It may be time for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook to face the music.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has begun rivaling US President Donald Trump as the focus of ongoing media attention. But while Trump cultivates it — even when it is negative — Zuckerberg would prefer being left out of the limelight. He has grudgingly accepted to appear before the House committee investigating fake news, but has shocked the British by refusing to testify before a parliamentary committee.
Here is today’s 3D definition:
Most likely true, but not be taken seriously since no one can prove it
Zuckerberg uses the term “crazy” to qualify the impact of fake news on an election as a conspiracy theory, which has become a standard defense used by people capable of conspiracy against any serious analysis of how their power networks work. When the pressure starts becoming uncomfortable, the accusation of conspiracy theory is too tempting not to try.
A year later, under pressure from the ongoing Russiagate scandal that focused on fake news fed through Facebook, Zuckerberg backtracked and admitted, “Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it. This is too important an issue to be dismissive.”
The Daily Devil’s Dictionary would be tempted to redefine “important” in the above statement as meaning “persistently annoying.” At least Zuckerberg ended up confessing that his motive was a devious attempt to dismiss the accusation. He was finally forced to admit that, even with billions in the bank and direct access to the communication of billions of people, his power to dismiss a question openly debated in public is far from absolute.
Now, since he can’t dismiss it, he prefers to ignore it, hoping it will blow over, while promising to do the equivalent of “going into rehab.” This means hiring more people to bolster “security,” increasing the numbers from 15,000 to 20,000. He wants us to think that the existing 15,000 missed noticing Cambridge Analytica, but the next 5,000 will possess skills the first group was lacking. A quantitative fix to a qualitative problem.
Zuckerberg told CNN, “You know we have a basic responsibility to protect people’s data and if we can’t do that then we don’t deserve to have the opportunity to serve people.” Does he really think Facebook “serves” people? With the verb “serve,” is he thinking of the police who “protect and serve” or a waiter in a restaurant who “serves” food to the customer? In reality, Facebook “serves” an undefined public the platform where people end up serving their data to Facebook and in the process creating, through their actions, behavioral data that Facebook can then monetize.
As the Democratic Party was left floundering after Hillary Clinton’s ignominious defeat at the hands of the supremely unpopular billionaire, Donald Trump, rumors began to fly last year that Zuckerberg was considering running for president in 2020. The political logic in the minds of campaign strategists is simple, not to say simplistic: It takes a billionaire to beat a billionaire.
Facebook’s current scandal and Zuckerberg’s behavior may have put paid to his presidential ambitions. In the meantime, he has been overtaken by another billionaire celebrity candidate equally with no background in politics, Oprah Winfrey, who has nevertheless made it clear that she wouldn’t consider running unless she was sure that God was on her side. So, assuming Zuckerberg survives the Cambridge Analytica scandal and God remains dutifully quiet, all hope is not yet lost, even if the New Statesman magazine has noticed that, “The Zuck has all the charisma of a potted plant.”
Facebook’s current and until recently growing reach gives Zuckerberg — who exercises absolute control over the company — a degree of power that some think potentially exceeds that of a US president. But if Facebook’s and Zuckerberg’s image falters, the cultural, social and economic components of that power could vanish. Even in the worst of cases — millions of people and companies endorsing #deletefacebook — he’ll still hold onto most of his billions. But he may have to start focusing on how he will enjoy spending them for his personal pleasure, rather than how he can leverage them to magnify his influence and power.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
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