21 Aug 2013: Neither Toytown nor a City of Fear

Here’s my first post after being released from a sordid 12 hours of being gagged as some sort of psycho idea that this will make me conform …


I have just been allowed to post again after a comic-opera suspension for doing something “bad” on Facebook; questioning the Bernard Lewis narrative of the Middle East, in a post among friends I thought private, in the name of Edward Said’s and Noam Chomsky’s narratives of Middle East using my (unusually well-read Baby Boomer) perspective and not that of Gen Xer post reviewers at Facebook for whom, with all due respect, the history of the Middle East started with the Gulf War. It is almost a tautology, for me, that a democratic society, unrealized as it be, whether virtual or actual, would never (ever) punish its citizen (or netizen) when that citizen/netizen did not have mens rea (the guilty mind of the criminal or *Trollus Trollus Veritas*, the true troll).

This was not true of Nazi Germany (no, post reviewer person, I don’t think you are a Nazi, so bear with me), which placed political people, who thought themselves blameless, with criminals with guilty minds in the same concentration camps. My parents’ generation said in my father’s prime that we would never do that. But in my experience in the corporation of the late 1980s, people without bad corporate mens rea could be laid off in a heart beat, asking, in tears, what did I do wrong, as they were led by Security to their cars.

In my view this hardened our hearts to what’s happening now when pious Muslims praying in a departure lounge can be preyed upon by TSA thugs, trained as those thugs are in outsourced corporate classes informed, like their corporate clients, with a strangely Marxist view that there is an “objective class/corporate enemy” independent of conscience and intention.

(No, post reviewer person, I don’t think you’re a Communist or a thug, so bear with me still.)

In other words, it’s a historical process, a slow dance to the music of time, dear post checker upper onner. Capitalism destroys Communism, eats its heart and gradually becomes its former enemy because CEOs of capitalist companies, having long acquired absolute sway over their employees by breaking unions, now want absolute domination of their customers…first the ones getting the free promo deal and members of fan clubs building Elvis up for free, then the ones who just want to park their money in a bank and a get a free radio, and then even the paying customers.

I’m an old codger (with Stage IV prostate cancer, so get your licks in now, people). I remember the railroads doing this to paying passengers: “passengers will please refrain, this railroad has the disappearing railroad blues” – John Prine, City of New Orleans).

Governments now probably treat taxpayer citizens better as “customers” than Facebook is treating the people who, for free, made it great: the people whose literary and artistic talents made Facebook what it is, despite the fact that their talents weren’t recognized because they were from East Jesus, Texas or had African-American features.

Snowden discovered that our USA government violates the Fourth Amendment by collecting our data. However, it is slightly mitigating that in 999% of cases the Federal government won’t actually USE that data, or in effect, do what you have done, punished me without my having trolled, while in a discussion with people I consider friends.

I don’t care if the punishment is a parking ticket. I was briefly jailed for demonstrating for civil rights in 1965. It feels like that: getting deliberately soiled for doing what you thought was something fine, something which far more than 40 years of paid toil defined me as human. I knew if I sat down at the intersection of Michigan and Balbo in 1965 I’d get arrested but that’s not mens rea.

I have long left a dysfunctional placeblog local to where I live, I no longer edit at the dysfunctional Wikipedia site, and I will leave Facebook not to return, and hopefully to take half my Friends with me in solidarity if you repeat this abuse, where literate, educated FB users without criminal mens rea have to think (too much) first and post later or not at all.

As Coriolanus said, there is a world elsewhere. At least a WordPress and if not a WordPress a nimble startup Web hosting firm. That redeems Capitalism: for a Hertz there’s an Avis.

Hmm … old companies, makes me sound like a old guy, like Sheldon Levene in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. You ain’t heard nothing yet.

“Think before you code software/write email/post to Facebook” all sound like good things and they are. But we also know of chilling effects and authoritarian personalities stunted by too much of this philosophy, even in my original field of coding software.

“We all become children in the slums of Asia…toytown, and a city of fear” – “Billy Kwan”, The Year of Living Dangerously, directed Peter Weir, Billy Kwan” acted by Linda Hunt

No, Facebook shouldn’t be considered Toytown for the 99%, treated with contempt by the 1% “Masters of the Universe” including Facebook’s own masters …

… who lay us off from their startups more than they hire us for doing for free out of love what they insist on doing, for cash …

… who can say without tearing up things like “my son committed suicide last year after being laid off” or “my brother is homeless” and change the subject if asked what are you doing about it … I mean, my FATHER would have done something about it … prolix details available on application and payment, for today I stand in living proof of Samuel Johnson’s axiom that he that writes for free is a fool …

… treated with contempt, again, for showing THEM that WE can understand, and, with understanding, write the actual software that makes them billionaires, contribute open source and here, open content, with joy and love long since drained from our paying jobs, write complete sentences above a low upper bound of complexity …

… and, that we’re not that isolated from each other, that there are six and fewer degrees of separation between them and us …

… and that we won’t live in a city of fear …

OK, to sum up. I shall also post this to WordPress in hopes of it having perhaps a wider audience of more mature users than Facebook. In the future, as one of your most literate and creative, if unrecognized and now unrecognizable, users, owing to the mud you’ve dragged me through, I demand that you come to me first, using my email, to discuss your issues.

I demand that Facebook post the rules. If my Middle East playbook must be Bernard Lewis then I’ll use WordPress to post on the Middle East.

Open content is in some sense just theft if you don’t pay us in the true “bitcoin”, and that’s d-coin: true democracy, not oligarchy, not even meritocracy.

In the immortal words of Sheldon “the Machine” Levene, do me the courtesy. Recognize me. Don’t hit me with a sodden rag across the face first thing in the morning. Don’t hit ANYBODY like that.

Edward G. Nilges


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