Censorship Rears Her Ugly Head

There is a difference between open communication accomplished through discussion and outright censorship.

Censorship is suppression of speech or other communication that may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.

The City of Amsterdam Facebook page, created and maintained using public funds, has whitewashed comments to only include those that favor or praise the Mayor’s opinions. I have personally had all of my comments removed from the city run Facebook page and I have been locked out from commenting. 
The page, labeled as a governmental organization, started running advertisements for local business owned by those who support the Mayor. Two of the local business owners advertised are also elected city officials. My inquiries sent to the Mayor about the comment policy have not been answered. Corporation Council G. DeCusatis sees no ethical violation advertising local business owned by elected officials on a Facebook page created and maintained using public funds.

On March 5, 2011 Mayor Ann Thane made the following statement on the Flippin’ Amsterdam NY blog:

As I’d mentioned to Charlie, I pick and choose where I will post online. I’ve posted here (Flippin’ Amsterdam), at Pars Nova, Upstream, Krabcakes and Football, and even Mark Robarge’s now defunct site. I post regularly on FB. I appreciate discussion with individuals I respect (but don’t necessarily always agree with me) that have opinions I value. The rest of the local offerings are so relentlessly negative and devotedly misinformed, why bother even reading them? The last Amsterdam blog that espoused a continuously embittered harangue, slowly died of its own poison. Even the host couldn’t stand it anymore. Any one of us can complain and I am not beyond this practice. I aspire to better myself and get beyond this self-indulgence. It will take vision, optimism, research and thoughtful discourse to orchestrate a beautiful future. I prefer to join with the singers in that chorus.

What the Mayor fails to realize is that the world is not all songs and roses.  This city has real problems that cannot be solved with a rose garden, a coat of paint or new curtains.  Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi used censorship by controlling local media. He only broadcast news of the Libyan people singing, dancing and praising him, while his citizens were storming the center square demanding his ouster.

You cannot effectively run a city government with blinders on. Our elected officials must uphold ethical standards that apply to everyone equally. You cannot pick and choose who the city will serve, our government must serve every citizen regardless of the degree to which they faun over the Mayor.

Social media sites are the new town square where government gets feedback from its citizens and the same standards should apply.

I believe that a city run site should not censor or discriminate, that every taxpaying citizen has a right to voice their opinions whether or not they agree with the Mayor. I further assert that a governmental organization should not be advertising private business unless every local business is afforded the same opportunity.

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Categories: Amsterdam, Law, Politics, Technology

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12 thoughts on “Censorship Rears Her Ugly Head

  1. Anthony Leggiero

    First off, you make a valid point. Second, welcome to the club. Third, she didn’t write that reply (those kinds of words are not part of her everyday vocabulary). Fourth, she’s hidden so many skeletons from her past that she has never let anyone know; it’s a sham that she and some little fat kid chose to censor anyone. What the people need to do against those who violate our Rights, is STAY AWAY from these businesses that they run. Period. Any business which acts in collusion with corruption at the local level of government should be avoided like the plague, lest it festers and destroys the foundation of community-yet lays cloaked with whistles and bows.

  2. Ann Thane continues to deny any wrongdoing with her reply to me, again posted on the Flippin’ Amsterdam site:
    “Every business and community organization is welcome to submit openings or events. We do (not) run “advertisements” in the traditional sense of the word.
    The page is not a blog. It was created to share information and showcase Amsterdam’s finer attributes.”

    My point being censorship by government officials has never had a positive outcome. Ann Thane, Queen of Censorship, used her political position to demand the Show With No Name be removed from AM radio. She has employed this type of censorship on her personal blog Amsterdancin’ and now has imported the same to the City of Amsterdam Facebook page. Thane asserts that the page is updated on her free time. I maintain that as Mayor, any official function performed for the city is not free time and does not make this page any less the property of the citizens of the city.

    Another problem I see here is that the Facebook page represents the opinions of Ann Thane and not the City of Amsterdam. Advertisements placed on the page for her friends and supporters appear to be business that are recommended by the city. When a business owned by Karin Hetrick, an elected member of the Citizen’s Review Board is placed on the page it looks as if it is a reward or payment for consideration in an investigation.

  3. Alayne

    Knowing we have serious issues with aging infrastructure, poor road conditions, and budget deficits, you would think the folks in city hall would have more important things to work on and would not be their time and our tax dollars censoring a social network site.

    • Diane

      The MAYOR controls all the media and therefore does all the censoring. Employees are not involved.

  4. Todd

    Jerry,

    This doesn’t look right to me either. It is obviously the “official” city FB page so I don’t think it should matter if it is updated in someone’s free time or not.

  5. This may seem like a trivial matter to some. Gone unchecked, censorship and withholding of information from the public becomes this insidious infection that spreads to other areas of government eroding the people’s trust causing apathy and indifference.

    We can make a difference by insisting our elected official act with integrity and the highest degree of ethical standards, abiding by rules and laws governing public officers and open government.

    This IS an election year.

  6. Todd

    I see that there is now a policy as to the intended purpose and use of the City’s FB page. This has happened in the last 24 hours. While it may not satisfy everyone, I think that overall it makes sense. There are plenty of Blogs where opinions can be voiced. I am guessing that going forward, ANY business announcing an opening or event will have it listed on FB if desired.
    Jerry, I am not sure of all of the events that occurred to have you make this a topic to begin with, but do want to thank you for bringing something up that needed to be addressed. I know from reading your comments in this and other blogs in the past that you are very passionate about your beliefs as am I and I hope that going forward you will judge the FB page on it’s merits as of today and not on what was or wasn’t posted in the past.
    Have a great day and thanks again for a great blog.
    Todd

  7. Todd,
    Thanks for the kind words. The issue that sparked this debate was Mayor Thane whitewashing the comments on the City of Amsterdam Facebook page. There were many comments removed, not just my own. The comments that remained were the ones that praised the Mayor in one way or another. In an election year, that is just unethical. The Mayor has also blocked my ability to comment as you can see from the image provided.

    I abhor censorship, it is the main reason I created this blog. Government entities have no business abridging the right of free speech. I have found that if you don’t stand up for your rights, you get stomped on. Amsterdam City government has a long way to go to comply with the requirements of open government and I am doing my part to see that they do. The ignore them and they will go away attitude just doesn’t cut it. The only way to get local government to act is to embarrass them into compliance. The internet and press are very effective tools for this purpose.

    I hold no personal grudge against Ann Thane, I do hold her responsible for the job she was elected to do and the people she has sworn to represent.

  8. Diane

    Jerry,
    I think from reading the new regs for the Facebook page, she took them from the Flippen Blog/Seattle site. I hope they help.

    I am getting FOILs now, and Laura in the clerk’s office is calling me to tell me when they are ready. So some improvement there.

    Diane

    • It is a great victory for injustice and discrimination, but the City still has a long way to go to comply with 1st Amendment Rights.

      Karin Hetrick’s advertisement is gone, as it should be. It was clearly a conflict of interest

      I still have not been afforded access to comment on the page which is still a violation of my rights. Unlike private individuals, government entities must abide by the provisions of the 1st Amendment.

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