Saturday, November 03, 2007

Orkut and Facebook: Social Networking Sites Allergic to Socialism and Communism

(((Attention Conservation: Google, Orkut, Facebook, Censoring political self-identification, Why can't users self-identify as socialist, communist, or anarchist?)))

Looking at the available options for "political view" on Orkut, I find it quite striking that someone is allowed to call themselves "authoritarian" or "very authoritarian" (who would seriously claim such a label, I wonder--surely it could only be neo-Nazis?), but that I can't identify myself as socialist or as communist (or anarchist, for that matter).

Your options at Orkut are these:

no answer
very right-conservative
very left-liberal
very libertarian
very authoritarian
not political
I had already noticed this about Facebook: there is no option for self-identifying as socialist or communist, but it at least lets me pick "other." MySpace, incidentally, has no profile field dedicated to political views or opinions. At least, not that I could find.

Is the issue that Google, like so much of the Western capitalist world, equates socialism, communism, and authoritarianism? It sure looks like the idea is that "authoritarian" and "very authoritarian" are meant to indicate both socialism/communism, on the one hand, and Nazism/fascism, on the other, because according to what most of us learned in high school, fascism and communism are the extremes of right and left that actually come together in a circle (rather than a line) as totalitarian systems opposed to freedom. But this is a facile pseudo-theory barely suitable for pre-teens, and the Google people seem smarter than that, and certainly not inclined to tell me I'm an authoritarian despite my own understanding of my politics, so let's say that's not it.

So, then, am I supposed to identify as "very left-liberal"? Well, my left-liberal comrades would balk at being called socialists or communists, since many Americans think socialists are ipso facto "dirty rotten scoundrels," so why force us onto them? And why make me lump myself in with people who actually probably believe more in the state than I do, despite the fact that they are less "radical" than I am? It strikes me that this would really be a political maneuver to conflate the left wing of the Democratic party with communists and socialists (e.g., Hillary Clinton, who, like Howard Dean before her, is far from communist, but is nevertheless painted with that brush as a means of discrediting her). Whereas neo-Nazis can comfortably call themselves authoritarians and not be confused with conservative right-wing evangelical protestants who vote Republican, for example.

In the end, I suppose I think the most disturbing answer is the correct one: that it is somehow more acceptable in a Western liberal (in the technical sense) democracy to self-identify as "very authoritarian" than to identify as socialist or communist (or as anarchist, by the way). This is deeply distressing, if true, although perhaps Jeanne Kirkpatrick is smiling in her grave.

So I suppose I am stuck with "very left-liberal" as the closest to my position. Likewise, my in-many-respects-mistaken anarchist brothers and sisters are left with "libertarian" if they choose to participate at all.

I suppose I should also acknowledge progress in the apparent fact that, some twenty years after Bush père turned "liberal" into an epithet by calling Michael Dukakis a "card-carrying liberal" (whatever that was actually supposed to mean) in a presidential debate, it's now at least ok to be a "liberal."


DnH500 said...

I'm quite annoyed at this too since none of the labels describe my views.

Dragon Eye said...

I don't know what these "political views" mean.........

can some one tell the meaning of each field