Tweep in the Heart of Texas!

You can (should?) file this one under “I have better things to worry about.” but it irritates me, so I am going to abuse my forum.  I am talking about the state of Texas’s latest foray into public flogging–their decision to post the names of people pulled over under suspicion of DUI during the New Year’s holiday on Twitter. We shouldn’t be surprised. This is Texas, the state so anxious to put mentally retarded criminals to death that they have changed their Special Olympics motto to “Everyone’s a Sinner.” This is the legislature that would brand people with the scarlet letter if they could remember how to spell adultry. So why wouldn’t they cast aside the presumption of innocence and bring tar and feathering into the digital age?

I will skip the obvious argument that the government should allow people the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, because as far as I can tell, the American citizenry no longer puts much stock in that. Ever since the “trial of the century” split America into two camps–“Hell, yes he did it!” and “Hell, yes he did it, but we’re sticking this one to the man!”–the presumption of innocence has gone the way of the vinyl LP; we are more likely to hang its wrapper on the wall as art than we are to put it to use. No, I am instead going to restrict my argument to why Stalker Texas Ranger would serve his own demented purposes by skipping this idea.

First, it’s Twitter. You aren’t “publishing” anything on Twitter. Twitter messages only go out to people who come ask you to send them. The fact is that Freddie Bob done got caught partyin’ like-a-pown-star-with-his Lone Star would filter into the general public faster if the sarge just rolled out the ol’ crank phone and told Operator May Belle not to listen in. When they showed a screen grab of the Twitter page on the news last night it had six followers. Okay, that’s six times the size of a Texas jury, but it is not a meaningful Twitter account.  If you want to be lucky number seven, good luck finding it. I looked up “Texas State Patrol” “Texas State Police” “State of Texas” and several others with no luck. When I looked up @TexasRangers the latest tweet was “Padilla owes Mike Young a Beer”  proving that while God has foresaken Texas, he has not forsaken irony. If you want to fire up the pitchfork crowd and it’s too many days to their next general meeting, Twitter is not the answer.

Second, what do you think will happen? If God deigns to point his finger–not his regular Texas finger, the other one–at the Yippee Kai DUI twitter account and gets people to notice it, do you really think you will engender the public outcry you seek? First of all, the main population of followers will be the people you pull over and who will want to revel in their moment of internet stardom. “Hell, fellas. I’m gonna be bigger’n that fat kid with the laht saber!” The second biggest group of followers will be the holier than thou who started hating the New Year’s Eve crowd long before they ever got behind the wheel. For this silly plan to work, there has to be a meaningful population out there who has heard what you are planning to do  and wants to do its civil duty by tuning in to find out on whom to vent their outrage. That demographic isn’t out there! They are tuning in to Glen Beck and bowl games. They don’t even consider drunk driving that horrible. Trying to vilify drunk drving in Texas is like trying to vilify running at the Summer Olympics. “Hey! Texas! There’s people out there driving drunk tonight. Oh . . . and wrestlin’s fake!”

State of Texas, I trust that you mean well, but people in power in this country have got to stop rolling out the grandstand play that feels right and start figuring out how to do what IS right. The internet is not your jurisdiction. You don’t know how to play here. Stick to what you know; bustin’ heads and looking the other way while they fudge that running back’s transcripts.

State of Texas, take the night off. Party like it’s 1899, and leave the sword of public humiliation in the hand of your chapped and chiseled Lord. Shucks, why not take the patrol car over to Gilley’s and have afew rounds. First one’s on me. I’m the guy in the corner with the iphone and a massive Twitter following, but you’ll know that soon enough.
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About bigshotprof

College Professor in the Communication Studies department at Pace University. My personal life fall somewhere in the gap between less than you want to know and more than you need to know.
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