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This Just In: A look at local news online and on the tube

Down Dog

In his monthly District 36 newsletter, state Representative and undertaker Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny) features a column written by his dead dog entitled, “Around the town with Buster.” It’s not clear whether this is the ghost of Buster writing, or someone ghost-writing on Buster’s behalf.

In a recent column entitled “Photobombed!,” Buster talks up the merits of animal-protection legislation that Readshaw is co-sponsoring, and digresses from the topic to a recent exchange with a jaunty relative.

“My young cousin Pennie jumped up and gave Harry a smack on the kisser. What old dog mentored Pennie on this tactic to get some treats? I wonder … heh heh heh. Would have done it myself, but jumping up on laps isn’t so easy for me lately.”

This raises so many questions. For example: When dogs die and go to heaven, aren’t their legs “brand-new?” Also, is Buster on the payroll?

So I took these pressing questions to Readshaw.

click to enlarge Buster’s apparition writes about responsible gun legislation, and why it’s wrong
Buster’s apparition writes about responsible gun legislation, and why it’s wrong

Is Buster writing as a ghost? Or is Buster channeling his literary musings through you?

“I assume that you could take your pick, but the second choice is more accurate.”

Has Buster ever disagreed with you on any issues?

“If there were differences of opinion, the issue was subject to reaching a compromise. He always disagreed when I attempted to take him for a walk in 90-degree weather.”

Why doesn’t Buster have “new legs”?

“Everyone does get ‘new legs’ when they go to heaven. But sometimes, in reminiscing, he refers to and uses the past tense.” What writer isn’t guilty of that from time to time?

Taxpayers will be relieved to know that Buster is not on the payroll. Readshaw told me that Buster writes because he is concerned with delivering a message to constituents, and for additional “treats.” So he’s just like a living blogger!

If his columns prove nothing else, it’s “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

click to enlarge A screenshot of a Virginia Montanez tweet
A screenshot of a Virginia Montanez tweet

Punching Down

In a recent post on That’s Church, it’s Virginia Montanez v. the Ignorance of the People when she calls out egregious remarks by online commenters. In particular, she zeroes in on one person’s comment in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review regarding Mayor Peduto’s announcement that he will welcome Syrian refugees.

“ … I read some comments and I really regret it, but I’m going to write about it and you’re going to read this and you’re either going to agree with me, or you’re going to go to bed tonight with a nagging feeling in your brain that you’re not being a good and decent member of the HUMAN RACE,” wrote Montanez.

Shaming in the digital age is hardly new. But the piece entitled, “Bad, Human! Bad,” was a tipping point for Pittsburgh, and a sure sign that we’ve had it up to our bandwidth with the callous caterwaulers of comment sections. 

Full disclosure: I know Virginia, and she is a good human. And I have often experienced similar feelings of disgust when I regretfully dove headfirst into the dumpster of humanity known as the “comment section.”

But when does wielding the power of the press to shame become bullying?

Laura Hudson wrote a great 2013 piece in Wired in which she discusses when Penny Arcade webcomic artist Mike “Gabe” Krahulik dealt with a troll who’d been harassing a reader, and how he responded by posting the man’s emails and Twitter handle to his website in order to publicly shame him.

“ … even if you think your bullying is serving a greater good, the fact remains that you’re still just a bully,” wrote Hudson.

Mayor William Peduto gave his own endorsement and retweeted the link to the “Bad, Human! Bad!” post, which, to hammer the point a bit more, names the person Montanez called out. Furthermore, Peduto’s retweet was then retweeted by people including the social-media editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Are you following?

“Going after” public figures can be life-destroying, but think of the consequences for someone who is a private citizen. Montanez ought to know better. When she was outed as PittGirl several years ago, she lost her job.

If someone dehumanizes Syrian refugees, should we, in turn, dehumanize them?

We must employ better tactics than shaming private citizens to state our positions — however heinous someone’s comment may be. Shaming them might silence them, but worse, it could and has ruined lives, even for those who have expressed remorse, and who I believe are truly sorry. Does achieving vindictiveness outweigh the price a private person might pay for being singled out? And does any of this really help the people of Syria?

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