Monday, October 26, 2015

Being true to your school, part one: some snark

What's all the hubbub, bub?

Those who have persuaded and do persuade anyone about anything are shapers of lying discourse. For if all people possessed memory concerning all things past, and awareness of all things present, and foreknowledge of all things to come, discourse would not be similarly similar; hence it is not now easy to remember the past or consider the present or foretell the future; so that most people on most subjects furnish themselves with opinion as advisor to the soul. But opinion, being slippery and unsteady, surrounds those who rely on it with slippery and unsteady successes. - Gorgias, Encomium of Helen

Can't say as I am up on the laws regarding intellectual property much less Minnesota election law regarding intentionally "participating in the preparation, dissemination or broadcast of campaign material that is false under circumstances where the individual knows the material is false or communicates information to others with reckless disregard of whether it is false."
Political flyers : RPS & Rochester Tea Party Patriots
So, I have no informed opinion on the merits of the recent decision by Rochester Public Schools [RPS] to bring to bear the Minneapolis law firm of Rupp, Anderson, Squires and Waldspurger and money from the RPS budget to pay the Minneapolis law firm of Rupp, Anderson, Squires and Waldspurger to issue a cease and desist letter against a local political organization for producing a flyer that looks like the flyer that RPS produced to get Rochester property owners current on "the facts" regarding the pending property tax levy to increase the RPS budget. A budget that one might assume includes legal fees.

Of course, strictly speaking, even though RPS can threaten to sue the opposition, it cannot advocate support of its own referendum. There's glory for you. RPS cannot say, "Vote Yes," it can only provide "factual information" (and of course threaten to sue the opposition for providing theirs). Saying "Vote Yes" is left to "independent" - usually ad hoc - groups like the Alliance for Strong Rochester Public Schools [ASRPS]. Saying "Vote No" to a property tax increase is what the Rochester Tea Party Patriots [RTPP] do in their sleep.

Like I said, I'm not up on the laws regarding intellectual property. But, holding forth that mimicking the visual design of an RPS flyer is going to fool people is akin to saying that donning a fake mustache is all it would take to pass yourself off as the RPS superintendent.

Hey, who knows, maybe someone gets confused by the RTPP flyer and concludes RPS doesn't support its own referendum. It's a big multiverse. Ours might be the universe where that happens and the school district crashes and burns as a result. Failing that however---

Dropping a cease and desist letter into the midst of a political debate really feels like something someone lobs at the opposition from a bunker. Under the circumstances it cannot pass unnoticed that somewhere in Rochester, somebody's property tax paid for that cease and desist letter - maybe even a whole cul de sac's property taxes. So there's that.

Then there's this: most of us probably would not have known of the existence or content of the offending RTPP flyer had not RPS called down some Minneapolis suits upon the layout, color palette, and font choices of a few Rochester residents. Among these Rochester residents are likely some at least who now enjoy the privilege of contributing to the property tax revenues expended to have themselves enjoined by the very people asking them to pay more.

If it matters at all, the RTPP flyer mimicking the RPS design is little more than a rhetorical strategy deployed in a field of discourse already littered with RPS conjecture and the usual signs and portents of doom. To attempt to legally claim one flyer factual and the other knowingly false (when it is simply inaccurate in some particulars) overlooks the glaring policy assumptions that are the basis of the RPS claims of "fact" in the first place. Policy assumptions that give shape to the facts in ways that are "slippery and unsteady."

[To be continued in Being true to your school, part two: fact/value/policy]

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