And it’s nice to see that blogs are still the best place to bash the opposition, given that it’s so easy to hide, un-follow, de-friend or simply ignore disagreeable people on social networks. On the other hand, thanks to Google, those pesky search results still garner attention for all those who talk smack online despite the fact that recent internet trends suggest folks would still like to substitute Facebook for the Internet.
Nevertheless, Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell attacking Chris Armstrong, who is the first openly gay student body president at The University of Michigan, offers an interesting test case, Especially when it comes to the state of Internet Free Speech amid a contentious political landscape. What’s interesting in this case is that a politico was able to bend “rules” that have protected political attacks in the blogosphere in the short lifespan this type of discourse has existed.
Let’s take a look:
First of all, let’s look at the bullying aspect. This is a lawyer going after an openly gay student with a raging hard-on.
Pardon the pun.
Like it not, the bigoted part of blogging is protected speech despite the fact it’s unbecoming of an elected official. What’s more surprising is that the lawyer really puts himself out on a limb when he starts “reporting” on stuff like an alleged gay orgy and recruiting incoming freshman to go the gay way without seemingly even trying to hide behind laws that protect parody and satire. Seriously, if there was lawsuit talk then these (somewhat) easily provable or disprovable allegations would be the place to start. But on the topic of LGBT rights it’s not really accuracy we’re talking about but politics. And that makes the alleged bullying or even hate speech not really legally actionable. But it is a good way to get traffic. The openly gay Student Body President would be silly to sue when it’s far easier to not only earn the media spotlight as the victim of a pretty nasty attack. It also give him a shot at trying to get the Assistant Attorney General fired, given that most of the public and ALL of the media seem to find his tactics repugnant.
It’s a slam dunk really.
And in going after this guy’s rep, the real world law’s political correctness also dictate a great deal of Internet discourse. Still, like or not, an elected official going after a student just seems wrong.
It’s also always open season on public figures and a bit of negative publicity helps a media personality.
Go ask Lady Gaga.
In politics, it’s always a free-for-all as bloggers would like to pretend they’re changing opinion. But in reality, it seems to be little more than preaching to the choir.
One last rule: The best kind of “bully blogging” is where the rules can almost be set aside when two equally matched powers engage in a “blogger beef.” The best example of this is NBA Owner and Billionare Mark Cuban taking on some of the most powerful people in the nation on his Blog Maverick internet outlet.
Tragically, in the background is the fact that the one of the greatest freedoms this Nation offers is Free Speech. And it’s always been protected so it’s never easy to legally take somebody to task for what they write or say. With a few exceptions. Exceptions that only serve to point out the rule i.e. the First Amendment.
On the other hand, corporate media is exceedingly capable of silencing content with which they disagree. For the moment, seemingly limitless Internet bandwidth has given everyone the opportunity to act like a jerk. But with net neutrality hanging in the balance, the days of corporate media titans and lowly bloggers working on a level playing field might not last much longer in this brave new digital world.
So, enjoy this brief period of time when it’s still open season for Internet bullying. There’s a naive notion that these issues will be straightened out in a courtroom. But like it or not, like most things in this nation nowadays, they’re usually settled in a boardroom.