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Face it Boet

Face it Boet

by Brandon Edmonds, illustration by Jason Bronkhorst / 20.08.2010

The horror of Facebook, the deepest one, the most lastingly wounding, lies in how it turns our intimates into information. We’re all confessional blurts to be processed. Rather than rounded selves full of complexity and difference. The closest people in our lives increasingly become the sum of their wall posts. We’ve turned into a proliferating scroll of bulletins. A metastasizing network of confessors.

It’s as if everyone in your world suddenly became an avant-garde art movement from the early 20th Century: issuing manifesto’s, declaring their allegiances, a billion Andre Bretons; or less pretentiously, a self-promotional news feed like the ones permanently running on financial shows. The constant info flow, that stream at the bottom of the screen, is both a reassuring reality principle: here this is happening right now, this is the world as it is, and its working, see, look at the numbers, everything is as it should be. And a metaphor for capitalist waste. It’s an info sewer. Gnomic data spew. Interesting to a coterie. Largely unnecessary. An affectation. Part of the shtick of cable news. Facebook replicates that info stream. But instead of data flows relating to cobalt production in Yemen, say, we get the mind droppings of our nearest and dearest. The daily reveries of those we love and like. This is how I feel. That is how I’m thinking. Here’s what I’m doing right now. It’s more than a little obscene.

The old Marxist notion of ‘reification’ is useful here. It is the amount of labor time congealed in a product. The actual work and relationships behind the shiny thing on the shelf. Objectified labour. Human properties turned into mass-produced things. The great struggle remains who these things ought to belong to, the people who make them, or those who control the ‘means of production’. On Facebook we’re sustaining a massive corporate entity (it’s demented twenty-something CEO is a billionaire) by divulging the minutia of our everyday lives online. It may not be the direct exploitation of coal miners in China, but the process of reification, of turning human properties into saleable things, is the same.

That recent wrangle over privacy on Facebook is really about controlling the ownership of intimacy. How much ought to be made public? Who ought to decide the parameters of disclosure, the site managers or the user? The relentless logic of Facebook is to burgeon by linking people. It insists on making connections. What this business is not interested in is the quality or usefulness of those connections.

Facebook may have tweaked its notoriously prolix and porous privacy settings recently, but what it can’t do is return us to social life free from the fiery ring of information. I know your week before you’ve even opened your mouth. I’ve flipped through your holiday snaps. I’ve assessed your lover’s smile. I know you’re estranged from your sister (she hasn’t posted in yonks) and that your dog has the runs. Actually talking to you now, in person, in real life, has the glum déjàvu quality of seeing a bad movie twice.

* Illustration by Jason Bronkhorst.

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  1. Lizzy says:

    all true. and yet the stupid site is so addictive i cant stop myself. its fb mobile that keeps luring me in…

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  2. Bob says:

    Decent article, could be longer and less contrived but for the most part, I agree.
    Even if I do live life one status at a time.

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  3. Sean O'Fool says:

    Nice piece. What do you think prompts people to continue using FB? It seems that most users are, to varying degrees, aware of a lurking sense of ennui and purposelessness. Routine? Habit? It’s kinda Beckettian, don’t you think. “What do we do?” asks Vladimirt. “Don’t let’s do anything,” responds Estragon. “It’s safer.” Meaning: let me update my profile.

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  4. Andy says:

    It’s the voyeurism… and for us the sheer marketing value of all these connections

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  5. Mick says:

    Haha yay. Kiffing and kakking the comments! Let Them feel the vertigo of perpetual, bile-scorched assessment, that evervolley of phlegm and queasy tomatoes and smiles and jabs and junk..

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  6. Stavros says:

    Is he reading his guts, or eating them?

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  7. Will says:

    The other day I read the +-145 comments to an article I can’t even remember. Most of it was a shit-slinging contest that had nothing to do with the article itself: but I read it anyway. I think the same thing applies to facebook. Fuck I’m stoked there are kif and kak buttons on the comments board now!

    Lukka article.

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  8. creepy steve says:

    big brother is only getting better there is a new app being launched facebook places watch out. http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/08/watch-facebooks-location-sharing-announcement-live/

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  9. cleo says:

    fuck…never was a truer word spoken(says i as a self confessed, and now slightly cowed facebook addict.) and fantastic illustration dude.the irony here is that i found this piece on facebook…

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  10. Anonymous says:

    I get what you’re saying….But really if FB is really a pain in your arse than quit it…seriously no one is forcing you to log on or to read people’s status’…just a thought…
    I always find it funny when people complain about other people writing about thier lives on their FB status’…if you don’t like it…don’t read it…simples

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  11. Kevin Goss-Ross says:

    What an illustration. What an illustrator. Goddamn.

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  12. Torpour says:

    If you think being a number in capitalism is bad just wait until you get the socialist paradise you keep asking for. You show every sign of intelligence but this constant riffing on Marxism.. go judge Marxism by its results, in fact, take your earnings and take a trip to mother Russia – St Petersburg is nice at this time of year, and go look at what joy and beauty was spawned by beautiful notions of progress and equality – endless lines of slummed out blocktowers that contain a ruined humanity that lives in filth and squalour. Perfectly organised, perfectly fair, perfectly inhuman. Grow up.

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  13. Torpour says:

    I can add: on Facebook you can opt out, turn it off, you know, actually take personal responsibility for your life without invoking totalitarian government control. Your socialist heaven won’t afford you such niceties, but that’s okay, because there are enough people out there who aren’t interested in personal responsibility anyway.

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  14. brandon edmonds says:

    I don’t remember ‘asking’ for a “socialist paradise” @Torpour – that would be idiotic. Socialism has to be fucking won – wrenched from the rich and ruling class by sheer force of popular will. You can’t “judge Marxism by its results” because the travesty in Russia was all about State Socialism – a pedantic, undemocratic, bureaucratic nightmare that couldn’t be further from the cogent liberating thrust Marx’s work. Take a gander at Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution” for a brilliant account of this deviation. As for my ‘earnings’ – I make R1500 as Features editor of this site. That isn’t enough to visit Paternoster never mind St.Petersburg. Look up Alain Badiou’s “Communism” – a book that re-animates the old left debate about the usefulness and urgency of Marx’s work for contemporary conditions. Unless you’re happy with Capitalism and the world it’s making for your children…

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  15. Torpour says:

    Brandon I’m very unhappy with this world. I’d read your books if I hadn’t first bothered to find out who bankrolled Trotsky – take the time to investigate this, seriously. Take a look at the people who support and bankroll Fabian socialism in Europe, with its Tony Blair, London School of Economics and more, the results might surprise you.

    What you’re saying is that the problem with Marxism has been in implementation, not ideology – i.e. what Trotsky said, and what got him shot – he actually believed the lies. IMarxism is the ultimate poison pill, the ultimate Trojan horse – it’s sold to people like yourself, nice guys who want a better world. It appeals to the best of us, and so we roll out the red carpet for the worst of us – with very few exceptions this is what history shows. It’s important to put historic precedent and fact in front of ideology – having your heart in the right place doesn’t automatically lead to the right result.

    The populist uprising removes the old order, but what it replaces the old order with isn’t necessarily better – instead you get the reign of terror, the great leap forward the holomodor. The world is rotten to the core, sick, corrupted, necrotic – but right now you do have the freedom to turn off your TV, do community work, chuck out the junk food, educate yourself – that freedom is protected with awareness and action, not ideology.

    Socialism is overwhelmingly materialistic, it’s preoccupied with money, so if you want to turn your back on materialism and power, then maybe you have to turn your back on both socialism and consumer capitalism. Sorry I told you to grow up, its easy to be a poes on a thread ;(

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  16. brandon edmonds says:

    That’s actually ‘The Communist Hypothesis” by Alain Badiou. Ah the notion of a ‘bankrolled Trotsky’ is redolent of Robert Service’s noxious historical revisionism in his recent biography. A tissue of scabrous lies. The guy lived hand to mouth. Trotsky. When that ice pick popped his skull in his own garden in exile in Mexico, he couldn’t pay the rent. He relied, like Blanche du Bois, on the kindness of strangers. Read Isaac Deutscher’s great “The Prophet Armed” etc. Anyway books books wank wank. Frankly fuck you – I’m not a ‘nice guy’ with a ‘heart in the right place’ who ‘wants a better world’. Perhaps in relation to your overwhelming cynicism (‘the world is rotten to the core, sick corrupted, necrotic’ – yikes) I may seem that way. Anyone would. Anyone who hasn’t given up on humanity. You come across as someone who prides themselves on calmly ‘stating the facts’ – a realist. When the biggest fantasy capital peddles is that there is no alternative to the limits it sets. Nothing beyond wage slavery. No other option but to ravage the planet. Nothing more to do than compete and consume. Accepting these conditions is not realistic. It’s insane.

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  17. Katoey says:

    Its kind of a poes vibe to shit on Facebook shortly after it launches a new product whose development was led by a local lad. I mean i dont have to like the thing to think that your timing sux.

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  18. Roger Young says:


    I agree.

    Other things developed by local lads – Apartheid, The Protection of Information Bill, the Vuvuzela and death by necklace.

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  19. Torpour says:

    Thanks for the offer of a fuck Brandon, but I am already taken. (Although I’m tempted, because you’ve got to have a bit of love in you to want to battle the system). I don’t know who Robert Service is, and am not impressed by guilt by association. I didn’t question Trotsky’s motives or integrity, obviously he hated the system that arose and died for his opposition to it – presumably he acted in good faith that the revolution would create the type of positive change he envisioned. I believe the communist term is ‘useful idiot’.

    Since you’re unwilling to scratch, it was Jacob Schiff and some of his banking buddies in Kuhn & Loeb (amongst others) who bankrolled the Bolsheviks. It’s really worth looking at the spread of Fabianism (slow burn socialism) in Europe to see who funds who and who this benefits. Tony Blair’s a committed Fabian socialist – who did his actions really benefit, and why did he get a nice consultancy at JP Morgan Chase after his resignation? The answers to these questions are important. The left needs money like anyone else, and they’ll take it from those who have it like anyone else, and as is the case throughout history, who pays the piper calls the tune.

    At the end you try suggest that there are only two options in the world – consumer capitalism and socialism. This is a flat out false dichotomy, you’re living in a logical fallacy. There are other ways of organising ourselves and creating a better world, and I think most of the meaningful ones start with doing and not with talking. Testing the results of ideology in practise (the kibbutzim are recruiting), becoming the change.. that sorta shit. But I guess if adopting a position of moral superiority and repeating what you read in books feels better, that’s what you’ll go with – us humans are selfish that way 🙂

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  20. Katoey says:

    Ja but Roger so far as I know none of those poes kak things you mention are mates of Andy

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  21. Anonymous says:

    Oh yes, Trotsky lived hand to mouth. I guess that makes him a saint. And by association everything left is also all the world needs. great. I feel better.

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  22. brandon edmonds says:

    I’m refuting he was ‘bankrolled’ numb nuts – hence the ‘hand to mouth’ rhetoric. Anyway – enough of that. Let the boards return to inane snark.

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  23. Bunny Gatsby says:

    Too many commas. Sentences too short.

    Thank fuck I never knew you on facebook. That’d be death by a thousand quotes.

    Up your game, Sparky.

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  24. mick says:

    Me may yet once’umgain be imaginating a small world (a pretty paranoia of crackling threads), but I almost scent Tor pouring any other name. And that’s a smiling tomatoe..

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  25. Torpour says:

    Lemme try evade moderation:

    Mick my name is Sven Eick, and I blog at vokpops dot blogspot and sveneick dot book dot coza, hope that sorts out any confusion.

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  26. Mick says:

    Ta Eick. Misread yr glinting lines for another aggressively acute pseudnmphiliac. Not so small then.. (cracklnonthless)

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  27. Roger Young says:


    I, of course, did not mean to imply that this FB thing that a South African developed is evil, just that giving a free pass to Fb because a South African works there is plain silly. Likewise if he’s a mate of Andy, or in fact mine.

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  28. mod-ur-rater says:

    Brandon, I started reading this comment thread with an open mind hungry for healthy opinion and debate. In all honesty, Torpour is winning this one due to a more balanced and less emotive approach rather than your increasingly abusive responses. And I mean “winning” in more ways than one. If you want more people to think about your point of view and to consider the information that you are privy to, I suggest that you start delivering it in a more likeable tone. Your bitterness is becoming tiresome and off-putting, people will not consider the value of what you have to offer when you deliver it with such ill-considered anger. If I had to choose which of the two of you I would prefer to have making decisons on the world’s behalf, I’d be choosing the other guy irrespective of his “ideology” – mainly because real character and leadership is determined by how people think and behave under pressure. In this regard, all evidence points to the likelihood that you would fail miserably. You have remarkable levels of intelligence and compassion, now start thinking about how you can package them more effectively.

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  29. brandon edmonds says:

    I’m writing a screenplay at the moment. It’s very stressful. ‘Packaging’ socialism for people on these boards isn’t a pressing priority right now – but I appreciate your measured advice.

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  30. arnaud says:

    Brandon, I really enjoy reading and re-reading your columns on Mahala . They are “slow food” one can linger over, and I would suggest you reveal more of yourself in them, than you would on a FB page, which is the opposite : fast food consumption on the go that leaves mounds of waste behind.
    In a way I can feel for your resentment against “the chattering classes” who dominate, clutter and obliviate all meaning in these new platforms of new technology and might become a threat to serious and gifted “reificators”.
    Funny actually, that your complaint against facebook sounds like that of an educated bourgeois ranting against the proletarian illiterates taking over the show.

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  31. Anonymous says:

    And how apt that I discovered this article on facebook

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  32. Torpour says:

    The reason I didn’t get pissed is because I understand where Brandon is coming from. Anyway, the threads here are the most brutal I have seen online, every time you make an utterance it’s like sticking your head in the stocks.

    Brandon, for your viewing pleasure:
    (you’ll have to add the prefix) youtube.com/watch?v=t8lWhyomYH8&feature=related

    Fast forward to the 2nd minute to get to the bit about psychological warfare.

    Yuri Bezmenov was a subversion agent for the KBG who defected to the West and spent the rest of his life teaching about subversion tactics and ‘silent’ revolution. He’s not making this stuff up, and it’s worth looking at all his lectures – in one of them he explains the role of mindless consumerism in ‘demoralisation’, shit-canning the idea that this is an inevitable product of capitalism.

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  33. The JZA says:

    Hey! All my favourite Mahala thingys on one page! Brandon Edmonds! Andy Davis! Roger The Bastard! Anonymous The Wad! Bad writing and worse editing! Screeds of eye-glazing whining from Anonymous and friends! And me! Let’s all die!

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  34. Non-iMouse says:

    You first JZA.

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  35. The JZA's Next of Kin says:

    JZA was pushed.

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  36. prosciutto says:

    Torpour, I checked out that Bezmenov vid and my immediate reaction is that one should always treat fear-mongers with much suspicion. He’s following the same classic arch-capitalist propaganda that the American right has been spewing for decades – that opening one’s mind to any alternative sociopolitical dispensation is an immediate gateway to hardcore communism and extreme repression. That’s a horribly simplistic view that doesn’t do any society anywhere any favours. I find it ironic that he talks about the “victims” of this thinking being unreceptive to other information of a more factual nature, whereas those who subscribe to his view of global politics would easily be guilty of the same close-mindedness.

    How do you react to Michael Moore’s movies?

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  37. Torpour says:


    I understand what you are saying, but Bezmenov is coming from the perspective of having actually worked in using ideology to subvert societies and prepare them for totalitarian takeover – from where he was standing alternative sociopolitical dispensations were quite literally used as a gateway towards creating totalitarianism.

    You’re also invoking the hardcore capitalist-socialist false dichotomy, Bezmenov disgarees with socialist ideology therefore he must, by default, be one of the hated hardcore capitalist/American right wingers – it’s a non-seqiutur and an appeal to guilt by association.

    If you watch all his lectures you’ll see that he doesn’t have anything against ‘dissident’ ideas in principle, but simply explains that dissidents can be unwittingly used to destabilise societies to usher in regime change. He actually traces this strategy back to ancient China and the teachings of Sun Tzu.

    For myself I’m not yet sure whether Marxism was created to facilitate totalitarianism, or whether this is just another example of capital co-opting and subverting any and every risk or threat to its survival, and that Marxism’s tendency to centralise power accidentally lends itself to this. I suspect the latter is true.

    The only Michael Moore movie I have watched was Farenheit 9/11, oh and his cameo in Team America World Police (I think I preferred him in this).

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  38. prosciutto says:

    Torpour – you should check out Moore’s latest, “Capitalism, A Love Affair” I’m not saying that I advocate everything that he portrays in his books and movies, but his method of advocating certain viewpoints does bear some resemblance to that of Bezmenov.

    More than anything, I think that educated people the world over are sick and tired of living in fear. In ex-communist/socialist countries it’s the fear of being ruled by an iron-clad bureaucracy and of not being able to explore your own personal potential. In capitalist nations its the fear of poverty and of being constantly exploited by those with easier access to capital, eductaion and political connections.

    In line with this desire is a growing resentment towards those who also use fear to guide thinking and political allegiance along pre-established lines, the breaking-down of all situations into an us-vs-them power-play where a deviation from existing norms is depicted as the erosion of a fortress’s walls and a self-indulgent surrender to monsterous external forces. So many people want to buy into solutions where their strength and justness are more self-evident and where a harmonious balance between capitalist incentive and socialist equaniminty are clear. It is becoming very clear to many of us that an extreme in either direction leads to dangerous social instability where self-interest means less in the face of community friction.

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  39. revolutionmyass says:

    @ prosciutto

    You starts off by labeling bezmenov a fear mongerer. That is garbage.

    He’s giving an account of his own experiences combined with what he was taught by the KGB.

    it’s not his fault if someone else is frightened by it.

    And what the fuck are you supposed to do when writing or talking about something that is actually scary?

    Are you supposed to tiptoe round the fucking tulips, just so that you are not labelled as ‘fear mongering’, because you are scared someone will question your credibility?‬

    That sounds a lot like intimidation.

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  40. prosciutto says:

    @rma, if you find what Bezmenov discussed as scary, then his work as an arch-capitalist fearmonger has been accomplished. What should we be scared of now, and how much less should we have been scared of then?

    Stop shaking in your boots, calm down and think carefully about it for a change. How much was American capitalism damaged by this monsterous propaganda machine of the Soviets? Very, very, very little. Far greater injustice and damage was done in America throughout the entire “cold war” by the greed of capitalism. They are (or were until very recently) the wealthiest nation in the world, but millions of their citizens are suffering and dying from medical conditions that are treatable – check out Michael Moore’s “Sicko” for more info on this. Now if Americans had put aside their pathological fear of anything resembling “socialism” (just as healthy democracies in Europe have) and created a proper state-sponsored health-care system, then they would have been a healthier society living in less fear…

    Hang-on, there’s the f-word again. People living without fear get to make sensible decisions, like which government they should vote for. Those living in fear will be manipulated into decisions that actually don’t serve their community’s interests. Seems like the Republicans and the Stalinists have more in common than either side would ever like to admit.

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  41. revolutionmyass says:

    OK prosciutto, I agree with you last paragraph up until the last sentence. You are correct.

    However, there are good reasons to be scared of certain things in life. There are times when fear or anger, is the appropriate response. As far as politics are concerned, educated sensible people will not be manipulated by fear alone.

    Your question ‘and how much less should we have been scared of then?’, well, just open your eyes and see what’s going on in the world. My answer would be, we weren’t scared enough. Most people fell for the ‘all the commie stuff is just propaganda’ lie. You should go ask some Angolans how much of it was propaganda.

    I’ve seen all of micheal moore’s movies up to Sicko. And I’m sorry to say, but sicko was the one that finally made my mind up about the guy. Capitalism is not the reason for high medical costs.

    In fact many of the problems that the left try to blame on ‘capitalism’ is are because of the interference of socialists and the ‘one world’ crowd, in free market principles.

    For instance, if it wasn’t for the socialist Bill Clinton that dismantled the Glass-Steagall Act, the banking crisis would not have been possible.

    And I’m sorry, but how much damage did America suffer from monsterous propaganda machine of the Soviets? Quite a lot. Just look what the puppet in the white was able to get away with since he’s been there. And before you lecture me again on Rep = bad, Dem = good, or capitalism=bad, socialism=awesome… Rep is not the same as capitalism, they have many socialist rep’s. and democrat isn’t always socialist. They still have some among their ranks that have at least read the constitution. Plus, Bush was as big a puppet as Obama. I don’t buy the false left right paradigm.

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  42. justgo says:

    There are plenty of communist countries. why don’t they all you brainwashed little minions just go there if it’s so great‬?

    Also, why are the people from those countries still risking their lives to float to america on their front doors? Poor sods. They’ve also been fooled. America haven’t been truly free market and capitalist for decades. If it was, the banking crisis would never have happened.

    Why are they still trying to escape by any means necessary from north korea?

    Actually, you don’t even have to travel far to find your utopia. Just move to Angola or Mozambique, or even ZIM. It’s close…

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  43. revolutionmyass says:

    Wow justgo, you read my mind…:-)

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  44. Torpour says:

    Thank you all for this timely reminder of why I stay clear of threads.

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  45. arnaud says:

    @ Torpour, I think Jason Bronkhorst also knows about threads, thats why he made that neat illustration of examining the threads for us.

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  46. prosciutto says:

    This is getting tiresome. It started with open-minded contributors such as Torpour & brandon & now we’ve got people thinking that I’m lecturing them on capitalism vs socialism as black-vs-white absolutes. Just because I advocate some of the merits of socialism does not mean that I’m anti-capitalist. What I’m suggesting is that many of us who have lived in capitalist societies since birth have been systematically brainwashed into putting up barriers when anything with socialist overtones is advocated. Judging by the responses from rma and justgo, it appears that this indoctrination has been quite extensive.

    I’ll rejoin this discussion if and when people with a more balanced view contribute something useful.

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  47. Noban2 says:

    True that

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  48. J. Edgar Hoover says:

    Bah! Commies. Kill them all.

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  49. Glenrikh Yagoda says:

    No. More zosializm, pleez. More blud for the mazzzster. Give me your freedomz and I give for you better lifeeez. Promiz xx

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  50. HipstersSuck says:

    “Its kind of a poes vibe to shit on Facebook”

    God, I hate South African slang.

    “Actually talking to you now, in person, in real life, has the glum déjàvu quality of seeing a bad movie twice”

    As for Facebook, my friends are so interesting that what they put on FB reveals maybe 5% of who they are or what they are up to. I think you need better friends, Brandon!

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  51. Mike says:


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  52. Warrior says:

    So what when your newly-wed wife is more committed to Facebook and the distant “friends” than to you.
    Just a vicious cycle of foolishness.

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  53. Tuna says:

    I have been contacted once more by GREENGES 2005 SL, LOPE DE VEGA 60, ARROYO DE LA MIEL, 29631, MALAGA, SPAIN.C.I.F – B92652288They appaer to be genuine but one has to be so careful.They want to join a joint action on ILG Reclaim and state that all correspondance will be in Spanish so all documents need translation at a minimun cost of a3850 payable after exam of docs by Lawyer then 15% of any monies recovered and paid direct to me.Question Has anybody dealt with them , are they above board and genuine Legal Adinistrators and to be trusted.Also i have been contacted by JD Knight assoc of the UK on the same basis of assistance at a fixed fee on Section 75, again Oliver Knight seems above board but they have only been trading for 3 months has anyone heard of them and is their any track record as amatter of interest i asked the Greeges coy if they knew them and they stated that they were a Scam coy???Look forward to your comments on both to assist me make some decisionsThanks

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