If you think state government should bully high schoolers for exercising their right to free speech, that it has a right to poke through the medical records of women who’ve had abortions, that there shouldn’t be a separation between church and state, and you’re A-OK with the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity’s effort to wipe out just about all functions of the federal government that benefit anyone other than the obscenely rich, but you only hold those views when your party is in power, than your dream job is working as communications director for Kansas Republican governor Sam Brownback.
A few days ago an 18 year old Kansas high school senior, while at a Kansas Youth in Government event, posted this tweet:
Of course hardly anyone knows about that tweet because they were following Emma Sullivan on Twitter. In fact, when she posted the tweet she had only 61 followers. But now she has thousands, because the “offending” tweet was spotted by one of Brownback’s taxpayer-funded government staffers, who took a screenshot of the tweet and sent it to Sullivan’s principal.
Sullivan had not, in fact, told Brownback he sucked. But that didn’t matter to Brownback’s commissars for regulation of speech and veneration of the great leader:
“That wasn’t respectful,” responded Sherriene Jones-Sontag. “In order to really have a constructive dialogue, there has to be mutual respect.”
Brownback’s brief speech to the students encouraged them to “be active in their government, community and public service,” Jones-Sontag says.
The tweet was the only one brought to her attention that day, she says, and it was passed along to the Youth in Government program, which organized the students’ visit to the capital.
“It was important for the organization to be aware of the comments their students were making.” Jones-Sontag says. “It’s also important for students to recognize the power of social media, how lasting it is. It is on the Internet.”
Coming from Sherriene Jones-Sontag, those comments are both chilling and absurdly comical. Jones-Sontag, after all, left a career as a local TV news reader to eventually be the propagandist for former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, infamous for his attempts to sieze the private medical records of women who’d had abortions. His office even subpoenaed the records of a motel near the office of since-assassinated George Tiller to try to determine the identities of adults who had brought minors for legal abortions.
While working for Kline, Jones-Sontag–she hadn’t started using the last name of her husband, the director of the Kansas chapter of Koch’s Americans for Prosperity–exhibited little concern that Bill O’Reilly had obtained the medical records of women who’d had abortions. When her boss ran an ad against his opponent about a 15 year old allegation of sexual harassment that was dismissed by the court, she told the opponent “prove to Kansas voters that you didn’t do this,” which seems a bit at odds with that whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing. And when reporters were given an email by Kline laying out how to use churches for his reelection campaign, she not only defended the memo but alleged (with nothing to support the claim) that someone had hacked Kline’s personal computer.
That a tweet by a high schooler has become national news shows that Jones-Sontag really, really sucks a lot at her job. But it also reveals a consistent pattern of authoritarianism. Despite being in bed with the supposedly libertarian Americans for Prosperity, Jones-Sontag is actually yet another example demonstrating that most conservative Republicans aren’t conservatives, they’re authoritarians:
On the left, there are significant numbers of ideological-driven activists, thinkers and voters who put ideology before partisanship. And many on the left claim as a make of pride their aloofness from parties or in-groups. (Whether they really are separate from in-groups is another story.) But on the right, there are few who put principle above party. Most activists, thinkers and polemicists–as opposed to “average” Republican voters–are partisans seeking to push the party in their desired direction, and some have deeply held policy beliefs on issues like taxes or the relationship between government and family. But few hold deep political or philosophical beliefs about the constitution of government, the relationship between government and society, or the protection or advancement of liberty. With the exception of some nativists—most notably Pat Buchanan—the American right is motivated more by partisanship than principle.
The politics of those on the American Right are not defined by a love of liberty and a revulsion against tyranny, as was the case with most of the Founding Fathers (at least as it concerned white men). There’s not much that’s a universal principle driving their politics. Their politics are informed and motivated by fears that they personally would fall under the control of, to quote Dinh, “ the people who would destroy America and her people.” For the faux conservatives at the Conservative Political Action Committee convention, principles are very malleable, and largely defined by whether their authoritarians are in power or they are out of power and in fear of those they believe “would destroy America and her people.”
Jones-Sontag probably isn’t willfully and knowingly sinister. She’s probably no Bond character, reveling in her venality. But that what makes appratchiks like her more dangerous, because they’re not informed by sound principals and they’re motivated by fear. Jones-Sontag probably thinks it’s a threat not just to her job, but to the social and moral order that someone like Emma Sullivan has the temerity and insouciance to mock Sam Brownback. After all, it’s “on the internet,” and Jones-Sontag is evidently very concerned about the evils of the internet, since prior to working for Phill Kline she was “Internet Safety Director for the Kansas Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, helping train children about safe internet use.”
One last thing. This is something else I found on the internet, from 1996:
My name is Sherriene Jones and I am a junior at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. I am currently working on a research project about freedom of speech in Latin America, in particular, in Argentina and Brazil.
I am interested in learning about the relationship between the Argentine government and news media. How do people view the relationship? Does the government have any affect or power over news media? Do news media affect the government? Are the any experts who study this relationship?
I would like to hear your views and opinions of this relationship. Please feel free to e-mail directly at sj204…@oak.cats.ohiou.edu
Thanks for taking the time to read this message and letting me know your thoughts.
I’d love to read the paper she eventually wrote. I’ll bet it was a spirited defense of Argentina’s policy of “disappearing” those who disagreed with their government. If Twitter had been around in 1976 to 1983, a high school senior who tweeted that their ruling military junta “blows a lot” might have been dropped from a helicopter to her death in the Atlantic Ocean. And the events leading to their death would have been started by a fearful, authoritarian-loving informer, who may have shared a lot of similarities with Sherriene Jones-Sontag.
*Disclaimer: in 2010 I managed the campaign of Brownback’s Democratic opponent. I did not meet or have any communication with Sherriene Jones-Sontag.