Tuesday, September 28, 2010



Today the censor is likely to be the faceless Facebook police who will tell you (via computer, no human has seen your video or post) that you have violated terms of service. They can and will delete you and anything and everything you have posted. Google does it all the time with gay blogs. They have deleted virtually thousands of them. This has created a vacuum that other companies such as Tumblr and Nibblebit have tried to fill. 

But here's what I find interesting: American writers and American artists have figured out that if you, a human being, report something that you claim to find offensive (writers turning in other writers and artists turning in other artists), and you cause a human being at the other end (of let's say Facebook) of the feed to have cause to actually look at a video or a dirty word, the banning is ubiquitous. Reporting a blog doesn't always mean a human being will look at it. Computers do most of this work. But if the computer flags an actual human being to do this, you will be deleted.

I see this multiple times every day. What it means is that you can squash the competition. If you feel that another writer or another artist is threatening your turf, report them. And if you can't get your competition eliminated the first time, keep reporting them.

Blip calls it tattling.

Le Tube calls it reporting.

Either way, it's humorless, arbitrary and there is no consideration for what is art whatsoever. I have been deleted so many times, I just expect it. How do I know the nationality of the writers and the artists who think the way to remain in the game is to eliminate the competition (versus being a united front)? They write to me. They go off. They do not attempt to hide. They want you to know who they are.

Although my work is pretty much an international thing, only American writers and artists have shut me down. Eliminating what they see as competition is the American way.

Tim Barrus

Having watched some of this game Tim describes, I have some other observations. The objectors came to the Facebook page following poets, which they fancied they were. Tim and several other people were writing remarkable pieces. The new people thought they were but they weren’t.

One of the most obvious characteristics of these volunteer censors was that they were poorly educated, inexperienced, and unsophisticated people who aspired to be their betters but weren’t very sure how to do it or, indeed, exactly what it means to be “better.” Is if virtue or status? This is where my template and Tim’s match up. These were people who know they are missing something, but don’t know what, and who resent academic authority but will near-worship any authorities who will cater to them. Think Red China. Think French Revolution. Think Sarah Palin. Think Levelers.

From my point of view, they are not so much after money as after status. They are the people who scoff at innovation, fear change, and try to shut down anyone who is different. This can quickly turn evil when it begins to destroy -- and it does. They must ensure their own safety by removing all security from others. It’s not just economic: it’s emotional. They’re the back-of-the-classroom kids who get even by telling their parents they’re being forced to read dirty books.

These banal wannabe “poets” who came to Tim’s website were sentimental, boring and falsely cheerful, masking themselves in religious conventionalities. I don’t think they were aware of how transparent they were. Their judgments are never according to reason. (They do not think that morality can be determined by reason.) They conform because it is to their advantage, and their chief guides are simply their cohort -- they do what the other kids do. Always have. They had simply stumbled into a place where they did not belong and therefore tried to shut it down. This kind of faux poet used to get into those fake ego anthologies that sell to the people they include or maybe the best get into popular magazines, which are gone now because the people who used to read them have turned to television and Facebook. But they preserve a vague notion that the goal is to be published. (Even in myself I have a hard time stamping out that idea.)

Tim’s other issue, the software platform that makes decisions rationally according to the profit game, knows very well what they are doing and defends their strategies via Gordon Gecko. Thus, it is easy to sign on! But impossible to sign off! An hour’s work to ensure your privacy! Their moral guide is simply the survival of the company, their livelihood. They are gamers, they live by algorithm. They often get very rich and never have any consciousness of it being at someone else’s cost. There are plenty of gamers out there to take them on. As soon as Amazon or Netflix invented its rating systems and “peoples’ reviews,” the writers and publishers were busy getting their mothers and friends to check five stars and write “the best book I ever read -- I simply couldn’t put it down.” Then others figured out how to review their rivals: “This book is totally phony. Anyone who reads it is a fool.” No algorithm could cope. People had to intervene.

Conventional conformers know the strategy of the kid in a department store: if you throw a big enough fit, they’ll give you what you want just to get rid of you. It has worked with parents from the beginning, unless something bad develops: for instance, a parent who beats the kid to shut him up. But then the parent feels so guilty that the kid can get what they want for quite a while. If you can trigger a false arrest in a department store, the lawyers can get you quite a bit of compensation. The gamers know it is a game -- they calculate the cost and if it’s low enough they just pay it as a cost of doing business. The conformers are too hot and the gamers are too, too cold.

What’s the Goldilocks Guide? How do you find the chair that is just right? Usually it takes a while for things to sort themselves out. And as we know, if you take too long, the bears come home. Best to use the delete button or, failing that, block 'em.

1 comment:

Art Durkee said...

These are also the kind of trolls who destroy poetry critique boards and other websites. They're the reason comments are not allowed anymore on either Poetry.org or Ron Silliman's blog. I've seen them destroy more than one poetry site, and I've been directly more than once by the same people, on different sites, using different aliases. It's one reason I go solitary these days. They win partly because their tenacity wears everyone else down; in my case, i could care less what they think of me, and it's a waste of my energy to be fighting all the time instead of creating. Hate is uncreative—and these are the most hateful, most uncreative people I've ever encountered online.

Most of them never even post a poem. They just tear everyone else's down.