There isn’t much in the way of serious ideology underpinning Silicon Valley’s toils. It’s a nature of doers not philosophers, and the thin patina of Medium “thought pieces” written by “thinkfluencers” wears off with the mildest academic rubbing.

One possible objection is the late Rene Girard, an erudite philosopher and literary critic prominent for two overarching thoughts, both of which are key( if simply subconsciously) to the billion-dollar pixel conglomerates of Silicon Valley.

Antonio Garcia Martinez( @antoniogm) is an Ideas contributor for WIRED. Before turning now to draft, he stopped out of a doctoral program in physics to work on Goldman Sachs’ credit-trading table, then connected the Silicon Valley startup world, where he founded his own startup( be achieved by Twitter in 2011 ), and finally connected Facebook’s early monetization squad, where he manager its targeting campaigns. His 2016 memoir, Chaos Monkeys, was a New York Times best seller and NPR Best Book of the Year, and his writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, The Guardian, and The Washington Post. He separates his time between a sailboat on the SF Bay and a yurt in Washington’s San Juan Islands.

This first is that of mimetic inclination, whereby humans greedily desire some merchandise, in part why i am mocking some admired tastemaker. People also aspire to be such a tastemaker, a desire for the awfully spectacle that entices longing. Consider the most curated and idealized online names we maintain for such lifestyle showcases as Facebook or Instagram. Viewed via those select lenses, our lives are a parade of epicurean snacks on tastefully ordered counters, life-changing adventures in far-off venues, and carefully color-filtered milestones like new jobs or relationships. We jockey not only to own those concepts but to show them off, and best available show-offs are exalted with little blue-blooded check marks next to their mentions and a million wary followers.

This cycle of mimetic exhibitionism nurses even for philosophical situations like moral significances, which in a world colonized by capitalism have become a wearable merchandise. The “social right warriors” strut their wokeness like so much jewelry via the newfound diversion of online virtue-signaling. Whatever society values, whether Cartier or intersectionality, we want to be the celebrity endorser who wears the alluring bauble with graciousness and chill. The Facebook congressional hearings have us fixated on the Trumpian elements of the social media brouhaha, but in non-election years, it’s the mimetic Kardashian element that prevents us glued.

The constant mimetic jousting in civilization generates pressures, which imparts us to the second Girardian contribution: the scapegoat. The original narrative was necessary to us from Leviticus, where on Yom Kippur the high priest would heap the guilts of all levels of society on a sacrificial goat, which was then ostracized and abandoned to die in the desert, apparently taking the blasphemies with him. Christians reprise the same symbology in the Christ flesh: In Catholic liturgy, the pastor intones “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” as he fractures the legion. Other habits have their own collective brutality and repudiation: the pillorying of the early American Puritan, stoning in the Muslim world, or Amish shunning.

The point of the ritual is to cleanse all levels of society via collective violence against or abandonment of the moral transgressor, regardless of actual shame. Girard hypothesized that this serves to unite different( and often hostile) elements of the community in their moral scorn for the scapegoat: The exclusion or stoning must be done with moral passion, enough to( temporarily) paper over the community’s factionalism, often of it due to mimetic jealousy.

Which raises us( finally) to the Facebook hearing.

There sat the Harvard dropout and son of a Dobbs Ferry dentist who’d somehow “ve managed” devised the ersatz edition of human rights social life, finally going his recompense and being called to account. It was an exceptionally watchable and humorous stoning.

Conservatives like Senator Ted Cruz( R-Texas) accused Facebook of being ideologically biased and one-sided. Diversity preaches like Representative G. K. Butterfield( D-North Carolina) lambasted Zuck for not hiring enough minority managers. Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana excoriated Zuckerberg for his indecipherable user agreement, challenging he write something in “English , not Swahili! ”

Representative Diana DeGette( D-Colorado) requested basic questions about Facebook’s balance sheet and previous prosecution, to admissions of knowledge from Zuckerberg, justification an skeptical DeGette to ask, “You’re the CEO of the company, compensate? ”( Zuck knew the answer to that one ). Representative Billy Long( R-Missouri) even plumbed the tech titan’s ignominious beginnings by asking about Facemash, the classmate-hotness-ranking app that Zuckerberg had floated before Facebook, coyly asking if “hes still” in operation( Zuck smirked a “No, congressman … ” ).

Most of our nation’s legislators did not seem even vaguely equipped to ask the detailed technical and legal issue necessary to dissect Facebook and its inventor, but sincerely, neither does most of the journalistic chattering class. I often serve as a source on the vagaries of Facebook monetization, and the politicians’ questions were no dumber than those I’m regularly asked by use writers. But again, this is all the beside the point. The ability of the stone-throwers matters little to the spectacle.

So what guilts are we self-servingly heaping on this poor billionaire’s thought? What are we atoning for via this C-SPAN stoning? If simply for a moment, let’s talking here Facebook useds rather than Facebook.

When we the users are given a supernatural design that resembles our social interactions so well we ingest the simulacrum as real, and the design offers us a route to connect globally with anyone 24/7 in real-time, we don’t use the maneuver to usher in a new and utopian age of human empathy and communication, as its inventors so naively intended.

No. Instead, we use that invention to mobilize ethnic cleansing, advance fantastical and self-serving policy agenda, and otherwise undermine the awfully academic and scientific underpinnings( like a impression in objective, measurable reality) that saw the supernatural manoeuvre probable. Facebook’s news feed, or Google’s examine grading for that are important, is coldly aloof and amoral, and purely shows us what its pioneers contemplate will keep us involved. If technical disquisitions on Einsteinian relativity or humane reporting on the civilian misfortune of the Syrian Civil War drew more interest than notoriety uniting word and the latest in the ongoing Trump psychodrama, then that’s what would inhabit Facebook. Our feeds are ultimately a thought of ourselves , not in the egotistical mode we intend, but as a collective human self-portrait.

After one too many climate change issues dismissals or debunked viral plot presumptions, we stare into the social media mirror this mystical design appoints and rebound in repugnance at the ugliness reflected there. Ultimately, nonetheless, we opt not to change ourselves or how we use the design, but to ritually stone the person who improved the mirror. Which is why Zuck was sweating under his incongruous clothing as he tried to explain Facebook to a pack of showboating senators and congressmen. Many of those same lawmakers received government contributions from Facebook and the company’s well-heeled employees. Many of them was no question too exerted Facebook ads, the rogue being tried alongside Zuckerberg, to maintain themselves in influence. And those who haven’t use Facebook ads soon will, because there’s no better promotion for an ad concoction than half the world bellowing that Facebook fluctuated a slew of important elections. The government advertising plans dedicated to Facebook in 2020 will outpace all spending instances, almost certainly. In my ironic approximation, the most important ones results of the Great Facebook Election Scandal of 2016 will be the further weaponization of the platform, despite whatever regulation may call, with every legislator having to adopt the intelligent targeting and ad-optimization policies that the Trump campaign replica from the commercial world-wide and which arguably contributed to its victory.

Not that we, the electorate, are much better.

#deletefacebook is the brand-new “I’m moving to Canada”: another mimetic number of showy but absurd moral grandstanding. Facebook’s ranking in the Apple App Store moved up after #deletefacebook exited viral, maybe from refusenik poseurs reinstalling the app after deleting it.

Which imparts us back to the Girardian scapegoat and its reasons. Be borne in mind that the casting out of the goat is a recurring incident, as are Facebook’s mea culpas, both dominating an annual regularity like Yom Kippur. In addition to the cathartic mixing act of the exclusion, there’s the communal wiping scavenge of blasphemy, a sort of group Catholic confession. We deported the sin-laden goat from our centre and/ or stoned the figurative sinner. Moral slate scavenge, we’re be prepared to guilt again.

For the senator who just depleted an allotted five minutes excoriating Zuckerberg, it’s is necessary to stimulant his staff to find a good social media bureau for his 2018 reelection entreat. After all, the adherent ventures will be high in the midterms, and the media arms hasten is heating up. The Democrats won’t dismiss Facebook ads this time, as Clinton apparently did.

For us, the users, it’s time to check our feeds with our freshly re-downloaded app and speak meandering ratings on the hearing’s importation( such as this one ), as well as howling jeremiads against Facebook. Perhaps we’ll engage in some mimesis and reshare one of them–all of this distributed via Facebook itself, of course.

Until the next time we’re all sick of mimetic competition and is a requirement to trot out Zuckerberg again for another scapegoating usage. The fellowship seems more than happy to oblige.

Facebook in the Spotlight

Facebook works watching the congressional hearings breathed a exhale of succor as lawmakers stumbled and CEO Mark Zuckerberg deflected their queries.

Advertisers, who pay the statutes at Facebook, are just as enthusiastic about the network as ever.

Read WIRED’s in-depth investigation of two years of crisis inside Facebook.


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