Keep up with all the chapters at the book page of Facing Hate: Overcoming Social Smearing, Recovering Relationships, and Rebuilding Your Reputation.
Wendy and I started a new tradition two years ago. It came about from the lack of connection, the inability to keep up with all the commotion of a maturing large family such as ours. The idea was to gather weekly at a time that worked best for all of us. That time turned out to be … breakfast. Not everyone can make it every week, but when they do, it sure makes for a full house. If you drive by at that time, you’ll see cars lined up our road as if we’re having a church service. If the weather is nice, we’ll have picnic tables stretching across our 20-foot-long front porch. We’ll be enjoying eggs and bacon, toast, orange juice and coffee. We’ve talked about getting a restaurant-grade coffee maker, but for now our 12-cup pot is loaded several times through the morning to keep everyone buzzing. The conversations roll through the meal, ranging from important announcements of calendar items to whatever’s new and hot that everyone should know about. Then we go our separate ways. Some go to their in-laws, some venture off on some adventure, others go to various jobs. These mornings have become true, restful blessings.
Thank you for joining me (and my family!) for breakfast, as it were, and walking with me through the story of my social smear. It means the world to me that people like you have listened to and learned from and accepted my attempt to vindicate my name. The Jeub family is the exact opposite of that which the mob has tried to portray us. I wish you could be a fly on our wall and witness the joys and struggles of our loving home. You’ll become a bit jealous. I wouldn’t dream of trying to fool you; we have our arguments and dysfunctions, but they are wrapped with love and respect for one another. We are not claiming perfection; nothing of the sort. Throw a hot political topic on the table during a robust breakfast and you’ll see a House of Commons come alive. Ask me later about our aggressive, cutthroat, fight-to-the-finish games of Nerts. They are wild!
Yet when I meditate on how much of an influence social media became in my life even prior to my online attack and social smear, I am honestly surprised at how much it led me away from more important matters. Like a thief in the night, my time wisped away as I checked online feeds and considered my next post or comment or thread of debate. It isn’t as if I had nothing to do. I have a large family, property to tend to, businesses to manage, students to teach. Does my precious phone take precedence over these things? Which is more real: the calling God has given me (family, career, etc.) or the artificial “likes” from an online world?
The drama of my smear involves many more than just me — it involves my family, of course, but also the speech and debate community that I publish to, the school that employs me, the students I teach along with their parents and siblings, the small town that I live in with my neighbors and friends, and my extended family near and abroad. I feel a patriotic responsibility, too, as an American, with a daughter and her family abroad, which burdens me even more with a worldwide concern for social smearing and the great damage it can do to others. I have plenty of friends, and many of them fear for me and the possible rising of the online mob that may come after me yet again. And maybe there’s even a touch of fear in all of this for them, as well. Perhaps, they wonder, the mob might pull them in the next time around, inflicting shame on their families, their schools, their businesses and communities.
I recently sat across the table from a professional associate who flat-out told me that he wished I wouldn’t publish this book. Like me he is a victim of social smearing, just a Google search away from all sorts of incriminating claims of impropriety and character flaws, primarily in his business dealings. No evidence, mind you, just claims — and those claims are out there as fodder for the mob. My friend saw this book as resurrecting the dragon of hatred back into his life. I explained what the last few chapters explained, that suppressing the message of my book would be surrender, that we should instead fortify ourselves and defend our reputations. But his eyes were still filled with genuine fear.
I have another friend who appealed to me through social media messages. He’s a like minded homeschool father of several children, his oldest daughter staging her own little social smearing campaign, not as brutal and public as mine, but just as painful. “You shouldn’t write this book,” he told me. “I think the world of your family and understand why you want to write this book. But this new writing project is probably not your best use of your creative resources if you really want to reconcile. … It just adds more drama and bitterness to the conflict.” My friend sees my story manifest in his life, and he fears more separation from his own daughter because of my public pushback.
Of course, the mob did not want me to publish this book, either. As its first chapters were published, one of my daughter’s most vocal advocates has been again trolling my social media, attempting to post inflammatory responses to my memoir about posting inflammatory responses. He sees himself as a protector of abused children, of which my daughter — in her and his alternative reality — is a victim. Again, claims with no evidence. He is not an eyewitness nor a confidant of our family, hardly even an internet “friend.” He claims to be a liberator of tormented children, but he doesn’t even understand the true underpinnings of social work. He has become, I guess, a “professional smearer,” searching the internet from the comfort of his apartment to find embarrassing stories about families like mine. He claims that I’m causing more pain and destruction by voicing my rebuttal publicly. “You are throwing gasoline on a fire,” he posted recently. “That’s not how one should address abuse and trauma.” This from a man who has become an expert at weilding a gasoline can … as long as it serves his own purposes.
Then, of course, there are my very own beloved children. I am blessed with 16, but even more richly blessed as we add spouses and grandchildren and in-laws and their extended families, multiplying our bounty to overflowing. My, how my life is full! But my heart still aches for the two currently estranged from the rest. At the time of this story’s publication, these two adult children still hold onto the original fabricated story of abuse, and if they ever feel the desire to retract their story — perhaps pay us a visit, sit around our dinner table, and feast together with our growing brood — they have the world of haters to fess up to. I can imagine they feel a tremendous burden if they ever wanted to return home. They’ve created a false narrative of what goes on behind our front door, and that narrative was believed by countless internet followers who would not appreciate being played, and they will care nothing of any personal revelations my daughters may have. Hence, my daughters are trapped between the rock of this book and an internet mob, unable and unwilling to recant or retract.
You’ve read this book, so you know already where I’ve landed when it comes to indecision, fear, misgivings and, yes, even gasoline. But where are you on this path? Do you cower in fear for a past sin that might be exposed online? Do you have a social smearing child (or spouse, ex-lover, sibling, neighbor, student, coworker, customer, etc.) who tears you to pieces on social media? Is some of your life ruined by an online reputation you didn’t deserve — or maybe you humbly accept you did deserve? Perhaps, on the flip side, you’ve publicly dished out some self-righteous dirt on others. Have you perhaps thought yourself a “social justice warrior,” now coming to realize the error of your ways? Do you have some fessin’ up to do, some posts to take down, some apologies to make? I’ve had hate in my heart before, and I’ve had to humbly apologize for faulty claims I’ve made — both online and off. This entire book may seem to condemn the “haters,” but frankly, I’ve been in their shoes. We have all walked in them.
Every bone in my body resists conspiracy theories, but I’m quite certain that we have all been played. It doesn’t matter your religion, politics, upbringing or education, we’ve all been suckered and manipulated. In today’s internet world, unsuspecting foes find themselves roped up in a big-tech puppetshow, a drama that none of us signed up for and none of us anticipated. Who doesn’t get wound up in a rage when they see a dogmatic post, a political meme, a blazing truth (or untruth) on their profile feed? Our internet world is — like it or not — calling us to action, to fight some sort of fight, to pit us against one another. We read our likeminded news sources and our preferred blogs, then whip up the hype by liking, sharing and commenting. Our judgment hammers down in our rioting corners of the internet, taking eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth, thinking all the while that we’re bringing justice into the lives of others.
But in truth, we are merely caustic, cruel and jealously judgmental. In reality, we’re being conditioned to hate one another.
I am not the only one speaking out about this deeply sinister side to social media, of which social smearing is just one of many weapons in its desolate wasteland. This book is deeply personal, a narrative of my struggle, and is therefore hardly an exhaustive critique of the greater problem we find ourselves in. The technology world has dubbed it the “social dilemma” created by informative and helpful internet tools that can do so much good in the world while simultaneously tearing us apart and pitting us against one another. If you haven’t already, watch Netflix’s most current hit, The Social Dilemma, a documentary about former big-tech developers who are now making a clarion call to regulate the very technologies they helped create. Its bottom line: We’re all being duped.
I have come to a most significant point in my journey. I’ve woken up to the reality of how my online “face” has stolen the love from my life. I do my best to “face the hate,” but the flesh in me wants to hate back and flagrantly condemn my attackers while fighting the holy war for my reputation. But I can only do so by “turning the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39), a higher calling to love and rebirth. So, instead, I lean in. I am selective with my online posts, currently just promoting this book project and announcing the biggest events of my family. I’ve become a tactical engager, opting for purpose and persuasion in my online friendships. Some people have expressed disappointment with my new habit of rationing social media, but I am like an addict who fears returning to the poison that once controlled me. My life of social sobriety is less intrusive, more purposeful and harnesses real life.
Are you feeling the same? Is this the beginning of a much-needed Great Awakening across the world? May it be so.
When Wendy and I wrote Love in the House — published about the same time we got into social media — we anticipated writing many more books in its wake. We could have, but I must admit we got swept up in the media flow of having to keep up with online expectations and pressures. Our purpose in life seemed to get hijacked as we tried to present ourselves online. We tried to be authentic, realistic and truthful, but the rat race stampeded us. Our purpose in life — God’s calling — was swept aside.
The subtitle of that first book, “Filling Your Home With the Greatest Commandment,” has now returned to its rightful status of full-blooded conviction in our family. That which takes from the love in our life must be rationed. If it is an addiction, it needs to be eradicated altogether lest it steal all the love we have left. Facing the hate of social smearing is a devastation I wish on no one, but it has caused me to pay attention, to sit up and take heed of the dangers that lie at the front door to my home. It seems as if the events of these past six years have laid before me a choice between a fake self and a real calling, a Facebook “family” and my flesh-and-blood Jeub family, an online jaunt and a heavenly purpose, even death and life itself. The artificial is tempting and fleeting in its rewards, but the real deal — the love of God and his greatest commandment to exemplify that love in my life — is returning front-and-center in the Jeub home.
I now stand renewed, rejuvenated, born again to a greater understanding of how love must prevail. The worm of hatred is no longer allowed to fester in my life. I may have been accused of heinous crimes, and my manufactured online narrative has attempted to enslave me to my guilt. It will not. I am both innocent and free. I patiently wait for my daughter-accusers to return to their welcoming home of love and prosperity, but that time is not for me to manipulate or judge.
As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. His greatest commandment is to love him and others; this is our paramount burden in life, a great and glorious burden indeed. This is real life, and we aim to open that life up to as many as we possibly can.
Including you. May my story and the principles within this book be a blessing to you and your heavenly calling in life. When social smearing gets in the way, may you overcome this modern obstacle as you follow your heavenly call.
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