Facebook’s Political Stance

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Photo by Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum

Earlier this year, I deleted my personal Facebook page. I don’t have a highly detailed explanation for why. At the macro level, the company is just flat out evil. They are in no small part responsible for getting the literal dumbest person alive elected president by creating a platform that allows racist conspiracy theories and fear mongering to flourish. It harvests and owns massive amounts of information from users around the world, and is increasingly secretive about how it uses the data and who it sells it to. Big brother is here, it was invented by a horny Ivy League college bro as a way to be creepy to women, and now we voluntarily give it all of our information.

At the micro level, it’s a useless time suck. Once, a post from a dude who I barely knew from a newspaper job I had left about eight years ago showed up in my feed. He was defending the homophobia of one of the Duck Dynasty idiots, and lamenting the death of free speech because the cable network that aired the show was canceling it as a result. For some reason, I commented. Then he commented. Then I ended up spending half a day arguing with a person I didn’t like in the first place, who I talked to MAYBE twice in my life and will never interact with again.

I should disclose here that I’m a hypocrite. I still have an Instagram account. Which is owned by Facebook. So I’m a stereotypical millennial clout chaser. And I have a Twitter account because as a freelancer, it helps me pretend that I have an audience for things I write.

For my day job, I work in communications. And I work for a nonprofit that has a Facebook page that I manage. So I, A. still have a ghost Facebook account with no content on it to manage my employer’s page, and B. routinely have to listen to people incredulously ask, “You work in communications and you’re NOT on Facebook?”

Earlier this month, I posted information about the state of Michigan loosening eligibility requirements for people to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as food stamps). The loosened requirements were set to go into effect November 1. The post I wrote encouraged people who have previously been denied for SNAP or thought they wouldn’t be eligible to call my organization’s SNAP coordinators and get help re-applying. I sponsored the post, it was approved by Facebook, and it ran for a few days.

Then, Michigan pushed back the implementation date to December 1. I deleted the original post and re-posted the EXACT SAME PREVIOUSLY APPROVED TEXT with only the date changed. Facebook denied the ad because it said it violated their policy on political advertising.

As luck would have it, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg articulated highlights of their political advertising policy while bumbling through responses to questions from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the House of Representatives earlier this month. Among the highlights, he said Facebook probably wouldn’t take down political ads that contained lies.

So Facebook will take a very hands-off approach to ads that could have blatant lies in them that could swing elections, but they will disallow an ad (a version of which they’d allowed only a few days previously) from a food bank explaining how low income people can possibly get help buying food. Add in how the platform influenced Trump’s election, Zuckerberg’s friendly dinner parties with far right pundits, his open criticism of Elizabeth Warren to Facebook staff, and it’s pretty plain to see that Facebook has an overt political agenda.

In short, Facebook sucks. The few examples in this rant only scratch the surface of how useless and evil it is. Deleting it has made my life happier. I hope more people delete it.

Being Rich and Useless in Flint

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University of Michigan-Flint faculty member Mark Perry filed a lawsuit against Wayne State University for hosting a coding camp for black girls.

Though dickish, the lawsuit in itself is not surprising given his history. Perry has filed at least 35 lawsuits against Michigan universities alleging discrimination against males, according to his prideful bragging in The Detroit News. He has a track record of weaponizing lawsuits and media attention to push universities into bending to his will — notably, two years ago, Michigan State University changed the name of a women’s lounge on campus because Perry was aggrieved that men also couldn’t go in there.

Perry — who makes over $140,000 annually from UM-Flint — has a singular intent: to protect male, particularly white male, privilege in higher education. His viewpoint is so absurdly stupid, that it hardly merits a serious response. So let me start with a non-serious one — pointing and laughing at some of his Rate My Professor reviews:

He is a terrible professor. He lectures for hours from powerpoint slides provided by the textbook company (which he is friends with and mentions several times). He offers only one point of view and references his blog often. His political views are very obvious.

Wastes all his class time by talking about his blog posts.

Website dedicated to his stupid hobbies. In love with himself. Lives in fantasy world. Needs to get in touch with reality. has no sympathy for the common person’s struggle. Hard to do when you are a fat spoiled out-of touch brat.

He is extremely boring and seemed to have some build up frustration. He is practically useless when it comes to answering students questions.

Doesn’t seem to create any of his own curriculum, which should be considered academic fraud at the graduate level. Lectures are deadly boring.

Seriously, he namedrops being friends with a textbook publisher in class? What a hip dude! And I really enjoyed that The Root put him in their “Mayo-American Hall of Fame.”

But that’s immature of me. So here are a few better-formed responses.

  1. Mark Perry draws a $140,000 salary in one of the poorest cities in America. Forty two percent of the University of Michigan-Flint’s student body consists of students whose families earn less than $65,000 per year and it is 24th among all Michigan colleges in median parent income, according to The New York Times. If those students are Flint residents, depending on what neighborhood their families live in, there’s a chance they still can’t drink water from the tap in their homes since the lead pipes have still not been replaced in some of the city’s poorest areas. University of Michigan-Flint is a public university. So his salary is being paid by taxpayers and tuition from a large number of students from middle class and lower families so that he can file frivolous lawsuits aimed at eliminating protections for women, show students boring PowerPoint presentations, and write riveting blog posts about the scourge that is massage therapists with long fingernails.
  2. Mark Perry teaches at a university that is more than 60 percent female. This month, he said this to The Detroit News: “We’re still stuck back in the 1960s or 1970s with outdated thinking that women still need special treatment and special preferences.” Wait … I’m very curious about the “special treatment” women were getting in the 60s and 70s. And if he’s arguing that things like Title IX, scholarships, and other initiatives to provide opportunities for women have now outserved their usefulness and are depriving white men, is he really saying that, what, like, 30ish years of these things existing or being thought about in any sort of serious manner is enough to undo … I dunno … forever? I guess? … of women and minorities being excluded from opportunities?
  3. He successfully bullied Michigan State University into changing the name of a small women’s lounge and making it a common space where men are now allowed as well. You know, the same Michigan State University that harbored a serial sexual abuser of women and complicit administrators who protected that criminal for years, not to mention an athletics program that has had its own severe issues with sexual violence against women on campus. Why would they possibly need a safe space for women???
  4. While he’s attacking Wayne State for offering a Black Girls Code camp, here are a few relevant stats that I’m sure he very much considered before filing his pointless lawsuit: 95 percent of the tech workforce is white, and 76 percent of it is male (Forbes); a Brookings Institute study noted that while women’s “digital skills” have rapidly increased, their share of the “highly skilled digital” job pool has not; a Google engineer was fired after circulating a manifesto that argued, among other things, gender gaps in tech jobs exist because women are not as psychologically suited to those jobs as men; 83 percent of tech executives are white, half of Google’s and Apple’s employees are white, and unfairness/mistreatment in the work environment costs tech companies billions of dollars per year in turnover/replacement costs when those frustrated employees leave (Tech Republic).
  5. College computer science departments are still overwhelmingly white according to Wired, hence the importance of pre-college programs like Black Girls Code. Despite Mark Perry’s “what about the men!” protests, colleges are actually very successful at getting white boys into computer science programs and don’t need the help of his frivolous lawsuits to bolster those efforts.
  6. Seriously, he’s filed 35 lawsuits against public universities in Michigan! Hey guess what, taxpayers? Since these are public universities, you get to pay for the legal resources that universities have to devote to this frivolity. Hey guess what, college students? This frivolity helps your tuition costs go up!

I worked in higher education for eight years, including a significant amount of time at a STEM university. Every major company in America is looking for increased diversity in its workforce. Every major company in America is eager to fund tech-related pre-college opportunities for diverse students. Early exposure to concepts like coding is critical, especially for underrepresented or economically disadvantaged populations who haven’t traditionally had opportunities in STEM education and fields. Black Girls Code is an amazing national organization that every college campus in America would be proud to partner with.

Mark Perry’s contentions, as cited in The Detroit News, that women are actually over-represented on college campuses and, thus, don’t need additional measures like scholarships, specialized camps, and women-only spaces on campus, is infantile. Here are a couple of the more ridiculous passages:

At UM, women dominate in 17 out of 21 fields of study, with business and engineering being the only areas where women are underrepresented.

Hmmm … so business and engineering, the two fields of study that traditionally yield the highest paying jobs to graduates, are the “only” ones dominated by men. Got it.

“Gender discrimination has been embedded, accepted, embraced and institutionalized in higher education for decades,” Perry says.

Just want to throw this statistic out there: despite women composing the majority of students on college campuses, nearly 20 percent of women are sexually assaulted during the time they are in college. And that number is likely much higher considering the number of sexual assaults that go unreported. Oh, and female administrators are still paid less than male counterparts (Inside Higher Ed). White men hold 55 percent of full-time professor jobs nationally, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And male faculty members are not only more likely to assign works by male authors than female authors, they also hilariously and sadly assign nearly three times more of their own published work than female faculty. Which fits with one of the Rate My Professor descriptions above of Professor Cool Blogs here.

So no, Mark Perry, discrimination against white men has not been an “embedded, institutionalized” issue in higher ed. Higher ed mirrors the rest of society, where it has been substantially easier for mediocre white men to advance than anyone. 

Sadly, based on my anecdotal experience in universities, Mark Perrys aren’t uncommon, he just happens to be more media savvy than others I’ve encountered. I’ve witnessed tenured male faculty dominate or actively belittle or resort to passive aggressive tactics to derail meetings or silence voices of female colleagues. I’ve heard horror stories from female colleagues about the behavior of men on tenure committees who made the process exceedingly difficult for them. I’ve seen men openly scoff at being open to or showing empathy to the experiences of marginalized or underrepresented groups of students. Not all of the male colleagues I’ve worked with have done these things, but an emboldened and vocal enough minority of them certainly wield enough power to make things hell for those with good intentions.

It is disappointing that Mark Perry is allowed to use his position at a great university in a community that I love to gain media attention to attack marginalized groups. It is disappointing that he continuously finds media outlets who give him a platform and are complicit in his attacks. And it is doubly disappointing that he’s protected by a tenure system that often enables bullies rather than protects academic freedom.

When You Have Nothing to Say and Still Say It

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A couple of weeks ago, Duncan Smith, editor of PistonPowered (* unofficial non-Dan Feldman editiontweeted this:

If you’re “team eye test”, which best describes your number aversion?
A: I don’t know where to find the numbers
B: I don’t care to find them

I saved it, because it reminded me of a post I’ve wanted to write for quite a while. I love the NBA. I follow it religiously. And outside of a small handful of writers, I find most of the content written about the league I love unreadable. Which is a weird statement from someone who has spent a good chunk of his adult life writing about the NBA.

Duncan’s tweet, though, illustrated a key problem I have. There’s a belief that there are two camps among NBA fans: the old school “eye test” folks who firmly believe the lens through which they view basketball is the only one that matters, and the “new wave” analytically-inclined “smart” fans who voraciously digest any overly-convoluted metric they can find to help explain what happens on the court before trusting anything their eyes tell them.

As a hobbyist NBA writer, I used to identify more firmly with the latter category. Stats are instructive. I easily fell into the habit of using advanced stats as a bludgeoning tool in my writing to make my takes seem more informed, more relevant, more differentiated than competing takes out there that relied less on numbers and more on the “eye test.” They weren’t, of course, and a big reason I stopped writing about the NBA regularly is that I sincerely worried that my voice was not adding anything relevant to an increasingly crowded, increasingly bro-ey conversation.

Not that ‘eye test’ people are saints either. Eye test writers and fans have a distinctly Trump voter aura. Probably a big crossover in the Trump/eye test Venn Diagram.

But I don’t think either “camp” really exists. Yeah, steadfastly “eye test” people can be simpletons and overvalue counting stats because its easy for them to take off their socks and tally up rebound totals. Yeah, “stats” people can be so preoccupied with justifying why certain metrics are superior that they forget to actually pay attention to otherworldly athletic abilities that make athletes fun to watch. There’s probably no right answer, and to be honest, people who devoutly identify as one or the other are REAL obnoxious.

Anyway, Duncan’s tweet jarred a random thought I’ve wanted to write out for a while. As per usual, I kinda forgot about it and didn’t write anything. Then tonight, some dude named Peter Healey responded to an innocuous tweet about Ben Wallace with this:

2 things that never come up: 1)Ben was only very good for maybe 6 years. 2)He couldn’t guard quicker 4s and 5s off the dribble

More than any other guy he’d be sunk in today’s league. Couldn’t shoot, wasn’t an elite roll guy, couldn’t switch nearly as much you think

(I should disclose up front that I have a real, emotional connection to Ben Wallace, I won’t hide from that.)

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I mean … takes like this are about as easy to brush off as Ben Wallace stopping Shaq at the rim. Wallace’s “6-year peak” was as good defensively as any center not named Bill Russell. He switched out on and smothered point guards defensively, yet somehow couldn’t stay in front of “quicker 4s and 5s off the dribble?” Who are these quicker-than-PGs-4s and 5s we’re talking about populating the league in Ben’s era, Percy? Jerome Moiso? Keon Clark? He’d be “sunk” in today’s league? Because athleticrim-protectingdefensively-minded centers who are offensively limited aren’t, as they always have been, extremely valuable?

As I’m wont to do, I responded to Preston’s bad take on Twitter. Then, in true “I have a stupid take but then get sad/emo when people tell me my stupid take is stupid” fashion, Phillip responded. Then I responded some more. Then I noticed that Payton was giving catty responses, feebly trying to drag other smart people – including Stephen Rodrick who has written goddamned cover stories for Rolling Stone and Ben Gulker who has been writing about the Pistons longer than anyone not named Matt Watson – and I got super annoyed. To paraphrase the great Ben Gordon, humble yourself, Perry.

So his bad take brought me briefly out of my basketball writing retirement to say that basketball writing sucks because of the take economy that is propagated by people who think making purposefully statements contribute to any better understanding of the game. Oh, Ben Wallace, an extremely fun, unique, by-his-bootstraps, prideful, championship player wouldn’t excel in an era of basketball when a bunch of Ayn Rand-humping Silicon Valley tech bro venture capitalists have reduced the game to people thinking sprinting to corners to launch threes is the only valuable skill a player can possess? THANKS FOR YOUR INSIGHT, Pierre! Maybe next you can tell us why Scottie Pippen would actually suck today because he shot below 33 percent from three for his career, or why Anthony Mason wasn’t a fun-as-hell point forward because he probably couldn’t have guarded today’s wings. Seriously, please hammer us with more “well actuallys” for people who innocently enjoy watching beautiful basketball players.

Basketball is art. Who cares how people watch it? When you overvalue statistical analysis or contrarian takes to the point of killing the unique style and individuality that truly makes basketball the most creative of sports, what’s the point? Your voice is not adding anything of value. It’s noise.