October 23, 2019
Is this a modern day case example of the Peter Principle? That is, that people tend to rise higher and higher until they rise to the last level – their level of incompetence.
Watch Mark Zuckerberg’s performance at the U.S. House Financial Services Committee on October 23, 2019, today that is. Quite spontaneously, my intuition tells me that there is something that doesn’t make sense in all this. Something fundamentally wrong, untrustworthy. Something I’d even call sad.
Zuckerberg consistently says good things – things we can all subscribe to such as “bringing the world closer”, free speech, we’d never accept discrimination etc – and consistently placing himself in the category of a good guy. I have no reason to think he is not; I don’t think he is a bad guy or has had destructive motives from the outset, or something like that. Rather, it seems to me that he has risen to his level of incompetence – of impossibility.
I get this funny image of him being on a roller coaster that never stops but takes him, at higher and higher speed through curves and his 40 000 employees to ever higher levels above the ground… far far down there. At Harvard.
Facebook started out as a youth- and playful project among students at Harvard University and developed into an almost global platform for communication across all borders among all people. An amazing idea indeed.
In all fairness, people, groups and governments have misused it, particularly as technology got more and more sophisticated and various types of wars increasingly have come to be fought in the media – and not only on physical battlefields.
There is something called cyber warfare and Facebook didn’t start it.
It was a global exercise – and idealistic dream vision – about truly free speech, unimpeded by distance, money and political restrictions. We were given a medium that was different from any other ever seen – and truly promising from a human rights and inter-cultural perspective. And it turned out, over time, to become the largest ever. I myself joined in 2007.
This article from Businessofapps.com says it all and here is a handy illustration:
Like politico-economic-military empires, there comes a time when the word over-extension begins to gain relevance; that is, the number of units you try to control continues to rise and there is no one on board who can say… Excuse me, why are we expanding all the time? Is quantity itself a quality? When are we happy with those we have and try to serve as well as possible (no one can serve billions of people and we all know that Facebook virtually never answers an inquiry and doesn’t exactly make it easy to make one).
Or, can we still do what we were originally supposed to do? Do we still have a dream or is it becoming a nightmare? Can we remain friends with the world or must we give up our ideals – some or all – to maintain the position, the power, we have accumulated so far?
Zuckerberg’s Empire is constantly and predictably running into troubles. For instance, Facebook relies on the Atlantic Council as experts to decide on whether statements on the platform aim at interfering in US elections – the only problem being that the Atlantic Council is also a leading propaganda organization for US foreign policy in general and NATO in particular.
In the above-mentioned hearing, he would deny any censorship – but he is consistently only seeing the adversaries of the United States as influencing elections.
However, it is common knowledge that no other country – also by means of influencing mechanisms and not just CIA and military-based regime change – deliberately influences, threatens, distorts and has had such tremendous cultural and normative influencing power over virtually the whole world since 1945 than the United States of America.
No fewer than 81 countries were the object of elections interference by the US between 1946 and 2000 but many other countries a guilty of it too.
Only a couple of days before that hearing, Facebook “suspended” Russian and Iranian accounts. Here are the vague, enigmatic – if not outrageously suspicion-throwing – words of Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy:
Facebook said it also had suspended three separate networks operated from Iran. The Russian network “showed some links” to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), Facebook said, an organization Washington has said was used by Moscow to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election.
“We see this operation targeting largely U.S. public debate and engaging in the sort of political issues that are challenging and sometimes divisive in the U.S. right now,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy.
“Whenever you do that, a piece of what you engage on are topics that are going to matter for the election. But I can’t say exactly what their goal was.”
Facebook also announced new steps to fight foreign interference and misinformation ahead of the November 2020 election, including labeling state-controlled media outlets and adding greater protections for elected officials and candidates who may be vulnerable targets for hacking. (My italics)
Not a shred of evidence. As if using the self-serving formula: We neither confirm nor deny, we can’t talk about it because it is a national security matter and involves our relations to foreign governments…
And then comes the labelling of media as state-controlled! What if Facebook would begin, in all fairness, to label all the media – the large majority of Western mainstream media – which are as controlled as state-controlled but are corporate-controlled or US government agencies-controlled?
Oh, there goes the accounts of the Commies and the world’s leading supporter of terrorism – backing up the new Cold War with Russia and the evil, yes evil, US policy against Iran.
Finally – for this time – Mr. Zuckerberg seems, politically correctly, to see China as the great rival. Perhaps also because Facebook did not get in there as he wished, dreaming of integrating the whole world on one single platform. I find it a pretty mind-boggling target which belongs to the realm of Empire-building megalomania.
And why should it “do” China too? The Chinese have WeChat – in many ways so much more interesting that Facebook plus all the rest (WeChat delivers all the functions that are split in the Western app world)
Although, in all fairness, it may not be his words the choice between the Chinese way and the Facebook way is something that is embedded in much of what he says.
That choice is false, in my view. A better option is cooperation.
But if Mr. Zuckerberg and Facebook continue to serve as an arm of State Department, that choice will have to be made. And become more easy.
Anybody who ties himself closely to the US global geo-political, militarist empire agenda will lose – Facebook will become Facetanic or Titanicbook, onboard the sinking US Empire.
It should worry any thinking person that another of his dreams is Libra, the Faceboook currency, and – mind you here – he says it is made for “projecting American financial leadership around the world” and fight that Chinese rival.
I’m not on Facebook to help any country’s or government’s agenda. I am there as s free citizens wanting to interact with people around the world. I believe – time will tell whether it’s a well-founded belief – that Zuckerberg’s is a losing strategy.
And since I as a Western can and do operate on WeChat, I know what I would choose in the time perspective of 5-10 years: WeChat + an alternative to Facebook that is truly independent of any government’s agenda.
Even though the Chinese authorities surely also use WeChat for data collection. But China and its gigantic Belt and Road Initiative, BRI, is vastly more fascinating and visionary than anything coming out of Washington these years. Such a larger perspective is likely to reflect back on the app world in the future.
My favourite book – a masterpiece of research – about the worldwide cultural influence of the US and CIA is still Frances Stonor Saunders, Who Paid The Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War from 1999.
The nexus between US foreign policy and the broad field of culture – media and opinion-formation – is well-documented in this marvelous, thick book.
It’s nothing new, of course. The Google and Facebook empires and a few others are those cultural conveyors today, not American artists, poets or Hollywood.
As for Google’s clearly political role and participation in the new Cold War, you may like to read my “What makes Google’s Eric Schmidt so afraid? And what should he be afraid of?” – but much more important on Google’s story (and to some extent Facebook’s) intimate relations with the intelligence community, CIA, Pentagon and venture capitalist enterprises is a huge analysis by eminent scholar and journalist, Nafeez Ahmed, How the CIA made Google. Inside the secret network behind mass surveillance, endless war, and Skynet – Part I and II.
When you have read that you will undoubtedly ask two questions: How has this been possible for so long without any other investigations than this – how come other media people have not been digging in these intimate relations? And, secondly, do I want to have anything to do with Google – Search, Chrome, Maps, (Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides), email (Gmail), scheduling and time management (Google Calendar), cloud storage (Google Drive), instant messaging and video chat (Duo, Hangouts), language translation (Google Translate), mapping and navigation (Google Maps, Waze, Google Earth, Street View), video sharing (YouTube), note-taking (Google Keep), and photo organizing and editing (Google Photos) – you name them?
It’s time to study the deeper structural factors underlying these allegedly social, neutral and idealistic platforms which – allegedly again – seek to make the world a better place and bring humanity closer together.
We may soon wake up and find that they none of it, perhaps even in some respects the opposite.
One reason is the – internal – Peter Principle dinosaur roller coaster dynamics. Another is that anything of that size is bound to become the object of attempts at political control and slowly but surely be taken over, moulded and finally swallowed, to fit and serve darker forces and their purposes.
We don’t need one global dominating Facebook. We don’t need one global US Empire. We need lots of smaller networks, platforms and synergistic structures that can easily connect worldwide but simultaneously maintain their genuine independence.
And remain human. Small is not only beautiful, it is the only element that can become truly big, namely in terms of quality. The Danish novelist and philsopher Villy Sorensen should be much more known for his wise words that “there are limits to quantity but no limits to quality”.
That applies even to Facebook, Google and the model they emulate and is part of – the US Empire which is declining also because it ignores that type of wisdom.
Note about Twitter
Perhaps you wonder about Twitter – not mentioned in this article?
On September 30, 2019, the Middle East Eye informed the world that “Twitter executive for Middle East is British Army ‘psyops’ soldier.”
The story wasn’t picked up by any leading Western mainstream media. Here is a critically important analysis by FAIR of the roaring silence surrounding this, indeed, remarkable story – “Media ignore unmasking of Twitter exec as British Psyops Officer. Government penetration and control over media of little interest to those who are subject to it”.
So, it seems that it doesn’t matter much where you turn in the “social” media world, they are all parts of Psyops – “a way of getting the enemy, or other target audience, to think and act in a way which will be to our advantage”… that is, warfare through influencing citizens psychologically in ways they are not really aware of.