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As part of my book marketing back in April, 2016, I answered a reporter query about whether it made sense for states to put together commissions to look into cybersecurity. The reporter quoted me out of context. This is what I said:

“I’ve seen many of the pieces politicians write in the Wall Street Journal and other publications. Their cases and conclusions are generally weak because most of them don’t know what they’re talking about. And putting together committees of politicians and former government officials to address the cybersecurity problem is futile.  Governors and others should use acknowledged experts in the field to help guide policy, and should invest the time to educate themselves, because cybersecurity in today’s interconnected world should not be its own discipline, it should be a core component of every discipline. “

And this is what the reporter said in his article a month later:

“Yet many outside observers, particularly those in the private sector, are skeptical that these groups accomplish much.
‘Putting together committees of politicians and former government officials to address the cybersecurity problem is futile,’ said Greg Scott, a senior technical account manager for the software company Red Hat.”

I found out about it on June 2 when a Red Hat vice-president chastised me for claiming to represent Red Hat to the press. My email signature at the time said I was a Red Hat employee, but I did not claim to represent Red Hat when I answered that query. Red Hat is welcome to any comments I make, but this is my blog, hosted on my own equipment on my own time.

The article allowed comments, and so I gave the reporter an electronic ear full of grief for quoting me out of context. And then I posted my entire response to his query. Lesson learned. Be careful about word choices.

I never went back and looked for that article until tonight while writing this blog post, three years later. It’s not there anymore. Maybe the publication pulled down the offending article because it was dishonest. I still have the vice-president email, and I used it as source material for this post.

I bring up all this history because three years later, in mid-April, 2019, quoting-out-of-context is in the news.

Ilhan Omar, controversial Muslim Congresswoman from Minnesota, gave a speech to CAIR in California recently. CAIR – Council on Islamic-American Relations. One fragment of one sentence in her 20 minute speech said, “CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did some things…”

And, so President Trump’s team wrapped 43 seconds of 9/11 video clips around that fragment, with the implied message that Omar tried to minimize the horrible events of 9/11/2001, and tweeted it to the world.

This made me mad, and so I tweeted a reply to @realDonaldJTrump. This is what I said:

“Why would you take one sentence out of context and splice 9/11 videos around it and release it to the world? Is this the mark of a good leader? Is this the level of respect you have for the public?”

I posted it around 6:00 PM on April 14, 2019. Shortly after midnight, my post had 2096 impressions and climbing, 41 likes, 8 detail expands, 7 replies, 4 profile clicks, and 3 retweets. It’s been a lively discussion.

I waded into this because, as a writer, I’m supposed to stand up for truth. Even with fiction, what good is it if it doesn’t illustrate some element of truth? And when we take words out of context and try to assign a different meaning to them than what was intended, it’s just plain dishonest. I’ve been the victim of it and I don’t like it.

Anyway, after I tweeted my tweet, I took the time to view her whole speech on Youtube, about 20 minutes. The speech is about equal rights and discrimination to a room full of Muslims. Here is the complete relevant sentence.

“CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did some things and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”

And here is a link to her whole speech. Skip past the first two minutes of marketing fluff.

We can argue about her choice of words. Maybe she should have said, “did some terrible things.” But she was not defending the 9/11 terrorists, she was calling for mutual respect and understanding among all Americans. Seems to me, that’s a worthy goal.

Mr. President, if you want to criticize an opponent for policy issues, that’s fair game in American politics. But when you use an opponent’s words out of context, you really only hurt your own cause, because, sooner or later, you’ll get caught. How are we supposed to trust you when you pull rinky-dink 6th grade tricks like this?