One of the great things about the age of email, Twitter, and Facebook, is it theoretically allows ordinary people to connect quickly and easily with their elected officials, sharing their views about matters of concern to them. In the perfect democracy, politicians would embrace the opportunity to host open and transparent discussions about big issues online.
Yet in the real world, politicians all too often use tools like Facebook merely to have a one-sided conversation, projecting the image they want you to see while removing posts and comments they disagree with. A case in point is Montana’s Congressman Denny Rehberg (who is running for the US Senate this year).
One week ago, after a weekend of action against coal exports in the Northwest, youth activists posted photos from a rally outside of Rehberg’s office on his Facebook page. Since the action was on a Sunday, when no one was in the office, we wanted to make sure Rehberg still knew we had been there. Some of us hoped he might even respond to our concerns about expanded coal mining, and explain why he continues to support the coal industry despite it’s record of health, safety, and environmental violations.
Instead, the photos were removed from Rehberg’s Facebook page almost immediately. No comments, no explanation, nothing.
I guess the lesson is that if you don’t agree with Mr. Rehberg, he’d rather not have to listen to you at all. Of course, his decision to ignore online dissent might also have to do with the fact that he’s accepted almost $100,000 from the mining industry for his Senate campaign.
Denny Rehberg has consistently sided with coal and other mining industries, at the expense of healthy communities, workers, and the environment. From trying to block the EPA from regulating carbon emissions, to stalling the Department of Labor’s attempts to enforce a program that would protect miners from black lung disease, he has proved himself one of the strongest allies of big polluters.
Actually, it’s no wonder the man whom the Montana Coal Council calls “incredibly valuable” wouldn’t want anyone drawing attention to his record of support for 1%. It’s too bad for him that we climate activists can’t be shut up quite that easily.