Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Guest Column: Banned From The Chronicle



Guest Column
Commentary
By Tom Casey

A short history of myself, I never really got politically active until I married my wife. Prior to that my activity was limited to voting, complaining about the lousy selection of candidates to choose from every election cycle, and watching the ‘talking heads’ on CNBC, CNN, FNN and MSNBC.

However, after decades of being a sideline observer of Augusta/Richmond County politics, I started to wonder a lot about all the behind door deals I had heard my uncles and older male cousins talk about that seemingly always drove Augusta politics and the Augusta ‘good old boy’ network.

Through Facebook I was invited to join a group of local Augustan’s called A.C.A.V.E. and later Augusta Today.  Through these various groups I started to learn more about how Augusta’s elected and appointed officials were really not serving the public good but instead supporting their own special interests.  From this initiation I started to read the bulleted news items in the Augusta Chronicle especially the comments section.  I was introduced to a list of nom de pens: Broad Street Narrow Mind, Conservative Man, Corgimom, Corporal Gripweed, Countyman, Dekebot Brett, GeezeLouise, Insider Information, Riverman, Slapshot2 and Willow Bailey.  I didn’t forget to include my own; my user name while posting in the Augusta Chronicle was TomCasey.  Yes it is actually my real name.

I started posting on issues that offended my sense and sensibilities as an uppity uptight liberal and my education and moral beliefs (yes surprisingly for a liberal I have a strict code of moral beliefs founded on what my family taught me as well as the Roman Catholic Church).  Immediately, I was warned by my friends within A.C.A.V.E and Augusta Today there are always consequences to one's actions.   Besides the Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say On TV (Seven Dirty Words (Discretion Advised)), there were other rules to crafting a post for the Augusta Chronicle:

(1)    You can’t upset an Augusta Chronicle poster that is an unofficial spokesperson for Mayor Copenhaver ((c)ountyman), or they will lodge a complaint about your comment
(2)  You can’t upset an Augusta Chronicle poster that is an unofficial spokesperson for the Core Four Commissioners (Matt Aitken, Joe Bowles, Jerry Brigham and Joe Jackson) or they will lodge a complaint about your comment
(3)    You can’t upset an Augusta Chronicle poster that is an unofficial spokesperson for a local project or white elephant or they will lodge a complaint about your comment. 
(4)  You can never even allude to Augusta Today, A.C.A.V.E, or City Stink in even the most subtle way that does not even mention them directly by name. That seems to be their #1 pet peeve at The Chronicle.

You get the message.

Well I began my posting career in the Augusta Chronicle and sure enough a reader complained about a post of mine.  A reader’s complaint got my ‘objectionable’ comment pulled as well as the whole series of my comments for the day on that subject.  I was amazed that a ‘reader’ could find my comments so objectionable that the entire stream of my commentary was wiped out.  Sounds pretty Hitlerian to me and scary to boot.  Here is the message I received from the Augusta Chronicle for their reason for deleting my comments for the day:
*“Please don't promote this site in any way on our web site. Those involved have had an organized effort to promote it here despite warnings. Please don't post about it again.

My comment - So what is ACAVE? What video?

*Your recent post has been flagged by another user as a possible violation of the Terms of Service, triggering this automatic notice.”

Well, this was considered to be my first warning no seven dirty words, no Richard Pryor routine or no recitation from the movie ‘Goodfellas’.  I was amazed.  I mentioned A.C.A.V.E because it was mentioned in local media both paper and multimedia due to protests at the Municipal Building in Augusta.
The next case was the story that CityStink.net broke about the TEE Center Parking Deck and the land not being owned by Augusta Richmond County but instead by a private LLC:
*“Don't promote city stink on our site.

My comment - A follow up article was released on internet blog...very interesting in the details it contains.

*Your recent post has been flagged by another user as a possible violation of the Terms of Service, triggering this automatic notice.”

I received another warning (my 3rd ) and after that I pretty much quit posting.  It was over the incident with my friend having her nom de pen (who has a column on City Stink called Jilly Bean) grabbed by a poster on the Augusta Chronicle that I got into more trouble over.  I stood up for her and spoke out against an imposter trying to use her nickname in an effort to discredit her by making comments that she would never say.  This led to being banned by the Augusta Chronicle and led to my last letter to the Augusta Chronicle:

“I always thought commentary should be free and open; however, I have found the Augusta Chronicle has an inconsistent way how posters are handled from comments being deleted to commenters/posters actually being banned.
I find this to be truly offensive not only as a subscriber of the electronic paper but also as my right to free speech. If alternative views to local issues and politicians are heavily edited why even bother commenting and posting...
The times are a changing and the Augusta Chronicle is obviously supporting the status quo in Augusta while only superficially attempting to present the other side of a news story.
In my case, I will be cancelling my subscription to the Augusta Chronicle.”

My activity of posting comments in the Augusta Chronicle took place from August 2011 until early January 2012.  What happened to me may not happen to you but beware this is one of the basic rights of a free country and if it is continually abused, the effect is to eliminate opposition.  So the question is do you feel secure to have Big Brother watching and controlling your media access? ***

Would you like to have your say on a local oriented issue? Then consider submitting a guest column to City Stink.  Email to CityStink@gmail.com

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6 comments:

Jill Peterson said...

the chronicle didn't have much sympathy for some guy imitating me. sean moores interestingly took the tac of standing up for "jilly bean's" right to name himself cross gender.
the leading conservative radio guy and the alt weekly's opinion writer also particularly don't like me or anyone to play with me.
i feel like it started when tom grant at the metro spirit ran that silly story i wrote about meeting the mayor on facebook and in real life and his firm belief and amazing focus in the stadium and no interest at all in all the unity and green stuff he kinda acted like he was into.

Jill Peterson said...

sorry i meant to say the chronicle didn't have much sympathy for me over some guy impersonating me.

City Stink said...

Hey, we need another Jilly Bean

garydman said...

LOL, I've been banned for years....Rather proud of it as a matter of fact!!

The Dixie Dove said...

I bet our town stinks more than y'alls...

They're gonna stick a Walmart right in the thick of downtown and we're already gridlocked....it's gonna get ugly before they do though!

Recent Mayor Commission meeting clip,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=KgmOPBKYvYU#t=179s

Yosemite Sam said...

I've been banned at last 3 or 4 times from posting at the Chronicle. Funny thing, I've had dozens of letters over the last 30 years run in the paper which is cool...but being banned from posting altogether on a blog for petes sake? I post in many places but have found our neighborhood newspaper to be the most restrictive of free speech to date. Sean Moores, (if it is indeed his discretion to ban posters)seems to be the wrong man for the job of policeman. No one is served when free speech is muzzled, and it diminishes the value of the newspaper and it's underlying opinion blogs.