Ditte Okman: I don’t understand Facebook or the mentally ill

by Allan Jenkins on March 30, 2010

Ditte Okman loves her breasts and is down on the mentally ill

Facebook can be a minefield. College students post some unfortunate photos, forgetting basic security, and employers see them. Employees write posts criticizing the boss, forgetting they have "friended" the boss. It can get messy if you aren’t adept at social media.

But when a professional communicator (in other words, someone paid to communicate officially) screws it up, it’s saddening. And when a professional political communicator screws up so badly on Facebook that the prime minister of a country has to start spinning, it’s beyond bad.

Okman works in the communication department of "Venstre", the governing political party in Denmark,  where she helps create and send the messages the party wants Danes to hear. This is no secret to her Facebook friends, many of whom include prominent Danish politicians and journalists.

Imagine the jaw dropping around Parliament, then, when she posted this about a parliamentary employee:

""der står en fucked up medicineret psykisk syg dame (…), der helt hæmningsløst hælder ud af sit triste lorteliv over enhver kunde". (Loose translation: "there’s a fucked up, medicated, mentally ill woman (…) who unashamedly pours her sad shit life over every client.")"

And other quotes, which have now been taken down, according to several papers:

"Paven er et svin" ("the Pope is a pig.")

"Dronning Margrethe siger nøjagtig ligeså hjernedøde ting som Amalie fra Paradise Hotel" ("The [Danish] Queen Margrethe says stuff that’s just a brain-dead as what you would hear from a contestant in Paradise Hotel." )

So far, Venstre’s political leadership, including the Prime Minister, has issued a blanket "no comment." Okman’s boss first stated "we don’t censor our employee’s Facebook statements," which she later amended to "But we are considering guidelines."

That’s turning it into a "social media" problem: "We didn’t have guidelines for her…. she just didn’t know."

Bullshit. This is about a rogue employee. Yes, Venstre needs guidelines. Every company does. But Venstre should fire Okman, anyway:

1) You don’t attack your colleagues in public media.

2) When your employer’s stated policy is to help the mentally ill become reintegrated, or stay integrated, in society, you don’t rip these people in public media.

3) When your employer is, technically, Queen Margrethe, it is probably better just to remain silent in your remarks in public media.

Will Ventre sack her? The press will have a lot to do with that. Already, they are turning it into a debate about "what can you say on Facebook?" discussion, which entirely misses the point.

Which is: when you speak in a public forum, as a known representative of a company, what can you say without being fired?


valerie March 31, 2010 at 12:26 AM

who knew danish politics could be so primitive! don’t you think she will take herself out?

Allan Jenkins March 31, 2010 at 5:39 AM

She ought to resign, sure, but I doubt she has the maturity or self-insight to know that. I hope Venstre has the maturity and self-insight to fire her if she doesn’t.

Jan Karlsbjerg April 2, 2010 at 9:08 PM

I agree that it’s not a “social media problem”

It’s the message, not the medium that’s important. If you’re openly illoyal (etc) it doesn’t matter much where you’re illoyal. In an interview, in emails, on Facebook, at the pub, etc.

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