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Remember the good ol’ days of blacklisting? Back when the cowards of
the world actually succeeded in pulling books off the shelves, in
getting writers banned, in costing people their livelihoods — just
because their ideas were different?!

Ah yes, it was a dark time in the world, friends.

Well, I’ve got a little secret for you. Blacklisting is alive and
well today on (you’ll never believe this one) Classmates.com! I kid you
not!

Here’s the deal. Though I’d known about Classmates.com — the site
where you can look up old high-school friends –I’d avoided it, just as
I’d avoided going back to any of my high-school reunions. After all,
what the heck do you have to talk about with a bunch of (in my case)
50-year-old people, most of whom you had nothing to say to in the first
place?

Despite those sentiments, last June, I finally bit the bullet and
logged on. To my chagrin, most of the people who’d bothered to join
(there’s a $25 fee for “membership”) I didn’t remember at all. None of
the people I used to hang out with had bothered to join. I poked around
a bit, just out of curiosity. It was quickly obvious from the posts on
the message board that there were a few “regulars” — people who logged
on regularly and schmoozed with one another. People who probably had
nothing better to do with their time. I figured they were probably the
same folks who used to hang out in the back part of the lunch area.
Yeah, the losers.

The discussions on classmates.com were of the “Who was your favorite
teacher?” variety. Yawn. I decided I’d try to liven things up a bit, so
I created a discussion group called “Best Breasts” in which I asked the
readers to reply as to whom they thought had the best knockers of all
the girls in our graduating class.

The replies came fast and furious. They were fairly equally divided.
The guys who answered were into it — they all had their favorite
nominees. The girls, on the other hand, were, by and large, very
offended by my little questionnaire. Well, no wonder — given the state
of 50-year-old breasts, it was probably a painful reminder of their
present condition.

In any event, I’d created a bit of excitement in this wasteland of
boredom. Cool.

I created a couple of other such discussions — most of which drew
replies divided between mirth and anger at some of the topics I
suggested.

Last September, when I moved to France, I promptly forgot all about
Classmates.com. Heck, who’d wanna remember those tired old days when
there were millions of adventures to have — now in the present?

Fast forward. One rainy afternoon about a week ago, I logged back
onto the website. Same tired old shtick. It was apparent that these
bozos needed a dose of Goldman-adrenalin. Whereupon I created a new
discussion group called, “Most disgusting habits,” in which I asked
people to see if they could recall the name of a girl in our graduating
class who had the unfortunate habit of picking her nose and, uh, eating
it. (Oh come on, don’t pretend to be surprised; I’m sure every high
school had one!).

The very first person who responded to my post was someone who I’d
never heard of named Debbie Righter (interesting last name). Then I saw
why. Debbie had graduated seven years after our graduating class.
Nonetheless, she saw fit not only to inject herself into a discussion
to which she had not been invited, but she felt it her God-given duty
to give me a piece of her, er, mind.

“How dare you?” (or something to that effect) seethed
self-righteous Debbie. “Don’t you care about this poor girl’s feelings?
How could you do this to her?”

I thought about this. I seriously doubted whether the girl in
question (who, in fact, was one of the paying members on Classmates.com)
was still engaging in this activity — and if she was, well, it was time
for her to go get some help!

I’ll admit it — ol’self-righteous Debbie’s response irked me, and
I did something I shouldn’t have. I fired off a nasty reply. It wasn’t
particularly a very brilliant rejoinder. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was
something along the lines of “F— you.”

Then something really weird happened. The discussion group went
crazy. It turned into one of the longest “threads” in the history of
Classmates.com. The replies flew fast and furious. Many of the people
thought I was funny as hell — but there were a few others like ol’
Debbie who were hellbent on seeing that I was drawn and quartered.

At that point, I opted out of the fray. I just sat back and watched
the messages come in. Frankly, I couldn’t believe that these people had
nothing better to do with their all-too-short lives than yammer on about
some poor girl who’d spent too much time with her finger up her nose
30-some years ago!

It was kind of funny, because as soon as I disappeared, ol’ Debbie
kept sending me nasty messages, trying to lure me back into the fray.
When I didn’t take the bait, she really started frothing at the
mouth.

A few days ago, I received an e-mail from a friend who said, “Looks
like you’ve been banned from Classmates.com.”

At first I thought it as a joke. But when I logged onto the site, lo
and behold, I saw that all of my posts had been deleted. I immediately
knew what’d gone down. My detractors had, no doubt, complained bitterly
to the powers that be — threatening to march, picket, or bring their
attorneys into the fray (you know the tactics that do-gooders take when
they want to get their way). They’d whined and wheedled and bullied and
– boom! — I’d been effectively censored.

For about a half a second, I considered firing off a letter to the
site owners, reminding them about my rights to free speech and all that
kind of stuff. But then I stopped. I mean, why bother?

I should point out that this is not the first time I’ve been
“blacklisted” from a publication, though at least in the past the ones
that gave me the boot were somewhat more distinguished than
Classmates.com.

When I was a critic at the L.A. Times, I came into the offices one
afternoon to find that I’d mysteriously been “removed” from the paper’s
computer system. I immediately knew what had happened. In one of my
pieces I’d taken some potshots at one of the Times’ restaurant critics
(someone who was hated by half the staff), suggesting that the old biddy
should go into a rest home (hell, she’d been doing the same job for over
40 years!). A big no no!

Yeah, I was angry that I was out of a job, but the thing that really
irked me was that nobody — not my editor, not even the head honcho at
the Calendar, who I’d known for years — would admit that I’d actually
been axed. Rather, I was told that there simply “wasn’t room” for me in
the staff computer and that, henceforth, I’d only be able to contribute
to the paper on a freelance basis (of course, none of the pieces I
proposed after that were ever accepted).

A couple of years later, I was serving as the music editor at the L.A
Weekly, a rather disgusting liberal rag. My musical tastes went more
towards western swing, be-bop and jazz, rather than to the emerging punk
scene — which I roundly thrashed whenever I got the opportunity.

Sure enough, it happened again. I got the boot — and once again the
editor that dumped me refused to tell me the real reason why.
“We just have to cut back right now,” I recall him saying, refusing to
look me in the eye.

Why is it that liberals are such cowards? I’m absolutely positive
that if I were to contact the powers that be at Classmates.com that I’d
be given some “other” reason why my posts were deleted (that is, some
reason other than the fact that a few anally retentive bullies had
bitched about what I’d said). Would it be that there wasn’t enough room
for them?

I almost want to confront them, just to see what they’d say, but I’m
not going to. It would just give ol’ Debbie and her little coven
something to snicker about.

See, the deal is, the Debbie Righters of the world have always
existed, and they always will. And their shtick is always the same.
They care sooooo much about (insert in your favorite cause
here). They’re oh-so loving and oh-so giving. That is, until you
disagree with their point of view. Then the fangs come out.

It’s nothing new, gang. In fact, I’m kind of glad this little
soap-opera happened, just so I could be reminded of the fact that
nothing really ever changes.

There will always be humorless people — people who are afraid of
those that rock the boat, and you’d best be aware of them, because they
are the enemy.

Don’t let it get you down. Don’t let it depress you. But stay in
shape, keep your gloves on, because sooner or later, you’re gonna run
into one of these guys (they usually run in packs), and then the battle
will be on.

When that happens, and it will, if you want, you can jump into the
ring and duke it out. But if you do that, I’m suggesting you fight as
dirty as they do; take no prisoners, man.

Or, you can take the Lazy Man’s Way (this is what happens after you
hit your 50′s). Jump in, cause a little damage, rile things up — then
get out and watch ‘em spit blood. It’s lots of fun. Much better then pro
wrestling.

Come to think of it, they don’t even have pro wrestling on TV
here in France.

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll pay the good folks at Classmates.com a little visit
this evening. …

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