AR-FacebookFebruary 23, 2018
1. a moral or legal entitlement
What are our rights as humans, US citizens, or residents of Florida? I’ve been thinking a lot about rights lately as, like so many things, when they become scarce you start getting very fond of them. We believe the US is the greatest nation in the world due to our prodigal set of rights. But increasingly, it feels as if basic rights have been impaired.
Is This That Day for Me?
Last Wednesday I returned to my desk and pulled up Business Insider. And there it was: “Mass Shooting Reported in Southern Florida School.”
We have 7- and 10-year-old boys in school in Delray Beach. Is this that day for our family? A numb, hurried scan of the article, then relief — a high school; ours are in elementary. Spared. The assurance your child is safe at school is a basic right. One the citizens of Canada, Australia, Japan, Slovakia, and Estonia enjoy. How did we get here?
The right to bear arms is central to our identity as Americans. We value the maverick, gunslinger, frontiersman, and hunter who can stand his ground and, if needed, protect the commonwealth from a government descending into tyranny. This is a right most Americans believe warrants additional risk. Americans make up 4.4% of the global population but own 42% of the world’s guns. In addition, Americans are 20 times as likely to be killed by a gun than someone from another developed country. Yet we’ve repeatedly confirmed — via our elected officials — we believe the right is worth the risks. Has our affection for the American identity resulted in unacceptable levels of risk?
When you’re paid not to understand something, it’s easy not to understand it. The tobacco industry was paid not to understand the link between smoking and cancer, and was befuddled by the concept. The NRA, whose national spokesperson participated in the CNN town hall on Wednesday (kudos to her) also appeared unable to make the link between assault rifles and mass shootings, as she, and the NRA, are paid not to connect the dots.
It’s unlikely the Founding Fathers, while crafting the Second Amendment, could envision how gun technology would evolve. In 1791, when the amendment was penned, muskets could fire 3–4 rounds a minute, each with a range of 150–300 feet. The AR-15 the Stoneman Douglas shooter used can fire 90 rounds per minute, each with a range of 1800 feet.
Another elemental right is sovereignty. Borders, so I’ve heard, matter, and democracy is the worst system of its kind … except for all the rest. Our borders and elections being subterfuged is a violation of our rights. Facebook’s exceptionalism and exoneration from their role in the molestation of the homeland is gun-like. Just as we exempt gun manufacturers from product liability, we grant Facebook unique kevlar. If CNBC, ESPN, or Condé Nast had been weaponized by a foreign actor, and had taken money for ads actively inciting racial and political divisions, these firms would have been shut down, received massive fines, or seen major advertisers stop spending. None of these has happened at Facebook.
The media scrutiny Facebook has endured creates an illusion of severe penalty (it isn’t), as we anchor off of the good old days (12 months ago), when the only point of debate was whose CEO was more Jesus-like or going to run for president. To the best of my knowledge, none of the platforms have been fined for their disregard of our borders, and their businesses continue to accelerate, because they are monopolies.
In a noble act of concern for his and our commonwealth, the CMO of Unilever has warned Facebook to get its act together or risk losing business from Unilever. Big advertisers will actually pull advertising from old media at the drop of a hat, as they’re looking for any excuse to validate what they already know: broadcast advertising continues to lose purchase. And old media would respond, crisply.
However, in the eyes of Facebook, big CPG firms have outlived their usefulness — legitimizing the platform. Unilever was a key player in the Pied Piper chorus that led more than 3 million advertisers to the platform. The tide/revenues will roll over any gulf dug if several advertisers were to pull business, as those millions of other advertisers feel something in their gut: Facebook is gaining purchase. As we stand here today, Unilever, P&G, and GM need Facebook much more than the Zuck needs Dove and Buick. The tickets to Adele, faux friendships, and expensive dinners lavished on CMOs are because Hearst, Viacom, and WPP are ripping marketers off and need you to like them. Facebook really doesn’t give a fuck. “Yeah, join my Leadership Council to legitimize the platform, but don’t call me on weekends, as I’d much rather hang with people my own age.”
Q: How do you know you work for a media firm that has a relevant offering?
A: You don’t play golf.
The best a CMO can do to threaten Facebook is wave their finger and claim, “No, I’m really serious this time … I’m going to take your iPad away. I mean it, don’t test me.” Note: If I sound biased against Facebook, trust your instincts — I believe the firm is bad for America and fucking up our children. But that’s another post.
How did this happen? Again, it’s about the American identity, money, and progress. Another seminal figure of national pride, emerging from the sunrise, on the horse next to the gunslinger? The innovator. He is uniquely American. A risk taker, unafraid, disrupting the business world with our nation’s quarry of tech, educated young people, capital markets, rule of law, and general badassery. Innovators grow our economy, make us rich, employ our kids, help us lean in, launch rockets bigger than anybody else’s rockets, and may just cure death.
The money part is pretty obvious here. Bill Maher compared social media to nicotine. Addictive … but not that bad for you. It’s the tobacco that gives you cancer, and the tobacco here is advertising. The need to engage/enrage the community for more clicks and ensure the numbers of targets and advertisers grow, unchecked, has resulted in externalities that make Love Canal look like Côte d’Azur.
The progress in social is guns in a time machine. Nobody, not even someone as visionary as the Zuck, could have foreseen what Facebook would evolve into and become capable of. That is, except Vladimir Putin. The most innovative thing of 2016 wasn’t the Apple Watch or Alexa, but Russia’s weaponization of our pride and joy, Facebook. A Trojan horse is a great idea. A Trojan horse your enemy pays for is genius. It’s easier to fool someone than convince them they’ve been fooled (Twain), and we still haven’t come to grips with the fact the US financed and built a nuclear weapon that Russia detonated in our face as we admire it adoringly.
This may be emotion speaking, as I was moved by the town hall the night before, but I’m more hopeful about gun control than Facebook. I think it’s going to get better on gun control and worse with Facebook. The key is young people. The young people at the town hall possess the key attribute of any disruptor who changes the world: they’re too stupid to know they are going to fail. However, young people haven’t had the same fervor for sovereignty — they don’t vote.
Mass school shootings went from horrific and episodic to horrific and predictable, and young people who saw their friends die in front of them reminded us our rights are meant to be points of light, not suicide pacts. Supposedly it’s darkest before the dawn, and I do believe (call me naive) we are on the cusp of progress on gun control. However, with respect to social media — the worship of innovators, the influence of billionaires, and the pace of technology create a perfect storm that, relatively speaking, is barely yet a warm breeze.
With Facebook, it’s darkest before it’s pitch black. The platform has been weaponized; our faux outrage has not translated to any tangible action, and it’s going to get worse.
Life is so rich,