Now and then I hear of someone who has been banned from Facebook for a period of time and I try to imagine what heinous filth they must have been disseminating for such harsh action to be taken.
Were they trying to get the Gestapo back together? Lower the age of consent to seven? Show us the Trump pee-pee tape?
This week I discovered you needn’t do any of these things to get banned. All it takes is a letter to Australian home affairs minister Peter Dutton and for one person to be offended. Am I bitter? Of course not. I deserve to be punished. I don’t know exactly what it is I did wrong, but it’s important that I be disciplined.
We need to be sensitive to the demands of the offended, even if it is only one in 250 others who liked, loved or laughed at the post. The easily upset have so few options open to them. Yes, they could stop reading my column when they start to feel themselves becoming infuriated and go for a beer. But what if they are tied to a chair and someone insists on reading it to them, ignoring their anguished cries while deliberately repeating passages that cause them the most distress, then laughing openly at their pain?
The other option they have – the most popular one, by all accounts – is to keep reading. Turn up the heat and let the outrage build to boiling point. When they can stand no more of it – and there is no more only because they have read all the way to the end – they want retribution and they want it now. Burning my house down is not an option simply because they don’t know where I live. Slumped on the couch, reeking of anger and cheap brandy, they report me to Facebook. I say ‘they’ even though it’s almost certainly just one person who did it. Man, woman or kid who found dad’s drugs? I can’t be sure. Facebook protects the identity of those who snitch on others.
The column had to do with Australia’s offer to fast-track visas for our white farmers before they are all wiped out in the genocide. Amid the deluge of likes, loves and laughter, three of my more emotional male Facebook ‘friends’ voiced their displeasure at the piece.
They came out gums blazing, shooting their mouths off like it was a showdown in the Wild West. Which, I suppose, it was in a way. It was like Ant-Man, the Wasp and Doctor Doom confronting Irony Man, except I’m a real superhero and their only power is to get me banned from Facebook for 24 hours. Curses. You won this time, villains. But I’ll be back.
These good old boys, who chose to follow me on Facebook, accused me of crossing the line. I had no idea there was only one line. And it applies to everyone? I wonder if this ever happened to the divine avatars who attracted disciples. For instance, we know about Judas Escargot, but did Peter, John, Simon the Zealot and the other dudes ever take Jesus for a beer and tell him he’s gone a bit too far.
“Listen, J. That business today with the money-lenders? We think you crossed the line, there.”
“What the hell are you talking about, James the Lesser? What line is this?”
The owner of the tavern might have announced drinks on the house at this point because there was a bit of confusion the following morning and nobody could remember who said what.
“Matthew said something about a line.”
“Guy with the beard.”
“We’ve all got beards.”
“Isn’t his name Levi?”
“Point is, there’s a line.”
“Where do we put it?”
“In the Bible, idiot.”
“Also Facebook,” said Paul the Seer, who wasn’t a disciple but the lads liked having him around because he could predict the results in the Galilee Handicap.
And so the line was handed down from generation to generation. Everyone understood it was a line that nobody should cross. Obviously it no longer applies to money-lenders because the only line they recognise is the red line they draw around suburbs too poor to qualify for home loans.
In my case – when you are reported to Facebook it is registered as a case – the line has to do with humour. You need to stay on one side of it at all times. This makes sense. If you think of humour as a six-lane freeway, you need to stay in your lane or risk causing an accident. This makes no sense at all. An accident on the crowded highway of humour leaves no casualties in its wake. There are no bodies. No injuries. Just someone standing on the side of the road complaining that his feelings have been hurt.
Even though the content is free and I never asked you to be my friend, your hurt feelings apparently trump my right to be on Facebook. Fortunately my offence only warranted the removal of the offensive piece of filth and a 24-hour ban. The dark overlords who rule this electronic megalopolis warned that a subsequent offence would get me banned for three days. And if it happened again, well, they didn’t say. But the threat was implicit. Cyborgs would be given my digital scent. They would hunt me down and chew my fingers off. And if I persisted with voice-activated software, bionic otters would be sent across the ocean to bite off my tongue and suck out my eyeballs while I slept.
The truth is, I’m in an abusive relationship with Facebook and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to be treated shoddily. I don’t know how many others have been banned for writing something that someone didn’t find funny. It could be millions. Maybe it’s just me. Real friends have been quick to condemn Facebook for censoring and banning me. But they’re wrong. Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg and it’s not him who did this to me. It’s an algorithm. Or at best a callow youth called Verminox who is frustrated because he can’t get laid and the NRA keeps rejecting his membership application and won’t give him reasons why.
Facebook won’t give me reasons, either. I was informed that I had violated community standards, which I imagine are closely related to the mythical line. Dear Obergruppenführer Verminox, have you ever heard of audi alterem partem? No, it isn’t a a new car from Germany
I was banned on the grounds of one complaint. That strikes me as a little bit insane. How many Verminoxes must work there that they can ban someone every time a humourless rightwing nutjob files a complaint? Bashar al-Assad must complain endlessly about offensive stuff posted by members of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. Do they get banned for 24 hours? Of course not. That kind of treatment is reserved for savages like me.
On the day I was banned, Facebook sent me this message. “Ben, your friends have liked your posts 74 000 times! We’re glad you’re getting support from your friends and hope this has made the world feel a little closer.”
A more accurate message might have been, “Ben, one of your 5 000 friends who have liked your posts 74 000 times was offended by a post. We’re sad that not all your friends support you and hope you understand why we have to ban you for 24 hours.”
So I had no access to Facebook for a day. After the first hour, my skin started clearing up and my eyes stopped hurting. Six hours in and I could feel my short-term memory returning. By the evening I felt so young and alive that two beautiful women offered to come home with me knowing they wouldn’t have to compete with Facebook for my attention.
Getting punished by a company that covertly distributes personal information, and which quite possibly helped get Donald Trump elected, is a badge of honour. I’d recommend everyone tries it.