Friday, November 20, 2009

Authoritarian Creep of the Month

Kurt Greenbaum is the "director of social media" at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Last Friday, he posted a topic for discussion, What's the Craziest Thing You've Ever Eaten?

One not-particularly-clever commenter wrote in the answer, "pussy", and Greenbaum's authoritarian streak took over. How dare anyone refer to oral sex in his space! How shocking! How vulgar!

Greenbaum then did what every good little fascist-in-training would do: he tattletaled on the commenter to his employer:

A few minutes later, the same guy posted the same single-word comment again. I deleted it, but noticed in the WordPress e-mail that his comment had come from an IP address at a local school. So I called the school. They were happy to have me forward the e-mail, though I wasn’t sure what they’d be able to do with the meager information it included.

About six hours later, I heard from the school’s headmaster. The school’s IT director took a shine to the challenge. Long story short: Using the time-frame of the comments, our website location and the IP addresses in the WordPress e-mail, he tracked it back to a specific computer. The headmaster confronted the employee, who resigned on the spot.

Not surprisingly, the reaction to Greenbaum's misconduct was negative. What to do? Why, shut off the comments, of course!

Comments are still open on here, in case you want to pile on.

Update: the Post-Dispatch deleted my comment, although it contained no profanity - just criticism. Big surprise.


Joshua said...

I'm not sure that having someone lose their job for this sort of behavior is intrinsically unreasonable. I don't think it is a great idea but it isn't so awful.

It does seem to be going overboard to report someone for this sort of comment. But the closing of the comment thread when the reaction got adverse seems in many ways to be the most distasteful element since it shows Greenbaum's complete unwillingness or inability to even deal with the possiblity that his actions were wrong.

It seems like a good rule of thumb that when you have a title that has "X of social media" you seem much more likely to be a jackass who doesn't either know or care about basic internet culture and behavior. But that might be a sampling error since people with such titles screwing up will be more likely noticed than people who don't understand but don't have jobs where that matters greatly.

Blake Stacey said...

OK, that's definitely disproportionate retribution. I mean, eating cats may be a little weird, but as long as you're not stealing your neighbour's pets to stir-fry, how bad can it really be?

Anonymous said...


I'm not sure that having someone lose their job for this sort of behavior is intrinsically unreasonable.

Losing your job for posting juvenile comments on a blog in the "Free Press" is unreasonable.

I don't think there are too many of us who have not made a flippant or foolish comment sometimes in our lives - to have people lose their jobs over such a thing is fascistic.