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Bland God: Notes on Mark Zuckerberg (2018) (stingingfly.org)
105 points by maleno 36 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 79 comments

This is a better article than the typical personality piece or character assassination, but the thread here shows the problem with these things: there just isn't that much to discuss. Once a public figure or celebrity has grown beyond a certain size—I don't know what the threshold is, but it's lower than 1 Zuckerberg—they become a generic theme, and people mostly just repeat their pre-existing feelings about them, as well as practicing the social rituals that humans do on such occasions.

Public figures of this sort become cartoon characters [1]. The way we relate to them reminds me of how the Greeks used to talk about their gods, and at times also of the feces-hurling behavior in other primates. I don't mean that dismissively, I mean it almost literally (e.g. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23406290). These discussions are fascinating because they're so repetitive and so consistent. But their content is not interesting, because they're not about content. They're deep social behavior.

It's always been a principle on HN to emphasize content over personalities [2], and that principle has served well over the years. I think I've learned something about why: it's because intellectual curiosity and social curiosity are different things. Social curiosity is what lies behind gossip, fascination with celebrities, and so on—the lives of others, if it's ok to adapt that phrase. Intellectual curiosity has to do with expanding one's view of the world. Both are deeply human, but HN is a site specifically for intellectual curiosity. That explains why articles and threads like this invariably miss the bullseye here.

[1] https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que... - I recalled using this phrase further back, too, and found it here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6429252 - 7 years ago, and also about Zuckerberg.

[2] https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...

This article specifically points out Zuckerberg's sweating at D8. This may have been a different instance, or I may be wrong.

But I seem to recall a story that at this event the temperature was turned up because Jobs was so sick. Can anyone else corroborate this? It may have been in Issacson's book.

edit: found it, it was at a dinner with Obama in Feb 2011: https://books.google.com/books?id=6e4cDvhrKhgC&pg=PA545&lpg=...

> Easier to conceive of Mark Zuckerberg as a machine.

The memes of Zuckerberg as Data from Star Trek always amuse me.[0] Sure, it's teasing, but Data is a likable character! Data doesn't strive to be superior but to be more human, even if this means being analytical instead of emotional.

Mark Zuckerberg would be far more interesting if he were "evil"--if he tried to create new values, if he tried to replace God. But he isn't even an atheist anymore and is embracing religion and Judaism[1].

And then of course we must separate the man from the corporation: Facebook is a public company has an obligation to its shareholders to make money. Facebook stopped being about Zuckerberg a long time ago... it is now about surveillance capitalism.

[0] https://i.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/001/354/185/719...

[1] https://www.timesofisrael.com/how-mark-zuckerberg-embraced-h...

> Facebook stopped being about Zuckerberg a long time ago

When did he change the voting structure of Facebook?

I remember Mark Zuckerberg owns the majority of voting shares of Facebook and hence Mark = Facebook?

> But he isn't even an atheist anymore and is embracing religion and Judaism[1].

This pivot literally happened as the rumors that he was thinking of running for office were coming out. He then decided to pull a "traveling across America to meet with the people" and promptly got destroyed by people realizing he is doing this to run for this office.

Zuck should be nowhere near any political power.

Frankly, I would take a machine as an leader over a lot of other options we have. Predictability and lack of emotional outbursts would be great qualities to have in a leader.

But what do you do when it starts basing everything on statistics or something less/not compassionate to life? And who determines what metrics and data it uses to make its decisions?

Zorlot-19 has decided to end the lives of everyone over 90 and that drinks mountain dew because its determined its a net negative on.. what, GDP, mortality rate, fertility rates, tax rates..

Seems like a compassionate overlord would be great but we've fallen for that a few thousand times in history.

edit: While I'm here, anyone have any interesting books on robots/droids/overlords/whatever beginning to manage society?

edit2: Found this; https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/a-reading...

Does anyone really believe he could be elected president someday? (mentioned in the article)

Just those who will make it their business to believe it’s possible (politcal consultants). Exhibit A: Bloomberg campaign

If they were eligible, Schwarzeneggar (years ago) or Musk (now), would have a better shot —- still small —- because it would be a circus. And we have evidence that a circus can get you elected.

Schwarzenegger would be a walk-in, regardless of which party he gets behind him.

There is a parallel reality where Democrats pushed hard to change the eligibility rules during Obama’s second term, selected Ahnold, and continued the Obama legacy of slow-going, moderate social progress. Sadly we are in a darker timeline.

Arnold took a political beating from both sides when he failed to accumulate the capital to push any of his ideas through, and the experience appears to have left the governor with no enthusiasm to continue.

A bit weirdly, Bloomberg is exhibit B; Howard Schultz's attempt a few months earlier was Exhibit A, and about as successful. At some point, those same consultants had to convince Bloomberg he wouldn't be another Schultz.

Honestly both of them just winged it. They were unprepared for debates and when they had answers they were uninspiring, to say the least.

Musk was born in South Africa, so isn't eligible for the presidency.

Edit: Must have only skimmed this thread before commenting because the parent mentions this, oops

That's why they said "If they were eligible".

In 2017 he has already been 'campaigning' : https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/25/technology/zuckerberg-har...

Trump showed us that the old guard is less powerful than we\they thought. The zuck could absolutely win and facebook would be his tool to do it.

Zuckerberg has the charisma of a fish though.

I don't know. Fish can be pretty cute and charming.

You don't need charisma when you can insert yourself into people's notifications, Facebook and Instagram feeds, have a near-live overview of the majority of the voting population, know their political bias, cultural heritage, and much, much more.

Do you believe that Zuckerberg would be allowed to use Facebook to push his presidential campaign? I feel like he would have to divest himself of the company entirely first. Then again, that's maybe too much of an expectation, given our current political situation.

He controls 57.9% of the voting shares[1] and, historically, hasn't exactly been a paragon of virtue.

[1] https://www.investopedia.com/articles/insights/082216/top-9-...

You'd think so...but I also thought it would be politically unpalatable for Trump to refuse to divest from his business.

And once in office, the emoluments clause of the constitution has been shown to be pretty toothless.

> pretty toothless

Entirely toothless.

Yeah, I keep seeing the "well, Trump won!" argument anytime somebody suggests that a certain person wouldn't win an election. But that ignores Trump's unique characteristics that allowed him to gain a significant and loyal following.

I feel like Zuckerberg trying to run would be a Mike Bloomberg situation. Remember when that happened?

1) Bloomberg doesn't control facebook

2) Bloomberg ran as a democrat

Imagine a world where you get your news from Fox News and then go to a conservative controlled facebook. He would be unstoppable.

Zuckerberg couldn't run as anything but a democrat either. Cambridge Analytica and the like ensured that, but his beliefs (as far as he has shown any) are leaning democrat with libertarian tendencies at best. His lack of moral spine is compatible with both parties (not equating said parties to be clear).

pstuart 36 days ago [flagged]

Trump's unique characteristics were antithetical to the role of POTUS. Now cult leader, on the other hand...

Please don't take HN threads into partisan flamewar. It leads nowhere good, as manifested below.


Please see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23407848 also, because that was an even worse step.

war1025 36 days ago [flagged]

The only thing about Trump that is antithetical to the role of POTUS, at least in the coastal elite / media sense, is that he ran as a Republican.

Please don't take HN threads further into partisan flamewar. It leads nowhere good, as manifested below.


pstuart 36 days ago [flagged]

You see, this is why discussing politics here gets a bad rap. You are operating in a partisan manner and effectively trolling now.

If you were actually interested in dialog, I would go to the effort of gathering evidence of members of the GOP trashing him before he attained power, as well as multiple prominent republicans who today are aghast at what he's done and is continuing to do.

I'm against political parties (Washington warned us way back when), and I associate with the party that you clearly don't belong to. My association is made under duress, in that I have to pick one in order for my voice to be heard.

I can have civil and adult conversations about the merits and failures of both parties and of individuals within them.

I'm guessing that might be a challenge for you so I won't bother trying. Let me know otherwise.

Personal attacks will get you banned here, regardless of how wrong another commenter is or you feel they are. Maybe you don't owe your political opponents better, or don't feel you do; but you definitely owe this community better if you're posting to it. This kind of thing leads to its destruction, so please don't.


@dang, I'm sorry that wasn't my intent and I was doing my damndest to stick to facts. I don't see these people as opponents and I'm not trying to "win", only to try to find some sort of mutual understanding.

This is a third rail I'll never touch here again, but I'd like to point out a couple of things for closure.

* What has been happening in the last 3+ years is not normal, and much of the population is terrified by what is happening and what is likely to happen. I am one of those people

* Politics operates in two realms: policy and theater. I've normally no interest in the latter but it has taken center stage.

* United we stand, and divided we fall. I believe that there are active efforts to promote division and my hope is for unity. And division that occurred here was counter to my goals (but I should have known better).

* Many of my fellow citizens also believe that the GOP has become a cult, centered around the topic of discussion. Most people think that cults are not a good thing.

I could go on and on, but I won't because it will fall on deaf ears.

Thank you for helping to keep this forum as wonderful as it is, and once more, I'm sorry to have cause any problems.

edit: the "deaf years" was about those that I was trying to have a discussion.

I believe you! Also, I don't think it's necessarily best to treat these things as a third rail, since the only way we're going to learn as a community to stay within the functional range on hard topics is by practice.

I feel like I should explain something about moderation. There's a sense in which a lot of this is fairly mechanical. When I post a reply like I did upthread, I'm reacting to statements like "you are [...] effectively trolling now", "If you were actually interested in dialog", and so on. Such things can be removed without changing your views or compromising your argument. It's also in your interest to do so, since you're trying to stick to facts and your intention is to find mutual understanding.

The reason why we have to moderate on that fairly mechanical level is that these things have mechanical effects on discussion threads. When they're present in a discussion, it's impossible for people to see past that layer and give genuine attention to what the other party is saying, let alone find mutual understanding. This aspect of moderation is rather superficial because these dynamics are superficial. They're critically important, though, because if we can't take care of that layer, we'll remain stuck there—or actually degenerate into worse.

(That's not the only aspect of moderation, fortunately, but it's a common one.)

The trolling comment was a mistake. I think it was true but it didn't add to the conversation. Following that logic I should have just dropped the conversation right there.

I wish there was a way to have these more challenging conversations here but I don't think it's possible. I think that there's an inherent combativeness that overrides everything else and I've yet to understand how to disarm it.

Again, thank you and I'll do my damndest not not to pee in the pool.

> I'm guessing that might be a challenge for you so I won't bother trying. Let me know otherwise.

I was with you up until this ass-hattery.

Experience has taught me that any moderate / conservative opinion is going to get downvoted through the floor no matter how well you back it up. It's easier to just burn karma with short comments.

> I would go to the effort of gathering evidence of members of the GOP trashing him before he attained power

Yes. It's well known. Established politicians despise Trump. No contest there.

> I associate with the party that you clearly don't belong to

I identify as a "not-Democrat". It's true that I tend to vote Republican lately, but there is plenty that they do that I don't agree with. It's just that Democrats seem to do a more effective job of making me not want to vote for them. I may just go back to not voting in future elections.

Trump's main sin, besides being a member of the wrong party, is that he is the most transparent President in history. He has no qualms airing his dirty laundry and it drives people nuts.

But back to my original comment, the majority of the media is objectively left-leaning, which means they will see anything and everything Trump does in a negative light.

You can still glean useful information from their reporting, but I don't think anyone can pretend networks and individual reporters don't come pre-equipped with a heavy dose of bias.

Fox leans heavily right, no one disputes that. Somehow pointing out other outlets lean left has become controversial.

> I was with you up until this ass-hattery.

Your dialog to that point came across as that of a Trump loyalist. I've learned that there's no point in engaging there, but it looks like you want to talk further, so here we go.

> Trump's main sin, besides being a member of the wrong party, is that he is the most transparent President in history. He has no qualms airing his dirty laundry and it drives people nuts.

Wow. I'll give this a try...

* Trump had 3 marriages and cheated in all of them (contrary to the "family values) the GOP espouses.

* Trump was involved with organized crime, including money laundering (and likely is to this date).

* Trump is a pathological liar

* Trump is a racist (actually ok in the GOP playbook)

* Trump is a failed businessman

* Trump is a sexist and sexual predator (he makes Bill Clinton look like a boy scout (which he most certainly is not))

* Trump is a fake Christian

* Trump is ill-informed, near illiterate, and unintelligent (but is effectively an idiot savant at playing the media like a fiddle).

* Trump didn't actually want to become president, it was a grift to start his own TrumpTV. He's still pursing that and will be shaping OAN into his personal platform.

I could go on and on, but you'll either deny or disregard these points.

To show you that I can acknowledge the failures from "my side", I'll posit that Hillary Clinton was certainly far from perfect:

* She wanted the office as a mark of achievement more than to serve the country

* She is a corporatist

* She is a war hawk

* She is the typical "finger in the wind" politician regarding her convictions.

She also had a literal industry devoted to demonizing her, but that's a different story.

I take in information based on its merit, not to bolster my ideology. I'm still waiting to hear one good thing about Trump. Your point about "transparency" is puzzling. He doesn't air his dirty laundry, he says wild shit that keeps the news cycle in turmoil.

Tell me about all of his dirty laundry that he has willingly aired, please.

> Tell me about all of his dirty laundry that he has willingly aired, please.

You just listed nine points.

> I'm still waiting to hear one good thing about Trump

He is pro American manufacturing. Honestly that by itself is enough for a lot of people.

Also this point you made gives many people great joy:

> he says wild shit that keeps the news cycle in turmoil

Regarding "transparency", everyone agrees he basically uses Twitter as a stream of consciousness diary. It bothers people that he puts as a part of the public record things that "should be kept quiet".

What if one had the money to hire a bunch of people who understand why Trump one and had no moral code? Bloomberg had the money. He just wasn't enough of an asshole to appeal to the US voter.

> He just wasn't enough of an asshole to appeal to the US voter.

Based on his marketing tactics I'm inclined to disagree there. IMO he also lacked the charisma that Zuckerberg would struggle with.

Let's be very clear. Bloomberg has a lot more charisma in public than Zuckerberg. And so does Hillary Clinton! That's not saying much! Any elected official above a certain level has some amount of charm.

Charisma can be learned.

> Charisma can be learned.

Did Hillary Clinton learn it? Of all the people in the world, she's probably the one who had the most incentive and motivation to "learn" charisma, if it was possible.

I always got the impression from her public persona that she thought she didn't need charisma, that she had "earned it", and that the power she had accrued over the years should be enough to deliver the victory to her.

Anecdotally, this is one reason Bernie did better than expected in the 2016 primaries.

I think it's possible to learn it, but a lot of charisma comes from empathy and focus on others. Awkward people can be very charismatic if they give the vibe they care about you. True selflessness isn't something most politicians are really known for..

And opportunity. She is married to charisma.

One of the harder things to learn because it isn't formulaic. You can't copy someone else's mannerisms outright you have to find your own style.

Richard Nixon would beg to differ.

`[citation needed]`

I’m certain _he_ does.

It's a longstanding American tradition that many of our politicians are successful businessmen who made a fortune and then used their wealth to finance their political campaign(s). This is more or less how our current president got into power.

I think Trump is the only American president who never held a political office before becoming president. He was wealthy and famous for decades as a very successful businessman and he apparently spent many years contemplating running for president.

I once wrote a blog post titled something like "The 70 Year Old Political Virgin." I suspect a lot of the drama we see with this presidency is rooted in the fact that he has no prior political experience.

He has prior experience with people talking about him because he was rich and wealth is a kind of power, but it's not the same as having real political power where you can command armies and what not. I think this is why he engages in so much inflammatory rhetoric, which isn't appropriate for the President of the US, and I think it's why he seems so thin-skinned about people saying things about him.

When he was merely famous for his wealth, people talked about him as gossip, basically. Now, people talk about him because what he says and does impacts their lives in significant ways and he doesn't seem to know how to deal with the fact that this is just part and parcel of holding a powerful office. It's not actually personal.

For much of the history of the US, the path to the presidency was rooted in "well, first you need to be a General in the military." From what I gather, that's not been true in recent decades.

My father and ex husband were both career military. The military has a culture steeped in ethics surrounding making hard decisions about who lives, who dies, who dies so that others will live, etc. I think it is good experience for taking the reins of power, in part because being the President of the US also makes you the Commander in Chief.

Heinlein wrote fiction about a future America where you had to have military service to run for political office. I am not comfortable with suggesting this should be a standard, but I do wonder if we should add a new proviso to the bid for presidency that you either need prior military experience or you need to have held some other political office first.

Zuck could 100% be elected president someday. It certainly seems more plausible than I would have said about Trump in say ~2012.

- The US worships rich and successful businessmen in general.

- Facebook is the most powerful media empire the world has ever know. It could easily mobilize to support a Zuck campaign.

- His charisma and current reputation are obviously votes against him but reputation is malleable (see previous point re: media empire) and political training could probably go a long way.

Yeah, let's start by not worshiping rich businessmen.

It's too late for that. Have you ever looked at the web page you are on?

I agree. Note that I don't want this to happen, but I don't share the GP's confidence that it's impossible.

He could be the first Prime Minister of ROCOW, the Republic of California, Oregon and Washington, colloquially known as Yugofaangia.

I feel State of Jefferson wouldn't have anything to with him.

I think you mean cascadia :)

but somehow I think that the more liberal leaning parts of it would say no ...

(note, some border lines of cascadia reach through big swaths of California, others do not).

Not a chance. That doesn't mean he can't maintain delusions.

He believes it

I wanted say no, but we did get Trump. So Zuck being President seems like a real possibility.

They are very different though. One can be charismatic and charming, the other is bland and awkward.

Being famous and rich is not what got Trump in and the factors that got him in would be somewhat different for a liberal. And in the general factors that matter for a president, Zuck has about 0 of the ones that matter (charisma, likeability, relatability, toughness, outspokenness, bluster, comedy, incisiveness, a relatable or admirable background, etc).

He’s a privileged rich white kid on the spectrum, I give less-than-Bloomberg chances (same charisma, less experience and relatability).

Agree on the overall argument, but your assumption that Zuck is a “liberal” seems, on the face of it, pretty unfounded. He financed Republicans and effectively allowed Trump free reign on his platform, over and over.

>He’s a privileged rich white kid on the spectrum

Trump or Zuckerberg?

A lot of evidences show that what got Trump elected can be resumed in one word: racism.

More here: https://medium.com/@sanfordschram_87074/racial-diversity-696...

When you're rich enough, you quickly get surrounded by people who are happy to agree with any damn fool notion you come up with.

As Mike Bloomberg can attest to, this is not enough to be a presidential contender.

That being said, Bloomberg entered the Democratic primary very late and does not own one of the largest propaganda machines in the world. If done right, Zuckerberg might have a decent shot. After all, Bloomberg achieved ~18% [1] in the polls despite his late entry.

[1] https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2020/president/us/2...!

He and Schulz winged it and treated it like a jock treats finals. “I’ll pull an all-nighter and I’ll get an A”. Nope like most people who don’t show up for class and do an all-nighter, they got a D- and failed.

I wouldn’t completely agree with that. From most sources, Bloomberg wanted to run even in 2016, and did a lot of work on that front, till the end when he somehow changed tack to “not split the vote”.

While he did officially make a late entry in the race, started throwing a lot of money and research power quite early. It just so happened that the American public looks at more factors than just a lot of money.

To me they both seemed woefully underprepared and at a loss for answers when the spotlight was put on them during debates.

I guess executives delegate a lot , so much that on their own they might feel exposed and unprepared because there is no one to assist, at least when thrust into unfamiliar ground.

Bloomberg's basic problem is that people in Iowa hate his personality. Had he actually put in the work, being a billionaire may well have been enough if not for having a major disqualifier like that.

Shit always floats to the top of the tank, so possibly.


Added. Thanks!

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