President Obama's pledge to open the White House up to the public through online forums faces an irksome challenge: a plague of Internet "trolls" -- troublemakers who work to derail cyber-conversations through harassing and inflammatory posts.
The problem became immediately apparent last month when Obama held an online "town hall" forum on the economy and invited the public to post questions on the White House Web site.
Those questions, in turn, were voted on by users to determine which ones the president would answer.
Three and a half million people participated in the event, but the "trolls" had their way: Following a coordinated campaign by marijuana advocates to vote their topic to the top of the list, questions on the future of the U.S. dollar and the rising unemployment rate were superseded by questions about legalizing pot as an economic remedy.
Really, FOX News? You are so incapable of understanding our argument that you would dismiss us as saboteurs? If the mere mention of reforming marijuana laws is such a grand affront to civil discourse, let me introduce you to a few more "trolls" out there on the internet spreading crazy ideas about not arresting people for marijuana:
There's Joe Klein at Time, David Sirota at The Nation, Kathleen Parker at the Washington Post, Paul Jacob at TownHall.com, Hendrik Hertzberg at The New Yorker, Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic, Glenn Greenwald at Salon, Debra Saunders at the San Francisco Chronicle, Leonard Pitts at Miami Herald, John Richardson at Esquire, Margery Eagan at Boston Herald and many more. If these names sound familiar to you, it's becaue they aren't trolls at all, rather they are respected journalists who are joining the national conversation about the harms of our vicious marijuana laws.
In one of Obama's recent online forums, I saw this question: "How many donuts can I fit on my dong?" That was a troll, and it got deleted. This is a movement, and it isn't going away. Our issue is bigger than the organizations backing it. It didn't win Obama's forum because marijuana reformers know something about online organizing that other interest groups don't. It won because it is this defining question that quickly separates petty hypocrites from bold leaders, that distinguishes self-evident truths from antiquated propaganda, and that pits common sense against the mindless drug war hysteria that maintains a frigid stranglehold on our political culture, rendering impotent the promise of change that inspired so many hopeful Americans to lay their hopes and dreams at the steps of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
It won because millions among us have been arrested and abused at the expense of our own precious tax dollars, with no credible explanation and no honorable conclusion on the horizon. And it won because President Obama himself once spoke of the "utter failure" of these laws, only to then embrace the endless drug war death march that destroys everything it was meant to preserve.
So no, FOX News, we are not "troublemakers" at all. We are here to solve a problem and anyone who thinks there are more important things to worry about would be well advised to stop making this take longer than it has to.