I left Facebook – permanently – on Wednesday, May 6th, 2020, around 12:00 PM Central US time. What an absolutely peculiar thing to do during a period of extreme social isolation, especially for someone who is already at the extreme end of social isolation. Perhaps the only peculiarity is that it required a plague year to drive me to it. This will be a personal blog entry, with no special appeal to higher philosophical principles than those that naturally leak through me on account of who I am. Besides, it’s my blog and I’ll b!tch if I want to.
Before I go further, let me state that I am in favor of social media establishing and enforcing meaningful community standards of what is appropriate and acceptable. Fascists, terrorists, psychopaths, racists, and their ilk are persons who would exploit nominal tolerance for the purpose of annihilating it. Karl Popper spoke and wrote on this subject at various times under the heading of “the paradox of tolerance.” But there’s nothing even marginally paradoxical here. “Tolerance” is toleration for other ideas and for rational disagreement. But there’s nothing even remotely paradoxical about a refusal to be patient of one’s own extirpation. Tolerance can only go as far as those who are equally willing to be tolerant. Those who would destroy “the other” – really, all others – for the purpose of hegemonic, monocultural domination, own no space under, and have no claim upon, the umbrella of tolerance. There is nothing paradoxical about this.
I hit upon the operative term early on in the above: they must be MEANINGFUL standards. Meaning is not to be found in ham-fisted algorithms that have been programmed by barely literate half-wits for whom the English language (in this particular instance) only marginally qualifies as “second.” But because this is how Facebook operates, this is why I have left, even in the midst of a pandemic in which social interactions have been minimized to the functionally non-existent. Here are the details:
This picture was circulating on Facebook, and I shared it:
Utterly shocked and dumbfounded by this, the comment at the top, “I wonder how you would say that in German,” was especially striking. For the person who wrote it knew exactly how that “innocent” sign, “work is freedom,” would be translated into German. I shared this picture, and I mentioned that German translation, because the irony of it was so staggering.
“Arbeit Macht Frei.”
For those who don’t know, this was the sign over the entrance to a German camp outside the Polish town of Oświęcim.
The German rendering of this town’s name is “Auschwitz.”
Technically a complex of death camps, this is where the German SS, under license of Hitler’s “final solution,” honed genocide and objective evil to its most simply and literally unspeakable machine like efficiency. Auschwitz was the hub on which the wheel of the Shoah crushed the life out of six million Jews, and as many other Eastern Europeans: Romani, homosexuals, Russians, non-“Aryans,” “deviants,” and on …
And here, amidst such an overwhelming shock, I beg the readers indulgence as I explain a seeming triviality about language. You see, I did not use the German phrase above, I mentioned it. Now, in my very next sentence, I’m going to mention some extremely offensive words (eliding some letters), but I’m not going to use them, even as in mentioning them I will be describing how bigots and racists might use them. Thus, the indefensibly stupid might use the word “n!**er” as a slur against a non-white individual, or the term “f@g” for someone who was not hetero- cisgendered. The bigot and racist uses these terms to attack, demean, and ultimately destroy (if possible) the people being attacked. But one cannot talk about what the racist and the bigot does without mentioning (“talking about,” as it were) the ways in which the racist and the bigot use their language.
So I mentioned that German phrase. I mentioned it in a context where the fact that I was emphasizing the irony of the situation could not possibly have been mistaken or confused by anyone with even remedial 3rd grade mastery of the English language. And I did so only on my personal FB wall, where only my friends could see it; persons who, as a group, have significantly better reading skills than that of a remedial 3rd Grader. Or, it became quite evident, anyone at Facebook.
Because I as banned from Facebook for a month because I ironically mentioned the German phrase that marked the entrance to the Auschwitz camps. Now, had I said “Abandon hope, all ye who enter,” would I have been similarly punished for advocating Hell? (According to Dante, the previous phrase marks the entrance to Dis, the city of Satan and the entrance to the demonic realm.) Of course, “abandon hope” would have only been a second tier reference to the “work is freedom” meme.
Now, I already live a pretty isolated life, even before COVID-19 and the enforced quarantine orders came out. So one might justifiably wonder if cutting Facebook out of my life – which was very nearly the only substantive connection to other, actual people that I have, might be a bit like cutting off my own nose to spite my face. I mean, friends have moved away or died, I could scarce afford to go out even when it was permissible to do so; and I live in an area where the dating prospects are only slightly less hopeful than the odds of winning the lottery. How does “hurting myself” prove anything?
Well, turn that question on its head: staying on Facebook would not just be hurting myself, it would be degrading myself. I would be cooperating and agreeing with those who cannot trouble themselves to grasp simple English sentences. I would be obligating myself to spending all of my time dancing on eggshells at the behest of gratuitously uneducated persons with no interest in thought or reflective intelligence, only in my automatic and uncompromising submission and self-abnegation.
I cannot “punish” Facebook by walking away from it, of course, and that obviously has no part in my choice. When the world is gaslighting you, the only way you can fight back is to walk away, because you’ll never beat something that much bigger than yourself. It is better to stand alone than willfully participate in one’s own degradation.