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For the meep shall inherit the earth
(a followup to this)
Clarifications and updates
I've been having a blast reading everyone's comments and emails. Now that the internet seems to have moved on to other things, I thought I'd post a few final comments and answer some FAQs before saying goodbye to my 15 minutes of meep.
For the sake of clarity, I'd like to point out that some commenters overstated the level of police involvement. I was never "in trouble" with the police, or contacted by the police. I don't even know if the school officials actually sent my email to the police, only that they said they did. According to this followup article in the Salem News, police are not investigating. (Whew! I'm tired of being on the lam.)
I was somewhat surprised by the unanimity of public opinion on this -- a near-100% consensus that the school officials acted like fools.
There was a minute percentage of people (two of whom emailed me) saying they supported the ban on meep, claiming that students had been using it to intimidate or harass a particular individual (variously claimed to be either a student or a staff member). As neither they nor the press have provided any details whatsoever, I still don't know what prompted the ban on meep. Again for the sake of clarity, I'll just point out that -- especially having been bullied myself when I was in school -- I'm completely in favor of sensible efforts to crack down on bullying. Banning meep is not one of them.
From an email sent me by "JN" of Danvers, "'meep' was being used as a substitute for the other disruptive and harassing words that were previously being used." (While the principal and assistant principal embarrassed themselves publicly, JN's email was sent to me alone, so I'm not posting JN's real name and email.) If true, this is a perfect example of why banning meep won't work: substitutes would arise quickly, just as they did for the "other disruptive and harassing words." I'm completely certain that when I was in school, if the teachers had banned students from taunting me with specific insults, I would have been taunted with innumerable synonymous insults. If they'd banned hitting me with a right hand, they would have hit me with a left, or kicked me. There's no easy solution to the problem of bullying, as much as people might want one. I have more thoughts on this, but I'll save them for another time. Suffice it to say that anyone who thinks I'm not opposed to bullying is barking up the wrong tree.
Many people are wondering why the students wanted to say "meep." From what I can gather, it's for the same reasons anyone else would want to say meep. For (slightly) more detail, check out this interview NPR did with student Mike Spiewak, audio and transcript here.
If you have time, check out the entertaining comments (many of which include copies of emails sent to school officials) on Fark, Reddit, Digg, and numerous other websites around the world. (I'm linking to a Google search for Meep Michaels because it seems to bring up more recent stories/comments than a search for Meep Danvers.)
Comments TL;DR? Here are some highlights:
Hundreds if not thousands of people said they would be emailing or had emailed the school with "meep" or some variation of it. Dozens of them (including a few attorneys) bcc'd me. Some people got very creative to evade filters: spelling it out with ASCII art, embedding it in other text, or avoiding the word entirely. A few examples:
Enjoying everyone's punishment? Maybe even elegant people make examples of empty politics. Most elementary educated principals must exercise enormous precautions making exorbitantly entertaining policies.
("UpDown" on Reddit)
Please read the following backwards.
peem peem peem peem peem peem peem peem peem peem peem peem peem peem peem peem peem peem peem
("kobescoresagain" on Reddit)
Asst. Principal Strout,
I would like to thank you [for] the example provided both by yourself and Danvers High - as a budding authoritarian I'd like to think I'll be able to graduate into a world where the capricious whims of the privileged view form the codes of conduct the plebes must follow.
Missing the forest for the trees (banning certain onomatopeiac sounds while providing an ironic example of kneejerk tyrannical behavior for impressionable youngsters to emulate) is a tradition of leadership, and I would like to thank you for using your position as an agent of the federal government under the Department of Education to institutionalize this delicious violation of the First Amendment. Thank you again.
("Clumpy" on Reddit)
I sent the M**phole in Charge Murray an E-mail which simply quoted the First Amendment in its entirety, and said that he needs a refresher course. Let him drop dime on me to 5-0. Make my day.
I'm a senior citizen, 66 years of age. But one is never too old to defend our Constitution.
("DantheMan08822" on BostonHerald.com)
Several people said they'd be writing a letter using their frindle.
- Some also pointed out that this situation totally whomps.
There were a few ideas tossed around about renting a billboard or a skywriter to up the level of meepage. These plans did not come to fruition as far as I know.
Someone created an International Meep Day on Facebook.
Several people created T-shirts. BS Clothing generously mailed me one of these, which I'll be wearing. The Salem News reported yesterday (Nov. 26) that Danvers HS students would like to sell "Free Meep" shirts to raise money for a scholarship or grant.
Several people pointed out that this is a good example of the Streisand Effect. (Interestingly, the New York Times had another good example around the same time: see this article about convicted murderers Wolfgang Werlé and Manfred Lauber.)
A few people pointed out that Michigan has a test called the "Michigan Educational Assessment Program," MEAP for short. Presumably the Danvers school officials have now taken themselves out of the running for any school jobs in Michigan.
Many said that the school officials should have just ignored the meeping, and it would have stopped sooner. Alternately they should have gotten the teachers and parents saying it -- this would make it seem uncool and the students would move on to something else.
Alternately students should move on to another nonsense word ("moop" and "ni!" were common suggestions). Some suggested that the students use a word that couldn't be banned, like "homework" or "the" or the word "ban" itself.
"nokes" on Reddit suggested that the students do a report on the Mir Environmental Effects Payload (MEEP).
A few people recounted similar incidents from their (pre-internet) school days, with nonsense words including oodalolly and durp.
A few people wondered if the school could find some way to prosecute me or other individuals for harrassment. It's not my field, but I've thought about it and still don't see how. Sometimes it can be a fine line between "harassment" and "communication." But I'm thinking, if a single, one-word email can be considered harassment, then what isn't harassment?
Many pointed out that Danvers has a history of dangerous overreaction, citing its association with the Salem witch trials. (I was also interested to learn that Danvers is the place of origin of the Danvers carrot, which I have grown and eaten, so at least they've done something right.)
- My personal favorite comment: "Why is it that an average internet citizen saying 'lolwut' sounds like an idiot, but the second a lawyer says it, it becomes awesome?" ("Zweben" on Reddit)
There was a bit of criticism (or at least confusion) regarding me and my website, which I'll address here as FAQ's:
Q. This Mr. Michaels . . .
Mr. Mrs. Michaels
Q. said LOLwut! LOLwut?
A. An attorney? Using internet memes? It's more likely than you think!
Q. But I wouldn't hire an attorney who writes LOLwut!
A. Well heck, it's not like I'm putting that into legal documents. Usually I write more like "Comment in the matter of exemption to prohibition on circumvention of copyright protection systems for access control technologies."
Q. And I wouldn't hire an attorney with flowers on her website!
A. Does it say anywhere on my website that I'm looking for new clients? No? So there's no problem then. I like flowers. Shouldn't you be at CuteOverload criticizing the kittens or something?
Q. "Impliedly"? Is that the new "meep"?
A. It's the adverb form of "implied," but thanks for playing.
My only disappointment is that we haven't heard more from the students about whether all our meeping had any effect. (Any Danvers HS students reading this: how about a blog post or something?) Clearly the school was inundated with meeps; did this have any effect on their day-to-day operations? Did the staff blame the students for non-student meeping? Most importantly, did the staff give any indication that they'd back down from their "no meep" policy? That they'd made a mistake?
Can it be -- dare I hope? -- that their silence in the face of all this meeping shows they've actually learned something?
So, what's the moral of the story? Mainly, don't make me mad, or I'll sic the internet on you! No, I'm kidding, this isn't about me. It's about freedom of speech, and the power of public ridicule to stamp out stupidity, if only a little at a time.
And . . . oh yeah . . . meep. :-)