I have been robbed by ghosts. I have been looking forward to The Festival of Eugene 2016 at the end of August because as a poet I was looking forward to, not just preforming at the Poetry Stage, but in that I had taken a class in TV production with CTV 29 Lane Community Public Access TV, I was eager to make a TV show of the Poetry Stage too. It was a big deal to me. Then yesterday I got an e-mail saying that it'd been canceled because the woman behind the Festival of Eugene had used the N-word on some blog and everything was ruined for everyone. I had no idea who she was or why she was important. I never saw her use the N-word myself. 

    My initial disappointment became instantly unhappy confusion. Someone e-mailed me that someone had told them that they had read on Facebook that the [alleged] N-Word user had been driven out of her house by threatening Facebook attacks and was in seclusion. There was no way to know who was attacking her due to Internet anonymity. But the mystery deepened in the white clouds of electrons of social media where she had used the N-word and turned the World against her.

    Racism is unacceptable. That makes sense to me. But I am confused. How could one use of the N-word destroy something I have been looking forward to and working hard to be part of for some months? Who was she and who were her accusers? I will never know. You see, all of this has the substance of ghosts and rumors to me. There was a rumor/hearsay she used the N-word, and the hearsay that her Internet Facebook site was hacked, so that it wasn't even her using the N-word after all. Maybe. She took down the site the day after. (hearsay) I heard she had fled for her life. (hearsay) I will never know who her accusers are - (fact) the trial by rumor and Internet storm has wiped away the Poetry Stage and the The Festival of Eugene 2016 like a ghost tornado that has wiped out a ghost town.

    Racism is part of the fabric, the very substance, of the American experience. But all uses of the N-word are not equal. There is a difference in racism between the look on someone's face when I tell them I am a Buddhist and a practitioner of what they think is a yellow man's religion, the racism of burning a cross on someone's lawn, and the racism of lynching a young black man who had his whole life ahead of him. And there is a spectrum in the substance of consequences to these various forms of racism - a spectrum properly reflected in a prioritized response beholden to individuals and groups.

    But the Internet is a storm of electrons - and hiding behind Internet anonymity, everyone is a ghost whose opinion is equal to a vanishingly small flicker of energy subject to Heisenberg quasi-reality. Today’s Opinion Poll is a fickle school of fish that changes its direction in the snap of a finger. Yet trial by Flash Mob of electrons can have absolute concrete reality in the real world without recourse to the depths given by a consideration of consequences, a wisdom come from experience, or the slow motion social deliberation of an actual trial where facts are presented and remain in the record tomorrow to be seen for oneself.

    I think Flash Mob Mind is no mind at all. And a Trial by Opinion in a Facebook page taken down the next day is an imprudent precedent for jurisprudence.

    My friends and I sometimes have fights. Then we don't talk. But finally, we miss each other and we sit down over coffee and go through the painful process of looking in the mirror of our friend’s eyes - and seeing where we were wrong, and where they were wrong, or maybe things just went wrong, and you can't blame anyone because sometimes things get bigger and get going faster than anyone really could ever control.

    Look at the Arab Spring. It was a joyous season of thawing and the hopes for freedom of millions with cell phones. But be warned! The Internet makes things seem to be real when they're not real. The Internet Spring gave birth to the Egyptian Nation State of today and the Nation State that Turkey is becoming. Public opinion is not just fickle, it is a whorehouse of self-centeredness where everyone sleeps around with their mouth, and then doesn’t ever have to suffer the consequences for the ghost deeds of angry ghosts. Ghosts! Gossip and Avatars. But real suffering happens anyway.

    If that woman said the N-word in front of me I would let her know I thought she was being a jerk. Then I would expect better from her as I let her do her job, because I think her giving an apology and then letting me put a poetry show on TV would be better than getting a text message telling me I no longer was employed by people I didn't even know and didn't even know I existed. I think Flash Mob Mind is no mind at all.

    Flash Mob Mind follows the impulses of Mob Mind. Leaders who arise to stoke the impulses of Mobs lead Mob Minds to Bad, Bad Places. Adolf Hitler chose the same kind of swastika Buddhists place on the Buddha’s brow as a mark of enlightenment to represent the Nazi Mob Mind. Mob Minds today rebuke me as a Buddhist for not respecting Hitler’s copyright of the swastika.

    I do not love [Flash] Mob Mind. 

Leo Rivers, Sunday, July 24, 2016 9:16:00 AM, Cottage Grove, Oregon

 © Leo Rivers 2016