Thursday, January 18, 2018


Facebook impacted the group in two ways.  First of all, T. was using Facebook as the platform for storing videos.  It was convenient and things were moving fast, so no care was taken for backups.  Then suddenly on November 13, 2010, Facebook dropped the account.  No reason was given.  Months of work were erased.  Uproar from supporters ensued but there was only silence.  In a few years someone suggested it was because we were using the word “vlog” (conflating video with log or blog) but there was some commercial enterprise that wanted to copyright the term and paid to have Facebook recognize that.

The other incident was more social.  An international group of poets had formed on Facebook.  As happens, a split developed between those New Age/Mommie cultures who wanted poetry to be nothing but Valentines versus a poéte maudit school of thought that wanted powerful language to express darkness and despair in a hostile society.  I don’t know how it resolved because by that time I had left Facebook forever.  But some of those poets continued to stay in touch.

Among them was Rachel Chappelle, a social anthropologist, who began to fund an independent provider based in India.  She was an invaluable definer and enabler of the work.  Called “Real Stories Gallery Foundation”, the website was blunt and forceful, but endorsed by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (HIV Foundation, Nobel Peace Prize Winner,1984)  T. is listed as the Creative Director of the website.  It is a website suitable for boys at risk seeking expression and for those who work with such boys.  Others will be shocked.  

The work by the boys reflects their lives.  Part of it is a program called "Show Me Your Life," which sends small video cameras to boys everywhere in the world.  The results are edited into vids on the home site.  One boy in Africa filmed from a hiding place on a roof, documenting violent attacks on women.  His assigned peer-mentor worried and with good reason.  The daring boy met death by machete.  Cinematheque was shaken.

In our Western culture much that is painful, disruptive, and hard to address is simply made “off-limits.”  That is, censored and voluntarily sheered away from by “nice people,” who just don't want to know about it.  The result is that such matters are demonized and exaggerated, which is very convenient for abusers and pimps, since there is always a contingent that wants to know danger, wants to experiment, and is willing to pay for access.

A third internet phenomenon was the powerfully popular Wikipedia, developed on the idea that people who cared about a subject would monitor and improve information about that subject, resulting in something more accurate than if an individual person edited.  This theory failed to allow for controversial personalities and vendettas.  T., like others, found that information was being controlled to portray him in the worst possible light, leaving out everything positive and even using his pseudonym as the index rather than his real name, perpetuating the hoax rather than resolving it.

Several of us challenged this in the way Wikipedia is supposed to be corrected, but found our comments were removed again.  I went a little deeper and discovered that Wikipedia DID have editors, but they were cloaked.  This editor had a pseudonym of his own:  “VizJim.”  I finally figured out that he was James Mackey, a Cyprus writer who was a fan of Gerald Vizenor, a noted Native American writer and professor.  

By chance I knew VizJim from “Reznet” an early “bulletin board” that at the time was obsessed by the issue of blood quantum and tribal enrollment as entitlement for writing about Native Americans.  (Truth disclosure: I got access to the bulletin board, passively pretending to be Blackfeet by saying I was from Browning, which I was.)  VizJim, when I looked through the rather skimpy number of Wikipedia entries about Native American writers, appeared to be esp. interested in denigrating gay NA writers.  I remembered that he had tried to start an internet “talking circle” of his own and had remarked somewhere that if this NA subject didn’t make him a reputation, he would switch to sci-fi.  He was earning a PhD in post-modern thought by correspondence with a college of Oxford University.  He had been harassing T. for years.  When I challenged him, he admitted it.

But he was not the worst of the stalkers.  A porn writer whose story had been rejected by T. in his editing years was a vindictive computer adept.  He could locate individual boys' personal accounts and would torment them with their pasts.  Sometimes he threatened to mutilate them sexually.  When I began to intervene, he sent me a warning that was accompanied by a distorted selfie with eyes that flashed red.  Finally the FBI was invited to visit him and he cooled down.  He was a pathetic man living in poverty.

Cinematheque thought I was silly to bother with such people.  After years of protests, Wikipedia did a bit of reforming.  The entitled young men (and a few women) who are behind the curtain running Wikipedia, simply didn’t know enough about indigenous people to be able to identify the unqualified guides who petitioned to manage certain categories.  People never remember that not everything in print in every source is not necessarily reliable, not even big-deal newspapers.  Wikipedia turns up as boilerplate everywhere without authorship or sourcing; it is "pop" info.

Going back to the Facebook poet group, which included Europeans, several were educated about the new post-modern theorists who fought all limits and faced all evils, deconstructing them, revealing their colonial subtexts.  Some of these people became friends of T..  Aad de Gids, a psychiatric nurse, philosopher and poet; Paul Toth, a poet and novelist; Dom Gabrielli, poet and olive oil entrepreneur.  Carolyn Srygley-Moore Is an American poet.  These people were sophisticated, adult and cosmopolitan.  Americans tend to think of boys-at-risk as juvenile delinquents who can be saved by a good scrubbing and some scolding.  These poet/philosophers knew how deeply suffering can change children beyond any redemption by conformity.  

Among post-modern thinkers, T. had read Foucault while I barely knew that Derrida and others existed.  Understanding these rebellious, sexually fluid, and enormously influential people became a self-assignment of mine, but I mostly watched their YouTube lectures rather than investing in a library.  I have limits.  At one point I wrote a long essay using the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari to interpret Cinematheque for a journal called “Rhizomes”, guest edited by two post-grad women.  They considered it but finally decided it didn’t fit their journal.  I was bitter and T. laughed. 

On the one hand, these post-colonial adventurous thinkers were way over the heads of boys, but when it come to the Paris group, not so much.  In terms of background for social movements, courage for going forward, the cutting-edge thinkers were vital.  Their invisibility to standard vanilla culture was an advantage, a protection.  The reach of the Internet meant that Cinematheque was not just operating in one neighborhood, even if it was as impressive as Paris.  There was no limit on innovation and that became more true as the Internet developed.  But it was dangerous, as we have all discovered.

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