The keynoter interview incident in Texas at the SXSW
games interactive media conference involving Business Week's Sarah Lacy and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg will likely be taught in j ournalism digital art courses high-cost marketing seminars for years to come.
Work quickly to cut and paste all the blogation out there now, or history is in danger of being written by the victors. First, see the video of the incident itself because SXSW doesn't provide it (this version might be better quality and fuller).
Depending on who you are, you will see this incident as either the triumph of the new media, the defeat of the old media, or a resounding indictment of all of them and the posting of another win for "games" and their gods.
While tekkies and geeks everywhere thinks SXSW is the epitome of culture, it isn't really, because not only have most normal people never heard of it (it's in Austin, Texas and a few thousand people go bar-hopping and watch movies and hear panels about games at it annually), those that have wonder privately if it has peaked. Last year, it made Twitter famous by being used to coordinate the bar-hopping. This year, it's proving that the media (Twitter) being the message (isn't Twitter a cool thing) just isn't enough to sustain media -- media needs content.
So here's a strange fandango of social media/old dinosaur print media/new media tekkie blogs and Twitters and stuff/and noveau riches establishment social media (Facebook) all combining to make the content...sort of.
I was truly stunned -- and it takes a lot to shock me -- at how insolent Zuckerberg was, and what a flat-out phony he appeared to be in this YouTube. I was shocked at how badly this Business Week journo, who was merely trying to be fabulous, was treated by uncouth idiot boys in the back of the room. But there was still more to be shocked at -- lots more.
The Business Week journo was HIRED -- yes HIRED -- by SXSW to interview Zuckerberg. To create a one of these revents I've been talking about (a piece of media that is consumed more afterwards than it is during the concocted event itself, and then spreads virally around the net).
"This keynote was designed in collaboration with SXSW. They wanted a conversational fireside chat that was representative of their friendship. Together, they decided that they would forgo Q&A in advance. They hired Lacy because she’s a “business” reporter, not a developer or a geek capable of asking technical questions. They wanted a business discussion. But, since its SXSW and not the Web 2.0 Summit, they wanted it to be fun, lively, and engaging"
In other words, if you are an old-fashioned reporter on the beat still covering the PTA for a Gannett paper or even if you are in the Moscow bureau covering Russia for Time or something, listen to how this works (!):
It's not that Business Week, as a publication interested in covering tech beats and the lucrative and multi-million-billion video gaming/social media industry, is invited to *cover* this conference. No, that would be too old-fashioned, too, oh, snail-mail or rotary-dial or something.
No, this conference, paid for by game companies and various tech firms, used its PR budget to BUY this journalist who was to come and PERFORM like a trained seal. (That nobody is talking about this let, alone marveling about it is all part of the sheer utter hopelessness of what is happening to old media.)
So naturally, having PAID FOR their journo, the organizers, and the entire clan of PR new media flaks flakking biz wanted to see her PERFORM WELL to keep up the value of such trained seals.
And that means taming the children who are eating the new media revolution now, sitting in the backchat and catcalling and baying like junkyard dogs -- or seizing the mike to overturn the tables in the old media temple, depending on how you view them. It means grooming the geeks in was that in fact will take whatever is spontaneous and true about them, which isn't an awful lot.
That is -- they think they are righteous, and they think they are unsettling media concentration and evil Amerika and Bush and Clear Channel and Fox-TV and all that. but all they are doing is substituting for those old evils -- which in fact contained the wisdom and news judgement of an editorial board with a firewall between it and its advertising sales office (remember that old concept of the firewall?) -- with their own subjective, technolibertarian cult of understanding.
Several interesting things happened.
o Sarah Lacy knew she had to go beyond, say, Newsweek, and ask something a little less predictable than, "Gosh, how does it feel to be a billionaire at 24?". So she went for what she thought was the more geeky and forums-skeptic "So, you're only a billionaire on paper because you're supposedly valued at that, but are you really worth that?!" That got the children salivating and ready for the kill.
o Saray Lacy, seeing the children revolting, said -- properly -- oh, that's right, turn this into a Digg Nation! That is, let the mob decide what is news by "vote" and clicking or twittering their way up the popularity ladder
o Mark Zuckerberg then did a virtuoso theatrical performance acting oh-so-cool, as if all he cared about was freeing legions of geeks to make widgets, and didn't care about the networth. Of course, what rich people often want is power over *people* -- we'll come to that in a second.
o Zuckerberg incited the mob by flatly insulting the journalist, saying "Ask a question," as if...she hadn't asked any yet. And yet...she had. He just felt he could play the game of being too cool to answer them, or that they were too hackened, or that he was just truly to be believe as this innocent geeky dude making a creative fun thing for the masses...instead of the insolent nerd that he was in fact being. She tried coming around at it several times, but the masses were braying for her blood, especially after Zuckerman directly
o the lapdog tech press, Wired and CNET's Daniel Terdiman, predictable savaged Lacy and gave air-time to the savagers. "The audience is asking Zuckerburg better questions than Lacy did." Scoble snapped on Twitter -- well, when you get in the back of the room, the crowd gets roiling and it is easy to join in. "Ugh," said Daniel, in one of his "best moments as a tech journalist." Gosh, there was no "ugh" from Dan when Anshe got a penis in her face, eh? That was merely a technical problem. But let a sassy female journalist try to tease some honest comments out of passive/aggressive Mrs. Zuckerberg's boy, and my God, you would think it was the crime of the century. (CNET did, in fairness, turn out a girl to cover the whole thing more dispassionately.)
o It turns out Sarah Lacy is one of the very few women covering tech issues in a heavily male-dominated world. That sure shows. And she gave a very credible after-action commentary on the whole imbroglio.
o the PR blogosphere is not likely to leave her alone. They want MORE blood. If a gaming company pays for media PR hack work, and pays big money and is in the spotlight like SWSX, by God, they better be GOOD! So here's how you get the bratty Susan Bratton demanding that Lacy *apologize* and do some sort of make-up sex with Zuckerberg -- ugh! -- in the form of another video with more polished and prepped and paid-for questions (this time the PR boys will make sure Ms. Lacy doesn't freelance as an independent journalist with ANY real questions of her OWN).
"Take a mulligan. Solicit questions from the SXSW audience and do a vidcast interview with Mark in humble service to the industry. Redeem yourself by showing you can rise above your mistakes." (Anyone want to define what it means to "take a mulligan"? lol)
And that's what I mean by "phony". He sat there with a straight face, doing this deadpan insolent shtick, and said, basically, "We are so fucking cool that we can sit here and not care about the billions or dollars or the 60 million members and just concentrate on making good tech and freeing the geeks to make the widgets and make a cool business".
Hmmm. I found that utterly unpersuasive. Had I not been schooled with many such pressers from the Lindens, I might not have the bullshit detector that I do for this stuff. Were I his mother, I would have said to young Zuckerberg, "Stop fidgeting and showing off now, Mark, and tell the nice lady from Business Week what you really feel about owning a piece of 60 million people with your valuation in the billion level."
"I feel hot, Ma! And gosh, all that power over people! Woot!"
The fanboyz in the room didn't find him to be phony and prevaricating at all -- they ate it up. They were dancing in glee at the harassment of the BW reporter, who was being progressively skewed. They were dancing like Palestinians dancing in the streets over the murder of seminarians. It had that feel to it.
When I tried to take this issue up on Twitter, it was only greeted by one lone female sign of approval (few people wanted to see this story as being about a lone woman on a podium trying to cover insolent tekkie kiddies).
Neville Hobson in fact took umbrage when I pointed out that the real story was about this bought-and-paid-for BW journalist. Hired? Didn't anybody *care*? And I rather tartly pointed out that Neville himself is in the PR biz and therefore isn't inclined to see this as an issue because I said this article, which he called "thoughtful" (and it was in the sea of biased press shrilly pro and con), was in fact mere PR firm grooming, old-buy network trying to break in a newbie who got a lot of attention, but was a girl and messed up.
And insulted, he ran off to bed, pleading brain fatigue at his late hour, but the message was clear: don't you dare accuse me, a blogger, media guru, writer and producer of thoughtful blog posts (and he is all of those things) of somehow being biased, as being not in "media", but merely in advertising.
But...but...his blog is about the services he provides helping businesses with new media. Nowadays, the expression "solutions providers" is used for this service, as if it were a mere technical relay race, running interference between tech companies that produce stuff and businesses that need to use the stuff -- but it's PR, of course, just like the old PR that we used to call "advertising" or "PR" and now we call "corporate communications".
I sure got a faceful of news about how the new media is very jealously guarding its perceived role of "independence". Sigh.
So..explain to a naif like me how this works. Does the hired BW journo have an eat-what-you-kill relationship with BW? Or when she is hired, is it like a law firm, where they say, you can almost eat what you kill but a percentage has to go to us. Or, eat what you kill, but be on your best behaviour and don't dis us or the advertisers.
Perhaps Lacy has had the last word in her after-action interview, ""a small core of people in the back of the room ensured that SWSX will never get someone this high profile again".
Like a lot of businesses didn't start holding press conferences and running campaigns in Second Life, because they didn't want to get penised.
But, here's the really, really scary part about this, a point that is likely to be lost under the crush of the scandal of this incident (from the CNET report):
"There are a lot of really big issues with the world that need to be solved," he said, "and what we're doing as a company is basically building an infrastructure on which some of those problems can be solved."
"Why does there need to be a big organization order to channel peoples' voices?" he said. "Communication should be efficient enough that these people should have a voice, and issues that are important to these people should be able to be heard" without a massive nonprofit or celebrity-filled initiative backing it. "There needs to be a solid base for people to communicate that needs to built not top-down by legislation or countries, but bottom-up" by people on the ground. He added that because Facebook's business is "around break-even," it doesn't have a whole lot of money to throw around in the manner of Google's Google.org.
Soooooo...did you realize that by signing up for Facebook, you are now part of a "big organization channeling your voice" run by a 24-year-old Bolshevik who can't tell the truth about how it feels to control 60 million people and be worth billions? Hello?
Were you aware that when you vote, or donate to a campaign, or register for a party and lobby your congressmen, that you are not a grass root, that you are not an individual with rights, that you are not a citizen, but merely "part of a top-down structure"? (Note this common tech-meme). And that now, you can throw all that silly elected stuff over, and be part of a the Big Voice of Facebook run by Mark Zuckerberg.
Doesn't that make you feel big and important?
I thought so!
Courage! You are part of a big totalitarian machine run by children eating their own revolution, but it's all in the service of fighting the other *bigger* machine, Google! : )
(And imagine, idiots like "jonas alvaro" talk about "media concentration" *chuckles*).
P.S. Leave it to Scoble to do the do-over.