“What a Brownback!”

Posted by: Phineas on November 29, 2011 at 12:31 pm

**Posted by Phineas

There’s an old saying about public figures attacking newspapers who say things they don’t like: “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”

Well, it seems we need to update that for the 21st century: “Never pick a fight with a teenager who has a Twitter account.”

It’s a lesson Governor Sam Brownback (R-KS) learned the hard way:

It’s not every day someone turns your name into a noun. But welcome to the big leagues, Kansas Gov. (and former Sen.) Sam Brownback, and all because you trained the state’s resources on an 18-year-old senior at Shawnee Mission East High School who tweeted something mean about you.

Recall the ancient history of last week, when Emma Sullivan boasted on Twitter that she said a “mean comment” to the governor during a Youth in Government event in Topeka where Brownback was speaking. She ended the tweet with the hashtag “heblowsalot.” Team Brownback declared war on the teen and told on her to Shawnee Mission East High School principal Karl Krawitz. Krawitz called Sullivan into the office and demanded she apologize. She refused. Brownback apologized Monday.

Now Brownback faces the wrath of the Twitterverse, including this tweet from @MildlyRelevant: “Gov. Brownback’s office tattled on a high school girl who tweeted ‘#heblowsalot.’ I’m tattling on them for being a colossal Brownback.” There you have it: a proper noun.

Was Emma Sullivan a mouthy jerk? Sure. Just as I’m sure you’re all shocked someone in high school would do something like that. In fact, that a teenager would say something stupid and immature when showing off for friends (and followers) is so unusual and outrageous that it left a state governor and former US senator no choice but to crush her like an insolent bug:

Mr Brownback’s office contacted the school and complained about the tweet.

The following day Emma wound up in the principal’s office, NBC Action News reports.

She said: ‘He laid into me about how this was unacceptable and an embarrassment.

‘He said I had created this huge controversy and everyone was up in arms about it … and now he had to do damage control.’

She said she was told to write a formal apology to the governor, which so far she hasn’t done.

Emma said: ‘I don’t agree with a majority of the things that he is trying to pass.

‘I believe that it is my right to state my opinion.’

The school’s principal said: ‘This is not about political views since none were given in the tweet – it’s about being respectful with a public official whether we agree or disagree with their viewpoints.’

Yeah, right. I imagine what this was really about was the phone call the principal got from Topeka and vague hints of future “career advancement difficulties” if he didn’t force Miss Sullivan to GROVEL BEFORE THE ALMIGHTY GOVERNOR!!

I doubt the principal was all that concerned about the principle.

Not that I’m defending Sullivan’s behavior; she was a smart-alecky, immature jerk of a not-uncommon variety, and maybe her parents should have had a word with her about “respectful disagreement.” But she’s a jerk who also happens to have a right to free political speech, even if said speech is expressed in a manner more befitting an 8-year old, not an 18-year old legal adult with the right to vote.

But if Emma Sullivan was a jerk, then Governor Sam Brownback was a jackass who tried to punish someone for exercising their right to free speech (a right he swore to protect as senator and which is guaranteed under the Kansas constitution) and in the process punched so far under his class that, like President Obama attacking a radio host, he made himself look like a fool.

Or, to use the new buzzword, a “Brownback.”

The real lesson here, I think, is the illustration of the arrogance career politicians of all parties are prone to, where they think they’re protected by some form of law against lese majeste. Far from it; if you’re a politician in a democracy, you have to live with the reality that some people are going to say mean things about you.

And if Governor Brownback can’t handle that and keeps acting like a Brownback, then perhaps the voters of Kansas should give him a lesson in democratic humility at the next election.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

RSS feed for comments on this post.

6 Responses to ““What a Brownback!””


  1. david foster says:

    The version I saw said that the person who squealed on her to the school was the governor’s spokesweasel, aka his director of communications.

    If a PR person working for me did this without checking with me first, I”d probably fire her. And if the governor DID know about this and thought it was a good idea to beat up on a high school student because of his wounded dignity, he should be forcibly retired in the next Republican primary.

    This isn’t a monarchy.

  2. Let’s look at this from a couple of different angles.

    1) Should a government official ever be able to force/coerce speech from anyone? Absolutely not — even if it is a student being forced to apologize for anything by a teacher or principal. And I mean that whether it is for insulting the governor or calling names. Coerced speech is never sincere speech, and it teaches kids that lying will get you out of trouble.

    2) On the other hand, the school is right in dealing out some consequences. While representing the school at an official event, she engaged in an action that was inappropriate and which caused embarrassment to the school. I think some sanction is warranted for her publicly broadcasting a lie to the world while acting as a school representative — though I think the appropriate punishment should probably be pretty minimal.

    3) As for the individual who called the school — you are right, they would have done better to let the stupid tweet slide.

  3. Govicide says:

    Famous/rich/powerful/notorious people seem to forget that when they go about criticizing a person who otherwise would never be known, they give the commoner more credibility than the person would usually have. And all that does is make the rest of us think that maybe the average person hit a little closer to home than the rest of us would ever realize. And this only causes us to examine the well-known person even more closely, often to his or her detriment. As the cliche says: Ya gotta let it go. The girl was rude, ignorant, and stupid but Brownback should have let it go. Petty is a great name in racing but it’s a terrible quality for anyone.

  4. SpideyTerry says:

    What gets me is all this trouble over something that wasn’t even clever. Seriously, that was the best she could come up with? That actually touched a nerve? I know a lot of people her age and believe me, despite their tendency to laugh at their own jokes, the young college crowd as a rule ain’t funny. This just proves it.

    But glad to know Brownback is tackling the real issues. l-)

  5. IS says:

    I don’t know much about the politician in question, but the girl sounds like she needs lessons in courtesy. Kids are so boldly disrespectful now a days. There are other more coherent ways to get a point across. She diminished her cause by acting so insolent. I’m not suggesting kids need to be seen and not heard, that kind of crap. I’m suggesting that someone needed to teach this girl some decorum with regards to open discussion and debate.

  6. Drew the Infidel says:

    Besides the fact the kid’s First Amendment rights are just as important as anyone else’s, at 18 she can vote.