This could really make you sick.
In the summer of 2016, President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg explained at the state department’s annual “Global Entrepreneurship Summit,” in a thinly disguised advertisement, how Facebook was mandatory among America’s enlightened class, writes Thomas Frank in The Guardian.
Seated with a panel of entrepreneurs from around the world, the president lobbed his friend Zuckerberg an easy question about Facebook “creating this platform for entrepreneurship around the world”. In batting it out of the park, the Facebook CEO, clad in his humble costume of jeans, T-shirt and sneakers, took pains to inform everyone that what animated him were high-minded ideals. “When I was getting started,” he burbled, “I cared deeply about giving everyone a voice, and giving people the tools to share everything that they cared about, and bringing a community together …”
“It’s this deep belief that you’re trying to make a change, you’re trying to connect people in the world, and I really do believe that if you do something good and if you help people out, then eventually some portion of that good will come back to you. And you may not know up front what it’s going to be, but that’s just been the guiding principle for me in the work that we’ve done …”
That’s how it works, all right. Gigantic corporate investments are acts of generosity, and when making them, kind-hearted CEOs routinely count on Karma to reward them. That’s the “guiding principle”.
As Zuckerberg finished his homily, the President of the United States can be heard lauding Mark with “excellent.”
The 2008 presidential campaign, which elevated Barack Obama to the White House, was described by the enlightened as “the Facebook election,” continues Mr. Frank.
We had seen a community organizer, ably assisted by a Facebook co-founder, win the presidency by organizing communities – by organizing them online! The combination of idealistic togetherness and awesome futurific-ness was thought to be too much for those plodding, selfish Republicans.
Obama’s state department, led by Hillary Clinton, became the country’s main institutional proponent of the thesis that, wherever the internet went, there also went markets, and entrepreneurship, and liberation. Clinton called the state department’s new mission “internet freedom” (she introduced the idea in a speech given, ironically, at a museum of journalism); she intended to take what she called a “venture capital approach” to the problem of overcoming state censorship and battling the tyrants of the world.
I was exposed unforgettably to liberal techno-optimism at a Clinton Foundation event in March 2015, when I heard a speaker hail social media as the ally and liberator of the female population of the entire planet. Or think of the way Obama surrounded himself with transplanted Silicon Valley types in the last years of his administration; or of Clinton’s 2016 campaign, run by an algorithm; or of Clinton’s rumored intention to make Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s No2, her treasury secretary.
But then the narrative went all wrong. Instead of overthrowing unsavory regimes in the Middle East, the internet overthrew its high-minded comrades in the Democratic party. It turned out that even an obtuse cad like Donald Trump could tweet. Errant emails caused countless headaches. Mean Russian trolls published crazy things on Facebook. And finally … Cambridge Analytica, harvesting people’s personal data. What an ingrate the internet has turned out to be.
Thomas Frank suggests to readers that it’s time to think a little harder about what democracy means. “To stand up, at long last, for we the surveilled.”
Read more here.