Don't Believe Everything You See & Hear on the internet

Congressional candidate loves to make up quotes from the Founding Fathers

Don't Believe Everything You See & Hear on the internet

Jody Hice is the Republican nominee for Congress in Georgia’s 10th District.  The district is ultra Republican, Republican incumbent Paul Broun having never won less than 60% of the vote.  As such, Hice is almost certainly going to be the next Congressman from this district.  Hice, however, has a problem: He really, really likes falsely attributing quotes to the Founding Fathers.

As noted by Buzzfeed, Hice has been caught attributing a variety of quotes to at least five different Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin and John Quincy Adams.  Check out the example below, which Hice posted to his Facebook page:

Jody Hice Wrongly Attributes Quotes to founding fathers

 

Powerful stuff, right?  Except, as noted by Buzzfeed, not from Jefferson, even a little bit:

Again, The Thomas Jefferson Foundation (which makes a habit of debunking fake Founding Fathers quotes) said this phrase did not come from Jefferson but “John Sharp Williams in a speech about Jefferson” in 1913.

Whoops.

The story has since been picked up by MSNBC.  It’s an MSNBC story, so not exactly the most unbiased of sources, but the story notes that self-styled conservatives – like Hice – like to portray themselves as natural heirs to the legacy of the Founding Fathers:

Modern conservatives call themselves “constitutional conservatives” because they’re convinced they – and they alone – carry the mantle of America’s historic traditions. Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin may be gone, but their legacy lives on in 21st century Republican politics.

Indeed, Hice’s biography is peppered with words and phrases that would support this perspective, including lines about “defend[ing] constitutional liberty” and “fighter for our constitutional rights and protector of our freedom of speech.”

Thus, perhaps in their exuberance to fulfill that role, Hice campaign team (or possibly Hice himself, who knows, though I tend to think that the candidate themselves doesn’t get involved in internet quotes at this level) intentionally attributed quotes – or, at a bare minimum, didn’t do adequate research.

Hice’s campaign never responded to these stories (though, as best I could tell, they weren’t asked to comment), and that’s unfortunate, because the evidence is pretty indisputable – I’d be very curious to hear their comment.  Either way, the lesson is clear: make sure you check your sources before attributing a quote to anyone. If possible, always have a second, independently verifiable quote as well.

British Embassy trolls the U.S. over the War of 1812

August 24 marked the 200 year anniversary of one of the worst military defeats in America history: the burning of the White House at the hands of the British during the War of 1812.  Though the anniversary of a relatively important historical event, many Americans were ultimately reminded of the event in a most bizarre way: by a joke by the British Embassy that was sent via Twitter, and the subsequent dust-up:

People were ticked about this tweet, with the collective reaction being something along the lines of “Too soon”:

Perhaps the best response came from Marie Harf:

Anyway, with an apparently unamused public watching, the British Embassy apologized for their tweet (though, to their credit, they left their initial tweet up):

Some, however, didn’t think the apology was necessary:

When I first saw this tweet yesterday, my first reaction was to crack up laughing. Social media, at least when used by government or diplomatic officials, has a bad tendency of being way too conservative and by the book.  The British Embassy went for it here – they tried to break the mold and mark a momentous event in history by tweeting something funny.

That being said, I disagree with people who can’t understand the outrage.  Yes, 200 years have passed, and yes, Britain is our closest ally, no doubt.  But, in the War of 1812, an estimated 15,000 Americans died, and the British did sack one of our most notable American icons, the White House.  The tweet was also, as the Washington Post accurately described, pretty “undiplomatic.” Humor does have a place on social media…even from governments and embassies…it just has to be used cautiously.  The same certainly applies to elected officials

Do you think that this tweet was a good idea and that people are just taking it too seriously, or was it a touch too much?  I’d love to hear your thoughts – let us know in the comments!

In Oklahoma, local police chief resigns after a racially insensitive Facebook post

Eddie Adamson Facebook Video

Chickasha, Oklahoma, is a small town of about 16,000.  It has also become the latest entry into the world of social media disasters after their (now former) police chief posted an offensive video of himself to Facebook.

Using his personal account, Police Chief Eddie Adamson posted a video, “the caption of which contained a racial slur.”  The video title: How a real n***er order Starbucks.  The video itself featured a clip from the movie Role Models.

That started a public campaign against Adamson.  In a letter to the Chickasha’s city manager, police Sergant Jeremy Alexander sought the resignation of the Chief, telling the Chickasha News:

I honestly don’t believe a person in our chief’s position can come back after you go out on that limb,” he said. “When I was a little boy I knew what it was like to hear that word come out of a police officer’s mouth. It made me sick then, it makes me sick now and it will make sick until the day they put me in the ground.

Less than a week after the news stories about the Facebook post started, Chief Adamson heeded the letter and resigned.  In a letter, Adamson noted that his effectiveness as Chief would be reduced and acknowledged that the post was racially insensitive.  He also said that the post itself was accidental and that he deleted it shortly after making it.

Former Chief Adamson has become the latest victim of a central truth of social media: there is no such thing as private.  If this post was intentional, then the Chief presumably made ti thinking that no one but his Facebook friends would notice.  Clearly, that was not the case.  The lesson: Never make a post to social media unless you would be comfortable with the post appearing on the front page of your local newspaper.  No matter how “private” you think a post is…it isn’t.  Privacy isn’t quite dead yet, but social media is certainly helping to kill it.

Did the Chief have to resign?  A local columnist says no, arguing that one mistake shouldn’t have ended a career.  However, the same columnist made a very valid point: Adamson never apologized.  He never tried to make amends.  He was publicly silent until he resigned.  That was a career ending mistake.  Had Adamson held a press conference in which he acknowledged the seriousness of his Facebook post, apologized to the community and tried to make amends, it might have been a different story.  What’s even more interesting is that Adamson said that he did apologize to other groups, like the NAACP, in private.  This apology should have been public.

What do you think?  Anything I’m missing?  Let me know in the comments!

Missouri Councilman makes racist anti-Obama posts to Facebook, says it was because he was a “a very active Republican.”

Peter Tinsley is a Councilman in Poplar Bluff, Missouri and the latest politician to get busted for making horrendously offensive racist posts on Facebook. The entire incident forced two apologies: one for the initial posts, and then a second apology for the first apology.  I’ve never written that statement before, and you know this just can’t be good.

The posts were shared to Tinsley’s personal Facebook page. One is from April 2013, and I can’t quite make out the date on the other one.

PeterTinsley2 PeterTinsley1

Councilman Tinsley was confronted at a Council meeting about the posts.  Reverend Tommy Robison, a constituent of Tinsley’s, said that, “To come from a city council [member], a city government official, this is highly unthought of, even in Poplar Bluff Missouri.”  

Tinsley, to his credit, immediately apologized: “I apologize from the bottom of my heart.”  So far, so good.  Then:

“At one time, I was a very active republican, very opposed to Obama.”

Wait, what? He made racist posts since he is a Republican?  That’s…that’s a terrible explanation.  And, as you can imagine, one that did not sit well with local Republicans.  The GOP Chairman in Butler County, Missouri, lambasted Tinsley for his remarks: “It even got more intense when he proceeded to blame the republican party for him thinking like that…Republicans believe everyone should be judged on their qualifications, on their ability.”

This first apology then forced Tinsley to offer a second apology: ““Anything that I have said, that I referred to the activity because I was a Republican, that is not true. It’s not an excuse.”  

The posts were so patently racist that they would have made national news regardless of what explanation was made, but Tinsley’s initial response of “Well, sure I’m a racist, I’m a Republican,” only compounded matters.  I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Being a Republican or a conservative doesn’t make you a racist, and saying so is offensive to any conservative or Republican.  When you make a social media screw-up, even one as offensive as Tinsley’s, the best thing you can do is apologize, delete the offensive posts and promise to learn from the mistake.  A follow-up meeting with members of the offended group is a wise move as well, as it shows you are trying to repair relationships in the real world.  If Tinsley is truly sorry, this is something I hope he will do.

If you’ll notice, in his explanation, he started with what appears to be a genuine statement of remorse, then moves onto the explanation.  When you screw up, sometimes less is more.  Say you are sorry and pledge to move forward, but don’t excuse…and don’t blame your political party!

Do you have any thoughts about how Tinsley could have handled this better? Let me know in the comments!

Just how similar are the private and public sector when it comes to social media?

I’ve been very lucky in my life.  Prior to my election to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2012, I worked for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.  In my five years there, I worked in a variety of capacities, but spent my last 2.5 years working in sales and social media.  That was a fantastic experience.  The Chamber is, of course, a privately funded organization that exists only as long as its members believe they are getting enough value that they are willing to pay for dues, event attendance and sponsorships.

In 2009, I was elected to Allentown City Council, but that was a part-time public sector job.  I only went full time into the public sector with my election to the House.  Are there differences in the environment in the two universes?  Of course.  I found that many in the private sector frequently look down their nose at the public sector, thinking that public sector employees aren’t as energetic, entrepreneurial or dedicated as their private sector counterparts.  That, by and large, is complete nonsense, and that’s a specific comparison I want to talk about in today’s entry: the similarities between social media use in the private and public sectors, at least from a best case scenario.

Both have an obsession with customer service
I think that the best way that government can prove its usefulness when it comes to social media is by providing customer service and passing along information about various government programs and their use.  Similarly, most of the best social media stories involving businesses have to do with the private sector.

Both struggle for relevancy…but this is harder with the public sector
If you’ve ever read this blog before, you’ve heard me discuss “value added content” – in other words, content that provides something extra to the life of the person consuming it, and isn’t just a sales or campaign pitch.  To that end, both the private and public sector struggle to ensure that the content they provide is useful and relevant to the consumer.  For the private sector, this is difficult but not impossible: providing information about preferred products and services is frequently enough for the average consumer to want to like a page.  This is harder in the public sector, however; if a government has no relevant information to provide, as is sometimes the case, there is no reason for a consumer to like a page or follow an account.

Appropriate policies are vital
This blog contains dozens of stories of social media gone wrong.  Most of these are in the public sector, but many are private businesses.  The public sector tends to get a stricter rap as being heavy on bureaucracy, but as anyone who has ever worked in the corporate world will tell you, large organizations have their share of policies and procedures as well.  To that end, having appropriate social media policies (what to say, what never to say, how to respond to a complaint, etc) are vital for both worlds.  Not having these systems in place can only lead to a disaster.

The cover up is worse than the scandal
My experience with social media disasters is that it’s the part that occurs AFTER the screw-up – the attempts at cover-ups, lousy excuses, lack of reaction, etc – that are worse than the fail itself.  I truly believe that most people are forgiving and will let an occasional error go, provided that attempts to make amends are genuine.  This occurs in both the public and private sector – the handling of a social media snafu should be very similar.

What do you think – anything else you’d like to add?  Let me know in the comments!

How an elected official can best take advantage of Twitter Lists

Twitter lists are a fantastic, if underutilized tool.  In a nutshell, you can use them to organize other Twitter users into categories of your choosing.  You can then publicize those lists, or keep them private, and follow the public lists that other people publish as well.  These lists appear in a separate feed than your main feed. Additionally, on most Twitter clients, like Hootsuite, you can customize your channel so that you can view lists that you (or others) create.

I’ve come to the conclusion that you can really use these list functions to make Twitter work better for you as an elected official.  Here are a few thoughts:

Create a series of public lists, and announce when you have created them:

Social media use is all about creating useful, value-added content, right?  Well, what better way to give a value added experience on social media than by providing people with free and useful social media resources?  Some examples of potential lists you can create include:

  • Other local elected officials
  • Fellow members of your particular caucus
  • Local reporters
  • Local news agencies
  • Local non-profits

Also useful to note is that each list than has it’s own separate URL, so you can actually publicize the link for others to follow.  For example, I’m a member of a list titled “PA General Assembly,” which can be found at this address: https://twitter.com/JamesCookUMA/lists/pa-general-assembly.  You can post such a list on Twitter, but also on Facebook and your website.

For your own sanity: Create private lists that can be useful from an organizational perspective

One really useful list that you can create, and keep private (simply because there is no gain in publicizing such a list) is a list of your constituents.  This way, you can see what they are talking about.  Creating such a list, and checking that list on a regular basis, will ensure that you give your constituents who are active in social media the extra attention that they deserve.

The one functionality that Twitter lists like, particularly when compared to Facebook Lists, is that you cannot send a tweet to a specific list – its either all, one (direct message) or none.  I do hope that this function gets added later.

What do you think – did I miss anything?  Let me know in the comments!