Wednesday November 21, 2018 – Shannon, Ireland

There was a young woman at the front desk when I went down this morning to make a change to my booking. Our conversation went something like this

ME: “Hi, I’d like to make a change to my booking. I’m in room 445”

HER: “Oh, well, we’ll have to see because some bookings cannot be changed. Why don’t you me what you want and we’ll see if it’s possible”.

ME: (Thinking to myself – Literally the next words out of my mouth were going to be to tell you what changes I need to make. I never expected you to read my mind). But instead I said “I will be checking out Saturday morning and back in on Sunday morning”.

HER: “No, you are booked straight through until December 2”.

ME: “I realize that is the current booking. The part we need to change is that I am now planning to check out for one day, Saturday of this week, and then I will check back in on Sunday.”

HER: “So you want to cancel your booking”?

ME: “Not exactly. I want to just modify this booking. I need to leave on Saturday morning to go to Dublin where I will check in to another hotel. Then, on Sunday, I will return here and check back in to this hotel.”

HER: Looking thoroughly perplexed and staring at the computer screen – “Okay, I will have to cancel your booking then.”

ME: “Okay. Just so long as I get another booking from Sunday the 25th to December 2.”

HER: “But I’m not sure because we have to cancel your booking. I’ll have to check to see if we have availability from Sunday.”

ME: “Really. You don’t think the reservation I already have means you might have at least one room available”?

HER: “But not if I cancel your booking.”

ME: “How about you make me a new booking from Sunday until December 2. And if you find no availability then we’ll deal with that matter at that time.”

HER: “I can’t guarantee you will get the same room.”

ME: “I’d be shocked if I did.”

Finally, after about 10 minutes of her fumbling around on the keyboard

HER: “Okay, so you are now checking out tomorrow

ME: “NO! I’m checking out Saturday”

HER: “Oh right.” Still looking perplexed. “You are checking out on Saturday and back in again on Sunday.”

ME: “Right”

HER: “Okay, left me see now if we have a room available for you on Sunday”

I just left. I have no faith my booking will be correct.

I don’t consider myself naive, but I was caught off guard by the story unfolding at Facebook.

I am generally mistrustful of public corporations as their sole purpose is the generation of revenue. And it has been clear for a long time that Facebook has benefited greatly from controversy and all the ideologically opposed dialogue on their platform. They have been under fire for some time for not doing enough to address the very difficult challenge of filtering out false identities posting deliberately misleading information to support or deny some position or political candidate. I’ve always thought this was a fools errands because one man’s belief system is another man’s propaganda. I get that state sponsored attacks from Russia are a problem, but Facebook or any publicly-owned tech company does not have inherent motivation, legal responsibility, or technical acumen to objectively censure input on a platform of 2.25B users.

The elephant in the room, in my view, is grasping the reality that ~35% of the people in our country are so ignorant, and so ill-informed, that they are not able to distinguish fact from fiction in these brutish and clumsy attempts to characterize obvious bullshit as facts. It’s of course not just Facebook, Fox News has built their business model around pseudo-news and cheap hacks masquerading as journalists.

But to find now that Facebook is actively participating, has hired PR firms specifically to design campaigns to use the Facebook platform to attack critics and influence their user base towards a political objective, is way over the line.

I have mostly kept my FB account so I have access to MYO alumni but of course also take the opportunity to see what old friends are up to and sometimes weigh in on one subject or another.

So now, I must figure out another way to stay in touch with my people in Namibia so I can step away from Facebook.

Anyway, the Irish trip marches on. Work remains chaotic and full of stress, with each of my bosses pulling in different directions. Next week things will heat up even more.

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