Why Rick Perry’s Twitter-Blocking Is Childish, Assbaggy and, Oh Yes, Un-American

I wonder if he knew a woman he'd blocked on Twitter was standing just feet away, with her stupid opinions and all.

My initial reaction to finding out that Governor Rick Perry–my governor, whether I voted for the man or not–has blocked me on Twitter was one of bemused joy. “I WIN THE WORLD!” I tweeted excitedly, because it was such a beautiful and public fingers-in-ears tantrum thrown by a grown-ass man. There’s so much that is characteristic of Perry and conservatives of his ilk that’s explained and illustrated by this simple act: a refusal to engage with criticism, an ability to believe things–like that Texas has a miracle economy–that are demonstrably false, behavior that puts wishful and privileged thinking–even magical thinking–ahead of actual policy and practice.

It was a little act that said to me: Yes, everything you think is true about this particular brand of asshole is actually true. Particularly because I can’t recall ever being in any kind of Twitter fight or skirmish or even interaction with dear @GovernorPerry. I’m sure I must have Tweeted at or about him before, because I spend an awful lot of time Tweeting and writing about politics (not as much as I do about drinking and cats, but you know). But in terms of pitching some kind of Twitter campaign to harass the guy? No way. In fact, I didn’t even follow him until today–that is, I didn’t even try to follow him until today. And yet I was already on his blacklist?

Earlier this afternoon, a number of my Texan friends began tweeting at/about @GovernorPerry regarding a particular update, which he posted around 2 p.m.: “Can’t beat a pork chop on a stick at the Iowa State Fair.” Now look, I don’t care what Rick Perry said about running for president over the weekend, Rick Perry did not start running for president of the United States until this tweet, today. Complimenting another state’s cuisine is one thing for a Texan to do. Asserting that another state’s cuisine cannot be beat by something even from Texas? Can’t even be beat by a State Fair of Texas snack? Are you kidding me, Rick Governor-Guns-And-God Perry? The man panders with the best of them, but this was a new low.

(Oh and genuinely, nothing against Iowa’s pork chop on a stick. I am sure it’s really delicious, Rick Perry’s greasy opinion notwithstanding. Pork chop on a stick, I have nothing but respect for you.)

So I figured I better board the Rick Perry Twitter train as soon as possible, especially if he was going to keep talking about how nothing could beat non-Texan cuisine. As soon as I did, I reckon I had an experience that is not totally unusual: I found that I couldn’t follow my own governor’s own personal Twitter account, because he had blocked me. In fact, I’m part of a nice little club comprised of largely liberal and progressive tweeters that was even written up in the Washington Post back in March. Hell, there’s even a Twitter list comprised of journalists and bloggers who’ve felt the wrath of a Perry block. (To be fair, I’ve heard of other politicians making similar moves on social media–John Cornyn and Kenny Marchant, among others. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are Democrats doing it, too, but Perry’s actions are a great microcosmic example of an overall conservative philosophy, which is: la-la-la-la.)

At this point, a thought started to form in my mind, and that thought was less bemused-joy and more slow-simmering outrage. I don’t know when Perry blocked me, and I suppose I don’t care whether it was Candidate Perry or Governor Perry who did it. But I do know that it is deeply disgusting, and downright un-American, for an elected official to block, even symbolically, his or her own constituent. The political contract in this country is founded on the idea that citizens can and should have access to government and elected officials. Rick Perry is breaking that contract.

Sometimes constituent access costs money–public documents, for example–or time–parking it outside a senator’s office for some face time–but fundamentally, our elected officials do not have a right to tell us that we cannot speak to them. That’s the way this whole democracy game works. Elected officials just do not have a right to tell us that they will not listen to us. In America, politicians don’t just get the good half of the bargain–that you get to be elected and given political power, and then get to chunk out the crap part of the bargain–dealing with constituents who disagree with you, because it’s hard, or a hassle, or hurts your feelings. You take the job of Governor of the great State of Texas because you’re the kind of person who is prepared to engage with a feisty and proud public. Or so I thought.

As Alexandra Petri notes in her piece about Perry’s Twitter tantrums in the WaPo, it is the height of social media illiteracy to both have a public, unlocked Twitter account and to block people, because all I have to do as @AndreaGrimes is to log out of my account (I don’t even have to log into another that can follow Perry!) and visit http://www.twitter.com/governorperry. Bam! All the news about how Rick Perry feels about pork chops on a stick that I can … shake a stick at. Anyway. Petri writes:

It’s like telling your mother she can’t read your diary and then posting it online. It’s like telling anyone he or she can’t read anything and posting it online. And if you’re sharing information with 30,000 followers on Twitter, well, what are you worried about?

Which is true, of course, but misses the point. Rick Perry isn’t blocking me on Twitter because he doesn’t want me to know how he feels about pork chops. Rick Perry blocked me on Twitter because he doesn’t want to know how I feel about anything at all. Blocking folks on Twitter prevents their tweets in which your account is @’d from showing up in your feed. It means fuckall to me that I have to log out of my Twitter account to read Rick Perry’s tweets. But it means an awful lot that the governor of my state has actively taken steps to silence my opinions–opinions that are, by and large, different to his own.

For example, I believe in reproductive choice. I believe it’s gross to joke about your wife ironing your shirt. I believe in affordable health care and insurance, regardless of what ALEC, Rick Perry’s favorite right-wing shadow group wants. I believe in the separation of church and state. Not only does Rick Perry disagree with me on these points, but he is actively seeking to ignore the valuable perspectives of his constituents by trying to la-la-la us out of his Twitter feed.

Certainly Rick Perry can ignore me and others who disagree with him. He can throw away our letters, have his staff take messages they never deliver, whatever. But he has no right not to pick up the phone when we call him, or to refuse the delivery of his mail based on its return address, or to whittle down his Twitter feed so that the only people who can talk to him are those who think just like him. Moreover, his rejection of a group of people who work in media is particularly distasteful. Of course, the entire thing is gross, but as a journalist, it’s my job to listen to people’s stories and tell them. Often, I tell stories about people I disagree with, personally or politically. I am a conduit through which elected officials can learn what their constituents need and want. Rick Perry has decided that’s not important. If that’s not un-American, I don’t know what is.

About andrea grimes

Andrea is a journalist living in Austin, TX. She has a master's degree in anthropology and did her thesis work on gender and stand-up comedy. Seriously. Also, she has a bunch of cats. Three of them. Is three a bunch? Discuss.
This entry was posted in abortion, activism, feminism, media, personal essays, politics, reproductive health. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Why Rick Perry’s Twitter-Blocking Is Childish, Assbaggy and, Oh Yes, Un-American

  1. I’m not a journalist, just one of the 4,000 FAA employees who got furloughed when Congress decided to play chicken with our reauthorization. But John Mica didn’t enjoy the polite, but strongly worded messages I left on his FB page, so he blocked me. Reminds me of a kid with his fingers in his ear.

  2. btw, how you did you find out that you were blocked?

  3. joereform says:

    It’s Twitter, Andrea. What makes you think he even manages the account himself?

    You continue to have the same access to any public official (Democrat or Republican) that the rest of us have. You even try and cover yourself by making a “just-in-case” argument in case there are Democrats who dare to keep trolls out of their Twitter feeds as well.

    Someone’s getting all weepy and outraged over something that amounts to nothing.

    • Joe, it’s common knowledge that @GovernorPerry is Perry’s personal twitter account. He has said so himself and that he uses his own personal Blackberry (allegedly not paid for by the state) to tweet from this account. He actually uses this reason to justify the fact that he can block whoever he wants. I’ve been writing about this since October 2010, when a few local bloggers realized we were blocked (see: http://www.meanrachel.com/2010/10/twitters-influence-on-texas-politics.html). It only became a WaPo story when the reporters realized, five months later, that they, too, had been blocked.

      I disagree with you on the notion that someone who is blocked by Perry has the “same access.” Twitter is now a form of communication as legitimate (and arguably more effective) as writing a letter or calling the Capitol. Citizens often wonder if their elected officials care to hear them — who hasn’t written a letter or left a message and wondered if it was tossed out or deleted? However what’s rare is that citizens actually have this fact confirmed. Rick Perry blocking people like Andrea (and myself) is his way of telling us — point-blank — that he doesn’t care to hear us.

      Knowing a potential future President doesn’t care is certainly worthy of outrage.

      • joereform says:

        As of this post, @GovernorPerry has 66,305 followers. Assuming that even 5% of those people tweet at him once a day, do you honestly think that you are getting “access” to him, even if you voted for the guy every time and put up signs in your yard religiously?

        Future and current Presidents care little about anything that won’t get them and their party elected. That includes our current President, who denied Texans much-needed FEMA funds after all of our forest fires because we are a solidly red state. It’s called politics, and it is a very bi-partisan attitude.

        Andrea even admits that she did nothing to get blocked by Rick Perry (Lord knows that, despite her opinion of herself as an “activist,” she is really an insignificant player who is not personally on Perry’s “enemies list”). Therefore, she likely got blocked by association with some group that was doing the Twitter equivalent of spamming his feed.

        So, what does she do? She rants about it for approximately 24 hours (poor Patrick!), and then she decides to start a Twitter campaign, calling for hashtags to do her impotent brand of Internet demonstrating. She accuses Perry of blocking her in the midst of some sort of tantrum, while it is pretty apparent to everyone who does not have an axe to grind that it is Andrea herself who is orchestrating a “Twitter tantrum” with the same fervor of a teenaged girl unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend.

        No one has a “right” to access someone’s Twitter feed. Please, Andrea, get some perspective.

      • Kevin says:

        Joereform… I gotta disagree on one point… the governor, or a city councilman, or a president is supposed to be above the fray, turn the other cheek, unaffected by the noise of free speech. To me, a public official that blocks twitter accounts – while allowing others access – even if the information is paltry at best – is a public official who can be called a bully.

      • joereform says:

        “A bully”? 🙂

        Seriously, people: grow thicker skin.

    • MaiaTheBee says:

      So, I am guessing that you couldn’t be bothered to actually READ this article, hmmm?

      Or do you just not understand that argument that this is about his desire to ignore critical constituent feedback? To recap, for the attention-impaired:

      “The political contract in this country is founded on the idea that citizens can and should have access to government and elected officials. Rick Perry is breaking that contract….Not only does Rick Perry disagree with me on these points, but he is actively seeking to ignore the valuable perspectives of his constituents by trying to la-la-la us out of his Twitter feed.”

  4. Kevin says:

    I kinda agree with Rachel. Blocking twitter access is kinda week. A few weeks after all that went down, I asked Perry why he did it. he said, “Oh, I was just just giving those guys a hard time. You know, the First Amendment cuts both ways.” – eeesh. I blogged about that encounter in March: http://5ksandcabernets.com/2011/03/governor-rick-perry-the-rehab-table-and-me/

  5. “. . . Perry’s actions are a great microcosmic example of an overall conservative philosophy, which is: la-la-la-la.” NUFF SAID.

  6. P Diddy says:

    Same Andrea Grimes that started the Young Republicans club in high school? Naw…

  7. Elections Have Consequences says:

    Kevin is correct. The First Amendment cuts both ways. You have every right to block Gov. Perry from following your personal and/or professional Twitter accounts – just as he has every right to block you from his personal Twitter account. He has more than 24 million constituents – by your account he’s required to listen to every message and read every letter sent his way.

    Watching the liberals go in attack mode over the past week has been quite amusing. There has been more vetting of Gov. Perry during August 2011 than there was of Barack Obama from 2007 through today. You’ll grasp at anything to try and bring him down. Does it make you upset that collectively, the citizens in the state of Texas have told Democrats at the ballot box we have no interest in your ideas and philosophies? You have a voice, yet it’s been deemed currently unwanted by the vast majority of this state. That’s what elections in a free country are for, to elect the people we want to lead who model our beliefs in what government’s role should be. If you want to change who sits in the governor’s office come 2014, then convince people that your candidate is better. Put somebody out there better than the ilks of Bill White, Tony Sanchez, Chris Bell or Kinky Friedman. Hopefully by that time Gov. Perry will be two years in to his first term as US President. Until then, get over yourself and stop complaining about Twitter.

  8. Tabrel Õ-õ says:

    I’ve never cared to listen to Perry but this article is so excessively whiny over nothing that I may have to try.

  9. MC says:

    So why does this surprise you? GOP agenda has always been la-la-la-if you dont believe what I believe, then you’re not American 🙂

  10. Rose says:

    @Elections Have Consquences – It’s arguable that Perry lost the right to do what he wanted with his personal account when he started using it for political purposes – and that may even be legally arguable if, for example, Perry tried to exclude tweets dealing with state or campaign business on his personal account from a public records request.
    Regardless of the merits of that specific example, I’m fairly confident that every single American law everywhere ever shows that once you gain elected power over the public, your responsibilities to the public change. That’s especially true when it comes to the public’s First Amendment rights regarding you. The voice of the majority doesn’t negate a politician’s obligations, and if you think it does, there’s some pretty unequivocal legal precedent that says otherwise.

    @Joe Reform – I think the argument is the same whether or not Andrea has the right to access Perry’s Twitter account, or whether Twitter gives “access” to Perry in practical terms. Those quibbles aside, the central question is whether Perry’s role as a public official negates his right to deny Andrea (or anyone) that access, even symbolically.
    If he does, even you have to admit it’s a dickish and cowardly move to deliberately block only people who disagree with you from a platform you’ve chosen to use for political business and communication.
    At the very least, cutting off communication he’d prefer not to hear doesn’t inspire much confidence in a man who’d like to be in charge of a country as diverse in beliefs and opinions as this one.

    • joereform says:

      If he does, even you have to admit it’s a dickish and cowardly move to deliberately block only people who disagree with you from a platform you’ve chosen to use for political business and communication.

      No, I don’t have to admit that. Someone blocking spammers is not a “coward.” Good grief. “Rick Perry, the cowardly Twitter bully!” You folks need to stop making such a huge deal out of nothing. Andrea succeeded in causing a 30-hour stir over her awful discovery, and that is a far as her whining will take this issue.

      By the way, have you read his tweets on that account? There is no “political business” going on there. Doesn’t get more controversial than pork chops on sticks and congratulating 89-year-old Marines on their birthdays.

  11. Blocking people on twitter only stops Gov. Perry from seeing your crap. Your crap still shows up in his twitter stream so get your facts right and quit whining like little children. I went back and scan the total crap that some people where spewing twitter should have closed those accounts and the FBI should pay them a visit.

  12. Bad social media etiquette, Governor.

    In defense of Rick Perry, (sort of): http://goo.gl/J35uy

  13. Rose says:

    @Joereform – Have you followed a political campaign lately? Visits to the Iowa State Fair and sucking up to veterans is the stuff political campaigns are made of. And campaigns for president are political business.
    And since when are journalists “spammers”? You do realize Andrea wasn’t the only one he blocked, right?
    FYI – I have no personal dog in this fight; Rick Perry never blocked me. I do think that of the various people in this internet flare-up, the one who behaved childishly was Perry. I also think that a politician’s small actions are a clue to what he’ll do in large situations, so yes, this indication that Perry thinks he has the right to decide which Americans will and will not participate in the conversation surrounding him concerns me.
    I never called him a bully, and on these grounds alone, I probably wouldn’t. I will call him petty, and yes, cowardly, for being so shy of dissent that he’d block people en masse he thinks might voice it.

  14. Chad Johnson says:

    Two words. arrogant tool. Typical right winger.

  15. shesapoet says:

    I find it funny how @joereform says to get “tougher skin” and stop making “such a big deal out of everything.” Why don’t you tell your dear Gov Perry the same thing? Andrea is making the point that she was blocked for no reason. The question is, if it is not a big deal, why was she blocked IN THE FIRST PLACE. Her wanting to know the question to this is not “the big deal” the point that Perry blocked her is “the big deal.” If it is not important, why did he do it in the first place.

    • joereform says:

      It took one click to block whatever group Andrea was associated with. He is not any more of an insensitive child for blocking them than I am from filtering out the hundreds of junk emails I get every day.

      Do you really think that Andrea was going to post anything having to do with GOP policy in response to “pork chop on a stick,” or was it just going to be more of her trademark, 20-something snarky self-promotion? I would love to hear what cogent point Andrea was going to make in her 140-character political analysis.

      Perspective, people. Keeping rude and/or threatening comments out of one’s Twitter feed does not amount to “silencing” anyone. And it is just pathetic how many of you have rallied around “poor” Andrea as she carries on like a petulant child.

  16. Lissa says:

    Wow, what a childish little rant that was.

  17. Pingback: Dr. Filomena » Slur-happy Prime Minister Hopeful Blocks Citizens on Twitter

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