Friday, June 26, 2020

The wheels on the bus come off, off, off, all through the town. Yeah, you, Zuckerberg. You too, Trump.

Whose bus this is I do not know. But let's check to see who's under it.
Let’s start with Mark Zuckerberg. Shortly before The Crank’s beautiful girlfriend died — it’s coming up on ten years now — we went to see a movie called The Social Network. It didn’t have much of a plot, at least as I remember it. 

A pair of twins attending Harvard, the Winklevoss twins (referred to collectively as the Winklevi) start what’s essentially an online campus directory of students. They need a coder to get their directory idea working, and hear there’s a kid on campus named Mark Zuckerberg who’s a whiz at it. He not only codes what eventually becomes Facebook, he also essentially steals the business from the Winklevi, and six years later he’s a billionaire — proof that crime can indeed pay, as long as it’s white collar crime. And as we all know, Zuckerberg lived, at least until recently, happily ever after.

Except not with his original Harvard girlfriend. The best scene in the movie, for my money, was when the original girlfriend dumped him, telling him “you’re an asshole.” Quote unquote. Even ten years ago, there was a faint murmur of approval and a smattering of applause in the movie theater.

Cut to 2020. Facebook at the beginning of June had a market capitalization of at least $350 billion smackers, which ain’t beanbag. But it was attracting people from bad neighborhoods, who were posting some pretty foul stuff on the walls. Holocaust denials. Donald Trump’s palpable lies. Racist screeds. You name it.

Lies, slime, and platitudes

And Zuckerberg permitted it, in 2018 explaining the dissemination of all this anti-social slime with platitudinous claptrap. “Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company,” he told Congress with a straight face. He blathered on about “all the good that connecting people could do.” 

But then he added, it was clear that “we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well.” He singled out “fake news,” and also “foreign interference in elections and hate speech, as well as data privacy.” 

He next put all the blame on himself (“it was my mistake and I’m sorry.”) Here’s the whole concocted mea culpa in two minutes and nineteen seconds, a masterpiece of PR crisis management that turned out to have about as much sincerity behind it as a pit viper inviting a mouse to come over to the snake pit for a friendly dinner party.

If you ever doubt that Zuckerberg was full of runny reptile manure, all you have to do is watch Congresswoman Alexandria Occasio Cortez questioning Zuckerberg — a year later! — on the political lies, hate material and misinformation that continued to populate Facebook.

AOC slices and dices Zuckerberg like a turnip that fell into a food processor. His nervous, stumbling answers — clearly the crisis management team failed to rehearse him enough this time — unmistakably indicate that he had done nothing, or at least precious little, to fix the threat to democracy that his multi-billion dollar business had become.

But now somebody is fixing Zuckerberg royally, and evidently Zuckerberg didn’t see it coming. 

Forget the “virtual walkout” by his own disgruntled employees. That’s small potatoes. Much bigger, the Anti-Defamation League has issued an open letter to rebut the hate speech on Facebook. In so doing, it joined the NAACP and other anti-hate groups. And advertisers have been responding. As the old saying goes, they’re staying away in droves.

Among the advertisers who’ve decided to take a hike out of Facebook are The North Face, Patagonia, REI, Ben & Jerry’s Eddie Bauer, Magnolia Pictures, Verizon, Uniliver (with a whole stableful of iconic brands), and Honda.

The wheels are coming off, off, off Zuckerberg’s bus. (And it will be interesting to see how long a link to this blog piece stays posted on Facebook. But never mind that. ) Betcha that within six months Zuckerberg either capitulates, resigns, or loses a few billion dollars worth of value for his stockholders.

Tulsa tells Trump
to go take a hike

Meanwhile, Donald Trump may also be teetering on the edge of a comeuppance. His underpopulated Tulsa rally left him boasting about himself to thousands of empty seats, while school kids punked him by reserving tickets and never showing up to use them. His poll numbers are going down like a sinker attached to a flounder hook. Photographs have appeared of him looking like an overweight actor trying out for the lead in Death of a Salesman.

I’m too much of a pessimist to predict that this is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump. On the other hand, the wheels on his bus really do seem to be coming off, off, off. And when that happens, it’s not only hard to keep moving forward, it's even difficult to throw anybody under the bus.

So we’ve all got a few things to hope for now. 

Update: As of the morning of June 29th, Diageo, Starbucks, Jim Beam and Pepsi had joined in terminating their Facebook advertising, according to Advertising Age, thus rendering Zuckerberg $7.2 billion less rich personally than he had been a week ago. Hey Mark, seven billion here, seven billion there, and pretty soon you'll be trying to scrape by on your last five billion. 


Comrade Misfit said...

Remember that Zuckerberg, aka Data's son, owns a majority interest in FB. It really is his toy.

The New York Crank said...

Right you are, Comrade, Misfit. But when children play dangerous games with toys, we have to take their toys away. Or at least give them a time out

Yours crankily,
The New York Crank

Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

Zuckerturd has the personality of Data, but the ethics of Lore.

Anonymous said...

Trump campaign bus!

John Benson said...

Besides Verizon and Unilever those are kind of "lefty" brands. Zuckerberg pulls from the Trumpian playbook, market to your base. That those two bases overlap (ok there will be no Trump followers who are not in the Facebook circle) will not be a problem. There will be tons of money to be made from the Cult45 followers.

So it will be the bubble within the bubble. Fasschen Blase?

The New York Crank said...

I'm not sure I'm following you, John. Even the first sentence of your comment left me scratching my head. Verizon is not a "lefty" brand. To the extent that it has any politics at all, it has to do with its resistance to union demands a few years ago, which to my mind is kind of "righty."

And Unilever? What is the politics of Dove soap? What is the politics of Imperial margarine? Why is Aim toothpaste "kind of 'lefty'"? Why is Hellman's mayonnaise or Knorr soup any more "lefty" than a shoelace? Gimme a break!

Yours crankily,
The New York Crank

Matthew Saroff said...

IIRC, Zuckerberg does not own a majority of Facebook, but because of the multi-tiered share structure, he does own over 50% of the votes.

The New York Crank said...

No argument with that, Matthew. The company overall, if I remember what I read the other day correctly, has lost about $50 billion in value, of which Zuckberg's share was $7.2 billion. The rest is a loss inflicted on other hapless stockholders. Without the majority of the voting stock, the way this mess is structured, they can't get rid of him. They can only get rid of their stock at a loss. Or at least at a paper loss.

Thanks to Facebook, the whole world is so screwed!

Yours crankily,
The New York Crank
P.S. Would you be Ron and Natalie's grandchild? I remember them from college.