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Steve Rose | Apology is needed, but not students

Well, up is down, and down is up. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback himself has now apologized to the tweeter, rather than the tweeter apologize to him.

An 18-year-old Shawnee Mission East student, Emma Sullivan, was on a recent field trip with other high school students to visit the governor, and while she was there, she tweeted of the governor, “heblowsalot.”

That was not a particularly nice way to upbraid your host, but Emma had all the right in the world to tweet whatever she wanted to tweet.

How her tweet came to the governor’s attention is another matter, and really is more disconcerting than the tweet itself.

Brownback’s office monitors social media, looking for anything that has the governor’s name mentioned.

What? The taxpayers are paying for people to do that? The governor’s staff has nothing better to do than monitor Tweets and Facebook?

This “Big Brother” department is at the source of the controversy.

And things originally went as the governor apparently had intended. The monitors caught the tweet, then caught the culprit, and then admonished the culprit.

Talk about a thin skin. Talk about pettiness.

As this drama unfolded, Emma was taken to the woodshed, figuratively speaking. Her principal scolded her for an hour and demanded she apologize to the governor.

Then, everything hit the fan.

When the story broke and spread throughout the country, Emma became a martyr. This 18-year-old, who dared to express her opinions by tweeting, was being bullied by her governor.

Emma’s followers on her tweeting mushroomed from just 60 to more than 10,000.

National news organizations, including CNN, contacted her.

Finally, after getting hammered by the press, Brownback saw the light. He came down from the mountaintop and knelt down before Emma and he, not she, did the apologiziing.

Brownback declared that there had been an over-reaction, and that freedom of speech was at issue here. It was there all along, but by having monitors of free speech, it was inevitable that there would be this kind of collision.

Brownback still owes one more apology. He should apologize to Kansans for monitoring free speech in the first place, with a goal of what? To strike out at anyone who dare criticize the governor?

This monitoring department of social media needs to be shut down immediately. It does a disservice to the citizens of the state who are paying for such an ill-conceived effort.

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