Dear editor,

In response to the recent (Wausau) School Board candidate’s letter objecting to “online abuse and harassment,” I would offer a few simple solutions to improve decorum. 

First is simple courage from public officials, candidates and political leaders to discourage bad behavior from their teams. It’s simple, but it isn’t easy. Most politicians respond with their personal survival and political calculus in mind; and when I say most, I mean 98 percent or more. We’re all quick to condemn bad behavior when we see it from opposing camps, but we’re usually silent when we see it from our friends. It’s not enough to be one of the dozens offering encouragement and sympathy in the comment section, in fact, that’s openly disingenuous … many of you are either candidates yourself or in government or political leadership positions. 

You know who the bad actors are on your team, reel them in and set the example yourselves, say something privately if you can’t muster the courage to say it publicly. 

Second: Nothing new. The election cycle cesspool on social media isn’t new. The deep dives into social media and CCAP looking for opposition dirt is standard fare these days. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but it is the pragmatic reality. As a former Libertarian, I really do not care what you post to social media in your personal time or that you had a speeding ticket on your record when you were a kid. Let’s be honest, many of us old guys would not be here if Facebook existed in the 70s and 80s. 

Third: Stick to the issues. If you consider yourselves intellectuals, argue your issues. This school board candidate has her views out there. Start there, end there. 

Fourth: Disengage. As a candidate, disengaging may feel counter-intuitive as most of us want to engage genuine discussion, but disengaging from the cesspool on social media is not a sign of weakness, it’s actually an opportunity to drive up your efficiency. Facebook is one of the biggest time wasters of all time; you could divert that time to thinking about important issues. 

Lastly, I’ve seen very little to suggest that this candidate is dirt slinging herself, although many of her surrogates do. Another young 18-year-old running for (Marathon) County (Board) has been the subject of similar attacks. Some have tried to make a moral distinction between these two young women to justify their attacks, sorry, that’s the asymmetric motive attribution trap (your side good, the other side evil). You might argue that both candidates lack the experience to handle the riggers of the “just politics” routine, but whether 18 or 81, basic dignity still floats all boats.

Doug Diny of Wausau

Editor’s note: Wausau Pilot & Review gladly publishes commentary from readers, residents and candidates for local offices. The views of readers and columnists are independent of this newspaper and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wausau Pilot & Review. To submit, email or mail to 500 N. Third St., Suite 208-8, Wausau, Wis. 54403.