Tweet Revenge: Showdown at County Commission

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UPDATE. The world was made safe for the Tweetocracy on Monday, with anti-Twitterists failing to enlarge on their original beachhead of four votes.

Mulroy quotes "Voltaire" to a disbelieving Roland. - JB
  • JB
  • Mulroy quotes "Voltaire" to a disbelieving Roland.
At its regular bi-weekly session on Monday, the Shelby County Commission was scheduled to consider an initiative from commissioner Terry Roland to prohibit his colleagues from engaging in that newest form of public communication — the tweet -- while in session.

“Prohibit’ may not be the right word. “Discourage” is better, since it is hard to see what enforcement machinery could be provided for Roland’s resolution — which, in any case, was defeated in committee last Wednesday, though a group of conservative outer-county Republicans (Roland, Heidi Shafer, Wyatt Bunker, Chris Thomas) was marshaled in support of it.

Bunker’s inclusion in the coalition may be at least partly an act of atonement. A couple of weeks ago the commission was discussing a proposal by another Republican, Mike Carpenter of Cordova, to ban roadside sales of animals. During debate on the issue, Bunker got off a sally to the effect that they must eat pit bulls up in Millington — a tribute, if you will, to the ruggedness of the folks up thataway.

The quip was immediately circulated by Carpenter, who famously exercises his hand-held for Twitter purposes during meetings and has numerous followers for his tweets, which rarely lack for candor.

Mayor Richard Hodges declined to see the dining-on-dog remark as a compliment, however, and he urged Roland to see to some sort of retribution.

That took the form, not of a reprisal against Bunker for saying it, but of the aforesaid resolution aimed at Carpenter for reporting it.

Ironically, the right to tweet may have been saved, at least temporarily, by Democratic commissioners Henri Brooks and James Harvey, voluble sorts who, the week before, had suffered partial curtailment of their right to speak without limit during committee meetings when the full commission voted in some modest curbs on debate.

Both now characterized the anti-tweet measure as an assault on free speech and the First Amendment. “I can walk and chew gum at the same time,” protested Brooks, while Harvey defended tweeting not just as an information service but as an outlet of sorts for the “testosterone” that gets flowing during verbal exchanges.

Democrat Steve Mulroy, he of limerick fame, had no doggerel for the occasion, but he did offer a tongue-in-cheek quotation from “Voltaire” to the effect that the French sage might disagree with a sentiment but would defend to the death the right to tweet it.

And Carpenter, while chairing the session, managed to tweet a running commentary on the whole debate.
That first round on Wednesday went to the pro-tweeters. It remained to be seen how the anti-tweeting resolution would fare before the full commission on Monday, but one thing was certain: Anyone attuned to Twitter would find out first.

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