- 19 May - 25 May, 2018
STOCK MARKET CRISIS, ZUCKERBERG AND JEFF BEZOS
- 14 Apr - 20 Apr, 2018
- A Letter From America
Stock markets have been in the news lately in America, and not in a good way. Right around the time Trump said, seemingly almost off the cuff, that he intended to deploy the US military to patrol the Mexican border in lieu of a wall (?!?!), he also launched a trade war with China. What exactly a trade war entails is kind of vague to us laypeople who are just trying to maintain our households amid all the chaos and uncertainty emanating from Washington D.C., except that I get the impression that, in the past, trade wars have led to actual wars. And that’s bad, because wars are bad. And America and China are both very big countries. And, as the saying goes, when two elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets trampled.
Meanwhile, as I write this in the evening of a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 2.3 percent in a single day, I feel oddly comforted by the knowledge that not only do I not have much money in the stock market; I don’t really have much money at all. So I don’t have much to lose. But it’s never been entirely clear to me that money is really a thing that exists, anyway, so, whatever.
Then, speaking of the stock market, there’s the whole Facebook thing. The Guardian and its Sunday sister paper, The Observer, deserve major kudos for breaking the big Cambridge Analytica data breach story, which as of this writing seems to have breached the Oz-like mystique of the opaque and sinister media behemoth known as Facebook. What counts as obvious in today’s world is no longer obvious, but as obvious as anything is that, if there was in fact Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election in the US – the one won by Donald Trump – then Facebook was complicit in it. What makes Facebook’s complicity especially creepy, though, is that it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with political belief or ideology, but merely with making as much money as possible.
Facebook’s CEO, the cherubic-looking Mark Zuckerberg, is a clever young man who was raised to think very highly of himself, but who clearly lacks anything like what the rest of us would recognize as a moral compass, high-minded protestations notwithstanding. What’s fascinating – and encouraging – about the state of siege he and his web-media-thingie (whatever it is that Facebook is) find themselves under is how far out of their depth they seem as the crisis spirals out of their control.
Zuckerberg and his minions seem to live in a universe where everything goes their way, and they’re simply unequipped to know what to do or say when it doesn’t. “We made mistakes and I own them and they are on me,” his executive babysitter Sheryl Sandberg told the Financial Times. “There are operational things that we need to change in this company and we are changing them. We have to learn from our mistakes and we need to take action.” Zuckerberg for his part claims the crisis is “my responsibility… I started this place. I run it. And I am responsible for what happens here.” But it’s far from clear whether he understands what exactly responsibility is, particularly since his acceptance of it comes only after – and apparently because – his net worth has lost billions of dollars on the stock market as a result of the scandal.
And then there’s that other enormous tech company, Amazon. Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, reputedly now the world’s wealthiest person, is easy to hate, but I confess to a sneaking admiration for the guy. One thing I admire about Bezos is that he doesn’t go around claiming to have a moral compass – in fact, if anything, he claims not to have one – yet he actually turns out to have one. His company has also taken a hit on Wall Street because, bizarrely and out of the blue, Trump has declared war on it. (But how else does Trump do anything?) He claims it’s because Amazon pays too little tax – which is true – but the real reason surely is that Bezos also owns the influential newspaper The Washington Post, which has been the most impressive and effective US publication at holding Trump’s feet to the fire. Several years ago I had a fortuitous opportunity to speak briefly with the legendary Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, and I took the opportunity to ask him whether Bezos’ then-controversial purchase was a good thing for the paper. Yes, Woodward assured me, Bezos was saying and doing all the right things to encourage genuine and hard-hitting journalism, while applying his business smarts to ensure the paper’s profitability and thus its viability.
“Amazon is no angel, but Trump’s urge to punish it is for all the wrong reasons, triggered by his churlishness over the Post’s coverage of him and his administration,” writes Guardian columnist Jill Abramson, formerly of the Post’s rival The New York Times. “All of this could create a confrontation with the potential to be every bit as dramatic as [former Post owner Katharine] Graham’s clashes with [Richard] Nixon in the 70s. But as was true then, the president may end up being on the losing end of a White House war against the press.”
We can only hope – though somehow, in the weird universe we now inhabit, Trump seems immune to the laws of political physics that eventually brought down the notorious Nixon. American society as a whole is like a deer in the headlights, standing helplessly in the middle of the highway waiting to be run over by whatever juggernaut comes along next. In such times, Jeff Bezos counts as a legitimate hero for having taken $250 million in personal money out of his back pocket to purchase the Post in 2013 and, now, losing billions in his company’s stock valuations as a result of his willingness to support journalism done right – when exactly that is what America needs more than anything.
- 12 May - 18 May, 2018
- 05 May - 11 May, 2018
- 28 Apr - 04 May, 2018
- 21 Apr - 27 Apr, 2018
- 07 Apr - 13 Apr, 2018
- 31 Mar - 06 Apr, 2018
- 24 Mar - 30 Mar, 2018
- 17 Mar - 23 Mar, 2018