No, I do not have to get anyone’s permission for that…

11 minute read

March 30, 2024, 1:35 PM

It has always amused me about how often people play the permission-of-the-subject card with me.  Usually, it comes from someone who is a bit salty about coverage of their activities that may portray them in a negative light.  However, recently, someone played this card on a post that I made on Schumin Web‘s Facebook page in regards to a wildfire in Virginia that I recently photographed with my drone.  The post was about a photo that depicted a house burning to the ground that I am planning to run as part of a Journal entry about a weekend trip that Elyse and I had recently made:

1429 Coal Mine Road burns to the ground during a wildfire near Strasburg, Virginia.

In doing my research for the entry, I found a GoFundMe page for the people who lived in the house that I had photographed.  The purpose of the post was to get this GoFundMe page out to my readers ahead of the Journal entry, since photo-heavy Journal entries like that one tend to take a while to produce (entries like this one that are more text-based are much simpler to do), and I wanted to get the family’s fundraiser out sooner than my production schedule would otherwise allow.

While I got a lot of “care” and “sad” reacts on both the original post as well as the repost on my personal Facebook timelline, I was surprised to see this comment on the website’s post from a woman named Susan Baker:

Susan Baker: "Do you have permission from the family to post or have this appear in your journal?"

This comment just irritated me.  I gave a quick response that said it all: “I do not need to seek or receive permission from anyone to post this in the Journal.”  That’s really the long and the short of it right there.  I can write about whatever I want and publish content related to those things, and I don’t need anyone’s permission to do that.  I didn’t appreciate the sentiment, though, that they were essentially saying that I was wrong for posting a link to someone’s GoFundMe page, i.e. attempting to get more eyes on this fundraiser.  Forget the intent of the post at all, i.e. helping a family that just lost everything in a fire get back on their feet.  Instead, all that Baker can think about is whether or not I got the family’s permission before posting about it.  How insensitive of her.  I don’t see her name on the list of people who have contributed.  But my name is on there.  In any case, Elyse put it best, saying of Baker’s remark, “It’s not your house.”  In other words, go away, because this doesn’t concern you.  And truth be told, the people who were running the GoFundMe thanked me for sharing the photo.

This one was unusual in that it was not the subject of a photo or article that was complaining about any alleged permission or lack thereof.  This was just a random person who commented on it.  Usually, it’s the subject of the coverage that claims, “YoU’Re tAlKiNg aBoUt mE WiThOuT My pErMiSsIoN1!1!”  I remember when Frank Wade tried to play that card with me after I was sharing my candid opinions about him in a conversation with another kid outside of school, and that kid then ratted me out to Wade the next day at school, and Wade confronted me over it, telling me, “You can’t talk about teachers like that!”  I had to listen to him rant and rave for a long time, wasting my time listening to his nonsense when I could have been doing more productive things with that time.  Clearly, he was wrong, because I obviously could talk about teachers like that, and demonstrated as much.  Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean that it’s improper, illegal, or otherwise wrong.  You would think that as a social studies teacher that teaches students about the Bill of Rights, of all things, that he would have known better.  Maybe he should have taken take his own class some time.

Then this website came around when I was in ninth grade at Stuarts Draft High School.  No one paid any attention to it during that ninth grade year, as it debuted late in the school year and few people knew about it, but the next fall, when I was in tenth grade, my teachers absolutely hated it, because I would discuss things that happened in school, just like I had the year before, but clearly, they weren’t proud of their roles in these things.  My Spanish IV teacher that first semester, Maureen Kelly, was absolutely triggered by the idea that a student might have an opinion about her class that she didn’t approve of and post it somewhere online where she couldn’t control it.  She went to the school administration and my parents, whining and complaining about my site, and also played the “yOu’rE TaLkInG AbOuT Me wItHoUt mY PeRmIsSiOn!1!1!” card with me.  I had never heard things described that way before, and didn’t know that I was supposed to get permission from someone before I could write about them.  I also strongly suspected that she was very wrong, because otherwise, among other things, you wouldn’t have things like Kitty Kelley‘s unauthorized biography of Nancy Reagan.  Clearly, Maureen Kelly was of the Sharon Bradley school of thought, i.e. that she is always right, and the student is inherently wrong, and no one shall dare question her.  She certainly was the abusive Sharon Bradley-type figure of my high school days, but unlike Sharon Bradley, I only had to deal with Maureen Kelly for 90 minutes a day for half a year, so my exposure to her foolishness was thankfully fairly limited.  For context, Maureen Kelly was the teacher who physically hustled me out of the room and then threw my stuff out in the hallway with such force that it hit a locker and then fell to the floor, and then apologized to my parents (but never to me) when they called her out on it.  So that’s the kind of high-quality individual that we were dealing with here.

If it tells you anything about the attitude that I was dealing with when it came to Maureen Kelly, she also refused to accept the homework assignments that I submitted, where we were assigned to copy down and then turn in all of the vocabulary words from each chapter.  Here was the catch: I knew that each chapter of the textbook built on the previous one, and we didn’t finish the textbook each semester.  We typically did about half of the book, and then the next year, we moved on to a new book.  So at the end of the year in Spanish I, I copied down all of the vocabulary words for the remaining chapters in Voces Y Vistas in my usual format so that I would have them the following year, in case the textbook referenced them in the following year’s book, Pasos Y Puentes, assuming that we had finished the previous book.  I had a big binder with all of the words in it, complete with verb conjugations, arranged by chapter, for all of the books.  Then at the end of Spanish II, I did the same thing for Pasos Y Puentes, and at the end of Spanish III, I did the same thing for Arcos Y Alamedas.  The difference in Spanish IV, however, was that we were using Arcos Y Alamedas once again, but this term, we were working in the back half of the book.  And I had already copied down all of the vocabulary words that we would encounter the previous spring for my own usage, thinking that we were going to be in a different book again.  And because I had done the work ahead of time, Kelly refused to accept those for credit, even though they matched the requirements of the assignments exactly, because I wasn’t doing the work specifically for her.  As far as I was concerned, it made no sense to redo the work just to stroke someone’s ego, when she had assigned something that I had already completed on my own time for myself the previous spring and had never turned in before for academic credit.  It’s no wonder why I got straight Cs in her Spanish IV class when I got straight As in Spanish III with a different teacher the year before.  I knew what I was doing, but she just couldn’t put her ego aside, and was looking for reasons to penalize me.

I remember one time when Maureen Kelly completely berated and embarrassed me in front of the class over something incredibly minor while I was doing a presentation, to the point where I just aborted the mission said, “I’m done,” and sat down.  I had put in a good bit of work on that presentation, but no one ever got to hear it in its entirety because I was not able to complete it.  I wrote about that experience on the website at the time, and you should have seen the fireworks go off when she found out about it.  First of all, this was the instance where I got hauled into the principal’s office for talking about school on the website.  I did not appreciate that, because not only was the principal extremely disrespectful to me about it, but I now understand that everything that he said was 100% wrong, and that he was trying protect his staff from criticism when they were quite clearly wrong rather than actually trying to resolve the alleged problem, which was really all on Maureen Kelly’s side of things (i.e. “this sounds like a you problem”).  He also played the “you’re discussing teachers without their permission” card, which I especially didn’t appreciate, because I knew that it was crap, but didn’t quite know how to articulate that yet.  However, the ultimate jerk move on that one came from Maureen Kelly herself.  She began secretly recording me in class, and revealed it one day when I was talking about the recent school-related controversy on the website to another kid before class.  I told the kid that I had said what I said, and that I didn’t care what the teacher thought about it.  That’s when she revealed her recording, went up to her desk, turned the recording device off, and said something to the effect of, “Thank you, I’ll be sending this to my lawyer.”  Such unprofessional behavior on her part.  Not only was the recording most likely made illegally (she wasn’t a party to that conversation, and as I understand it, even in a one-party consent state like Virginia, either the other kid or I would have had to consent to any recording of our conversation), but she also had no case to begin with, because (A) it’s not illegal to have an opinion, (B) it’s not illegal to express that opinion, and (C) I certainly don’t need the consent of the person whose behavior that I’m discussing in order to share it.  And if she was faking it, and putting on that whole act solely to intimidate me into making me stop, then it didn’t work, and just showed what an unprofessional bitch she really was.

I also loved the idea that the school promoted that school was the student’s workplace as a way to try to silence student critics.  Sure, in the workplace, if you come out and publicly criticize your employer, you probably shouldn’t expect to be employed there for much longer.  While it may seem reasonable on the surface to extend this idea to the school environment, there are some very big holes in that argument when you look at it with a more critical eye.  First, students are not employed by the school.  They do not receive a paycheck, and are there to complete the an educational program that the school provides in exchange for a piece of documentation stating as much.  They also do not go into this program voluntarily, as education is compulsory in the United States.  If nothing else, students are best described as something like customers than workers.  Additionally, except under very limited circumstances, public schools can’t fire or otherwise get rid of their students.  In other words, you may be stuck with them, but they are also stuck with you.  So that argument falls on its face because certain dynamics and incentives that exist in the workplace are just not there for students at school.

It all makes a person start to think that people like Maureen Kelly really shouldn’t be allowed to become teachers, because she really spread a lot of bad information when she got upset about my website.  If we’re being charitable and giving her the benefit of the doubt, assuming that she knew nothing about such things, i.e. she was speaking from a position of ignorance, then it was misinformation at best.  If she knew better (and I suspect that she did) and shared the bad information anyway, then she was deliberately spreading disinformation.  People who spread disinformation shouldn’t be allowed to work in education at all, as teaching wrong things like that does major harm to impressionable children.  Additionally, imagine a person’s being so emotionally fragile that they felt it necessary to go to that extent to attempt to intimidate a student into silence after they called them out on their own bad behavior in the first place.  Maybe she should have done some soul-searching instead and considered what role her behavior played in the incidents that I was writing about rather than trying to silence a somewhat vocal critic of her behaviors in the classroom.  But I imagine that if she did that, she wouldn’t have come out as perfect as she thought that she was, and she just couldn’t handle being wrong in front of students, whom she clearly viewed as inferior to herself.

Then there’s the case of Karen Sheehan, whom you may recall was the lady who unwittingly became the face of an ill-conceived anti-airpark movement in Montgomery Village.  Recall in that instance that Sheehan was captured by our security camera leaving a flyer on our front door, and then Elyse, with a little prodding from me, took it and ran with it.  When confronted, Sheehan did not immediately take the bull by the horns and advocate for the campaign that she had been working on.  Rather, she started whining, taking issue with the fact that we posted a photo of her (a very unflattering photo of her, but I work with what I have) without getting her permission first.  There was no mention that Sheehan was the one who initiated the interaction, entering our property without our consent in order to leave her flyer.  Of course not.  She was upset that we didn’t seek her out to get her permission to run a photo that she didn’t control that depicted her doing something that she apparently wasn’t proud of.  No matter that, until she revealed herself in a comment on the post that Elyse made, as far as we were concerned, she was an unknown person who had no business being on our property, and left stuff on our door.  So who were we to know who to go to in order to seek permission to run the photo in the first place?  We had never met nor heard of Karen Sheehan before, and so we’re just supposed to sit on a photo until we research the identity of the person that is on it and then get their permission to use it?  There are just under 35,000 people living in Montgomery Village, and who knew whether or not she even lived in Montgomery Village herself.  But yeah, I’m supposed to start ringing doorbells to find out who matches the photo in order to get their permission in order to run it.  Sure.  Go pound sand.

Regardless of who says it, I always find this argument to be absolutely ridiculous.  Imagine what would never be uncovered or revealed if we were actually obligated to receive the subject’s permission before publishing or sharing something about them.  Law enforcement would never be able to release surveillance footage of anyone to seek the public’s assistance to help identify the perpetrators of a crime because they would be obligated to receive permission from the subject of the surveillance footage in order to publish it.  And in that case, if the police have gone to that extent to release the footage, they’ve already gotten their man, and, more importantly, they have confessed to the crime!  Then imagine if this implied to our politicians.  Imagine how different history might look if news organizations were required to seek and receive consent from our politicians in order to write stories about them – including ones that look into official misconduct.  That would be unconstitutional, as the First Amendment guarantees a free press, and the idea of receiving a subject’s permission before one can speak about their activities flies in the face of that entire concept.  Would President Richard Nixon have consented to Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s investigative coverage of the Watergate scandal?  I consider that highly doubtful, as Nixon, on his own recordings, said, “I want you to stonewall it.”  In that case, we might have never heard about Watergate, and never known what was really going on with the people that we elected to represent us, and how they were using the tax dollars that we sent to them.  We might never have heard about Larry Craig’s shenanigans in that airport bathroomHealthy Holly might have just been another series of children’s books, and if we had to get permission from author Catherine Pugh, then the sitting mayor of Baltimore, to write about her.  We would have never known about the sordid path that Healthy Holly took to get into Baltimore public schools for a fee of $500,000.  We also might have never heard anything at all for four years from the administration of Donald Trump if we were required to have his consent before writing about him.  And so many other instances of official corruption would have gone unnoticed as well, if we had to have the consent of the individuals being discussed before discussing them.

All of that to is say, don’t come at me with the notion that I have to get permission from someone before I write about them, because it’s complete nonsense.  My opinions are what they are, and I happen to have a forum in which to express those opinions.  I’m sorry if you don’t like my opinions, but that’s your problem, not mine.  Just because you disagree with my opinions doesn’t make my opinions wrong, nor does it mean that I’m wrong for expressing them.