Ideas & Short Essays
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Mister Zuck goes to Washington

So pundits and politicians are up in arms about Facebook exposing our data. My question: what did we expect, exactly? Is there anyone still naive enough to believe that corporations are working for the best interest of the public? Did we expect that Facebook would forego the pursuit of profit and make the public good it’s sole priority?

I suspect that most of us, the common folk, aren’t as worked up as the columnists and the talking heads on TV. We follow the money. We know why Facebook exists, and it isn’t for some hippie purpose of making the world a better place or to bring the world closer, as Facebook puts it in their mission statement.

Like every corporation in a capitalist economy, Facebook exists for one and only one purpose: to make as much money as possible for their shareholders. That’s how the game works.

A lion is a predator who kills to survive. Lions kill for food, and that’s what they do. Getting outraged about it isn’t going to change lions, and lions aren’t evil. Or, more to the point, morality is beside the fact. Similarly, morality has not place in capitalism. All that matters is making money. A capitalist corporation is motivated to get as much of your money as possible while giving you as little as possible in return. So don’t hate the player, hate the game.

 

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Don’t hate the Zuckerbot, hate the game [Note: This pic is of an actual, life sized wax figure of Mark Zuckererg]

We’ve been going full steam with capitalism for many decades now. I went to business school in the late nineties when the experts lined up for gigs on cable TV, breathlessly praising deregulation, low taxes, and proclaiming the newly sanctified dogma that corporations and other private entities are better off without government interference.

So, when coporations sell your data in shady deals or act purely in their own self-interest with no regard for the public, why are pundits surprised? The outrage is more than a little hypocritical, because that’s how capitalism works: we told corporations to care only about their bottom line, and guess what: they did.

Here’s how one angry pundit put it:

The worst moments of the hearing for us, as citizens, were when senators asked if Zuckerberg would support legislation that would regulate Facebook. I don’t care whether Zuckerberg supports Honest Ads or privacy laws or GDPR. By asking him if he would support legislation, the senators elevated him to a kind of co-equal philosopher king whose view on Facebook regulation carried special weight. It shouldn’t.

Facebook is a known behemoth corporate monopoly. It has exposed at least 87 million people’s data, enabled foreign propaganda and perpetuated discrimination. We shouldn’t be begging for Facebook’s endorsement of laws, or for Mark Zuckerberg’s promises of self-regulation. We should treat him as a danger to democracy and demand our senators get a real hearing.

Dude. Relax. This is life under capitalism. Save your breath (and your blood pressure) and just hashtag it #thankscapitalism

Capitalism is not a system that takes the public good into account. It never was and it never will. Expecting Facebook or any other corporation to act in our best interest is as silly as expecting a lion to lie down with the lamb. It’s a nice idea, and it works great as a biblical metaphor, this lion and lamb thing, but this side of heaven a little more realism would be a welcome relief.

2 Comments

  1. On a related note…..one of the other notable moments from the Zuckerberg testimony was the pitiful display by our Congressional representatives. It’s obvious that they are not merely entrenched in a shitty economic system but that they don’t really have a grasp on technology. Here’s a two minute vid with some of the funniest highlights:

    Some of the representatives were actually circling around some important issues but their lack of understanding about social media and the Internet made it easy for Zuckerberg to embarass them.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Facebook: Regulate and Share The Wealth? | Jonathan Erdman, indie writer

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