Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Objectionable Content

Monsignor Chamberlain: Remember, to go against the church is to go against God!
-- Priest,
Sony Pictures, 2011

“This post goes against our Community Standards.”

Facebook wouldn’t allow me to post to my own timeline.

I’d violated the rules and was to be locked out in penalty. Again.

That’s what it said.

“You can't post right now. You may have used Facebook in a way that our systems consider unusual, even it you didn't mean to. You can post again in 3 days.”

Unsurprisingly, I suppose, I’d apparently gone against community standards. And to go against Facebook’s community standards is to go against … God. I guess, given that arbitrary smiting and capricious power wise there doesn’t seem to be much difference these days.

Leaving aside the part where Facebook isn’t sure but “you may have” “even if you didn’t mean to” so you get punished anyway (see my comment above regarding a certain petulant deity) I’m pretty careful about community standards on the various sites I inhabit, especially Twitter and Facebook. I’ve been suspended enough to ensure that I read the rules and adhere to them. Generally when I get suspended, it’s because I hurt a fascist’s feelings. No, that’s not hyperbole. The last time I was suspended from Twitter it was literally for insulting a self-declared Neo-Nazi. In fact, about a year ago, a certain infamous Nazi put a bounty on my head and announced it on Twitter. When I publicly mocked him for it, Twitter suspended me (On the up side, so far, no one has collected the bounty). I’ve been suspended from Facebook for exactly the same thing. More than once.

Seems the Master Race is somewhat delicate, feelings wise.

But I hadn’t insulted any fascists lately.

Or had I?

Impeach Trump. There is more than enough reason to begin impeachment proceedings. We impeached both Nixon and Clinton for far less than is in the Mueller Report. So, impeach Trump. Impeach him in the House. Take up the investigation, one he CANNOT stop or obstruct or redact, one his pet Attorney General and his cronies cannot impede, one that Trump himself has NO control over whatsoever, and impeach him if that's where the evidence leads. THEN if the Senate refuses to convict, if Mitch McConnell refuses to take up the impeachment, refuses his duty and the Senate stands by him, hang it around their dirty cowardly necks like a fucking albatross. Make them own it in 2020. Make them own it forever.

That’s it.

That’s what what got me suspended from Facebook. 

That’s what I said, impeach Trump. That’s what goes against Facebook’s “community standards.”


What’s that?

The swear word?

I said “…hang it around their dirty cowardly necks like a fucking albatross…” and that’s the problem?

Nope. No it’s not. See, profanity is not a violation of either Facebook or Twitter’s rules. I told you, I’ve actually read those rules. There’s nothing in there about profanity. Nothing.

Facebook’s community standards are divided into five parts:

Nothing in my post suggested violence or criminal behavior.

There was certainly nothing safety related – unless you consider the number of threats Facebook and Twitter allow their users to send me, though I doubt my post was removed because it put my safety in jeopardy.

My post did not violate Facebook’s alleged standards of authenticity. I certainly wasn’t pretending to be anyone other than myself.

My post was my intellectual property and thus did not violate copyright or IP laws.

And my post was not removed because I requested it – that’s what “Content-Related Requests" means (You ask to have your content deleted, or you die and your designated estate asks Facebook to remove your account).

So, the only “standard” I could possibly have violated would be “Objectionable Content.”

Except, again, I’ve read the rules and Facebook defines objectionable content as, “Hate Speech,” “Violent or Graphic Content,” Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity,” “Sexual Solicitation,” or “Cruel and Insensitive.”

My post wasn’t hate speech, unless we’re now defining politicians as a protected class.  It wasn’t violent or graphic. It didn’t contain nudity or sexual activity. It didn’t solicit sex (though with Republicans, you can never be absolutely sure what they might regard as sex. And I did say “fucking.” Still…).

So, that leaves us with the last one.

And I suppose I can see that.

I can indeed see how calling for impeachment may have offended the delicate sensibilities of those who would be fascists. 

This amuses me. Well, okay, maybe “amuse” is the wrong word, but I admit to some satisfaction that my point was proven so succinctly.

You see, there was no violation of Facebook’s Community Standards.

Of course there wasn’t. No, what happened is that my comments were shared widely, both on Facebook and Twitter – which is the point of social media. And because the post was shared widely, it naturally came to the attention of conservatives. Republicans. Trump supporters.

Russian operators, perhaps.

They were outraged. Impeach Trump? How dare you! How dare you suggest such a thing!

I got messages. I got email. I got tweets – some might even have been from actual Americans outraged at the very idea of a congress that actually does its duty.

They mass reported my post for violation of Community Standards and Facebook’s automated software took my post down and locked me out. Shut me up. Shut out the words they didn’t want to hear, didn’t want you to hear.

And the irony of this amuses me.

A bunch of faceless goons marching in lockstep call me – me – a “Marxist” and then try to silence me not because I actually violated any rules but because they were offended by the idea of a government accountable to its people, literally the very ideal the United States of America was founded on.

Imagine being offended by that.

And that – that right there – is what this about.

This isn’t about me. This isn’t about some ridiculous suspension from a social media platform – or at least it’s about that only tangentially, as a metaphor for larger things.

I don’t think it’s any secret I detest Donald Trump, both as a man and as a president.

And as a carbon-based lifeform, so long as we’re on the subject.

I have a right to detest him. I have a right to despise everything he stands for. I despise his greed, his endless conceit, his avarice, his gluttony and his sloth, his deliberate stupidity, his staggering foolishness, and his towering ignorance touted as some sort of virtue. I am daily appalled by his open encouragement of the worse elements of our society, his abuse of power, his obvious lies, his casual racism, his gross misogyny, his swaggering jingoism, his prideful nationalism, his craven xenophobia, his quailing insecurities large and small, his childish need for revenge, the bottomless unplumbed depths of his cowardice, and the utter shallowness of his character.

But most of all, most of all, I despise the gleeful hypocrisy of his chanting supporters.

Those who wave the American flag and spit on everything it stands for.

Those who daily demand for themselves the rights guaranteed by this country and would deny those rights to everyone else.

But I didn’t call for the impeachment of President Trump because I detest him.

I called for impeachment because it’s the only way to save the Republic.

Last Sunday during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, the President’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said there's nothing wrong with taking information from America’s adversaries in order to win an election. Yes, that’s exactly what he said. And he meant every word of it.

And today, half a week later, that outrageous comment isn’t even front page news.

Giuliani was responding to Republican Senator Mitt Romney’s statement the day before, where Romney said he was appalled that “fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia.”

“Stop the bull,” Giuliani shouted. “Stop this pious act!”

Stop this pious act? Pious?

To go against the Church is to go against God! Or to go against Trump. Same thing, I guess.


Giuliani then dismissed Romney’s criticism, saying that when Romney himself was running for president he likewise was “trying to dig up dirt on people. Putting dirt out on people.”

Tapper pointed out that there was a difference between legitimate, legal, opposition research and taking information from a foreign intelligence service.

Giuliani shouted Tapper down, ““What a hypocrite! Any candidate in the whole world, in America, would take information. Who says it’s even illegal? There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians!” Giuliani hedged his comment at the end with the caveat that the legality of accepting information from a foreign agency “depends on where it came from.”

Do you believe that?

Do you believe that any candidate would accept information from a foreign agency regarding their political rivals? Particularly a foreign agency in opposition to the United States itself?

Do you believe any candidate should? That such is indeed legal, even morally acceptable?

Do you believe this should be the norm in our democracy?

Do you?

You do.

Yes, you do.

Some of you anyway. You do.

That’s what the Mueller Report says. That Donald Trump was elected to office with the help of foreign intelligence. His campaign took information from foreign agencies. And at the same time, those same foreign governments used social media and other vectors to manipulate American voters. Some even tried, and did, hack into our voting machines. There is no doubt whatsoever that Donald Trump benefited from those efforts and that his opposition was penalized.

And you’re fine with that.

Some of you.

You told me so, on Twitter, on Facebook, here on this blog, in email. Yes you did. Did you forget?

You told me it was acceptable for a foreign agency to provide information – whatever that information’s source –  to American politicians, to manipulate the American citizen according to its agenda even if that agenda is hostile to the Republic.

That’s what you said. Some of you.

See, you told me Julian Assange, a foreigner with the stated goal of bringing down the government of the United States was a "journalist."

You told me that Wikileaks, a foreign political agency dealing in stolen materials, who manipulated and selectively released information in support of its own foreign goals, operating in conjunction with our adversaries in direct support of Julian Assange’s personal agenda, is a news organization.

That’s what you told me.

Assange, Wikileaks, these are not Americans. They have no vote in our democracy, no standing in our Republic. Whatever they are, whatever their agenda, these are not in America's interest -- just as the Russians don't have our best interests at heart.

Russia, Wikileaks, they both push information that furthers their agendas and they hide information counter to their goals. These facts are supported by the evidence at hand – including the words of Julian Assange and Vladimir Putin themselves. These facts are supported by the conclusions of the Mueller Report. These facts are borne out by every US and allied intelligence agency.

Russia and Wikileaks worked together and separately to manipulate our democracy, to influence you, to put in place a government favorable to their goals. To put Donald Trump in office and to keep Hillary Clinton out of it. And whatever that agenda may be, you can bet its not in our best interest.

And so, when you tell me that Assange is a journalist, you're telling me that Rudy Giuliani is right.

You’re telling me that it's acceptable for Americans seeking power to take information from foreign sources – even if those sources are antagonistic to our nation. Even if that information is backed by foreign political agendas inimical to our interests. You don’t how that information was gathered. You don’t know if that information has been manipulated, grossly or subtly. You don’t know the purpose behind a foreign power giving you access to it. You don’t know what’s been purposely left out. If you take that information, if you act on it, if you put it into the public consciousness, you are allowing a foreign power to directly influence how this nations thinks -- and thus, indirectly manipulate democracy. That’s what the Mueller Report, among other sources, says.

You’re telling me the ends justify the means.

Even if the means bring down our nation.

You can't have it both ways.

We know our democracy is vulnerable. We know money directly influenced the outcome of elections in this nation and that we, we citizens, we voters, we are not allowed to know the origins of that dark money. We are not allowed to know who funds our politicians, who pays for those ads on television and on social media that directly influence how Americans think – and thus vote, if they bother to vote at all.

Dark money, we call it.

But it’s not just dark money.

It’s dark information as well.

Facebook was founded in 2004.

Twitter was founded two years later.

Smartphones. Unlimited real-time connectivity. Troll farms. Bot swarms. Social media influencers. The weaponization of information piped directly into our minds. The merging of 24/7 broadcast news, print journalism, internet, and social media. It took a decade for the technology to reach critical mass. 2016 was the first election where social media had as much, or more, influence on how we think, how we vote (or don’t), how we see the world, what we believe, as money does in our political process.

And we are ill-equipped as a people, as a democracy, as a republic, to handle it.

That’s what the Mueller Report tells you.

In such a world, truth, lies, reality are all malleable.

Reality is whatever narrative gains traction, is “liked” and shared, goes viral.

Two days after Rudy Giuliani declared there was nothing wrong with a candidate for president accepting damaging information on a political rival from a foreign intelligence agency, other Republicans took up the same narrative, Rick Santorum chief among them.

And that becomes the narrative. That becomes reality.

Anyone who objects is shouted down. Silenced. Redacted. Guilty of violating community standards.

And that’s why impeachment matters.

If you wait to do the right thing, wait until it is politically expedient, then you’re not doing the right thing.

Republicans have allowed Trump to become the norm, to become their reality. There is no lie too big, no moral abyss too deep, no act of cowardice too craven, no tweet too insane. When the president’s own lawyer says on national TV that as a presidential candidate there’s nothing wrong with allowing yourself to be manipulated by foreign agency – and make no mistake, that’s exactly what Rudy’s words mean even if he himself doesn’t realize it – and no one pushes back, not the press, not the White House, not Trump, not Republicans, not even the opposition for more than a fleeting moment, then this is become our normal.

The very worst elements of our society are now running our country unimpeded.

The very worst elements of our society, of social media, of foreign agency, now define our reality.

If we don’t impeach this president, then what is the threshold for impeachment? How low does an administration have to sink? How bad does it have to get?

Mueller could not indict the president.

Mueller could not exonerate the president.

That wasn’t his job or his responsibility.

That is Congress’s job.

That is Congress’ responsibility as spelled out in the Constitution.

It is Congress’s job to indict the president OR see him exonerated.

WE, citizen, we cannot know the truth of this matter. Not yet. Not now. By definition the information we have to work with is tainted. What you think you know, did that come from Wikileaks? From Russia? From some Fox News pundit? Some CNN anchor? Some rumor on Facebook? The product of trolls and bots on Twitter? How do you know? How can you know? How can you know when the only analysis you have has been redacted, filtered, processed through the very subject of the investigation? When you can’t see the raw data? When you don’t know the scope of the investigation because it’s hidden under those blacked out lines?

Impeach Trump.

That’s what I said.

Do it. Impeach him.

Congress threatened to impeach Nixon for far less than is in the Mueller Report. Nixon resigned when the court ordered him to hand over information he knew would convict him and the Articles of Impeachment were never brought. A conviction in the Senate was not necessary. But the end result was the same. Nixon was removed from office and faith in our government was restored – or as much faith as Americans ever have in government anyway.

The House did impeach Clinton, again for far less than what we know about Trump. The Senate refused to convict and so Clinton stayed in office. And those who brought Articles of Impeachment against the president went down in flames.

Nixon was threatened with impeachment because he was a goddamned crook.

Clinton was threatened with impeachment for political theater.

And that’s the lesson, right there.

There is more than enough reason to begin impeachment proceedings. Begin with hearings, with an investigation that Trump cannot impede. Cannot control. Cannot stop. Cannot redact. Ensure those hearings are bipartisan. Professional. Above reasonable reproach. Not theater, but duty. Nixon. Not Clinton.

And if those hearings find nothing, then be done with it. Exonerate Trump. Publicly. Swallow the sour grapes and move on. Do the right thing, head up, and own it.

But …

But if those hearings do find something, not infidelity or some other ridiculous charge but find evidence of real crimes, then the House must bring Articles of Impeachment against Trump and as many of his administration as indicated.

And if that impeachment finds evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, then send the charges to the Senate to be tried.

If the House does its job, professionally, dispassionately, thoroughly, then the Senate cannot refuse to take up the case.

But, of course, in the America we live in, the Senate could refuse. And, so, if the Senate does refuse to do its duty despite the evidence, then hang it around their necks like a fucking albatross. Make them own it in 2020. Make them own it forever. Nixon. Not Clinton.

Make every politician who puts party over country, political expediency over duty, own it. 

This is what I said a week ago.

This is what I say now.

This is what I will say tomorrow.

Because this is the only way to save the Republic.

Because this the only way to restore faith in our government.

Because if we don’t get to the truth, one we all agree on, then it hardly matters what happens in 2020.

Because if we don’t get to the truth, then this – this right here – this is our truth. This is our normal. This insanity.

We’ve been on this curve for thirty years, growing more and more divided, more and more unstable. If we don’t stop it, then our government will swing in shorter and shorter partisan arcs until it collapses and our nation implodes.

We, Citizen, must know the truth, whatever that truth may be.

A truth that cannot be redacted or obstructed.

And if you’re afraid of that, if you are afraid of where the truth might take you, if your loyalty is to a would be king and not the nation, then you are complicit. If you’re outraged at my words instead of at the thought of what that process might find, if you don’t want to know the truth, well, then you’re the problem.

You. Are. The. Problem.

If you want a better nation, then you have to be a better citizen. 

Chamberlain: Remember, to go against the church is to go against God!
Priest: Then I go against God.
-- Priest