The Silicon Valley monopolist Mark Zuckerberg, who controls the social media empire known as “Facebook” finds himself in an increasingly tough spot. Certain forces within the western political establishment want him to exercise his power more ruthlessly, but he realizes this could lead to his ultimate downfall.
The printing press, first invented by Koreans, was cultivated in Europe for the purpose of maintaining the feudal order, primary through its ideological vehicle, the Roman Catholic Church. Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press was used to print Bibles and indulgences. The new invention made the system in which Kings and Nobles ruled and owned the land based on divine right more functional.
For a brief period, the printing press remained in the hands of the Catholic Church. But it was only a matter of time before this monopoly was broken. Critics of the Catholic Church and the rising mercantile class soon got access to this technology and utilized it to oppose the feudal order. Soon, translations of the Bible were circulated, screeds criticizing the Vatican were distributed, and the Protestant Reformation swept through Europe. This began a long process that ultimately resulted in the overthrow of feudalism, and the rise of Industrial Capitalism in the western world, along with the liberal democratic political system.
To use stereotypically Marxian phraseology, by developing the printing press, the Catholic Church had “laid the seeds of its own destruction.” It is unlikely, however, that the Catholic officials who encouraged Gutenberg were aware of the ultimately suicidal implications of their actions. However, Mark Zuckerberg and other social media giants are most likely well aware of the historical precipice on which they are sitting. This self-awareness causes them to become increasingly nervous and inconsistent.
Who Invented The Internet?
Politician Al Gore was widely mocked for the phrase “I took the initiative and created the internet” which he stated during a TV interview, often misreported as “I invented the internet.” He was, however, referring to the fact that Silicon Valley emerged from strategic decisions made by the US intelligence community and political leaders during the Cold War. Huge covert efforts by the US government enabled California and corporations like IBM and Apple to sit at the center of the tech boom, and as a result, hold the purse and puppeteer’s strings in the post-Cold War “New World Order” that brought us the internet. The “social media” revolution that followed a few decades later, seemed to very much serve the interests of Wall Street and London in its early years.
In 2011, Jared Andrew Cohen played the role of a coordinator, ensuring that the Pentagon, Wall Street, and the Tech Monopolies all marched in lockstep to shake-up the Middle East. Cohen is the CEO of Jigsaw, previously known as “Google Ideas.” He is also a member of the key US Foreign Policy think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, paid for by Exxon-Mobile and the Ford Foundation. He served as a personal advisor to both Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.
Cohen is quite open about the fact that he has used the internet and social media to foment unrest in countries that stand in the way of Wall Street and London. The New Yorker described his rise to prominence saying: “During the peak of the protests in Iran, Jared Cohen, a young staffer at the State Department who worked for Slaughter, contacted officials at Twitter and asked the company not to perform a planned upgrade that would have shut down the service temporarily in Iran, where protesters were using it to get information to the international media.”
Cohen’s boss at the time, Anne-Marie Slaughter, has also been quite open about her contempt for “Populism” and the need to utilize social media to create an “open international system” and an “open market,” and in 2011, the tech elite and State Department seemed to do so quite effectively.
Slick social media propaganda presented the events as glorious uprisings of the people, demanding democracy and freedom. In the “Arab Spring” wave of unrest, the Muslim Brotherhood temporarily seized control of Egypt and Tunisia. Libya, the African country with the highest life expectancy, led by the socialist revolutionary Moammar Gadhafi, was reduced to rubble and chaos because of a NATO bombing campaign as well as a wave of social media deception. The Syrian Arab Republic, a stronghold of Arab Nationalism and anti-Zionism, was swept into civil war in a similar manner. Western liberals cheered for the “revolutions” that flashed across their iPhones in Guevara-esque propaganda.
The crowds of Libyans who fought to defend their homelands from being reduced to chaos were mostly ignored by the media, as were the radical Islamist and non-democratic goals of those who led the US-backed uprisings. The protests demanding democracy in Bahrain were crushed by a brutal Saudi invasion, with western audiences almost completely unaware it took place. CNN refused to air the single documentary it had created on Bahrain, though its coverage of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria seemed to be nonstop 24/7. As the Shia community within the Wall Street oil plantation and weapons client Saudi Arabia demanded its rights, the social media machine did not celebrate its protests but looked the other way as torture and other human rights violations were used to crush it.
Social media effectively enabled the US government to stage and manipulate uprisings, maneuver their allies in the Muslim Brotherhood into power, topple the Socialist government of Libya, and foment a bloody civil war in Syria. The press celebrated the social media revolution for this achievement in glowing manifestos of tech optimism and globalist revolutionary fervor.
The Ruling Class Demands Censorship
But fast forward to 2019, the language of America’s intellectuals is no longer about “free information” or paving the way to a glorious “open international system”. Now there is talk of “bots” “Russian trolls” and “hackers.” Mark Zuckerberg has been dragged before Congressional committees and interrogated about why he allows certain “offensive” views to be tolerated on Facebook. Articles in the Wall Street Journal castigate youtube for allowing “conspiracy” videos to be prevalent. Zuckerberg faces a more scandalous reputation in the United Kingdom after revelations about his relationship with the firm known as Cambridge Analytica. Protests and calls for people to “delete facebook” have resounded and been pushed by mainstream media.
Meanwhile, Facebook has engaged in a new level of censorship, in the face of pressure. Rachel Blevins, an RT reporter, had her Facebook page shut down. “In The Now,” a Facebook page with millions of subscribers was blocked after CNN had attacked it for being tied to Russia.
Sections of the political establishment seem to be demanding that Mark Zuckerberg use his power to shut down speech they deem to be harmful, specifically speech that undermines the narratives of US foreign policy. And while Facebook has certainly done this on multiple occasions, certain powerful voices perceive some reluctance in this censorship and are quite angry about it.
But the reality is, if Facebook becomes too strict and heavy-handed, those seeking alternative views will go elsewhere. This result would be far more damaging to both Zuckerberg and the political establishment in the long term.
Silicon Valley Will Fall
Mark Zuckerberg is like the Catholic Church when it held control over the printing press. He holds a monopoly over a powerful information technology vehicle. However, unlike the Catholic Church, Zuckerberg is strategically allowing those he would deem to be heretics to use his apparatus, in the hopes they won’t develop social networks of their own, that are completely beyond his control.
Zuckerberg is keeping his grip loose in the hopes of not losing his monopoly. Zuckerberg may hate those who challenge US foreign policy, but he would very much prefer they state their views on Facebook than on another social network. If Zuckerberg tightens his grip too much, alternatives to Facebook will emerge to satisfy those who want to challenge the status quo.
Much has been written about Mark Zuckerberg’s apparent admiration for Caesar Augustus, the relative of Julius Caesar who became Emperor after the fall of the Roman Republic. Zuckerberg is said to admire the fact that Augustus launched 200 years of “Pax Romana” in which no wars took place because Rome’s power was so massive that none could challenge it throughout the empire.
Zuckerberg may see himself as a modern-day Augustus, presiding over a global information empire, and carefully mediating and giving a platform to debate in a way that doesn’t allow any powerful rival to emerge.
But one must ask, isn’t it just a matter of time? Eventually, Facebook, along with twitter, youtube, and other platforms will lose their monopoly. The Catholic Church could not have controlled all the printing presses forever. Soon this new technology went over to their opponents.
Mark Zuckerberg’s situation, where he tries to maintain a monopoly while flexing his muscles in particular strategic circumstances, is only temporary. The whole world knows that eventually Silicon Valley will fall, and alternative voices and platforms will contend for the ability to set the discourse.
Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was inspired and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.