Monday, September 25, 2023

Lynching of Castenge Ficarrotta and Angelo Albano. Tampa, Florida, 1910.

I refer to this image in a piece of writing and I wanted the image to be accessible to readers so I am posting it, below. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Amazon Manipulates Reviews and Sends Malware Link to Reviewer. Because I Didn't Like Two Hot Books


Amazon Manipulates Reviews and Sends Malware Link to Reviewer
Because I Didn't Like Two Hot Books

Sometime during the summer of 2023, I posted a review of Elliot Page's memoir Pageboy on Amazon. I take words seriously, even the words that constitute Amazon reviews. Language can convey truth; language can empower lies. The difference between truth and lies is the difference between life and death. In my faith, Satan is the father of lies. God is the logos, the Word; God is truth and the truth sets us free. 

Elliot Page's Pageboy is a poorly written book. I said so in my review. I said this because bad writing matters. "Writing clearly is thinking clearly." Writing poorly underwrites destructive behavior. Identifying bad writing is a worthwhile use of time.

I'm thinking of a novelist who earned his PhD writing about theater. This short, physically handicapped novelist didn't deal in bullets or fisticuffs, but he was Hitler's right-hand. Without Joseph Goebbels' speeches, movies, school curricula, and book burnings, Nazism would have found it more difficult to achieve its diabolical ends. On the other end of the ethical spectrum, we have the words of the Ten Commandments; we have the Beatitudes; we have crusading novelists like Harriet Beecher Stowe who helped end slavery. Yes, words and how we use them matter a great deal.

In my review of Pageboy, mindful of current speech codes, I did not refer to Elliot Page as "she." Rather, I focused on, as I said in the review, "sentence structure, punctuation, narrative flow, and coherence." I received a cheerfully-worded email telling me that my review was up, thanking me for the review, and providing a link that allowed me to visit the review. I did so. I saw the review on Amazon.

A few days later I thought of the review again, clicked on the link Amazon provided, and saw an error message. "That page does not exist," the message said, or words to that effect. I had received no notification from Amazon that the review would be removed. I received no explanation as to why it was removed. I received no warning telling me that if I posted another honest review of a poorly written book, I would be banished from Amazon forever. I received no instruction on how to write reviews that Amazon would not delete.

Perhaps a month after that, I again attempted to review a book on Amazon, Christian Cooper's Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World. Again, I received a cheery notification from Amazon telling me that my review was posted. I clicked on the link Amazon sent and I saw the review. Again, a few days later, I clicked on that same link and got the same message. "This page does not exist." Again,  I received no notification, and no explanation.

I shrugged. I was resigned. I moved on with my life.

On September 7, 2023, weeks after the above events, my inbox was flooded with approximately one hundred emails from Amazon. The emails that I read before deleting them all said the same thing. "Thank you for reporting a fake review," or words to that effect. This made no sense. I hadn't been reporting fake reviews at Amazon. At the end of this avalanche of spam from Amazon came the final email. That final email informed me that all of my reviews, reviews going back almost thirty years, had been removed. I would never again be allowed to post reviews on Amazon, not for books or for anything else. If I bought a spatula that was a really good spatula, I could never say that on Amazon.

I was offered a link to click. I clicked on the link and was sent to the main Amazon page. There was I invited to click on another link. Computer expert friends warned me not to click on the link Amazon sent me. It was a scam link to malware. Someone at Amazon had used my account to generate a series of false reports of fake reviews, and then to ensnare me into clicking on a malware link.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The Ulma Family Beatification / My Trip to Markowa

 The Ulma family of Markowa, Poland, was recently beatified. I spoke in Markowa years ago about my work on Bieganski, the Brute Polak stereotype. I had a lovely time. I wanted to make a documentary -- I wrote up a plan -- then I was told I had cancer and would probably not survive. I couldn't find funders or any Polish Americans who were even interested in the plan so I let it go. Oh, Polonia, if only you supported your scholars more than you do.