Overweening Generalist

Friday, November 4, 2011

Speech That Sends Chills, and Chilling Speech

First off, something from the "writing of harlots," which is the Greek etymology for our word "pornography," and don't tell me this ain't porn, 'cuz I'm at least as Bad an American as former Supreme Court prude Potter Stewart, who couldn't define porn, but famously said "I know it when I see it.":

I have taken off my robe--
must I put it back on again?
I have washed my feet--
must I soil them again?
My lover thrust his hand through 
the latch-opening;
my heart began to pound for him.
I arose to open for my lover,
and my hands dripped with 

-As they say in the American South, "Lawdamercy!" Is it getting hot in here? I took this passage from a putatively "religious" (HA!) book commonly known as Song of Songs. I found this in a larger anthology-like book called...pardon me for a moment while I check the title, the OG tries to be precise in these things...Ahh. Here it is: Something called The Old Testament? Sounds a tad grandiose, but the author probably thought it would increase sales. Anyway, I copped the passage above from section 5, lines 3-5.

Presumably I will now be threatened by Google's AdSense people. Why?

This past Tuesday I woke to an email in my inbox from adsense-google@noreply.com and here was the subject heading:

Google AdSense: You have 3 working days to make changes to your site
Date: November 1, 2011 5:25:27 AM PDT

Turns out a bot (let's hope it wasn't a human) took offense to my non-porn porn-writing in this post, which was supposedly in violation of the terms of my AdSense agreement. Here's the part of the agreement I apparently offended:

Adult content

The AdSense network is considered family-safe, which means that publishers aren't permitted to place Google ads on sites which contain adult content. In addition to photos and videos which contain nudity or sexual activities, here are some other examples of unacceptable content:

  • Lewd or provocative images
  • Crude or indecent language, including adult stories
  • Sexual tips or advice
  • Sexual fetish sites (e.g. foot fetish content)
  • Adult toys or products
  • Ads or links to external sites containing adult content
If your site has content which you wouldn't be comfortable viewing at work or with family members around, then it probably isn't an appropriate site to place Google ads upon.
Okay: I don't see how I violated any of these terms. Do you? Was I being called out because I used the word "porn" in my post's title? (If so, you bloggers on food: watch out when using the now-fashionable term "food porn" or you run the risk of Daddy Google making you stand in the corner. Or worse.)

I sought redress. It's not easy trying to figure out who to write to (forget calling!) when dealing with the "Don't Be Evil" Google Leviathan. I found an address I thought seemed close enough, and pleaded my case in a few sentences.

Here's what I got back:
>gddsmith has posted an answer to the question "I don't think my two blogs or sex-related issues violate the Adsense terms, but they gave me three days":

>Well you might think it's ridiculous but that post & probably the sex post would not comply w/ their family friendly policy. So it's your choice, you can comply w/ the policy or find your site or the whole Adsense account disabled. There are many publishers that don't get a warning & simply find the ads already disabled so they are willing to give you a chance to fix the issue but it needs to be done within the three day span.

>Regardless of how intellectual & humorous that you think your post are there are a number of advertisers that would be outraged if they knew their ads were showing on a site/post on that subject. They cater to those that actually pay the bills & what business wouldn't if they actually want to stay in business.

>Also if there are any other violations of their policies they may still disable ad serving even though they didn't state those in the warning. When they review it it needs to be 100% compliant.
Gosh, I knew they were just delightful folks over at AdSense, but did "gddsmith" have to lay the charm on so thick? "[...] or find your site or the whole Adsense account disabled." Whew! It's gettin' hot in here, I do declare! (But why didn't he/she/it sign off with a "sincerely and best of luck, gddsmith"? I feel hurt...) I'm so PRIVILEGED just to have a site and be allowed to display ads, that if I talk about Oprah talking about her vagina they might squash ALL MY WRITING here? Don't tell me: this "gddsmith" has a degree in Public Relations, right?

[The Overweening Generalist would like to remind his readers that the Electronic Freedom Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union have been doing a crackerjack job, and if you want or need to donate to a charitable source - you might get a tax write-off! - the end of the year is approaching fast! These are two eminently worthy defenders of Free Speech. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.]

It's now been more than 72 hours since I received my warning, and I spent a lot of time in the interim asking friends and fellow-writers to review my blog, and say what they thought. A self-described conservative writer-friend in Texas said my post made her "blush" but she didn't think I had violated anything. Everyone else came back with the verdict that can best be summed up with the word "Bullshit!" 

Which was what I thought, too. I think there's more eroticism in the Bible passage than anything I wrote; my intent was NEVER to titillate or inflame or be prurient in any way. If you read "Frank Talk About Porn, Jokey Talk About Sex" and DID feel titillated, please seek professional help. (If you work for Google, you can probably also afford remedial writing classes; no one working at Google should still be writing at an 8th grade level. Horrid epistolary prose is something I find, personally speaking, indecent.) I was trying to talk about issues surrounding the world of sex and porn that I had first taken notice of on commercial TV or mainstream news. Notice the links? I tried to put a humorous spin on the topics. (Humor is hard, folks. You try it.) I was trying to appeal to intellectual adults. And I grew up in a family that wouldn't have had a second thought about these topics. Must I assume Reverend Mathers Stickoopass and his family are reading and tailor everything to their emotionally-plagued minds? (Notice I never explained what a "money shot" was.)

For what I did, Google was ready to pull all ads from my site - which is all the ads I have - and I guess I'd have to relinquish the $30-odd I'd built up from ad clicks. But the issue of pulling the ads did not bother me, really. What bothered me was this bloodless notice threatening me for something I'd written. "Families" and "children" or "people at work" were going to see my blog and it was going to SCARE them or RUIN their day? They were going to feel embarrassed? And relate the content to the ads for some college a few inches away? REALLY? From this same guy who writes ad nauseum on Noam Chomsky? Who has a "thing" for Modernist Hungarians? Who at times can't help but choose to write on the topics of Aldous Huxley, or his favorite chemists, or epigenetics, or relatively free-floating unattached intellectuals in history? This dude who has a crush on 16th century essayist Montaigne? 

REALLY? This is a significant threat to the people behind the ads I've allowed about institutions of learning, books, and political ideas? Hooo-kay!

So yea: more than 72 hours since the threat from the Don't Be Evil people. I still have ads up as I write this. If you're reading this and there are no ads, they came down on me. If you're not reading this because the blog has been banished by Der Googlemeister's little Fuhrers to the Land of Thud, well, I can't deal with your problem. 

No notices. Nothing. Am I to assume some thoughtful person actually read my blog and said, "Why are we threatening this guy? Let him be." I don't know. Frankly, I do wonder about "gddsmith," though...

"When we compare stoic with Christian ejaculations we see much..." - from William James's classic The Varieties of Religious Experience, p. 42 of the Modern Library version. Gosh, I hope my quoting of James doesn't ruin those businesses "that actually want to stay in business," as "gddsmith"put it to me, with such civility.

Note that a woman with the PhD in Molecular Microbiology was one of those who commented at the end of my post. She has taught 11 year olds sex education and found that kids are endlessly fascinated about this stuff. Note that she found the erotically-charged STATISTICS I cited to dovetail with her own experiences as a teacher. 

To the people who get all wadded-up over the stuff I wrote, or the way I wrote it: What PRETEND world do you think you live in? What FAKE utopia do you pine after? What gutless, boring, moronic Valhalla is being preserved by trying to scare someone like me?

To me, this was an attempt at a chilling effect. And maybe this particular blog post will get me kicked off Google's Blogger/Adsense/and well, half of the Internet. But if I do get kicked off, at least have a Human Being tell me why I was threatened in the first place. Charles Keating this! Don't hire some Palin to respond to my query about why I was threatened, 'cuz that was a load of Santorum.

May we all gather 'round the Great Turducken some day. That is all.
post scriptum: I see my journalist friend Tom Jackson, on November 4th, has linked my non-family-oriented post with something that Robert Anton Wilson said in an interview, and for that I'm honored.

                                           No one was harmed in the making of this blog post. 


Sue Howard said...

One of funniest (and scariest) lines I've heard in a long time:-

"...there are a number of advertisers that would be outraged if they knew their ads were showing on a site/post on that subject."

Did Dennis Hopper (with oxygen mask) ever get this kind of shit when advertising Nikes and BMWs?

Jo Harrington said...

Go you! Google has way too much power these days. Swapping their role as gatemakers into that of gatekeepers. Only the righteous and worthy may pass.

If they do kick you out, drop me a note. I've been here, got the t-shirt and the list of alternative advertisers. ;)

michael said...

@ Sue Howard: the Hopper example rawks! Yes, I see that Full Sail University is on my screen right now: Develop Internet Marketing Skills and get a Master's! O! the nine shades of horror is someone sees that ad, coupled with this horrid example of a human being who's writing about the sociology of gynecological exams! The university may fall to utter RUIN! And they are the job creators! They want to stay in business! What else is this trouble maker up to? Oh my god!!! He wants us all to believe a Martian helped develop most of the Higher Maths that undergird 20th and 21st century technology! Is there no HEINOUS affront to DECENCY that this putrid "writer" will stoop to?

PS: I'm crazy about you, Sue. You know that, right?

michael said...

@Ms. Jo Harrington: How comforting to have you on my side, Jo. And yes: I may need your wisdom from experience, possibly sooner than later.

I'm also wondering about your own story w/re/to this crapola.

I wrote the EFF and gave 'em the lowdown, linked to my site, asked them if they were interested in such a case.

This Generalist may be Too General for Google and I may be singing "Happy Trails" in wot? Three business days?

My favorite line from "gddsmith" was his dimestore Clint Eastwood impression which IIRC went something like, "So it's up to you. You can comply or lose your blog." He should've gone the whole nine and said, "You need to ask yourself: do you feel LUCKY, punk?"

But then that would've taken him out of Robo-Mode.

Anonymous said...

I do not know what to say to all this. I am speachless. I just feel like singing:

"Bad Boy, Bad Boy, whatcha gonna do when they come for you....."



Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

My impression was that "gddsmith" is not a Google employee, just a clueless commentator. Is that how you read it?

John David Galt said...

Maybe you should ask each of the advertisers what they found objectionable in your post. And publish the responses.

I'll bet most of the answers amount to "that guy at Google is an idiot and we will talk to his boss."

michael said...

@Tom: It's difficult for me NOT to read it that way. What I wonder is: what was the situation that led them to hire people like that to deal with these issues? It's REALLY easy - even for a tech-doofus like myself - to start a blog on Blogger. I imagine they have to deal with all kinds of teenage friends and pics of their parties, half-naked (or fully) pics of booze-sodden twenty year olds at last night's party...and the bloggers had monetized. I imagine a bot goes through and looks for keywords, like "Porn." What I don't get is my query and the response. Clueless? Probably. Hell...obviously!

But are there so many problems that they can't hire people with a clue to actually read the blogs in question? Maybe so.

Ms. Jo Harrington (comment above) lives in an area where the London riots occurred a few months ago. She took pics and put them up on her blog, got a crazy spike in hits, and Der Goog came down on her for BEING POPULAR all of the sudden. There must be click fraud when someone's suddenly getting tons of hits! Yea, but what if you've done something the community is clamoring for, like non-Beeb-controlled photos?

michael said...

@John David Galt: I hear ya, man. But I think it's probably too "rational" of an approach to take.

Clearly "gddsmith" and anyone at the advertisers will have someone in charge of damage control/PR...and these seem to tend to be overwhelmingly jerkwads. Afraid of anything with the faintest whiff of non-wholesomeness that supposedly attends their corporate image.

This is not to mention a more basic problem: these advertisers - hell, even Google/Blogger/AdSense themselves - don't seem to really want to communicate with bloggers at all. I'm basing this not only on my difficulties, but many other anecdotes of Bad Experiences with Die Googleplex gleaned over the past week.

You know what would be REALLY COOL? If I got a letter from someone at Google AdSense telling me why I got the original letter, telling me my blog is cool and that I shouldn't worry, just make sure I adhere to those five points of agreement: no nudity photos, no links to fetish sites, no obviously prurient appeals to sex acts in the language or "erotic" stories, etc. Surely there must be some place for a person like me to talk about this stuff in the way I do?

Maybe not...

Annabel Lee said...

What's funny to me is that I got "banned for life" from AdSense because someone, who wasn't me or anyone I know, decided to spam click a bunch of ads for no reason. I didn't do anything, and I appealed the ban. They said that it was my responsibility. I was outraged since I'm not the executor of the entire internet. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to stop people, that I don't know, from doing something I don't know is happening and don't have the tools or resources to prevent from happening, and it's my fault. I'm so glad that I can be banned from AdSense for life because someone in Indonesia decided to click 4522 ads in one day on my old website while I, being in Maryland, was asleep. Thanks Grand Master Google for being complete and total Inter-Nazi's. Much appreciated. Good to know that the internet is safe for spammers to do that, while honest, hard working people such as myself are held accountable for their actions.

michael said...

@Annabel Lee: Hoo-boy. These horror stories keep piling up...and I've only been delving since my original notice. Your Word Press page looks muy fantastico. I may be joining you there, sans ads, presently.

What a STOOOPID reason to be banned!

michael said...

FOR SOME REASON, Annabel Lee's comment that was meant to be here, was sent to my email box but never showed up here. I will leave it to better minds to figure out why, but here's what she sought to express to not just me, privately, but to this forum:

Annabel Lee has left a new comment on your post "Speech That Sends Chills, and Chilling Speech":

@Michael - The only thing about a WordPress.com site is that you can't monetize it. You'll have to either find a hosting site that offers WordPress plugins for their domain fee, or you have to host your own WordPress.ORG site. I've got the .com for now, but I own my domain name. I'm looking into transferring it to a hosting site and trying to make some money off of it, but I need to generate about, oh, 500 percent more traffic than I already do lol.

Annabel Lee said...

*innocent whistle?*

Anonymous said...

I think we need more responsible and environmentally conscious people like Mr. "goldsmith" on this planet. (Gold has a high value on the market these days, in case you did not know.) I have a question for you Mr. Generalist: I throw this question like a plummet into your soul, to discover how deep it is. You are young and desire "porn" and "sex". But I ask you: are you a man who ought to desire "porn" and "sex" ? Are you the victor, the self-conqueror, the ruler of your porn and sex, the lord of your virtues? Because, people can get hurt in the process.

Have you not heard of Malthusian theory of population and Malthusian catastrophe Mr. Generalist? Malthus warned us in 1798: "The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth." And here you are promoting "porn" and "sex". How irresponsible of you. We have to depopulate, not populate! People did not listen to Malthus and look what happened the other day: 7 billion people on this planet!? Do you have any idea how many tons of people is that? This planet has not been designed to carry so much weight and it can sink any day now. Just like Titanic. And nobody will be able to find it. Will you take the responsibility Mr. Generalist? Where is Mr."goldsmith" when you need him?

michael said...

@Anonymous: Did you even read what I wrote?

I'm not promoting porn and sex. I am merely commenting on topics that showed up in the mainstream media.

Also: The population is increasing in the Third World, where there is illiteracy. How ironic.

There is something called satire. It requires a literate person to understand it.

Also: I thought there was free speech. As you get older you might find that some authors wish to explore topics in new ways in order to get their audience to THINK in new ways. I'm sorry my writing didn't work for you.

I take an unabashed tone. I like irony. To make the leap from what I wrote to the problem of overpopulation? Now I think it's you who are trying to be funny!

Hey! Will you look at the calendar? It's the 21st century, and we all have access to birth control...except in the Third World, where the Pope shows up and preaches no birth control. And what are some of the biggest problems in the world? AIDS and overpopulation.

Your beef is with the Church and governments.

And AdSense pulled my ads for talking about things that were already in the mainstream corporate media, so that should comfort you.

Thanks for reading my blog! xxxoooo

Anonymous said...

I hear you brother! What happened to you and to Annabel Lee are the examples of Google/AdSense horror stories. Obviously, not much Sense there! It sounds like no one even bothered to put any effort of dealing with people here. )(Occupy Google!?) I guess, that is what happens when companies become too big and loose their sense for another human being. I doubt that anyone at AdSense/Google read your blog. If they read it they didn't get it. Their loss not yours. Many people at Google (and not just @ Google) work mechanically, without conscious thought.


"A great deal of the human nervous system is on autopilot,
like the chimpanzee nervous system." - R.A.Wilson

"Stupidity is a blockage in the ability to receive, integrate,
and transmit new signals," - R.A.Wilson

michael said...

@Anonymous: I bet someone has collected AdSense horror stories. I just don't know who it is, yet.

As stupid as my story is, coupled with a bundle of others I've heard about, there's gotta be a lot that are even worse than mine.

Regarding Annabel Lee's story: that's a variation I've heard for a long time, but it's unfathomable that the mighty Goog doesn't have a better way to exonerate someone for click fraud.

Jo Harrington's story - as I understand it - seems just as unfair, if not worse: she did something that was really hot: she got out and took pictures during the London riots and put them on her blog. Her hits spiked enormously - wouldn't you want sources other than the Beeb and the Daily Mail and Telegraph? And they that her spikes were fraudulent and slammed her for that.