THE HISTORY OF A GENERATION IN SEVEN SCAMS
The social media scam
Surely the millennial The most successful has been Mark Zuckerberg, thirty-five, whose social network is already worth eleven digits. Pulling low, with its fifty-five billion dollars, Zuckerberg has five million times more money than an average American family, whose capital is around eleven thousand seven hundred dollars. He is the eighth richest person in the world. As the founder of Facebook, he effectively controls something similar to a staging: given that a quarter of the world’s population uses its website at least once a month, it can influence elections, change the way we interact between us, as well as to control in broad strokes the definitions of what is socially acceptable or not. The most characteristic feature of Zuckerberg is that he lacks a discernible personality. In 2017 he toured the United States that led to the growth of rumors about the possibility of starting the race towards the presidency, while conveying the feeling of being an alien who was learning to impersonate one of us. The disharmony in the heart of Facebook is due, even in part, to the fact that he is that man, among all the possible ones – the same one who once said that having different identities showed “lack of integrity” – who understood better than anyone else, people, in the 21st century, would become a commodity such as cotton or gold.
The rise of Zuckerberg to the territory of the candidates via president was started one night in October 2003, when he was still a sophomore at Harvard. He was bored, wrote on his blog and needed to stop thinking about his ex, a real “slut.” At 9:49 p.m. he wrote:
I’m a little tipsy, I’m not going to deny it. What would happen if it wasn’t almost ten o’clock on a Tuesday night? The Facebook of the Kirkland University dormitory is open on my desk and some of those people have posted some horrendous photos on their facebook. I would like to place them next to pictures of farm animals and that people vote which one they find most attractive.
At 11:10 p.m., the issue took a turn: Yes, it is underway. I’m not quite sure how farm animals are going to fit into this thing (you can never be completely sure of farm animals …), but I like the idea of eating two people.
“Let the battle begin,” he wrote just after one o’clock in the morning.
Zuckerberg created a website called Facemash (“Mix of faces”), which placed photos of Harvard students, next to each other, and asked you to vote to choose between them. It was not an original concept: in 2000, two newly graduated university students, after discussing the foliage of a woman they met on the street, they created the Hot or Not website. (These were two young men, of course, like the founders of YouTube, who also stated that they originally intended to create a Hot or Not replica.) But when Facemash was launched, four hundred and fifty people visited the web in the first four hours and voted a total of twenty-two thousand times. Zuckerberg got into a problem, because some students complained that the web was invasive, but many others liked the idea of a directory on-line that would allow comparing equals in a more acceptable way. In Crimson They wrote that Facemash provided “clear indications that there is the possibility of a Facebook for the entire campus.” Zuckerberg understood that he could create in a month what Harvard would take much longer and launched the first version of Facebook in February. In the next two weeks, four thousand people signed up.
When I signed up for Facebook (or “thefacebook”) at the end of my last year of high school, I felt like I was entering a wonderful narcissistic dream. By that time, I was at the height of interest in myself and spent all my time imagining what I would become when I was not limited by an environment of Republicans and daily classes on the Bible. My friends and I already used to create digital avatars – we entered AIM, MySpace, Xanga, LiveJournal – and Facebook seemed to clarify and formalize that concept; We had the impression that when we entered Facebook we were going to a virtual town hall to register our identities as protoadults. (At that time, Facebook was restricted to university students, but in 2006 it was opened for anyone over thirteen with an email address.) When I entered the university, people joked about getting home drunk and start looking at your Facebook pages; a precursor of scroll infinity that social networks offer today. The concept was fascinating from the beginning: a reliable website, which on an aesthetic level was not embarrassing, every time, it seems, was dedicated to offering the improved version of oneself.
At that time, we had the impression that we used a wonderful new product. Today, more than a decade later, it has become clear that we, the users, are the real product. Although Zuckerberg did not carry out this fa consciously, the people who signed up for Facebook, all who have ever opened an account — the two thousand two hundred and fifty million people who use it once a month (and up) At least – they have been scammed in any case. Facebook sells our attention to advertisers. It sells our personal data to market research companies and our vague political trends remain in the hands of special interest groups. On the other hand, Facebook has fooled people directly on many occasions: it has inflated the viewing statistics of its videos above 900%, for example, proving that almost all media companies vary in their own strategies – and lay off workers — to copy an optimization program from Facebook that didn’t really exist. In the months prior to the 2016 elections, Facebook stated that there had been no significant interference by Russia in its network, despite the fact that an internal committee of the company, dedicated to investigating this issue, had found evidence of such interference. (Later, Facebook treated a Republican research group of opposition groups to discredit the growing opposition to the company.) Facebook has allowed other companies, such as Netflix or Spotify, to read the private messages of its users. He has tricked children into spending their parents’ money on Facebook games through tactics that, within the company itself, are known as “friendly fraud.”
But even when Facebook is not deliberately taking advantage of its users, it does; Your business model demands it. Even if you distance yourself from Facebook, you continue to live in a world where you continue to model reality. Fa cebook uses our innate narcissism and our desire to connect with other people to capture our attention and our behavior patterns; He has used such attention and such data to manipulate our behavior, to the point that almost half of the United States has begun to rely on Facebook to access the news. In fact, the media depend on Facebook to reach readers and are helpless in the face of the ability of the social network to absorb digital advertising revenues – it is as if a newspaper vendor keeps all the money from subscriptions – and Facebook twisted the economic model of the media to adapt to their own practices: if what is intended is to gain visibility, all publications have to capture attention quickly and constantly trigger emotional responses. The result was, in 2016, an endless stream of stories about Trump, both in the media mainstream as in the peripheral ads that the Facebook algorithm launched tirelessly. What began as, from Zuckerberg’s point of view, a way to capitalize on university misogyny and the interest that people feel for themselves, has become the fuel for our contemporary nightmare, for a world that, of Systematically and fundamentally, misrepresents human needs.
At a basic level, Facebook, like most social networks, develops a double discourse: it proposes connection but creates isolation, promises happiness but instills fear. Today, Facebook’s own terminology dominates our culture, which has caused the most worrying structural changes of our era, which come to light accompanied by small, isolated and misleading samples of emotional virality. We are witnessing how workers are increasingly unprotected by reading a post in a blog that celebrates how a driver at the Lyft company continued to pick up passengers despite having gone into labor. We are witnessing the madness of the privatization of health in the forced positive vision of a Kickstarter campaign to pay chemo therapy to a stranger. On Facebook, our basic sense of humanity acquires a new dimension as a viral asset from which to extract profitability. Our social potential is limited to our ability to attract public attention, which is inextricably mixed with its economic survival. Instead of fair wages and benefits, we have our personalities, our stories and our relationships; and we better learn to pack them properly in case we suffer an accident and we are not insured.
More than any other entity, Facebook has solidified the idea that we exist in the form of a high-performance public avatar. But Zuckerberg, focusing on the fact that we would be able to sell our identity in exchange for becoming visible, raised a wave that has not stopped growing. The real world It began broadcasting when Zuckerberg was eight years old; Survivor Y The bachelor When I was in high school. Friendster was founded during his first year at the university. Shortly after Facebook, YouTube arrived in 2005, Twitter in 2006, Instagram in 2010, Snapchat in 2011. Now children become viral on TikTok, they accumulate followers on Musical.ly; the gamers They earn my tickets by broadcasting their lives live on Twitch. The two most prominent families, both politically and culturally – the Trump and the Kardashian – have reached the top of the food chain thanks to their wonderful understanding of the little substance required to package the self until it becomes a eternally monetizable asset. In fact, in this game the substance can even be anathema. And with that, applause roars, iPhone cameras begin to skyrocket and the keynote speaker at the women’s empowerment conference takes the stage.
The last and final scam of the generation millennial It was the election as president in 2016 of a renowned scammer. Donald Trump has been a full-time scammer, proud of himself and, apparently, unstoppable. For decades, before going into politics, he sold a fraudulent personal account that painted him as a self-made billionaire, frankly and lightly populist; It is curious that the fact that the lie could be seen with the naked eye became an essential part of its attraction. In his 1987 book, written by a literary black, Trump the art of negotiation, Trump – surrounded then, as now, by an aura of ostentation in the style of tacky skyscrapers – coined the phrase true hyperbole, which he defined as a “very effective form of promotion.” When he was promoting the book on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” he refused to clarify how much his estate really amounted. In 1992 he made a movie camo Home Alone 2: I indicated an address to Ma caulay Culkin while they were planted in the lobby of the Plaza hotel, surrounded by marble columns and crystal chandeliers. (That was one of the conditions for filming in one of Trump’s hotels: it was mandatory to include him in a scene.) That same year, he went bankrupt for the second time. In 2004, the year of his third bankruptcy, he started presenting the program “The Appren tice”, in which he, a brilliant businessman, had to ask other people on television. He had spectacular success. But Trump’s fraud goes far beyond false advertising. He has always made his profits by exploiting those who are over and abusing them. In the 1970s, Richard Nixon’s Justice Department sued him after developing a strategy to drive blacks out of their houses of official protection. In 1980, he hired two hundred Polish immigrants without papers to clean the lot where he would build the Trump Tower: he put them to work without gloves or helmets and, on occasion, forced them to stay there to sleep. In 1981 he bought a building south of Central Park with the intention of converting limited-income apartments into luxury apartments; When the tenants did not leave, he sent them illegal eviction orders, cut off their heat and hot water, and put up newspaper ads offering to house the homeless in the building. He is reputed not to pay his waiters, his construction workers, his plumbers, his chauffeurs. On one occasion he rented his name to a couple of scammers called Irene and Mike Malin, directors of the Trump Institute, a “wealth creation workshop” that plagiarized the materials he used and declared bankruptcy in 2008. He spent tens of thousands of dollars buying their own books to inflate the sales figures. Its charitable foundation, which has barely dedicated money to charity, has been accused on repeated occasions of violating the laws of self-contracting. The approach is frightening even when it is portrayed as an anecdote: in 1997, Trump did a good job for once at a Bronx primary school in which the chess team was trying to get $ 5,000 for a tournament. After publicly handing them a fake check worth $ 1 million and taking pictures with them, he sent them $ 200 by mail.
Before starting the presidential race, Trump’s most horrible scam was Trump University, the project in which he promised to teach people his secrets to get rich at full speed thanks to the secrets of the real estate market. As soon as the company was launched, in 2005, the New York State Attorney General sent a notification to Trump University indicating that falsely announcing it as a “graduate program” meant a breach of the law. The company changed the advertising a bit and continued its cheerful campaign to persuade people to pay one thousand five hundred dollars for attending a three-day seminar that promised tricks of incalculable financial value but that, in fact, offered trips to Home Depot , ton basic basics about timeshare and arguments to buy the authentic Trump University programs, which cost thirty-five thousand dollars that had to be paid in advance. In one of the class action lawsuits against Trump, a former merchant testified the following:
Although Trump University claimed to want to help consumers earn money in the real estate market, in reality Trump University was only interested in selling to each and every one of those present the most expensive seminars they could. […] According to my personal experience as an employee, I believe that Trump University was a fraudulent plot that took advantage of older people and untrained people to get their money.
Three days before his inauguration as president, Trump paid twenty-five million dollars to settle the fraud claims related to Trump University. The order came from Gonzalo Curiel, a judge whom Trump had implied that he had been unfair during the trial for a personal bias against him; Curiel was Mexican, Trump said, hence he had prejudices against him, because he planned to build a wall on the border with that country.
As president, Trump receives his daily reports in large printed cards with information that is reduced, as a White House assistant has pointed out, to messages of the complexity of “Watch Jane Run.” He became president despite not really wanting it and, as the vapors of our young but prematurely aging country were pushing him into the Oval Hall, he made dozens of promises, empty and quirky, along the way. He promised to process Hillary Clinton, launch Bowe Bergdahl from a parachute-free plane, get Nabisco to produce his Oreo cookies in the United States, get Apple to produce his iPhone in the United States, recover all those jobs for the United States, eliminate Areas without weapons in schools, condemn to death anyone who killed a policeman, deport all undocumented immigrants, spy on mosques, eliminate funds for family planning, “take care of women”, end Obamacare, to close the EPA (acronym in English of the Environmental Protection Agency), force everyone to say “Merry Christmas”, build an “artistically beautiful” wall between the United States and Mexico that would be the “greater than never seen, get Mexico to pay for it, and — the funniest of all, or something like that— never take vacations as president. (During his first 500 days in office he went to play golf on 122 occasions.) He made all those promises moved by a kind of maniac and insane seller’s instinct, using all the things that, half secretly, most excite its bases – violence, do minio, renege on the social contract – and throwing them at crowds that kept roaring. When the map began to turn red on election night and the terrible meter of the Times turned in the opposite direction to the planned one, I experienced a foul flash forward of what could happen, at the end of the Trump legislature, with separated immigrant families, Muslims expelled two from the country, refugee entry denied to the country, transgender people deprived of the rights of those who had just begun enjoy, poor children without health coverage, disabled children without assistance, low-income women who could not safely abort; I imagined how things would be when people who, unconsciously, do not believe that any of these issues are too important on a personal level, say, as I am sure they will do, that the Trump era was not so bad after all. If all politicians are criminals, what is the difference? Why not leave our country to Trump until tomorrow, when everything has collapsed and, in addition, we no longer have the slightest idea of what the future will hold? And here is one of the most shocking details that the Trump era has brought to light: to withstand all this with some psychological stability – without descending every day to an emotional abyss – a person’s best strategy is to think especially in itself. Checking that wealth continues to flow upwards, seeing that Americans see us every day a little more deprived of our democracy, that political action is restricted to internet shows, I have felt on many occasions that the only choice we have at this time it is to be destroyed or morally commit ourselves to the objective of being functional; be destroyed or be functional to contribute to that destruction.
In January 2017, Trump gave a press conference flanked by a huge stack of papers, apparently blank. It was, he said, all the documents he had signed to get rid of conflicts of interest that affected him; it was all the paperwork through which he had put the family business in the hands of his children. (Obviously, journalists were not allowed to examine these papers.) In January 2018, Trump had dedicated a third of his first year as president to take care of his business interests. He talked publicly about his business at least thirty-five times. More than a hundred members of Congress and executive positions had visited Trump properties; eleven foreign governments had paid money to Trump companies; Different political groups had spent one million two hundred thousand on Trump’s property. MaraLago’s revenues had reached a maximum of eight million. The economic benefit is Trump’s ultimate goal, his only ambition. He won’t keep any of his promises: he can’t throw Bowe Bergdahl from a helicopter or get Mexico to pay for a wall, or generate a new boom economic like that of the postwar period, it will not be able to end the idea that women and minorities deserve equal rights, no matter how traditional; But all that does not matter. As a rich white man, intolerant and greedy, for many people he represents the purest quintessence of power and force in the United States. He was chosen for the same reasons that people buy lottery tickets. You don’t pay for the real chance of winning; It is about the ephemeral vision of victory. “We sell a chimera for the typical loser,” Billy McFarland told the cameras while he was in the Bahamas recording the promotional video for the Fyre Fest. The chimera has become the dominant structure to aspire to, but the dark side of its final development – cruelty, indifference, nihilism – is always present. After all, by becoming part of the scam, we access a part of the abominable glory of the thymus: we see, if we do not experience directly, what it can mean to plunder and leave unscathed.
It would be much better, of course, to do things on a moral basis. But who today has the skill or time needed for something like that? Everything is overheating, not just the physical world. The “margin of rejection,” as defined by Jenny Odell, narrows and the bar rises. People are so busy trying to return to the starting point, build a barrier against disaster or have a good time, there is very little left to count on: three efforts that could condense most of the human effort until our exhausted planet finally gets extinguish And, while we dedicate ourselves to that – because that’s what we do – the path of honesty continues to narrow, running out of power. In this ecosystem, fewer and fewer justifiable survival options are available to us.
I still believe, I have no choice but to do it, that I can leave this one. After all, it only took me seven years of intimate exhibition on the Internet to reach a place where I felt comfortable stopping using Amazon to save me fifteen minutes and five dollars of a stroke. I tell myself that all those minimal bits of relief, convenience and advantage will finally accumulate until they become something transformative; that one day I will ascend to a level where I no longer have to transition ever again, where I can really behave consciously, where some imaginary future actions will counter all the selfish prey that took place before. I know that it is merely a useful fantasy. We are what we do, and we do what we are used to and, like many members of my generation, I went from adolescence to this frail, frantic and unstable adulthood, observing this ceaseless demonstration that cheating, despite Everything is worth it.