Commentary

Maine Lawmakers Make Brave Stand Against Social Media, Reality

State-level politics isn’t the normal subject matter of this blog, but sometimes, between the debates over mind control and WrestleMania Appreciation Week, something pops up that’s so absurd it just can’t go unremarked.

This week’s installment of breathtaking idiocy comes courtesy of the Maine House of Representatives, a venerable legislative body whose younger members would like it to embrace social media in the cause of transparency and public engagement. Its older members, however… well, let’s just listen in, shall we?

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According to the Portland Press Herald, the social media initiative is the brainchild of Rep. Matt Pouliot, a 30-year-old Republican from Augusta, ME, who has asked the House Rules Committee to repeal a ban on members taking photos or video of the legislature’s public sessions, in order to allow them to broadcast its doings on social media platforms like Facebook Live.

The Press Herald quotes Pouliot: “It is all about creating broader access and insight to the governing process, and frankly, it enhances the general public’s ability to participate by using a platform such as Facebook Live that they’re already familiar with.”

But not everyone is familiar with the Face-thing. Enter Rep. John Martin, 75, a Democrat from Eagle Lake, ME, who argues: “If I had my way, there would be no Facebook and no accounts out there, no tweakers or whatever else, and society would be a lot better off if they read the newspapers and watched the news.”

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate that one particular phrase, “no tweakers or whatever else,” before moving on. Just roll it around in your head for a bit, maybe even say it out loud to fully grasp its substance. Okay, let’s move on.

Because Martin wasn’t done – no, he had real concerns about the immediacy and unfiltered quality of live video, and he expressed them most pungently in his rebuttal to Pouliot: “To simply make that, you know, bango and you are going to provide that to the world, I think we have enough of that crap that goes on now on social media and we don’t need any of it in the Maine House of Representatives.”

Pouliot, now perhaps engaged in his own internal debate as to whether he should laugh or cry, valiantly waved the flag of the future – or rather present – one last time before his proposal was tabled: “Social media is not going away, I hate to break it to you. It is where people get their information. Over 60 percent of Americans get their news from Facebook whether we like it or not.”

Go tell it to tweaker, son.
2 comments about "Maine Lawmakers Make Brave Stand Against Social Media, Reality".
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  1. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, January 19, 2017 at 1:56 p.m.

    You forgot to mention that the Maine house already live streams all of their sessions, or that there is no prohibition on media using social tools, including live broadcasting, as part of their coverage. 

    You also forgot to mention that the Republican majority in congress just passed a rule last year that fines any member $2,500 for broadcasting live during house sessions (related to Republicans refusal to vote on a bill that would ban gun sales to people on terror watch lists). 

    Do you disagree that most of what passes for news on social media now is not crap? 

    Really though, shouldn't legislators be focused on the tasks and issues in front of them instead of popping out their cameras to try to make themselves look good? 

    So, before you make an old legislator in Maine sound like some backwards Neanderthal because he thinks social media is filled mostly with garbage, I suggest you mull a few of those points around in your tweaker. 

  2. Jim Meskauskas from Media Darwin, Inc., January 19, 2017 at 2:21 p.m.

    It's certainly humorous to read the words of the old guy saying "tweakers" when he is likely referring to Twitter. It's like hearing your grandparents ask you if you are "taking the pot." But does social media really offer the opportunity for greater transparency? It certainly offers a form of public exposure that is relatively unprecedented. But exposure isn't the same thing as transparency. And even if it was, if it's not accompanied by understanding, it's fairly meaningless. I am no antediluvian, but I'm reminded of SeeChange in David Eggers's "The Circle." Documentation is data but data is not information, and information is not knowledge. In the absence of the latter two, the former is just more noise.

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