Zuckerberg’s Preposterous Defense of Facebook
Are you bothered by fake news, systematic misinformation campaigns and Facebook “dark posts” — micro-targeted ads not visible to the public — aimed at African-Americans to discourage them from voting? You must be one of those people “upset about ideas” you disagree with.
Are you troubled when agents of a foreign power pose online as American Muslims and post incendiary content that right-wing commentators can cite as evidence that all American Muslims are sympathizers of terrorist groups like the Islamic State? Sounds like you can’t handle a healthy debate.
Does it bother you that Russian actors bought advertisements aimed at swing states to sow political discord during the 2016 presidential campaign, and that it took eight months after the election to uncover any of this? Well, the marketplace of ideas isn’t for everyone.
.. bias in the digital sphere is structurally different from that in mass media, and a lot more complicated than what programmers believe.
.. what matters most is not the political beliefs of the employees but the structures, algorithms and incentives they set up, as well as what oversight, if any, they employ to guard against deception, misinformation and illegitimate meddling.
.. by design, business model and algorithm, Facebook has made it easy for it to be weaponized to spread misinformation and fraudulent content.
.. this business model is also lucrative, especially during elections. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, called the 2016 election “a big deal in terms of ad spend” for the company
.. Facebook responds to such pressure as much of the traditional media do: by caving and hiding behind flimsy “there are two sides to everything” arguments.
.. Even the conservative pundit and wild-eyed conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck, of all people, has expressed befuddlement at the charge that Facebook censored conservative content.
.. He has correctly pointed out that Facebook had been a boon for right-wing groups, especially of the alt-right and Breitbart variety
Why is Donald Trump so bad at the bully pulpit?
Why is Trump so bad with words? Blame reality television, Twitter and political talk shows.Trump “cannot give a speech without his hosts distancing themselves from his rhetoric.”.. Consider Trump’s three biggest rhetorical own-goals over the past week.
- His “fire and fury” statement on North Korea forced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to try to talk the United States off a ledge.
- This in turn led to Sebastian Gorka denigrating Tillerson and Trump saying he had perhaps been too soft in his rhetoric.
- Which, in turn, caused Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to try to talk the nation off a ledge again.
- Trump’s belated response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ejection of U.S. diplomats was even worse:
- The public calumny from that reaction was so bad that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to claim that Trump was being sarcastic.
- Trump attempted to address the violence triggered by white nationalists in Charlottesville with a namby-pamby statement that blamed “many sides” for the violence.
- It is odd that a president who claimed to despise political correctness with respect to Islamic terrorists suddenly chose to be circumspect in describing homegrown neo-Nazi terrorists.
- Trump was more willing to call his country’s intelligence community Nazis than he was to call actual Nazis Nazis.
.. Running for office repeatedly tends to hone one’s rhetorical instincts. At a minimum, most professional politicians learn the do’s and don’ts of political rhetoric.
.. Trump’s political education has different roots. He has learned the art of political rhetoric from three sources:
- reality television,
- Twitter and
- “the shows.”
His miscues this past week can be traced to the pathologies inherent in each of these arenas.
.. I have seen just enough of the “Real Housewives” franchise to know that this genre thrives on next-level drama. No one wants to watch conflicts being resolved; they want to watch conflicts spiral out of control. So it is with Trump and North Korea. He never sees the value in de-escalating anything, and North Korea is no exception. Calm resolution is not in the grammar of reality television.
.. I am pretty familiar with Twitter, and the thing about that medium is that it is drenched in sarcasm. It is a necessary rhetorical tic to thrive in that place. The problem is that while sarcasm might work on political Twitter, it rarely works in politics off Twitter.
.. Finally, there are the political talk shows. If there is one thing Trump has learned from that genre, it is the “both sides” hot take. Pundits are so adept at blaming a political conflict on both sides that the #bothsides hashtag is omnipresent on political Twitter.
.. These people are bigots. They are hate-filled. This is not just a protest where things, unfortunately, got violent. Violence sits at the heart of their warped belief system.
.. substantive problems with Trump’s reaction to each of these three crises
- .. He seems overly eager to escalate tensions with North Korea and
- steadfastly does not want to call out Vladimir Putin or white nationalists by name... his limited grasp of the bully pulpit. He ad-libbed all these rhetorical miscues. In doing so, he relied on tropes he had learned from reality television, social media and political talk shows.Those tropes might work for a reality-show hack desperate to engage in self-promotion. They do not work for the president of the United States.
Republicans Party Like It’s 1984
The really important thing, however, is not just to realize that Republicans are breaking their promises, but to realize that they are doing so with intent. This isn’t one of those cases where people try to do what they said they would, but fall short in the execution. This is an act of deliberate betrayal: Everything about Trumpcare is specifically designed to do exactly the opposite of what Trump, Paul Ryan and other Republicans said it would.
.. people with incomes over $1 million would save an average of more than $50,000 a year.
And there is a powerful faction within the G.O.P. for whom cutting taxes on the rich is more or less the only thing that matters.
And on a more subjective note, don’t you get the impression that Donald Trump gets some positive pleasure out of taking people who make the mistake of trusting him for a ride?
As for why they think they can get away with it: Well, isn’t recent history on their side? The general shape of what the G.O.P. would do to health care, for the white working class in particular, has long been obvious, yet many people who were sure to lose, bigly, voted Trump anyway.
Why shouldn’t Republicans believe they can convince those same voters that the terrible things that will happen if Trumpcare becomes law are somehow liberals’ fault?
And for that matter, how confident are you that mainstream media will resist the temptation of both-sides-ism, the urge to produce “balanced” reporting that blurs the awful reality of what Trumpcare will do if enacted?