By now you've probably heard the sad tale of Amanda Carpenter, speechwriter to Senator Ted Cruz and prolific Tweeter in her own right.
Amanda had a really bad Thursday. Her boss was getting a lot of bad press for meddling in the House's business and sabotaging their paltry and unhelpful "border security" bill, and she had spent the day tirelessly explaining that of course the real villain in this scenario was the Usurper in the White House, not White Knight Ted Cruz, the Republican's Savior. She was so desperate to change the subject back to her favorite topic, How Much Obama Sucks, that she fired off a pair of tweets mocking the incompetent Negro for frolicking with slutty temptress Katy Perry at a swanky White House party while the world burned.
It wasn't until after the tweets were posted, and Amanda was probably on her way home to her husband and adorable kids, when her phone started lighting up with Twitter notifications, and she discovered to her horror that the swanky White House orgy with Katy Perry was actually an event to honor Special Olympians.
She deleted the tweets, and gamely offered a sort-of-apology, then started to retweet mean tweets directed at her to show the world that she was the Real Victim in this unfortunate misunderstanding. At about this time, someone snatched whatever device Amanda was tweeting with out of her hands, and her account went silent for the night.
But already this morning, Amanda is back to work, furiously projecting all her failure onto the Obama administration again. Back to the salt mines!
Yes, Amanda, something is definitely coming apart.
I'd like to take this opportunity to offer Amanda Carpenter some advice about her next moves. I'm uniquely well-positioned to talk her through this process because, a little less than a year ago, I was momentarily declared the worst person in the world on Twitter for some ill-conceived tweets I directed at a public figure, whose name happens to be Amanda Carpenter.
So you see, I've been there, done that, bought the T shirt. And I learned a few things along the way that I am now going to offer Amanda out of the goodness of my heart.
Yes, Amanda, I know this is hard, but you have to quit, and quit right away. You're now a distraction to the business of your Senator, and believe me, he doesn't need any distractions right now.
I was tweeting to Amanda from my personal Twitter account, and though my Twitter bio didn't mention it, I was at that time an elected member of my county's Democratic Party and its Communications Director. Anyone could, and did, Google and learn that the horrible person tweeting mean things at Amanda Carpenter was a "Democratic Party official."
Suddenly I wasn't just a mean Twitter bully picking on the fair flower of maidenhood toiling away for brave Senator Cruz, I was an operative, clearly working on direct orders from the White House, the DNC, and the California Democratic Party. I was a news story.
Within minutes of the Twitter explosion, I spoke to our county chair and immediately let her know I would resign if they felt it necessary. After she spoke in turn to state party officials, the decision was clear. They needed to cut me loose and disavow everything I said in my personal capacity.
2. You need to stay off Twitter for a while.
It's good that you apologized promptly for your inappropriate tweets. But you couldn't help yourself, and your next instinct was to find the rudest thing anyone tweeted at you and retweet it to your followers to show that you are the Real Victim of Mean Liberals. Fortunately, you stopped, and you'll want to continue this for a while.
You see, Amanda, right now you're the horrible woman from Ted Cruz's office who mocked the Obamas for celebrating people with disabilities. Children and young adults with cognitive impairments who still bravely run and swim and show the world their spirit! People are going to write and say horrible things about you, far worse than anything I said to you to get myself in such hot water. You're going to want to show those things to everybody to get sympathy.
But. No. One. Gives. A. Shit.
They think you're getting what you deserve, and should get more of it, and they're probably right. So shut up and take it. Let them vent.
I spent the weekend after my meltdown not tweeting, but instead, meticulously blocking every Twitter account that had typed mean things to me. It was tough. Lots of people wanted me to suffer and die, and I had it coming. But it was good for me to read each of them, then block the person so they couldn't continue to type mean things at me, or if they did, I wouldn't see them. Someone at the local party had to listen to all their voice mails and read all their emails to see if any made specific actionable threats against me or the party. Most of them stayed within the boundaries, and most of them were from out of state, thus unlikely to carry out their threats.
3. You will survive, but your career will be changed.
Amanda, you're a relatively young woman, and very well connected within the right-wing bubble. You worked for Jim DeMint before Ted Cruz, and he runs one of many wingnut welfare organizations offering overpaying jobs to bright young True Believers like you. Many of their staff are drooling nepotism, legacy, and/or someone's-bit-on-the-side hires, so anyone with actual skills will thrive there. You won't be considered for a public-facing position, but you can still do your part to advance the right-wing agenda behind the scenes.
Best of all, you'll no longer be working for that horrible, awful, no-good government you so deeply despise down to the essence of your being.
You'll recall that at the time our paths crossed, your primary Twitter theme was how horrible Obamacare was, and how awful it was that you should be forced into those exchanges with their death panels and witch doctors like some kind of poor, and you wanted to make sure the whole world knew how unfair it was and how much your employer's benefits sucked.
If you'd had some experience in the private sector, you'd have a frame of reference for what you were experiencing. In the real world, most of us face disruption to our health care delivery every time we take or leave a job, or because our employer unilaterally decides to make changes to our benefits options, and that this is just part of working life in America for people outside the Beltway bubble.
I tried to point out to you at the time that if you were angry about being subjected to the Obamacare exchanges, you should step a few doors down the hall to Senator Grassley's office and vent your spleen there, as it was largely his brilliant idea to rip you from the Federal Employee Health Insurance plans and throw you to the wolves lurking in the dark corners of healthcare.gov.
I also thought you should know that in the private sector, if an employee took to social media during their work hours to angrily complain about how much their employer's benefits suck, you would be having a sit-down with your manager and HR and subject to discipline up to and including termination for disparaging the company in public instead of doing your actual job.
Unfortunately, I didn't phrase my feedback very artfully, and so the first things that come up when you Google me are the multiple national and local media stories about my horrible tweets.
4. Don't give the story oxygen.
The less you say, the better. Let Senator Cruz's office issue a statement that they've asked for and accepted your resignation and apologize to anyone who may have been offended by your statements. Everyone in the media will want to talk to you, and you'll want so desperately to tell your side of the story.
But it's already Friday morning, and no one watches the news on Friday night especially during the summer, and by Monday the story will have been largely forgotten.
Over the course of my Friday, three different local TV news stations showed up uninvited and unannounced at my front door, cameras already turning, wanting to know what I had to say for myself, and didn't I want to tell my side of the story or make a statement. I told each of them in turn that I had apologized to you, and you had accepted my apology, and the county Democratic Party had issued a statement that was very clear, and that I did not give my consent for them to use any video of me on their broadcast.
This disappointed them greatly, but I knew that without actual video footage of me, the monster, on camera, the stories they filed would be boring. They could show my mean tweets on air, of course, but all they could say of me was that I had resigned and had no comment. Therefore, their pieces about me ran about 30 seconds in duration, then they were on to the next car crash of the day.
The worst thing I experienced was a story in the Daily Mail (yes, I got international coverage!) which had generously helped itself to photos from my personal Facebook account including me, my husband, and the interior of our home, none of which were relevant to their story, and left me feeling as naked and exposed as I've ever felt in my life. Perhaps you saw it: they did the same to you.
5. Learn and grow from this as a person.
Amanda, you're a Bright Young Thing, but frankly, you're a whiner. You loved it when I attacked you, because you got to play the righteous victim role the right-wing has come to love, as it shrinks in actual power. Your team thinks liberals got power by whining and complaining that they weren't being fairly treated, and got stuff they didn't deserve by tricking others into having sympathy for us, and decided that that was going to be how you hold on to what you still have.
You have a husband who loves you, I trust, and kids who give you joy. Go and be with them in mind as well as in body, not with one eye on your Twitter mentions and the other on Fox News to see how your boss is playing with the rubes.
The game of politics is a mean one, and it can make you a meaner person. When you believe passionately that you are right, and the other people who believe differently are not only wrong, they are evil; they are monsters; they are going to destroy everything you love about your country: it hardens you. You evaluate the other people in your professional and personal life by how they can benefit your career, or how you can manipulate them to get what you want from them. You can lose your soul along the way. Go find it.
I benefited more than you'll ever know from being "fired" from my volunteer work for the local party. I was spending so many evenings in meetings, committee meetings, board meetings, and feverishly scrambling around every week trying to get other volunteers to give me the details about their activities in time to include them in the weekly newsletter, and fielding endless complaints from people about whether I gave their issue or candidate or elected official enough coverage. I once had a three-day continually escalating exchange with an Assemblymember's staffer over failing to include his boss's back-to-school backpack drive each week for the duration of the campaign. I hardly saw my husband. And the people who were taking up my time were strange and difficult creatures, who treated other people horribly while supposedly fighting for progressive causes, but mostly they were flailing, and failing to connect.
I got to walk away from all of it, cold. I got to find out who were my real friends, and who just put up with me because they needed something from me. I got to spend more time with my husband. I still got work, and the people who hired me knew all about my moment of infamy, but wanted to work with me anyway because they recognized my talents and didn't care if others thought ill of me.
6. This will blow over.
Our media lurches from crisis to crisis, and has the attention span of a gnat. They'll chew you up and spit you out in one day, and then you'll be ignored. You'll be able to resume tweeting again and having some kind of public persona, and once in a while someone will pop up and harangue you for being history's greatest monster, but you'll get used to that and learn to ignore them.
I'm told that almost a year later, the local party still gets an occasional call or email demanding I be fired, or how my tweets prove that the Democratic Party is evil incarnate and needs to be wiped clean from the face of the earth, but that's just a trickle now.
The two groups of people most likely to throw my past in my face on Twitter now are first, of course, the True Believers of the Right, all of whom have the word "Christian" prominently in their bio and an American Eagle, Constitution, and/or a Benghazi twibbon AVI. And second, somewhat surprisingly, are the anarchist left/libertarians who attach their egos to pompous asses like Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden, and use my infamy as a cudgel when I point out their heroes' feet of clay and own past indiscretions of word and deed. But no one takes either group seriously, and I laugh at their impotent rage.
You will go on to have a life after all is said and done, and 99.9% of the people you encounter will know nothing of your moment of public humiliation. Believe it or not, normal people rarely pay attention to politics or care as much as Politico does who "won the day," or who slammed who over what issue. The life you end up having may not be exactly as you have envisioned it up until now, but you'll endure, because what other choice is there?
It may even be that you'll look back on this as a turning point, one that got you off a path that wasn't actually good for you, and helped you find another way to live. A better way, with less bile, and more sunshine and flowers.
And if you ever want to talk about any of this, you know how to find me on Twitter.
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