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!

Clegg’s Excuse

The Wall Street journal has been running stories on how Facebook ignores its own research findings about the many harms of its inherently dangerous products.

Sir Nick Clegg, former British Vice-PM and currently Facebook’s VP for Global Affairs and Communications, has just issued the official Facebook retort. Here it is:

Sir Nick isn’t stupid. So you have to wonder how he sleeps at night.

It’s also fascinating how effects that are really quite simple, if admittedly embarrassing, become “complex issues” in such minds. It sounds like Sir Nick genuinely believes this gigantically convenient interpretive shift.

In any event, this is a prime example of a big business using its own research as a vehicle to deny, rather than respect, elementary truths — even when these truths encompass matters of life and death for very large numbers of people.

This tactic is certainly not an anomaly in the corporate world.

Facebook Knows What It’s Doing

Facebook knows it’s in the business of delivering eyeballs to big business marketers.

It also knows — and does not care — that, in doing this, it is fueling the American right’s continuing flight from rationality.

The WSJ reporters go on to explain that the FB brass know about this and choose to ignore it.

What was it that Upton Sinclair said about incomes and their effects on human minds?

The Reagan Catastrophe: More Evidence

trickle down cartoon

The Reagan Revolution (h/t Thatcher and Huntington) was a set of assertions about how to make life better for people. Despite possible cracks in the ice, TPTB in the United States have not yet come close to renouncing this still-regnant framework.

Meanwhile, the evidence is absolutely mountainous that the Reagan Revolution has been one of human history’s most catastrophic failures. All of its core claims about the benefits of allowing capitalists to return to their pre-WWII level of comfort and command have proven to be utterly wrong.

The most recent piece of evidence showing this trend pertains to media ecology. Here is what the Reuters Institute discovered in its latest survey of trust in news media in 92 countries:

Trust in the news has grown, on average, by six percentage points in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic with 44% of our total sample saying they trust most news most of the time. This reverses, to some extent, recent falls in average trust bringing levels back to those of 2018. Finland remains the country with the highest levels of overall trust (65%), and the USA now has the lowest levels (29%) in our survey.

This is major evidence.

Of course, given the problem it expresses, it will not be treated as such here in the market-totalitarian United States.

Instead, our pundits will make up silly explanations, to the tiny extent they mention it. Like, for example, this:

One explanation, though not necessarily the only one, is the extreme political polarization in the U.S. This study, like many others, found extremely high levels of distrust — 75% of those who identify as being on the right thought coverage of their views is unfair.

Yes, not necessarily.

Would we have the burgeoning crisis of an increasingly anti-rationalist “conservatism” if we hadn’t so completely surrendered our media to the lords of commerce? The thought never occurs, of course.

Neither does appreciation of the basic fact that the evidence shows that letting “markets” dictate media form and content is proving to be a complete and total disaster.

Platinum Waters?

TCT, of course, is the giver of the much-uncoveted Golden Hicksie Award. The candidates for said trophy abound, of course.

But what of those who cling to human values and reject Mammon? There are such people.

One is Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd fame.

Here he is not only turning down the bribe, but reading out how it was proffered. This is a major public service!

Holy Truths

Since the United States remains corporate capitalism’s flagship and proving ground, the forms of publicly-subsidized waste that sustain it have long been sacrosanct in American culture. When it comes to discussing these vital flows in public, rational questions are forbidden, and cover stories consist of the wildest fictions.

Consider what The New York Times says about today’s Congressional over-ride of a Presidential veto of the Pentagon’s new $740,000,000,000 budget:

The vote reflected the sweeping popularity of a measure that authorizes a pay raise for the nation’s military.

NYT, January 1, 2021

It would be very hard to cram more untruth into fewer words.

Is there, in fact, “sweeping” support for increased military spending? There certainly is among Congresspersons. But there absolutely is not such a sentiment among the population, as the slightest fact-check shows:

It is also difficult to decide which is more petulant and hateful: The appeal to raising soldiers’ compensation, or the use of the phrase “pay raise for the nation’s military” to denote this topic.

This is the kind of thing that makes it rather hard to get much worked up when this supposedly canonical source carps about other entities’ disdain for basic facts and logic. On topics where power requires it, prevarication here is just as brazen as it is in certain Floridian brothels and country clubs.