I've Got the Power
Facebook, Jan 6, and the Cult Wars.
I couldn't publish Monday's edition of NextDraft because I was in the midst of a nearly three day power outage caused by a transformer that was no match for the combo atmospheric river and bomb cyclone that rolled through town. It took my always-on, internet-dependent family about three minutes to panic. By the end of day one, we had discovered an activity to replace devices: screaming at each other. But by hour thirty-six, forced into a single candlelit room, we actually started getting along better than usual. At hour 40, my kids (shockingly) played a duet on the piano. It wasn't all good news. I had recently purchased my son a trumpet and he chose the power outage as an ideal time to teach himself to play. I mentioned to my friend Dave that I really picked the wrong time to buy my kid a trumpet, and he responded, "There is no right time." Another interesting thing happened during the power outage. I was mostly offline during the release of the Facebook Papers. Like my own, that story is one about power. The Facebook details are important, but they largely confirm what we already knew about the company. The biggest problem is not that Zuckerberg is making the wrong choices for democracy, it's, as I've said, that one unelected boy king has the power to make those choices in the first place. And he has that power because we, as users, have refused to cut it off by turning off the service. I'm not pointing fingers here. I only turned off my social media when PG&E made me turn it off. Here's what we know: The rise of social media and the widening of the economic gap have combined to divide us, increase hate, and abet a new rise of authoritarianism. Until we address these two massive global factors—the sociopolitical atmospheric rivers and cyclone bombs of our time—it will be difficult to reverse course. I was offline for three days and I come back to learn that the internet's biggest, baddest social media company prioritized engagement over the public good, and cash over all else? Next time, don't turn my power back on until we decide to actually do something about it.
+ Let's catch up. From WaPo (Gift article for NextDraft readers): Five points for anger, one for a ‘like’: How Facebook’s formula fostered rage and misinformation.
+ The Atlantic: How Facebook Fails 90 Percent of Its Users. "Internal documents show the company routinely placing public-relations, profit, and regulatory concerns over user welfare. And if you think it’s bad here, look beyond the U.S."
+ Let's look beyond the US courtesy of Rest of World: The Facebook Papers reveal staggering failures in the Global South.
+ AP: Facebook froze as anti-vaccine comments swarmed users. (If "froze" means seeing the data and choosing to let the misinfo spread willy-nilly while collecting revenue, then yes, Facebook froze.)
+ Steven Levy in Wired: Facebook Failed the People Who Tried to Improve It. (But it succeeded for the people who benefited from its stock price, which hasn't been dented during this supposed reckoning.)
2. Moving On Up
Let's move to a very related story; both because social media, in part, helped to enable it, and because, unless people are actually held to account, nothing will change. Slate's Dahlia Lithwick: Who Gets to Ask to “Move On” From Jan. 6? So far, people like Ted Cruz not only get to move on, they get to prosecute hearings in which they should be the prosecuted.
+ Speaking of which: Jan. 6 Protest Organizers Say They Participated in ‘Dozens’ of Planning Meetings With Members of Congress and White House Staff. That was reported by Rolling Stone. Here's what was reported by your own eyes and ears: Their leader gave the orders publicly and then laughed as he watched his plot unfold, all while trying to overthrow an election.
3. Kyle or Be Kyled
"They called themselves citizens or patriots, and the demonstrators and media often called them militias, but it would have been most accurate to call them paramilitaries: young-to-middle-aged white men, mostly, armed with assault-style rifles and often clad in tactical gear, who appeared in town that evening arrayed purposefully around gas stations and used-car lots ... Law-enforcement officers seemed to have broadly tolerated, and occasionally openly expressed support for, their activities, despite the fact that many of them were violating the same emergency curfew order under which dozens of demonstrators were arrested." Charles Homans in The NYT Mag (Gift article for NextDraft readers): Kyle Rittenhouse and the New Era of Political Violence. (We've got to understand this stuff so we can address it. 2020 was the earthquake. We're experiencing the aftershocks.)
4. The Dog of War
"Úsuga, better known by his alias Otoniel, is the alleged head of the much-feared Gulf Clan, whose army of assassins has terrorized much of northern Colombia to gain control of major cocaine smuggling routes through thick jungles north to Central America and onto the U.S." Colombia has captured one of the world's most wanted drug lords. (But will the flow of drugs slow one iota because of that arrest? Nah. But we'll get a new Netflix series out of it...)
+ Otoniel once put a hit out on a dog because she sniffed out drugs at a Columbian port.
5. Wall or Wall Mart?
"The US needs roughly 10 million people, including low-wage and high-skilled workers, to fill job openings nationwide — and only 8.4 million Americans are actively seeking work. And despite job openings hitting historic highs in July and extended unemployment benefits ending in September, Americans aren’t returning to work." Hmm. Any ideas, anyone? Vox: Immigrants could fix the US labor shortage.
6. Let Love Rule
"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love." It took a long time for Kei Komuro to get the world to deal with that statement. NYT (Gift article for ND Readers): At Last, a Royal Wedding. But No Trumpets, Just a News Conference. "The torturous path to marriage for Princess Mako of Japan."
7. AD Day
The more we learn about the shooting on the set of the Alec Baldwin show, the more disturbing it seems. Assistant director had been sacked before over gun safety.
"President Joe Biden named acting Federal Communications Commissioner Chair Jessica Rosenworcel to officially head the agency on Tuesday, propping her up as the administration’s leader to tackle broadband expansion and net neutrality." This is awesome news. Jessica is great, her plans to tackle broadband inequality are vital. Let's get her confirmed and get on with it. (Jessica, I know you're probably busy, but my internet was down for three days! Little help, please!)
9. The Cult(ture) Wars
"Texas governor Greg Abbott on Monday signed into law a bill banning transgender girls from participating in female sports at public schools. The bill is part of a wave of similar measures emerging from Republican-controlled statehouses across the US."
10. Bottom of the News
"Damien, 36, is the scion of a powerful Hong Kong real estate dynasty who now works in the music industry. His hair is pulled back in a man bun, and he has dark, piercing eyes and a coiled, muscular frame, possibly explained by his hobbies: hunting elk with a bow and arrow, surfing giant waves inTahiti, and competing in ultra marathon races. Brandee, 41, is tall and lithe, with warm, inviting brown eyes. Patchouli-soaked hippies they are not. They’re articulate, attractive, and artfully tatted out. And they do lots and lots of drugs." Meet the unofficial first couple of Southern California psychedelia. (Which basically makes them the average couple in Northern California...)
+ Happy National Pumpkin Day. Here's why the smell of pumpkin spice moves us, according to science.
+ A Prototype of the Original iPod.