Tag Archives: Marketing

Seven Dirty Words

In 1972, George Carlin wrote a bit titled “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” It caused quite a stir with conservatives and even ended up in front of the United States Supreme Court. The debate raged for more than a decade, and then Tipper Gore pitched a shit fit over her daughter hearing Prince sing about masturbation. Senate hearings were held with the end result of the fiasco being the introduction of the Parental Advisory labels on music. Then, in 2014, someone with a stick up their butt brought us the Clean Reader App, in which they would replace all the nasty swears that hurt your eyes or make you go blind or turn you into deviant criminals with something more palatable. In a post I am one hundred percent in support of, Chuck Wendig famously told the Clean Reader folks to go take a piss. I even wrote about it as well.

But this isn’t a post about censorship, not really. It’s a post about Facebook and how they are hellbent on ensuring creators/artists/writers dance on command and that we know they don’t give a single flying fuck about us. We are their printing press; we shall not be compensated in any way for this privilege, and we can do nothing about it.

You may ask, “So, why don’t you leave Facebook?”

A mighty fine question. Many of the more prominent pages are leaving for the likes of Substack. I haven’t made that jump yet due to their problematic handling (or lack thereof) of Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. There’s Patreon, Instagram, Threads, Tumblr, X, Bluesky, and a whole host of other social media platforms, but in the end, none of them are perfect for writers. Ultimately, writers focus their energy on places where they get the most juice for the squeeze. I have a decent (and growing) following on Facebook, and I’ve managed to sell more copies of Near Death By A Thousand Cuts than I ever thought possible. But here’s the thing: I’m left wondering how many more I could have sold if Facebook didn’t have two different sets of Seven Dirty Words.

Upon reading the first set, you’ll see two trends:

  • Kill
  • Death
  • Murder
  • White
  • Men
  • Racist
  • Anything derogatory towards right-wing politics/politicians/voters

In the United States, inciting violence is one of the few limitations of the First Amendment, so any private company that appears to be on board with that gets itself in hot water. That’s why Facebook will slap a ban on you for using violent and life-ending words like “kill,” “death,” and “murder.” Do you see how I might think that the title of my book might be seen as problematic? It didn’t even occur to me that it would be because, contextually, nothing about it is offside. My first mistake was assuming that context matters. Much like the Pearl-Clutching Puritans (PCP) who balk at the mere mention of a single bad word, the Facebook algorithm doesn’t care. Strangely enough, it doesn’t have a problem with the likes of Jim Jefferies tossing around the word “cunt” like he’s salting a bowl of popcorn, at least not until a PCP files a complaint).

The remaining words on that list have all landed progressive accounts in Facebook jail. “White,” “men,” “racist,” or anything derogatory towards right-wing politics/politicians/voters. This is where it gets amusing because context suddenly starts to matter for these words. It’s perfectly fine to scream and yell nonsense about being an “oppressed white man,” but gods forbid you factually state that a white man did something oppressive. You see this in the language and spelling progressive accounts use. “White” becomes “wyte,” “man” becomes “person with a dangly appendage,” and so on. There are a whole host of double standards. Just look at the word “cocksucker.” You can use it as a pejorative against a liberal, but you’ll get your wrist slapped if you use it against a conservative (don’t use the word as a pejorative in any situation, okay?)

So, my reach was negatively affected because I chose a title for my book that included a dirty word on Facebook. I’d be okay with it if that were the end of it, but as it turns out, that was just the beginning. You see, Facebook makes money off the content of its users. We are their printing press, remember? Furthermore, they want us to pay them to boost the content we already provide them for free. They already limit who sees our stuff. Of my 2,500 followers, if ten percent see my post, that’s a high number. On average, it’s about five percent. They want me to pay to reach the people who have gone out of their way to tell them they want to see my stuff. So what about the other ninety-five percent? Similar to their other list of Dirty Words, if you make a post that uses any of them, you can be guaranteed that your reach will hit rock bottom like a motherfucker.

They are:

  • Comment
  • Share
  • Link (or use of a link to anywhere but Facebook)
  • Buy/Purchase
  • Sell/Sale/Sold
  • A currency Symbol, ™, ®, ©
  • Amazon/YouTube/TikTok/…

In a nutshell, Facebook doesn’t want me to make any money while ensuring they make as much from my content and follower data as possible. They claim to have all the monetization programs, but if you read their fine print, you’ll see they don’t have to pay you out. I know more than one person who has “earned” thousands of dollars and has yet to receive a dime. My reach tanked by more than half the month after I enrolled in their “bonus program.” I was using the ™ symbol in my BossCat posts, and someone suggested that might be affecting my reach, so I stopped and guess what? My posts instantly got more reactions.

Indie writers (and even midlist writers for the Big Five or anyone at a smaller house) must wear many hats. We are small business owners without extensive marketing budgets or powerhouse publishers behind us. We are like the local mom-and-pop shop on Main Street. We rely on word of mouth more than anything else. Meanwhile, Facebook keeps pushing us further down. There’s a solution: Facebook can still make billions, and pages like mine can earn a living. That would require Zuckerberg to calm his tits for half a second, though, so it’s not likely to happen. I guess you can add Algorithm Manipulation Specialist to my collection of hats.

The Art of Fearlessness

Everyone’s a critic.

This statement has never been truer than it is in today‘s face-paced digital age of instant outrage. We live in a time when throngs of people scream with incredulous outrage over an overpriced, colorful liquid sugar beverage while many of those same people laugh and point fingers at more than half a nation outraged at the fact that their leader is a toxic dimwit suspected of treason. But make no mistake, regardless of where their criticism is directed, their opinions will be plastered all over the internet a heartbeat before they even finish their thought.

And then we have the world of art.

I don’t know if a work of art is “good” or not, I simply know if I like it, and I suspect this is true for most people. Where I differ from a lot of other folks, though, is that I am also a creator. The written word is my medium, and if I know one thing, it is that a piece of writing is near the top of the list of things people will criticize.

Whether I am pouring my heart and soul onto the page and exposing my flaws and vulnerabilities, or writing something that only opens tiny windows into my life that people need to squint and strain to see through, what you are getting is a part of me. My metaphorical DNA is woven into everything I write but I give it to you freely and with full knowledge that feedback may not be favorable.

However, if someone takes my words out of context, or attempts to change their meaning without my consent, then we are going to have a problem. You see this happen all the time with political attack ads, where an opposing candidate takes an out of context partial a quote from their rival and plasters it all over the television insisting “the other candidate” is a  terrible person. This type of forced context switching is commonplace with written and spoken word and it turns out that the visual artistic realm is not immune either.

Take a recent dust-up involving the famed Wall Street Charging Bull statue and its new counterpart Fearless Girl.


Fearless Girl materialized on March 7, 2017, and initially had a plaque at its base which read, “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.” Why is “SHE” in all caps,” you ask? Good question. 

A fellow by the name of Greg Fallis wrote a good piece breaking that down. The summary is this: SHE is the stock ticker symbol for a “Gender Diversity Index” fund held by State Street Global Investors and, working with the advertising company McCann, commissioned the artist, Kristen Visbal, to create the statue.

But here’s the thing. Fearless Girl was placed in front of and facing Arturo Di Modica’s statue Charging Bull and when Di Modica became aware of this he expressed displeasure. He asserts that with the presence of Fearless Girl that the meaning behind his sculpture has been lost. He created it as a symbol of a strong and powerful America and now that symbol has been distorted.

Greg Fallis’s article was well researched, well written, and made solid arguments in favor of Di Modica’s stance. He also got thoroughly roasted for having the nerve to share his thoughts with a public that salivates at the opportunity to dig their incredulous teeth into a good controversy.

I read one particularly good response to Fallis’s article written by Caroline Criado-Perez. She highlights the existing patriarchy within the art world, particularly with regards to sculptures scattered about the UK. You should read what she has to say about it. It will be time well spent. In a nutshell, her argument is that Fearless Girl being placed in front of Charging Bull simply calls it out for its patriarchal representations.

Essentially, Fearless Girl exists to force you into feeling something very specific about Charging Bull – and society in general.

Criado-Perez argues that this is a good thing and in doing so she is criticizing Di Modica for creating a male-centric piece of art, she is criticizing the city of New York for allowing its continued presence on a busy cobblestone corner, and she is criticizing everyone who has ever made the decision to display a male-centric piece of art instead one depicting women.  

Her message is clear: Fuck you, Charging Bull, and the patriarchy you rode in on. 


I find it difficult to disagree with her, but when I view it through the eyes of Charging Bull’s creator, what I see in Fearless Girl is a highly effective piece of viral marketing attempting to alter the DNA of his work. I have no attachment to Charging Bull. I didn’t know its history until Greg Fallis pointed it out. But I do know Charging Bull existed just fine on his own for three decades and Fearless Girl appears to have been put there to alter its meaning. To me, it marks a distinct difference between art and marketing. Had it been done in any other way I am sure I wouldn’t even be writing this post.

It is this blurred line between art and marketing that is what’s tripping me up. It seems to get into all sorts of conversations about intent and interpretation and I don’t happen to think there are a lot of answerable questions in that realm.

Just to be clear, I love what Fearless Girl is and what she represents. I don’t love that she was created as a marketing tool at the expense of someone else’s art. I also don’t love the fact that the company who brought Fearless Girl to life, with its message of greater corporate gender diversity, has a mere 5 female executives out of 28 and only 3 out of 11 board members who are women. Is, “Do as I say not as I do,” really the message here or are they making a mea culpa statement and State Street is simply the best of a sad lot?

At the heart of it, I feel manipulated and I suppose some will argue that that is what art is supposed to do. I honestly don’t know if it is, but it seems to happen whether or not artists intend it to. At the very least it got me thinking, and that’s a good thing because where there are people thinking there are also thought experiments. I spent my formative late high school and early university years studying physics and a powerful tool used in that discipline were what Albert Einstein called “gedankenexperiments”. 

Gedankenexperiments is the German word for “thought experiments” and they are essentially a way of thinking in hypotheticals to assist in organizing thoughts around a particular problem. I came up with one to help me clean up some of the jumbled thoughts I had on the topic of Fearless Girl versus Charging Bull. It goes like this: 

Someone places a statue in front of Fearless Girl. That statue depicts a mother standing on her own with a sort of perturbed stance and equally perturbed look on her face. This woman is holding out her hand toward Fearless Girl as if to say, “Give it to me” or “We’re going home, now!” The new statue is given the title Frustrated Mother.

The questions this scenario raises are plentiful. How would the creators of Fearless Girl feel? How would the supporters of Fearless Girl feel? How would the creator of Charging Bull feel? Would Fearless Girl become Petulant Child, Defiant Girl, or Stubborn Youth or would Frustrated Mother be viewed as a parent trying to protect her child, one who is unaware of the dangers of the world, from Charging Bull?

Let us take the thought experiment in another direction and further say that at the same time Frustrated Mother is installed, Charging Bull is removed. What happens then? Frustrated Mother can exist on her own without Charging Bull but she can’t exist, not in the same way at least, without Fearless Girl. On the other hand, Fearless Girl has always needed something else to realize its full impact. 

Unless that is, you turn her around.

Turn Fearless Girl and have her face the other direction, towards nothing in particular, and it doesn’t matter what is going on behind her, whether it is Charging Bull, Frustrated Mother, Donald Trump or some other catastrophe. Fearless Girl becomes Fearless and Independent Girl and no matter what is going on around her, the look of determination and confidence on her face would scream, “I got this.”

To that, all I would have to say is, “Hell yes she does!”

~ Andrew