Innovations in social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, have made the typical static political website a thing of the past. However, the problem with today’s technology-driven political campaigns is figuring out who controls the narrative–the pol or the public.
When a politician sets up a Facebook page to represent his/her political agenda, said politician is giving the public a voice (via comments) regarding whether or not that particular candidate will, in the mind of the voters, be the best choice.
Facebook, however, gives the candidate the ability to control the public’s voice, which the Post believes sets a dangerous precedent.
On numerous occasions, comments from concerned citizens (including the Post) have been censored on certain political Facebook pages.
Look below for an example of a comment the Post tried to leave on one the Facebook page “Friends of John Olszewski.” In local politics, there are very few times when the media actually has the opportunity to question the validity of the candidate’s claims. Posting comments to such a social media site is one of those rare opportunities.
It is far from coincidental that the Post lost the ability to provide comments to that Facebook page no long after we took Mr. Olszewski to task when he declined to give a live interview to the Post.
The issue came to a boiling point when we published an article about an image we used in another column. This reply from the Johnny O campaign reveals how far a candidate is willing to go to protect his image.
During the course of these back-and-forth issues, and the media’s ability to report on who will become the next Baltimore County Executive, we believe this type of information should be passed along to the voters so they can make an informed decision on who they want to lead their government.
As you can clearly see, the below comment was rejected by the “Friends of John Olszewski” Facebook site. Additionally, the Post was blocked from viewing the candidate’s Facebook page as well. We then wrote this column to inform the public of the guidelines for anyone either holding office or attempting to run for political office.
In all fairness to the Olszewski campaign, the Post was eventually allowed to view the page and make comments. We also noticed several other comments that were not censured. We believe this is a positive move that all candidates should follow when striving to become an elected official who represents a “… government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Folks, this is serious business.
In order to verify the status between a declared candidate and an actual elected official, the Post contacted the Maryland State Board of Ethics, and they stated same rules apply to both candidates and elected officials.
In a second example of censorship, this Councilman Todd Crandell was especially egregious in his dealings, since he took the following oath:
I, DO SWEAR OR AFFIRM, THAT I WILL SUPPORT THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES; AND THAT I WILL BE FAITHFUL AND BEAR TRUE ALLEGIANCE TO THE STATE OF MARYLAND, AND SUPPORT THE CONSTITUTION AND LAWS THEREOF; AND THAT I WILL, TO THE BEST OF MY SKILL AND JUDGMENT, DILIGENTLY AND FAITHFULLY, WITHOUT PARTIALITY OR PREJUDICE, EXECUTE THE OFFICE OF COUNTY COUNCIL MEMBER FOR COUNCILMANIC DISTRICT [NUMBER] FOR BALTIMORE COUNTY, ACCORDING TO THE CONSTITUTION AND LAWS OF THIS STATE.
The key words are: “without partiality or prejudice…”
Below, you can clearly see that the Post has been blocked from viewing Councilman Todd Crandell’s Facebook page since 2016. And we are not the only ones, either, as other complaints from constituents have also been blocked by the councilman.
Click on image to enlarge it.
The bottom line is that the people who elect the politicians have the right to express their opinion to those officials because the Constitution and laws of the state of Maryland allow such discourse.
When elected officials, such as Councilman Todd Crandell and a U.S. Senator, among others, engage in this type of censorship, there is no real dissemination of information based on the principle of: “The whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
Coincidentally, there is a meeting scheduled at the North Point Library in Dundalk on Wednesday, January 3, at 6:00 p.m. at which our three elected delegates will appear along with a state senator. Already there are rumblings that some of those planning to attend do not like concept of questions being written out and submitted beforehand. That lets the pols pick and choose which questions they will/won’t answer, as well as “seed the questions” that they want to answer.
Most people feel the best way to handle this type of Q&A is to follow the guidelines that Tradepoint Atlantic uses at its meetings, where there are hundreds of people in attendance. Those meetings solicit questions from the audience by passing around a microphone; anyone who has a question gets the opportunity to ask it and receive a response.
We shall see if that will be the Q&A method for tomorrow night’s meeting, or if some pols choose to censor the public yet again.