A while back, Edward Snowden blew the whistle on our National Security Agency. They’re spying on all our digital devices, have been for years. Our privacy has vanished.
True enough, but the NSA is looking for terrorists and, unless I’m missing something, hasn’t come after anyone who isn’t one, at least not yet. Still, the agency is something to be concerned about, though somewhat less, I would imagine, than a repeat of San Bernardino, or Paris, or Brussels, etc., etc.
But if you’re looking for something to really worry about, how about an equally large computer-based organization with the genuine power to invade our privacy, warp our minds and distort our culture that is actually in the process of doing it — Facebook?
In a media world where print journalism is disappearing and young (and many older) people gather the vast percentage of their information online, its dominance is overwhelming and its effect pernicious, maybe poisonous.
Evidence has been in the news lately. Gizmodo reports: “Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project.”
In an educated society, that information should be of interest to all readers, not just conservatives. Nevertheless, this suppression is no revelation to those of us who write from the right side of the ledger. I have never seen my work or those of my colleagues in the “trending” section of Facebook, although our bylines appear frequently on RealClearPolitics (usually juxtaposed with a liberal on the same issue) and even on Yahoo’s homepage. Facebook is exclusionary to the extent it even censors conservatives of the greatest popularity like Matt Drudge.
This is especially disturbing because Facebook feigns objectivity, yet it is no more objective than its owner Mark Zuckerberg, a progressive plutocrat whose views often make Bernie Sanders sound like Bob Dole. Drudge never feigned such objectivity. Anyone with the slightest interest knows he leans right with a libertarian tinge. Zuckerberg, who has more extensive online domination and aspires to still more, pretends to be merely an aggregator, when he is no such thing. He’s a moral narcissist of extreme bias and a leading progenitor of a kind of burgeoning digital totalitarianism of self-regard, a new American Silicon Valley version of a Soviet nomenklatura. Whether the young editors of his “trending” section were working under his express orders (Facebook denies the charge) when they censored conservative writers is immaterial. They knew what they were supposed to do, where their bread, as the saying goes, was buttered.
Facebook is truly misleading to our youth in general and dangerous to our body politic in a manner hardly anticipated by our Founders. Its dominance engenders a kind of covert digital sabotage of the First Amendment. If it’s not there, it never happened. Outside their personal news feeds, conservatives on Facebook resemble the famous trees that grow in the wilderness but are never seen. Did they or their ideas ever exist? Many of our young people, who are never exposed to such thoughts in school, will never know.
But what does exist on Facebook on a personal level is considerably more destructive, for those same young especially. Particularly for young high school girls, but others as well, having one’s private life, often radically misrepresented, recorded permanently online on someone’s Facebook page represents an intrusion with more unfair and unfortunate lifetime ramifications than anything the NSA has done. We can only guess the truth about someone when their name comes up on a Google search. What a way for kids to start out in life. What a way for anyone. (I’m not including us online writers here — we made our digital beds and have to live with the brickbats.)
Fortunately, I’m informed many young people are on to the consequences of leaving a cyber trail of their lives or those of their friends for all to see until they’re ninety. They’re beginning to realize Zuckerberg hasn’t done them any favors with his undergraduate invention and are starting to abjure Facebook and similar sites. Let’s hope the trend continues and that they get their news elsewhere too. Facebook is double trouble.
Roger L. Simon is a prize-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-found of PJ Media. His next book — I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already — will be published by Encounter Books in June 2016.
(Artwork created using multiple Shutterstock.com images.)