Tag Archives: scandal

Facebook & The Winter of Our Discontent

We’ve been betrayed. Zuckerberg and the rat bastards at Cambridge Analytica have done had their way with us.

Listen on Twitter and it sounds like everyone’s freaking out. Rightly so, in some regards. You’d think there was a mass exodus from the social network, but upon monitoring my followers and friends, it doesn’t seem like anyone has walked away from it just yet. The numbers are the same today as they were last weekend, before the bombshell detonated.

I know I’ve tightened my settings up, deleted all the apps that had access to me.

But, beyond that, not much.

Surprised? Really?

I’ve been hip to Cambridge Analytica for over a year. I’ve known that Facebook quizzes were datamining for at least two.

So, I’m not shocked. I’m disappointed that Facebook is so complicit in the situation. It disgusts me that Facebook has had such a hand in manipulating the election. My hint of betrayal began as far back as when Zuckerberg got lambasted by the GOP for what they felt was over-liberalizing the site, and he bent over backward to calm them down. It was around then that content got WEIRD on the social network and shit went sideways. Betrayal began then.

The out-of-control indignation shouted by some people, though, is beyond the pale.

Really? You had no clue you were the product? You didn’t know Big Brother was watching you to see how they could manipulate you? No clue? None?

Seems to me blaming others for such naivete is a bit rich.

The Forever of the Internets

Now, me, I walked out of the wastelands recently to resurrect this blog. The “why” on that is all over the place – so many reasons, so many motivations.

But part of why I stopped writing here was largely to do with some of what’s going on now – too much information about me out there. Too much history, too much background, too much access. I got a little “that’s not for you” about my life and pulled the curtains shut in at least one area.

It was futile though. Let’s not pretend. The stuff’s still out there. Even if I deleted the blog, took a flamethrower to the site, you could claw back through it all on the Wayback Machine, or the Internet Archive, as the normies call it.

Google is forever, man. Don’t kid yourself.

We like to think it’s all so impermanent on Facebook and Twitter. The marketing nerds will tell you the average tweet has a shelf-life of 12 minutes and the average Facebook update something like 23 hours. But, really?

It creeps me out sometimes that people will be combing through my content for days after the fact, and suddenly some follower makes a note about a six-day old tweet, where, for me, it was a throwaway comment in a moment in time.

Awesome illustration by Davide Bonazzi, from http://www.copyrightuser.org/understand/exceptions/text-data-mining/

It Just Seems Fleeting

And that’s how the social networks get us. We think it’s unimportant or temporary, a time-waster or distraction at best.

Oh, look, a quiz about what character you are on Downton Abbey. Great, do that. Really?

I used to routinely comment on these and say, “Well, you know that’s a datamining operation, right? They just want access to your profile?”

Invariably, I’d get “Yeah, I know, but it’s only Facebook.”

Well, “only Facebook” allowed information to become weaponized and then used against us in a way that has made society more divisive now than arguably any time since the Vietnam War, or even the American Civil War.

Storytime: The Blog Before This Blog

Part of why I brought this blog back from the dead was because I’ve had kind of a reckoning of identity here in Greece. It’s one of those times where I’m in the middle still, so I can’t really see around me yet, but… things are changing in me, in my mind, in who I am. And while that’s happening, I’m also taking ownership of who I’ve been and from whence I’ve come.

So, as part of that, about 8-10 days ago, I finally undertook the task of getting my first blog – it’s this shitty little Blogspot blog I called The Last Ditch – archived because I lost access to it years ago and Google, who own Blogspot, are completely useless. That’s how I came to pay some dude on Fiverr $20 to archive the whole site.

I’m thinking, “hey, in two or three days, I can finally stop sweating about this site crashing and me losing a few years of writing.”

But nerd writes me back. “Okay, wait. I will be done in a few minutes.”

Seriously? Six years of blog posts, scraped and archived in an Excel sheet in just a few minutes? But, yeah, that’s what happened.

Now, suddenly, I feel so naïve for all those times I thought, “Hey, I’ll just quickly take the quiz and delete access to my account immediately after I’m done.”

Because, well, obviously if some nerd on Fiverr can scrape my blog on in five minutes with the archive buttons broken on it, then clearly some high-end analytics and hacking company can do a whole lot more than that on Facebook.

We’ve Always Been the Product

There’s a whole world out there that lives and dies by information alone, because information spurs whole markets. We’re the commodity. We’re the meal ticket. They need to know about us, and the more they know, the more they profit.

This is the world model now, and it’s not just Facebook. Facebook’s just who got caught. Are you kidding me?

Our radio habits, TV habits, reading habits – they’ve been scrutinized for nearly a century. From the Nielsen Ratings to Facebook “likes,” it’s all the same. We’re just bigger participants than we’ve ever been, giving them more and more data sets by which to judge us, watch us, learn from us.

Opting Out A Little at a Time

I’ve gone nomad, so I live out of my duffle bag. I can’t buy stuff, ‘cause I got no place to put stuff. Do you have any idea how categorically life-changing it is to have nowhere to put stuff, to not be a stuff-buyer anymore?

Think about all the times you browse shops mindlessly with friends. The last time I did that, it was August 2015, and I realized how this wasn’t a thing I could do, or wanted to do, anymore. Why look at things I can’t buy? Why browse? I distinctly remember standing in that Chinatown shop with my friends J and B, and their two kids, as they all pored over the knickknacks, and I stood looking out at the street, realizing I was no longer someone who could browse and impulse-buy. My life was designed against that.

Now, when I visit towns, people invariably tell me about some cute shop or consumer district I have to browse. Why? Nothing’s coming with me when I pack up in a month. I might as well just throw my time in the garbage, because there’s nothing for me in those shops. To browse is actively opting into feeling a sense of loss and desire, neither of which I can quell, because buying shit ain’t my solution. It can’t be. I gotta weigh in at another airport soon, and there’s nothing else I can take with me.

You’re Becoming Fuller, Not Fulfilled

Through all this when I started to realize how much of life is designed to make us unhappy with what we have, so we spend more. Because, face it, life on Planet Earth is about spending money we don’t need to spend, so we can buy things we don’t need, all so that industries that don’t care about our happiness can stay flush with our cash.

The advertisements, the commercials, the product reviews, the featured technology – it’s everywhere, all around us, and all of it designed to do one thing: To distract us from the fact that modern life is not fulfilling.

We don’t make stuff, most of us don’t see anything created from our day-to-day jobs – we see code. We see numbers. We see saved files. But we don’t make anything, we have no sense of creative pride. It’s just cogs turning on a wheel.

“Happiness” For Sale!

So, our Facebook trackers track us as we mindlessly browse the web, looking for some momentary sense of fulfilment or spectacle. Soon, a pop-up advertisement says, “Hey. Remember those Fluevog shoes you were browsing? We have those. Buy those! Come to our site! You’ll feel better with new shoes in your life. Because Fluevog!”

But do you? Do you feel better? Or is it just another hour or a day of distraction that you’ve rented to keep from being aware of how little you’re really satisfied with in your life?

Unfortunately, we’ve created a world where nearly all of us are cogs in this machine. We’re all involved in the conspiracy to make people buy stuff, acquire stuff, need stuff. Without them getting stuff, we’re out of a job. Quite the cycle.

And industry, it wants more ways to make money off us, and that’s where Facebook and social media come in. Never has marketing been able to watch us squirm under a microscope, but now they can.

But we’ve also never had a megaphone for our discontent like we do now, either. So, now people like me can speak up and say, “Whoa… whatcha doing? You don’t NEED that. Stop buying things. Stop being a part of the big machine.”

For every voice like mine, there’s another machination going to work to make sure you don’t listen to me. Algorithms. The matrix. It’s a thing. Of course you need a new phone. Pfft, no you don’t have enough shoes. How could you ever be happy without that sunflower jacket? Come on, spend a little, live a little. Buy joy!

Put your money where your happy is, little proletariat. Do it. Do it!

And God forbid you actually feel happy. Happy people are the worst possible outcome for business and politics.

If you’re happy, you’re content, and if you’re content, you don’t need anything, and if you don’t need anything, you’re not spending money, and if you’re not spending money, then industry can’t profit off you, and if industry can’t profit off you, the local politician can’t woo them to open a factory so they can employ locals to make more shit to sell to more people.

Am I oversimplifying? Pfft, of course I am. But I’m not far off the mark. The unhappier you are, the better it is for society, and when Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest can stoke the fires of discontent, it’s better for the bottom dollar on everything but you.

Saying No, That’s Also a Thing

Being content? It’s nice. Not buying shit? It’s good for the morale. Not having clutter? Great for the soul. Not racking up debt? Good for the sanity.

Unfortunately, we’re in the age of outrage. That’s a whole ‘nother post for another time. We’re far more likely to feel rage than joy, sadness than happiness. I’d like to say that’s all a choice, but it’s more complicated than choosing life, choosing joy.

Especially when social media is basically the harbinger of the winter of our discontent.

John Steinbeck wrote, in The Winter of Our Discontent, “Money does not change the sickness, only the symptoms.” Maybe the same can be said of Facebook and other forms of social media.

Social media didn’t change my sickness, just my symptoms. I spoke up, shouted, said my piece, and things never got better, things didn’t change. I wrote and raged and roared, but still I was unhappy. I was locked into a lifestyle. Like Billy Corgan sang, despite all my rage I was just a rat in a cage.

In a lot of ways, going nomadic probably saved my life. I wasn’t suicidal or anything, but I’d fallen into such a state of apathy and discontent that my life felt meaningless and soulless. It wasn’t until I walked away from the status quo and told myself “I am not my stuff” and sold everything that I began to plug into the matrix a little less.

I still had my plug in the wall. Just not as many of them.

Choose Better (At Least Some of the Time)

As time goes on, I realize this nomad life I’m living – a simple life where I collect snapshots of times, moments in different lives, in different corners of the world – helps me find my contentment and my joy in different ways. It’s in a sandwich or a coffee, a glass of wine as I watch the sun sink over my latest city. It’s in picking up a bunch of papers knocked over by an old Greek lady who can’t pick ‘em up, but who flushes a string of Greek gratitude for my momentary act of kindness. My fulfilment comes in small, strange ways every day, and nearly none of them are breaking the bank or filling my bag.

And yet I’m on Facebook. I’m on Twitter. The Mueller investigation kicks sand in my face. My friends with nice cars and boats and new beds and comfy homes make me realize I have this but want that too. So, I’m not fully content. I’m not completely happy with the life I live. Will I ever be? Is anyone?

Meh. I don’t know.

But in the meantime, Facebook will know if I am. You probably will too. Twitter will. The datamining motherfuckers crawling beneath it all, they’ll know too.

At least I know they know, and I understand their motivations. Maybe, in this brave new world of the winter of our discontent, that’s the only kinda winning we’ll achieve. Take my victories, however small and fleeting, where I can, right?

And I can keep clicking on all the ads on Facebook and Twitter, choosing to “hide ad” and then say the reason is, “it’s offensive.” Because, hey, man. It is. My happy ain’t for sale. Not anymore.

The Strange Saga of Big Ears Teddy and Jian Ghomeshi

Wednesday was an explosive day in the saga of Jian Ghomeshi, so much so that there’s now an online graph depicting his “likers” dropping like leaves in a fall windstorm.

Much occurred, but I want to focus on one major development: Big Ears Teddy, a stuffed animal so valued by Jian Ghomeshi that it merited thanks in the acknowledgements of his 2012 book called 1982.

Last night, Twitter exploded with the news this account had been sitting there since April of this year, when, for only three days, it levelled massive allegations against Ghomeshi.

There are a lot of similarities between one of the eight accusers detailed by The Toronto Star and the newly notorious teddy bear of Twitter. It’s an interesting aspect to this saga and one I wanted to look at more closely.

CONTINUE READING over at the Vancouver Observer.

Um, Thank You For Breaking My Blog

highfiveI’d like to extend warm fuzzy thanks for everyone who’s taken the time to read, share, and respond to my Jian Ghomeshi vs. The CBC piece. More than 100,000 people read it on my overworked little blog in just 36 hours. I’m absolutely blown away by how much it’s resonated with you. I’m very proud I had a chance to help change the conversation on why women won’t come forward.

I’m also glad the BDSM community feels I’ve helped clear up a few misconceptions being wilfully created by Ghomeshi and his supporters. While I’m fairly vanilla myself, I’m happy to advocate for a grossly misunderstood lifestyle and kink. Especially since this conversation shouldn’t be about BDSM at all, but instead about the lack of consent he reportedly had, and that a lack of consent makes these allegations of flat-out assault.

To that end, I had the chance to be interviewed by Vancouver’s CKNW 980 radio yesterday, and we discussed both BDSM and consent in relation to this explosive scandal. You can listen to that here. It’s a 12-minute chat with host Simi Sara.

Meanwhile, I have a few more things on my chest on the victim/survivor aspect of all this, more mainstream revelation of what the BDSM ethos and community entails, and so on. Please bookmark me and check back now and again.

I also have nearly a decade of archives here that extend to everything from sex and sexual politics to mental health and pop culture commentary. I invite you to explore tags and subjects for any of the 3,000 or so pieces I’ve written in the last decade. Might I suggest the “Steff rants” category if you like a little righteousness in your day? Check my archives by year, or search by categories. Many posts have several categories attached for your convenience.

Then there’s my newsletter. That’s how I can tell you when my upcoming ebook of collected essays and updated opinions will be released. Join that here. Thanks again. You’re fucking awesome.

Oh, Tiger Woods, You FAILED Us… BAD Golfer!

Oh, boo-hoo. Really? Tiger failed you?

It turns out people are whining more about the fact that the mighty golf god Tiger Woods has proven to be all-too-human and just as flawed as most people in the public eye.

I can’t believe the air of entitlement from the public about this. Like Tiger Woods did this to YOU?

What did Tiger sign up to do in life? Be Jesus? No, as a toddler he picked up a golf club and showed a profound affinity to it. He didn’t enroll in Dalai Lama classes or learn how to hang out on a cross for three days and change water to wine.

He played GOLF. He hit a stupid ball with a stick, and he was INCREDIBLE at it. He became the best player to EVER play the sport.

He did THAT to the best of his abilities.

Then, like most profoundly gifted people, he fucked up in other areas of his life.

So what do we have now? We have blowhards like wanker-to-the-nth, Augusta Golf Club’s Chairman Billy Payne, saying ridiculous things like, “Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children. It is not simply the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here, it is the fact he disappointed all of us and more importantly our kids and our grand kids.”

Are you kidding me?

Here’s a chance for EVERY PARENT IN THE WORLD to do what they should’ve been doing all along:

Explain to the kids that celebrities are people, and they make humongous mistakes in life, too. Explain how “celebrity” usually means someone’s good at one special thing, and they’re probably better at that one thing than most people ever will be, but that “celebrity” also leads people to think that being GOOD at that ONE thing means that they get a pass on being good at many other things — like living a moral life — and that it’s important to remember how easy it is to let your life get out of balance and lose responsibility for yourself.

Like Tiger did.

Tiger Woods — THE GREATEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD, EVER — has screwed up and been human.

It’s a good time for EVERYONE to remember that if Tiger can be human, we probably all will be, too.

Naturally, Tiger’s brand of “fucking up” goes above and beyond the average person’s ability to do so — but so do the demands of his life, the surreality of HIS fame, and the enormously frequent opportunities to screw up. So, of course the scope of his fallout is legendary, because so is his life. Perspective.

A skill or talent, or even brilliance, does not mean someone is immune from insecurities, emotional baggage, mental illness, stupid judgment, or the ability to be a complete ass.

Let’s start judging skills, talent, progeny, brilliance, and scope for what it is — being good at ONE thing, not EVERYthing — and stop assuming it comes with some moral pedigree.

In our daily lives, we’re all flawed to varying extents, and none of us ever faces the vast temptations and moral compromises those in the public eye do, and yet we’d like to keep our skeletons well hidden behind our closets.

Unlikely any of us has ever had anything close to the sexual escapades and betrayals that Tiger Woods has come to light with, but it doesn’t make the demands we place on our celebrities any less hypocritical.

Get real, people. Morality should be taught at home and at church.

Expecting it from celebrities today is as stupid and naive as it was in Roman times.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Get the memo. And get over it.

Edwards: The Politics of Infidelity

I’ve never been a John Edwards fan. Any guy who claims he’s a leftist for poverty activism but spends $400 a month on an unremarkable haircut just strikes me as being strangely out of touch with the very people he claims to be fighting for.

But, then again, I pay $15 for my haircut, so what do I know?

Haircuts aside, the guy’s in hot water and I feel for him and his wife. It’s come out now that he fucked up and had an affair in ’06. Is it the only one? No way to know for certain. Does it matter? Not sure it does. Is it really a scandal of this proportion? Really?

I mean, there are sex scandals and there are sex scandals. The Walter Mosley “Nazi” BDSM video, that’s a scandal. Governor Spitzer blowing thousands and thousands of dollars on hookers while married and in office, that’s a scandal.

A guy cheats on his wife? Scandalous, but not a scandal. It’s not worth much ink, as they say. Infidelity sucks, but it happens.

I don’t really see who gains from this story coming out, or how it should reflect on his ability to govern, or why we need to know or care.

As far as I’m concerned, there are three kinds of cheaters.

  • There’s the Accidental Cheater: The kind of partner who’s really invested in the relationship and has always been faithful, but who had a weak moment at a weak time where the chemistry and intensity was pretty insurmountable, and instead of being perfect, had the misfortune of being human and fucking up, in more ways than one.
  • There’s the Situational Cheater: The partner who had every intention of staying faithful and being “there” in the partnership, but with a lack of sex and poor communication and isolation developing and maintaining within the relationship, decides to seek companionship elsewhere to get what they “need” emotionally and physically.
  • There’s the Compulsive Cheater: The Compulsive would cheat no matter how good a relationship is and smacks of the sex-addicted type. This is kind of person who wants to sleep around but isn’t honest enough about it to be in a polyamorous situation, sometimes because they think they deserve sexual variety but don’t want their lover to have it.

Then there are the people who don’t believe in cheating. And I’m one.

I think it’s a shitty fucking thing to do to someone. When I found out I’d been used as an “other woman” once many years ago, when the guy lied about not being in a relationship with an old friend of mine just to get me in bed with him, I actually told my friend about his infidelity. I’m just that way. Honest and old-fashioned, that’s me.

Still, I don’t know if I could get through 30 years of marriage without ever having an Accidental Cheating occur. You get that perfect storm of chemistry and sexiness and opportunity and timing and mood, and sex can be a pretty hard thing to turn down. Whew, can it.

Edwards slept with a woman making a documentary film about his campaign. You think she wasn’t fawning over him a little? There’s nothing sexier than someone who worships you a little but has brains and a life of their own. When someone smart, accomplished, and hot adores you a little but in a liberated and articulate way, it’s really a turn-on. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of that knows what it’s like. Wild. Or maybe she was just empathetic on a tough day. Who knows?

I’m not laying blame on her, though. It takes two. I’m just saying it’s understandable that something might happen in some scenarios, that hormones are a challenge to overcome at times.

But it sure as hell beats getting a blowjob from an intern half your age in the Oval Office and lying under oath about it.

I mean, if the guy came clean long, long before it ever hit the press, and the family knew of it in entirety, and his wife says she was told very soon after it all… is it really our business?

Doesn’t it say more about the guy that he could have the affair, tell his wife, and then work with her to get past it? Doesn’t he get some credit for honesty? How long do you have to be married before you’re allowed to make a mistake you not only own up to, but repent to?

No relationship is without its flaws, and no person is without errors. We all make mistakes in a life that’s dictated by in-the-moment impulse decisions.

I may be very much opposed to cheating in all its forms, but that doesn’t mean I could never forgive a man for making that mistake. And it doesn’t mean I think I’ll never be above being human and making that kind of mistake, either. I’m a passionate person. I’m moral, honest, and loyal, but I’m also passionate and impulsive. I fear the latter two qualities might one day overwhelm my virtue, and I too could fall guilty of such a mistake.

If, however, I ever do fuck up like Edwards did, I would hope my lover could see more than just the mistake, and instead of just latching onto their anger and the sense of betrayal, they could take me at my word for my regret and self-disdain. I would hope for a chance at redemption. I would hope for the chance to prove my remorse and reestablish trust.

Edwards was lucky and got just that. Who are we to judge him more harshly than his lover and partner of 30 years? It’s their relationship. If they’ve made their peace and they’re working together to overcome it, then who the fuck is the media to second-guess it, and why do we care?