I published this blog in February. Sadly, it was removed by someone who had access to my account, without my permission. He is the main character in the following story that follows. He is also the creator of the two think tanks that are featured in this true account of facts, along with some opinions and observations of mine.
I consider the removal of my blog, by Mr. Atridim, to be a form of bullying. Lucky I am low tech, and had a hard copy of the deleted blog. I have copied and pasted it to my personal FB page, where over 30 have seen it, been shared several times and has 25 comments. My action was the result of having my blog deleted. If it is removed again I have a source to retrieve it and repost it here. I will not be silenced. Eleven people got to read the original blog before it was removed. Deleting my blog, by Mr. Atridim, helps support much of what I say in my account of the past week and year.
Here is my story, and was the blog that was removed.
My first experience with a Facebook group took place about five years ago, when I got an invitation from the administrator, Rick Atridim, of World Think Tank. A few years later I was invited to join the sister group, called Chandler-Gilbert Think Tank. This week those relationships ended, when I stated my impression of the tanks, on my personal Facebook page, that angered Mr. Atridim. I stated that free speech was dead in the tanks. I am going to share some of my experiences and observations, while being in both tanks, and describe the event that ended my membership. Reading my story will provide some insight on what a future or remaining member will probably encounter.
I apologize, in advance, for the length of this blog. It will seem more like a chapter in a book, but all of the information and descriptions are needed to convey a clear picture of what happened.
These particular tanks are public, which means anyone can view the contents, but only members can post information, or make comments on what is being discussed. Rick, the administrator, created a mission statement, guidelines to follow, which change often, approves membership, approves material that gets in, and has the ability to remove both members, and their comments at will. He frequently alerts members by saying, “I have not heard from some members in a long time, and perhaps it is time to do a member Purge”. WTT has been limited to 200 in the past, but he is in the process of paring down the number to 100. CGTT is unlimited. As of last week there were 336 members in CGTT. Despite the membership numbers, less than a dozen ever comment or even leave “Likes”. Facebook keeps a tally of people visiting WTT, but does not tally CGTT views due to its size. There is no way to tell if the ones looking in are even members, but from random non-members. I researched the number of views in WTT for Rick, when he was planning a purge, and found that 58 was the highest count for a post, that I could find. I reported the names of the members who had viewed a post in a three-month period.
He also developed his own award system to indicate when he particularly likes what someone says. In the beginning those awards were for “Leadership”, for “Excellence in Reporting” and for “Journalism Excellence”. Later he added awards for “Kindness” and “Speaking From Ones Mind and Heart”. I have been awarded many awards over the years, and have been frequently praised by Rick as well.
My enthusiasm for being a member waned this past year for a couple of reasons. One was when a fairly new member was removed. I was not surprised after reading the post that angered Rick. My thought was, “His head is going to roll”, and it did. The member was too new to know that it was unwise to openly question, criticise, or disagree with Rick, but to just keep his opinions and thoughts to himself.
What happened was, Rick posted a long piece from His Atridim New Journal on Facebook about Jerusalem being recognized as Israel’s capital by the U. S. The new member said that Rick’s post sounded familiar. He researched and found what Rick had written was on Politico, word for word, and included a link to prove his point, and mentioned the word “plagiarism. The member was kicked out of the tank, and was also blocked from seeing the tank’s contents as well.
A second thing that troubled me was that one day a banner popped up in the tanks, and it said, “POSTING A COMMENT THAT SAYS, “I AGREE” or, “I DISAGREE “, IS OUT OF ORDER”. That stance struck me as oppressive, and appeared to squash free speech. It seemed to me that for a group to be a “Think Tank” free speech was paramount. That banner appeared in late November of 2017, and was the day I knew I would be leaving the tanks. I did not want to desert the friends and acquaintances I had developed over the past 3 and 5 years, so I spent the next few weeks extending my personal friendship to all in both tanks, not knowing if any would respond. Many did. I then deleted documents of mine in CGTT and one in WTT. I no longer felt that they represented my feelings or beliefs about either tank. One was entitled,”What I Love About CGTT & WTT”. I also had written a blog entitled, “A Glimpse Of Free Speech At Its Finest”, that featured the tanks. My feeling no longer matched that title or contents, so I removed it from my blog site. In my mind I was going to take a wait and see approach in hopes some positive changes would take place in the tanks. I set March 1, 2018 as my goal to leave if things continued to deteriorate, so losing my membership this week was not great loss.
Fast forward to this past week when some comments were made in WTT by a valued member, me, and Rick, talking about guns and the recent shooting in FL. The member began his post by saying, he respectfully disagreed with a comment, and said, “They should allow teachers to carry concealed weapons”, and some other remarks. Rick responded by saying, “I respectfully disagree with all of my heart! Teachers carrying guns is NOT going to solve the problem. US gun laws must be strengthened to disallow people with mental illness from gaining access to guns”. Then I chimed in saying, “I completely agree with Richard”. I then added that I had read before that we were not allowed to agree or disagree with one another, but since those words appeared in this thread I guessed that rule had dropped by the wayside. Rick immediately revisited and revised the Guidelines, and here is what was posted in both tanks:
“CGTT ADMIN NOTICE
CGTT Members…Re-read the CGTT Pinned Header
The following lines have been added/revised:
CGTT is a new concept in quality group thinking, focused on QUALITY of members…not quantity of members.
Avoid stating “I agree”or “I disagree” with a member. Such statements are of little or no value. It is more valuable to create a new comment that conveys what you think.”
Rick then returned to the tank where the discussion was going on and requested that the other member and I revise our comments, based on the revised guidelines, which we did. I am a rule follower, and have never said or done anything, in either tank, to show disrespect towards what was going on, even if I disagreed. I thought it strange that even Rick had broken his “rule” in the first place. I think Rick deleted his offending comment. I then exited the tank and headed to my personal FB page.
I can’t remember word for word ,exactly what I posted on my personal FB page, but I remember feeling very sad about the reminder that free speech was dead in the tanks, and I said so. A short time later Rick showed up on my page and said, “This post places your membership, and all awards, in suspension. It is up to you to make amends to maintain membership”. My response was quite lengthy, but in a nut shell I said that this was my personal page, and that I did not have to make amends for my personal opinions. There was some back and forth, then I left to visit a friend on FB. She, all of a sudden said, “He is threatening everybody who raised their voice against him on your page”. I jumped into action and blocked him, to protect my friends.
A short time later I got to read the banner that announced my removal from both tanks. It read, “An Awarded member is no longer a member due to a derogatory comment on their page”. Underneath this was added. “Watch what you post on your page, or other’s pages about this group. Captain Rick sees all and is determined to maintain CGTT as one of the highest quality think tanks on Facebook”. Talk about proving my point, that free speech was dead in the tanks, and also outside the tanks as well. Not only did he revoke my membership from both tanks, I was blocked from the groups all together, so I could not view them, like other non-members could.
Later this message showed up in CGTT from Rick. It read,”RickAtridimGroup Admin”, “It does not matter how high of position you hold in society or political life. If you do not honor comment gurdelines…you will be excused as is the case here. WTT and CGTT are focused on quality excellence…not political bullying. When a member is excused, they also are excused from both CGTT and WTT and banned from future entry. If you enjoy your membership, protect it by reading, understanding, and honoring the comment guidelines posted in the pinned header. CGTT standards are very high. It is why CGTT is one of Facebook’s highest quality Think Tanks”.Unbelievable. I had to block him from my FB page because he was bullying people there. And his “guidelines” are full of platitudes, like, “WTT has grown to become Facebook’s highest quality think tank because of its comment guidelines that “ENSURE PROFESSIONAL ETHICS AND RESPECT FOR EVERY MEMBER’S THOUGHTS”.
Since my removal from the tanks I have had over two dozen past and present members reach out to me privately and on my FB page. They all have echoed many of my impressions, that the tanks were no longer a forum for open and honest discussions about important subjects. Some even pointed out that the focus seemed to be less on the group concept, and was beginning to look like a venue for Rick to share his blogs, and hobbies, with no invitation for members to do the same. Some even suggested I start a group. My reply was, that my blog and Facebook page was sufficient for me, and all were welcome to visit, share and discuss anything, as free expression was alive and well in both venues. I have become more active in several other groups with the names Tucker Carlson, Bill O’Reilly, Deplorable, and Trump being in the group names. They are thriving with some bright people leaving thought-provoking comments.
All Facebook group administrators have the right to create their vision, what ever that might be. Some members might enjoy Mr. Atridim’s groups, and enjoy his style and requirements for membership. There are hundreds of other groups that might also fit the bill for people looking for a place to express themselves and see what others or saying about subjects they are interested in. All groups are not created equal but a fit can be found, I am sure of that.