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October 18, 2005

Is this too much?

First of all, thanks to freealonzo for giving me some great ideas for what I can write about during "No Sports Week" at the Greet Machine. One of his suggestions that gave me pause was this:

"Why was picture of Representative Paulsen removed from this website?"

I have decided to tackle this question today.

A few days ago, last Thursday I believe, I posted a picture of Erik Paulsen, Minnesota House Majority Leader, that made it look like he was saying some disparaging things about himself.

If you'd like to take a look, here is a link to the picture.

Shortly after posting the picture, maybe two hours, I decided to take it down. What surprises me is that freealonzo caught it before I took it down. So, to answer his question, my reasons were as follows in order of importance:

  1. First of all, Thursday night the Vikings "sex boat" scandal was in full swing. People were angry, I was angry, and after seeing the picture above on my blog I got a little angry with myself for possibly looking like I supported overpaid, juvenile athletes at the expense of a public servant.
  2. Secondly, I suddenly realized that over the past week I had personally attacked a bunch of people: Nick Coleman, Tim Pawlenty, and a large number of the members of the Minnesota Legislature. So, I thought to myself, is this how problems are solved? Is this an example of "civil discourse?" I was not happy with how bitter I had become, and how I had resorted to singling people out for abuse. Keep in mind that I was also thinking about the Vikings boat scandal.
  3. Finally, I also started thinking about the fact that this blog is not anonymous. It is very easy to figure out who I am. In addition, these types of posts could one day come back to haunt me. What if I was trying to get a new job, and the person I am interviewing with is Erik Paulsen's father-in-law? Or a strong supporter of the Republican party? With this lack of anonymity it would behoove me to be more thoughtful with what I post. You never know when it could come back to haunt me.

So, I practiced self-censorship, which is really the only form of censorship that is appropriate. And truthfully, bloggers in general should all practice self-censorship more often. Some of the big knocks against bloggers are that we are rude, unthoughtful, biased, full of ourselves, and wrong more often than not. Have we actually improved the quality of discourse in the public forum? Are we as bloggers living up to the promise of this new medium to improve democracy in America? Or do we muddy the waters too often with vindictive posts of little or no value?

I know, I am probably reading too much into it. But that is what I was thinking about when I took down the picture.

My question for you is, am I over reacting? On the flip side, public officials should be used to this kind of thing and they should even probably expect it. For years political cartoonists have done worse things than I could ever dream up and they are praised for their creativity and wit. And honestly, I am ticked with Erik Paulsen. His letter to Pawlenty was yet another display from our legislature of poor leadership, poor decision making, and an unwillingness to take a chance and do something they know is right for Minnesota. Our legislators should care less about getting reelected and more about improving our state!

But I digress. If you would be so kind as to let me know if you think I am over reacting by taking the picture down I would greatly appreciate it. Keep in mind that I am also trying to protect myself. With blogging, especially blogging as yourself, it is important to put your best foot forward. Sometimes I think I go too far.

Posted by snackeru at October 18, 2005 8:04 AM | Life | Politics


Freedom of speech! Isn't that what you brought out when the UThink came out and they wanted to censor the students on their blogs? If Paulson or his family/friends cannot handle him being critiqued or criticized, then he has no business being in public office.

If someone is willing to punish you for your beliefs due to their thin skin, than they are not worth working for.

Posted by: Cheesehead Craig at October 18, 2005 1:52 PM

I appreciate your jabs at our local elected group of do nothings. I printed up your picture of Paulsen and will give it to my wife who knows him (she does not understand computers very well let alone the whole blogging thing, so your identity is safe).
Did you catch a couple letters to the editor last week in the new Strib? Dave Thune had one on Wednesday (what a self important blowhard), and I had a response on Friday. Pretty clever response on my part if I do say. Check 'em out if they are lying around the library. I have called Thune's office for a number of issues stadium and non stadium related and I don't care if I get on his bad side. We pro-stadium folks have to keep taking a stand whether it is popular or not. I sure hope that maybe one day, once we have our new ballpark (and/or stadium), people will say isn't this great and that we were right all along. Then all the blogging, letters, phone calls, and enemies made will have been worth it.

Posted by: Jim in St. Paul at October 18, 2005 2:23 PM

I brought up the Representative Paulsen thing because I was worried that it was institional censorship. Glad it wasn't. However, self-censorship is bad too. I agree with CC, if someone doesn't want to hire you because if a funny thing (and it was funny) you put in your own blog, they probably aren't worth working for.

Posted by: freealonzo at October 18, 2005 2:46 PM


Did you forget that the Shane Posse has your back!?!?!?

Posted by: Brian Maas at October 18, 2005 3:17 PM

Well, I'm not surprised by your responses. I mean, what have all of you got to lose? Ha! And I must clarify for those of you who are just joining that I believe passionately in the freedom of speech. It is one of the big reasons I created the beast that is UThink. However, I must also say that while I believe strongly that we should all be able to say what we want without the fear of reprisals, the reality is reprisals can and often do happen. The lack of anonymity on this site should give me pause and should force me to examine whether or not I am saying what I want as thoughtfully and coherently as possible.

Does this mean that I won't say what I want? Heck no! It only means that sometimes I think I haven't done as good a job as possible and that sometimes a snide comment or outright attack isn't the right method for the moment.

I also gotta say that if the University Libraries ever censored anyone ... well, that would be cause for alarm. Have no fear. The University of Minnesota Libraries has never, ever even saw fit to monitor blog content on this server. Write whatever you want. It will be up to you whether or not you can handle the consequences.

And that is the point. With the freedom of speech comes personal responsibilty. The post above was just about me trying to exercise that responsibility in a way that advances the public discussion, and protects me and my family.

However, based on your feedback, I do believe I was thinking too hard about all of this. I'm getting better with Photoshop so you can be rest assured that you will be seeing more pictures in the days (months) to come.

Jim, I did see Thune's letter which didn't surprise me at all, but due to the Strib's new web site I had not yet seen your response. Beautiful. Concise and straightforward, plus a little jab at Thune. I loved it! I wish I could get into the Strib sometime...

Posted by: Shane at October 18, 2005 7:17 PM

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