Yesterday I posted something in an online group that was never intended to be controversial or cause a hubbub, I was sharing information and personal experience. For doing that the comments I received were in two categories: very kind and polite, and mean and piling on.
I had warned people to take it easy this year if they get the flu shot because I found it to be tougher than last year and I am home in bed sick. The nurse in the chemo lounge where I got my shot after my oncology appointment warned me to take it easy, and I didn’t and well…here I am sitting in bed losing a day during the time deprived holiday season.
People reacted two ways: politely and often agreeing as they had similar reactions this year and the other reaction was just piling on. Saying things like they disagreed and I was “wrong”. Wrong? My experience was not something to either agree or disagree on, it happened to me, it just IS! One person made some inane comment about how they got the flu shot and some other shot and would do it “100 times more” or something equally moronic.
All I was doing was passing along my experience and urging people if they did have to get one like I do, to take it easy on themselves. After all, I learned the hard way when I did not listen to the nurse warning me to take it easy. Trust me with a post -cancer compromised immune system, I wish I did not have to do things like get a flu shot, but I do. So I get it. But the reactions in an online community where hypothetically you are supposed to be able to share DID make me think about something overnight I feel is important: online behavior and this holiday season.
Sociologists and psychologists will tell you that the advent of online communities and social media has created behavior patterns that are very different ONline versus OFFline. In the real world face to face you might have a discussion that gets heated, but people don’t necessarily pile on in the same way they do online, which is a virtual experience.
Online in large groups, people pile on and can be very judgmental. It’s like their keyboards give them immunity from social norms and more acceptable patterns of behavior. Keyboard tigers, keyboard cowboys, keyboard killers – all the same thing and it is behavior that can be hurtful or offensive of others.
So I spend a lot of time often just reading what people write in these groups and NOT commenting. And what I see at times blows my mind because as human beings we can just be so darn mean to one and other. Or they just post things that are so wholly inappropriate it confounds me.
It is the holiday season. We are not all the same, we are all individuals. Let’s try especially at this time of year to be respectful of each person’s individuality and opinion and NOT pile on. Especially in online communities. When we pile on it is not right and is actually bullying, a behavior we teach our kids no matter what the age is wrong.
Opinions will be different from person to person and that is quite alright. If you disagree with someone’s opinion, that doesn’t make their opinion wrong, it just means yours is different.
Online communities were started in part so we could share information and be supportive of one and other; not tear each other down and be intolerant of differences.
Enjoy the magic this season has to offer to all ages. Think before you post online. Be more kind. Be the kind of adult you want your kids to be someday. If we can’t be kind and tolerant to one and other, how can we expect our kids to be that way?
From blue dresses and White House scandals before there was the television show Scandal, to a line of failed (?) purses (see article in New York Magazine from a few years back), to social activist, Monica Lewinsky has spent years being an unfortunate household name stemming from poor choices made literally as a kid while a White House intern.
She opened up about the blue dress years and the aftermath of being a fallen star in the Clinton universe in the June 2014 edition of Vanity Fair. It was her article and it was fairly well written and interesting, I must admit.
Like millions of others at the time I remember thinking “What was she thinking and why can’t this politician keep his pants zipped?” (Face it, Clinton might look like the grand papa bear of Democrat politics today, but the man has had his issues with the ladies à la Pennsylvania’s own Ed Rendell, right?)
I don’t have the moral code that is able to justify cheating, or justify why a very bright young woman couldn’t stay away from a married man who happened to be the President of the United States, except I am guessing that was exactly why she couldn’t stay away. However, after the first few weeks of hearing about her and that, I felt as if it was enough already. There were after all, far bigger issues going on in the Clinton administration, weren’t there?
So now Monica is what? About 40 years old give or take? And she made a whopper of a mistake and has spent almost 20 years paying for it.
Yesterday she spoke in Philadelphia on the subject of cyber bullying.
I have to give her props for stepping out onto the stage at the Forbes Under 30 Summit. That took guts, all things considered. I am sure she was amply compensated for her time but her topic was of personal interest to me. Her topic was cyber bullying and that is also apparently now her personal cause.
I listened to the replays of her speech and could totally understand when she said “It feels like a punch in the gut.” After all, cyber bullying = abuse.
That isn’t the first time I have heard a similar description applied to being cyber bullied. Of course those who perform the cyber bullying always blame their victims. Much like abusers who tell their victims it’s their own fault they had to beat them.
I make no bones about the fact that I have perverse admirers, otherwise known as cyber bullies. In part, when you become a writer or a blogger it sort of comes with the territory. It shouldn’t, but it does. Only my main bully doesn’t bully me because I am some random blogger she doesn’t like, for her it’s personal. She used to know me, and used to be in my life.
It is odd to think about this late middle aged woman from several states away being so angry and so hateful because well she was someone very supportive of me when a few years ago now, my ex abandoned me and his old dying dog quite literally and then a year or so after that when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and isn’t that strange? How can someone go from being caring to being pathologically angry and hateful when there was no fighting or anything like that? This person chose to leave my life so what was I supposed to do? It was her choice and I tried to respect it. It’s like she had this weird unrequited crush on me and I am being punished for ignoring that, and her. It’s truly bizarre.
It came as a shock when I realized I not only had cyber bullies, but they had been essentially stalking my life. I am not a public figure. I am just an ordinary woman living my life. Yes, I write, and I am not just a blogger given my published bylines here and there (albeit local and regional), but I am just a regular person. I write more about my recipes and gardening these days than anything else. I share my photography, as well. Apparently and ironically, it is very upsetting to people when you are happy. And apparently it’s all my fault they have to bully me because I am happy in my life and they are miserable and stuck. Bullies like other forms of abusers have a limited sense of personal accountability, have you noticed?
Since this cyber bullying and cyber stalking began shortly before my 50th birthday I have been fascinated by the people who have supported the efforts. People I have never known or spoken to. And why do they cheer on negative and spurious activity that there are laws against? I guess because at some point in time I wrote something they didn’t agree with and isn’t that so bizarre coming from “adults”?
But as far as adults go, I have seen a lot of strange behavior. Especially recently. Take for example parents of teenagers who not only support their teen’s scorched earth bullying behavior, but in essence bully other parents themselves and how crazy is that? People who are parents and who you know love their children but who can’t see right from wrong on their own?
People spend so much time hating and why put all that negativity out there? Its not so much a Zen or spiritual thought as it is that I just don’t get people of any age who wake up with the intent to be mean or malicious. Life is a precious gift and having survived breast cancer I know full well we are all on borrowed time on this earth so why not try to be better human beings, not worse?
Cyber bullying is as pervasive and invasive as physical bullying. And there is a certain disconnect from reality with it on the part of the bullies. These bullies seem to think in their minds their behaviors are justified, and that they are invincible, which of course couldn’t be farther from the truth. They also only have power if you allow them to have power because the truth of it is, bullies are cowards. They only accept their version of reality as the ultimate reality and get totally tweaked if you mess with their perception of how it should all be. With mine I marvel at how literally crazy and unbalanced they are and pity them at the same time. This hatred is all they have to do all day, and that is truly and incredibly sad.
Cyber bullying is something, however, that not enough people take seriously even if it is illegal. So if Monica Lewinsky wishes to use her unfortunate celebrity to shine a light down the dark rabbit hole of bullying, I am all for it. After all, bullying happens most often to the less obvious in this world: ordinary people both adult and kids.
(CNN) — Monica Lewinsky told an audience in Philadelphia on Monday that her new mission in life was to end cyberbullying. Her speech — and her goal — come as the former White House intern steps into the public eye after years of trying to live privately.
“Having survived myself, what I want to do now is help other victims of the shame game survive, too,” she told the audience at Forbes’ 30 Under 30 summit. “I want to put my suffering to good use and give purpose to my past.”
Lewinsky, who as an intern in 1995 had an affair with President Bill Clinton, said she was “patient zero” of online harassment.
“There was no Facebook, Twitter or Instagram back then,” she said. “But there were gossip, news and entertainment websites replete with comment sections and emails which could be forwarded. Of course, it was all done on the excruciatingly slow dial up. Yet around the world this story went. A viral phenomenon that, you could argue, was the first moment of truly ‘social media’.”
Monica Lewinsky has broken a decade-long silence to announce her campaign to end cyberbullying and today’s toxic culture of internet shaming.
In her first ever public address, the former mistress of President Bill Clinton revealed her plan to launch a “cultural revolution” against the sort of online harassment she experienced firsthand in the late 1990s…..Lewinsky described her life since the 1998 sex scandal that resulted in Clinton’s impeachment by the House of Representative and subsequent acquittal by the Senate as one marred by a deep sense of shame and even suicidal thoughts….She intends to share her story with victims of cyberbullying and online harassment. There are many of them: almost 54% of young Facebook users describe being bullied or harassed online.
As many know, I have been the victim of cyber bullies for a couple of months now. Cyber bullying happens to adults as well as kids. People have liked and commented on the cyber bullying, which is tantamount to approval, is it not?
People who are actual cyber bullies (as in doing it) are individuals with serious issues who hide behind a keyboard. They go well beyond First Amendment rights. People who like cyber bullying are sad people as well.
The objective of cyber bullying is to hurt.
I am a blogger. I am also a writer. My opinions vary from the opinions of many on occasion. It’s life. I am being bullied not because of that but for a much more personal reasons. In a nut shell, I am being bullied because I am happy and love my life and crazy as it sounds, I am being bullied by people who chose to leave my life . These people don’t even live in Chester County and they don’t know and have never met the majority of the few who like their efforts.
Some of the few people who approve of what is being done to me live in Chester County, but have never met me. A volunteer at the Chester County SPCA is one who has liked things (out of deference to my friend Pat who is President of the board at the CCSPCA I haven’t mentioned this person.) A couple of folks who may or may not be involved with other animal rescues but did not like things I wrote are others. Some people who have liked things on this page are what can be described as innocently naive to a lot of what is social media and who had absolutely NO idea what they were “liking” at first and then were mortified when they figured it out.
A few of these people who support this page (and there aren’t many who actually do support the cyber bullying efforts) live in or around West Vincent. They think they are above the law and like to tell people they are “connected” and what does that mean other than they know a couple of local and limited politicians who will eventually be out of office in a small, rural, and dysfunctional municipality? The reason these West Vincent related people dislike me is because quite simply I stuck up with my friends who have been quite literally victimized by the politics and pious hypocrisy of a small cabal in that township. That and I objected to things like eminent domain for private gain when it was discussed a few Christmases ago with regard to the Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show. It makes me chuckle that these strangers consider themselves relevant to my life, because they simply aren’t.
These people have never met me. They have never had a conversation with me. Yet they “hate” me. Does it sound like middle school lunchroom bullying to you or is that just me? And the irony is participating on a cyber bullying site only hurts them, not me.
Cyber bullying however, is no joke. The difference between adults being cyber bullied and kids is that as an adult you have the ability to tune the noise out and to consider the source. As an adult you have the ability to discern that someone is mentally messed up, kids can’t necessarily do that as they don’t yet have the emotional maturity.
Cyber bullying is wrong. And there is a big difference between blogging and writing and cyber bullying someone. As a breast cancer survivor I am made of tougher emotional stuff than others. So can I handle this ultimately? Yes, because these are mean people who don’t matter. But the reality is that I am one of millions of children and adults being cyber bullied every day. So I decided to share this today. And the people who applaud this kind of harassment and egg it on are just as bad as those perpetrating the cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying is indeed against the law. I choose to ignore my bullies for the most part because they only want attention, and yes they exhibit stalker-like behavior (think Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction only far less polished). They have this twisted obsession when it comes to me which shows their mental state, unfortunately. And I have indeed had feedback from law enforcement about this as well as mental health professionals. It’s sad, but their issues are their own, not mine.
Take a stand against cyber bullying and cyber harassment and cyber stalking. And if it could happen to me, it can happen to you. Or your kids.
How do you keep your joy? How do you keep your joy in the face of unpleasantness?
It is very true that you cannot control the actions of others, you can only control your own actions and behavior.
As a writer and a blogger I have been a target of unpleasantness. It is nothing new, but that never makes it right. When you write, you are putting yourself out there. You will have fans of your writing as well as the detractors. Sometimes the people are those you know, but a lot of the time they are just strangers.
When people love something I write, or a photo, or a recipe it is such a nice feeling. That is what makes blogging so fun. It’s a very neat connection at times.
I am blessed with meeting some very cool people throughout the years I have been writing. I have also had some unpleasant experiences. The two topics that seem to cause unpleasant experiences always seem to get whittled down to two topics: politics and animal rescue. That is why I don’t write about these two topics very much any more.
One of the newer topics I have touched on a couple of times now, and will continue to cover is cyber bullying and cyber stalking. It’s real, it happens every day. It happens to kids and adults alike. It is an unpleasant side of the Internet.
I have been a victim of this welcome to bizarre-O world behavior for a while now. It began a couple weeks before my 50th birthday. The people doing this to me used to be in my life. They left my life of their own accord years ago. Only they didn’t really leave. They have tracked me via the Internet.
It is sad and disturbing at the same time that these people have nothing better to do. They pore over blog posts looking for ways to twist topics I have written about. They skew and oddly sexualize things. From a psychological perspective it’s obvious they need help, and a lot of it.
For the most part, I ignore the whole thing. You see it is pretty simple why they persist: they are miserably unhappy people who want to steal the joy of others and pervert it. It’s sad and stuck all at the same time. But I can’t control their actions, I can only control my own. And I choose to be the better person in the equation.
But what this experience has done in addition is spurn an interest within me. Cyber bullying and cyber stalking is a very timely topic in this country. Today I read about U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn) and his efforts to do something about cyber stalking.
In The Providence Journal in late May there was a very thoughtful editorial on cyber bullying. The writer points out the high profile cyber bullying cases we hear about are the ones that lead to suicide and so on . Basically, if the case is dramatic and flashy, it gets attention.
The thing is this: I am an adult. I can consider the source and tune it out. My rational mind knows that it is the handiwork of truly messed up people. But not everyone can process cyber bullying pragmatically for lack of a better description, especially in a lot of the cases, the young.
There is a fascinating editorial in the New York Times today. Here is an excerpt:
Welcome to the age of Internet hate, when “it’s never been easier to send an anonymous death threat,” writes Jack Shafer for Reuters…..The Internet and social media have drastically altered the conventions of traditional bullying, threatening and harassment. Phenomena once thought native to playgrounds and high school locker rooms are now a bug of human interaction through technology — for children, teenagers and adults alike.
Has the Internet made us more hateful? Or has the Internet simply made it easier for us to exercise our in-born spite?…..”I was so puzzled by people who were telling us that anonymity was the reason there was so much vile meanness and attacks online,” said the Canadian journalist Paula Todd in a video interview with the National Post. ….Ms. Todd is the author of “Extreme Mean,” which examines “motives and machinations behind cyber-abuse — tormenting, trolling, harassment, cyber-bullying, stalking, and sexual extortion — and the toll it is taking on children, youth, and adults around the world.”
….In a cover story for the January 2014 issue of Pacific Standard, Amanda Hess relayed her own personal encounter with cyberabuse: a Twitter account set up for the express purpose of issuing threats — like stalking, rape and decapitation — to the popular Slate staff writer. “I felt disoriented and terrified,” she recalls. “Then embarrassed for being scared, and, finally, pissed.” She continued, “headlessfemalepig was clearly a deranged individual with a bizarre fixation on me. I picked up my phone and dialed 911.”….But online misogyny need not always be wielded by men. There are countless examples of women utilizing the Internet and social media to spread hate. …..Women victims of Internet hate also aren’t limited to progressive ideologies. Ms. Hess is a celebrated feminist writer with a largely liberal readership, but conservative women are no less exempt…..
Take the time to read the entire op-ed, it is fascinating. My bringing up cyber bullying on my blog will without a doubt cause a renewed flurry of bullying attempts towards me. I expect it, and I don’t care. Their behavior is theirs to deal with. But this topic of cyber bullying is garnering more attention every day and that is a positive thing.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court will consider the free speech rights of people who use violent or threatening language on Facebook and other electronic media where the speaker’s intent is not always clear.
The court on Monday agreed to take up the case of an eastern Pennsylvania man sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for posting online rants about killing his estranged wife, shooting up a school and slitting the throat of an FBI agent…..For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has said that “true threats” to harm another person are not protected speech under the First Amendment. But the court has cautioned that laws prohibiting threats must not infringe on constitutionally protected speech. That includes “political hyperbole” or “unpleasantly sharp attacks” that fall shy of true threats.
The federal statute targeting threats of violence is likely to be used more often in the coming years “as our speech increasingly migrates from in-person and traditional handwritten communication to digital devices and the Internet,” said Clay Calvert, a law professor at the University of Florida.
Calvert, one of several free speech advocates who submitted a legal brief urging the court to use a subjective standard, said people mistakenly seem to feel that they can get away with more incendiary speech on the Internet, in tweets and in texts.
According to the Justice Department, 63 people were indicted on federal charges of making illegal threats in the 2013 fiscal year. That was up from 53 cases the previous year.
At the end of the day, it’s simple: don’t let people steal your joy. You know who you are and so do the people who love and care about you. There are a lot of sad and disturbed individuals on this planet, don’t make their issues yours. Also remember that God don’t like ugly and neither do most individuals with a conscience.
LEANDER — Like most pre-teens, 11-year-old Julia Young’s tan and purple room is usually covered with posters.
Now it’s empty because Julia, along with her best friend Melody Coffey, is staying somewhere private out of state while their families deal with a case of cyberbullying that has escalated into stalking and even death threats.
“All I want to do as a mother is protect my children, keep them from feeling that fear and feeling that invasion of privacy that they feel now that they will never feel safe again,” said Christine Young, Julia’s mother.
Young tells KVUE the cyberbullying began three months ago with a girl she says was once her daughter’s friend at Stiles Middle School in Leander ISD…..After that things began to escalate online and in school.
“Calling her names, saying I’m going to spread rumors that you’ve slept with all these guys and you’re a whore and a slut. Nobody will want to touch you,” Christine says, regarding the girl’s rumors started about her daughter.
The threats quickly escalated on Instagram and public messages that were going out to any of the kids at school following this account, said Young.
It doesn’t just happen to kids, it happens to adults. I know, because cyber bullying via social media is happening to me.
I had mentioned a parody of this blog had cropped up. It has unfortunately evolved into more of a case of adult cyber-bullying than parody. The suspected architects are those I believe used to be in my life. They haven’t been for years. Yes, years. And neither lives in Chester County. I have zero contact with them or desire for contact with them, and will continue to have no contact with them. Ironically and quite a shame to say, but they left my life (their choice). Apparently and unknown to me until now they keep tabs on me, which is truly so very sad that this is all they have to do all day. I never would have thought they were such empty and hollow people. I just figured when I went on with my life, so did they.
Every day they put an inordinate amount of time into scouring through anything I have written in the hopes that they can skew it or make it ugly and dirty. They pepper their writings with digs at others in my life and negativity about anything and everything. Unfortunately for them, every day it makes them look more sad, more stuck, and more twisted. They act as if I am a public figure, when in fact I am just a regular every day person.
Yes, cyber bullying is against the law, but some people feel that this is their God-given right, so it is not my job to dissuade them of that notion. The fact that adults older than I am can spend their days being eaten alive by envy, jealousy and anger is such a shame. Think of all the good they could do if they used their energy for good or anything positive, right?
Am I upset by all of this? No not really. I don’t need them for any self-validation and bullies of any age or stage of life are to be pitied. What they do is a cry for help in their own stagnant and stale lives. They should be pitied and prayed for. As should anyone dumb enough to buy into what they are desperately trying to peddle.
You see the biggest problem they have is that I am happy. And no amount of negativity can rob me of that. I choose to share my thoughts and photos and whatnot on this blog, and I will continue to do so. What is happening also makes me realize how very lucky I am and blessed.
Yesterday was the 225th anniversary of the United States Constitution. Truly, the bible of our freedoms was signed on September 17, 1787. Yesterday a friend of mine had to defend her honor as a free woman of the United States of America.
Why is it Tredyffrin feels it is above the very principles upon which this country was founded? How ironic is that considering as a municipality they hold within their borders part of one of the most sacred sites of the American Revolution and of our history? You know, Valley Forge?
What truths do we really hold to be self-evident? In Tredyffrin, quite frankly, I shudder to think.
I am astounded at the Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors President Michelle Kichline. She danced around the subject of Vice President of the Board of Supervisors John P. DiBuonaventuro turning Tredyffrin’s taxpayer-funded website into TMZ.com. And I am still somewhat astounded that exiting Tredyffrin Township Manager Mimi Gleason went along with this whole enchilada, including a personal attack by an elected official on Pattye Benson who gives so much to her community. And as a blogger, I have been in Pattye’s position. I have been threatened, as have other bloggers I know. And time and again I ask for what? Having an opinion that runs contrary to the party line of some petty local government or selective government officials? Was People’s Republic of Tredyffrin Supervisor DiBuonaventuro channelling his inner Corbett? (Remember when Corbett went after bloggers before becoming governor? I wrote about that topic in *shock and horrors* Main Line Media News and it is reprinted below.)
I was thinking today about my balloon ride on 9/11, and how I was moved to tears by not only what the day represents (and it has extra meaning to me as someone who by happenstance walked out of the shopping concourse in the World Trade Center in 1993 just as the garage blew up), but moved by the beautiful green field dotted with a couple hundred first responders from all over Chester County who came together on 9/11. Then I thought about what my friend Pattye had to bravely do last night. She stood up and disclosed to all (see YouTube) that because of Lettergate she received a very odd phone call last week – from the departing Township Manager and Chief of Police. What was the point of that? Intimidation? I can’t help but wonder if I will also become a target because I have blogged about this? (This is not my first rodeo, and when horrible things like this happen it seems again that ordinary citizens have hit upon subjects government doesn’t want aired in public, right?)
When you think of what our founding fathers fought and died for, and what all those people (including first responders) died for on 9/11, I am so truly and deeply saddened and angered that Tredyffrin Township seems to think this is all o.k. and don’t you feel the same?
It’s not. Today, we as bloggers in the South Eastern PA blogosphere applaud Pattye Benson for rising above and speaking her piece in a dignified and forthright manner. She behaved far better than any in government (either elected official or township employee) deserve. Tredyffrin owes her, Main Line Media News, and anyone who exercises their First Amendment Rights an apology.
And as a municipality which is Republican dominated,
they are not exactly forwarding the cause of their party or their party’s political belief system. (As a Republican I am ashamed and embarrassed for them) I am so over bullying by government. (IMHO it doesn’t just happen in Tredyffrin either) I mean think about it people! Pattye Benson was in fact cyber-bullied by government officials and township officials. Cyber-bullied, the thing they worry about in schools and here it is adults in power not exactly practicing what they preach, right?
….The regular Board of Supervisor’s meeting ended with supervisor and citizen new matters. Chairman Michelle Kichline read a statement from the Board of Supervisors concerning the use of the township website for John DiBuonaventuro’s letter to the citizens. Although a personal attack on a private citizen, Kichline stood by the decision to post his letter on township letterhead on the website. She did say that the board will look into developing a policy for the use of the website going forward. As the private citizen who was the target of DiBuonaventuro’s venomous attack, Kichline and the Board of Supervisors response was far from satisfactory.
Following Kichline’s statement on the Suzy Pratowski matter and the use of the township website for a supervisor’s personal letter, Andrea Felkins, a former School Board director and longtime resident , presented a lengthy statement in opposition. Felkins was absolute in her conviction against DiBuonaventuro’s use of the township website for his personal attack on me and of Community Matters…Below is the transcript of my statement from last night’s September 17 Board of Supervisors meeting:
Pattye Benson Personal Statement September 17, 2012
Members of the Board of Supervisors and citizens of Tredyffrin Township – I had not intended to speak tonight, preferring to listen to other’s voices. But something happened this past Friday, that has shaken me to my very core. At approximately 9:40 AM on Friday, September 14, I received a joint phone call from township manager Mimi Gleason and Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo that has forever changed who I am. In life’s journey, this is my watershed moment and a feeling that I will never forget.
Unable to shake how I was feeling, after 24 hours, I wrote the following email to Mimi Gleason and copied Michelle Kichline, chair of the Board of Supervisors.
Let me share that September 15 email with you.
Dear Ms. Gleason,
There are two reasons that I am writing this email (1) to state that as a citizen of Tredyffrin Township, I now feel threatened and harassed by our government and (2) to request that you never contact me again, unless it is with a written apology for your actions.
I have thought of little else since receiving your phone call yesterday, Friday, September 14. As a township resident, to be blindsided with a conference call from the township manager and the police superintendent was more than a little intimidating; I have to wonder how often you have taken a similar approach with other citizens in this community. The telephone conversation left me wondering exactly what was the purpose of the call and why did you involve Tony Giaimo except as a witness or possibly to record the phone conversation. Although there was no mention made of the call being recorded, Tony did state he was in his police vehicle, so am I to assume that the telephone conversation was recorded without my knowledge.
Between the historic house tour, the Paoli Blues Fest and personal health issues, I do not have the time or energy for your directives, missives or whatever else was the intention of your phone call or of your email dated September 7. On September 7, I emailed you the following simple question:
“Who is responsible for Mr. DiBuonaventuro’s letter on the township website? Was placing the letter on the website sanctioned by you, the township manager?”
The only response that my question required was a simple, yes or no, with the possible addition that the chair of the Board of Supervisors and the township solicitor had OK’d the letter for the township website. However, no, you decided on a different response, one that was not required, not needed and not necessary. Frankly, as a citizen and taxpayer in this township, your response was one that I believe you should never have sent. When I received your email, I made no response.
Your call yesterday revisited the opinion you stated in your September 7 email to me; again complaining that Community Matters contained misinformation and incorrect facts, specifically the assisted living project. However, never once in the conversation did you cite specifics as to what was incorrect. As a response to your complaints about the Suzy Pratowski matter, I stated that the Main Line Media News, TE Patch, Daily Local and the Philadelphia Inquirer had all written articles on the subject. I further stated that there was at least a week after the news articles appeared for the police department, the township or the Board of Supervisors to make a statement before I wrote anything on Community Matters. Residents were asking questions and no one seemed to be providing answers.
As a result of the situation, I did my own mini-investigation, speaking with District Attorney Tom Hogan, District Judge Tom Tartaglio, BOS Chair Michelle Kichline and Police Supt. Giaimo. After a thorough analysis, I presented my own summary statement on Community Matters. I clarified that John DiBuonaventuro was not the unidentified driver with Ms. Pratowski in the May 28 incident, as a photo in the newspapers may have implied. In my summary, I stated that DiBuonaventuro was interviewed by the police and that the police were satisfied that he was not in any way involved with the two police officers not appearing for the August 21 court date. I wrapped the summary up and tied a ribbon on it, stating that the two police officers missing the hearing was a human error, a mistake. I also thanked those involved (Hogan, Tartaglio, Kichline and Giaimo) for their help and used the words that I was ‘closing the chapter’. Little did I know, what was to happen … DiBuonaventuro’s letter, your involvement with the letter on the website, your September 7 email and most recently, your telephone call of September 14.
Feeling threatened by your phone call, I remarked at one point during the conversation that I should have an attorney on the call. I stated to you and Giaimo that as a resident of this township, I have rights, and as a citizen of the United States, I have rights, including 1st Amendment rights. I believe that our government does not have the right to harass and intimidate those citizens it serves to protect. I am not an attorney but I cannot imagine that your actions of yesterday (or your email) would be viewed favorably by the courts. Further, I cannot imagine that you would have considered making a similar phone call to Main Line Media News, TE Patch or the Philadelphia Inquirer nor would you have dare taken this approach with an attorney who might understand the legal implications of your actions far better than me.
Supt. Giaimo asked what I would like to see happen going forward – my response was a denouncement from the Board of Supervisors for the letter going on the website and an apology from the township manager. It should be noted that I quickly also stated that I did not expect either of those two things to happen.
It saddens me greatly that you were compelled to bring Tony into this matter. He and I have enjoyed a good working relationship over the last several years, including the blues festival and the house tour. Was your motive to damage my relationship with him, or was it to record the conversation? It is entirely unclear why you involved the police superintendent, except to further intimidate me.
In case you are not aware, your phone call was so upsetting, that I immediately called Michelle Kichline, chair of the Board of Supervisors to report the conversation. You suggested that I was ‘mistaken’ when I suggested that Ms. Kichline had not seen Mr. DiBuonaventuro’s letter before it was posted on the website. For the record, Ms. Kichline again confirmed that she had not seen the actual letter before it went on the website; I guess you are the one who is mistaken.
In closing, your intimidating actions have contributed to my feeling harassed and threatened by some in our local government. I ask that you not contact me again, unless it is with a written apology. For the record, I believe that John Petersen is also owed an apology from you, for the words, “so-called legal expert has no expertise …” contained in your Sept 7 email to me.
Sincerely, Pattye Benson
This is the end of my email to Ms. Gleason but I have a few closing remarks.
The great irony is that today is this country’s Constitution Day. Two hundred and twenty five years ago, on September 17, 1787, forty-two of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention held their final meeting. Only one item of business occupied the agenda that day, to sign the Constitution of the United States of America. Our founding fathers fought and died for our freedom, and I am left wondering if what is going on in this township is what they would have intended.
In closing, I am but one person, but I believe that I represent a far greater community.
Can we question our government?
Do we dare to have an opinion?
I believe that ALL our voices matter.
There is nothing subjective about the First Amendment and any of our other inalienable rights.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness
Will Pennsylvanians soon be looking forward to a new slogan for the Commonwealth? How will “Welcome to the People’s Republic of Pennsylvania” roll off the tongue? I don’t think it will dance as nicely as “You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania” somehow. Nor should it.
What has my wanton blogging soul all a-twitter (pardon the pun)? News which went viral across Pennsylvania as well as the country: Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett, upholder of truth, justice and the American way in Pennsylvania as attorney general, issued a grand-jury subpoena to Twitter to unmask a couple of anonymous bloggers who weren’t part of his fan club.
Yes, that’s what I said, “Huh?” Apparently these two bloggers are known on Twitter by the handles of @bfbarbie and @CasaBlancaPA and they have been criticizing Mr. Corbett. OK, well, it’s 140 characters or less, right? He’s a tough-guy politician, right? So why the thin skin? Surely Mr. Corbett has faced tougher criticism from opposing candidate Dan Onorato? In today’s world, who hasn’t criticized a politician? Over dinner, in the editorial page, at the grocery store, in a public meeting, on a blog, on some other form of social media? It’s an American tradition as old as this great nation for goodness’ sake!
This is so confoundingly perplexing on so many levels that this issue has even prompted a comment from Paul Alan Levy, a litigator with the Public Citizen Litigation Group. Mr. Levy commented in part on Mr. Corbett’s decision to sue the federal government to try to block the new health-care bill as being too invasive in citizens’ lives. Like Mr. Levy, I have to wonder: what is so different about this?
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution was written to protect things like free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press. It says literally:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
So how does this work with politicians again? Are we as human beings supposed to blindly follow where all lead? Are we only supposed to agree with politicians, never disagree? I’m sorry; did I fall asleep and wake up down the rabbit hole with Alice in Wonderland or something?
Is Tom Corbett the new Henry VIII of Pennsylvania? “Off with their heads” and all that? Instead of priest holes, will we all soon have blogger holes in our houses and an underground railroad to move bloggers from safe house to safe house to avoid the AG’s guards?
Are bloggers all now criminals and outlaws for expressing our opinions about elected officials and those seeking not only local but higher state and even federal-level office? If some of the most famous founding fathers were alive today would they be in jeopardy as well for scribbling broadsheets under pseudonyms? You know, like Benjamin Franklin or John Adams or Thomas Paine?
Seriously, what century are we living in? What’s next? Resurrection of the Scarlet Letter? Only this time it is a “B” for Blogger? Stocks? Pillories? Being paraded through the proverbial town square in chains?
This is a man who wants us to consider him for governor, right? So how many people across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania blog or use some form of social media to express themselves? And should elected officials use their office as a bully pulpit to squash all critics like bugs? What is it about politicians? You can write about them as long as it’s good news or they can control the content? That is what their publicists are for, I thought.
If the First Amendment rights of these bloggers were or are in peril, can it be considered that so could be the First Amendment rights of every American from coast to coast?
Given the now undeniable symbiotic relationship between the media and bloggers, one would hope the media would pay close attention to this story as it unfolds and at its conclusion. After all, the media get a lot of information from blogs and bloggers (“citizen journalists”), they can’t deny it, and so in theory if the First Amendment rights of bloggers are challenged thusly, the press is next.
Media reports indicate that by Friday, May 21, 2010, Mr. Corbett was just having a bad day and is pulling his subpoena. It is a good thing that Mr. Corbett has done the right thing, but it still gives all of us pause for thought, doesn’t it?
Pennsylvanians of all political persuasions indeed have a lot to think of come November 2010.
I guess in November 2012 and every election going forward until Tredyffrin residents have more fairly representative government people will have something to think about, huh? They can try to quell our voices, but like our votes, they are our own, are they not?
I believe everyone is multi-faceted. I also believe strongly in citizens being able to express themselves over projects in their communities, or even outside their communities. And for every type of individual human being is, there are just as many differing opinions.
Recently, and elsewhere, I commented on two different things happening on the Main Line, a place until a few months ago which I called home for over 30 years.
I could take a lot of time and mention the who what where of it all, but thatat the end of the day is somewhat immaterial. What is important is with one of these issues, people with opinions contrary to mine have basically been practicing cyberbullying at my expense for the past couple of days.
It wasn’t enough that they disagreed with me, they felt they had to literally attempt to completely verbally shred me in addition to disagreeing with me.
First it was that I no longer lived on the Main Line, ergo, I could not comment. Then it mushroomed into I was this horrible person with nothing of value to add to society. Only more mean. Basically, they used a heated community discussion to flex their muscles from a bully pulpit.
I have always defended the right of someone to post under a pen name, versus their own name. Like stating your opinion publicly, it is a fine American tradition. However, what it has become is a way for certain people, cowards and bullies, to hide. I don’t think that is right. Maybe it is a face your accusers thing. Maybe it is that as an adult you realize bullies come in all ages, shapes, and varieties.
Being a seasoned blogger I am mostly used to people having a lot to say about that. Having experience in community activism, I am also used to the pitfalls of giving back to your community.
A lot of the time, I ignore this stuff. Today, I am not. The reason I am not, is I am not only entitled to a difference of opinion as we live in a free country, but also because if you are not a strong person, or are young and not emotionally equipped to handle this crap (it is crap), it can be very, very bad. The news has been peppered the past few years with tales of suicide after online bullying.
I am blessed that I am strong enough to handle it, and when these situations crop up, they become at most an annoyance for a couple of days.
But you know, bullying is bullying. I have seen it on Facebook group pages too. All adults, but there is still that “crew” for lack of a better description. If you do not share their opinion and say they are fabulous, you are wrong. If you do not agree you are wrong, they bully. With words. In public. Online. At gatherings and meetings and functions. They are relentless that their opinion will be the sole opinion. And for what end? What does it matter in the big picture ? By all means, disagree, debate. But we’re not talking about sitting politicians who the public has a right to hold accountable, we’re talking about the people you see at church or in the car pick up line after school.
I have a long history of distaste when it comes to bullying. I went to a prestigious private school. For the most part I loved my experience and I still have the most fabulous group of core friends from that time.
However, there were some experiences that left a little to be desired. Mine involved what in retrospect wasn’t just meanness, but a form of bullying. I have long since forgiven the person who did it, and who did it is immaterial. As an adult you can see they must have been desperately unhappy, as a just turned 17 year old girl, you don’t have that clarity.
It was final semester senior year. We were in exams. I went into the senior only room called “senior study” to get something I forgot and to probably toss books in my cubby as I had an exam in a bit. For whatever reason it was I went to my cubby, which also acted like an in-school mailbox, and saw a note. I pulled it out. Big mistake.
On a plain piece of white paper someone had carefully cut out enough letters to form the words they needed. Yes, just like on some bad crime show on T.V. It was in fact a very I’m-experiencing-a-Dexter-like-moment, only that show hadn’t been created.
The note was horrible and quite frankly sick. It wasn’t the greatest way to preface a final exam or to end the year. It did not take too long before who had done it outed it themselves. They made the mistake of owning what they did to someone, and it only takes one someone to make it all come out. The irony is this was someone I had been friendly with, and with whom I had not been fighting, there was no real beef. It was a huge sense of betrayal as a teenage girl to discover who had done this, and mass confusion at the time as to why. I still 30 some odd years later do not know why. Not that it matters – it was just wrong.
I never told the school, it is not something any teacher or administrator would have tolerated back then, even if they did tolerate some other serious whackamole garbage. I do not believe I ever told my parents either. Some of my friends knew, but I don’t think all. Again, I have forgiven the person who did it although I will never understand, but it was somewhat of a defining moment. I had seen people bullied, and ended up being bullied after a fashion by this. That left a memory. But face it, we all know, Mean Girls wasn’t just a comedy with Lindsay Lohan. Those people exist in every stage of our lives and blessed are those who can just avoid them.
I remember not too many months ago when I was having a conversation with an administrator of an online forum and I expressed an opinion about bullying. Their response was that it was obvious I had never been bullied. To myself, I smiled. Some who are bullied never really stand up for themselves. They go along to get along and have a fear of not being liked or not being popular. I don’t. I refuse to put up with the nonsense, truthfully. I also am comfortable with the fact that not everyone on the face of the earth is always going to like you. It’s just life.
I am passionate and opinionated, that I do not ever deny. Nor do I say I am perfect (even if I am a damn fine cook). I have also learned that when women are of strong opinions a lot of people including ironically other women have a very hard time with that. I find that sad. Just because you haven’t spent your life at PTA Jane, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person, does it?
It’s a big world out there people, and there is room for all of us to be able to express how we feel. I al\ways said blogging was a contact sport. Only none of this occurred today on a blog. It occurred on a website for Internet-based news.
I guess what I am also saying is cyberbullying is not just for kids. Plenty of adults are guilty, too.