Last year, there was Donald and the Golden Crayon, a satirical look at Mad King Donald, inspired by Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955). For more on that, see my interview with the book’s author and publisher from October 2018.
This year, it’s Donald and the Black Sharpie, in which at least
four five six people have invoked Johnson’s hero to mock our Evil Orange Overlord’s insistence that, with his magic pen, he can change the weather. Even before John Darkow’s cartoon (above), Bradley Whitford tweeted:
We have a President who thinks that the Climate Crisis is a hoax and that “Harold and the Purple Crayon” is a documentary.— Bradley Whitford (@BradleyWhitford) September 5, 2019
On September 6th, Dana Milbank and Tom Toles published a full-length parody of Johnson’s book, which they titled Donald and the Black Sharpie.
Also on Friday, Jimmy Kimmel did a Donald and the Magic Sharpie parody on his show.
On CNN on Sunday the 8th, Jake Tapper presented his own version of Donald and the Black Sharpie.
(I can’t embed the video here, but you can see it on CNN.)
Sure, it would be better if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did her job and began impeachment proceedings against our Traitor-in-Chief. And, no, I don’t expect any elected Republican to step up: they have been Quislings throughout, only occasionally murmuring an objection.
However, until enough elected officials find the courage to act, we can at least laugh at the deranged orange bloviator. Laughing in no way offsets the damage he continues to inflict, I know. But shared laughter reminds us that we’re not losing our minds. It reminds us we are not alone. We see what he and the entire treasonous Republican Party are doing.
In his classic comic strip Barnaby (1942-1952), Crockett Johnson understood the power of satire. And so Johnson would I think be pleased to see Harold’s crayon wielded to mock the malignant narcissist and his sharpie.
Updated (thanks to Olga) on 10 Sept. 2019 to add the Jimmy Kimmel Show, and again (thanks to Linda and Stephen) on 18 Sept. 2019 to add the Ward Sutton cartoon.
If you have yet to read Ross Gay‘s The Book of Delights (2019), here is an invitation to pick it up. A collection of 102 brief essays he wrote over the course of a year, the book is about the possibility — the necessity — of attentiveness to joy in the world. We live in dark times, and the book does not ignore that. Gay’s sense of delight is capacious, including appreciating beauty, understanding fear, enjoying music, considering the insights gained from pain.
Let me give you an example — one I have shared with many friends, since first I read the book back in March.
The phrase “communities of sorrow” does not appear in Gay’s The Book of Delights. But the idea does. Gay writes:
Among the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard anyone say came from my student Bethany, talking about her pedagogical aspirations or ethos, how she wanted to be as a teacher, and what she wanted her classrooms to be: “What if we joined our wildernesses together?” Sit with that for a minute. That the body, the life, might carry a wilderness, an unexplored territory, that yours and mine might somewhere, somehow, meet. Might, even, join.
And what if the wilderness — perhaps the densest wild in there — thickets, bogs, swamps, uncrossable ravines and rivers (have I made the metaphor clear?) — is our sorrow? Or, to use [Zadie] Smith’s term, the “intolerable.” It astonishes me sometimes — no, often — how every person I get to know — everyone, regardless of everything, by which I mean everything — lives with some profound personal sorrow. Brother addicted. Mother murdered. Dad died in surgery. Rejected by their family. Cancer came back. Evicted. Fetus not okay. Everyone, regardless, always, of everything. Not to mention the existential sorrow we are all afflicted with, which is that we, and what we love, will soon be annihilated. Which sounds more dramatic than it might. Let me just say dead. In this, sorrow, of which our impending being no more might be the foundation, the great wilderness?
Is sorrow the true wild?
And if it is — and if we join them — your wild to mine — what’s that?
For joining, too, is a kind of annihilation.
What if we joined our sorrows, I’m saying.
I’m saying: What if that is joy?
I find myself drawn to this because I’ve come to really appreciate sadness. Sadness connects us to others. As Gay suggests, it binds all of us humans together because we all carry within us sadness and pain. It is an affective opening-up, and in this sense sadness is the opposite of depression. When I mentioned this idea to my therapist, he said that there are many flavors of depression, and that I was describing anhedonic depression. So, revise the previous sentence to say that anhedonic depression is an affective break with the world, an inability to feel. But sadness offers — or, at least, can offer — a deeper connection to the world, and to our fellow humans. On the Venn Diagram of emotions, sadness overlaps with love.
The previous paragraph is one of my delights. Since reading Gay’s book, I have been trying to be more attentive to delights. After mentioning this to Mark Newgarden in New York, in May, he asked was I writing these down? I was not. So, in June, I began keeping a kind of diary. I call it “Daily Delights,” even though I don’t write in it every day. Here are four more.
From 26 June, Manhattan, Kansas. Upon finishing my swim, I pulled myself out of the pool as another swimmer — who had just arrived — remarked to the swimmer in the adjacent lane that she knew she wouldn’t need to wait for a lane because I was predictable. Smiling, I said, “What do you mean? I warmed up the lane for you.” After a brief, good-natured conversation, I wished her a good swim, said that I was glad to be so predictable, and began to amble off to the showers. Worried that she may have insulted me, she walked a few steps with me to explain herself. I assured her that I understood and that I was indeed predictable.
Our conversation prompted this reflection. “Predictable” is one of those few words that renders a negative judgment both as itself and as its negation. To say that a person is “unpredictable” conveys the notion that he/she is unreliable, potentially volatile, emotionally unstable, or even unhinged. Though it should be complimentary, “predictable” — when applied to a person — generally means “boring.” If we want to compliment someone’s predictability, we instead say that she/he is reliable. Or, if we want to praise unpredictability, we may call a person surprising or, perhaps, exciting. And, yet, of course, we are all of us a mixture of predictability and unpredictability. I may reliably swim for 40 minutes at the same time of the day or typically jog the same two routes. But I also embrace the unpredictability of travel, where my jogging route is not the only thing that changes. Life is a balance between the need for surety and enjoyment of change, the comfort of the expected and of finding joy in what we did not anticipate.
From 7 July, Berlin. I often say that time abroad affords me a much-needed mental-health holiday. Which it does. And lately I’ve taken to joking that I’m hiding from the U.S. — that’s why I’m traveling to so many places. I have to keep moving!
It would be more accurate to say that time abroad grants perspective. It gives me space. It provides a distance from which I can think. It allows me to reclaim my mental space more fully.
Donald Trump is a parasite who colonizes human consciousness. Placing an ocean between myself and the parasite diminishes its power. Temporarily.
It’s a bit like putting some distance between yourself and King Leck (in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling novels). In the case of Bitterblue and Katsa (though few others in the realm), the distance — and ultimately, the death of Leck — helps the fog lift and clarity return.
From 27 July, Vienna, after spending a long time staring at Johannes Vermeer’s The Art of Painting (c. 1666-1668) in the Kunst Historisches Museum: There should be a term for the experience of looking at realistic paintings after seeing a Vermeer. The (unfair) comparison makes everything else feel a bit flat. You feel that you could step into a Vermeer, as if what you have seen is not just canvas but window or portal. I spent more time looking at the Vermeer than I did any other piece of art in the museum. I had a similar experience with Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, on display at the Alte Pinakothek in München in the fall. The experience of looking at a Vermeer is almost hypnotic. And you need to be there, in the gallery, looking at it. No reproduction of Vermeer has quite the same effect.
From 7 August, Edinburgh. Days are so full of thoughts and impressions. Impossible to note even just the interesting ones and keep experiencing the day. I had that thought this evening, darting between and among the umbrella’d and the uncovered, as the rain fell, but more lightly than earlier in the afternoon/evening.
Or, more succinctly: It is impossible to both live life and chronicle it fully.
In conclusion, I’d say this: inasmuch as it is possible, do not let malevolent leaders, oppressive systems, collapsing climate, etc. rob of you your own capacity for joy. I realize this is hard — and harder for those who are the direct targets of the regime’s* cruelty. I am grateful for — and acknowledge my own privilege in having — business, family, and friends that enabled me to travel this summer. I should also add that there are also more troubling thoughts chronicled amidst my delights — omitted from this narrative, even though making sense of my tangled mind is in fact one of my delights. OK. That’s all. Find delight where you can. Take care of yourselves.
* I am thinking of Mad King Donald’s regime, but feel free to insert any of the many others we have to choose from: Jair Bolsonaro, Rodrigo Duterte, and now — it seems — Boris Johnson…
Separating children from their parents is a violation of basic human rights and does not deter asylum-seekers. Hostile to facts and compassionate only towards himself, Mr. Trump has pursued this policy with reckless indifference to its consequences. As of the end of last month (over four months after the court-imposed deadline to reunite these families), over 140 children had still not been reunited with their parents. And that figure does not include the over 15,000 children locked up in Trump’s child detention centers.
Writing about Migration, Refugees, and Diaspora in Children’s Literature — the theme of this special issue of the Children’s Literature Association Quarterly — will not stop the US government’s (or any other government’s) crimes against humanity. And yet, I edited this special issue, which features smart essays by six sharp scholars: Debra Dudek, Carmen Nolte-Odhiambo, Leyla Savsar, Anastasia Ulanowicz, Maria Rosa Truglio, and Sara Van den Bossche. Why? Not because we expect our words to awaken the consciences of those in power — if, indeed, the people who support these policies possess consciences. We write because we speak as we can, in the venues available to us. Because all scholarship is, in some measure, a record of the time in which it was written. Because children’s literature can cultivate empathy. Because children’s literature can (to borrow Rudine Sims Bishop’s famous term) serve as a mirror to young people who have been displaced — geographically, culturally, emotionally. Because words and images can change minds.
Or, at least, that is what I believe. As I write in my introduction,
When children’s literature cultivates an empathetic imagination, it can bring people of all ages closer to understanding the displacement felt by migrants, refugees, and those in diasporic communities. Such literature can affirm the experiences of children in those communities, letting them know that they are not alone….
As scholars of children’s literature, we are not, alas, in charge of shaping humane policies for our governments. But we can, to borrow the words of Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen, help people to envision “a world without borders as we have known them—a world in which nation-states are not prized or assumed.” We can guide readers to books that harness the imagination’s power to nourish empathy, and we can steer them away from those that reinforce bigotry. Thanks to our professional training, we understand that such work is necessary and complicated: A work’s propagation of prejudice can be both subtle and overt. Art is often ideologically ambivalent, humanizing in some ways and dehumanizing in others. Another thing we can do, then, is to teach people how to spot the difference. Careful, thoughtful readers can resist lies, misinformation, and scapegoating. By helping us develop the necessary critical literacies, the articles in this issue foster these vital skills.
The issue is available via ProjectMuse. If you are affiliated with an institution that subscribes to Project Muse, please access the articles that way. Doing so generates revenue for the Children’s Literature Association — an organization of which I am a member. If you lack access to the issue, I am glad to send you a pdf of my introduction. Just drop me a line. (Email address is at right, under “A note on mp3s,” even though I have long since removed mp3s from this blog.)
I’ll conclude with the two autobiographical paragraphs from my introduction:
I proposed this special issue, in part, because I am from a family of immigrants and am the descendant of refugees. The Nels were among those 2 million seventeenth-century French Protestants (Huguenots) whose flight from persecution introduced the word refugee into the English language. Today, my extended family (nuclear family plus cousins, uncles, and aunts) lives in five countries on four continents. We are a migratory group. In migrants, refugees, and the diasporic, I see my own family.
But I also see my family in the people who caused such displacement—from the active Islamophobe who supports a “Muslim ban” to the passive inheritors of White supremacy. I am aware that my being born in the US has everything to do with my parents being White South Africans and not Black South Africans. Their Whiteness granted them access not just to the education that made finding an American job possible, but also to the basic human rights that significantly increased the chances that they would survive and flourish. Indeed, my own flourishing is built upon a range of intersecting structures of oppression.
I’ve written more on this subject elsewhere on this blog — perhaps most directly in “Charleston, Family History, and White Responsibility” (June 2015). For the past few years, that post has only been available via its archival presence on the Wayback Machine, for reasons explained in the footnote below.* But there are plenty of other autobiographical posts hosted here, some of which address White Privilege and White Responsibility.
But,… returning to the special issue. Remember: human rights do not depend upon citizenship. Humanity has no borders.
Thanks to the editorial consultants for this issue: Evelyn Arizpe, Clare Bradford, Ann Gonzalez, Gabrielle Halko, Gillian Lathey, Kerry Mallan, Robyn McCallum, Mavis Reimer, Lara Saguisag, Lee Talley, Jan Van Coillie, Lies Wesseling
* My father was furious at me for speaking the truth. In an effort to keep the peace, I deleted the post (though, while writing this post now, have added a link from that post to the Wayback Machine’s archival record). This effort failed; dad stopped speaking to me shortly thereafter. Incidentally, ideas expressed in it emerge in Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature and the Need for Diverse Books (notably, the end of Chapter 3), but (unlike the original post) do so without identifying specific individuals.
Today (20 Oct. 2018) would be Crockett Johnson’s 112th birthday. In commemoration of that event, I have two — yes, two — posts for you! The first is an interview with the author and the publisher of the new satirical book Donald and the Golden Crayon. Enjoy!
“In the middle of the night, Donald woke from his terrific sleep and cried out ‘Covfefe!’”
So begins Donald and the Golden Crayon, the first book-length parody of Crockett Johnson’s classic Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955). It’s a reminder that, prior to his Harold books, Johnson was best known as the cartoonist behind the satirical comic strip Barnaby (1942-1952), whose five-year-old title character resembles a slightly older version of Harold. Barnaby’s garrulous trickster of a fairy godfather, Mr. O’Malley, was the vehicle for most of the strip’s satire — a much more likable con-artist than the Donald who stars in this book.
Donald and the Golden Crayon spins a tale that combines the tone and sentence structure of the Harold books with the malevolence and pettiness of Donald Trump. Near the book’s end, Donald is “tired” and so “made a cozy little place to sleep” (that strongly resembles St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square). Inside, “His room was beautiful, just beautiful. It had beautiful golden curtains, a tremendous golden statue, and a wonderful golden bed. It even had a steamy golden shower.” Trumpian adjectives bounce around in simple, Johnsonian sentences.
To me, the book reads as mockery of “President” Trump. This two-page spread (above) includes a statue of a Roman soldier brutalizing another man, and a reference to the alleged pee-pee tape — which also features in the book’s title, and the pseudonym P. Shauers. Earlier pages reference Donald’s racism,…
show Donald ignoring flood victims will displaying his ignorance about climate change,…
have Donald pollute the water,…
and so on.
Last week at the Frankfurt Book Fair, I talked with the book’s publisher, Pete Schiffer. He assured me that the book was not taking a side on Mr. Trump. Explaining why he was drawn to the book, he said, “we liked that the book framed a lot of the commentary without being positional.” So, I asked…
Me: What do you mean “without being positional”?
Pete: I mean that there isn’t a position taken. It’s just the facts given. One can read into it in any direction they would like by piecing the facts together in different ways.
Me: So, you say “not positional.” I would imagine that fans of the title character may find this less enjoyable than opponents of the title character. But that’s not your take on it?
Pete: They could. Depends on what perspective they’re coming from.
Pete: They could come behind it and say “Yes this is the way that things are and the way they should be” and get behind it.
Pete: People have all different opinions, and I’m not one to put any words in their mouth.
Me: So, your take on this is that it’s somewhat apolitical, as a book. It doesn’t really take a side. It’s representing a moment, and that’s all. Or am I putting words in your mouth?
Pete: No, you’re not. The intention is not to take a side — to put the facts out as they are and let people decide for themselves.
Me: I know it’s only just out, but has the response confirmed that? Has the response confirmed your goal?
Pete: With people that we’ve shared it that are leaning in one direction or another, that is the response we’ve had so far is that.
Me: Interesting. The response you’ve had so far is that —?.
Pete: Depending on one’s position, they read into it based on their position.
Donald and the Golden Crayon is apolitical? It’s true that irony does depend upon a community of readers who share the ironist’s understanding of the subject. So, I could see how fans of 45 might enjoy simple sentence structures and spare illustrations that depict their hero’s cruelty, racism, and ignorance. While I could imagine readers not getting the satire, I am skeptical of the claim that the book does not take a side. Happily, the publisher very kindly put me in touch with Mr. P. Shauers himself, and we had the following conversation via email.
Nel: In talking with Pete (your publisher) at the Frankfurt Book Fair, I was struck by his comment that he sees Donald and the Golden Crayon as essentially apolitical. He said that both critics and fans of Mr. Trump have enjoyed the book. Your chosen pseudonym and the book’s mimicry of Mr. Trump’s sentences led me to interpret this as a more politically engaged work — specifically, as more anti-Trump than pro-Trump. So, let me ask you. Would you describe Donald and the Golden Crayon as more of a fond homage to Mr. Trump or more of a sustained mockery of Mr. Trump? Or how would you describe the book’s political leanings?
Shauers: Oh, it’s a mockery. I think what my publisher was talking about is that everything in the book is factual, based on real quotes or events. So, in that sense it is neutral, but the way Donald is portrayed is definitely meant to have him come off as cold and cruel as possible. I’m very anti-Trump. I’ve never been too political, because I often don’t really get what’s going on. I don’t understand global economics, how deficits work, or what tariffs are good or bad. But with Trump, it’s his daily cruelty and nastiness that gets me. It’s the lying and bullying and company he keeps that motivated me to draw this book.
I made an odd connection while working on this…when I was in middle school, I was bullied pretty non-stop for a few years. And no matter how bad it got, the school never did much about it. It made me feel as if the grown-ups weren’t doing their job, and if they wouldn’t make the bullying stop, who would? I’ve been experiencing the same powerless feelings how since the election. So I fight back with paper and pen.
Nel: Who do you see as the audience for Donald and the Golden Crayon? (Adults only? Some children? Conservatives? Liberals? Crockett Johnson fans?)
Shauers: I see the audience as adults who are not fans of Trump, and possibly need a good laugh. I don’t kids will really get what’s going on with it. While making the book I have met some conservative people who are sickened by Trump, and they have found the book to be humorous. Which goes back to what the publisher was saying that both sides could enjoy it. I don’t think any fanatical MAGA’s will enjoy it, in fact we’re hoping for some negative press from the deplorables. I do hope the picture book community finds the book funny.
Nel: If you don’t mind my asking, how do you identify, politically? (If you do mind my asking, then just skip this question.)
Shauers: I’m a liberal, and find myself getting more and more so as I get older, and I see what’s going on these days. I was raised in a really conservative, white town and the racism and narrow-mindedness I saw growing up left a mark on me. I moved to NYC when I was 18 as I couldn’t get out fast enough.
Nel: Though his politics are largely invisible in the Harold books, Johnson’s earlier work had more of a satirical edge — Barnaby, most famously. Do you know the Barnaby comics? Did they at all influence your decision to draw upon the Harold books in your parody?
Shauers: You know, I’ve read some Barnaby, but not in a long time, and only a bit of it. I don’t really “know” it. It’s been on my radar to reinvestigate it again.
Nel: What influenced your decision to choose the Harold stories as the vehicle for your satire? I ask because this is the first book-length parody of any of Johnson’s works.
Shauers: The idea to use Harold as a base for the parody came up last year. It seems that there were some attempts to make some new Harold books, and my agent had thrown my hat in the ring as a writer/illustrator. I didn’t get the project, and I don’t know what happened to it. While I was thinking about it, the similarity between Harold and Donald popped into my mind, and I knew Trump signed everything with a golden sharpie, so that was the stepping off point.
I looked at Harold closely, and was thinking about how he makes the world as he sees it, and makes it up as he goes. Which is what Trump does, and it just seemed to click. If you have to think too hard about connections within a parody, it’s not working.
Nel: In your book, what motivated the choice of Donald’s Pulp Fiction/mobster suit? Black (instead of Harold’s white jumper) so that you could stick to a limited color palette (as Johnson did)? Visual allusion to Trump’s mob affiliations? Something else?
Shauers: Hah! The mob connection never crossed my mind. I tried a blue suit/red tie, which is much more his style, but it wasn’t minimal enough. I really wanted it to feel like a Harold book, and they only use different values of purple, and shades of black. I did keep his little footy pajamas, and they were very fun to draw.
Nel: If Harold met Donald, what would Harold do (or draw or say)?
Shauers: Yikes. Let’s keep all the children away from Donald.
Nel: Your publisher said that the “P. Shauers” pseudonym was simply to avoid any confusion between this book and your many (over 40!) children’s books. Are there other reasons for the pseudonym? Is it say, easier, to write about Mr. Trump under the guise of a pseudonym? Have you any plans to reveal your true identity?
Shauers: I used a pseudonym because I have been writing and illustrating for children since 1995. I didn’t want any librarians to think this was for kids, and I didn’t want any right-wing nutjobs to go after my books in any way. It just seemed easier and cleaner. Recently, I had a school librarian scold me for talking politics while on my “real name” Twitter account. She said she was very offended and wouldn’t buy any of my books. So, I’m glad I chose to use P. Shauers for this. Plus, it’s an easy gag. (David Milgrim used Ann Droid on his Goodnight iPad for the same reasons.)
If you enjoy political commentary in the guise of a children’s book, you’ll enjoy Donald and the Golden Crayon. It’s a clever parody, and its thin-skinned satirical target not only lacks a sense of humor, but hates to be mocked by others. So, let us continue to mock him.
Follow P. Shauers on Twitter via: @thegoldencrayon
I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few months.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been gradually drifting away from Facebook. Lately, the drift has become a decisive move. Last month, I downloaded my Facebook data — in order to better see precisely what Facebook was collecting. Then, I removed Facebook from my phone and tablet.
There are many reasons for my move — most recently, Facebook’s pursuit of treason for cash. But, more generally, I am stepping away because — like so many “free” platforms — Facebook is a parasitic business that monetizes your attention and personal data. I don’t feel comfortable supporting Mark Zuckerberg’s reckless, lucrative, criminal enterprise. So, I’m on his platform less often.
But I haven’t yet closed my account. Two groups with which I am affiliated have Facebook presences; I feel a professional responsibility to maintain an account in order to manage those. It’s possible that I may occasionally pop in to post birthday wishes. I suspect, though, that my infrequent engagement with this predatory platform means I’ll miss a lot of Facebook friends’ birthdays. I’m sorry about that: I really enjoyed posting a different song each year.
My move away from Facebook began with Manoush Zomorodi’s Note to Self podcast, which I started listening to at the beginning of 2017. Its “Bored and Brilliant” series (2015/2017) introduced me to the Moment app, which allows you to monitor your use of your iPhone or iPad. (If you have an Android phone, it recommends the BreakFree app.) Moment showed me how often I was using my devices, and helped me cut back. Subsequent series — its “Infomagical” series (2016) and its “Privacy Paradox” series (2017) — also helped. I deleted apps I wasn’t using. I turned off notifications. I tidied up my apps into little folders.
If you wonder whether your use of technology may be hindering or even harming you, I highly recommend these three Note to Self series. If you have already noticed the ways in which apps and social media ensnare and prey upon your attention, then perhaps you have already taken the necessary steps to reclaim your life. Whatever you ultimately decide to do, I recommend reflecting on your relationship to technology. Not coincidentally, such reflection is the focus of the Note to Self podcast.
I used to make the effort to, say, check Facebook only twice a day — an effort at which I did not always succeed. However, in the past month or so, I have found it quite easy to stay off of Facebook. I actually find myself putting off checking Facebook. I’m simply not comfortable being there. Its willingness to aid Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election is a major catalyst — selling Trump ads at much lower rates than Clinton ads (because Trump ads got more clicks), taking Russian money (in Rubles, even!) to fund pro-Trump propaganda & fake news, or allowing Cambridge Analytica to harvest its users’ data (again, in support of the mendacious traitor who currently occupies the White House… well, when he’s not at one of his golf courses).
In his testimony yesterday, Mr. Zuckerberg said his slow response to Russian meddling is “one of [his] greatest regrets,” and promised to ban apps that are “doing anything improper.” Earlier that day, he said he will make sure Facebook is “a positive force in the world.” There is zero reason to believe him. First, he has made promises like this before — as in this 2009 interview, below.
— Ryan Paisey (@RyanPaisey) April 10, 2018
Second, there is no regulation that would compel him to keep these promises. Third, and as Tim Wu points out, the flaws of Facebook are not a bug but a feature. Facebook is designed to surveil its users:
The problems are central and structural, the predicted consequences of its business model. From the day it first sought revenue, Facebook prioritized growth over any other possible goal, maximizing the harvest of data and human attention. Its promises to investors have demanded an ever-improving ability to spy on and manipulate large populations of people. Facebook, at its core, is a surveillance machine, and to expect that to change is misplaced optimism.
Exactly. If you sign up for Facebook, you’re donating your personal data and time to an enterprise built on manipulating you and selling others whatever you tell it about yourself. Because that’s what Facebook is.
Beyond the obvious fact that I don’t want to continue enriching Mr. Zuckerberg or supporting his poisonous enterprise, I simply don’t like being on Facebook. It feels like a sinister, perilous place to be.
I know, of course, that social media has always been far more dangerous for women, people of color, gay people, the trans community, and all whom society renders more vulnerable. And I am aware that many daily behaviors implicate all of us in injustices of various kinds. (How much child labor went into making your cell phone? Who made that chocolate and under what conditions? How much money does Twitter make from Russian bots or the traffic generated by Herr Twitler?) I realize that it’s nearly impossible to disentangle ourselves from all dubious products and practices. But Facebook is one that I can step back from.
I’ll miss knowing what’s going on in people’s lives, and I may well miss useful professional information. But I won’t miss the misinformation, the clickbait, the amplification of outrage, or that queasy, soul-sucking feeling of being on Facebook.
So, that’s why you have been seeing much less of me on Facebook — and will see even less of me in the future. I have yet to delete my account, but that day may come, too. We’ll see.
If you need to reach me, email and Twitter (@philnel) remain more reliable ways of doing so. Those who know me know that Facebook was never the best way to reach me (though I once had the app on my phone and tablet, I never installed Facebook Messenger). But for those who weren’t aware, now you are.
Be safe out there. Take care of yourselves. And drop me a line if you need anything, OK?