The El Paso News is committed to freedom of expression.  Such venues as this blog are more important today than they were just a few years ago, as social networking platforms become more censorious than a small town’s watchdogs on the contents of libraries.

Around 3:00 am, a fit of insomnia had me hanging out on Facebook reading poetry and news.  As I attempted to share a post about Harper Lee, I was suddenly unable to add a comment crediting the source of the link.  Immediately a screen flashed up, informing me that I am banned from unspecified actions in Facebook.

I clicked on “let us know” and was informed that such actions had to be taken “to keep Facebook safe.”

Despite the unabashed admission Facebook does not read such responses, I filled in my complaint that their action was nuts considering I had just shared a post about Harper Lee, the author of the now universally acclaimed roman a clef, To Kill A Mockingbird.  For added umph, I mentioned that I had just posted a painting of the Virgin Mary.

I tried to upload the screen captures that I am using to illustrate my writing here, but received the same notice of restricted use.  I tried”liking” and commenting on posts by others, and was continually blocked. I finally got a notice that I had been reported as posting offensive material.

The only thing I was permitted to do, after having be completely knocked off the site and Messenger and forced to sign back on, was upload new profile and cover pictures.  I used two of the screen captured images, in protest, and to alert my friends and followers as to why I was being unresponsive to their posts and comments.

Facebook has infamously refused to limit the posting of false and misleading videos and propaganda by Holocaust deniers. Its owner, Mark Zuckerberg, who enjoys tete-a-tetes with Donald Trump and cozies up to the G.O.P., seems culturally ignorant, as do his unnamed and largely invisible enforcers.  This is not the first time I’ve been put in what is commonly referred to as “Facebook jail.”  I’ve not kept count but I believe this to be about the fifth time my posts of visual art or political commentary, or my many active responses to my many well-informed friends, have triggeted bans.  This is the first time, however, I have a public venue dedicated to free speech in which to complain.  Here is my complaint. I encourage you to post this essay or your own comments on Facebook and other platforms to publicize the spread of suppression of art, just one more goosestep forward in our apparent march to corporate-enforced mind control in a world where art is censored and political dissent is being criminalized.

Donna J Snyder

a poet and lawyer

8 replies on “Degenerate Art in the Time of Facebook”

  1. Hi Donna, thank you for this post, it is very appropriate in what has become a censored internet. When I first got involved in the internet I was happy to find a place where everyone, regardless of income, education or access to a big city could learn from what others shared. I now seldom use Facebook and I refuse to install Messenger. Lately I have been bombarded by pictures of dead pets and abused animals. It has gotten so bad that I posted a comment on my Facebook page that I am seriously considering not using it anymore. It makes me angry that you along with countless other individuals are routinely blocked by Facebook for posting art and yet abused animals crowd my feed each time I get on it. I encourage others to use Facebook to drive visitors to your personal blogs and websites from where you share your personal content, content that you control and not Facebook. As a reminder, the El Paso News project is an open platform where EVERYONE is welcome to join and share their content (art, poetry, music, pictures, essays or whatever). Our rules are simple and it is a moderators group of three diverse individuals that decide if a post is needed to be taken down. The only reason a post would be moderated would be if it is illegal or an attempt to intimidate or silence someone, or if it is spam.

  2. We’re living in a time when something other than a human mind passes context-free judgement on the words we choose – not what we’re saying, but literally, the words we choose. While the average, healthy individual is opposed to killing, using the word “kill” as in a mockingbird is enough to have a cyber-censor send us to stand in the corner. It’s a flaw of technology that we must work around in order to keep our sanity while upholding our beliefs and not propagating hate speech. Laborious and weird, but not inexplicable.

  3. Mónica, Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Yours is a reasonable explanation but for the fact that they specifically informed me that someone complained about the post. All you have to do is tick the button and say the post is offensive. Facebook did not tell me how my post offended or whom it offended..The only information provided is what is in the screen captured included in the article, one of which says that other people found the post abusive.

  4. Reblogged this on Virgogray Press and commented:
    An article published at the El Paso Times by poet Donna J. Snyder about art and censorship, an issue problematic in all facets of the political landscape. Where do artists fit in?

  5. Thank you. In my work as a cultural organizer, Facebook is crucial. Virtually all my related correspondence and promotion is via Facebook. My WordPress page is just about published work. I am brand new to El Paso News. We will see if this blog attracts more readers.

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