Wednesday, July 6, 2022

My Facebook Jail Novel of Eternal Torment

I used to post at least one blog entry every day. From mid-2004 until 2014, I'd grab my coffee, go sit in my office, take a quick look at the New York Times, the Washington Post, and a few other places, and my brain would go into writing mode. My focus and concentration went kerblooey after Mr. Brilliant became ill, got worse after he died, and never came back. If in those last days he was off in a Jamaica of the mind with his spirit guides, when he left 20 minutes after they stopped pumping oxygen down his throat, he took my ability to concentrate with him. I don't know what he planned to do with it, but I wish he'd left me at least a little.

Most of my rantings have been on Facebook lo these last few years. Why that's easier than blogging, I have no idea, except that posting links that contain nice photos along with a few paragraphs just seems easier. But that has to change.

I have spent the last 48 hours in Facebook Jail. This is what happens to you when you run afoul of the algorithms developed by the techboy douchebags who decide who needs to be punished for saying things that run against the techboy douchebag ethos, whatever that may be. So what were my crimes, specifically? 

I posted a comment on a predatory real estate company ad that I would burn my house to the ground before I would sell it to a company like theirs. By predatory real estate company I mean deep-pocketed investment companies that swoop into residential neighborhoods, outbid everyone else by huge numbers, waive all inspections and contingencies, and then turn formerly owned houses into rentals. The aggregate result of this is that it locks individuals out of homeownership, which historically is the main source of wealth for an increasingly strapped middle class. Here in the Triangle area of North Carolina, up to 20-30% of homes sold in the last year have been to real estate investors.

Now did I threaten to burn down a house? Absolutely not! I love my house. And when I'm ready to sell it, I hope to sell it to someone who will love it as much as I do. Not only am I NOT a destructive person, but I was referencing this scene in Gone With The Wind


The line I was referencing didn't make it into the movie, but in the book, when Tara's former overseer, Jonas Wilkerson, now essentially a predatory real estate investor, comes by to tell Scarlett O'Hara that she has no choice but to sell to him, Scarlett says "I'll tear this house down, stone by stone, and burn it and sow every acre with salt before I see either of you put foot over this threshold,"

I guess not everyone has a brain littered with bits and snippets of obscure popular culture references. But that's what I was paraphrasing, and you have to admit that it IS an appropriate metaphor.

But the thing that put them over the edge was when I commented on a post about Facebook guilt-tripping. You all know what that is -- it's when someone copies/pastes canned text about suicide, or cancer, or whatever the cause is, and at the end the text is "I'll bet none of my friends share this" or "I'll know who of my friends cares about [cancer/autism/suicide/heart disease/fill in cause of choice here] by who shares this."  

I hate that second one most, because it implies that pasting canned text into a box and hitting "Post" is somehow "proof" that you care about the particular cause in question. I started posting nasty comments about these back when I was driving Mr. Brilliant 46 miles each way to chemo while holding down a demanding and stressful job, and was somehow supposed to believe that because I didn't share canned text, I somehow didn't care about cancer. That I had already convinced Mr. B. that he'd never pass a psych test for assisted suicide because of his depression, that he wasn't terminal, and that foregoing treatment would be agonizing pain until he got to terminal status, was immaterial.  On Facebook, it's "Show you care by copy/pasting canned text." 

I can still get angry about it just typing that, and it may be why I refuse to participate in what I call "performative activism" -- protests and marches that make us feel all solidarity-ish and activisty but ultimately don't really change anything because the Powers That Be don't care about protests and marches. Facebook guilt-tripping is just another form of performative activism. And I'll bet many of the people who insist we show how caring we are by copying/pasting text are the first ones to ghost friends whose spouse or child is diagnosed with cancer. But hey, they care! They pasted some text and hit "Post"!!

So I posted a comment that people who do Facebook guilt-tripping should be beaten with sticks. This too is an obscure reference that I should have known NO ONE would get. It's a phrase that at least USED TO be used by the great Charles P. Pierce, whose politics commentary at Esquire is the ONLY reason to subscribe. The concept of "beaten with sticks" is basically one of mild corporal punishment, much as someone would punch someone in the arm who says something tactless. It is by no means a "threat of violence." But such are the times we live in, and I had the bad timing of saying this the day after yet another angry white boy who left a social media trail o'clues a mile long decided to kill a bunch of people attending a July 4 parade in Highland Park, Illinois. Because the sarcasm of a 67-year-old grey-haired Jewish woman is EXACTLY THE SAME THING. But I'll give Facebook this one. After all, the few days after a mass shooting are always a sensitive time, until the next mass shooting happens and the miserable cycle starts all over again.

Back during the post-9/11 year, George W. Bush administration officials told us we needed to "watch what we say, what we do." It was a time of "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists," and it was a direct threat from the then-government that questioning its policies could get you in a heap of trouble. Today we really ARE all under surveillance, not by the government this time, but by a bunch of techboy douchebags who probably identify as Libertarian. These guys write the algorithms that allow medical disinformation, Trumpian lies, the violent fantasies of mass shooters, and threats against anti-Trump politicians to be shared freely, while sarcasm and metaphor must be stamped out at all costs. For six-and-seven figure techboys, who even as I type this are marching like zombies towards my true blue home city, threatening to turn it purple over taxes, only speech that benefits them is allowed.

So seriously, folks. Be careful what you post on Facebook. Twitter at least tactfully lets you know that what you want to post is perhaps not cool:  "Most people don't tweet posts like this," they say. And then  you can go back and edit out whatever curse word is causing the Twitbots to clutch their pearls today. There's no rhyme or reason to that either; a few days ago I responded to Ted Cruz' "thoughts and prayers" about Highland Park by calling him a "craven, cynical monster." I guess on Twitter, you can still tell the truth.