Facebook and its billionaire leaders are the latest casualties of the Russia Fake News scare campaign. CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg now admits that a relatively small portion of the millions of political ads on his social media platform have been financed and placed by Russian operatives. Congress is investigating, and the corporate media is pearl-clutching. It's great distracting publicity to help hide the all-American stuff, like the enhanced military aggression and the domestic kleptomania (as in the epic Equifax breach) going on right under our noses.
The ever-reliable Washington Post is doing its part to ramp up Red Scare Redux by publishing a "scoop" which has Barack Obama trying to rehabilitate his erstwhile "soft on Russia" reputation. The planted narrative is that the former president secretly took Zuckerberg aside last year to sternly and explicitly warn him that the Kremlin was infecting the Silicon Valley Empire, and by extension, America itself. The Facebook wunderkind then stubbornly sat on his little techie hands for months before reluctantly coming clean and admitting that he and his band of geniuses had been asleep at the switch.
He's taking one for the Military/Industrial Complex team. He can afford to.
(An interesting aside: Craig Timberg, one of the three reporters who wrote this story, was also the conduit for the nasty and anonymous "PropOrNot" smear campaign which blacklisted several left-leaning websites last year.)
The same media which has long elevated Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl "Lean In" Sandberg to godlike status because of their self-serving philanthrocapitalism and their awesome intellects and and their high-finance political clout are ganging up and knocking them right back down again. Pundits acting in the interests of Russophobia have suddenly discovered that Facebook is pretty much a pyramid scheme whose shocking essential aim is to suck money from its billions of worldwide members as it callously monetizes social relationships. When you've been named as a Russian dupe, all bets are suddenly off, and the media/political Protection Racket is no longer willing to protect and celebrate your outsize capitalistic greed.
Overnight, you have become a dangerous secret agent, the latest scapegoat in the "Clinton Wuz Robbed" blame campaign.
Sheryl Sandberg, celebrated protegee of Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and reputedly Hillary's pick to lead the Treasury Department in the event of a Clinton Restoration, has agreed to keep a closer watch on things in the interests of the Democratic Party/Neocon Republican alliance. She has promised to guard the country from any further Putin damage, in the form of "divisive" racist and xenophobic ads aimed at the subset of racist and xenophobic Facebook clientele."It's on us," she said in yet another variation of the Mistakes Were Made Concerto in D Minor.
Mark Zuckerberg, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd warns, is a Dr. Frankenstein who has already created one Trump monster and who therefore must be stopped before he does even more damage:
The idea of Mark Zuckerberg running for president was always sort of scary.
Evidence? Who needs any stinkin' evidence to write a Russophobic newspaper column these days? French intelligence officials announced months ago that they found no evidence of Kremlin hacking in that country's recent election. Still, these corporate-sponsored legends always have a strange Goebbelsian way of infiltrating the great public hive-mind. The trick is in the relentless repetition.
Dowd's professed horror has not, however, gone so far as to remove her standard end-of-column blurb which urges readers to "Join me on Facebook."
But now it’s really scary, given what we’ve discovered about the power of his little invention to warp democracy.
All these years, the 33-year-old founder of Facebook has been dismissive of the idea that social media and A.I. could be used for global domination — or even that they should be regulated....
Days after Donald Trump pulled out his disorienting win, Zuckerberg told a tech conference that the contention that fake news had influenced the election was “a pretty crazy idea,” showing a “profound lack of empathy” toward Trump voters.
But all the while, the company was piling up the rubles and turning a blind eye as the Kremlin’s cyber hit men weaponized anti-Hillary bots on Facebook to sway the U.S. election. Russian agents also used Facebook and Twitter trolls, less successfully, to try to upend the French election.
Now, with my recent sad history of getting my Times comments scrubbed on account of harshness, and because I am not a Facebook fan anyway, I was able to choose my words more carefully with the following published submission:
I signed up for Facebook several years ago when the NYT made it a (wisely short-lived) requirement for verified commentary.
I gave FB the bare minimum personal info: my name and gender. And I never went back.
I know this might seem radical, but how about a mass FB boycott? Surely, there must be other ways to share gossip and baby photos. Since they're only interested in making money off us, and money is the only language that they seem to understand, maybe they'll really start perking up their cute little digital ears if their masses of human food suddenly disappear off their plates.
Quitting will be very hard, because FB (and Twitter) is a real physical addiction. Studies show that for every "like," or new follower, or re-tweet, your brain gets a nice little jolt of dopamine.
And besides the awful prospect of getting a President Zuckerberg, there's also the danger of the anti-fake news crusade careening off into some really reactionary Joe McCarthy territory. Google has already adjusted its search engine algorithm to suppress legitimate left-leaning sites as well as Nazi groups.
A shadowy group called "PropOrNot" lists some 200 purported Russia-influenced sites. Trouble is, along with the rabid hate blogs, they also included such well-regarded progressive sites as TruthOut and Truthdig as "possible" conduits of Kremlin agit-prop.
So just who gets to decide what's real, and what's fake?
We have to stay vigilant, against both fakery and against censorship.
Now, moving on from Russophobia to Single Payer Health Care phobia, a/k/a Healthscare.
Just as the Democrats and the "moderate" Republicans have joined forces to fight the TrumPutin Monster, so have they, in the interests of the Market God, colluded to do battle against both the Trumpcare and Berniecare health plans currently before Congress.
Just as the original Red Scare ostensibly aimed at Russia and the Communist Party of the USA really was a proxy fight against trade unionism and FDR's New Deal, so too is the current anti-Bernie "Socialist" Sanders campaign a fight against the popular resurgence of FDR's New Deal. No matter that Commie Pinkos no longer exist; because the right-wing oligarch Putin was an original KGB creation of the Commie Pinko system, American leaders must strive to co-opt manufactured Fear of the Other into a renewed public allegiance to American corporatism. Everybody has to be the bootstrapping entrepreneur of his or her own life. That's how it's supposed to work. No matter to them that it doesn't work at all, not for the vast majority of us.
So young fogey Times pundit Ross Douthat thinks, right along with his neoliberal colleague Paul Krugman, that we should just leave well enough (the profit-intensive Obamacare Kludge) alone:
But sometimes, when a party has spent most of a year producing health care bills that excite almost nobody and that even the senators voting for them can’t effectively defend, it’s worth stepping back and thinking about our national priorities.
This goes for both parties: not only the stepping-on-rakes Republicans, but the suddenly single-payer-dreaming Democrats. If Obamacare repeal is really dead for the year 2017, both left and right have a chance to shake their minds free of the health care debate and ask themselves: What are the biggest threats to the American Dream right now, to our unity and prosperity, our happiness and civic health?
While Krugman has lamely suggested that Congress pass a Universal Pre-K package as a worthy enough crumb to substitute for universal health coverage, Douthat is a lot bolder in his own smarminess:
There are better options for both parties. Republicans could get off the repeal-and-replace merry-go-round and actually try to govern on a version of the Trump agenda: With one hand, cut corporate taxes and slash regulations to spur growth; with the other, spend on infrastructure to boost blue-collar work, cut payroll taxes and increase the child tax credit, and push to reduce low-skilled immigration. Pay for some of it with caps on tax breaks, let paying for the rest wait for another day.
Democrats, meanwhile, could let single-payer dreams wait (or just die) and think instead about spending that supports work and family directly. They could look at proposals for a larger earned-income tax credit, a family allowance, and let the “job guarantee” and “guaranteed basic income” factions fight things out. If they want to go big in 2020, they could run on wage subsidies and public works, not another disruptive health care vision.
My published response:
Who woulda thunk it? Ross Douthat and Paul Krugman have essentially written the same column. To wit: "both sides" are just so annoyingly extreme. The Rabid Right wants poor people to just die quickly, while the Unicorny Left wants everybody to live to the ripest possible old age. Therefore, both sides are equally insane.
If 2020 does turn out to be a health care election, I say bring it on. Not that we have a true representative democracy or anything, but nearly 60 percent of us are totally on board with Medicare for All. That includes eight out of every 10 Democrats and four or five out of every 10 Republicans. So it's not only the D candidates who should worry about a dreaded "litmus test."
The ACA was originally a Republican plan, with the usual Republican ideology. It's not all-inclusive, and was never meant to be. It's based on competition, profit, shopping, and the demand that everybody have some "skin in the game." This comes in the form of outrageous premiums and co-pays, with the object being not to overuse one's insurance policy. The best thing about the ACA is its Medicaid expansion.
The Medicare for All plan just introduced in the Senate would even cover dentistry. Does Ross know that one reason poor young men can't get jobs is because of the poor state of their teeth? Just think what a great boost to the economy some basic preventive dental care would create.
If you want to have a healthy economy, the first thing you need is healthy people.