A young multi-billionaire’s unfettered right to get even richer vs. sensible protections for a fair and honest election.
Facebook has stated, unequivocally, that political campaigns have an absolute right to lie on Facebook, as much and as long as their budgets allow. Facebook will continue to deliver personally targeted ads that are completely false, sent to influence the demographic most vulnerable to provocative lies that support their feelings of fear, anger and helplessness — “low information voters” — who get their news from places like Facebook. There is no law against it and Facebook claims no responsibility for the damage its massive opinion machine has already done to democracy. Its policy will continue on into 2020, come what may.
It’s true, of course, that there is no general law against lying, unless you lie under oath before a body that can punish you for perjury. There are libel laws that allow people falsely accused of damaging things to take their accusers to court and get public vindication and restitution from the person/entity who slandered them. In a specific circumstance, where deliberate falsehood can be proved to a jury, that’s a law against lying for personal profit, if that lie is detrimental to the reputation of a competitor or critic (and causes monetary harm), but it’s far from a law against lying for profit. There are regulations on the advertising industry that prevent outright lying — the wiggle room in these regulations providing a fertile field for creative geniuses of the advertiser’s art to do interpretative dance in.
As a general principle, as the life-long actions of our current born wealthy president demonstrate, as the dazzling self-made wealth of young Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook demonstrates, lying to become richer or more powerful is no vice. Pettifoggers refer to this kind of transactional lying as “puffery”, a form of extreme manipulative exaggeration that is arguably not actual “lying” lying. Mr. Trump has used this legal term to describe some of the more egregious lying he does from time to time.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dances around lying, and openly allowing “political” lies to take wing on his supremely influential opinion-sharing web platform, speaking of his true aims as advancing “freedom of speech” and being in the proud democratic tradition of men like Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass. Zuckerberg knows that his right to unlimited additional billions of dollars (and bear in mind, at age 35 Mark only has a little over $70,000,000,000) depends on nobody regulating his massively lucrative and influential, worldwide business.
Lies are indispensable to ambitious people with shady things to hide. We had a recent president, George W. Bush, whose father was wealthy and influential and, though he supported the American war in Viet Nam, used his connections to get his boy, George, into an elite National Guard fighter pilot unit that would keep him out of combat. The young man was a heavy drinker, also fond of cocaine, and so he didn’t make it back to base for a mandatory medical exam that would have found cocaine in his system. He went AWOL, as one does under such circumstances, and never completed his elite unit National Guard service. His father took care of this for him — it was only many years later, once he was the 43rd president of the United States, that enterprising reporters dug up the story. Dubya never denied it outright, he didn’t have to — the documents the first network report was based on turned out to be forgeries! The lying liberal media! Heads rolled, including the head of the longtime CBS anchorman who broke the story, the underlying truth of which was never disputed. It is more likely than not that the forgeries of actual records (long ago destroyed) were provided to the lying press by Karl Rove, the amoral genius behind Bush’s presidential victory.
When Dubya ran for reelection, against a man who had served with distinction in Viet Nam, his campaign got busy smearing his opponent, John Kerry, a decorated soldier (who had volunteered for combat service) with a false narrative. They hired a team to claim that Dubya’s opponent had served disgracefully in Viet Nam– the truth was, according to these veterans (who claimed to have been on the river patrols with him), that he’d been no hero, he’d been a coward and a liar. The slandered John Kerry, took the high road, instead of confronting Bush about the lies and challenging him to publicly compare his shady military record with Kerry’s record of decorated combat service. Kerry lost the presidential election of 2004, based, in part, on the ferocity of the lying attack by the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” or whatever the hit squad of political assassins called itself. Kerry also lost because he was perceived as being less of a “man” than Dubya because the wealthy “elitist” Kerry didn’t defend himself against the scurrilous attack on his good character by agents of “man of the people” (and fellow Yale Skull and Bone-ser) Dubya.
Fast forward a few years and we have a compulsive liar in the White House. He literally can’t help himself. It is his reflex to lie, because he needs to constantly convince others, and himself, presumably, that he is the greatest in whatever the topic under discussion is. He knows more about military strategy than the generals, disputes the findings of American intelligence services, refutes the veracity of reporting that shows statements he makes on live TV, brags about his unlimited powers under Article Two of a constitution he has certainly never read and professes expertise in many other things things he knows nothing about.
One thing he does know, probably better than anybody in public life, if you have powerful forces and a ton of money behind you and you lie continually, audaciously and forcefully, you can get away with almost anything — as he has so far.
I won’t say that people who believe Trump’s continual lies are necessarily stupid, though some undoubtedly are. It is the rage and powerlessness so many of us feel in an in-your-face unfair America that Trump exploits with his most incendiary lies, like one seen by five million people on Facebook recently: Joe Biden gave the Ukrainians a billion dollars to cover up the corruption involved in Hunter Biden’s lucrative job in Ukraine. It may not be true, it may be demonstrably false, in fact, but, goddamn it, Biden is a smiling sack of shit! (I may agree with this , though it doesn’t convince me that he managed to raise a billion dollars to pay off corrupt Ukrainians to protect his son’s name and his own political career — the claim itself is absurd).
Why does Facebook allow this kind of obvious tinfoil hat conspiracy theory slander, in a paid ad, on its immensely influential platform? Zuckerberg was grilled about this before Congress recently. He managed to avoid giving a single intelligent answer to any of the questions he was asked. He has no answers because — Madam Congressman, I have no legal requirement to give an answer or even a reasonable rationale since, in fact, the law finds, I believe, that I am under no legal obligation, as CEO of the world’s most powerful influence machine, to do anything but tap dance here, under oath, until this very uncomfortable session is over.
Which is true. American deference to billionaire owners of lucrative companies is well-known. Regulation of any kind, the lobbyists for such people and entities have convinced Americans, is inherently “job killing”. Those who propose to regulate industry for the public good, and tax fairly to raise money for programs that improve the lives of all citizens, are misguided at best. “Tax and Spend” was a Reagan era mantra against any elected “liberal” official suggesting the government should tax wealthy people and corporations and use the money to fund things like research into how to avoid the climate catastrophe that is now upon us full-blown a few decades later. “Welfare queens” driving around in Cadillacs and buying multiple mansions on the public dime were the real problem in America, according to the conservative view, not intergenerational poverty, not born multimillionaires like Charles and David Koch spending unlimited sums and using every means possible to shift public opinion to create mass support for protection of their abhorrent privilege.
People with shameful things to hide hate leakers, whistleblowers, rats. A leaking rat secretly recorded Mark Zuckerberg recently as he candidly addressed his troops at Facebook and the CEO’s comments made it into public. Part of the transcript was his response to what would happen to the company if someone like Elizabeth Warren, who expressly seeks to regulate gigantic, unaccountable companies like Facebook, becomes the Democratic presidential candidate and wins in 2020. Zuck said they’d bring a lawsuit against the government to prevent any regulation of Facebook’s incredibly lucrative operation:
“Does that still suck for us? Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government. That’s not like the position you want to be in. We care about our country and want to work with our government to do good things, but look, at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight.”
What is the thing that is “that existential”? Facebook’s CEO’s absolute God-given American right to make maximum profit by any means necessary. There is no shame in America about a man who has thousands of times more money than he can ever spend if he lives to be a thousand years old from doing everything in his power to get more still. It’s as American as, well, owning other humans to increase your wealth and wiping out people living on land you want for your own.
Like slavery and ‘ethnic cleansing’, the cult of American oligarchs’ (even self-made ones like young Mark Zuckerberg) right to unlimited, unlimitable wealth has to become a relic of a more bestial time — or just stick a fork in any notion of truth, justice and the American way. Trump’s election was largely achieved through his mastery of “Social Media” and his billionaire-backed campaign’s brilliance in securing 78,000 targeted votes in every district needed for their Electoral College victory. Trump in 2020 is, literally, the end of any pretense of democracy in our divided experiment in republican self-rule.
We learn that political advertising accounts for only a tiny fraction of Facebook’s robust profits. That’s clearly not the reason Zuckberg won’t limit unscrupulous politicians’ right to pay to lie their asses off on his platform. That type of lying politician is least likely to want to regulate Facebook, they love Facebook as much as Trump claimed to love Wikileaks when he was a candidate.
The choice between a long, expensive court fight with a government headed by someone who wants to limit the ability of lying demagogues to use an unregulated, hugely influential public platform to come to power and having a lying demagogue in power who will ensure mutually beneficial business as usual? You decide which of those sucks less for Free Speech Mark.
 Though my first thought about Biden as a smiling sack of shit is his disgraceful lack of humility and character, decades after allowing Anita Hill to be publicly humiliated in confirmation hearings for Clarence “Long Dong” Thomas, when he called to offer a conditional, weak, politically motivated non-apology to Anita Hill for “what they did to you” and wishing he “could have done more”, which, of course, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee he had been utterly powerless to do. Anita Hill was perfectly right to refuse his insulting “apology”. Fuck him and the horse’s ass the falsely smiling face-lifted, hair-plugged fuck rode in on.