The Shale Gas Debate Gets Personally Anonymous
Increasingly, opponents of shale gas are using social media under anonymous names. Janice Gibbs, a victim of this anonymous name-calling, calls out the perpetrators and urges them to exercise the courage of their convictions.
Shale gas development has transformed our lives as Americans; from the national economic revival to the impact fees for local communities. It has truly been a win-win situation all around, especially where I live in Washington County. However, not everything surrounding natural gas development has been a good thing. People who do not agree with it have turned to social media to bash those who do not share their same views. I myself am a victim of what, I would say, amounts to cyber bullying.
I never thought my views on something as positive as natural gas development would create significant backlash. I know I am not the only person that deals with this on a daily basis, and it has almost made me stop wanting to speak out publicly. But this is something that I believe in, not only for my local community, but also for our nation. As I’ve written about before at Energy In Depth (EID), I do own the rights to the natural gas beneath my land however, I do not have a lease. I love my community and my country; I absolutely believe natural gas is benefiting and will continue to benefit both. However, I have been attacked over and over again on the Canon-McMillan Patch website, at the Observer-Reporter, and even here on the Energy In Depth blog.
This type of cyber bullying should not be occurring, period. It’s interesting to note the Observer-Reporter has actually had to turn off the comment feature for some of its articles due to increasingly personal attacks on individuals.
I have typically commented on these websites using the pen name “Proud American.” However, I’m certainly not anonymous — I give my name to anyone who asks who I am, and I acknowledge it regularly in writing. Of course, Pa. state Rep. Jesse White (D-Cecil) also shared my personal information on the Canon-McMillan Patch website, so even had I wanted to remain anonymous, one of our elected leaders made sure my privacy was not honored. You can see here the reason he knew it was me; because community members told him.
Oddly enough, someone has begun commenting using the name “Prouder American,” with the sole purpose of going after me on these websites. Soon after this, someone actually started using my own name to comment on various articles! Yes, someone out there is using my real name, Janice Gibbs, to comment on these different sites. This person obviously does not share my views on natural gas development and has not hesitated to show that. He or she is also clearly afraid of anyone finding out his or her real name.
First, let’s look at one of Prouder American’s comments on the Canon-McMillan Patch website:
The commenter is clearly opposed to natural gas development, and that’s his or her right (though it is interesting that the person defined him- or herself purely against me specifically). But then, someone started using my real name on the Patch to bash natural gas. I contacted the editor of the Canon-McMillan Patch, Amanda Gillooly, and asked her to give me information regarding the person posting with my name. She was unable to provide insight as to who it was (here is the email exchange we had regarding this). So, some clever person is out there using my name in an effort to undermine natural gas development. We’ve known for a long time that opponents will use half truths and even bogus science to advance their cause, but impersonating a supporter is certainly an interesting new strategy.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way about social media abuse, but I am determined to do something about it.
The same thing was also happening on the Observer-Reporter and EID websites. Someone is using the spinoff of my name, “Janice Gibson” and commenting on articles. This person does not share the same views as I do on shale gas development, and I suspect they are the same person that used my full real name on the Patch.
I understand this is a very heated issue that has gotten personal on a few different fronts. EID released an article a few weeks back regarding a local supervisor in Robinson. While I didn’t disagree with the content of the article, I can understand why it was ultimately removed. EID took that step to make something right, and in my eyes they did.
Yet, today I hop on Facebook and can see local politicians attacking their own constituents (!) and continuously going after natural gas operators in the area (Mark West, Range Resources, Williams, etc.) for being “bad neighbors” — even when the truth is just the opposite. I’m here to tell you, we’re getting tired of it.
Rep. Jesse White wrote a piece for the Canon-McMillan Patch a few weeks ago that offered this:
Is anyone else getting tired of watching our communities being taken over by these stunts seemingly designed to pit neighbor against neighbor and generate drama for the media as ammunition in an endless and largely senseless public relations war?
Yes, Rep. White, we are all tired of the drama. However, when I take a look at your Facebook page, you have many followers who clearly enjoy attacking those in favor of natural gas development — and you seem to encourage them! You talk about communities being taken over by these “stunts.” Well, what about this stunt from one of your apparent supporters?
As someone who is supposed to represent all his constituents, Rep. White seems to only represent those who are opposed to natural gas development. This young woman continuously posts anti-natural gas remarks, and these are the types of people he invites to comment on his Facebook page. Granted, Rep. White can’t restrict everything that goes on his Facebook page, but he could at least tell folks who are out of line (“crazy old lady”? Really?) that they are, in fact, out of line. Good grief!
In my opinion, Rep. White should be representing all his constituents, even those in favor of natural gas development. He may not agree with them, but his job is to represent and defend them.
Rep. White, what have you done to make things right and end the senseless drama? Will you stand with me — even though we disagree on a major issue — and push back against these anonymous, fake, and over-the-top comments and tactics?