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Monday, August 29, 2011

Big Brother Wants to Be Your Friend on Facebook - (Updated)

I am a poor golfer.  But that is to be expected since I don't play very often.  I played about 10 rounds of golf during 2009-2010.  I have yet to play this year, but that will soon be rectified on Tuesday when I finally have the time to head out with my brother.  We will hit two different courses, playing 36 holes with the benefit of coupons.  My ability to play depends heavily on time and money, which are not normally in large supply in my life these days.

Pro golfer Paul Azinger made the news recently, but it wasn't for his ability to make birdies in a golf match.  It was birdies of a different sort - his tweets - that got him into hot water with his employer ESPN. 
Azinger is not the first person to point out that President Obama may be playing a little too much golf.  In fact, Golfer-in-Chief has become a well used nickname for Obama.  During the same time span that I've played 10 rounds of golf, the President has played 80.  It goes without saying, that he does not suffer for a lack of time or money.  I guess my time is spent up trying to earn enough money to pay his salary and his green fees while he is in office.  I sure hope he's using coupons when they're available.

So for anyone to point out the disturbing number of golf outings by Obama was not off base.  But ESPN, for whom Azinger works as a golf announcer, has decided that this was "not consistent with the social media policy" of the company (Disney).  Of course, ESPN took no issue when another employee, Kenny Mayne, tweeted a desire to hit another vehicle because of a Sarah Palin bumper sticker.  Maybe that is consistent with the policy because the target is a Republican.

My question is "where is the real problem in all of this"?  Is it in a policy that limits social media expression?  Or just  one that limits political speech?  

On Sunday, in the state of Missouri, a law took effect limiting social media contact between teachers and students.  Our school district, Sainte Genevieve R-II, went even further in limiting "texts" between teachers and students.

Earlier this week, my daughter had a question about choosing a faculty adviser for a campus Christian club.  I suggested that she text one of our church's musicians who also happens to work as a school administrator for a suggestion.  Of course, that is no longer allowed.  So, I had to be the go between for this dangerous conversation, surreptitiously attempting to aid the formation of a church club. Now I feel all dirty.

Is this where we stand in America now?  No longer do we attempt to punish the wrong doer.  Instead, we simply punish everyone.  If Disney has a problem with an employee publicly criticizing a Democrat, then make that the policy.  If I don't want my child to text a teacher or friend them on Facebook, then that is my responsibility.  A teacher who intends to do wrong with my daughter, will not be held back by a new school policy.

Perhaps the bigger question is, where does it stop?

Is Disney attempting to control the public discourse of its employees or simply being wary of any potential embarrassment to the company's image?  If they can exert control over an employee's social media presence, can they exert control over an employee's social interactions?

The school district, as an arm of the state, is seeking to limit not only the public social media of its employees, but also private communications; even those that involve family or church relationships.  

I am an avid user of the social media, but we must not allow this to devolve into an Orwellian Big Brother allowing the state and quasi-fascistic corporations such as Disney, among others, to coerce our behaviors, relationships and discourse.  They should not be my brother's keeper.

These workers are not owned by their employers.  They are rented help.  It should be enough to simply ask them to comport themselves in such a way as to bring honor to their employer, then discipline those who fail.  But in today's world where a moral code is no longer recognized, it is far easier to simply withhold free will than expect us to use it wisely.

When we allow others to remove our ability to use judgment, rather than punish those who fail to use it properly, we begin a process of penalizing exactly what we need more of - wise men and women.  We are marching either toward 1984 or Idiocracy.

Welcome to COSTCO.  I love you.

*** Updated ***
Since posting, I've been informed that the Missouri law in question was blocked by a Missouri Judge prior to taking effect on Sunday.  For more info on this, click here.

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