Controlling negative publicity is tough business in the modern world. Virtually everything is caught on tape -- good and bad -- and the Internet provides the ideal place for opposition. From anonymous commenters to bloggers to people on social networking sites, it is impossible to prevent negative commentary, which can spread like a Texas wildfire.
That hasn't stopped Rick Perry's presidential campaign from doing what it can to try and stop any kind of negativity, particularly on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. There have been plenty of stories about how Perry's campaign has blocked Twitter users, particularly those in the media that don't particularly like him. One Twitter user keeps a running list of everyone that has been blocked.
Now, an anti-immigration group, Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), claims that one of Perry's campaign workers tried to have a Perry protest event invitation removed from Facebook. ALIPAC alleges that "Clint Cox, who is the Washington State social media coordinator for Americans for Rick Perry's Super Pac 'Americans for Perry,' used the 'Report' feature to ask Facebook to delete the [Protest Rick Perry and His Support For Illegal Immigration] event." Now, this may have been the work of an overzealous campaign worker or it may have been part of a more coordinated effort to stifle debate. Either way, it makes the Perry campaign look reactionary and, worst of all, ignorant of how the Internet works.
We realize politics is hell and it isn't made any easier when you have to deal with millions and millions of posts and comments on the Internet, but blocking and reporting posts and users is no way to handle it. For the sake of Perry and his campaign, we offer five reasons why doing this is a bad idea.
5. It Is Censorship After All
Let's get the obvious one out of the way right up front. Free speech is free speech. Yes, there can be some really, REALLY heinous stuff posted online, but insert relevant metaphor about heat and kitchens here. If you didn't want to deal with the harsh realities of the Internet, you should have stayed out of the race. As Billy Joel once said about how tough the music business can be, "It ain't the Boy Scouts." Politics is worse, much worse. Censoring people is no solution. Find a better one, like a winning argument.
4. It Makes You Look Like a Neophyte
Besides the impossibility of chasing down every negative comment or Tweet spread across the expanse of the Web, doing so is not only an exercise in futility but a sure sign, to use Internet vernacular, "you're doing it wrong." You may not know the difference between Firefox and Internet Explorer. You may think e-mail and the Internet are the same thing. You probably don't know an SMTP from an ISP, but hire some people who do and let them take care of this so you don't look like an idiot. Don't be like that guy who called the Internet a "series of tubes" unless you want to be the brunt of jokes for the next decade.
3. It's Weak
People who believe in what they are doing don't run and hide from crazy online vitriol any more than the governor runs from a coyote when he's carrying a laser-sighted pistol. Want to look like a tough guy? Try being open about your feelings of frustration, disdain or even outright disgust of the idiots and anonymous bullies who far too often populate message boards and comment streams instead of pretending they don't exist or, worse yet, blocking their ability to debate you in the first place. It only makes the problem worse and it makes people think you are running from a fight.
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2. Nerds Will Catch You
Hacker groups like Anonymous are strong because they exist in huge numbers and their ranks are populated by people who know a lot more about technology than most. Nerds pride themselves on figuring things out and laughing at your inability to do the same. Whenever you think you are outsmarting a bunch of guys who love poring over lines of code as much as Perry likes shooting his gun, you are more likely just causing them to chuckle at you while downing Cheetos and Red Bull. As virtually any actress who has sent a naked text message or videotaped themselves having sex can attest, if it gets shared via the Web, it can be and often does become public record.
1. Nothing Looks Dumber Than a Facebook/Twitter Fight
Okay, maybe a bar fight, but you get the point. A juvenile "I know you are, but what am I" argument in a public forum (don't try to erase those Tweets -- that's why God invented screen capture software) may seem like the right thing to do in the heat of the moment, but it's not. Before you know it, one or the other is screaming "fascist" or "racist" or some other "ist" that makes everyone look like rejects from the Jerry Springer Show. We're not saying you shouldn't engage in healthy and robust debate, but nothing screams undignified like a comment stream throwdown between "PerryRulz2012" and "PerrySuxAzz4Ever." Save yourself and the rest of us the embarrassment.