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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I Hate Censorship

I hate censorship.  I may disagree 1000% with what you stand for or what you believe, but I’ll defend to the death your right to *say* or *write* it, as well as my right to respond to you.

I'm totally pissed off right now because somebody deleted a post of mine on a private Facebook page, presumably because she didn’t like the political nature of it.

Let me explain:   A few weeks ago, a friend invited me to join this group "Random Acts of Kindness Eugene." Basically, they are a bunch of do-gooders – NICE people – who go around the city doing random acts of kindness.  Sometimes, their acts are organized – as in dozens working together to spruce up the yard of a woman who was recently widowed.  Sometimes their acts are totally random – as in leaving bottles of bubbles in parks for people to find, or distributing flowers to anonymous people.  Always they leave their "RAKE" "calling cards" without their names.

I think what they're doing is fabulous.  Kindness is always the right thing to do, and performing these acts randomly is one good way to show our kids that our lives can impact others’ in positive ways.

The local news even did a little piece about the group.

But, of course, these acts do nothing to change underlying sources of oppression or injustice. Giving a sandwich to somebody who needs it is undeniably a good act, but working to change a system where so many are unemployed or homeless is arguably just as (or more) important.  “Random” acts do not challenge underlying systems and do little more than make the givers feel better about themselves, and the receivers momentarily cared for, which is of course not insignificant.

So...naively I thought it would be OK to leave a message on their private FB page, that if anybody wanted to join me in working on a political campaign, I think that would be great.  I explained the difference between changing systems versus random acts...

Two people responded: "I don't combine politics with personal acts of kindness" and "this group isn't for that."   I responded that I didn't want to change the group, just was hoping to find people to work on campaigns. (I had also mentioned I have signed myself onto Obama's campaign.)

THEY – or, more likely, the woman who started the group and who had responded “this group isn’t for that” –DELETED MY WHOLE POST, so that now NOBODY ELSE GOT TO SEE WHAT I WROTE. 

Isn’t it true that, had she left the post up, people could have either a) responded or b) ignored it?  Why did it have to be deleted?

There is hardly another way to interpret her action other than it challenged her to recognize the FUTILITY of *only* doing random acts of kindness without also acknowledging the hard and necessary work of politics.  Or, perhaps she is convinced that the personal is not political (don’t get me started…) or that “being nice” means “being apolitical.”  I don’t really know for sure, because she booted the conversation off the page.

I made her uncomfortable.  That much is obvious.  And perhaps she worried that I would make *others* uncomfortable, too – she may think that she’s being the “responsible one” to keep such political riff raff off her page of "do good-feel good."

But rather than LIVE with that discomfort – think about it and discuss it in an intelligent, mature way, or ignore it and let others discuss it – she deleted the post that spawned it, so that nobody in the group would be asked to struggle with this reality or consider that perhaps actions *in addition to random acts* might be warranted by the privileged.  (This group has over 400 members and while I cannot say how many are privileged, the ones that *I* know are VERY privileged, and I count myself in that group.)

I certainly didn’t expect that everyone would want to be involved in politics; most people either do not understand how it is NECESSARY for a democracy for all to be involved, or are so disillusioned that they (wrongly) believe that their acts won’t make a difference.  Some – perhaps most – would claim they simply don’t have the time.  (Yet – if they have time to spruce up somebody’s yard or pass out flowers, they DO have time to make a few phone calls or pass out fliers or stuff envelopes…)

I DID expect not to be censored, because I had posted something true and polite and didn’t ask the group to change.

Apparently, THAT was too challenging.


  1. I'm going to take the opposite stance...

    You know I run a site where a lot of people from a lot of opinion-places come and post ;) Well, I have my 'rules' and if someone posts about stuff that's against them, I delete their posts.

    If they post things that are wildly off topic, I delete them.

    Heck, if the post something that I just don't want associated with me (like a lengthy diatribe about how PETA is evil), I delete them.

    And that is NOT censorship. It's moderating a community, plain and simple. It sure feels like it when it happens, but y'know if they don't want politics involved, they don't have to, and they can (and should) delete political posts that aren't something like 'The politicians want to outlaw this! Now what?' That would be logical and reasonable to keep.

    Any time you post 'off topic' it's up to the people running the group to decide if that's related enough, or if they just don't want to deal with it.

  2. I don't think it's off topic at all -- that's the point. And people can ignore what they don't agree with, OR respond to it. But if you take down *a member's* post, you ARE censoring. No other way to interpret her actions.

    1. If you deleted my comment, which you have every right to do, you didn't censor me. I can still post what I wanted else where. If you made it so no one would ever be able to read it, then you're censoring me.

      Read http://www.faqs.org/faqs/usenet/moderated-ng-faq/section-11.html#b

      Or come read the amazingly crazy emails I get about removing someone's post, speculating about you know who. Censorship isn't just 'That's off topic, removing.' It's the MPAA saying 'No tits!' or the FAA saying George Carlin's not allowed on the air. Censorship is neither removing a post, nor editing a dirty word to f**k (though I performed an act of self-censorship).

      You're not wrong that it's a bit of an assy thing to do, especially if they don't have guidelines published, but just as if I kicked you out of my house for swearing, it's still not censoring you.

      Semantics, perhaps, but this sort of argument's been going on for years.

  3. I think there's a difference between fans *who are not technically part of an organized group* being censored and their posts being deleted (or not approved) on a site like yours. But this was *literally a query* *to a group I belong to* as to interest in political participation; it's not analogous to being kicked out of somebody's else's house for swearing. It could have stayed and people could have responded or ignored. Instead the clear message is "You're not behaving like one of US and we will therefore not just ignore you, we will CENSOR you." Censorship -- keeping an opinion or a post that somebody *might* find offensive off of a place where others might see it. This IS censorship.

  4. Sounds like you just took a trip back to middle school as in, "You can't play with us and we're taking your ball. Go away!" I suspect Random Acts of Kindness Eugene doesn't want their kindness to extend to you. I'd find another charity.

  5. Let me begin by saying, I am sorry.

    I suspect the original mission of doing “random acts of kindness” has been lost and diluted. Sadly, what you really joined was a good ole “do-gooders” club. The “do-gooders” investment of serving others (IMO) is really about egocentrism.

    I see this group of “do-gooders” as individuals of “privilege” hiding behind a smoke screen of "altruism”. How much more could be done, were the mission of the “do-gooders” expanded?

    Albeit, unbeknownst to you, the “do-gooders” are an elitist club. The trappings of elitism; however they are cloaked, is still elitism. I am certain (from the outside), the idea of being a part of what looked like a community of like-minded individuals – a way to find your people, seemed innocuous. Further, this was a means to do what you do best – give selflessly. And, by example demonstrate true altruism within the community you’ve invested – education, the political landscape, and those who have been disenfranchised – needing more than just a sandwich. All of that would enlist me to join, as well, Elaine.

    I think the "do-gooders" felt threatened. After all, you have discovered their BIG SECRET. Their altruism; by standards defined within a finite scope (fostered in privilege) isn't really altruism. It is, I suspect, "ME” KUDDOS - “YOU” KUDDOS -“WE” KUDDOS. Did you just hear the collective call to give a BIG HIGH FIVE to all the “do-gooders” out there in this privatized ‘selective’ club?

    I think, the issue at first glance, is about a cast system. And, a hierarchy that you knew nothing about, and is well protected – the inner circle. No doubt you breached the firewall in suggesting (god forbid) the group do something bigger than leave little “do-gooder” cards, and bottles of bubbles around the city. I agree, on a micro-level the acts are well received, hence the localized notoriety, publicity and accolades. However, the sheer numbers of “do-gooders” involved does not demonstrate an ability of expanding vision, or desire to bring the good to the next level.

    Eugene is a stuck community. We’ve discussed this at length. It is not a forward mobility community, but rather an entrenched in convention small town, with small town mindset.

    As to the removal of the post: I find it interesting the page is private, closed, and by invitation only; demonstrated elitism. Sadly, you were treated like a redheaded stepchild and “put in your place”… they, are the 99% in this case.

  6. KNDLL -- Thanks for your length comment. Not sure that the original mission has been diluted -- in their defense. I want to point out that I said that I think what they're doing is fabulous and I had no intention of changing the group at all. I merely put a *question* out there as to possible interest in working on a campaign *in addition to continued random acts of kindness*. I want to be clear about that.

    But, it may indeed be somewhat of an insiders' club -- even moreso than I had originally understood. (Perhaps I should feel privileged that I received an invitation to join?!)

    I agree Eugene is somewhat of a stuck community, albeit with many, many good people in it. The small-town mindset sometimes drives me straight up the proverbial wall. :) You know what I mean.

    Finally, I am not offended that their FB page is private; it actually makes sense that the group have one *in order to communicate their ideas, which are by nature private ones so that the activities remain anonymous*. That doesn't bother me at all. It would totally undermine their ability to do anonymous acts of goodwill if their FB page were public.

    But I do feel like I was treated as the redheaded stepchild. LOVE that phrase! :)

    It's OK -- I learned something.

    And I always wanted to be a redhead anyway.


  7. I completely understand if you decide not to have a post about this on your blog, but...

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Politeness is always appreciated.