For those of you in the Facebook world, who may have noticed my absence this week? I was “name reported” to FB, suspiciously near in timing to taking a stand in a discussion on the subject of New Atheism, which I have spoken and written about extensively in the past. In short, I was advocating — as I always do, being the good social justice warrior that I am — for culturally progressive and mature understandings of different groups of people still having value and rights to respect and dignity and freedom, even if another person disagrees with them.
This led to one particularly astute participant comparing minority religions to cancer cells and suggesting that they needed to be cured. In the name of science, rational thought, and, well, New Atheism.
Which is, of course, my point: many of these people are closeted supremacists who haven’t, as one gentler Pagan in the discussion phrased it, “had time to work it through, yet”. Meaning that they need “time” to arrive at the realization that their stances and positions are identical in mechanics to the eugenics-inspired activities of the Third Reich. (The cancer analogy followed a fruitless ramble about baskets of rotten apples and no time to sort the good from the bad, so they all needed to be treated with “equal” regard; except that this equality didn’t call for equal respect but instead equal rejection.) Apparently these rational New Atheists “need time” to “work through” what cultural supremacy is, and what the language of erasure and eradication (read: cultural genocide, culture-and-thought policing, extermination) sound and look like at the end of the day.
Anyway, for having the audacity to call it out, some very sophisticated and obviously terribly rational fellow “reported my name” to Facebook. Because, yeah, that’s and equation of action that makes completely logical sense. Start another fucking name-report-war. Way to go, idiots.
So, anyway, I’ve been silent on this because I don’t want my supporters to go off name reporting all of these supremacist New Atheists, the way that happened with another set of communities some months ago. Denying somebody their own name is an act of unforgivable dishonor, disgrace, and degradation of human rights.
This kind of action is done in detainment scenarios as an act of psychological warfare. Now, I know that statement gets used a lot in this discussion, and people cite Guantanamo Bay or the Stanford Prison Experiment to justify the comparison, but these grandiose suggestions get writtn off by nearly everyone not making them, because they can’t see a parallel between “reporting a name on Facebook” and “illegal detaining somebody and stripping them of their name”.
So, here’s the thing:
I have been illegally detained and stripped of my name, for a period of years, and tortured through both physical and psychological means. (Please respect my privacy on this, if you do not already know this part of my history, and do not pry for more information than that.) I suffer PTSD as a result of these, and related/intersecting life circumstances. As such I feel uniquely qualified to state the following:
Having my name reported and “stolen” through this process? It feels identical to what was done to me in those darker times, at the psychological and emotional level. It feels identical because it is in actuality identical: helpless against an overwhelming structure I am stripped of my identity — my name, which is real and authentic and used in day to day life — for the specific purposes of communicating to me just how powerless I can be rendered with such minimal effort by an oppressor. That is what happens when somebody reports another’s name on Facebook: they are showing that person, for the purposes of harm, an experience of powerlessness. Accusations of cowardice aside, this is an act of psychological torture by definition.
And it feels identical. Even though this is just Facebook, it doesn’t “feel” like something trivial. It feels, and is experienced, as a literal stripping of identity and name… the same way that it did while I was enduring literal torture and detainment. My “review” process with Facebook’s operations division, to verify that this is my real and authentic name — which it is — even assigns me a “number”. You know what happens in detainees? They are assigned numbers, to strip them of their identity, and reenforce their removal from human consideration. So, yeah, this? This feels like that.
Thankfully I prepared myself for this eventuality last September when the first rounds of “name reporting” began on Facebook, and assembled a docket of legitimate identity verifying documentation as per Facebook’s name and identity form policies, familiarized myself with their protocols and process, and was neither shocked nor surprised when this happened. I am four days into the review process, and I anticipate another four-to-ten days before resolution happens.
However, my preparation does not diminish the psychological impact of being stripped of my name. Of being stripped of my identity. By somebody who I cannot see or touch.
And so I say: do not do this to anyone, no matter who they are, or what they have done. If you have issues with somebody, sack up and settle it like an adult: with fists, tooth, claw or law. Torture of this kind? This is the tool of the small, the weak, the literally powerless, who are seeking through manipulative guile to feel as though they have power by projecting their own experience of smallness onto somebody else.
Suffice it to say, I am not powerless. (In fact, these four days off from Facebook have allowed me to continue packing my house for my upcoming move with less distraction, and work on an upcoming article for publication, as well as fine-tune some language in a Human Rights document.) That said? I still have PTSD, which is a permanent synaptic and neuro-chemical rewiring of my brain, and when it flares — as it presently is — I am crushed by it. Sometimes for days at a time, sometimes for fleeting waves of paralysis and flashback and muscle-locking white-knuckled count-to-ten-and-breathe-and-pray. But this is merely the experience of powerlessness, not the reality of it.
To those who have reached out in panic, concern, or confusion, through email, phone and text: thank you. I am alive, I am relatively unscathed, and I’ll be back before too long. In the meantime, you can continue to reach me by those means, or comment here.