It seems innocent enough: Amid of the debt ceiling debate, ask your U.S. senator what he'd cut, cap and balance in the federal budget.
But for a few constituents in the southern Utah town of Torrey, such brazenness got them tossed off Orrin Hatch's Facebook "politician" page.
Jen Howe joined that conversation to ask the question.
Hatch responded that he would reveal specifics after the proposed balanced budget amendment passed. So Howe asked how he could ask his fellow co-workers to vote on something they didn't know the specifics of, and told him she felt his constituents also needed access to this information.
"For this, he defriended and removed me from his page, along with many others," Howe says.
Howe knows Hatch, who's facing the prospect of a re-election battle against Rep. Jason Chaffetz, is under pressure from hard-core conservatives who hew to the tea party line.
All the more reason, she says, "You'd think you'd be wanting to talk to your constituents. I'm on the town council, and if somebody has an issue, I deal with it."
Politicians of Hatch's stature can lose touch with the "little people," as Howe put it, particularly in an agonizing (for the rest of us) battle over whether to raise the nation's debt ceiling, as has been done 74 times since 1962.
But Dayanna Varney, who also got eighty-sixed from Hatch's Facebook page, believes he needs to hear her opinion, not least because "he's my senator."
Turns out that Varney, after writing an email reminding Hatch that she'd complimented him in 1988 for his support the Act for Better Child Care bill, was reinstated sort of.
Hatch also has a different page, titled "Orrin Theodore Hatch," which seems to be a personal page.
Hatch's politician page has a lengthy list of rules for posting, including a ban on any posts that "defame, abuse, harass, stalk, threaten or otherwise violate the legal rights (such as rights or privacy or publicity ) of others."
Nor can there be anything defamatory, obscene or indecent, among others. You can read all the conditions on the page.
Hatch spokesman Mark Eddington sent this: "Anyone who is familiar with Senator Hatch's Facebook page knows that people are not taken off for disagreeing with him. The senator welcomes constructive dialogue, but will not countenance inappropriate, obscene or other offensive remarks on his page."
Eddington said removals may be the result of other posters' complaints, and that there's an appeals process by which people can be reinstated upon review.
But, Howe says, "all I ever did was counter with facts."
Varney says her email to the senator said she's 66 years old and doesn't use or write bad language.
"My particular postings were just disagreements," she says. "So were Jen's. We are a bunch of agreeable people."
Harold Mansfield of Las Vegas and, naturally, a Facebook friend of Howe and Varney, wrote to tell me he'd been banned, too. He directed me to a post he'd put on the Modern Circus blog:
"What Senator Hatch and other Republicans are starting to realize is that Facebook, with over 750 million users, and other social networking platforms are not merely a sounding board where only supporters praise them and hang on their every word, it is a direct interaction with real people, with real opinions [who] are not afraid to express them and sign their name to it."
Couldn't have said it better myself. You've got to wonder, though, if the politicians who got us into this mess will ever truly understand that they are accountable to the people, and not the other way around.
Peg McEntee is a news column ist. Reach her at email@example.com and facebook.com/pegmcentee. Hatch's Facebook page