Lost in the terrible drama of Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg simpering for his tekkie fans at SWSX at the expense of Sarah Lacy, was something, well, pretty sinister. I think probably few people even noticed it. I noticed it in the back of my mind the first few watches of this really infamous-by-now video, but it took about 3 more listen-throughs to finally figure out what was really the huge glaring evil hiding behind the mobbing of Lacy.
It's not that she was a female old-school dead-tree journalist being heckled by nasty tekkie boys -- although that's pretty awful. It's not that she and Faceberg himself in fact pre-cooked and pre-fabricated the entire "interview" as a staged event like PR flaks, not real old-school journalists (they are all fired now pretty much) and not even sort of socially-conscious social-media. They staged it to talk biz (hence Business Week, duh) but all those widget-weenies were in the room wanting APIs and nappies and whining terribly that nobody was stalking about, as I think Scoble put it, stack caches. And the nasty thing wasn't even Scoble, snorting on Twitter with his gadzillion followers that Lacy wasn't even asking any (good) questions.
No it was something completely different, but which links up terribly to all the other nastiness: the idea that Zuckerberg, a meglomaniac by now, actually believes that he could harness the 69 million people of Facebook to do stuff at his command, overriding various regular human institutions like, oh, representative democracy and even the old fourth estate. Look, this is big, mega, jumbo big-time evil stuff. You *have* to pay attention.
Set aside all the simpering of Sarah there for a moment and just listen to The Face, in the early part of the video:
(I don't have an exact transcript, just my efforts at quick transcription:)
Says FB: "We are building systems and giving people control over their information and privacy" OK, but Lacy then says, tell us about the role FB is playing in the world.
"The thing we are trying to do: help people connect and communicate." Mark believes FB has "very subtle effects on individuals," that they become "more trusting" and have more "empathy".
"The sum of these connections -- total up something much more broad," Zuckerberg says of his 69 million-and-counting subscribers. So, he reasons. "There are a lot of problems in the world," i.e. Columbia. This was an example of how FB was used to rally people to protest the actions of a terrorist rebel group holding people hostage.
Now, it's worth going over first to a very thoughtful and full discussion of the issues surrounding the FARC in Colombia. I'll say that I don't get anywhere as near as exculpatory as this writer does, re: this terrorist group, but she has larger, more important points to make about how people whipped up into a facile frenzy by a mile-wide-inch-deep FB campaign really cut a lot of complex corners that overlook how they may well have been merely co-opted into a government campaign against this rebel movement that then covers up the government's own excesses in how they deal with movements like this. And that's of course very far removed from the Twitters and the FriendFeeds and the Qik Video take on everything -- it's more dense and complex. Yet it sums up the problem: mobs incited are mobs incited -- it's a blunt instrument.
"Did you ever think people would be using Facebook to revolt against the government?," asks Lacy. You know, some day, scientists will simply read what she said, or hear what she said because various modern-day cultural clues and hindrances like her sort of flirting and simpering will be stripped away by time, and the real essence of her quite-proper confrontation of this *goon* will be more clear.
In a minute, Faceberg will be using Facebook's best friend Twitter to revolt against Business Week journalists whose probing questions they don't like, but that story has been covered...
So here's what he answers in this section of the tape NOBODY is talking about. "No, it's very hard to predict
but if we can help people connect personally that would have a very profound effect."
*Blinks*. So...here's the recipe then. Connect people. Personally. Which makes them more empathetic. Then drop memes into their drinking water, i.e. micromedia feed, and watch if they do any good.
"The world is increasingly complex," says Mark Zuckerberg, mindful that these problems his Facebook mob is going to be incited to tackle aren't yes/no tekkie set-up decisions like "do I friend/not friend this person" or do I "like/not like this song".
So his job, his mission in life, it to "build an infrastructure to solve" these problems. Says Lacy (I'm telling you, she's one smart cookie: "What about Internet itself? why FB itself?"
"But there needs to be specific tools," objects Mark. The objective is not to build new community, but "communicate with the people they already would have, but more effectively." Clever, eh?
He then proceeds, with a perfectly straight and intense and idealistic expression on his face to tell you how Facebook is getting at terrorism in the world, and helping to end it. That's because it's an "efficient platform," see, as he calls it.
"Other people's real-world experience is so different," he tells the room full of affluent nerds. For example, FB is very large in Lebanon, where lots of people use it. And where you understand that their angst comes not from their "big hatred of America," but comes from "lack of connectedness and empathy and understanding."
See, these Muslim youth, are "relatively poor, young, spend a lot of time with their imam, studying with their imam, they believe in their religion but that institution provides uniforms, and they don't have options," Zuckerberg explains. You know, guns, religion -- they cling to it!
So they listen to those imams on the one hand, but on the other, "they'll go outside and drink on Friday night and meet girls" (bad Muslims!) "Some imams are peaceful," Zuckerberg hastens to explain, but "some are not." Right. I know, because I've seen quite a few pictures of young Muslim men on FB shown holding guns in their pictures, including some who have heckled me.
But, all that is in the dark non-scientific past before people were linked up by wonderful social media sites in California. "Now because of FB, people were able to keep connections with friends who went to Europe," he says about Lebanese youth. "They keep an understanding and are broadening their horizon and understanding of what is going on in the world," i.e., as I understood it, they now had a more efficient way to get the hell out of Lebandon by networking and finding their way to a visa to the US and Canada where they could learn dental hygiene or refrigerator repair and live happily ever after, in between FB sessions.
So, with the marvels of modern Facebook science, they "increased their options, had more empathy for things," explains Zuckerberg.
"They changed their outlook," he said -- something that not only isn't true, but if it were, you'd have to be very scared. That people are changed against their will, unknowingly, without really consciousness and participation, as a kind of monster behaviour modifying experiment run by...a college dropout.
So, says Mark. They think, and they wonder, "am I to grow up to be a terrorist or be developers and artists?" So, contrasting terrorism is...a life of making widgets and web APIs "enabling connections."
Concludes Zuckerberg: "What we're doing as a mission, helping people communicate more efficiently. There a lot of big issues that need to be solved."
So...what this is really about, frankly, is the "we" who imagine they are "on mission" deciding what issues are, or helping along issues they like emerging from the "crowd wisdom" and then making an, er, "efficient" use of these people to make them "change".
"We're building an infrastructure on top of which to solve them," he says of all the worlds' grave problems. Clear indication that he believes that those 69 million people and their various causes are *his*.
He says he was inspired by the "One Campaign," which fights poverty and raises money in the West."
And now -- the punchline! Ta-da! "We need to build an organization that has enough political clout to really affect legislation."
"Like the NRA, as powerful, you can't get in their way."
He then cites a local bill about Africa. A congressman thought his constituents wouldn't want him to vote on this bill, and that he could actually campaign by saying "none of your taxpayer money ever leaves this county."
He then found that people protested where he went to church, his office, his home, his kids at school. SO...are you following me here (hehe)? People stalked him. Using Facebook. And Twitter. Stalked *his kids at school* in order to get him to *change his mind*. By *force*.
"Look, I got this wrong," he said, not surprisingly, of his old views on not shoveling Bush Administration aid money to Africa instead of his own constituents.
Now Zuckerberg really warms to the topic. "What if there needed to be a bigger organization to channel people's forces?" he theorizes. "These people should be able to have a voice...without having a large organization to raise millions of dollars."
"The world is increasingly complex," he rhapsodizes again (so complex, that only smart people like him can figure it out and tell you what to think !) Facebook, however, gives you a solid base for organizing -- and are you ready for this now? -- "not built top down but build bottom up by people like us who are building applications, one is Facebook."
Ok. So can you see the fully visible lines of how this neo-totalitarianism works? A few people harness the many in their social media networks by controlling them technically (being able to scrape their data and shoot memes to them). They decide what is important among the many complex problems of the world. Or, they um, *cough* let the crowd source it (which is usually about the most technically adapted and adept at meming swarming the crowd).
Now do you get why this guy doesn't care if he makes a billion? He has something more important -- a concept for really taking over everybody lol.
"We're focused on building this infrastructure," he tells us earnestly. "There will come a time, when this or something else like this is used by every single person in the world."
"People are fundamentally good and not trying to game the system," he says of his fellow tekkies. Um, ok.
What he's trying to do now is work on an interesting facet of Lenin taking over the telegraph post, in modern-day term. "Those with the most trustworthy information can publish the most in the system," and this is determined by "reacting to users". "This one is too aggressive and has to dial itself down," people will say about one widget forcing them to force-join 20 friends to use.
Ok, now that you have that straight in your mind -- and I hope it is obvious after this exegesis -- look at what Mitch Wagner has claimed about twittering your way out of jail in...Egypt (Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood or the government is never the problem in these scenarios; it's just lack of good tech lol).
I took severe issue with Mitch's rather giddy and overly hyping claim that this guy got himself out of jail by twittering one word, ARRESTED when he was. Of course, his American passport and US aid to Egypt and diplomatic clout probably counted for a lot more in getting him out of jail than his Twitter, but it made it more, oh, efficient. So Mitch is joining other bloggers and tech writers trying to make fantastic claims of good about this social media tech. That would be one thing, if that were all it does.
But I took particular exception to Mitch saying that this good, in freeing Jefferson One, the libertarian goof dancing in the Lincoln Memorial, and this affluent Twitterer with the expensive mobile phone, offsets the concerns at least some of us have about the totalitarian uses this is put to.
Says Mitch: "We often discuss how the Internet and 21st century surveillance technology threaten individual privacy. And those concerns are valid. But it's equally true that these technologies make it more difficult for governments, big business, and other large institutions to operate in secrecy against individuals."
OK, Mitch. Do your thing. Now get this *Egyptian* blogger out of jail with your Twitters, your blogs, your Facebooks. Go for it. Let's see you do your stuff. Or these ones.
Here's Mitch, catching up with his other Breathless Blog (TM) of the other day:
"(A couple of days ago, I was prepared to denounce the Jefferson Memorial incident as an example of the Jackboots Of Authority Stamping Down On American Free Speech. Now, as more facts of the matter come out, the situation seems unclear. The best possible outcome would be for the arrested person to have the charges dropped against her, and for everyone involved in the incident -- both libertarians and cops -- to shake hands and apologize to each other, because that's what civilized people do when there's a misunderstanding and tempers flare. Does anybody think that's actually going to happen?)"
Well, Mitch. Do you think...other things might be like that? Like, oh, Lebanon for example?
That's ok. Just go on breathlessly reporting how "they" (who are the "we") are "building the infrastructure" on top of the social network to, uh, change the world.
I started a group on Facebook. "We Are Not 69 Million of Something." It has 2 members. I hope no one will join it lol!