Good Bye to Facebook and All That

I have decided, more or less, to abandon Facebook.  I told my virtual friends  I'd give it a month of one-way silence, and I intend to do that, but social media are a terrible distraction.  I'd rather read my stack of old Braccio di Ferro comic books.  It is not just that most FB posts are stupid--they are--or ill-informed--even more so--but the invitation to people to admire their own ill-considered thoughts, to stare into the mirror they have created and admire their own imperfect complexions is a far more serious problem.

I am reminded of what my father said about Little League baseball.  In the old days, it was a boy's dream to grow up to be a baseball player, and, when he got recruited and played on a  Class D team, he was inspired by the chance to put on a uniform, cleats, and realize he was on his way.  It was an incentive to work hard, with dedication, but with Little League, Babe Ruth League, etc. they could have all the trappings by the age of 8 or 10. 

This is a country filled with people who think dressing up like a doctor and using terms like pandemic and epicenter make them a real doctor.  Universities are staffed mainly by people who spout meaningless technical jargon that no longer even impresses the rubes in their own families. People who have never met a politician, much less held an office, covered a campaign, or studied political history, manage to convince themselves they have insider knowledge of how the process works and, like the Proud Boys leader arrested today in Hawaii, justify their bad manners by claiming to be a "professional journalist."  Talk about oxymorons!

Think of what people could be doing if they were not FB-ing.  Of course, knowledge can sometimes be power, at least the power of moral resistance to immoral authority. Since this is America, the regime, in order to eliminate even a moral challenge, does not need to crack down on serious studies.  All it has to do is make Literature-lite courses in college, and no one will have to read Dante or Shakespeare, and make sure everyone spends several hours a day on Twitter and FB, huffing and puffing, tweeting and snarking. I am reminded of baboons in a zoo, that excrete toxic fecal matter into their paws and fling it at the human world.

Political discussion in these United States are like a perverse misapplication of Gresham's Law:  Bad thinking drives out good, but not because (as in the case of money) people hoard the good currency and spend the bad, but because the proliferation of bad intellectual currency renders meaningless the ideas of good and bad.   There are still people who buy gold and spend fiat currency, but who in social media can even know what serious thinking is?  Obviously, that is one of the reasons we established this little website:  to remind those who have ears to hear what the gold standard once was.

I am reminded of the time John Stewart appeared on Crossfire and told Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala just to stop doing what they were doing, engaging in ritual shadow-boxing that enlightened no one but only deepened and widened  the political divide. Begala, as a serious political operative, simply laughed along with Stewart, but Carlson grew angry and tried to respond, pointing out the leftist orientation of The Daily Show.  Stewart, who easily outgunned both his victims, asked if Tucker had noticed that Stewart's show was broadcast on The Comedy Channel.  

Hardcore conservatives had no interest in defending the bow-tied preppie, and he lost his job (though he later claimed he had already resigned.)  He wisely, perhaps even sincerely, reinvented himself as a serious rightwing commentator, and his admirers on FB have taken to describing him as a populist, a threat to the regime.  Apparently they do not realize his father was adopted by a wealthy man--which is why Tucker's middle name is Swanson--or that his father Richard was head of Voice of America and chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  On paper, at least, Tucker Carlson is a spoiled rich boy and lackey of the regime.

I have absolutely nothing against Tucker Carlson, though I never watch his show, and I hope for his sake that he means at least some of what he says, but to confuse him with a "populist" and regard him as man of the people would be like thinking Franklin Roosevelt and Jack Kennedy were enemies of their socio-economic class or that Julius Caesar really cared about the common Roman.  But, on the alternate reality that is Facebook, that is the myth permitted and supported by the Zuckerburgs, Bezoses, and Gateses, and Dorseys.

It's a bit too much for an aging cynic to swallow.  In the words of the American original of Braccio di Ferro:  That's all I can stand cause I can't stand no more.

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

12 Responses

  1. Vince Cornell says:

    This recent purging and subsequent complaining of conservatives from various social media outlets made me think of the great dance routine in “Royal Wedding” (which we watched tonight) where Fred Astaire and Jane Powell imitate low-life New York city type of characters. Jane Powell says, “I’ll give you one more chance, do you love me or don’t you?” Fred says, emphatically, “No I don’t!” Jane quickly snaps back, “Quit stalling, I want a direct answer!” Later, during the song, Fred sings, “You’re really naive to ever believe a full-of-baloney-phony like me.” and “Baby, leave us not forget that I’m a heel.” Somehow, conservatives keep thinking that these business, run by people who hate them and everything they stand for, will “play fair” when it comes time to render services. It’s like expecting the robber to call the cops on your behalf. At some point, the conservatives should stop begging the liberal tech overlords to “be nice” – it’s embarrassing.
    .
    Incidentally, I think that dance routing with Fred Astaire and Jane Powell may be my all time favorite. How she can keep that dead pan face and chew gum while dancing like that is amazing to me.

  2. Allen Wilson says:

    Believe it or not, I have also pretty well made up my mind to get out of FB and Twitter. I only tried to use Twitter as a kind of news feed by following various heads of state, etc., but then never used it. I haven’t looked at it in about a year or so. As for FB, I’ve been threatening to shut my account down for a long time, finally made up my mind, and almost did it yesterday but had other things to do. I’ve been keeping it open because it’s convenient for communicating with family members who live at a distance, but there is also phone texting to serve the same purpose.

    I opened an account with Parler, but there’s not much interesting there. It’s just populated by FB and Twitter refugees spouting the same stuff they always have, so it’s another useless account. What did I expect? Exactly what I found. I should be beaten for even bothering to open the account.

  3. Dot says:

    I don’t belong to FB or Twitter or any other social media site. Their true colors were shown when they cancelled Pres. Trump’s accounts. In my estimation, these actions say “You think like I or else you’re out”. They are like addictions and breaking the habit sets you free.

  4. Thomas Fleming says:

    There are many reasons to belong to FB–Twitter is a bit harder to defend. I have a friend, a retired professor of philosophy, who says it is for talking about her grandchildren and cats. For many people, it is a way of keeping in touch with kith and kin scattered across the country. Others, like Robert Peters, have found it a useful way of communicating their (in his case) valuable and interesting observations, though Robert has decided to leave FB. In my case, the motives was very simple: A desire to attract readers to this website. My children have a FB page for their restaurant–as do most restaurants, since FB is easier to maintain than their conventional website and many people are more likely to hang out there. Of course, FB is increasingly dominated by the group I described in the above piece, but I should not like to tar all the FB users with the same brush.

  5. Dom says:

    I left FB years ago because of the distraction. In theory it was nice to keep up with friends and family, but with FB one finds oneself sifting through so much BS to get to the important things it is just more trouble than it is worth. For me, the decision point came when a buddy, who is a very down to earth fellow, posted some mundane thing about being stuck behind a person who couldn’t seem to figure out how to use a gas pump. I figured if they could get him then they could get anybody and so cancelled my account. I have never missed it.
    Regarding communication with dispersed family members, my siblings and I have found a group text through our wireless services to be very useful. It is not quite as convenient as FB for sharing pictures and such, but since it is a very specific group of mutually-familiar participants it is less distracting and much more meaningful.

  6. Irv Phillips says:

    Thank you, Dr. Fleming, for leading the way. As I mentioned in my recent post on your FB page, I’ve been thinking of doing it for a while. So, my second-to-last FB comment was on your page! Think how lucky you are! My final posting contained my parting words:

    “Well, I’ve known for years that it was going to get very ugly but it looks like it has happened sooner than I had anticipated. So…

    “‘And the public gets what the public wants
    But I want nothing this society’s got
    I’m going underground’

    “I hope to talk to you soon (in real life, like actual humans!).”

    Things are moving quickly now. Mr. Wilson, joining Parler is now (for the moment at least) not an option: the Big Tech Boys have conspired to shut it down. American Express has canceled the accounts of those Senators who dared to challenge the electoral vote. I can’t wait until the new Congress starts sharpening its swords. We should all keep journals so we can tell our children and grandchildren what really happened. Pat Buchanan assures us this isn’t “The Reichstag”. I hope he is right.

    As for Tucker Carlson, well, I was waiting for Dr. Fleming to comment on him. I am not a regular viewer of his show, but he does something that I have waited for for decades: he calls The Great and Good out. He dares to say that these people are very, very dumb, as well as vile. Low cognitive functionality (joke: how does a reporter double his analytical skills? He wears sandals.), inability to understand causal relationships, rote repetition of other hacks’ brilliant words, etc. The normal characteristics of the imbecile, that is. Carlson went to Trinity (CT), I believe. I remember visiting the campus to see a childhood friend, probably a couple of years before he matriculated. Yep, pretty preppy. Not at all my thing, but perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt. As I have written before, nothing (not even growing up in Massachusetts) better prepared me for understanding The Establishment than going to an Ivy League school. That’s where I learned fully to fear and detest these people. Maybe Carlson came to the same conclusion? In recent years, no TV commentator on the real right has gone after the GOP corporate shills as he has. Any takers on an over/under bet on his Fox “cancelation”? I still don’t like the bowtie.

    As for Stephen Colbert, I remember thinking him funny the few times I saw him twenty or so years ago. As do all funny people who want to assure us of their importance, he has become a Commentator (then, when their genius is questioned, it’s “Hey, I’m just tryin’ to make ’em laugh.”). They all deserve a firm punch to the sternum. If done properly it can effect a very permanent outcome.

  7. Raymond Olson says:

    I’ve been on Facebook a couple of years, during which it has been conducive to the very things Dr. Fleming points to as worthwhile for its users: keeping in touch with relatives and real friends, posting children’s pictures, sharing particular enthusiasms (for me, movies, mostly, but also books and jazz). From the first I have stuck to the policy of never accepting as FB friends people I don’t know face-to-face or through association with several other, face-to-face friends. I resolutely reject all advertisements, which seems to have resulted in a near-total absence of ads during the past few months. I also refrain from reacting to political posts of all kinds with anything more than a liking or a laughing emoji-and very few of the former.

  8. Allen Wilson says:

    I have always shared publicity pieces released by FF and AI, but they don’t seem to have had any influence on my limited number of FB friends. They just keep scrolling, wasting their time.

    I have been told that Parler was using the Google cloud platform, and it’ll take a week or so for them to move to another cloud service. I wonder if we might have better luck with the kind of people who are going to Parler? Perhaps FF should test the waters in a few months when more people on on Parler? The Mises Institute is on Parler already.

  9. Dot says:

    Mr. Wilson: Did you see the article, “Right -wing app Parler booted off internet over ties to siege”, by Matt O’Brian?

  10. Allen Wilson says:

    No I haven’t, Dot, but I wouldn’t put too much faith in the story.

  11. andrei navrozov says:

    FYI (Jan.13, 2021): Telegram messaging app has gained 25 million new users in the last 72 hours, profiting from an ongoing backlash against WhatsApp’s new privacy policy. Telegram has reached 500 million users already and market sentiments show that the number will grow in the coming days due to WhatsApp’s ill-advised proposal to share users’ data with Facebook. WhatsApp records 14% decrease in downloads in 1 week.

  12. Vince Cornell says:

    I’ve already heard rumors (perhaps completely baseless) that there’s a movement to take out Telegram, similar to Parler. Gab, on the other hand, is very proud of having built their own servers and being free (for now) from the tyranny of Big Tech. I continue to eschew all social media as I already have enough temptation in my life. I did, however, procure my own domain and switch to a private and secure email server. Part of my New Year’s Resolution is to try to get as much of the Big Tech tendrils out of my life, and that included the “free” Gmail account and “free” alumni forwarding email service. Next up, setting up a virtual machine so I can run Linux. I feel like I have much penance ahead of me – at least it’s an early Lent this year.