Flat White

Facebook: hate speech or idiom?

13 June 2022

2:00 PM

13 June 2022

2:00 PM

In the annals of political skulduggery, there have been fewer brutal acts than the assassination of Julius Caesar on the steps of the Roman senate.

William Shakespeare describes the moment when Caesar – already punctured like a Western Sydney suburbs drug dealer – staggers towards his supposed best friend and confidante Brutus.

Recognising his friend as one of the conspirators Caesar mutters the immortal words, ‘Et tu Brute?’ At which point Brutus shivs him in the front as opposed to the more usual political target, his back…

Thus the phrase ‘stabbed in the back’ entered the popular vernacular as an idiom for personal betrayal.

Less commonly used is to be ‘stabbed in the front’, suggesting an even more ruthless act often associated with the unbridled ambition of the stabber against the stabbee.

In a nation already awash with spilled political blood, the political knives remain out and being sharpened.

However, it seems the universal moral arbiter Facebook takes offence at using the term ‘stab’ to describe political manoeuvring, despite its otherwise common usage in that sense.

In a thread discussing where Labor aspirant Kristina Keneally, for whom the political cock has already crowed thrice might strike next, I offered the comment, ‘KK would have no compunction stabbing them in the front!’

Facebook’s ever vigilant bot removed the comment almost immediately, declaring it ‘offensive’ and contrary to its community standards, which state, inter alia:

‘(Facebook) is a service for more than two billion people to freely express themselves across countries and cultures and in dozens of languages.’

Even pedantically allowing for the split infinitive, it seems Facebook’s commitment to freedom of speech, to draw yet again on Shakespeare, is more honoured in the breach than the observance.

Never mind that a simple search shows countless other almost identical statements or the prevalence of Nigerian lottery scams (which seem to be able to circumvent Facebook’s vigilant gatekeepers). It seems that though billions may have been called, I alone have been chosen.

I’ve been sanctioned for 48 hours, and my immediate appeal has been placed in a queue to be considered by Facebook’s review mechanism, when and if they actually get round to it.

Based on previous experience, hope does not spring eternal in this human breast.

When a school acquaintance confessed rather boldly on Facebook that 50 years ago I had been the object of her brief schoolgirl crush, I responded to the effect that adolescent boys were ‘generally stupid’ and sometimes needed to have the obvious pointed out to them.

Facebook ruled that ‘hate speech’ so I endured a double disappointment many years apart.

In the meantime, I will have to mind my language.

Leaving the last word to Shakespeare, ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’

Except to Facebook.

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