Op-Ed: People Aren't as Stupid as Zuckerberg Thinks


Mark Zuckerberg is a programmer. Rich, successful and very talented, if you will, but a programmer after all.

In 2004 he created the social network Facebook, a work of genius that keeps us glued to the screen like zombies, to see if people like or dislike our new striped sweater.

But his moral authority is no higher than that of the inventor of telephone cable. His corporate power is immense, no doubt, but his political and sociological opinions can be as smart or as stupid as anyone else’s.

Someone should tell him to stop carrying the responsibility of saving all Americans on his shoulders. No one has asked him to do that. Actually, it’s a horrible thing to say, but the only thing we like about him is his ability to successfully combine ones and zeros.

I say this because, like the owners of other social networks, Zuckerberg has been on a long crusade to turn his computer application into a media outlet with an editorial line. The approach is as ridiculous as telephone operators trying to impose a specific kind of conversation we can or cannot hold on our phones or TV manufacturers telling us what we can or cannot see on their machines.

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The owners of Facebook, Twitter and other networks have disproportionate power. And they have earned it not as opinion-makers, but as developers and entrepreneurs. This effort to create opinion is, at the very least, a scam.

Zuckerberg has now taken a step further. Not only does he arbitrate the contents of Facebook at his whim, but he also makes no effort to conceal his plans to shape our consciences.

By mistake or out of overconfidence, he made it known in his infamous interview with “Axios on HBO.”

“One of the things that I think we and other media need to start doing is preparing the American people that there’s nothing illegitimate about this election taking additional days or even weeks to make sure that all of the votes are counted,” Zuckerberg said.

The first thing that is surprising about that statement is that it includes Facebook among the media, something its users were not aware of to date. The second thing that is disturbing is the familiarity with which Zuckerberg talks about caretaking the thoughts of the American people, without stopping to analyze the direction in which he wants to shape public opinion. The fact that he wants to do so is bad enough.

The founder of Facebook is not a journalist, and you can tell that by the way he talks.

His interpretation of current events is that of a programmer who thinks about manipulating minds and reprogramming them as he wishes. But even if he were a journalist, no one could sleep easy listening to one of the most powerful men — or boys, in his case — in the world normalizing the fact that he is making Americans aware of something that has to do with their own choices, and consequently the first guarantee of their freedoms.

It would be unfair to put all the blame on the kid. Zuckerberg’s approach is the same one that leftist media has been using for years, shepherding its flock of readers like a guiding voice. If we were looking for an ideological reason we would say that it is coherent in a progressive universe, being their way of showing contempt for individual freedoms.

But it’s more than that. It’s worse than that. What is really outrageous is the stance of moral superiority the left exhibits, that unhealthy paternalism, which in this case is also assumed by a child from White Plains who has been lucky in life and has a good head for fiddling with the innards of computers without going completely insane.

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That superior moral stance so well embodied in the editorialists at The New York Times, who hiding behind a sham of impartiality, pontificate every week about what the world’s left should or should not think. Yet there is nothing to object to about that because anyone who freely approaches a given media outlet knows what he is doing.

It is true that it would be desirable for the left-wing media to open up to ideological debate within their own approaches, just as right-wing newspapers have always done — one need only take a look at the pro- and anti-Trump wars — but it is also true that liberals always carry the weight of a kind of totalitarian original sin on their shoulders, a desire to bring their masses together and force the rest of the world to do something they do not want to do. Be that starving them, like Mao, or taxing them, like Biden and Harris.

However, the issue of Facebook is different from that of The New York Times. Under the supposed impartiality of the network, this immensely powerful child is setting himself up as the leader of America, with responsibilities that no one has given him, and occupying a space that no one has asked him to occupy.

Has anyone voted for Zuckerberg to dictate slogans about the way elections should be conducted? Why should this little boy be “preparing the American people” for anything? And careful: He is not giving his most respectable opinion. It is much worse: He is insinuating that he will put his powerful machinery to work toward achieving his goal and that other media outlets should do the same.

Nor has he explained how he plans on going about doing it, how he plans to manipulate American public opinion to obtain what he thinks is right. And, although his opinion on this is secondary, it would not be out of place to point out that there is nothing ordinary about having to wait weeks for election results in the middle of the 21st century unless someone is trying to manipulate it.

I don’t think Zuckerberg’s a bad guy. That’s not the point.

Nor do I think he is particularly intelligent, or at least particularly skilled at communication, because no one in their right mind publicly calls for the mass manipulation of public opinion in the middle of an election campaign unless they want to bring their company down — or are confident that their market position is so strong that it could never be disgraced or replaced.

We all know that Goya’s backing Trump. But for the moment they haven’t been tempted to introduce subliminal messages among their beans. On the contrary, Zuckerberg’s beans are much more likely to introduce these messages.

However, I also feel some sympathy for the founder of Facebook, hearing him so concerned about the need to save the world. With his 36 years and his undeniable ability to create an economic empire from lines of code incomprehensible to other mortals, Zuckerberg should get some rest.

Maybe it’s a good time to catch his breath and grow up. No one can survive through having to save the world every day. No one can live with feeling responsible for everything. That’s another broken-down idea the left has sold to our young people.

Let’s do him a favor after all, and remind Mark of what Gómez Dávila once said: “The maturity of the spirit begins when we stop feeling in charge of the world.”

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Itxu Díaz is a Spanish journalist, political satirist and author. He has written nine books on topics as diverse as politics, music or smart appliances. He is a contributor to The Daily Beast, The Daily Caller, National Review, The American Conservative, The American Spectator and Diario Las Américas in the United States, and columnist for several Spanish magazines and newspapers. He was also an advisor to the Ministry for Education, Culture and Sports in Spain. Follow him on Twitter at @itxudiaz or visit his website