POLITICS

Is the US Department of Defense subtweeting the Trump Administration?

MediaMaven 📰 📹 📻
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MediaMaven 📰 📹 📻

It may not just be the scientific community that's going rogue on Twitter. To our delight, Congresswoman Maxine Waters may in fact be leading a delicious new shade-driven charge of government officials here to make us all pop our corn and crunch away.

In the New York Times Magazine, writer Anna Holmes counsels, "At its most refined, shade should have an element of plausible deniability, so that the shade-thrower can pretend that he or she didn’t actually mean to behave with incivility, making it all the more delicious."

Sometimes it's the little things, like this apparent US Department of Defense subtweet. (Sure, it could just be about mental health in general, but remember that timing is everything.)

Is the US Department of Defense subtweeting the Trump Administration?

And sometimes it's more blatant. On the same day that the Trump Administration officially issued two anti-immigrant (and anti-refugee) executive orders re: US/Mexico border wall construction and cutting off federal funding to all "sanctuary cities", the DoD just casually dropped this Tweet:

And on Inauguration Day, there was this MASTER CLASS in shade:

The court of public opinion is now in session, y'all.

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PBS' Lisa Lerer and Julie Bykowicz talked with former EPA head Christine Todd Whitman, former secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, and other former civil servants about the much more blatant instances we're seeing of rebellion from within:

BUT CAN GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES DO THAT?

That's a question everyone has been asking. We're not legal experts, so we rely on the expertise of those who are. 

The US Supreme Court has explicitly stated that government employees cannot be fired for speaking on matters of public concern as private individuals. In other words, while their employer is within its rights to prevent them from using official channels to express themselves, what those civil servants say on their own time is their own business.

The ACLU issued this official statement on January 25th, 2017:

Government Employees Get to Have Opinions, Too
In the midst of widespread reports of a clampdown on federal agencies’ public communications by the Trump administration, lots of people are asking about what rights federal government employees have to continue speaking to the public. The short answer? It depends. The new administration is entitled to use the official channels of government – whether they be press briefings or websites or social media accounts – to put out its own messages, and it can decide what federal employees are allowed to communicate when they are on the job. But the First Amendment still protects those employees’ ability to speak in their private capacities, on their own time, about matters that concern the public. At the moment, different federal agencies have reportedly imposed different restrictions, from the Department of Agriculture to the Environmental Protection Agency. These restrictions vary, from limiting social media posts and press releases to preventing communications with Congress. It is unclear how long the freezes will last or whether some of the directives were properly authorized. It’s certainly understandable why many people are alarmed over communications bans on the important work of our federal agencies, particularly where the public needs to know about critical government functions. However, one of the consequences of the election is that the new administration now controls what federal agencies say and what side of an issue they take in a debate about, for example, climate change or reproductive rights. What the government cannot do is impose an overbroad muzzle on its employees that prevents them from speaking out at all. What do federal employees remain free to say? The Supreme Court has stated clearly that public employees cannot be fired for speaking on issues of public concern as private individuals. Practically speaking, this means that – with the possible exception of certain high-ranking government officials – an employee can speak on personal time and in a personal capacity about matters that affect the public. Their protections are strongest when they are speaking about issues that do not relate to their job duties. For example, a scientist who works at the Environmental Protection Agency is free to research and write academic papers on her own time, which she can then publish under her own name. A State Department employee can attend a local school board meeting and express support for a measure being proposed. To the extent their speech meets the above requirements, employees can even speak anonymously. (One Twitter account that launched last night seems to be run by a handful of National Park Service rangers apparently writing during their personal time.) These are general rules, and there are exceptions, such as when an employee’s speech causes disruption to the workplace. But properly construed, any exceptions should apply only in those cases where the government’s interest in carrying out its duties is truly impaired by what an employee has said.   The ACLU has repeatedly stood up for these principles, including recently in representing the former chief prosecutor for the Guantánamo military commissions who was fired from his job at the Congressional Research Service because of opinion pieces he wrote about Guantánamo that ran in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. That case demonstrated the importance of maintaining ample breathing room for public employees to speak: They are often the ones with the most relevant expertise and intimate knowledge of how government works, and can bring a unique perspective to public debate about critical issues. For these reasons, it is essential that courts continue to robustly protect public employees’ ability to speak out – not only because they do not surrender their First Amendment rights when they take on government employment, but also because the public needs to hear their voices. The administration may be able to control certain official communications channels, but the public isn’t powerless. We can pressure elected officials to be more transparent. We can support independent journalism and nongovernmental organizations that defend whistleblowers. Our values of open government, transparency, and democratic accountability depend on it.
www.aclu.org

OTHER CIVIL SERVANTS HAVE BEEN TAKING THE FIGHT TO TWITTER, TOO

While we feel like the term "alt-" has been significantly sullied by a certain rebranding of neonazi behaviors, we're still glad these Twitter accounts are fighting the scientific fact-based fight with actual facts, not lies made up and spun into false narratives.

Here's a list:

Is the US Department of Defense subtweeting the Trump Administration?