I GOT BANNED ON FACEBOOK.
I suspect that everyone who is still on Facebook has been at least once.
But, with all the crap floating around on Facebook, it’s still pretty shocking to see one of these pop up in my notifications.
Community standards?!?!? Facebook has community standards???
To be honest, it was only a 24-hour ban, but having a whole twenty-four hour period not being able to like, post, or comment made me think about a few things:
Namely, that interacting with actual people is overrated.
Secondly, I thought about why I was banned. Why Facebook would ban me for violating Facebook’s COMMUNITY STANDARDS?
What is a COMMUNITY STANDARD anyway????
I’ll get back to that question later.
The reason for my ban, it seems, was this: I violated Facebook’s COMMUNITY STANDARDS because I posted a picture.
A. picture. Of a naked person. Actually, of naked people.
Two people. Two famous naked people.
Didn’t have the black bars, tho…
For those who don’t know what that photo is (and I suspect there’s more than a few of you who don’t), the community standard-violating photo is from the album cover of Two Virgins, recorded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, released in 1968.
The sixties may have been the decade of free love, but in 1968 the album cover caused quite a stir.
It still would. And does.
Posting the cover on Facebook earns you one of these:
And a 24-hour ban.
In 1968, critics called the album cover vulgar. Copies of Two Virgins were confiscated on the grounds that an image of full-frontal male and female nudity is obscene.
Lennon’s record label, EMI, didn’t like the cover, either. The album was released, wrapped in a plain paper bag.
If you buy the album Two Virgins, it looks like this:
Definitely no naked wiener in sight.
When Two Virgins was released fifty years ago, Lennon and Ono defended the nude album cover, explaining that the image of the nude pair is art (whoops. It’s ART). They argued there is nothing salacious or vulgar about the cover. According to John and Yoko,
Art = not obscenity.
The intent of the album art was to depict Lennon and Ono as two innocents — virgins — “lost in a world gone mad”. Lennon explained:
[the album cover] “just seemed natural for us. We’re all naked really.”
Now, naked dong may be innocent art according to John Lennon, but according to Facebook, you can’t post peen on Facebook for this reason: dick pics are bad.
Art or no art, unclothed genitals are obscene.
Pictures, album cover or otherwise, of naked naughty bits are obscene because pee pee and hoo hoo are harmful to the COMMUNITY.
I realize I’m being rather childish, here. I’ve referred to the genitalia as “dong”, “peen”, pee pee”, “wiener”, and “hoo hoo”, instead of using the actual medical terminology. I also realize using childish words in place of the biologically correct nomenclature is ridiculous — nearly as ridiculous as censoring any part of human body.
So, what about those COMMUNITY STANDARDS?
First, when we talk about the “COMMUNITY” we’re talking about the general public.
So…community standards are:
Community standards are local norms bounding acceptable conduct, possibly going beyond legal minimum requirements in relation to either limits on acceptable conduct itself or the manner in which the community will enforce acceptable conduct. (Wikipedia)
The purpose for setting standards of conduct for the community is ultimately in the interest of the common good.
Or so they say…
You see, it is in the community’s interest to censor images like the cover of Two Virgins because images of exposed private areas are pornographic.
If you don’t know, the definition of pornography is:
1: the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement
2: material (such as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement
3: the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction. (Merriam-Webster)
The purpose of pornography is to arouse one’s prurient interest.**
Prurient interest is:
a term that is used for a morbid interest in sex, nudity and obscene or pornographic matters.
In June 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Miller v California created the Miller Test.
The Miller Test established the criteria for obscenity (and pornography). If a work is pornographic, we must determine:
whether the work depicts or describes, in an offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions, as specifically defined by applicable state law.
So… If (particular or on some cases, peculiar) images of the sexual organs have no purpose other than to excite us sexually, we can classify the image as obscene or pornographic.
And, as the Miller Test tells us, if a work is pornographic, it has no redeeming social value.
Things without redeeming social value are bad.
Pornography is bad because it puts bad (prurient) thoughts on our heads.
Bad thoughts make for bad people.
Bad people are bad leaders.
And bad leaders are detrimental to the common good.
In Republic, Socrates argues that a good society depends on the morality of its citizens. If the people are exposed to things that are bad, they will become bad people. Therefore, says Socrates, we must be certain that the people, especially children, are exposed only to things that will make them good people.
THIS IS TRUE. ESPECIALLY MODERN ART
This is especially true, Socrates says, of the arts. Socrates has no problem with censoring art that he (or society) considers to be bad.
Especially if your names are Hesiod or Homer………
We know that artists can have a powerful influence on society. As a member of The Beatles and the author of songs (like) “All You Need Is Love”, “Imagine”, and “Give Peace A Chance”, John Lennon was called the “voice of his generation”. In 1966, Lennon’s “bigger than Jesus” comment sparked public outrage.
OBVIOUSLY FANS OF SOCRATES
The Beatles — Lennon in particular — challenged the conventional social norms and morality of the older generation. John Lennon, like Socrates centuries before him, was the gadfly who rattled authority enough to make his way onto President Richard Nixon’s shit list.
Nixon felt, because of Lennon’s influence on popular culture, that the former Beatle’s politics threatened the social order.
Or at least Lennon threatened Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign…
Nixon wanted Lennon deported.
Now, if we’re thinking like Socrates, artists like John Lennon, the kind of artists who publicly display their boy parts, defy the city’s gods, and undermine the authority of the city’s leaders (aka, corrupt the young), are the type of people who should be censored.
After all, we must think of the children.
But wait a minute, you say. This is supposed to be all about the Two Virgins album cover, not about President Nixon’s personal vendetta against the politics of John Lennon.
If you said that, you’d be right.
So let’s get back to that, shall we?
Lennon and Ono maintained that their album cover was art, not pornographic. Unlike pornography, which has no redeeming value, the intent of the image was to convey the idea of innocence, not to arouse prurient interest.
The image on the album cover doesn’t meet our traditional notions of pornographic portraiture — there are no erections, no penetration, no sexuality graphic poses… The couple is merely standing still, posed no different than any clothed couple would pose while having their photograph taken.
We can say that the album cover was wrapped in plain brown paper to protect the children, but really, what kid in 1968 stormed their local record store to buy a copy of Two Virgins?
The message that the couple wanted us to hear is that the image of the two nude figures ought to be seen, and that we are all (metaphorically naked) innocents thrown into an often hostile that we cannot understand.
To censor the image would be to deprive people of the TRUTH.
And, as any philosopher will tell you, truth is a stepping stone on the path to wisdom.
In fact, it’s quite philosophical to argue that censorship actually damages society.
When works are censored according to what others deem obscene or offensive, the act of legislating (on the behalf of others) infringes on autonomy.
Depriving people of the ability to use their own rational judgement to decide what they do and do not want to see, deprives them of the capacity of the self-legislation required to make moral decisions.
Rational, autonomous decision making is essential for moral accountability, says Immanuel Kant.
BTW: IMMANUEL KANT IS RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING.
In the end, I decided not to challenge my 24-hour Facebook ban. I know I could have laid down a smooth Kantian argument about rationality and the deleterious effect of moral paternalism, but I didn’t. I figured that the time it would take to challenge a Facebook ban would cost me seconds of my life I would not get back.
I mean, come on. It’s Facebook.
Still, when I think about the reason for the ban — that I had violated “community standards” — I’m still left wondering, what is really so bad about a man’s naked penis or a woman’s nipples? Does pubic hair have the power to destroy society?
Is there an inherent soul-corrupting quality located inside human genitals?
If so, does science know about this???
** This isn’t the purpose of pornography according to me. It is, however, the purpose of pornography according to the U.S. Supreme Court and moralizers everywhere.