Think before you Tweet

Apr 26, 2012

Ever say something you wish you hadn't and then find it's not so easy to take back?

Thomaston state Rep. Charles Kruger, a Democrat, found himself in that situation after making a comment about former Vice President Dick Cheney on his Twitter account. Twitter is a social media site similar to Facebook, but not as popular.

According to a screen shot of the post, the Twitter comment read: "Cheney deserves same final end he gave Saddam. Hope there are cell cams." Strong words.

In an ugly mob scene, Hussein was hanged for war crimes in 2006.

When this went public, people were offended. Republicans published Kruger's personal cell phone number and urged constituents to call it. Some called for his resignation, and he has even received death threats, according to some reports.

"I very much regret this incident," he said. "It was a stupid quip and I wish I could take it back. It is not in [my] head or my heart to want to hurt anyone. I am grateful for the words of support I have received from Republicans and Democrats in the House."

As a newspaper, it is our job to uphold the First Amendment, the freedom of speech and the press. While we may think a comment is made in poor taste, as it was here, we are much happier living in a society where people can stand on their soap box and shout offensive things at authority figures.

That is not to say people are not accountable for their words. Kruger is an elected official, and this has become a public issue. Based on what we've heard in talking to community members, there is an expectation that a member of the Maine House of Representatives would hold himself to a higher standard of discourse.

Some may feel it was unfair this became a public issue. It was his private Twitter account meant only for his friends, but increasingly we see that there is no privacy when it comes to something you post on the Internet. Just like something you whisper in a friend's ear, if they tell one friend who tells one friend, it spreads quickly.

And who knows how long an Internet blurb will remain?

As it was stated in the movie "The Social Network":

"The Internet's not written in pencil ... it's written in ink."

Kruger's remark is surprising because we expect this kind of thing from a young blogger posting an anonymous comment on a news story rather than from an elected official.

That said, we think his apology should be accepted in the spirit it was given. We find the suggestion he should resign an extreme overreaction. The argument that only those on one side of the political fence or the other make offensive comments from time to time is laughable.

Democracy is a messy business that promotes passionate and robust debate. We think arguments are better made without resorting to name-calling, death threats and personal attacks, but many have committed this sin in the heat of the moment. In addition, these arguments on policies affecting war, veterans, health care and the economy are no small matters. Those who care are getting worked up.

Just remember to think before you speak, or Tweet.


Supporting jobs and children

Some may see the decision by the RSU 13 Budget Committee to put $250,000 back into the budget to save some jobs as another tax-increasing measure.

However, there are benefits to the community in keeping people employed. Every working person spends money at nearby businesses.

In addition, while many would like to see taxes decrease, few could reasonably argue the schools in this large district need fewer employees and resources to help children. In some cases, teachers find themselves parenting children who are having a tough time at home or who are in need of basic necessities.

Much of the budget is devoted to pay for teachers. We would like to see a system put in place where the best teachers are rewarded the most, based on performance and results, rather than simply receiving a raise for making it through another year.

However, we hope the community will support the school budget and the jobs it provides.

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