Friday, January 25, 2019

I'm in Facebook Jail for Responding to a Protofascist Movement



For years now, I had heard from friends about "Facebook Jail" and the arbitrary, opaque process by which someone is banned from their own social media accounts for a designated period of time - ranging from 24 hours to 30 days.

I always found the topic fascinating and usually the offending posts ranged from questionable at best to outrageously mild.  And I knew, at some point or another, the Facebook Jailers would be coming for me.

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Today, I received this dubious honor in response to a comment I had left on a post about 5 days ago, concerning the now infamous encounter between a group of Covington Catholic High School students and Indigenous People's Day demonstrators.  There has been ample and thoughtful commentary on the matter, so suffice to say I was responding with a simple and pointed observation:



On a Facebook news thread, I responded to an article with this image by stating, "I've seen this face somewhere before..." and linked to this infamous 1936 Nazi propaganda poster:


That's what I posted - a comparative image calling to mind a historical comparison and the implicit argument form it represents.  No direct or indirect threats.  No doxxing.  No incitement to imminent lawless action.

But rather precisely the kind of comparisons that have been made recently concerning the imagery of a radical right wing movement and its historical predecessors, as well as the marked increase of hate crimes and displays of white power movements in the public square since Trump's candidacy and subsequent presidency.  The Anti-Defamation League found that all 50 "extremist murders" last year were conducted by right-wing individuals.  This is not coincidence nor insignificant.

Some have convincingly argued that Trump's embattled demand for a border wall is itself a monument to white supremacy.  Others disagree and construct their own good faith argument as to why.  But that's precisely the discourse which social media is purportedly designed to facilitate, not suppress.

So nothing else came of this post and I went about numerous online discussions of the topic, including sharing and commenting on similar historical links others on social media have drawn between smug, white male privilege and its impositions upon people of color - standing up (or sitting down) for equal rights and justice for all.  I was sharing and commenting on images such as:


These comparisons seemed to me reasonable, relevant, and well-founded.  While I recognize there is room for political disagreement and debate to be had on these analogies, the content certainly did not rise to or exceed the legal limits of free speech.

Apparently, Facebook has other ideas.

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Because today, I opened up my browser, logged into Facebook and to my mild surprise, the increasingly commonplace "community standards violation" notice appeared:



Of course, there is no appeals process prior to this sanction or so much as an effort to explain the basis upon which it was applied.  An informational link leads to a subsequent page:



This is the report I submitted:

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I believe Facebook's erroneous limitation of my account on the ambiguous "Community Standards" violation runs contrary to a substantial amount of analysis and evidence which, when taken as a whole, establish at minimum a justifiable comparison between the smirking face of a young man in a MAGA hat to that of a smiling member of the Hitler Youth Movement.  The sincere effort to understand and synthesize historical connections has every place in the public discourse and that includes social networks like Facebook.  For this reason, I am contesting this temporary block on my account.

There have been widespread and founded comparisons between the Trump MAGA following - particularly among white males - and protofascist movements such as the Nazi party.  Indeed, Neo-Nazi, KKK and Neo-Confederate groups have openly praised Donald Trump and the MAGA agenda over and over - including David Duke, Richard Spencer, and other prominent white supremacists.  The Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville gave us as clear a connection as we would ever need between white supremacy groups and Trump's "Make America Great Again" movement.

Many of us willing to look can plainly see that the authoritarian tendencies within the Trump Administration, the likes of which threaten basic civil liberties and democratic norms, is evident on an almost daily basis. As if these transgressions against a free press, free exercise of religion, and accountable public transparency in government weren't enough, the Trump administration has actively and deliberately rounded up immigrant families into internment camps - leading to the deaths of at 22 immigrants in US custody.

These are disturbing signs of a protofascist state.  All of which are expressly and unambiguously conveyed by the iconic MAGA hat, as worn by Nick Sandmann and numerous other youth from Covington Catholic HS.  These are just some of the many pressing issues in the public discourse concerning recent events.  Doubtless there is an abundance of comparison and contrast to be had in casting effective or flawed historical analogies therein.

Thus it is hardly reasonable for Facebook to consider it a violation of "Community Standards" to draw altogether evident historical comparisons between MAGA hat-wearing youth today and those of previous eras that harassed, mocked, and/or intimidated indigenous and ethnic minorities around the world... including, in this case, those who were peacefully demonstrating (as Nathan Phillips and others attending the Indigenous Peoples March were doing).

This is not to suggest that these "MAGA youth" were directly involved in the death of detained immigrants any more so than the Hitler youth were directly involved in the death of concentration camp victims.  However, this comparison serves to clearly identify the ongoing ascension of protofascist movements and the banality with which they are introduced and accepted as commonplace - even as the atrocities committed in their name continue to grow.

In summary, my post in question is founded and based on historical and contemporary evidence to support it.  Imposing punitive measures on Facebook users who draw these sincerely held and justified comparisons does nothing to address the underlying protofascist movements which utilize social media to recruit and gain support for their agendas.  Rather, it validates them and only yields to authoritarian regimes whose real threats to real communities are far greater than whatever imagined slight Facebook identifies with its arbitrary interpretation of "Community Standards."

Facebook must do better than this.




Friday, January 18, 2019

GoFundMe - Because Your Country is Broken

By now, it has become clear that crowdfunding platforms are a poor substitute for a functional government which provides basic human services to all Americans.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Facebook of Dorian Gray

In the era of social media, it's not difficult to see a parallel between Oscar Wilde's Gothic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and the ongoing Facebook trend called the "10 Year Challenge."

The digital zeitgeist of posting selfies, replete with filters and photo editing, often creates the pressure to project an ageless, flawless online identity.  This certainly brings to mind Dorian's eternally youthful outward projection - contrasting the haggard, rotting inner self which he conceals from the world.  As we post images of ourselves online, it's worth thinking about who we pretend to be... and who we actually are behind the screen.


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

San Luis Valley Memes

Some friends from southern Colorado and I created a Facebook page to celebrate the challenges and quirks of living in the San Luis Valley.  Check it out!  San Luis Valley Memes on Facebook

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