Elizabeth Holmes said she was too pretty to go to jail.
Needless to say, Holmes is on trial as we speak, blaming her heinous behavior on her old boyfriend Sunny Balwani, claiming abuse and ultimately PTSD as she attends Burning Man and galivants around San Francisco as if she had not a care in the world.
If you think you know everything about this story, you probably don’t.
Start by reading John Carreyrou’s book “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.” The most memorable part of the book for me is when attorney David Boies, who heretofore had an impeccable image, comes in with a team to threaten Carreyrou at the “Wall Street Journal.” But Carreyrou and the WSJ stand their ground.
And now the WSJ is investigating Facebook. You’ve probably seen the headlines.
Carreyrou single-handedly brought down Theranos, will the WSJ series have an impact on Facebook? Definitely, although how much is yet to be seen.
So if you’re into nonfiction, after reading “Bad Blood” be sure to read “Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice” an account of finance in Russia and so much more. As a matter of fact the Magnitsky Act, which Bill Browder, author of “Red Notice,” fomented, is in the news seemingly every day.
Both of these books are easily read. As a matter of fact, you’ll have a hard time putting them down. If this were a class, they’d be assigned reading.
But before you read those books I would first make you listen to Roger McNamee on Kurt Andersen’s podcast: How Business Models Have Shaped Big Tech.
I know Roger, I’ve even done a podcast with him myself, but in this hour he details the history and landscape of Silicon Valley, as well as the history of government intervention against bad actors and monopolies so well it’s like a master class.
Bottom line… Roger thought tech was a tool for good. Isn’t that what Steve Jobs famously claimed, that he was just making tools?
And McNamee was the first to blow the whistle on Facebook in the last election cycle, 2016, and he even wrote a book about Facebook, “Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe,” but his message still has not gotten traction outside a small coterie of thinkers. That’s where the WSJ comes in.
But start with McNamee first.
When Roger puts it all in context, talks about how the government regulated meat to the benefit of the public, broke up the phone company, you’ll start to see a way through this mess.
Bottom line… Facebook and Google are on both sides of the transaction, they both host and sell, and he says they must do only one or the other.
And they colluded to control online advertising. This has been well documented in the news, but it’s not flashy enough to gain ubiquity, despite state attorneys general suing the company. But there is one smoking gun after another, evidence, it’s not just a theory.
But wait, there’s more! McNamee delineates the difference between the boomers and the millennials. The boomers grew up in an era where it was about the common good. The millennials grew up in an era where it was all about the individual, every person for him or herself, the common good be damned. Think about this, the Reagan revolution has paid dividends, and so many are not positive, the culture was changed, and too many people bought in. So Roger posits when Mark Zuckerberg makes heinous choices to benefit Facebook he thinks he’s doing a good thing, he doesn’t know any better. And now the details are coming out in the WSJ.
But staying with McNamee… Roger says how when they broke up the phone company, it stimulated advancement. That if you break up Google you’ll end up with fifty new companies. If you break up Facebook you’ll end up with a hundred. As for innovation, these evil twins are only trying to maintain their audience/customers, there’s no real advancement being made, it’s like a case study for the dearly departed Clayton Christensen, the old companies waiting to be disrupted.
So McNamee lays out a blueprint to go forward. And acknowledges that government is always behind, but that does not mean the government shouldn’t flex its muscles.
But going back to the WSJ series on Facebook, the quote in today’s paper is priceless:
“A now-former executive questioned the idea of overhauling Instagram to avoid social comparison. ‘People use Instagram because it’s a competition,’ the former executive said. ‘That’s the fun part.’”
I’d provide a link1 but either you subscribe to the WSJ or you don’t, you’re either in the loop or you’re not. You can gather misinformation on social media, most especially Facebook, or you can go to the source, but the source costs money and Americans are cheap, even worse, they oftentimes can’t even understand what is proffered. I posit a significant segment of the population won’t even follow and grasp what McNamee says, even though it’s far from boring, they just don’t have the education to be able to analyze, to comprehend, many just believe a man in the sky will save them.
So the above quote is from the second WSJ installment on Facebook. Turns out the Facebook-owned company Instagram is wreaking havoc on the self-image of today’s young women. They just can’t live up to the images online. Almost nobody can unless it’s your full-time job and you’re willing to starve yourself and get plastic surgery. Instagram is for bragging, and too many end up feeling like a loser.
But that’s not as bad as tomorrow’s segment, which went live on the WSJ site this morning:
“Facebook Tried to Make Its Platform a Healthier Place. It Got Angrier Instead; Internal memos show how a big 2018 change rewarded outrage and that CEO Mark Zuckerberg resisted proposed fixes.” 2
Turns out the execs are not in control of the platform, they keep saying they’re putting on band-aids when they’re not, or they do so with unintended negative results. The goal is just to keep people on the platform, that can’t be sacrificed, that metric is king. So despite having studies detailing the deleterious results of Facebook’s platforms the company ignores them. Even worse, it says they’re taking action when they’re not. It’s obfuscation all the time. Zuck testifies in Congress, he keeps saying he’ll provide backup and then does not. And then he just goes on wrecking the world. You see Zuck is the most powerful person in the world, but this doesn’t sit right with elected officials and titans of old school industry. Rupert Murdoch has taught us the power is in the ink, the press. And in truth, Zuckerberg has got a stranglehold on the press, his sites are where people go for information, and his goal is to raise your emotions so you’ll stay connected and participate. Like, respond, forward, it’s gold to Facebook but lead for our society.
In the first WSJ installment on Facebook3 it is revealed that the company has a whitelist. That if you’re famous, in the public eye, have enough followers, they give you a pass, no matter what you post. Because they’re scared you’ll fight back and the company might not look good. And the truth is they don’t have enough people to police behavior and the algorithm is far from perfect, which is why the hoi polloi are constantly complaining that they post innocuous stuff on Facebook and Instagram and it gets taken down and they might even get blocked while a whole tier of society gets a free pass. Once again, Zuck was confronted with this, what did he do? HE LIED!
Newsom won yesterday. You’ll see all these learned lessons in the media today. I’m not sure I believe all of them. Bottom line, California is a Democratic state, and the only reason Schwarzenegger won was that he was famous, a celebrity, a movie star, and in the last fifteen plus years the state has moved even further left. So is California a harbinger for the 2022 elections? I would certainly hope so, but I don’t believe it, look at how many votes Trump actually got last November, they far exceeded what all the pundits prognosticated.
And where is this cult’s word spread? Online. ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM!
And for TikTok, the WSJ says there’s a distinct difference:
“‘Social comparison is worse on Instagram,’ states Facebook’s deep dive into teen girl body-image issues in 2020, noting that TikTok, a short-video app, is grounded in performance, while users on Snapchat, a rival photo and video-sharing app, are sheltered by jokey filters that ‘keep the focus on the face.’ In contrast, Instagram focuses heavily on the body and lifestyle.”
So what is going to happen? Roger McNamee posits a way out, so maybe we can have hope, but Zuckerberg has so much power…
As for Theranos, I highly recommend the podcast “The Dropout, Elizabeth Holmes on trial.”
You can ignore the previous season. Just start with the August 31st episode “Where Have You Been, Elizabeth Holmes.”
But listen to Roger McNamee first.
And know this is the story of our day. I mean who is going to listen to musicians when superstar Nicky Minaj says she heard from a cousin in Trinidad that his friend got Covid-19 and his testicles swelled and he ended up impotent. Of course, Fauci and every reputable outlet denied this could possibly happen, but none of them have the reach of Ms. Minaj, who has 22.6 million followers on Twitter and 157 million on Instagram, talk about the power of the image over the written word… Used to be the titans of the “Billboard” chart were educated and smart, no longer, which is why they can only move the uneducated rearguard, anybody with a brain ignores them.
But don’t ignore the news. And get it from the source, not handed down via a game of telephone, like Nicki Minaj, like so many do on Facebook. In the eighties celebrity gossip culture and top-tier culture merged, this has been the story of the past few decades, but it’s no longer the truth, if for no other reason than we’re no longer sure who the stars are anymore. The movie stars have been revealed to be two-dimensional and out of touch and everybody at home believes they’re a star so you end up with an elite running the world and…those following music and gossip aren’t even members, they have no impact. Hell, look at the music business in Britain. They believed Boris Johnson was in their corner, but not only did Brexit make touring the Continent light years more difficult, time-consuming, and expensive, despite this now coming to light the government still hasn’t negotiated a reasonable settlement. And why would the government listen to the music business anyway, when oldsters like Eric Clapton are issuing falsehoods and the stars of the chart are mostly television nitwits?
We are in a fight for democracy. But even more, we’re in a fight for society, for culture, for the state of mind. Turns out these social media outlets are killing our world, they’re beyond the control of our elected officials.
And why should they take action, when a healthy part of the population won’t get the vaccine and keep talking about it on social media platforms, raining down coin for their owners?
Think about it.
1. Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show, By Georgia Wells, Jeff Horwitz and Deepa Seetharaman, WSJ, Sept. 14, 2021.
2. Facebook Tried to Make Its Platform a Healthier Place. It Got Angrier Instead, By Keach Hagey and Jeff Horwitz, WSJ, Sept. 15, 2021.
3. Facebook Says Its Rules Apply to All. Company Documents Reveal a Secret Elite That’s Exempt, by Jeff Horwitz, WSJ, Sept. 13, 2021.