Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A non-invective laden smack down

Mark -- The bitterness and venom in your heart must be difficult to handle. I would try to respond to your "argument," but it so laced with invective and violent language, so bereft of any kind of basic class or grace...there really is no point. I hope your prayer group, however, does some praying for your soul! 

Thank you for responding to my criticism of your Counterpunch piece. My invective would have given you every reason in the world to avoid responding. Several Chicago Tribune columnists have refused to answer my invective laden screeds about their sloppy, ill-considered writings which contain their own internal inconsistiencies.

I shall offer some constructive (hopefully) criticisms, sans invenctive, but first, and this is quite sincere:
Good health to you, and unto all those you love, and upon all of them that love you (including and perhaps especially to the cloven-hooved, the winged, and the finned ones).

Mark Ganzer

Oh, my, you don't do invective! I'm not sure I'd know how to write a non-invective laden analysis, but, I shall try.

My most salient rebutal point gravitates around these facts:

My facebook experiences have been profoundly gratifying, life changing, and life affirming. Something that has provided me with so much is something that I want to lift up, and I will be very critical of those that put it down, if their facts are wrong or non-existant, or if their logical arguments are ill-considered. Case in point, a very good family friend recently denigrated our community's local historical society, characterizing it as a "do-nothing organization that only wants your money." Having spent an afternoon there as a volunteer, what I know is this: they have two paid people on staff and rely exclusively on local residents to tend to the grounds and to help with the exhibits. The local residents come, in the main, not from the Village of Barrington, itself, but from the outlying and more well-heeled comminities of South Barrington and Barrington Hills. The curator (who is also President of the local Kiwanis Club) is the chair of the Department of History at nearby Harper Junior College. His job at Harper, and his job as Kiwani's President can be very time consuming, especially when he needs to have face-to-face meetings with people whose schedule he has no control over. But he is QUITE capable of rolling up his sleeves, and doing the heavy lifting. And I simply cannot characterize an organization that has a collection of about 20 grand pianos, all of them priced at over $100,000 that opens up its doors so that local piano students can play their recitals at the historical society as an organization that does NOTHING! The day I volunteered, I watched as four people, a husband and wife, their son, and their 8-year old grand son, clutivated the bushes, and laid top soil all over the grounds. They were working on this when I arrived, and they worked continuously on this grounds project four hours after I arrived. And while I have a world of respect for my parent's friend, he is simply WAY off base on his assertion. And I know what to do to correct his off-based-ness.

Almost two-thirds of my face book friends are also grade-school, junior high school, senior high school, and college friends. We have shared much in our lives together - especially the grade school ones (1957-1964), and the one from the Barrington Consolidated High School Perfroming Arts Department from the years 1967-1989 during which I was involved in theater, my siblings were involved in theater, and I returned to accompany the musical Pippin, and also ended up a "greek chorus" playing dulcimer, full time, stage left, for a production of The Diviners, a play written by the rookie Performing Arts Department head, who replaced the legendary Richard C Johnson who, for forty years, directed all the school plays (typically 3 - fall musical, winter drama, spring comedy). Dozens of Dick's students went on to star on Broadway, in TV, in Theater movies, Dance Troupes, advise a U.S. President on the role of perroming arts in schools, etc, etc, etc.

With these sutdents, I share a very special bond, and we reminisce, look back upon the pictures from the school year book, the local news papers, etc, etc, and we remember how GOOD it was, and how good we were, and this is NOT a case of reliving some high school pinnacle - because so many of these performing arts students went on to have VERY successful careers in their chosen field (my brother, John Ganzer, was a lead in all 743 Broadway performances of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Claire Bataille was a cofounder of and for 20 years lead dancer of the Hubbard Street Dance Company in Chicago; Colleen Zenk starred for 38 years as Barbara onAs the World Turns; Chris Limber directs the St Louis Children's Shakespeare Theater Company); others went on to make sigfnicant differences in the world, working for various peace organizations, counseling pregnant, unwed teenaged girls, working as advocates FOR abused children, working as advocates against cruelty to animals, building homes with Habitat for Humanity, ministering to the children living in the garbage dumps of Mexico (bringing in clothing, soap, food, clean water, bathing them, tending to their open sores and wounds), school teachers, fund-raisers, school principles, coaches, community servants, community activists, political activists, organic farmers, soldiers, authors, poets, artists, musicinas, ministers, advocates for Palestinians, etc, etc, etc ... they not only embraced the culture of "the 60's" in "the 60's" but have lived their lives in accordance with those lofty ideals perhaps best exemplifed by a carpenter, from Nazareth, and those who were called an subsequently followed his way.

Or the friends from grade school - so many of us share the memories of riding our bicycles up and down the hilly streets in that manufacturing town in Central Illinois, where, to date 47 out of 283 of what would have been my Streator High School Class of 1969 class mates have DIED (mostly from cancer - this mortality rate is just off the charts, but then Streator was founded because of the coal mines, prospered because it was home to the world's two largest glass manufacturing companies in the 1950's, and also a very fertile farm land - which, after the immediate need for gun powder ended, an alternative use was sought and found, as fertilizedr), as compared to my Barrington Concolidated High School Class of 1969 from which, to date, 4 out of 433 have died, but then, these are two rather different communities, socio-economically speaking, and raciall speaking.

I am son to both rural, poor, Streator, and urbane, upscale Barrington (the Village of Barrington itself is not so upscale or well-heeled –the local gated communities plus Barrington Hills, with its 5-acre minimum land requirements for building a house are where the real money, and the real locus of power is give the village itself a “bad name”), and have awarenesses not always granted unto those who have lived in only one of those two disparate worlds - rural versus urban / suburban / exurban, having both hob nobbed and served the well healed, the politically and financially influential, the movers, the makers, the shakers, and especially the ones behind the scenes-the marionettes who pull the politicians' strings.

Behold homo sapiens lashed on the wheel of the digital social network:”
As a reformed editor (Harper-Collins, Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, and a myriad of mathematics text book publishing companies), I suggest that one writes best when writing in one's own voice and writing about that which one knows.
Homo Sapiens” might be les mots juste for an antropological publication, but for Counterpunch, a simpler anglo-saxon word would have been more effective; would have packed more punch.
Lashed to the wheel of a digital social network”
While conjuring up an interesting visual, this sounds over the top, unless you have real life examples of people bound to the chair that sits in front of their computers.

Wheel of a digital social network”

This is a mixed metaphor: the “wheel” is a very ancient invention; the“digital social network” is a modern abstraction. Taken in tandem, the term used to describe an invention predating antiquity with a 21st century abstrction fails, semantically, to provide anything meaningful.

Wherein the fiberglass cable carries the message;”

Clearly, you meant “messages” since many messages are sent via social networking, not just one. Furthermore, if this phrase is supposed to be a pejorative, consider that the same fiberglass cable(s) that carry the social networking message(s) also carry the messages printed in the online, daily e-zine COUNTERPUNCH, and as such, the message carrier is neither good, nor evil; it just is what it is; hardly a pejorative.

Staring into the lit screen, the face pale in the unnatural light; or, with head bent in the street, the appearance sullen, running fingers across the blinking object of desire.”

By any chance did you data enter your article and e-mail it to Counterpunch? If so, then your description of the 'inveterate social message addict / user' could also be aptly applied perhaps to you, or to any other free lance writer using computers to pass along their word-smithery. Again, this makes neither social-networkers, nor free lance writers folks worthy of emulation, nor of commendation; it is an aknowledgement simply of what is, and therefore, a fact. Using (accurate as opposed to made-up) facts to support one's premises is an excellent start towards brining around another to one's point of view. There might still be a the necessity of presenting accurate facts in conjunction with a logical argument, for it is entirely possible for two people to present the same set of facts and argue (convincingly in both cases) for entirely different conclusions.

The creature is secretly harried: Constant updates are necessary, the user must tend the machine whenever and wherever possible … Still, the connection was sought, and we were both sad little addicts.”

These two quotes from your article illustrate an inconvenient truth –that you view yourself as a “sad little addict,” and thus your indictment of social network users, becomes an indictment of your own perceived dependence upon the computer, although, perhaps to your credit for self-awareness, since without the computer, you would most likely NOT be able to make a living as a free lance writer, you are clearly not altogether happy with some of the implications of the aspects of your work. But, we live in a an age where digital is the primary means to get a message out there, rapidly, and to a large audience. None of these aspects of the digital age (means, efficiency, scope) are bad at all, in and of themselves; quite the contrary – they are wonderful attributes of the age (albeit, the age itself may simply be one more opening of another of Pandora's boxes).

On Facebook, new friends and old are counted:”

Let me add, old friends are sometimes discarded and subtracted like foul-smelling ripped rags, especially when their politics, their facts, and their logical arguments are unassailable, and contrary to the most strongly (and wrongly) cherished notions held by others. Case in point, one of my F/B friends, whom I still greatly admire and for all the right reasons, not only dropped me from her friends list, but sent a message to a common friend TELLING her to drop me too. Well, the friend who was told to drop me didn't, but eventually, for another incident altogether, dropped the one who dropped me. This is SO much like high school cliques, nearly all of which I avoided, as I swam the waters of many different lakes, almost never revealing any of my most cherished beliefs and most sacred values, suspecting that to do so would make people not like me. (When your fourth grade brother returns from school and tells your mother about how he felt about what his teacher did and said, and you hear your mother reply,“Oh, John, you shouldn't think like that,” and you are a bright and sensitive child, you realize that there will be many things you will never be able to discuss with your mother; and that these things are the ones that most matter to you – and so, you never do. Interestingly, you never talk about these things with your father, either. Nonetheless, you well remember the last night your father kissed you good night after saying “Now I lay me down to sleep …”with you. You search your memory banks as far back as they will go, wind, and rewind, playing ever more slowly. For all this work, you cannot ever remember your mother kissing you. And then you realize, the reason both you and your wife (the one you began divorce proceeding with into the fourth month of your marriage, the seventh month of her pregnancy) were able to raise an entirely well-adjusted, confident, loving, empathetic, healer, artist, musician, child, was because you both recognized the horrible loneliness that comes from being raised in a family that does not do touchy feely, and you both vowed, albeit seperately, to ensure that your son would always be held closely, gently, lovingly, tenderly, and that he would always know he was a beloved Child of God, perfectly formed in God's image, and that he was born good, he is good, and that he will always be good, and THAT, was enough for him to avoid the snares of the allure of alcohol, drugs, sex, depression, and suicide attempts that you both embraced, and from such tender teen-aged years, and for so many years.

Friendship is dirty. It’s difficult. It smells – it sometimes has bad breath. It’s unpredictable, and sometimes hazardous.”

In my world, only one of these ever rings true, and even this is rare –I avoid friendships with people who are psychically unwell. SOMETIMES friendship is difficult, as in when you can see someone you care deeply about continue to repeat the responses to recurrent situations that were so unsuccessful in the past, but it is in those moments when you can be a real friend, with the courage to forever lose your friend, and describe for them how much it hurts you to watch them repeat the same old psycho dramas; and that you refuse to be complicit, although you are always there to lend your support, AND to point out that sometimes, your friend needs to compromise, or let go, to forgive, mostly, especially himself.

But I regret not a one of my friendships, even those I temporarily formed with people who later turned out to be takers. And of those, I drop them as if they were rattlesnakes (they in fact are, and quite poisonous), but EXACTLY ONE of them has had enough respect for me, that they chose to confront me and ask the difficult question “why.” And I honestly answered: “because you use people, at least, you used this person, and I cannot abide users.”

My friend thought for a while, and sadly replied, “You are correct. But I detonated that bridge with a nuclear war-head. There is nothing I can do to repair it, beyond forgiving myself; and this, I choose to do, and hope someday they too might forgive me.”

Let's be friends once again,” I said. And we embraced. Ah, would some power the giftee gie us, to see ourselves as authers see us!

In my world, I would express a similar thought changing but one word:

Family is dirty. It’s difficult. It smells – it sometimes has bad breath. It’s unpredictable, and sometimes hazardous.”

My entire family abondoned me on two matters of tremendous importance to me. When I directly confronted my father about why he had done nothing, not stuck up for me after the minister of the church in which I was confirmed, was a member, and had been involved over the years in 14 different ministries for, banned me from entrance because I sang too high and talked with members of the praise band while they were setting up, my father replied, “Why are you asking me this when I am so sick?” A little more context might be helpful, but, it is enough to understand that this was CLEARLY a topic about my father was NOT going to discuss. In time, I shall, perhaps, ask the other members who stood or sat silently by, and perhaps my fellow congregants and those I once considered to be friends none of whom spoke up or stood up for me. In the alternative, I will write a book, a movie will be made, and then they will likely never speak to me again. PRAISE THE LORD, (if it be His will, AMEN).

I will be the first to admit that I have been inordinately lucky to have made so many friends with such good hearted, competent, multi-facted adult people. Somehow, we find each other, that spark, that thing you said 40 years ago that meant so much in a moment, that saved a friend's life (and they never told you before, over all those years – and this comes from one who continues to reside in one of the teen-aged suicide capitals of the country).

As we know, however, many Facebook “friends” bear no relation to how we want to understand the term.”

But so many of my FB friends were friends in the first place, that this comment is completely negated by my own personal experiences.

Nonetheless, I confess to making friendship requests to people I do not know. But first, I send a message, and explain what it was that they posted on a mutual friend's wall that caught my eye, and how much I appreciated it, and then I warn them that I will send a friendship request in a short while. On at least a half dozen of these occaissions, the person I messaged sent ME a friendship request before I got back to them, and THIS, is very rewarding, because, when kindred spirits meet, the potential for tectonic change in the universe grows ever greater.

I further confess to accepting friendship requests from people I do not know. I always accept (this got me to one porn sight so far). Then I go to their F/B home page and look at what is posted, find something nice to say (sometimes commenting on as many as a half dozen different things – there IS such a thing as too much of a good thing), post it, and continue on. And I admit and confess, that more than a dozen such friendships have emerged into very long real time conversations back and forth, interesting stuff gradually moving to the intimate – I fear not disclosing everything about my life (at least to some people) – and I confess it (some would say proclaim it) freely and very quickly into the relationship. It's just so much easier to get over it all, and if what I've done can't be tolerated (convicted felon, convert to Islam, flaming liberal on social issues, dogmatic on the right to bear arms and the importance for households and state and local govenments to be fiscally responsible, etc) then the other one knows soon when to get off the friendship train. And unto those that leave the most unkind cuts, I offer up prayers, for their continued contributions to society, their health, their mental health, as well as the health and mental health of their loved ones.

Let’s forget for a moment that Facebook is probably the most ingenious info-aggregator yet invented for governments to spy on citizens.”

This is a very significant and, to my knowledge, quite original assertion. Please provide supporting documentation and citations, otherwise, I will continue to assume that FB was invented as a social network with some potential for financial gain for its inventors. I suggest that if you are truly convinced that it was invented for the U.S. Government to spy on its citizens (plus the citizens of the rest of the countries of the world who are on facebook), or even if you are convinced it has BECOME the most ingenious info-aggregator yet invented you get confirmation from a presnt or former CIA analyst with sufficient knowledge of the info-aggregator systems to affirm as much. Ray McGovern head of Veteran Information Professionals for Sanity (V.I.P.S.) is a frequent Counterpunch professional whose opinion in this matter would have to be considered as expert would be one such source. Other former CIA intelligence agents have also contributed articles on the (in)security state.

Facebook makes friendship efficient, in the manner of the assembly line, which is exactly what friendship should not be – if it is to remain human, if the friend as person is not to be degraded.”

Friendship, efficient “in the manner of the assembly line,” is not a concept I find meaningful. Perhaps you can expand on the idea. I can think of many things that friendship should not be … it should not be a relationship that flows one way only – with only one of the friends giving, or with one constantly asking; it ought to be a sharing; it ought to be a celebration. Once again, from my facebook experiences, my friendships involve giving and sharing. Were it not for my FB friendships with about 50 members of the BCHS class of '71, I would be able to claim to have never gone to a home-coming parade since I graduated in 1969. But go I did, and reconnect I did, and oh the delight to reconnect with the young ladies I dated, with the young men that were in theater with me, with the cops, with the corporate attorneys, with the environmental attorneys, with the organic farmers, with the hippies who STILL ARE hippies, with all those lovely and loving people who have managed successfully their one marriage; are married still, to their original spouse, and to hear the stories of how successful their children are; how kind, how loving, how sharing, how giving; with the guys that made the varsity golf team for the regional tournament (which we won by 30 strokes my junior year, and from which we could not qualify my senior year), the minister, the doctors, the mayor, etc, etc, etc. Nothing manufactured there; nothing assembly line; just a group of community servants with a lot to offer, a willingness to share, and with a few, well timed kind words to say.

The issue is about persons and about friendship defined, for if we are to take Facebook seriously, then we must recognize that the form of friendship it is promulgating will by technologic necessity reduce the nature and meaning of the friend”

I am not happy to return to the same point: that my face book friends ARE my real world and real time friends. What facebook has done is it has enabled us to meet in a common location, to catch up on what's going on in our worlds, to chat, to reminisce, to hope, to dream, to share our joys, to share our sorrows, to celebrate the triumphs of those that we love, to express condolences to and pray for strength and comfort to those we love who are dealing with death, ill health, a sick family member. Kind of like the local wives who shop at Jewel four days a week. It is really their excuse to see one another (albeit face to face) and to catch up on local news, gossip, or whatever.

I watched my daughter in Christmas of 2010 using Facebook. I had never seen the social network machine in action.”

This looks a lot like a confession that you have no direct personal experience with facebook, only obersations of a random sample of size one of a human being who didn't want you snooping into her private business, of the phenomenon upon of which you are writing. Had you actually spent some time on face book yourself, and had some hands on experiences from which to form or support your propositions before making all the sweeping statements that represent nothing more than your not too long-considered personal opinions. This is a confession which GREATLY weakens the validity of your assertions.

The easiest job in the world is that of critic, telling another how they ought to have performed, especially in a field of endeavor with which the critic has no actual experience. (Take, for example, the twinly connected fields of teaching and education; a good friend of my parents for years expressed the considered opinion that teachers were over paid, only working eight months a year; then his daughter went into teaching, at a charter school, because she did not have the credentials required to teach in a public school – at that point in time, he tune changed to “oh my, how we under pay our teachers, and all because they don't have all those silly education courses in their back ground!” This man was a highly placed executive in the consulting firm that gave the U.S. Government the idea to help demonize Saddam Hussein in the first gulf war by having the daughter or an Iraqi opposition leader make the entirely unfounded claim (lie) that Saddams troops were pulling the plugs on babies in hospitals. He (and his good friend) used to taunt my brother (the Actors Equity Counsel Rep) that social security was worthless (this, in the 1970's) to him; that it would not be there for him. John respectfully disagreed. The great irony is that the other friend, after leaving a very successful company to return to his local “roots” and help the new President of the local coffee / tea packaging company run the show, and to put up $250,000 of his own money to buy into the management team, and then to purchase a house at the Wynstone Golf Course and gated community development, who got the company up and running, and within five years was sumarrily dismissed, and did NOT have the quarter million returned, actually came to rely quite heavily on his Social Security Benefits. My, how the mighty sometimes fall.

Perhaps known to the user at work or at school in the flesh, yet they cannot be counted as real friends. Some are strangers, known only via the interface of the machine, attracted to the user by an algorithm calculating the databit 'likes' and 'dislikes.'”

Or perhaps from church, the barbershop, the political action committee, and perhaps known as someone you've spent hours with on a train, going to “the city” to enjoy a night of theater, or an artist's gallery opening. Perhaps, someone that would in each and ever sense of the word “friend,” in fact, an operational definition of the term would be quite useful – I like these possibilities: ( {1} A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts; {2} A person whom one knows; an acquaintance. {3} A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade; {4} One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause or movements )

Perhaps known to the user at work or at school or in the flesh” - this would be minimally an ACQUAINTANCE.

[A]ttracted to the user by an algorithm calculating the databit 'likes' and 'dislikes.' ”

Well, no, that's not how it works. Facebook will make friendship recommendations based on mutual friends, or where you grew up, or where you live, or where you went to school, or, YOU YOURSELF can take the plunge and ask another to befriend you, based, most likely, on something they said that you thought they said very well, and that you agreed with. Frequently friendships will arise because you support and sympthize with a group (tea party folks) a cause (political conservatism) or a movement (the occupy movement).

You’re not always there, you’re not always connected. You have your own experience. That’s what vacation is for. You’re apart. And then you come together and you talk, you know, face to face, and you tell everybody what happened on the vacation.”

This is well and good when your friends live close enough by so that it is possible to come together and do the face to face talk thing. But what happens when people move, and move far away, so that the coming together for the face to face talk thing might not happen against for 10 years, 20, 30 or more? WELL, back in the day, people used to actually sit down at their desk, take quill in hand, put quill in ink, and WRITE letters, which would be then insert into envelopes, which were then addressed and stamped, and posted. This was a very time consuming process; writing with ink was messy, the mails were slow and not entirely dependable, our messages did not always get through, and even when they did, sometimes it was not a very timely basis.

Later, a techonological invention called the telephone came into existence, and now people could connect with one another in real time, without even being in the same room, the same city, the same state, the same country, the same continent. And a lot of idle chatter was thought to pass the lips of those so engaged.

So, what's the computer? It's a tool for making our lives more efficient. It could also be a trap, a snare to pull us in, to dehumanize us, to lure us into letting the state get access to ever more personal information, some of it (even much of it) that we'd rather the state not have access to, when, in point of fact, EVERYBODY has access to it, and WOULD have access to it, even if face book had never been invented.

What's face book? A way for friends to keep in touch in real time; to reach out and share their good fortune, hopes, dreams, and even sorrows with a large array of people simply by making a comment that ALL of their friends will see.

And what if you don't want ALL of your friends to see? Well, you can send a personal message; you can phone it in; you can write a letter; you can type an e-mail, you can walk over to the houses of those you do wish to share, knock on the door, cop a cup of java, and tell your story face to face. All of the old forms of direct, intimate, connection are available. Used judiciously, another form of direct, initmate, connection is also available.

At least some of this would have to be characterized as being “a good thing” worthy of consideration, and perhaps a little more investigation.

My biggest objection to your piece was that you clearly wrote about a topic that you had had no direct experience with. You were just another guy with an opinion to sprout off, on a topic of which you had no direct personal knowledge or experience. And that a vulgarian friend agrees with you in the matter does not make either one of you write (any more than it makes both of you wrong). But there are always more than two sides to every story (the protagonist's side, the antagonist's side, and the author's side) and you failed, grievously, in even attempting to get to the heart of another side.

If you spiced up your writing with a few invectives, it's possible that you too could become a vulgarian with an opinion, of whom my first surrogate father, Geno Mendoza, the Choctaw Indian from Louissianna that Lee Milligan brought up to Barrington Hills Country Club from San Antonio, Texas, to run the bag room, the carts, and keep the caddies in line had an expression for people with strongly held opinions that had no factual basis to support them: “I knows what I knows. Don't confuse me wid' duh facts.” While Geno always issued the edict with a big Bhudda smile / grin on his face, because he was a good friend, who took me under his wing, I knew him well enough to know that he had no countenance for pompous, rich jerks with belief systems based on a bunch of straw men conveniently conjured up out of the editorial pages of the Chicago Tribune and the Wall Street Journal. (Like the non-existant welfare queen pulling in over $100,000 of social security benefits each year, and always driving a brand new cadillac that Saint Ronald Reagan use to pull out of his hat when firing up the base of dissatisfied middle class and white, formerly democratic men from rural America, from the plains states, in the South, and in the West; this ALWAYS was a way to fire up and inspire the base to go out and hate blacks forever, and ever, and ever. AMEN.)