Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Rules of Bureaucratic Decorum

Unredacted has a post today about what the State Department was hiding from a Freedom of Information Act Request. The answer? Someone's intemperate marginalia:

Having won this game of documentary hide and seek [during a two-year long FOIA request], I had a hearty chuckle, finding it quite funny that 1) a person employed by the Department of State (I don’t know who– are there any graphologists out there?) would write “bunch of crap!!” on a copy of a House resolution, and 2) that the Department of State had tried so hard to prevent the public from knowing it had ever happened.

We can all learn a lesson from this episode. Personally, I stopped writing comments on memos and cables long ago, right after I started doing research in the National Archives. It always made me chuckle to see candid handwritten remarks made on working papers by some long-gone FSO who never realized that one day that document would be in the public domain. Now, I keep my remarks on separate, non-archived, papers. Or better yet, make them orally.

Not that I ever express anything other than the highest regard for our elected representatives, you understand. Or for our President's political appointees, who are never less than exemplary in all their professional qualifications and personal characteristics. I have never seen any reason to speak poorly of our news media and Punditocracy. Or of the many think tanks, NGOs, Beltway Bandits and Grand Army of the Consultancy that live off the taxpayer's dime.

As best I understand the protocol, you are always free to disparage the French and the leaders of some hostile foreign nations, mainly Iran and North Korea. Personally, I do not do so, since I actually have high regard for France, and I think it's bad form to knock foreigners without good cause. That leaves me free to insult Vladimir Putin, since he's a thug with pretensions to grandeur, and Muammar al-Gaddafi, who is sui generis as the Clown Prince of the Middle East. But that's about all, unless you count the United Nations, since that organization is full of blood-sucking parasites and weasels. The same goes for the European Parliament, which is basically the UN of Europe.

And don't get me started on the Chi-Coms. I'll just say that I will go to any expense or inconvenience to avoid buying any product made in the People's Republic of China. I 'look for the laogai label' when I am buying that coat, shirt, or anything else.

I will confess to having had unkind thoughts about @JaredCohen back when he was a government official. But today, @Jared has dried up as a source of parody fodder; he hasn't tweeted anything for five days now, whereas it used to be more like every five minutes. Evidently, he has less free time on his hands at Google than he did when he worked for the State Department.

So to recap my four rules of bureaucratic decorum:

1. It is never appropriate to write down disparaging statements about our elected representatives or their political appointees, with an occasional exception for a really conspicuous blowhard like @Jared.

2. It is rarely in good taste to express criticism of any member of the news media or of a news commentator.

3. Propriety requires the utmost restraint when making remarks about foreign personalities other than Putin and Gaddafi.

4. Feel free to say anything you like about the United Nations and the Chi-Coms.

By following these simple rules, I will have nothing to fear from any FOIA request.


Ando said...

There are a few other leaders of non-friendly nations who could be added, but in order to avoid breaking rule #3, I won't list them.

TSB said...

Great prudence is required in these Wiki-Wary times.

I just self-censured myself in an e-mail to a coworker, biting my cyber-tongue so to speak, rather than make a joking reference to a certain politician.