The Voice of the System

Power corrupts. Power concedes nothing. Power tells itself just-so stories.

Nick Clegg photo

On the latter front, consider the corporate memo just published by The New York Times. Written by Sir Nick Clegg, Facebook’s VP of public policy and global affairs, this instructional missive was apparently just issued to all Facebook employees in anticipation of still more revelations about what it’s like to make profits by knowingly exploiting and damaging the general public.

Sir Nick begins with realism:

You will have seen the series of articles about us published in the Wall Street Journal in recent days, and the public interest it has provoked. This Sunday night, the ex-employee who leaked internal company material to the Journal will appear in a segment on 60 Minutes on CBS. We understand the piece is likely to assert that we contribute to polarization in the United States.

Memo reprinted in The New York Times, 3 Oct 2021

Note that the topic at hand is whether Facebook contributes to socio-political polarization.

Here, however, is Sir Clegg’s statement of the official Facebook position on this charge:

But the idea that Facebook is the chief cause of polarization isn’t supported by the facts.

Ibid.

This is a major example of what sociologist Linsey McGoey calls “strategic ignorance,” or “unknowing.” Every 9th grader can recognize the crude shift Clegg attempts. The plain accusation is that his organization is a significant source of a problem. Yet, by converting “a” into “chief,” Clegg moves the goalposts to a different field.

Not subtle. Not skillful. Not even clever. Yet this is part of what top genius execs, after intense rounds of emergency “team” meetings, get paid to do for our epoch’s dominant organizations.

As McGoey points out, such Orwellian chutzpah is no anomaly. It is, in fact, Business as Usual.

And, as you can see in this very memo, it’s not just the confabulation that’s newsworthy. These supposedly far-seeing masters of technical precision are also very quick to believe their own sophomoric petulance. Indeed, they tend to wax sanctimonious about it:

I know some of you – especially those of you in the US – are going to get questions from friends and family about these things so I wanted to take a moment as we head into the weekend to provide what I hope is some useful context on our work in these crucial areas.

Nick Clegg to Facebook employees

Friends, family, weekend, “our work.” Such valiance!

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