I don’t have a lot to say about the Facebook Oversight Board’s “decision” on Trump. So I’ll boil it down, Axios stizzle:
Facebook views itself as a quasi nation-state. The entire idea that the company’s decisions are bound by its self-created rule, or that a pretend Supreme Court of Facebook is the final say in how those rules must be interpreted, should be viewed alongside the company’s aborted attempt to create its own fiat currency. These are the pretensions of a corporation that wishes it were a sovereign nation.
Will Trump eventually come back to Facebook? We still don’t know. The SCOFAB “decision” tries to work some Marbury v. Madison mojo in which it kicks the case back to Facebook’s executive branch, tells it to come up with a real answer from among the three remedies provided by the “law,” at which point the SCOFAB will revisit the question.
ALL OF THIS IS PRETEND.
There are no laws. There are only guidelines which can be changed at any time for any (or no) reason. These guidelines can be rigorously enforced, or not enforced at all. The SCOFAB “decision” can be followed. Or not. Because—get this—there is no Facebook military. If Mark Zuckerberg were to ignore the SCOFAB and instead decide that Trump can come back to the platform, but that his account had a permanent emu filter on all videos, the 7th Fleet would not show up at his house in Hawaii. Zuckerberg can do whatever the fork he wants.
Because Facebook is a publicly-held company, like GM or Merck or Comcast or Disney. Mark Zuckerberg likes to pretend that his company is a totally different species of institution. It is not.
If the CEO of Facebook decides that he wants Donald Trump on the platform, then Trump will be on the platform. If the CEO decides he does not want Trump on the platform, then Trump will not be on the platform.
Everything else is make-believe.
It is endlessly amusing that Mark Zuckerberg read The Circle not as satire, but as an aspirational vision for his future.
One other thing: We should view Facebook as the Silicon Valley version of DDT.
No. Not that DDT. This one.
Not all technological advances are helpful. All technology comes with some good and some bad. In some cases, the good clearly outweighs the bad. In other cases, technology is merely a tool, and the good or bad it creates comes from how it is used.
But every once in a while you get a piece of technology the effects of which are, on balance, very bad. DDT is one of those.
DDT was invented in 1874 but it wasn’t until 1939 that chemists discovered that it would be used as an effective insecticide. The scientist who figured this out, Paul Hermann Müller, won the Nobel prize for his discovery.
Initially, DDT proved useful. It helped stop the spread of malaria and other insect-born pathogens. It helped protect certain crops. There were obvious benefits.
But over time people realized that DDT came with enormous costs. It’s bad for the environment. And really bad for humans.
So bad that there is now a worldwide ban on its use in agriculture.
Think about the number of substances which are so deleterious that everyone agrees not to use them. That’s not a long list. Which tells you everything you need to know about DDT.
Facebook is a lot like DDT. It’s an interesting technology. There are certainly some benefits from it. For instance, if you want to share a picture of your cat, you can do it over Facebook, rather than sending out an email or a group text. In such cases Facebook might save you 5, 6—perhaps even 7 seconds.
But on the whole, the net effects of Facebook on pretty much everything—society, the economy, politics, humanity—are net negative. It’s a bad technology. The world would be better off if we heavily restricted it, the way we do the use of DDT.
However, in the absence of such a ban, you should get off Facebook. If you can’t stop other people from using DDT, then at least keep the toxin out of your own diet.
Want to know what’s good for you? This damn newsletter. Cut out Facebook and the toxic bs. Stand with The Bulwark. It’s time to ride or die.
Tomorrow night is TNB! There’s going to be a LOT to talk about: Facebook, Liz Cheney, The Trump Blog.
2. Obligatory Liz Cheney Item
The most interesting question about the coming purge of Liz Cheney is whether the vote will be public or a secret ballot. I’m not sure which would be better.
On the one hand, having the vote in public probably increases the margin against her. In a public vote, it could be 202-10. It would be kind of cool to see the Stockholm Syndrome so clearly. And to be able to hang the vote on specific members.
On the other hand, having the party excommunicate a leader purely for the sin of saying an obvious fact out loud—and doing so only under the cover of secrecy—is almost too perfect as an object lesson in cowardice. I still think she loses a secret ballot, but maybe she gets to 50 votes.
This has always been where we were heading:
Ted Cruz @tedcruzHad a great dinner tonight with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago. He’s in great spirits! We spent the evening talking about working together to re-take the House & Senate in 2022. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 https://t.co/OdtUBxHGSn
And I hope people understand that this isn’t a one-off. This is the future of the Republican party. Once you go authoritarian, you don’t go back.
What happens to the 30 percent of Republicans who agree with Cheney, more or less? That’s interesting, too. But I’d guess the breakdown will be:
80 percent continue to go along with the GOP eagerly.
15 percent go along grudgingly.
4.9 percent become conscientious objectors casting meaningless write-in votes for people like Condi Rice and Edmund Burke while continuing to criticize both parties in equal measure because deeply held convictions about budget deficits or whatever bad thing someone at the NY Times did last week.
> 0.1 percent become Red Dog Democrats.
In other words: Just another dot in the pointillist portrait of America’s decadence.
What comes next:
America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan should be cause for rejoicing. But conditions in the country today, and the historical record of past U.S. withdrawals from similar conflicts, suggest that it will only create more problems. By leaving, Washington is vindicating an aphorism attributed to a captured Taliban fighter over a decade ago: “You have the watches. We have the time.”
Proving the Taliban wrong is not a politically unaffordable extravagance. It merely requires retaining a couple of thousand elite special operations, intelligence, and support personnel in Afghanistan. Otherwise, the risk is that this will be the fourth time in as many decades that a U.S. military withdrawal encourages terrorists by showing the weakness of U.S. resolve. When America left Beirut in 1983, Mogadishu a decade later, and Iraq in 2011, the result was more terrorism, not less. . . .
Some analysts have argued that the situation is different now precisely because of the 9/11 attacks. Washington did not take terrorism sufficiently seriously in the 1990s, but since then, the country has built up a huge counter-terrorism bureaucracy that makes staying in Afghanistan unnecessary. Now Washington can protect the homeland by using enhanced intelligence, special operations forces, and precision-guided, stand-off munitions. With these resources, over-the-horizon military and intelligence assets will be able to quickly identify and address any new threats.
This also was the logic behind the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011. But the disastrous consequences were soon felt with the rise of the Islamic State. Washington was overconfident in its counter-terrorism capabilities and underestimated the new terrorist variant it faced. As with Hizballah in the 1980s and al-Qaeda in the 1990s, the results proved tragic. Once again the desire to disengage when confronted by stubborn, resilient non-state adversaries created conditions ripe for terrorist exploitation. The vacuum in Iraq was rapidly filled by new extremist groups. President Barack Obama’s curt dismissal of the embryonic Islamic State as “a jayvee team” would come to haunt him less than six months later, after the terrorist blitzkrieg that conquered western Iraq and stormed across the border into Syria. The Islamic State soon inspired a series of domestic attacks in multiple Western countries. Within months, it had dragged an international coalition that would eventually involve 83 countries back into maw of Middle Eastern conflict.
Today in Afghanistan, the United States is similarly understating and underestimating the threat posed by the Taliban. If anything, the situation in Afghanistan is more dangerous. When America withdrew from Iraq, there was no single terrorist adversary capable of toppling democratically elected Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki in Baghdad. The Taliban, however, has that potential and makes no secret of its intention to re-impose theocratic rule over Afghanistan. It therefore poses an existential threat to the democratically elected government of President Ashraf Ghani in a way that no contender had in Iraq a decade ago. Moreover, the Taliban’s longstanding, close alliances with al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network, and Pakistan’s Tehrik-i-Taliban endow it with additional attack capabilities that did not exist in Iraq at the time of 2011 U.S. withdrawal.