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“He could turn it into a plus, saying ‘here’s what I went through, I understand what it’s like,’ ” Kirtley said.
When the story ran, independent candidate in the 11th Ward, Matt Steele, 27, used the comments section to laud both candidates for fessing up to past problems.
“I am also of the same generation as Andrew Johnson, growing up in the era of the Internet and cellphones,” Steele wrote. “I think it would be unfortunate if the stigma of mental illness in someone’s past became an angle of political attack.”
Steele said he’s glad Johnson faced the issue, and he believes that online disclosures could bring empathy, especially from younger voters.
“Who he is now is what’s important,” said Steele. “I think society is going to catch up [to online lives]. In the old days, people could kind of cover up their old lives and start over.”
There is some movement to do that now, such as “Right to be Forgotten” laws in Europe, in which people could force tech companies to delete data on them from websites, according to Kirtley.
“This story goes to people wanting rights to obliterate your past, and I disagree with that,” Kirtley said. Especially politicians.
Johnson, who suspects an opponent tipped off the media to his Internet past, on Tuesday called the move political. “Adults attacking the actions of a depressed minor for political gain? Sad,” he said in an e-mail. He said he hoped to use his story to help people “feel compassion for those who suffer.”
At 29, Johnson is still young, and thus a political novice. Voters should probably consider that (for better or worse) and his current beliefs (for better or worse), more than something he wrote a decade ago.
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