Brow-Beating by Facebook

SCENE:  [A Subcommittee hearing room in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.  The Subcommittee on Violence Against Women is just coming to order.  On the Subcommittee are seven women senators, four Democrats and three Republicans.  They take their places at the hearing table and all sit except the Chairwoman, The Honorable Gertrude (Trudy) Schmidlapp in the center.  The table is covered with a large green cloth and a vase of flowers sits at each Senator’s place.  A name plate identifies each Senator, but the states the Senators are from are not revealed.  Each Senator also has a microphone, a glass, a pitcher of ice water and a personal coffee cup.  Across from the Senator’s table is the witness table with the only witness, a man, John Smith, about twenty years of age, dressed in an ill-fitting suit and tie, though the suit is clean, not mussed or dirty.  He sits at the middle of the table which is about twenty feet long, not covered.  He looks out of place and forlorn.  The only other things on the table are a microphone and a glass of plain water.  The rest of the room is packed with photographers and reporters and visitors, mostly women.  The Chairwoman calls the meeting to order.]

SENATOR SCHMIDLAPP:  This meeting of the Subcommittee on Violence Against Women will come to order.  [She strikes the gavel once.]  Our first witness today is Mr. John Smith.  Mr. Smith, will you please stand and raise your right hand.  [Smith stands, his hand raised.  Sen. Schmidlapp recites the oath rapidly, in a barely audible voice, and without emotion.]  Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you are about to give in this hearing will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

SMITH:  [Tentatively.]  I do.

SCHMIDLAPP:  Please be seated.  [Smith sits.]  We will dispense with the opening statements and move to the interrogation of the witness.  Now, Mr. Smith, I call your attention to the list of postings on your Facebook page of last Wednesday.  Do you remember scanning that page?

SMITH:  Yes, Ma’am.

SCHMIDLAPP:  You will address me as “Senator.”

SMITH:  Yes, Ma’am, er, yes, Senator.  Sorry, Ma’am, er, Senator.

SCHMIDLAPP:  [Frowning.]  That’s better.  Now, on that Facebook page was an entry from the United States Foundation on Violence Against Women.  Do you remember seeing it?

SMITH:  Yes, Senator, I do.

SCHMIDLAPP:  That entry contained a picture of a battered woman and some words.  The words stated “Like if you abhor violence against women, Ignore if you don’t.”  Do you remember seeing that?

SMITH:  Yes, Senator, I do.

SCHMIDLAPP:  And you ignored it, didn’t you?

SMITH:  Er, well, Senator, I passed it by, but I didn’t really ignore it, I mean the picture was graphic and I couldn’t really ignore it–

SCHMIDLAPP:  But you didn’t “Like” it, did you.

SMITH:  Er, no, but you see–

SCHMIDLAPP:  [Raising her voice.]  You didn’t “Like” it at all, did you?  You passed it by, didn’t you?  It was clearly stated on that image of that poor woman [she taps the table with one finger] “Like if you abhor violence against women, Ignore if you don’t,” and you ignored it, didn’t you?

SMITH:  Er, yes, well, no, you see–

SCHMIDLAPP:  Are you in favor of violence against women, Mr. Smith, if that really is your name?

SMITH:  No, no, of course not, Senator, but you see–

SCHMIDLAPP:  That image gave you a very definite choice.  All you had to do was click “Like” and you could have stood with all of us against violence against women.  But you didn’t, did you?  You chose to ignore it.  The choice was yours, Mr. Smith, and you took the worst choice of all.

SMITH:  Ah, Senator, yes, of course  I’m against violence against women, but I see a lot of postings on Facebook.  I don’t “Like” all of them.  That is, every one of them.  Not all, just the ones I believe strongly in–

SCHMIDLAPP:  And you don’t believe strongly in stopping violence against women?  Mr. Smith, you appall me.

SMITH:  Yes of course I believe in stopping violence against women, but I also have my own regular set of beliefs and…and, well I just didn’t “Like” it.  I just passed it by.  That’s all it means–

SCHMIDLAPP:  It said quite clearly on that image that if you ignore or pass it by that you don’t–and I emphasize DON’T–support efforts to stop violence against women.  It was clear, very clear.  You had a choice to make and you made it.  The wrong one.

SMITH:  But Senator, just because I passed it by doesn’t mean I don’t support efforts to reduce violence against women, it just means I passed it by.  That’s all.  I have my own regular set of things I “Like” and–

SCHMIDLAPP:  And violence against women isn’t among them, is that it?  I remind you, Mr. Smith, the choice was clear.  Either you are against violence against women or you are for it.  It was your choice and we all know what choice you made.

SMITH:  No, Ma’am, er, Senator.  That doesn’t reflect who I am.  I just didn’t press the “Like” button, that’s all that means.  I’m against women, er, violence against women, but I…I–

SCHMIDLAPP:  Then why didn’t you “Like” it?  All you had to do was press the “Like” button.

SMITH:  I don’t always “Like” everything I see on Facebook.

SCHMIDLAPP:  [Exasperated.]  But you were presented with a very simple choice.  A very clear, simple choice.  You’re either with us or against us.  There cannot be any other alternative.  [She looks both ways down the table.  An audible murmur of consent comes from all the other Senators at the table.]  I can see that you are very definitely against us.  [She stands, leans over the table and shakes her finger at Smith.]  You are a despicable human being, Mr. Smith.  A very despicable person.  I intend to introduce legislation in the Senate this very afternoon proclaiming you and everyone else in this country who didn’t click “Like” on that image of that poor, battered woman to be hateful, contemptible, heinous, malevolent individuals, and I will petition the President of the United States to issue an Executive Order ordering the Secretary of the Army to round up all you disgusting people and have you incarcerated in an internment camp somewhere in the wilds of, of, well, we’ll work that out.  Do you understand, Mr. Smith?  You had a choice.  A clear choice.  And you made the wrong choice.  You have to live with that, Mr. Smith.  Shame on you, Mr. Smith.  [She stands upright and relaxes a little.]  We are through with you, Mr. Smith.  You may go.

SMITH:  [His mouth is open and he can barely speak.  He swallows hard.]  Er, yes sir, er, Ma’am, er, Senator.  Thank you, Ma’am, er, Senator.  [He rises from his seat and leaves the room, defeated, his head bowed.  The press follows him, photographers and cameramen snapping images as he walks through the door and down the hall.]

[Schmidlapp remains standing and the others Senators leave their chairs and gather around her.  They hug her, pat her on the back, give her and each other high fives, and generally congratulate the Chairwoman for her performance.  The visitors in the room stand, cheering and shouting “Schmidlapp for President.”  The scene fades.]

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