Facebook verified, therefore I am

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

At first I found it odd that I could not respond to those who commented on my columns because I am not "Facebook Verified." As a Cartesian I believe that "Cogito ergo sum" is sufficient verification of my existence. I should not have to outsource my verification to a for-profit corporation that specializes in curating lives of cute pets, awesome desserts, and tequila shots.

This paper did not always have such a policy. In the good old days, readers of my column had to use pens or crayons to write a letter, address an envelope, find a stamp and mail it. Those letters tended to be thoughtful and considered.

But then Al Gore invented the Internet and things changed. Instead of the laborious letter-writing process, readers could just sit down and type a response and press Send anytime, anywhere regardless of how much alcohol they had consumed. Things deteriorated.

I feel somewhat responsible. A few years ago, I wrote a column suggesting that you should go see the movie Twelve Years a Slave if you wanted to have a better understanding of racism in 21st-century America — underscoring the idea that history matters. That column received over 200 responses, some of which were quite good and provocative of discussion. But alas, racist idiots started with the n-word, and the paper shut the discussion down. Shortly thereafter, the Facebook Verified protocol was implemented, and I have been effectively banned from responding to commenters.

Now to be honest, there have been only a few times I ever wanted to respond. I say my piece, and the readers get to say theirs. Fair is fair. I don't always read the responses. When I do, some of them seem stupid (and, I assume, universally recognized as stupid). So what's the point? 

Some are unintelligible, at least to me. Some have nothing to do with my column, but are arguments with other responders. ("Hey, take that outside!") Some are regurgitation of Fox News or MSNBC talking points. Some are quite insightful and make me feel stupid, and I just want the pain to go away.

I do appreciate that a few responders seem to have something to say on almost every issue or news story. They should probably dial it back a bit, but then that may affect their therapy program.

Finally, I have a confession to make. Some years ago before the Era of Facebook Oppression began, I posted a response to my own column satirically praising it. I fraudulently used the nom de internet of "Hohn Jubbuch." 

I'm sorry. It won't happen again.

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