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Facebook Is a Doomsday Machine

The architecture of the modern web poses grave threats to humanity. It’s not too late to save ourselves.

Facebook Is a Doomsday Machine - The Atlantic


The doomsday machine was never supposed to exist. It was meant to be a thought experiment that went like this: Imagine a device built with the sole purpose of destroying all human life. Now suppose that machine is buried deep underground, but connected to a computer, which is in turn hooked up to sensors in cities and towns across the United States.

The sensors are designed to sniff out signs of the impending apocalypse—not to prevent the end of the world, but to complete it. If radiation levels suggest nuclear explosions in, say, three American cities simultaneously, the sensors notify the Doomsday Machine, which is programmed to detonate several nuclear warheads in response. At that point, there is no going back. The fission chain reaction that produces an atomic explosion is initiated enough times over to extinguish all life on Earth. There is a terrible flash of light, a great booming sound, then a sustained roar. We have a word for the scale of destruction that the Doomsday Machine would unleash: megadeath.

Nobody is pining for megadeath. But megadeath is not the only thing that makes the Doomsday Machine petrifying. The real terror is in its autonomy, this idea that it would be programmed to detect a series of environmental inputs, then to act, without human interference. “There is no chance of human intervention, control, and final decision,” wrote the military strategist Herman Kahn in his 1960 book, On Thermonuclear War, which laid out the hypothetical for a Doomsday Machine. The concept was to render nuclear war unwinnable, and therefore unthinkable.

Kahn concluded that automating the extinction of all life on Earth would be immoral. Even an infinitesimal risk of error is too great to justify the Doomsday Machine’s existence. “And even if we give up the computer and make the Doomsday Machine reliably controllable by decision makers,” Kahn wrote, “it is still not controllable enough.” No machine should be that powerful by itself—but no one person should be either.

The Soviets really did make a version of the Doomsday Machine during the Cold War. They nicknamed it “Dead Hand.” But so far, somewhat miraculously, we have figured out how to live with the bomb. Now we need to learn how to survive the social web.

People tend to complain about Facebook as if something recently curdled. There’s a notion that the social web was once useful, or at least that it could have been good, if only we had pulled a few levers: some moderation and fact-checking here, a bit of regulation there, perhaps a federal antitrust lawsuit. But that’s far too sunny and shortsighted a view. Today’s social networks, Facebook chief among them, were built to encourage the things that make them so harmful. It is in their very architecture.

I’ve been thinking for years about what it would take to make the social web magical in all the right ways—less extreme, less toxic, more true—and I realized only recently that I’ve been thinking far too narrowly about the problem. I’ve long wanted Mark Zuckerberg to admit that Facebook is a media company, to take responsibility for the informational environment he created in the same way that the editor of a magazine would. (I pressed him on this once and he laughed.) In recent years, as Facebook’s mistakes have compounded and its reputation has tanked, it has become clear that negligence is only part of the problem. No one, not even Mark Zuckerberg, can control the product he made. I’ve come to realize that Facebook is not a media company. It’s a Doomsday Machine.

Read: Breaking up Facebook isn’t enough

The social web is doing exactly what it was built for. Facebook does not exist to seek truth and report it, or to improve civic health, or to hold the powerful to account, or to represent the interests of its users, though these phenomena may be occasional by-products of its existence. The company’s early mission was to “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” Instead, it took the concept of “community” and sapped it of all moral meaning. The rise of QAnon, for example, is one of the social web’s logical conclusions. That’s because Facebook—along with Google and YouTube—is perfect for amplifying and spreading disinformation at lightning speed to global audiences. Facebook is an agent of government propaganda, targeted harassment, terrorist recruitment, emotional manipulation, and genocide—a world-historic weapon that lives not underground, but in a Disneyland-inspired campus in Menlo Park, California.

The giants of the social web—Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram; Google and its subsidiary YouTube; and, to a lesser extent, Twitter—have achieved success by being dogmatically value-neutral in their pursuit of what I’ll call megascale. Somewhere along the way, Facebook decided that it needed not just a very large user base, but a tremendous one, unprecedented in size. That decision set Facebook on a path to escape velocity, to a tipping point where it can harm society just by existing.  

Limitations to the Doomsday Machine comparison are obvious: Facebook cannot in an instant reduce a city to ruins the way a nuclear bomb can. And whereas the Doomsday Machine was conceived of as a world-ending device so as to forestall the end of the world, Facebook started because a semi-inebriated Harvard undergrad was bored one night. But the stakes are still life-and-death. Megascale is nearly the existential threat that megadeath is. No single machine should be able to control the fate of the world’s population—and that’s what both the Doomsday Machine and Facebook are built to do.

The cycle of harm perpetuated by Facebook’s scale-at-any-cost business model is plain to see. Scale and engagement are valuable to Facebook because they’re valuable to advertisers. These incentives lead to design choices such as reaction buttons that encourage users to engage easily and often, which in turn encourage users to share ideas that will provoke a strong response. Every time you click a reaction button on Facebook, an algorithm records it, and sharpens its portrait of who you are. The hyper-targeting of users, made possible by reams of their personal data, creates the perfect environment for manipulation—by advertisers, by political campaigns, by emissaries of disinformation, and of course by Facebook itself, which ultimately controls what you see and what you don’t see on the site. Facebook has enlisted a corps of approximately 15,000 moderators, people paid to watch unspeakable things—murder, gang rape, and other depictions of graphic violence that wind up on the platform. Even as Facebook has insisted that it is a value-neutral vessel for the material its users choose to publish, moderation is a lever the company has tried to pull again and again. But there aren’t enough moderators speaking enough languages, working enough hours, to stop the biblical flood of shit that Facebook unleashes on the world, because 10 times out of 10, the algorithm is faster and more powerful than a person. At megascale, this algorithmically warped personalized informational environment is extraordinarily difficult to moderate in a meaningful way, and extraordinarily dangerous as a result.

These dangers are not theoretical, and they’re exacerbated by megascale, which makes the platform a tantalizing place to experiment on people. Facebook has conducted social-contagion experiments on its users without telling them. Facebook has acted as a force for digital colonialism, attempting to become the de facto (and only) experience of the internet for people all over the world. Facebook has bragged about its ability to influence the outcome of elections. Unlawful militant groups use Facebook to organize. Government officials use Facebook to mislead their own citizens, and to tamper with elections. Military officials have exploited Facebook’s complacency to carry out genocide. Facebook inadvertently auto-generated jaunty recruitment videos for the Islamic State featuring anti-Semitic messages and burning American flags.

Read: Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t understand journalism

Even after U.S. intelligence agencies identified Facebook as a main battleground for information warfare and foreign interference in the 2016 election, the company has failed to stop the spread of extremism, hate speech, propaganda, disinformation, and conspiracy theories on its site. Neo-Nazis stayed active on Facebook by taking out ads even after they were formally banned. And it wasn’t until October of this year, for instance, that Facebook announced it would remove groups, pages, and Instragram accounts devoted to QAnon, as well as any posts denying the Holocaust. (Previously Zuckerberg had defended Facebook’s decision not to remove disinformation about the Holocaust, saying of Holocaust deniers, “I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.” He later clarified that he didn’t mean to defend Holocaust deniers.) Even so, Facebook routinely sends emails to users recommending the newest QAnon groups. White supremacists and deplatformed MAGA trolls may flock to smaller social platforms such as Gab and Parler, but these platforms offer little aside from a narrative of martyrdom without megascale.

In the days after the 2020 presidential election, Zuckerberg authorized a tweak to the Facebook algorithm so that high-accuracy news sources such as NPR would receive preferential visibility in people’s feeds, and hyper-partisan pages such as Breitbart News’s and Occupy Democrats’ would be buried, according to The New York Times, offering proof that Facebook could, if it wanted to, turn a dial to reduce disinformation—and offering a reminder that Facebook has the power to flip a switch and change what billions of people see online.

The decision to touch the dial was highly unusual for Facebook. Think about it this way: The Doomsday Machine’s sensors detected something harmful in the environment and chose not to let its algorithms automatically blow it up across the web as usual. This time a human intervened to mitigate harm. The only problem is that reducing the prevalence of content that Facebook calls “bad for the world” also reduces people’s engagement with the site. In its experiments with human intervention, the Times reported, Facebook calibrated the dial so that just enough harmful content stayed in users’ news feeds to keep them coming back for more.

Facebook’s stated mission—to make the world more open and connected—has always seemed, to me, phony at best, and imperialist at worst. After all, today’s empires are born on the web. Facebook is a borderless nation-state, with a population of users nearly as big as China and India combined, and it is governed largely by secret algorithms. Hillary Clinton told me earlier this year that talking to Zuckerberg feels like negotiating with the authoritarian head of a foreign state. “This is a global company that has huge influence in ways that we’re only beginning to understand,” she said.

I recalled Clinton’s warning a few weeks ago, when Zuckerberg defended the decision not to suspend Steve Bannon from Facebook after he argued, in essence, for the beheading of two senior U.S. officials, the infectious-disease doctor Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray. The episode got me thinking about a question that’s unanswerable but that I keep asking people anyway: How much real-world violence would never have happened if Facebook didn’t exist? One of the people I’ve asked is Joshua Geltzer, a former White House counterterrorism official who is now teaching at Georgetown Law. In counterterrorism circles, he told me, people are fond of pointing out how good the United States has been at keeping terrorists out since 9/11. That’s wrong, he said. In fact, “terrorists are entering every single day, every single hour, every single minute” through Facebook.

The website that’s perhaps best known for encouraging mass violence is the image board 4chan—which was followed by 8chan, which then became 8kun. These boards are infamous for being the sites where multiple mass-shooting suspects have shared manifestos before homicide sprees. The few people who are willing to defend these sites unconditionally do so from a position of free-speech absolutism. That argument is worthy of consideration. But there’s something architectural about the site that merits attention, too: There are no algorithms on 8kun, only a community of users who post what they want. People use 8kun to publish abhorrent ideas, but at least the community isn’t pretending to be something it’s not. The biggest social platforms claim to be similarly neutral and pro–free speech when in fact no two people see the same feed. Algorithmically tweaked environments feed on user data and manipulate user experience, and not ultimately for the purpose of serving the user. Evidence of real-world violence can be easily traced back to both Facebook and 8kun. But 8kun doesn’t manipulate its users or the informational environment they’re in. Both sites are harmful. But Facebook might actually be worse for humanity.

Read: How Facebook works for Trump

“What a dreadful set of choices when you frame it that way,” Geltzer told me when I put this question to him in another conversation. “The idea of a free-for-all sounds really bad until you see what the purportedly moderated and curated set of platforms is yielding … It may not be blood onscreen, but it can really do a lot of damage.”

In previous eras, U.S. officials could at least study, say, Nazi propaganda during World War II, and fully grasp what the Nazis wanted people to believe. Today, “it’s not a filter bubble; it’s a filter shroud,” Geltzer said. “I don’t even know what others with personalized experiences are seeing.” Another expert in this realm, Mary McCord, the legal director at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law, told me that she thinks 8kun may be more blatant in terms of promoting violence but that Facebook is “in some ways way worse” because of its reach. “There’s no barrier to entry with Facebook,” she said. “In every situation of extremist violence we’ve looked into, we’ve found Facebook postings. And that reaches tons of people. The broad reach is what brings people into the fold and normalizes extremism and makes it mainstream.” In other words, it’s the megascale that makes Facebook so dangerous.

Looking back, it can seem like Zuckerberg’s path to world domination was inevitable. There’s the computerized version of Risk he coded in ninth grade; his long-standing interest in the Roman empire; his obsession with information flow and human psychology. There’s the story of his first bona fide internet scandal, when he hacked into Harvard’s directory and lifted photos of students without their permission to make the hot-or-not-style website FaceMash. (“Child’s play” was how Zuckerberg later described the ease with which he broke into Harvard’s system.) There’s the disconnect between his lip service to privacy and the way Facebook actually works. (Here’s Zuckerberg in a private chat with a friend years ago, on the mountain of data he’d obtained from Facebook’s early users: “I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses … People just submitted it. I don’t know why. They ‘trust me.’ Dumb fucks.”) At various points over the years, he’s listed the following interests in his Facebook profile: Eliminating Desire, Minimalism, Making Things, Breaking Things, Revolutions, Openness, Exponential Growth, Social Dynamics, Domination.

Facebook’s megascale gives Zuckerberg an unprecedented degree of influence over the global population. If he isn’t the most powerful person on the planet, he’s very near the top. “It’s insane to have that much speechifying, silencing, and permitting power, not to mention being the ultimate holder of algorithms that determine the virality of anything on the internet,” Geltzer told me. “The thing he oversees has such an effect on cognition and people’s beliefs, which can change what they do with their nuclear weapons or their dollars.”

Facebook’s new oversight board, formed in response to backlash against the platform and tasked with making decisions concerning moderation and free expression, is an extension of that power. “The first 10 decisions they make will have more effect on speech in the country and the world than the next 10 decisions rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Geltzer said. “That’s power. That’s real power.”

In 2005, the year I joined Facebook, the site still billed itself as an online directory to “Look up people at your school. See how people know each other. Find people in your classes and groups.” That summer, in Palo Alto, Zuckerberg gave an interview to a young filmmaker, who later posted the clip to YouTube. In it, you can see Zuckerberg still figuring out what Facebook is destined to be. The conversation is a reminder of the improbability of Zuckerberg’s youth when he launched Facebook. (It starts with him asking, “Should I put the beer down?” He’s holding a red Solo cup.) Yet, at 21 years old, Zuckerberg articulated something about his company that has held true, to dangerous effect: Facebook is not a single place on the web, but rather, “a lot of different individual communities.”

Today that includes QAnon and other extremist groups. Back then, it meant mostly juvenile expressions of identity in groups such as “I Went to a Public School … Bitch” and, at Harvard, referencing the neoclassical main library, “The We Need to Have Sex in Widener Before We Graduate Interest Group.” In that 2005 interview, Zuckerberg is asked about the future of Facebook, and his response feels, in retrospect, like a tragedy: “I mean, there doesn’t necessarily have to be more. Like, a lot of people are focused on taking over the world, or doing the biggest thing, getting the most users. I think, like, part of making a difference and doing something cool is focusing intensely … I mean, I really just want to see everyone focus on college and create a really cool college-directory product that just, like, is very relevant for students and has a lot of information that people care about when they’re in college.”

Read: What we wrote about Facebook 12 years ago

The funny thing is: This localized approach is part of what made megascale possible. Early constraints around membership—the requirement at first that users attended Harvard, and then that they attended any Ivy League school, and then that they had an email address ending in .edu—offered a sense of cohesiveness and community. It made people feel more comfortable sharing more of themselves. And more sharing among clearly defined demographics was good for business. In 2004, Zuckerberg said Facebook ran advertisements only to cover server costs. But over the next two years Facebook completely upended and redefined the entire advertising industry. The pre-social web destroyed classified ads, but the one-two punch of Facebook and Google decimated local news and most of the magazine industry—publications fought in earnest for digital pennies, which had replaced print dollars, and social giants scooped them all up anyway. No news organization can compete with the megascale of the social web. It’s just too massive.

The on-again, off-again Facebook executive Chris Cox once talked about the “magic number” for start-ups, and how after a company surpasses 150 employees, things go sideways. “I’ve talked to so many start-up CEOs that after they pass this number, weird stuff starts to happen,” he said at a conference in 2016. This idea comes from the anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who argued that 148 is the maximum number of stable social connections a person can maintain. If we were to apply that same logic to the stability of a social platform, what number would we find?

“I think the sweet spot is 20 to 20,000 people,” the writer and internet scholar Ethan Zuckerman, who has spent much of his adult life thinking about how to build a better web, told me. “It’s hard to have any degree of real connectivity after that.”

In other words, if the Dunbar number for running a company or maintaining a cohesive social life is 150 people; the magic number for a functional social platform is maybe 20,000 people. Facebook now has 2.7 billion monthly users.

On the precipice of Facebook’s exponential growth, in 2007, Zuckerberg said something in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that now takes on a much darker meaning: “The things that are most powerful aren’t the things that people would have done otherwise if they didn’t do them on Facebook. Instead, it’s the things that would never have happened otherwise.”

Of the many things humans are consistently terrible at doing, seeing the future is somewhere near the top of the list. This flaw became a preoccupation among Megadeath Intellectuals such as Herman Kahn and his fellow economists, mathematicians, and former military officers at the Rand Corporation in the 1960s.

Kahn and his colleagues helped invent modern futurism, which was born of the existential dread that the bomb ushered in, and hardened by the understanding that most innovation is horizontal in nature—a copy of what already exists, rather than wholly new. Real invention is extraordinarily rare, and far more disruptive.

The logician and philosopher Olaf Helmer-Hirschberg, who overlapped with Kahn at Rand and would later co-found the Institute for the Future, arrived in California after having fled the Nazis, an experience that gave his desire to peer into the future a particular kind of urgency. He argued that the acceleration of technological change had established the need for a new epistemological approach to fields such as engineering, medicine, the social sciences, and so on. “No longer does it take generations for a new pattern of living conditions to evolve,” he wrote, “but we are going through several major adjustments in our lives, and our children will have to adopt continual adaptation as a way of life.” In 1965, he wrote a book called Social Technology that aimed to create a scientific methodology for predicting the future.

Read: The silence of the never Facebookers

In those same years, Kahn was dreaming up his own hypothetical machine to provide a philosophical framework for the new threats humanity faced. He called it the Doomsday Machine, and also the Doomsday-in-a-Hurry Machine, and also the Homicide Pact Machine. Stanley Kubrick famously borrowed the concept for the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, the cinematic apotheosis of the fatalism that came with living on hair-trigger alert for nuclear annihilation.

Today’s fatalism about the brokenness of the internet feels similar. We’re still in the infancy of this century’s triple digital revolution of the internet, smartphones, and the social web, and we find ourselves in a dangerous and unstable informational environment, powerless to resist forces of manipulation and exploitation that we know are exerted on us but remain mostly invisible. The Doomsday Machine offers a lesson: We should not accept this current arrangement. No single machine should be able to control so many people.

If the age of reason was, in part, a reaction to the existence of the printing press, and 1960s futurism was a reaction to the atomic bomb, we need a new philosophical and moral framework for living with the social web—a new Enlightenment for the information age, and one that will carry us back to shared reality and empiricism.

Andrew Bosworth, one of Facebook’s longtime executives, has compared Facebook to sugar—in that it is “delicious” but best enjoyed in moderation. In a memo originally posted to Facebook’s internal network last year, he argued for a philosophy of personal responsibility. “My grandfather took such a stance towards bacon and I admired him for it,” Bosworth wrote. “And social media is likely much less fatal than bacon.” But viewing Facebook merely as a vehicle for individual consumption ignores the fact of what it is—a network. Facebook is also a business, and a place where people spend time with one another. Put it this way: If you owned a store and someone walked in and started shouting Nazi propaganda or recruiting terrorists near the cash register, would you, as the shop owner, tell all of the other customers you couldn’t possibly intervene?

Anyone who is serious about mitigating the damage done to humankind by the social web should, of course, consider quitting Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and any other algorithmically distorted informational environments that manipulate people. But we need to adopt a broader view of what it will take to fix the brokenness of the social web. That will require challenging the logic of today’s platforms—and first and foremost challenging the very concept of megascale as a way that humans gather. If megascale is what gives Facebook its power, and what makes it dangerous, collective action against the web as it is today is necessary for change. The web’s existing logic tells us that social platforms are free in exchange for a feast of user data; that major networks are necessarily global and centralized; that moderators make the rules. None of that need be the case. We need people who dismantle these notions by building alternatives. And we need enough people to care about these other alternatives to break the spell of venture capital and mass attention that fuels megascale and creates fatalism about the web as it is now.

I still believe the internet is good for humanity, but that’s despite the social web, not because of it. We must also find ways to repair the aspects of our society and culture that the social web has badly damaged. This will require intellectual independence, respectful debate, and the same rebellious streak that helped establish Enlightenment values centuries ago.

We may not be able to predict the future, but we do know how it is made: through flashes of rare and genuine invention, sustained by people’s time and attention. Right now, too many people are allowing algorithms and tech giants to manipulate them, and reality is slipping from our grasp as a result. This century’s Doomsday Machine is here, and humming along.

It does not have to be this way.


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The deepest irony of this whole “I’m a Republican so I only respect doctors who are medical doctors,” thing is that 300,000 Americans are dead because Republicans didn’t respect medical doctors.

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45 minutes ago, 11Drogba said:

The deepest irony of this whole “I’m a Republican so I only respect doctors who are medical doctors,” thing is that 300,000 Americans are dead because Republicans didn’t respect medical doctors.

and so many of those cunts go by Dr when non medical, plus the average RWer listens to people who go by Dr as well

they are just hypocrical vermin playing hyper-partisan games

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Bat Shit Crazy GIFs | Tenor

Trump is just itching to declare martial law

Legal challenges are one thing, but Trump is clearly desperate to deploy the military to satisfy his own ends.



Trump Weighed Naming Election Conspiracy Theorist as Special Counsel

In a meeting at the White House on Friday, President Trump weighed appointing Sidney Powell, who promoted conspiracy theories about rigged voting machines, to investigate voter fraud.



Heated Oval Office meeting included talk of special counsel, martial law as Trump advisers clash



Trump's former national security advisor says the president should impose martial law to force new elections in battleground states


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QAnon is still spreading on Facebook, despite a ban.



Steven Clown GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

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1 hour ago, Vesper said:



Good that he died, good riddance that fucker. At least he can't put more people at risk anymore. If there is anything good about COVID, is that it kills thick cunts like him who don't care about themselves or others.

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34 minutes ago, manpe said:

Good that he died, good riddance that fucker. At least he can't put more people at risk anymore. If there is anything good about COVID, is that it kills thick cunts like him.

unfortunately the thick cunts take out a lot of innocents

well over 100 million people in the US are fucking deranged

social media has shredded the ties that bind

it is staggering how quickly it did it too

On September 26, 2006, Facebook opened to everyone at least 13 years old with a valid email address.

The full version of Twitter was introduced publicly on July 15, 2006.

Around ten years later Trump was elected on the back of mass psychosis, racism/white nationalism, and magical conspiracy thinking amplified with the nuclear furnace-level blowtorch that became social media.

Instagram is even newer, launched publicly on October 6, 2010, and Snapchat a year later, publicly launched July 8, 2011.

4chan is older than FB (even the beta launch in 2004) and Twitter, having launched October 1, 2003, but it is also far smaller and took longer to morph into a huge RW op in terms of political postings.

 YouTube's first video was put up April 23, 2005, and YT started to explode by 2006.

Finally, there is Reddit, about a year older than FB and Twitter's full public launches, it came out on June 23, 2005, although it also took years to grow into a true force.

The first US election that was influenced to any true degree by social media was Obama in 2008. The so-called left dominate it back then, and the RW took huge notice, and by 2010 were starting down the path to the steamroller it turned into by 2015/16 and the rise of Trump etc. 2006 had very little actual social media interaction, but did have (as did other elections before it going back to 1994 and 1996 and increasing exponentially every two years) some online parts.

It is extraordinarily powerful, scientifically-designed agitprop and brainwashing, and works hand in hand with the traditional RW media like Fox, et al. to dominate the RW narratives, memes and disinfo universe, and keeps them in a delusional lockstep.

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23 hours ago, Vesper said:

Snapchat a year later, publicly launched July 8, 2011.

I know this doesn't belong here, but fuck it, it's so good that it can be posted anywhere :D


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On 12/20/2020 at 0:02 PM, Vesper said:

unfortunately the thick cunts take out a lot of innocents

well over 100 million people in the US are fucking deranged

social media has shredded the ties that bind

it is staggering how quickly it did it too

On September 26, 2006, Facebook opened to everyone at least 13 years old with a valid email address.

The full version of Twitter was introduced publicly on July 15, 2006.

Around ten years later Trump was elected on the back of mass psychosis, racism/white nationalism, and magical conspiracy thinking amplified with the nuclear furnace-level blowtorch that became social media.

Instagram is even newer, launched publicly on October 6, 2010, and Snapchat a year later, publicly launched July 8, 2011.

4chan is older than FB (even the beta launch in 2004) and Twitter, having launched October 1, 2003, but it is also far smaller and took longer to morph into a huge RW op in terms of political postings.

 YouTube's first video was put up April 23, 2005, and YT started to explode by 2006.

Finally, there is Reddit, about a year older than FB and Twitter's full public launches, it came out on June 23, 2005, although it also took years to grow into a true force.

The first US election that was influenced to any true degree by social media was Obama in 2008. The so-called left dominate it back then, and the RW took huge notice, and by 2010 were starting down the path to the steamroller it turned into by 2015/16 and the rise of Trump etc. 2006 had very little actual social media interaction, but did have (as did other elections before it going back to 1994 and 1996 and increasing exponentially every two years) some online parts.

It is extraordinarily powerful, scientifically-designed agitprop and brainwashing, and works hand in hand with the traditional RW media like Fox, et al. to dominate the RW narratives, memes and disinfo universe, and keeps them in a delusional lockstep.

I agree with everything you say about the huge influence social media has on our world today, which is scary.

But I completely disagree that it favors the right..... Not a chance. The left is the highest beneficiary of the social media, so much that in fact, I think it will be so difficult for a republican to win presidency in America if they don't move a little more to the left.

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Trump Is Losing His Mind

The president is discussing martial law in the Oval Office, as his grip on reality falters.



Donald Trump’s descent into madness continues.

The latest manifestation of this is a report in The New York Times that the president is weighing appointing the conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell, who for a time worked on his legal team, to be special counsel to investigate imaginary claims of voter fraud.

As if that were not enough, we also learned that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was pardoned by the president after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, attended the Friday meeting. Earlier in the week, Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, floated the idea (which he had promoted before) that the president impose martial law and deploy the military to “rerun” the election in several closely contested states that voted against Trump. It appears that Flynn wants to turn them into literal battleground states.

None of this should come as a surprise. Some of us said, even before he became president, that Donald Trump’s Rosetta Stone, the key to deciphering him, was his psychology—his disordered personality, his emotional and mental instability, and his sociopathic tendencies. It was the main reason, though hardly the only reason, I refused to vote for him in 2016 or in 2020, despite having worked in the three previous Republican administrations. Nothing that Trump has done over the past four years has caused me to rethink my assessment, and a great deal has happened to confirm it.

Given Trump’s psychological profile, it was inevitable that when he felt the walls of reality close in on him—in 2020, it was the pandemic, the cratering economy, and his election defeat—he would detach himself even further from reality. It was predictable that the president would assert even more bizarre conspiracy theories. That he would become more enraged and embittered, more desperate and despondent, more consumed by his grievances. That he would go against past supplicants, like Attorney General Bill Barr and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, and become more aggressive toward his perceived enemies. That his wits would begin to turn, in the words of King Lear. That he would begin to lose his mind.

So he has. And, as a result, President Trump has become even more destabilizing and dangerous.

“I’ve been covering Donald Trump for a while,” Jonathan Swan of Axios tweeted. “I can’t recall hearing more intense concern from senior officials who are actually Trump people. The Sidney Powell/Michael Flynn ideas are finding an enthusiastic audience at the top.”

Even amid the chaos, it’s worth taking a step back to think about where we are: An American president, unwilling to concede his defeat by 7 million popular votes and 74 Electoral College votes, is still trying to steal the election. It has become his obsession.

In the process, Trump has in too many cases turned his party into an instrument of illiberalism and nihilism. Here are just a couple of data points to underscore that claim: 18 attorneys general and more than half the Republicans in the House supported a seditious abuse of the judicial process.

And it’s not only, or even mainly, elected officials. The Republican Party’s base has often followed Trump into the twilight zone, with a sizable majority of them affirming that Joe Biden won the election based on fraud and many of them turning against medical science in the face of a surging pandemic.

COVID-19 is now killing Americans at the rate of about one per minute, but the president is “just done with COVID,” a source identified as one of Trump’s closest advisers told The Washington Post. “I think he put it on a timetable and he’s done with COVID ... It just exceeded the amount of time he gave it.”

This is where Trump’s crippling psychological condition—his complete inability to face unpleasant facts, his toxic narcissism, and his utter lack of empathy—became lethal. Trump’s negligence turned what would have been a difficult winter into a dark one. If any of his predecessors—Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, to go back just 40 years—had been president during this pandemic, tens of thousands of American lives would almost surely have been saved.

“My concern was, in the worst part of the battle, the general was missing in action,” said Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, one of the very few Republicans to speak truth in the Trump era.

In 30 days, Donald Trump will leave the presidency, with his efforts to mount a coup having failed. The encouraging news is that it never really had a chance of succeeding. Our institutions, especially the courts, will have passed a stress test, not the most difficult ever but difficult enough, and unlike any in our history. Some local officials exhibited profiles in courage, doing the right thing in the face of threats and pressure from their party. And a preponderance of the American public, having lived through the past four years, deserves credit for canceling this presidential freak show rather than renewing it. The “exhausted majority” wasn’t too exhausted to get out and vote, even in a pandemic.

But the Trump presidency will leave gaping wounds nearly everywhere, and ruination in some places. Truth as a concept has been battered from the highest office in the land on an almost hourly basis. The Republican Party has been radicalized, with countless Republican lawmakers and other prominent figures within the party having revealed themselves to be moral cowards, even, and in some ways especially, after Trump was defeated. During the Trump presidency, they were so afraid of getting crosswise with him and his supporters that they failed the Solzhenitsyn test: “The simple act of an ordinary brave man is not to participate in lies, not to support false actions! His rule: Let that come into the world, let it even reign supreme—only not through me.”

During the past four years, the right-wing ecosystem became more and more rabid. Many prominent evangelical supporters of the president are either obsequious, like Franklin Graham, or delusional, like Eric Metaxas, and they now peddle their delusions as being written by God. QAnon and the Proud Boys, Newsmax and One America News, Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson—all have been emboldened.

These worrisome trends began before Trump ran for office, and they won’t disappear after he leaves the presidency. Those who hope for a quick snapback will be disappointed. Still, having Trump out of office has to help. He’s going to find out that there’s no comparable bully pulpit. And the media, if they are wise, will cut off his oxygen, which is attention. They had no choice but to cover Trump’s provocations when he was president; when he’s an ex-president, that will change.

For the foreseeable future, journalists will rightly focus on the pandemic. But once that is contained and defeated, it will be time to go back to focusing more attention on things like the Paris accord and the carbon tax; the earned-income tax credit and infrastructure; entitlement reform and monetary policy; charter schools and campus speech codes; legal immigration, asylum, assimilation, and social mobility. There is also an opportunity, with Trump a former president, for the Republican Party to once again become the home of sane conservatism. Whether that happens or not is an open question. But it’s something many of us are willing to work for, and that even progressives should hope for.

Beyond that, and more fundamental than that, we have to remind ourselves that we are not powerless to shape the future; that much of what has been broken can be repaired; that though we are many, we can be one; and that fatalism and cynicism are unwarranted and corrosive.

There’s a lovely line in William Wordsworth’s poem “The Prelude”: “What we have loved, Others will love, and we will teach them how.”

There are still things worthy of our love. Honor, decency, courage, beauty, and truth. Tenderness, human empathy, and a sense of duty. A good society. And a commitment to human dignity. We need to teach others—in our individual relationships, in our classrooms and communities, in our book clubs and Bible studies, and in innumerable other settings—why those things are worthy of their attention, their loyalty, their love. One person doing it won’t make much of a difference; a lot of people doing it will create a culture.

Maybe we understand better than we did five years ago why these things are essential to our lives, and why when we neglect them or elect leaders who ridicule and subvert them, life becomes nasty, brutish, and generally unpleasant.

Just after noon on January 20, a new and necessary chapter will begin in the American story. Joe Biden will certainly play a role in shaping how that story turns out—but so will you and I. Ours is a good and estimable republic, if we can keep it.

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Trump Failed to Protect America

The president’s decision not to push back aggressively against Putin’s meddling seems only to have encouraged it.


Trump obscured in shadow

As he accepted the Republican nomination for president in summer 2016, Donald Trump promised, “We will make America safe again.”

“The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its citizens,” he said. “Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead.”

This promise is worth revisiting as the nation tries to understand a massive hack, blamed on Russia, that affected many departments of the federal government and thousands of businesses. Yesterday, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency labeled the incident a “grave threat.” Although the scale of the intrusion is still difficult to grasp, President Trump’s approach to Russia has clearly failed to keep America safe.

Much about the hack is unknown. First, officials seem not to fully understand what was breached and what hackers acquired. Second, they are not forthcoming about what they do know, offering bland statements that suggest serious concerns but don’t outline them. Third, members of Congress have offered doomsaying interpretations but can’t divulge classified information. They might be exaggerating for partisan effect, or it could be a reprise of the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when members frantically tried to warn the public but the administration paid no mind.

Read: Donald Trump’s pattern of deference to the Kremlin is clear

Regardless of the details, it’s hard not to see this hack as a fruit of Trump’s refusal to push back on Russian cyberaggression. The best defense against hacks is deterrence, but rather than deter the Kremlin, the president has repeatedly refused to even acknowledge previous Russian actions—basically giving Vladimir Putin an invitation to continue and amplify attacks, secure in the knowledge that whatever sanctions lower-level officials impose, Trump is uninterested in retaliating. The president has remained publicly silent about the new hack even now.

The problem is not that Trump is an active Russian agent. (There is no evidence that he is, despite some hysterical claims.) Nor is it that members of his campaign colluded with Russia in 2016 (though they did). Instead, as I wrote in April 2019, Trump refuses to protect the country from Russian hacking, “because it’s politically inconvenient and personally irritating to him.” The president is so furious over the implication that Russian assistance helped him triumph in 2016 that he has been unable to bring himself to acknowledge not only what happened then but anything that has happened since with regards to Russia.

David A. Graham: Trump refuses to defend the United States

During the 2016 campaign, despite having been briefed on Russia’s role by United States intelligence officials, Trump continued to speculate that the person who hacked the Democratic National Committee “could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.” In July 2017, in Poland, he momentarily seemed to acknowledge Russia’s role—“I think it was Russia”—and then promptly muddied the waters: “and I think it could have been other people in other countries. It could have been a lot of people.” At his disastrous summit with Putin in July 2018, Trump announced that he trusted the Russian president’s denials more than he did his own government. “They said, ‘I think it is Russia,’” he said. “I have President Putin. He just said it is not Russia. I will say this: I do not see any reason why it would be.” Trump’s chief of staff reportedly warned against bringing up Russia around the president because it enraged him. Trump never condemned Russian interference in 2016, and his administration blocked some efforts at strengthening election-security defenses.

The irony is that, despite the protestations of some members of the Trump “resistance,” there’s little reason to believe Russia’s meddling was responsible for his victory. There were many factors in that win—Trump’s effective messaging, his willingness to froth up racism, the Hillary Clinton campaign’s strategic choices, FBI Director James Comey’s handling of an investigation into Clinton’s email—but the Russian actions appear to have been a small factor, if they were one at all.

David A. Graham: Collusion happened

The greater problem was the principle: Russia challenged American sovereignty and took from Trump’s reaction the clear message that they could get away with it. The Trump administration, over the past four years, has imposed a long list of sanctions on Russia for a wide variety of problematic actions—including its hacking attempts related to the 2016 and 2018 elections. But the impact of those actions was continually undercut by the president’s repeated public statements downplaying Russian culpability and signaling his conciliatory approach to Putin’s regime.

In 2020, rather than target election systems or social media—both of which had been hardened somewhat—Russia seems to have gone after other parts of the government, in what amounted to a clever bait and switch. In the first weeks after the election, the U.S. congratulated itself on keeping the election safe, only to learn that Russia had been wreaking havoc elsewhere.

Trump’s failure to protect America has not yet received the attention it deserves—perhaps because it is overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, another example of Trump failing to protect Americans. If experts are right about the gravity of this hack, however, the U.S. will be dealing with the consequences for years to come. Even if the damage proves moderate, the U.S. finds itself with badly deficient cyberdefenses that need to be repaired.

Either way, it’s clear that the federal government’s posture will soon change. Yesterday, President-elect Joe Biden promised to impose “substantial costs” on hackers. “Our adversaries should know that, as president, I will not stand idly by in the face of cyber assaults on our nation,” he said. That should be a dramatic test of a different approach to Russia.

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How Long Can This Continue?

Trump is turning the Republican Party against democracy.



On Friday, December 18, the secretary of the Army and the Army chief of staff formally disavowed any intention of participating in a military coup: “There is no role for the U.S. military in determining the outcome of an American election.”

That’s a fine statement, in line with the long-standing traditions of the U.S. military. It’s alarming, though, that anybody thought it necessary at all. The next day, multiple media sources reported that President Donald Trump has been scheming about a possible coup in the Oval Office with his innermost team of advisers: Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, and Rudy Giuliani.

Trump also reportedly has been looking for some way to institutionalize Powell’s role by appointing her as a special counsel, empowering her to extend her delusive lawsuits past Inauguration Day.

There has already been one successful attempt to institutionalize Trump’s false accusations. On December 1, Attorney General Bill Barr appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, as a special counsel. Durham will now be able to continue his investigation of the Trump-Russia investigation, which Barr hopes will confirm Trump’s complaint that he was the victim of unfair persecution rather than a culprit who mostly got away with it.

None of this looks like a plausible path to preventing President-elect Joe Biden’s lawful inauguration on January 20, 2021. To put it mildly, a military coup against the United States Constitution would require considerable planning. Again, to put it mildly, planning has not been a strong suit of the Trump administration. As with his promise that the coronavirus would just miraculously go away on its own, Trump seems to be hoping that big talk can somehow substitute for hard work—criminal hard work in this case, but still work.

But if a coup—or an attempted coup—is not in the cards, here’s what is. We are getting an answer to the question posed to The Washington Post by an unnamed “senior Republican official”:

What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change … It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan. 20.

We’re seeing the harm.

Though the Trump years, a certain variety of political observer has dismissed Trump’s attacks on the rule of law by pointing out that, by and large, Trump’s projects have failed.


And so on, down the list.

There have always been two answers to this dismissal. The first is that Trump got away with a lot that was previously regarded as wrong and forbidden. He did operate a business as president. He did collect a steady flow of payments from domestic and foreign favor-seekers. He did successfully defy congressional subpoenas and did successfully obstruct a special-counsel investigation; he did use his pardon power to reward associates who kept silent to protect him.

The second answer is that even when Trump has seemingly failed to get his way, he has still succeeded in doing enormous damage. He has moved a suite of terrible acts from the category of unthinkable to the category of possible. No, there won’t be a coup. But we have on record the first ever formal U.S. Army repudiation of a coup. That’s bad enough.

Trump’s co-partisans won’t join the coup. That’s good. They won’t disavow it either. A president who yearned to use the military to overthrow an election remains by far the most popular figure—and most potent fundraiser—in one of the country’s two great parties. That’s a fact with consequences that will not end on January 20.

Most elected Republicans surely disagree with Trump’s actions. They dare not say so. They will try to pretend it never happened—as Don Draper says to Peggy Olson in Mad Men, “It will shock you how much it never happened.” But to the extent that the pretense cannot be sustained, they will have to find ways to condone or excuse Trump’s actions. Along the way, they’ll push the Republican Party toward becoming a self-consciously post-democratic party, a party that accepts antidemocratic and anti-constitutional methods to advance its goals and protect its supporters’ interests.

We’ve seen such parties before in the United States, in the southern states after Reconstruction and before the civil-rights era. Then, those parties were regional. Now the politics of massive resistance has gone national—and in a vehicle that can win a respectable minority of the total vote in an ultra-high-turnout election.

The United States was once warned that it could not continue forever as half slave and half free. How long can it safely continue with only one of its two great parties wholly committed to democracy and legality?

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Hundreds of Maskless Trumpkins Pack Turning Point USA Party at Mar-a-Lago


South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe, and Roger Stone were among those who attended the gala, where hundreds flouted Palm Beach COVID-19 measures.



Hundreds of maskless revelers—including White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem—packed President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach club on Friday night for Turning Point USA’s annual winter gala, flouting local COVID-19 guidelines.

Photos of the event—hosted by the right-wing student group that made headlines last month after refusing to cancel its “Student Action Summit”—showed dozens of maskless guests eating together and cheerfully embracing at the Friday night gala in a Mar-a-Lago ballroom.

Attendees paid a minimum of $2,000—and upwards of $100,000—to hear speeches by several Republican A-listers, including Fox News host Laura Ingraham and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Other Trumpkins, like Corey Lewandowski and Roger Stone, were seen huddling up with guests and taking photos. Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe was also in attendance.

Anna Eskamani, a Democratic state legislator from Orlando, said the winter gala photos are not a surprise given that the Trump administration and Florida’s GOP leadership have no regard for COVID-19 mitigation measures.

“Time and time again, we see Republican leaders make up their own rules,” Eskamani told The Daily Beast. “We are in a crisis in Florida. Not only do these photos show how completely disconnected the Republican Party is from reality, but it hurts our ability to get out of this pandemic.”

Gabe Nies, a Nashville real-estate agent who attended the event, told The Daily Beast that he was invited to the gala by a close friend and flew down from Tennessee for the night.

“I was really grateful for the opportunity to be there and among friends and people that I am with, so to speak,” Nies said, insisting he did not feel unsafe.

Nies, who admitted he had COVID-19 about a month ago, said that everyone wore masks walking into the event—then ditched them as soon as they sat down.

“It wasn’t like we were avoiding each other but it wasn’t like we were not careful either,” Nies said. “Were we crazy and afraid and terrified? No. Our lives are not going to be shut down. We go on moving forward and supporting causes we believe in.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all Americans use face coverings to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, especially in conjunction with social distancing and during indoor gatherings.

Photos posted online show at least a dozen packed tables at the Mar-a-Lago gala, making social distancing impossible. Other photos of the event show guests with their arms draped around each other as they pose for pictures in various areas of Trump’s club, including the swimming pool and near a white marble staircase.

“An amazing evening with an awesome patriot. Trump is still prez,” actress Sam Sorbo posted on Instagram, alongside a photo with McEnany.

The winter gala brazenly flouted Palm Beach County’s COVID-19 guidelines, which requires facial coverings “inside all businesses and establishments.” Photos of the gala only show waiters complying with the mask mandate. To date, 20,567 people have died and 17.9 million more have been infected with the virus in Florida.

Jill Roberts, an infectious disease professor at the University of South Florida, told The Daily Beast it is a “shame we continue to have these types of events” that can easily spread the coronavirus.

“Super-spreading as always can occur in events with a large number of people and put at risk not only the people attending but the essential workers who have no choice but to participate,” Roberts said, adding that the event was “high profile” and sent the “wrong message.”

“The event is social, and not essential. The risks that occurred here were entirely preventable, and do indeed pose risk to the surrounding communities, and moreover extended communities from which the essential workers are likely commuting. The event continues to deviate messaging between top government officials and public health, to the detriment of the most vulnerable,” the professor added.



The gala kicked off the four-day “Student Action Summit” for Turning Point USA, which Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to speak at on Tuesday.

“This event represents freedom,” Charlie Kirk, the group’s 27-year-old founder, said during his 15-minute speech on Saturday, where he blasted COVID-19 restrictions, according to the Palm Beach Post. “That you’re not going to lock us down and shut us up any longer.”

In order to attend the summit, guests had to sign a waiver agreeing to “voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19,” according to Turning Point’s website. The group also controversially said last month they refused to implement a mask mandate at the gala or the four-day event.

“Each person has their own freedom and they need to exercise that responsibly...and that it is part of the spirit of this event,” TPUSA spokesman Andrew Kolvet previously told Business Insider.

At least a hundred young Republicans—chanting “let us in!”—were locked out of the Palm Beach County Convention Center on Saturday after Turning Point USA oversold tickets to the first day of its summit. Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker told the Palm Beach Post that the Republican student group “oversold their contract capacity by 500 to 600 people.”

The event, which reached its 2,000-person capacity, included keynote speeches from Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump Jr.—who also spoke to the barred crowd with a megaphone. Carlson and Sebastian Gorka were also seen outside addressing the group.

“The Convention Center is adhering to the contractual agreement with Turning Point with a 2,000 person capacity; this leaves 500-600 people unable to enter the Convention Center,” Baker said. A Turning Point spokesperson, however, has denied that the group oversold the event or violated its contract with the city.

“We had a plan—once the number hit capacity—to escort kids into other spaces,” Kolvet told the outlet. “Once they locked the foyer doors, the students were unable to get in to get their badges.”

The Florida Department of Health and Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Beast. A Palm Beach Sheriff’s spokesperson also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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