College admissions officers tell high school students not to use Facebook to post anything they don’t want the whole world to see. Last year, Green Mountain College used Facebook to brag about their plan to kill and eat two oxen who had become beloved campus and community mascots. Upset alumni and neighbors saw and shared the news with people and organizations who also shared the news, adding their own commentary and suggestions.
VINE Sanctuary offered the oxen a retirement home at no cost to the college. In refusing that offer, GMC publicly put forth arguments that shocked the conscience of the world. Vociferous debate ensued. Touching on topics ranging from diet to environment to animal rights, that debate forced its participants to sharpen their thinking and thus was highly educational.
Now, instead of seizing the opportunity to engage its critics in continued conversation, GMC has used its influence in state government to petition for laws that would make it more difficult for citizens to comment on, or even know about, controversial questions about which public opinion is actively evolving.
GMC claims it got hate mail after becoming Internet-famous. Welcome to the club.
GMC says they felt powerless. But they were the ones threatening to kill somebody.
I suspect that threats aren’t what really disturbed GMC. My guess is that the discomfort of receiving thousands of politely worded, heartfelt, and impeccably argued pleas from rational people who disagreed with them is the real reason GMC wants the Vermont Legislature to step in to save them from their own Facebook folly.
There are already laws against libel and especially stringent laws against the use of telecommunications devices to make threats. No new laws are needed. GMC may, however, need remedial education in the rudiments of democracy, which requires free expression of disagreement.
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