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Block-Happy Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine 'Turns Trump' with Censorship

February 25, 2017 - 3:30pm
Philip Levine
Philip Levine

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and President Donald Trump are two peas in a pod.

While Trump blasts news organizations for "fake coverage," and closes off press to White House gaggles, Levine takes censorship a step further, trying to gag the press by blocking them off of social media. Mayor Levine's feelings are so fragile, in fact, that he's gone block-happy on Twitter, censoring reporters and members of the public who raise questions about his tenure as mayor or say, well, pretty much anything else he doesn't like. 

How do I know? I'm one of the reporters who's found herself in the crosshairs of Levine's Twitter-block spree. 

It all started three weeks ago when SSN published a column raising questions about Levine possibly using Miami Beach taxpayer dollars to fund a lawsuit against Florida and in turn, raise his profile for a gubernatorial bid.  

Allison Nielsen
Allison Nielsen

I tweeted out the story the Monday after it was written, just ahead of his city commission meeting. From what I heard, Levine didn't take it well, exploding at Miami Beach commissioners and threatening to sue. 

By Saturday, I noticed Levine had been running a paid ad campaign promoting his "living wage" schtick. I tweeted it was ironic to run a paid campaign so close to what was undoubtedly critical coverage of Levine -- coverage that didn’t make him look good. Can you say PR overhaul?

Levine fell off my radar until last Friday, when I heard he was speaking at the Central Florida Urban League conference in Orlando with other possible gubernatorial contenders. I went to tweet about it, but Levine's name turned up blank when I went to tag him.

I searched for him, clicked on his profile, and saw I had been blocked. I still have no idea why it happened, but suspicion leads me to believe Levine wasn't thrilled about my previous tweet. 

Levine's adviser Christian Ulvert told me the page was not an official Miami Beach social media account, but Levine does officially represent the city and often tweets what he's up to on a day-to-day basis, which seems pretty official to me. 

Ulvert said Levine's accounts don't allow individuals to post "slanderous, false ... misinformation" and says anyone who uses social media for those purposes is blocked. He also told me I could look at how many people the mayor was following, which has zero indication of how many people Levine has actually blocked. 

I can only imagine it's because the number is so high, Levine has lost count. 

"His long-supported policy, utilized by many, is to allow constructive dialogue to take shape through social media," Ulvert told me, adding that I was "inadvertently" blocked, assuring me it would "be corrected."

Constructive? What's constructive about blocking people you don't agree with? By the way, at the time of this article's publication, I am still blocked. 

I'm not alone in being cut off from Levine, though. I recently found myself welcomed into the fold of dozens, possibly hundreds, who have also been given the "Closed for Business" sign on Levine's social media pages.  A quick search on Twitter showed many other people had been axed from seeing what Levine was up to -- some of them merely replied to tweets criticizing him for failed projects and high crime rates.

Their list of grievances against Levine is long. At the end of the day, however, they all share a common thread: they got blocked for speaking up. 

The Levine Twitter outcasts include normal residents, businessmen, and yes, even members of the press. Click the links above and see for yourself.

Take Grant Stern, for example. Stern, a journalist and activist with Occupy Democrats, wrote a tweet criticizing Levine last year. Blocked. So, Stern took his comments to Levine’s official Facebook page. Blocked again.

Dozens of people came to Stern at the time and said they, too, had been closed out of Levine’s social media pages for criticizing him. Hundreds of comments from Levine’s official Facebook page have “disappeared,” presumably deleted by the miffed mayor.  

Levine has a history of lashing out at critics. Last June, he accused the Miami Herald of “conspiring” with scientists for a “hit piece” because they wrote the city was pumping human fecal matter into Biscayne Bay. The Herald stood by the story.

But wait, there’s more. In 2015, the Miami New Times criticized Levine. They got blocked, too. Levine said it was a mistake (sound familiar?), but never unblocked the paper.

Stern filed a public records request to get the names of all the people Levine had shut out from his accounts, but the city denies that request was ever made. In the suit, Stern claims Levine uses the Twitter account, @MayorLevine, to communicate official city business, which would make his accounts subject to the Sunshine Law. That means the proceedings of Levine’s accounts would have to be public information.

Beyond communicating what’s going on in the South Florida city, it appears Levine also uses the account to snuff out and censor comments he doesn’t like.

Levine’s skin is so thin, he should be known as the naked mole rat of Miami Beach.

“For someone with his political desires, he’s got the impulse control and knowledge of a 10-year-old,” Stern said.

That, to me, is a huge red flag for someone who's thinking of running for governor next year. For all we know, Levine might censor the entire Tallahassee press corps once they dig -- and they will -- anywhere below the surface of Levine's corrupt career as  mayor of Miami Beach. 

Let me ask you: Do you really feel comfortable putting someone in the governor's mansion who can't even handle one critical tweet from a reporter? 

Can you imagine? The entire Tallahassee press corps would be cast out with the click of a button should they "wrong" Levine. 

Bye bye, free press. This circus only runs as long as Levine is the one cracking the whip. 

In a way, the timing of this story couldn’t be better. It’s like journalistic kismet. On Friday, President Donald Trump deliberately expelled CNN and scores of other news organizations from a White House press gaggle. Unsurprisingly, the entire press corps is now out behind CNN, screaming bloody murder. 

Is this ringing a bell yet? Mayor Levine is Florida's very own Donald Trump, attacking outlets and squenching coverage he doesn’t like. Except, unfortunately for Levine, he has no solid message and no parade of hundreds of thousands of adoring fans to push him to the top like Trump did. 

“He's delusional,” Miami filmmaker and Levine critic Billy Corben told me. “He runs around everywhere with a Secret Service-looking security guard. But nobody even knows who he is.”

But as Trump has realized, the funny thing about censorship is that, more often than not, it has the opposite of the intended effect. Censorship causes journalists to pursue stories they wouldn't otherwise write. It emboldens us to dig deeper. It compels us to push harder.

Mayor Levine can try to silence members of the media from knowing what he's up to, and he can block us all he wants, but it's only at his own peril. 

Levine, totally naive in underestimating the power of the reporter, has only shot himself in the foot. 

 

Reach Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.

Comments

"Two peas in a pod"... what do you use for a brain?They are OPPOSITES! Trump plays offense, all the Libs play DEfense. Try looking up "President JFK" - a Democrat... "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY"! Grow a brain, Allison; all YOU want is "YOUR FREE STUFF" that you did NOTHING to EARN (unless you figure BEING BORN is a "Right" - but you COULD have been aborted) . GIVE to America - you are owed ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for being here!

The problem with YOU Allison, is that you're "less than legitimate", in that you practice your "craft" largely in the "Twitter environment", or by telephone, email, and quick "drive-by- gotcha" questions, which by-and-large give you a false 'picture'; Get out and "do your job" like you should have been trained to do,... look your "interviewee" in the eye and look for "tics & tells" to get at truth; and by all means, stop "rummaging through peoples' underware drawers" looking for 'easy news' or means of coercion (think you need a "Journalism 101" refresher course Allison...) !

you forgot to mention endless polls!

Trump and Levine should put up or shut up. Clearly Flynn was let go for doing something improper. So, to say it is merely fake news is just lying. If there is nothing to it, have an open inquiry. A congressional investigation should be allowed to take place to investigate fully. My guess is this is not really fake news at all, but a mistake in judgement. When you cry wolf all the time, people stop believing you. It's not like many ever did, as the lies continue to pile up. You want a break, try being transparent, its what political office should elicit...

The "BIG QUESTION" is: Why do the "unwashed masses" in America put so much faith in "Congressional Investigations" ?!? If you have ever watched one ("watched" being the operative word here), you have already learned that they are nothing more than a form of "Kabuki Theater" intended to portray "politicians" in a "favorable light" that they truly do not deserve... "Truth" in these "political plays" is ephemeral (to say the least), and as strange to "trained investigative interrogators" as Hillary's crimes were to the Director of the FBI (Have you noticed yet that EVERYBODY mentioned here is a lawyer, or a non-practicing lawyer/politician..????). Therein lies the obvious problem with "Congressional Investigations-cum- Political-Pontifications": "Truth" is only a relative (but unecessary) term in these proceedings... purposefully intended to ameliorate and/or excuse "political actors and their often criminal actions"...

When you agree to run for "public Service" you no longer have the guise of privacy as a public citizen. If you don't understand that you should not run. The simple fact of the matter if he lied. I hope he is held accountable for it... If you have nothing to hide, release them. I give Gaetz credit for meeting with people and answering the tough questions. Most of the rest of the electorate is simply too cowardly to meet with people that disagree with them and answer the tough questions, but that is what the job demands. You want to represent the people, then you have to be one of them. Educated and informed people will not fall for the "fake news" response to everything. Especially, when some of the news has been proved true. Every elected official should be met with skepticism, it's what keeps them honest. If they are not up for the task, haul ass...be a failed reality tv show host or something else. That goes for both parties and all candidates...classic.

In RE to Trump and his position on the media he should be applauded. The news media worry more about their sales and personal thoughts than reporting the truth. (Not Allison Neilson) The media's twisted story on Flynn and his firing was terrible. You had to follow the story until after he was fired to find that there was nothing discussed concerning the sanctions imposed by Obama without positive proof that Russia had done anything wrong. In Hillarys defense, the news media did have a very negative effect on her campaign without all the facts. The news media should do a better job with their choice of articles or apply for a job with the magazines you find at the checkout counter. Try reporting some positive news for a change. Obama did many good things while in office and most people stood behind him regardless of their voting preference and the fact that he was the first black president and had a Muslim name. Hopefully, the people will do the same for this very controversial President. I too was not a big fan of some of his arrogance and his style of doing business. President Trump at times sounds much like Mohamad Ali who irritated many with his arrogant ranting, including myself, but he ended up being the Best Boxer of all time.

The media should be abolished at any cost. Far too long as all media outlets gone unchecked. Death to America

Wow...are you serious...the "media should be abolished at any cost"????? WOW. That's crazy. Our democracy was built on a free press, and as far as the media going "unchecked" I don't think that's true at all. The media is held to account just as all the other cornerstones of our democracy are...it's sad that those who don't like the facts that the media exposes would rather just see it "abolished" so that they don't have to see the ugly truth(s) about their elected officials.

He is another narcissist following their playbook to a T. Does anyone remember that self-important state of the city: address he did right after being elected the first time. Lol. he gave himself away right off the bat.

Yes he is. He turns out cynical when matters are not in serving his personal interests. I met that fellow way back when he was literally unknown. His agenda is set only on himself, his money and being powerful. Typical of someone who lived through a bitter childhood. His Hillary and the Democrats lost the presidential elections, so now his frustrated and embarrassed because his dreams of Washington stalled...Poor thing... Every pig eventually gets his butcher! Tallahassee? I don't hing so.

At least none of the reports on the bathroom stalls about my oversized organs and ego are fake news :):)!!

allison, you are NO journalist, and your biased writings are a disgrace to journalism. Your type of prejudiced and fake articles are exactly what Trump is complaining about. And we the people are sick of it.

He poisoned Miami Beach residents with highly toxic pesticide NALED and then deleted all traces of complaints from social media accounts he owns. Very dishonest politician.

Suck it up Snowflake.

Well ALLISON, maybe many politicians (yes even the honest ones) are tiring of the very slanted media, in general. While I have found your articles to be fairly balanced, I cannot say the same for others who participate at SSN. Quite frankly, Mr. Trump appears to be correct regarding biased reporting but, as Florida goes, as long as the politicians follow the laws (including the unenforceable Sunshine law) I'm not interested in their personal problems, including their tax returns or whatever. Keep your style Allison, you have it right.

People are just sick of biased reporting and personal attacks, Nancy. It's not that he has "thin skin ."

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