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No Mercy No Malice

Disney’s Carousel of Progress & Facebook

October 30, 2020

4-min read

I grew up in LA, so I’ve been to Disneyland a lot. My first lessons in economics and marketing — scarcity, fiat currency, opportunity cost, sub-brands — were in Anaheim. Between 1959 and 1982, park visitors were asked to engage in game-theory and segmentation exercises to get the most magic from their kingdom. Admission, when I started going, set you back $3.75. It’s now $154, an inflation-adjusted increase in excess of 300% (#worthit). Ticket books were extra and segmented A-E (worst to best rides). E tickets, needed for the best rides, were a luxury brand positioned between Van Cleef & Arpels and Aman Resorts in the mind of an eight-year-old. They cost 85 cents.

I can’t stand it when people don’t know how to spend their money. I have successful friends in Florida who have a statue of themselves at the base of their circular stairway. Make. It. Stop. Anyway, I felt similar disgust when a rookie visitor would burn an E ticket on a lesser ride like The Sailing Ship Columbia or The Enchanted Tiki Room. What a waste. You didn’t want to go on Space Mountain? Yeah, that makes sense.

On Wednesday, the Senate commerce committee had a book of E tickets. They patched in three big tech CEOs (Pichai, Dorsey, and Zuckerberg) and were set to delve into the future of internet regulation. Specifically the thorny but critical topic of Section 230, an all-day pass that lets big tech do whatever they want in the park. They can even smoke pot on the Skyway gondola, a sublime if inefficient way to get from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland, without risking incarceration at Disney Jail. An actual thing. Not that it happened to me in 1983. Definitely not. But I digress.

Senators on the committee had Space Mountain within reach but opted for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln instead. Only Ted Cruz was Lincoln. And the Great Moments were weak and weird diversions to The Rainbow Ridge Pack Mules and Tom Sawyer River Rafts. Note: If you’re thinking I’ve taken this analogy way too far, trust your instincts.

At some point, Senate and House subcommittees will run out of E tickets, and big tech CEOs — whose lobbyists, money, and comms departments have nearly overrun government — will begin ignoring House and Senate subpoenas and will start sending underlings, as they’ve been to the park too many times and have companies to run. 

“Mr. Dorsey, who the hell elected you and put you in charge of what the media are allowed to report and what the American people are allowed to hear? And why do you persist in behaving as a Democratic super PAC suppressing views contrary to your political beliefs?”

— Sen. Ted Cruz

Uh, well, Senator … nobody elects a CEO of a company. They are appointed by a board, who are (theoretically) elected by shareholders. And every media company, including Twitter, despite what they claim, gets to make these decisions. 

What’s crazytown here is the GOP panel members, similar to George W. Bush, decided to attack the wrong enemy (Saddam had as much to do with 9/11 as Bambi’s mom, and we’d be better off if both were still alive, can’t wait for the hate mail on that one). GOP panel members attacked GOP allies — Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey. Misinformation and conspiracy theories spread 6x faster than truth on their platforms. The far right is more “gifted” with both these things than the far left. 

The largest donors to the GOP have been Sheldon Adelson and Koch Industries. But the biggest supporters of the GOP have been Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey. Both men deftly deploy various lipsticks to distract from the cancer — nose rings, ice baths, silent retreats, and Sheryl Sandberg. The cancer is algorithms that register, in a millionth of a second, that Messrs. Zuckerberg, Pichai, and Dorsey’s wealth increases if more enraging/false content is promoted, leading to more engagement, ads, revenue, and shareholder value. The algorithms have been programmed to make these men wealthier, at the expense of our commonwealth.

Master Class

This summer, the House antitrust subcommittee, chaired by Representative Cicilline, put on a master class on how to hold a hearing. They were prepared, disciplined and went straight for the Pirates of the Caribbean — allocated resources effectively. I wonder if the House is becoming the body where youth, preparation, greater turnover, and diversity (on several dimensions) elevates their brand above what was once considered the chamber with more gravitas. The Senate’s “hearing” this week was a sh*tshow, with Senators Cruz and Blackburn swinging wildly and not landing a glove on the platforms. It was similar to watching our failed attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis … minus the dignity and heroism. This was an October surprise that didn’t even try to cover up how politically motivated the timing and flawed the mission. 

The silver lining? A split screen of Jack Dorsey and Ted Cruz likely means beards have jumped the shark. Overdue.

The whole thing was a waste, and depressing. A squandered opportunity, similar to venturing to “The Happiest Place on Earth” to eat Meat Lovers’ Flatbread at Pinocchio’s Village Haus (both exist) and ride Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, where we are forced to watch creepy animatronic figures discuss technology through the lens of the fifties. 

Life is so rich, 

P.S. Excited to welcome Professor Adam Alter to the family. Sign up for his Product Strategy Sprint, running January 12-26, 2021. And I’m back on YouTube — in this week’s video, only 1 in 4 Americans can distinguish fact from opinion.

39 comments

  1. yowex says:

    I get paid over $190 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I’d be able to do it but my best friend earns over 15k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless…,…..www.jobztip.com

  2. Ferdi says:

    From a european, “old world” (remember Rumsfeld:)) POV, its is interesting to see what Americans, including intellectuals, would classify as right-leaning and left-leaning media. We hear a lot about the Dems preaching and incorporating “socialism” into the US institutions should they win the election. Read your Marx, Engels at al., and then re-evaluate or is there such thing as “american socialism” as a concept I never heard of? F-

  3. bill lee says:

    Yes, you overdid the analogy, esp for someone like myself who didn’t grow up in CA and haven’t been to Disneyland. Am I that unusual? (maybe)

  4. Ed says:

    Just let us know when you liquidate your TWTR position. Thanks!

  5. Roger says:

    Bambi’s mum was dangerous.

  6. OG says:

    Well written, yet the reality is that high growth industries often overlap over time. E.g. the early mining industry in the West needed trains and cheap labor. Although social media platforms are not news outlets, they operate as such. Creating reasonable regulation that codifies journalistic standards in content delivery (not just creation) is in the public interest. It is not lost on anyone that this would also to the benefit of big co’s by creating a regulatory moat. So the regulation needs to be carefully drafted. Staying the course only means staying in Disneyland forever and ignoring reality in this manner is not helpful to anyone.

  7. Neil S says:

    Huge fan, listen to Pivot and ProfG. Scott, you are the OG! Witty, sarcastic, insightful, brilliant, articulate. Spot on! Keep it up, and Never go on CNBC! I’ll be sending a recorded question to ProfG, please respond if you can.

  8. Michael Pollak says:

    Hi Scott, I’m not sure if you’ll read this or not. Let me start by blowing a little smoke up your skirt and let you know that I’m not just a fan, I am a huge fan. I really appreciate your insights, sarcasm, love for your family and your superior intellect. You cover so many missed opportunities and behavioral corporate failures And you have an incredible knack at predicting future outcomes. I have to tell you I think you’ve ignored an issue that had screamed louder than any other one that I can think of. I know you hate Trump. That’s OK with me. What is not OK is that you continue to ignore the king pins at Facebook, Google and especially Twitter while they violate the First Amendment and censor the news. I’m a few years older than you, but I know you remember Pravda. The Soviet Union only printed news that they considered was fit for what they decided their readers should consume. You don’t hesitate to call out the same CEOs when they trip all over themselves in the way they strategize, but you’ve given them a complete hall pass when it comes to something that’s so basic to our Unalienable rights!! What say you? Respect, Michel

    • Michael Pollak says:

      ….one more thought. It’s easy to place blame at the feet of previous Presidents. I agree, Bush create the ultimate judgement error (thank you Veep Cheney) by attacking Iraq. But let’s not give the Dems a complete pass. FDR didn’t have the decency to bomb the train tracks to the death camps, Kennedy treated the WH as his personal brothel, Clinton spread his DNA from DC to Arkansas……

    • MJ says:

      The 1st Amendment doesn’t apply to these private platforms. Civics 101.

  9. Justin Yan says:

    Always learn something new from you Scott, thank you!

  10. robert kaufelt says:

    Break ’em up. Teddy R. did. Prof. Tim Wu says do it. He agrees with T.R.’s belief that they are anti-democratic by nature, as their power is enormous and their accountability negligible.

  11. Terri says:

    You nailed it!

  12. Wendy Kaysing says:

    P.P.S. Last time my adult daughter went to Dizzyland in Orange County she went with some wealthy friends who bought the best tics and passes possible…STILL they had to wait in endless lines, and only got to go on 4 or 5 attractions during the entire day…maybe the DISNEY powers that be need to build a separate VIP Disneyland–one for the 1% and one for the rest of population–still I think Disneyland is MUCH OVERRATED –was only fun in the 60’s when one was 8 or 9 years. Also, I cannot for the life of me understand why Tomorrow Land is STILL to this day “Yesterday Land” –it was only “Tomorrow Land” for about 5 years– if that!

  13. Wendy Kaysing says:

    Great post –why don’t you run for something? P.S. It should be a requirement that candidates for ANY government position (esp. higher offices) must pass a basic civics AND American history course –with an “A” . Maybe an economics course as well. Candidates also ought to serve an apprenticeship of poverty for at least 6 months (live just like the poorest person in their constituency) to understand what it is like to be at the bottom of the totem pole in America. Then, and only then can they qualify for the privilege of leading their town, state, or country.

  14. Mike Burns says:

    230 needs to go away.

  15. Also LA Native says:

    Mr. Galloway, always great reading your thoughtful analytics – Politics aside (for the moment) my favorite place to smoke in days gone by was the one train that had a two story caboose. Second story of caboose had room for four with windows all around. Another favorite was a backpack filled with premixed scotch & sodas in soda bottles; negating expensive scotch trips to the Disneyland Hotel or out of reach Club 77 in New Orleans Square. At the time the only Disney locations for alcohol –

  16. Shoshanna says:

    Hi Scott, I remember e-tickets! It puts a smile on my face to see your blog show up in my email on Friday afternoons. I grew up in SoCal too, and also went to Disneyland a lot as a kid. I also live in Florida now, and went to Disneyworld once and found it to be a big, expensive disappointment. But I digress. Great article, as always. Have a nice weekend! Shoshanna

  17. Robert says:

    “But the biggest supporters of the GOP have been Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey.” It’s hard to know where to begin with this nonsense. I just can’t understand how someone who is so smart in the realm of business, can be so wilfully blind in the realm of politics. These social media platforms are censoring conservative speech at an alarming rate. It’s not even close. Ask Glenn Greenwald or Bret Weinstein, hardly conservative apologists. This situation (NY Post being the most recent example) is obvious to anyone who is even casually paying attention. Prof. G. should stick to what he knows and does best….business/marketing.

    • Joe says:

      Scott is just using anchoring bias to prove his point. How anyone thinks twitter leans right is unbelievable. Is it possible that fox news and daily wire trend because there aren’t a lot of conservative outlets so maybe their audiences are concentrated to a select few. After what happened with the NY Post incident on Twitter, it’s hard to take Galloway seriously after this comment “But the biggest supporters of the GOP have been Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey.”

    • Michael Joseph Civitelli says:

      The data shows what Prof G is saying. The conservative rage machine dominates these spaces & the platforms encourage it because it = $$. Greenwald is not a source of truth for anything beyond his own agenda. The “stick to what you know” line is beyond ridiculous.

  18. Jeff Jones says:

    Post post/article to date. You channeled a bit of your inner- Bourdain.

  19. Andrew Egan says:

    Cruz came across as the bully wanting the dinner money from the nervous frightened Dorset. Not good.

  20. Doug says:

    I’m a conservative who thinks Cruz May have overdone his talking points a bit, but he is a smart guy and let’s not get caught up in the rhetoric Here. The point is should social media companies be free to run their companies as they wish. And if so, should they be given 230 protections as currently interpreted. I am a fan of the free market and want to see the market sort itself out but Prof G you cant have it both ways – rail against facebook for not cracking down on things you don’t like and then taking shots at Cruz for saying the same thing. As a shareholder I would want them to be at least open and transparent about their censorship they are engaging in or don’t do it at all but that’s why I won’t invest is because ultimately half of your customer base will move on when another product takes over. Thanks, Prof G!

  21. Deb Moshier-Dunn says:

    I was all in until you attacked the Carousel… come on – that’s the place to take the kids when it’s 99 degrees and we get to relax in air conditioning for 20 mins!! And I like that the dog doesn’t change… a secret desire of mine that my dog shares all the decades with me into the future (and beyond!) Thanks for your writing, it takes me away from checking Twitter every 3 mins to make sure tRump hasn’t nuked anything… Onward! 🙂 Deb

  22. Cass Bielski says:

    I think there were a way to indicate how far right-leaning or left-leaning the publishers are in your list of top web publishers (probably not possible), the chart would show even more of the extremity of the situation.

  23. Joe says:

    If all you got out of the hearings is that Ted Cruz quote, than I feel bad for your. Let’s completely ignore Dorsey admitting they don’t have a policy about blocking holocaust deniers. Let’s also completely ignore when Ron Johnson brought up the fact the someone tweeted that he killed someone’s dog and in the tweet the person said this was a lie. Didn’t matter though. The tweet got 17K retweets and when reported, it wasn’t taken down. That’s a huge problem when someone say’s what they are tweeting is a lie and it’s is some how left up even though it’s reported. I noticed you left out the part where Ted Cruz asked Dorsey if Twitter had the power to influence elections and Dorsey said no. He didn’t ask if Twitter is actively influencing elections, he asked if Twitter can. Softball question that Mr. Dorsey said no to. If that question was asked to Zuckerberg about Facebook, Zuckerberg would have said yes. Any idiot knows Facebook or Twitter can influence the election. Hypothetically if FB or Twitter decided to lock out every prominent Republican or Democrat out of their account and started to intentionally amplify fake news in swings states, that would certainly influence an election. Sure, there were some senators who didn’t know what they were talking about, and Ted Cruz was a bit over the top, but Dorsey came off very dismissive and almost as if he didn’t care. He should care. Facebook is actually trying to invest in AI to prevent foreign interference in election. They are actually consistent with their policies. Meanwhile Dorsey and Twitter are busy locking or the Chief of Border security for whatever reason. You seriously think Dorsey is an ally because far right misinformation spreads faster because of the algorithms on the site? Talk about anchoring bias.

    • Doug says:

      Yes, all fair but I also would say in the aggregate Facebook and Twitter can move the needle but I also don’t like this idea that big tech is blamed both for Donald Trump’s election and must be used to stop him at all costs. At some point people have to have some agency and responsibility in their democracy. Vote and then when your side doesn’t win accept it and get ready for the next one. You win with better ideas, at least that’s the way it used to be in politics.

    • Joe says:

      @Doug Totally agree. Elections aside, Twitter is a scary place with complete and utter misinformation. All social media is. But the fact that you can’t report something because it’s statistically incorrect/a blatant lie is wild to me.

    • Chris Kondracki says:

      @Doug Competition would take take care of it. At present, they have no viable competitors. Ads on Bing are 40-60% cheaper to run but nobody sees them. The economics for advertisers are very bad. Facebook and Google claim responsibility for lower ad prices in aggregate but their margins on a larger share of ads have only grown. Their consumer benefit argument misses the entire point of the Sherman act, intentionally. It’s like Amazon taking their 30% vig on 3P sellers from China (the largest and fastest growing part of their retail business). Prices get driven down for all sellers and consumers but sales and share grow, and margins increase at a greater rate due to scale. It’s actually all very illegal (at least it used to be). I hear and agree with your frustrations regarding the complaints and political posturing on this issue. I think real competition solves it all.

    • Doug says:

      @Chris Kondracki you’re not wrong and I have thought hard about what the solution could be and I’m not sure honestly. Parler is an alternative to twitter but people haven’t left for it yet and it’s a better product. Bing is an alternative to google search and duck duck go are alternative browsers. So alternatives are out there but they are smaller and are going to have to be great and/or differentiate to win over some new customer. Maybe Prof G can advise them!

    • Doug says:

      @Joe yes, I don’t think ever statistic should come with a disclaimer but I remember growing up Wikipedia was not a good primary source. Twitter belongs in the same category. I don’t get my news on twitter but I also can’t tell you where any straight news sights are anymore.

  24. Dave Van der Linden says:

    Spot on once again, Prof Scott, thanks. Never thought I would see the words “successful, Florida and statue” in one sentence. One day I would love to hear your definition of successful.

  25. Din says:

    Great read as always Scott. I was waiting for that moment in the analogy where someone on the ride spews a bile coated projectile of strawberry candy floss, gummy bears and caramel popcorn (content) on innocent bystanders. But I digress.

  26. Neal Polachek says:

    No mention of the Matterhorn, Autopia or the fritters in New Orleans Square – seriously?

  27. Buzz Lightyear says:

    Welp… You’re a better Buzz than I am.

  28. Chris Kondracki says:

    Apple should suck it up and formally launch its own search engine as an option without targeted ads. With “Search” box they are slowly moving in that direction. Offer it as a paid service or part of a bundle. Perhaps even for free? Only then will there be true competition for the diabolical data gatherers. Then, we will have real price discovery for consumers and competition on speech and privacy. It will cost them probably $6B/yr. in TAC, but the $13B/yr. that they are currently taking from Google makes them disingenuous and complicit. We don’t need more laws. That’s what a monopoly wants as only they can afford to navigate it. The only thing they fear is competition. Oh, and force Facebook and all of its properties to offer paid subscriptions with no surveillance and data sharing. All data is siloed. Apple has “acted”as though Google is competition in statements. In practice and reality they are partners. A competitor doesn’t pay you $1B/mo. Keep the great articles coming and have a blessed weekend.

    • Dave says:

      Retweeting what Chris K posted. I’d support a paid version of Google as well as Facebook, with no ads and no data collection. In a heartbeat!