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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Facebook and the November 13, 2015 Paris attack aftermath


I didn't change my Facebook profile picture to the rainbow image back when the Supreme Court made its historic decision to end anti-homosexual discrimination in marriage. I thought it was too trendy, too bandwagon-y. What would I be saying? "Look at me, I am on the side of right, if you disagree you are wrong"? Yeah, pretty much. Even so, I chose not to change it.

After the November 13, 2015 terrorist attack in France, things were different. An indisputably evil act had been done, an assault on random civilians enjoying the benefits of a free society. One of many, to be sure, and not the only one that week. But Facebook again gave the ability to do a profile image overlay, and this time I chose to participate.

ISIS / ISIL / DAESH / fuck those guys, whatever is a barbarous and evil organization that practices a twisted fundamentalist version of Islam. But at the same time they are sophisticated and media-savvy, with slickly-produced recruitment videos, a nicely-put-together magazine featuring a column written by a captive British journalist, and a strong social media presence.

There's not a hell of a lot you or I can do to stop them, short of not joining them and convincing others to not join them. (Carpet-bombing them into the Stone Age might be as effective as it was in North Vietnam, and sending in troops is exactly what they want.) But Facebook's profile image overlay of the French flag gave users a chance to send a message. Not just a message of support for the people of France, but a message to the terrorists. A wall of people from all around the world standing shoulder to shoulder, middle fingers raised, saying "FUCK YOU" with one voice.

It didn't last.

Almost immediately there came the point-and-laugh brigade. "Haha, what do you stupid assholes think you're doing? Y'all ain't doin' shit!" At the same time, Facebook had made this into a temporary option: at the time you modified your profile picture, you could also specify a date when the image would revert. (There were rumors that the rainbow flag image was a social media experiment to see how long users would keep it up, and - probably - under what circumstances they would take it down.)

And then some of the images began being replaced with a new image, mocking the original idea, suggesting that anyone who thought they were helping or changing anything by changing their profile picture was an idiot.


And now, a week after the attacks, most of the images are gone. Taken down, or timed out. Politicians are taking strong and resolute stands about cowering in fear from not just the terrorists, but from anyone who is trying to flee the terrorists, on the assumption that these people might also possibly maybe perhaps have amongst their number a terrorist posing as a refugee. The leading candidate to be the Republican 2016 Presidential nominee is agreeing that registration and monitoring of Muslims is a good idea, while Rhode Island state Senator suggests that the U.S. needs to segregate - or, should we say, concentrate - Syrian refugees into camps.

I don't know where this is going. Maybe in a little while it will be as forgotten as the events of last year. I just wanted to put this out there as a reminder of the events of November 13, 2015, and the way some people chose to respond.

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