Sunday, June 9, 2024

Facebook finds me unacceptable.

     The nation of Poland once demanded that the Sun-Times take down a column of mine, "True greatness comes from facing history."  At least their embassy in Washington, D.C. did, claiming I was defaming Poland by suggesting that it didn't need the Nazis to show up and teach them how to be anti-Semitic.
    Though they didn't put it in those terms.
    "We respectfully ask for the immediate withdrawal of the article from your website, as it contains a shocking number of blatant factual errors," wrote one Rachon Nikodem. 
     These errors were all along the lines of one author I refer to as "a historian" actually had a degree in sociology. That sort of thing. 
     We made a few tiny corrections, more to placate them than anything else. In discussing the situation, I said something that I've had occasion to repeat a number of times, alas:
     "They think they're refuting the charges, when actually they're manifesting them." Nothing says anti-Semitism — or racism — louder than pretending your bigoted history doesn't exist. It's a bad look.
     The paper, I'm proud to say, stood firm behind me, even after a local Polish lawyer then sued us on their behalf, dragooning two local Polish yokels as injured parties. 
The attitude of the Sun-Times lawyer when we spoke was, "Yeah, I got this." No need for me to be involved, though this was 2021, and I attended the Zoom court hearings.  I can't say watching a judge laugh the lawsuit out of court was the highlight of my career, but it certainly was right up there.  I felt my dead Polish relatives were, in a tiny meaningless way, avenged.
     Newspapers don't yank down their work. Not without strong compelling reason. The idea is, good or bad, once published, it becomes part of the public record, and thus must be available. Unless it's plagiarized or libelous or in some way far beyond the pale. Which might make me extra sensitive to the idea of things I've written being purged.
     But Facebook tossed one of my blog posts off their social media platform last week, and I found it chilling. It had only happened once before, but that was a column about why Howard Tullman's art collection was so heavy in the nekkid women department. The column included a few photos of his collection and, well, squelching exposed flesh, even when painted, has such a long history that it somehow doesn't seem as objectionable.
    But this post was a list of quotes that I had researched. Donald Trump had just been found guilty of 34 felonies, and his objection, "I was just convicted in a rigged political witch hunt trial: I did nothing wrong" seemed like it called out for context. I gathered together the justifications of other traitors. Benedict Arnold: "Love to my country actuates my present conduct, however it may appear inconsistent to the world, who very seldom judge right of any man's actions" and Vidkun Quisling, the betrayer of Norway: "I am convicted unfairly and die innocent."
     For good measure I threw in some obviously guilty fellow felons, like John Wayne Gacy: "You will have executed someone who didn't commit the crime...I have no knowledge of the crime whatsoever. Never have had."
    The best part of the whole exercise was, rooting around to see what Iago says in "Othello" that might apply, I found the evergreen "I am not what I am," which could be a generic summary of half of the statements that come out of Donald Trump's mouth.
     I was so pleased with the result, I considered running it as a column in the newspaper. But there was no exposition — just a list of quotes. And it included a line from Hitler's final testament, written days before his suicide: "It is untrue that I or any other person in Germany wanted war in the year 1939. It was desired and instigated exclusively by those international statesmen who are either of Jewish origin or work for Jewish interests."
     I imagined an editor having trouble with that. "So you're ... comparing Trump to Hitler?" and didn't feel like arguing the point.
     Immediately several readers who had posted it on their Facebook pages complained that Meta had taken it down. I figured it was something to do with their pages. Mine was fine. A day later, Facebook lowered the boom.
     "We removed your post," it declared. "Why this happened" It looks like you tried to get likes, follows, shares or video views in a misleading way." Then it showed my link. "You're post goes against our Community Standards on spam."
     Ouch. I never try to get likes, etc. You can't. You never see that kind of thing coming — go to a discount supermarket with your wife, and suddenly hundreds of thousands of Aldi fans on Reddit are baying for your blood. Nobody plans that.
      I appealed the decision to Facebook, which said they'd get back to me. They must be whistling all the way. Nothing yet. In fact, they did it again Sunday morning, yanking a fairly anodyne farewell to "Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak. A reminder that oppression is addictive, even when done by machine.    
     I recognize the dilemma. You don't want Facebook clogged with spam and offensive crap ... of others. You also don't want your original, thoughtful food to be deemed offensive muck and hosed away.
     The chill, of course, is to realize that someday everything will be online, and that online world will be in control of six companies, some of them run by irresponsible egomaniacs like Elon Musk. There is something very "1984" — Winston Smith, strapped to a chair in the Ministry of Truth, straining to see a scrap of paper — about the idea of what can be shared being determined by ... actually, not even a few people. A few algorithms. That's a very frightening prospect. Our voices will be stifled by a few semiconductors.
     Yes, every medium has its standards, and I've had  a few columns rejected over the years. I remember New Zealand press lord Nigel Wade tersely informing me that the paper would not be printing my column explaining why Oprah Winfrey is the embodiment of Satan. As bad as that is, at least it is always a person making a decision. The way Facebook does it — it's as if the columns were weighed and then rejected for being too heavy.
      Blogger doesn't do shit like that. Blogger is more of a neutral communication channel, like AT & T. That's one reason I didn't shift over to Substack when they invited me to join — I got the sense they reserved the right to pass judgment on what I am doing. The New York Times ran a chilling story about how China scrubs their internet history. We need to make certain that it can't happen here. 
     The upside, I suppose, is that the more Facebook deteriorates, the more it is an ad-choked wasteland of irrelevant pap, the easier it will be to avoid. Elon Musk did us a favor by wrecking Twitter. People vote with their feet, as religion has discovered, belatedly. Having your work arbitrarily pitched off by some machine is part of that process. I suppose we should be grateful.


  1. But it IS happening here. The media has become one huge same-source, and Ryan Seacrest is the host.

  2. Thank you for all your do every damn day!

  3. I've had the same thing happen to me a couple of times. In each case I thought, “What kind of algorithm would determine *that* was an attempt to get likes?” Meanwhile, things that have gotten thousands of likes have skated by.

    The thing to keep in mind is that it may be machine algorithms making the decision those algorithms were developed by human beings to match a set of specifications. The specs and the resulting code, therefore, reflect the beliefs and the biases of the spec writer(s), the developers, and the people who approve the implementation.

  4. FWIW, I thought it was a GREAT column and wish I'd have thought to share it on FB so it might have gotten even just a few more eyeballs before they squelched it.

  5. I do my best to curate my FB page on a regular basis. although I come to EGD EGD I didn't care for it showing up on my FB. so I clicked never see this again long ago. I felt like you were working to expand your footprint in the marketplace. good business practice for sure. but I choose what I want and when I want it.
    some of your writing is incendiary or controversial but click bait? nah.
    too much trumpity trump trump trump? for sure. comparing him to hitler is a topic thats been over analyzed by so many. maybe valid maybe not.

    the traitors quotes piece was spot on, and your piece today is outstanding. good writing is your forte. stupid is as stupid does seems to sum up the forces behind FB the loss is theirs. I reposted the quotes column on FB for friends to see as I occasionally do with your stuff. they didn't take it down ... yet.

    so I guess you, participating in a commercial endeavor of sorts can't, but I personally can . who knows . its FB. they own it. they can do what they want with it. they dont have to explain themselves.

    just so long as I can see my cousins kids playing t-ball without driving 7 hours im good with them

  6. I have found my life improved by looking at Facebook only once every 2-3 months. I miss seeing some of the daily photos posted by my niece of my great-nephew. But every time I do sign on, the Overall Crap Level (OCL) seems to have increased, especially in an election year. I’m sorry your quote column (which I thought was outstanding) got bounced. Wear it as a badge of honor.

    1. I'd probably look at Facebook two, maybe three times a day when I feel like it. No notifications, no connection to my handheld device.

      Keeping the overall crap level to a minimum. Is a losing battle for sure, but it can be done if you take a few minutes once a week go into your settings. Click on things you don't want to see and tell them you don't want to see them.

      I rarely post anything or comment except to people who are actually my friends like who I actually know and see in real life. My ongoing goal is to keep my friends below 100 at all times. If I got rid of some of the dead ones it would probably be at 90. But I like to go to the what I consider a memorial page especially on people's birthday and see how many people are still acknowledging the importance that person played in our life. It's kind of weird. Kind of like talking to the dead

      I'm surprised Facebook keeps these pages up because obviously all of the advertisement isn't doing them any good and they have to support the content with servers and such. But for whatever reason, I can still let my dead friends and relatives know that I'm thinking about them in some weird way

    2. Sounds like way too much work to me. My wife and her friends play string quartets. They have a two-pronged rating system for the quartets they play (1-5 scale where "5" is "most"). The first prong is difficulty. The second is gratification. They'll put up with difficulty for high gratification. In my view, Facebook has become a 4-2.

  7. Your post may have been reported.

    1. No doubt. I restricted who can see my posts to only friends, to limit outside stalkers causing trouble.

  8. I guess Neil will have to bone up on his Russian to get past the Face Book censors.


  9. Welcome to the fraternity of Facebook felons, Mr. S. You ain't a real banger until you have a rap sheet, with jail time and post removals. And now you're finally on your way.

    In just three adventurous years as a user, I've managed to compile a pretty long one. Gonna start asking for reviews now. What the hell...why not? You win a few, you lose a few, and a few get rained out.

  10. I’d bet the Hitler quote itself set off the alarm bells. The machines don’t understand context or metaphor or sarcasm. Maybe some trumpy stooge brought it to their attention but it is antisemitic enough on its own that there is no defending it sans context.
    It was an excellent column.

  11. My fears exactly. Brave new world run by oligarchs.

  12. TWO MILLION Poles were murdered by the Nazis.

    My great uncle was a slave of the Germans on a farm for 4 years until he was liberated by the Soviets and he eventually got to the United States.

    Nazis persecuted Poles viciously, not as bad as Jews (not all victims were Jews but every Jew was a victim) but TWO MILLION Poles lost their lives.

    26 MILLION Russians were also killed in the war.

    Many other Poles and Europeans were raped, worked to death, and imprisoned.


    The lawsuit against the paper is a joke, of course.

    I don't mind you pointing out the history of Jew hatred in Poland but don't be oversensitive if someone criticizes you back.

    You seem to have a problem with Poles over the years.

  13. I got in trouble with Facebook when someone posted something about DeSantis and I commented that the Taliban is alive and well in Florida. I was *restricted* for a month. Another time I referred to DeSantis as a Cracker. They removed my comment.

    1. A homeless panhandler robbed a pizza place down the street, at knifepoint. When I said I hoped they caught the skanky slut, I got thirty days in the hole. I've also had a lot of local pages delete my comments and suspend me for various lengths of time. A day, a week, longer. I guess that's local jail.

      On a Chicago-centric page, I remarked that the downtown subway platforms were no longer "dumps"-- and that they really didn't look all that "crappy." Forbidden words and negativity, doncha know. Farcebook is getting ridiculous.

    2. Other examples..."stupid"..."bozo"..."Crook County"...and "shmoe"...a word that has always been a polite softening of "shmuck"...which, funnily enough, often flies under the radar. Maybe the goyim don't know from borscht.

  14. Damn right I do. But first, thanks for the history lesson, buddy. It's a self-own when you show up on a topic SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS about your own woes. The problem, as your comment so richly illustrates, is that you're so busy pitying yourself, you have no sympathy for anyone else. Especially Jewwwwws. Maybe you need to read the article that caused the Polish government to collapse crying. The powers that be in Poland were stone anti-Semites when Hitler was sucking on his mom's tit. And they still are, right now, as evidenced by their shameful denial of their own horrendous history. That isn't unique to Poland, alas. Look at how Red Staters view America's racist history. But it isn't anything to be proud of either. What you consider "oversensitive" is just the most polite allusion to your bullshit. As for the problem I supposedly have with Poles, over the years, I'd point out that I'm always observing that I'm mostly Polish. Oh right, that doesn't count, in your book, because a Jew can't be Polish. Right?

    1. Calculating the numbers of victims of of Nazi policies is a difficult task.. It is estimated that the Germans killed between 1.8 and 1.9 million non-Jewish Polish civilians during World War II. In addition, the Germans murdered at least 3 million Jewish citizens of Poland. [Holocaust' Encyclopedia, U.S. Holocaust ,Memorial Museum]

      I'm something of an eastern European mutt, Mr. S. Both my grandmothers were Russian, but one lived and worked in what is now Ukraine. I'm also Lithuanian. And Polish. And German. The boundaries of the various entities changed so much, and so often, that my Jewish ancestors made a tired old joke come to life.

      What was it? I'll tell you, boychik. They lived in those places where you woke up, looked out the window, and checked the flags before you took a whiz. Not only to see which direction the wind was blowing, and how strongly, but also to see what country you were currently a citizen of.

    2. I too am of mostly polish decent. I claim the Italian part of my heritage when asked about my ethnicity. I've a guido last name and tan easily. Italy shamefully took the side of Germany . Poland was over run by the nazis.

      I rarely think of these things and am never butt hurt when poles and Italians are denigrated . I've never been to either place and rarely consider going. im an American and so are you Neil .

      ive never been to an Italian parade or festival. sometimes I go to an Italian restaurant. I like the food. polish not so much. I am a staunch ally of the jewish people and have great empathy for the fact that they have been brutalized throughout history. the list of perpetrators is far too long to memorize. I just know I am not one regardless of my ancestry . im not directly remorseful for their actions nor responsible . I mourn all the lives senselessly lost to the long list of wars , pogroms, genocides and enslavements. no group in particular . but you have to acknowledge the jews through no fault of their own got an incredibly harsh deal as so often is the case. ranking harshness by group is not going to bring anyone back or move them up the ladder in the present day hierarchy .

      so sad. we have to move forward and not be stuck in the past. learn from it , remember it but move forward.

    3. I'm Jewish, with eastern European roots, but after meeting certain people in New York, Chicago, and Cleveland, I came to realize that I was Italian in their eyes. Must be my Roman nose, and the way I talk a lot, and wave my hands around. Go figure, huh?

      My father believed that being mistaken for an Italian was an insult, and that it diminished me. Hell, no! Just the opposite. On those occasions, I never felt more honored in my life. If I get another shot, a second time around, I'll take Italian and Brooklyn. People on Long Island thought that's what I already was

  15. I've never had a Fecesbook account & never will.
    As to Poland being pissed off at you, I just read Rachel Maddow's book "Prequel", about Nazi influencing up to & during WWII. What's was truly infuriating were the final few chapters, when senators & House members were still defending their seditious & traitorous defense of Nazi Germany & American anti-Semitism! And how a scumbag senator from Montana named Burton Wheeler, got anti-Nazi prosecutors fired from the Justice department! And another pile of shit in the House, Hamilton Fish defended his hatred his entire life!

  16. "and that online world will be in control of six companies, some of them run by irresponsible egomaniacs like Elon Musk." i dunno neil, i sometimes find it hard to differentiate between elon and zuckerberg, but maybe that's just me. my financial advisors hvae lone had facebook as part of it's portfolio, but i realized several years ago that facebook is fucking evil, and made them drop it from my holdings-also haven't used it it in15yers either.

  17. I am quick to acknowledge my technological shortcomings.I am probably TOO quick to allocate blame to my technological shortcomings, when in fact, something more nefarious is at play. Like FB "glitches" FB, interference, or content administrators playing 'master puppeteer".
    I don't always recognize when mischief is afoot, and that is also a problem.
    I liked your "quote" column. I thought it reflected unique and intelligent synthesis that I hadn't seen elsewhere. Kudos to you for that.
    Based on my limited experience with FB, there was someone in your restricted circle of FB friends (or even a friend of an EGD reader who shared your column on their own, less-restricted FB page?) who reported your column as objectionable or offensive.
    The content arbitrators (or whatever their title may be) tend to respond in a knee-jerk manner, with the goal of DOING SOMETHING. Their options are limited. My guess is they never, ever, go back to the offended party and tell them to 'get over it'.
    I can indirectly relate to your taking umbrage over your EGD column being blocked (banned?). As we approached the 10 yr anniversary of 9/11, I commented on an old HS friend's FB page that I dreaded the upcoming anniversary and all the dredged memories that would ensue. My comment was reported, then removed, and I was referred to mental health services. I went ape-shit! I contacted my friend and demanded he post on my behalf, to find out which of his friends had reported me as someone in need of crisis services. He found it humorous. I did not.
    (I spent a career working in mental health; so the irony is not lost on me). In any case I spent, the 'dreaded' 10- yr anniversary being angry at the presumptuous, know-nothing 'arbitrators'. Which was the only time I was 'blocked' on FB.
    Overall, I post very little, to a very limited group of friends on FB.
    I follow you on X (formerly Twitter) but only see half your posts there. (Again, I blame my techno- inferior skills) Was your column posted on that platform? I'd go ape-shit all over again if you were redacted there, too.

  18. My guess is that the portion of the Gary quote "Go ahead and kill me" is what set off the algorithm; out of context of the longer Gacy quote (and knowing who he was), and out of context of the entire column, that phrase might be seen as threatening self-harm. It may be artificial but it ain't intelligence.

  19. Could u have been banned due to ur curmudgeonly photo?..OK probaly not...sadly was it was more likely due to all that u pointed out..sig heil to the Facebook Fascists...

  20. I sometimes comment on Yahoo. Never obscene, viscious, hateful. Almost always presenting proveable fact complete with citations. Including the credentials or lack of some of their "authors" or sources. Always politely. Yahoo rejected a few citing community guidelines though appeals showed no guidelines were violated. Even though i received replies with racist, obscene and vituperative speech and memes. I never retaltiated in kind. Yet, I am apparently banned by algorithm. I could appeal but only if I pay for their support membership.

  21. I got rid of FB in December. I found it interesting when I first joined, maybe fifteen years ago, but it has (obviously) been going steadily downhill for the past decade.

    And the orange asshole would never have been elected without it.


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