The confines of civility

It would appear The Kansas Twitter Story had just about run its course, at least as a national issue, though Ruth Marcus’ Washington Post column apparently intends to add a civility-based coda to the issue.

To briefly recap, a high-school student mocked Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) on Twitter last week; the governor’s office got bent out of shape; the student was pressured to write several letters of apology; and Brownback expressed his regret for the overreaction.

Marcus, meanwhile, isn’t satisfied. The teenager, Emma Sullivan, wrote a rude 15-word tweet for her high school friends, and that’s apparently worthy of 749 words of criticism in a Washington Post op-ed piece.

As the columnist sees it, Sullivan wrote a “smart­alecky, potty-mouthed tweet.”

Sullivan did not actually give Brownback a piece of her mind, as she claimed, but she let her feelings be known via Twitter: “Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person. #heblowsalot.” Sullivan had previously opined on such weighty subjects as the “Twilight” series (“Dear edward and jacob, this is the best night of my life. I want u. Love, ur future wife”) and Justin Bieber.

Let’s pause right there. Ruth Marcus is using her platform in one of the nation’s most important media outlets to complain about a teenager writing tweets about Twilight and Justin Bieber? Seriously? In a column ostensibly focused on the importance of civility in the public discourse, a Washington Post columnist is mocking a random high school student in Kansas?*

This is very odd.

Marcus’ larger point is that teenagers shouldn’t use words like “sucked” and “blows,” even if they’re just joking around online with a small group of friends.

I’ll be sure to look forward to next week’s column, when Marcus will consider questions such as, “What’s with kids’ haircuts these days?” “Why isn’t popular music as good as when I was younger?” and “Why won’t those darn kids stay off my lawn?”

* Update: It looks like Jamison Foser was thinking very much along the same lines, and he beat me to it by a couple of hours.

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