Crossing The Line

 

A screenshot from Gary Swensen’s personal Facebook page depicting the meme in question.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a staff editorial.

 

 

In connection with a post about the City Of Yankton budget, a Yankton County commissioner has posted a meme that espouses the killing of politicians.

On July 30, Gary Swensen, Yankton County commissioner, posted on Facebook’s Yankton Buzz group a meme in the comments section below a share of a KYNT recording about the Yankton City budget from last week. As of this writing, the group’s administrators Randy Gleich, Mary Lou Mueller and Emily Hohenthaner Radech have chosen not to delete the post; a morally questionable decision. It is also visible on Swensen’s personal page.

The meme depicts an elderly woman in a confessional saying, "Forgive me father for I have sinned, I killed a politician." The priest responds, "My daughter, I am here to listen to your sins, not your community service work."

The United States has had experience with political violence. President John F. Kennedy was killed because a man felt the need to stand out in the world. Rep. Leo Ryan was killed in Guyana on the orders of a cult leader while checking in on the concerns of his constituents back home. There are many more instances to add to this list, but the reality is this — this is not a joking matter that ought to be approached lightly.

Commissioner Swensen, in addition to his posting habits, has a history of abdicating many of his duties as commissioner. For the majority of his tenure, Swensen has refused to take part in executive sessions for no stated reason. He has skipped budget meetings and other special county functions.

Swensen has also exhibited a number of instances of questionable behavior. During the Oct. 16, 2018, meeting of the Yankton County Commission, he seemingly likened other board members to historical leaders like Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. At the following commission meeting — the first since the election — Swensen stormed out of the meeting early on. He would not return again until the new commission was seated in January, in part due to a surgery he had in the interim.

There is a bit of irony to Swensen’s invocation of historical dictators, though. Stalin would kill politicians he felt were a challenge to him. Hitler purged members of the Nazi Party that he didn’t feel sufficiently toed the line — at times having the executions filmed for his viewing pleasure. Mussolini gave a speech in which he took personal responsibility and pride in ordering "squadristi" violence. These were the men that saw the killing of politicians as a "public service."

A politician joking on social media about killing politicians shows, at best, extremely poor judgment.

At worst, it’s a threat to the members of Yankton’s City commission — people with which Swensen should be working and not calling for their execution.

Just last weekend, a disturbed California man shot up a rural agricultural festival killing several people and wounding others. It is not out of the realm of possibility that such a disturbed individual could seek to carry out Swensen’s online "suggestion."

It is true that every community has a harmless local crank, but that person generally doesn’t get elected to office, an office Swensen is abusing with such hateful posts. These days, an average citizen who posts such things would likely be reported to the FBI and investigated.

Given the numerous mass shootings in the United States this year alone, we would demand additional security at Tuesday’s City budget meeting, which would be at the expense of City and county residents, not Swensen who has behaved as irresponsibly towards his duty as commissioner as he has in his online postings.

It should be noted that as a member of the commission, Swensen is being paid $13,284.24 in tax payer dollars. Is he being paid to behave this way?

In a time when uncivil political dialog at the national level is the new "normal," it is important for smaller communities to raise the level of discourse.

One of the great things about the United States is that people do have the ability to make it a better place. The great genius of the founding fathers was putting in place many remedies to fix what ails our government and remove those who abuse their powers. They set up a government for the people to participate in without the need for deposing leaders through violence. One of those ways is answering the call to public service. Calls to kill politicians one doesn’t agree with does nothing whatsoever to encourage people to aspire to public service.

One of the most shameful elements of this incident is the seeming lack of interest on the part of the other county commissioners to confront Swensen for this latest action. Commission chairman Dan Klimisch has been silent when he has an obligation to stand up and say something. States Attorney Rob Klimisch has remained mum on the subject.

It is equally shameful that the moderators of Yankton Buzz have done nothing to quash this blatant foolishness, when they proclaim to be acting on behalf of the people.

With his actions, Commissioner Gary Swensen has demonstrated a lack of will to execute his public service in a professional manner. If he is not willing to do so, then is it his duty to use one of our historic non-violent remedies and resign? Or, should it be the duty of the County Commission or states attorney?

Ask yourselves, your family and friends: Should Swensen resign? The P&D Editorial Board Staff are weighing this very question and prior to stating our position would like your input.

 

 

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(34) comments

Yanktoncanes

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prose

I, like many of your readers, took a basic journalism class in high school and one of the things I was taught was the format of a newspaper. I do not recall 1) the front page of the paper was the location for editorials and letters to the editor; 2)I believe if a letter to editor is printed/published that it includes the name and city of the writer; 3) if the printed piece is an editorial that is plainly stated at the beginning of the article and is signed off at the bottom by the editor that or correspondent that has written it. PLEASE note that was not true with this piece of 'huff and puff' that you published under the guise of a staff editorial on the Front page of the P & D. I will not jump to your "bait" about The Yankton Buzz or to what in your opinion is of a political cartoon; thanks to the Constitution you are not the arbitrator of free speech. Let's move on to the publishing of the community, state and national news.


RJGleich

I can not share your editorial to Yankton Buzz since it has an offensive meme which we do not condone. So let me set the facts straight: Yankton Buzz has three administrators and many moderators. These are volunteer NON-PAID positions and assist me in maintaining civil discourse on the site. Yankton Buzz has 8275 members as I write this and growing. In the last thirty days – Yankton Buzz has received approximately 30,100 posts-comments and reactions from its membership. The post which you so proudly display is from Mr. Swensons PERSONAL FB PAGE which Yankton Buzz has no control over. IT IS NOT FROM THE YANKTON BUZZ SITE – as it was REMOVED IMMEDIATELY once reported. The meme was apparently used as a reply to a post made on Yankton Buzz. The post by Mr. Swenson was reported to the Administrators at approximately 10:40 pm August 1st, 2019 by Ross Denherder. Upon notification of this post, Administrator(s) removed the meme as it was deemed inappropriate. Mr. Swenson post was deleted at 10:45pm 8/1/2019 (I would call that a quick response) considering the volume of member interactions on the site. The site applies the same standards(rules) to all members. Since the founding of the site, approximately 106 individuals have been blocked and removed from the site for inappropriate similar behavior. I find it to be ‘Fake News’ that the YPD is making the use of Mr. Swenson’s personal FB post (on his own page) as something Yankton Buzz condones. We do not. The meme is NOT on Yankton Buzz.


tomPayne

There is competing FB groups to Yankton Buzz, one with over 2000 members most of whom have been blocked or rejected from posting in Yankton Buzz for dissenting viewpoints or calling out outright lies. Randy has even removed moderators if they disagree with his order. The 'Fake News' is Yankton Buzz; a blight that should be removed from this community. Unfortunately it's like a soap opera: too many people wondering what Randy, Emily, Ariene and others are going to say next only to slap your head in disbelief. What we as a community need to do is to leave Yankton Buzz and strip Mr Swensen, Randy, Emily and their radical friends of their pulpit.


dmilroy

There is a difference from posting a hateful meme or passing on a hateful meme and writing an editorial denouncing the hateful meme.







Mr. Gleich, I find it hard to believe you weren't contacted by the P&D prior to their editorial. At what time did Mr. Swenson post his ugly meme on your Yankton Buzz? At what time were Randy Gleich, Mary Lou Mueller or Emily Hohenthaner Radech contacted about the meme by the P&D? Was the report from Ross Denherder the first time any of you knew about the meme?


Ariterry

As far as I know the first anyone at Yankton Buzz knew about the meme was when it was reported and promptly removed. No one contacted the three people mentioned to ask what happened with it.


Em

dmilroy, I can assure you none of the administrators from Buzz were aware of this image. It appeared in the comments section of a post that was buried within hundreds of other posts. The first time I saw it was when I received notification of a member reported post. I removed the image immediately.







No one from the paper contacted any of us, in any manner regarding this. Sadly, this could have all been avoided had the writer of this piece simply reported the meme when they first saw it. We sift through well over a thousand posts/comments per day, every day. Do we sometimes miss inappropriate content? Absolutely. That is why we depend on our members to report.


dmilroy

It strange Andy Gleich, Mary Lou Mueller or Emily Hohenthaner Radech were not contacted about the meme by the P&D! You didn't answer my questions: At what time did Mr. Swenson post his ugly meme on your Yankton Buzz? Was the report from Ross Denherder the first time any of you knew about the meme?


tomPayne

Ariterry it is absolutely absurd to believe that the admins of the Yankton Buzz did not know of this post until this article. Mr. Swensen tagged Randy Gleich in the post as you can see from the P&D's photo. Randy would have gotten a notification of the post immediately. You see that is evidence that contradicts your fabricated story. I'm so glad I quit social media years ago.


tomPayne

Here! Here! Mr. Swensen has been an embarrassment to Yankton County for long enough! His radical and vigilante views are dangerous to civil discourse and progress in civil society. The Yankton Buzz propaganda page needs to be disbanded.


Justthinking

Unfortunately, our current political party leader, has exhibited all the actions of a dictatorship. I agree that the cartoon is out of line.


dkreisner

Free speech is one of the many rights we have a American citizens, but there are times when lines are crossed. My problem is, if the man is not doing his job, he should not be holding that office. I do not want my hard-earned money, paying a salary to a man who shows no respect for the office he holds. He should be replace immediately; no for his political beliefs, but for not doing his job.


I'm new here, but...

Just so I'm clear, the P&D feels that it's 'morally questionable' for the meme to be left up on Yankton Buzz (which it wasn't), but perfectly acceptable for them to plaster it on the website to be shared? Do I have that right? M'kay. Carry on...


tomPayne

Classic fallacy. Accuse the accuser of the same crime. The P&D provided a picture of Mr Swenson sharing the meme. That included the meme for reporting and evidence. Let me guess... You're from the Yankton Buzz.


Thinking outside of the .......?

Just wondering if anyone thought about the origin of the "meme" ? Perhaps Mr. Swensen had this sent TO him - a threat to him as a politician, and was sharing the things he gets? I don't know the man or the entire story. But to make this front page News? ( and Editorial per say??) How about the P&D do some investigating and get the WHOLE Story?


tomPayne

Ridiculous. Give Mr. Swensen's fb page a look over. This isn't the first time he posted anti politician cartoons, memes or rhetoric. Mr. Swensen was not threatenned. He is a loose cannon who ignores the rules when they don't suit him.


Ariterry

[ban] I think you need to fire whoever wrote this and approved it. The editorial is filled with holes and inaccuracies that are easily proven. I feel super bad for the people that Gary tagged in his post, they now have their names attached to this offensive meme they had nothing to do with.


tomPayne

Please quote one "hole" or inaccuracy. Mr. Swensen needs to go for the good of the county, for the good of the community.


dmilroy

Ariterry, what holes and inaccuracies?


Heather Auld

I thought it was clever


dmilroy

Given Mr. Swenson conflicts with in fellow politicians on the board and his odd behavior. We need to take his "joke" about killing politicians seriously.


cornetto

I find it interesting that the p&d has no problem naming names to defame the admins of Yankton Buzz but are afraid to show the name of the "staff" who wrote the editorial hit piece. Dude, where's your backbone? Own your words.


Trumpyeah!!

The real issue is the states atty and the chairperson. I think we need to take a vote on removing the two klimish’s







There are a whole bunch of conflict of interest questions that could be asked. Isn’t heat related to the two Klimish’s?


Local123

Yankton buzz is just a tabloid to make money for Randy. It's a monetized Facebook page. Readers beware: he wants hype not facts.


MJohnson

This isn't just about the line Gary Swensen crossed. It's about the multiple times over the years he has enthusiastically crossed the line.







This isn't about the one time something offence was posted and removed from the Yankton buzz page. There is a equal enthusiasm for posting misinformation and removing those who speak against it.







Both Randy and Gary have enthusiastically confused the public and impoverished the political debate.


yanktonaveragejoe

This "Yankton Buzz" Facebook page may represent the opinions of the "lowest common denominator" of Yankton area residents, but it is protected free speech under the U.S. Constitution. Calling for it to be removed may be a bit extreme.







That being said, many of you are missing the point of the editorial. It's not just that "someone posted an offensive meme". That happens all the time. The point is that this meme was posted by an ELECTED OFFICIAL as a "Comment" to a story involving another group of elected officials. Is it just a joke at that point or is it a veiled threat bordering on terrorism? The simple fact that an elected official isn't smart enough to ask himself "Hmm, I wonder if it's a good idea to post this?" makes me question the mental stability of said elected official. He should apologize to salvage his political career. Based on what I know about him, he will be unapologetic. If I'm right about this, then he should resign as a Yankton County Commissioner.


DLJohnson

I'm concerned about the hysteria in this country. I viewed the cartoon posted in the P&D editorial. Was this advocacy for the killing of politicians, or was it a depiction of the huge divide in American brought on by polarization of political views? Every issue or subject these days are seen by one side as a sin and the other side as a community service and vise a versa. There is no longer middle ground in this country. Compromise has been turned into a dirty word with each side stating it has to be our way or no way. Common sense and reason has given way to emotion and blind passion. If we keep on this course we will be the next in a line of societies that have destroyed themselves.


DLJohnson

The last few sentences of the editorial comment of the P&D Editorial Staff has left me with a few questions. Is the P&D Editorial Board Staff elevating themselves to the position of a political entity? And does that then make the P&D Editorial Staff the political conscious of the citizens of the community? Or am I misinterpreting their comments and apparent course of conduct?


La Voz

Mr. Swensen has offered to give up his salary to better Yankton. I stand by the 1st Amendment and wonder why this made headline news? I also think it quite cowardice of the Yankton P & D to not list their personal name in the article. Their whole point is null and void to me bc they couldn't even list who wrote the article. Also, I agree with the Yankton Buzz being shut down. It's nothing but a dictatorship propoganda site.


Trumpyeah!!

Let’s have a vote on asking the states attorney to step down also


dmilroy

We will. The state attorney is an elected office.


cornetto

I see that six new comments have been posted today since I submitted mine yesterday afternoon (which hasn't been posted) so I will try again. Who wrote the editorial and why won't the P&D post the name? The author had no qualms naming the Yankton Buzz admins as being somehow culpable for not deleting some comment they didn't know about, buried in a chain of other comments. Once the comment with the meme was reported, it was immediately deleted, as already explained in Randy Gleich's response. Apparently, the admins were not only not quick enough to suit the author, they weren't psychic enough to know the comment existed or that the author was offended by it. Why didn't the author contact the admins himself instead of causing all this drama? For anyone who still has questions, scroll up and read Randy Gleich's response or go to Yankton Buzz and read the discussion there.


Vickus

You tell me, P&D, if any of you have ever made a joke about a politician. If you have not, good for you. If you have, stop posting stuff like this to only arouse negative attention to one person. You are no better than anyone else. It's a JOKE.. get a life!! You report the news NOT soap opera JOKES!!!


Boating53

Swenson has not conducted himself professionally repeatedly. He is out of control, as he does not understand boundaries. He won’t step down because he really does not know how to act in the role of public office. He needs to be removed IMMEDIATELY!


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