C-Net coverage of the Biondi Bill.
I picked this link off one of the NJ.com boards: Perspective: The problem of thin-skinned politicos
(By Declan McCullagh Published: March 6, 2006, 4:00 AM PST)
What irks Biondi, a top Republican in the state assembly, is the political free-for-all that has grown around the New Jersey Star-Ledger’s discussion site at NJ.com. The site’s forum for Somerset County–that is, Biondi’s home district–is home to a slew of pseudonymous posts that tend to be less than kind to local politicians.
When news reports revealed that Somerset County Sheriff Frank Provenzano appropriated more than $5,000 from a petty cash account to pay for his dry cleaning, the NJ.com posts were not flattering. One message from “nodoubletalk” called Provenzano a “thief, plain and simple,” while one from “xyzzy” quipped: “That’s what we get for voting Republican.”
Peter Biondi Another local flap involved Stephen Obal, the Bridgewater, N.J. police chief criticized for spending two hours a day at the department’s gym when he should have been at work. On NJ.com, “frenchtoast2” called Obal and the mayor “masters of deception, partners in corruption.”
Others on NJ.com have taken potshots at Biondi himself, chafing at what “glennvl” labeled the assemblyman’s “arrogance.”
Those remarks violate Biondi’s sense of political propriety. “What it’s turned into is people just bashing each other, name-calling, personal issues, that kind of thing,” Biondi’s chief of staff, Scott Ross, told me on Friday. “It’s all anonymous. Nobody knows who’s calling who what.”
The intent of the legislation is “to try to bring back a little civility back into that kind of thing,” Ross said. “It’s degenerating into name-calling. It’s a local problem we’re having, in several cities.”
I am surprised about this. In the pre-blog days, I remember on more than one occasion getting a nasty response to a letter-to-the-editor. I remember on one occasion being materially called a liar about the funding for Prince Rodgers Park. (I said there was loan money, the responder claimed it was ALL grant money. It turned out, it was in fact mostly loan money. No apology from the fat ass who insinuated I was a liar.)
Another time, I pointed out the vacillations of our local G.O.P. about open space preservation. This prompted a critic to write “nothing could be further from the truth!”, when in fact I was, again, right on point. (A candidate had run on an open space platform, and then, when convenient, switched to arguing about whose open space was going to be preserved in which neighborhood.)
When you use REAL names, and STICK TO FACTS, you STILL get shot-at (figuratively so far, I hope Larry isn’t loading yet). I don’t know what Biondi is thinking, but fact is, when it’s written in the newspaper with REAL NAMES, the nasty people still find ways to take their shots.
Contemporary example is Glenn van Lier. He worked very hard to bring a reform effort to a vote in Hillsborough Township. (I wish national writers would stop referring to it as “Hillsborough County” which is in Florida.) Glenn “put his name to it”, so to speak. And what does the Somerset County and Hillsborough G.O.P. do?
They say van Lier is “just trying to get his name out there”, with some “scheme” to “grab back political power”.
Remember the recent Bedminster Township election, where a Pakistan-born candidate was attacked in literature for being a foreigner— it turns out by Committeeman Don “Burning” Cross? How high was that for “level of civility?” You could maybe just see over the manhole cover, eh?
Pete Biondi is full of shit. Here is his real problem: the internet makes it too easy for people who want political change to spread their views.
I get mercilessly attacked on a personal level, and Larry Powers even seems to weave my family into some of the shots. (He can’t even leave bystanders out!) I get cyberstalked by a nut in Martinsville, with a sick fantasy that he has some “inside knowledge” about me that compels him to answer anything I ever have posted on the internet. I have some kook in Hillsborough Township who doesn’t like the fact that I helped out the reform group there, and so twists damn near everything I write and make it into a “Bridgewater issue”. Another character who apparently sells real estate, and excuses lies with quotes like “I wouldn’t say it’s fair — it’s just politics!”, doesn’t think I should be Township attorney in Hillsborough. (But I am not looking to be township attorney! Especially not in Hillsbough.)
If I write about Bridgewater, they don’t like it. Hillsborough Township, well “you don’t live there”. (If I write about Japan, that’s bad too.) New Jersey state politics? Off limits.
What Biondi recalls as “civil” is the Somerset Republicans never really being challenged on any issues. If you notice with these guys, whenever they’re in the least bit threatened about any political issue, they go off the wall. Smears, personal attacks, public denunciations. Bad sportsmen who never learned how to lose, even the thought of losing a local political debate is troubling.
It’s not really clear what having names and addresses does. I would much rather have greater enforcement by police where there is a clear criminal problem, like death threats or routine harassment.
There are already laws to deal with many of the wrongs on today’s internet. Being critical of the Republican party isn’t listed.