Ever since I made the decision to forego another election campaign in House District 25, I’ve had mixed emotions about ending a 24-year run in the capitol. I will sincerely miss the opportunity to serve my neighbors in the district and the chance to work with some truly upstanding individuals in the capitol, but I will definitely not miss the army of trolls who pollute every elected leader’s social media accounts.
Back in 1996
When I first ran for office as a young twentysomething fairly fresh out of college, social media was nonexistent, so we relied on postal mail, phone calls, faxes, and meetings in the district to connect with the voters who would become constituents. When social media first emerged ten years later, it was rife with potential, offering a new way to not only inform constituents of the things I was doing on their behalf, it also provided a handy channel for them to respond, ask questions and offer insights. It actually made governing better and more effective, at least for a while.
Then, somehow, somewhere, an army of angry trolls emerged from what I can only assume was some subterranean lair of unhappiness, probably tired of getting shunned from family gatherings or punched in the nose for their insults when made in person, and took up residence on my social media accounts. While many of those trolls are funded or even controlled by nefarious, billionaire-funded façade organizations devoted to sowing division among the Republican party, many others were possibly just inspired by the former’s endless stream of insults and crudity.
My response to these attacks was to simply grow a thicker skin — two decades in the Texas House had already given me a good “base layer” if you will. However, it really bothered me when my family, my constituents, my team, and my fellow legislators were exposed to the vitriol that flowed so readily from the keyboard trolls. So we had to act.
When my team began adopting the standard social media practice of “mute and block” for the worst offenders, my constituents enjoyed a brief return to those halcyon days of useful information, civil discourse and family-friendly language. Unfortunately, those days ended when a federal judge ruled the president couldn’t respond to trolls in that same accepted fashion and a Texas judge said the same for officials like myself.
So, my team has continued to use my social media platforms to share vital information ranging from storm resources during the busiest hurricane season in recent memory to COVID-19 education, but the conversation promised by social media has been largely one-sided on our end. I haven’t read much of it myself because pretty much every post is met with personal attacks from the usual suspects who want to lob insults, spray profanity and make a general hellscape of the comments.
Until today, that is.
Having passed along the mantle of leadership to Speaker Dade Phelan, a man I highly admire and respect, I am no longer an elected official and no longer bound by the judiciary’s inequitable position on who should freely roam my social media accounts, harassing anyone whose views counter their twisted perspective. With the publication of this note, I am launching Operation Troll Cleanse, blocking every one of the dimwitted, vicious trolls who have driven away people of good conscience, reclaiming my social media territory for people who care about Texas, embrace prudent governance and enjoy civil discourse.
So, if you’re numbered among the latter, here’s to an ongoing conversation about our state’s future. However, if you’re one of the haters who once undeservedly enjoyed free rein on my social media accounts, farewell. You won’t be missed.