-Ending Mistake is now available on Amazon for purchase or download.