Magazine | May 29, 2017, Issue

Sociopolitical Media

Anthony Weiner departs U.S. Federal Court, following his sentencing after pleading guilty to one count of sending obscene messages to a minor. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Whatever your opinion of Donald Trump, you have to admit: He was right about perverts.

For years, our current president implored the Democratic establishment to cut ties with former congressman Anthony Weiner, a “sicko” whose deviant bent and proximity to Hillary Clinton threatened our national security and would inevitably “bring down” the people around him. They should have listened.

Former FBI director James Comey recently explained to members of Congress that his controversial eleventh-hour “meddling” in the presidential election was prompted by the discovery of classified e-mails on Weiner’s hard drive, forwarded by his wife, Huma Abedin, along with a request to “pls print.”

Nevertheless, Hillary persisted in holding Comey (and Vladimir Putin, and the media, and sexism) accountable for the demise of her otherwise compelling candidacy. (So compelling, in fact, that her campaign aides reportedly considered “Because it’s her turn” as a potential rallying cry.)

Even if Hillary is right, the implications are not as profound as she and many of her conspiracy-minded fans would like to believe. Mainly, it would mean that Anthony Weiner, a.k.a. “Carlos Danger,” has finally eclipsed Bill Clinton for the title of most consequential pervert in American politics. Congratulations are in order.

A far more distressing development is Hillary’s official decampment from her woodland refuge in Chappaqua. The failed candidate is not only hawking another tedious memoir on the corporate-speaking circuit, she’s also starting a political-action committee, presumably to help kick-start Chelsea’s inevitable foray into politics. But since hell hath no fury like a Clinton scorned, we can’t really rule anything out, can we? The soul shudders at the thought of the atrocious eyesight puns a third Clinton campaign could assault us with in 2020, touting her “perfect vision for the future,” or whatever. The heart sinks.

We’ll mark her down as a “maybe.” In the meantime, those of us in search of political disruption must turn our gaze upon the American heartland, where a rich nerd walks among average voters posing for endearing photo ops. His name is Mark Zuckerberg, and he’s definitely running for president.

Officially, the 32-year-old Facebook founder has “no plans” to run for president at this time, but no one believes him. He’s spent the last several months pursuing his New Year’s resolution — to visit and meet people in every state in the country, a quest that has taken him to Charlotte Motor Speedway, a Ford assembly line in Michigan, a dairy farm in Wisconsin, and a random family’s dinner table in Ohio. It’s almost as if he is deliberately trolling a certain failed candidate who woefully underperformed in Rust Belt states.

Zuckerberg has been documenting his travels on his multi-billion-dollar social-media platforms and even responds to comments from his (90 million!) followers like an actual person. His photo stream is a parody of the little indignities we force our politicians to endure: driving a tractor, feeding a calf, touring a factory, chowing down on brats and cheese curds. What sort of sane, politically unambitious person would subject himself to this?

In case there was any doubt as to his intentions, Zuckerberg, who for years identified as an atheist, recently renounced his lack of faith in response to a Facebook comment. “I went through a period where I questioned things,” he wrote, “but now I believe religion is very important.”

Zuckerberg would obviously run as a Democrat, or as the founding member of an obnoxious new party that rejects political ideology in favor of “what works.” There will never cease to be an appetite among cultural elites for a technocratic centrism that values corporate profits and social justice while embracing TED-talk pablum as a form of enlightened discourse. “Can the US elect a young centrist disruptor his [sic] starts his/her own party? Yes, we can,” journalist Ron Fournier tweeted in response to Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the French election.

We probably could. Zuckerberg enjoys high name recognition and decent approval ratings. He’s a self-made billionaire who speaks Mandarin and clears (though not by much) the low bar of being more charismatic than Hillary. He’d make history as the youngest president, and the first Jewish president, now that he’s found religion again. Oh yeah, and he has access to more information about our personal lives and predilections than our closest friends and relatives do.

Politics aside, a national conversation about the merits of social media, and Silicon Valley culture writ large, wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Zuckerberg describes his work as “connecting the world and giving everyone a voice.” Unless you live in China and want to be connected to unsavory information about your government. Facebook, in an effort to re-enter the Chinese market, has developed software to enable state-sponsored censorship.

The company recently announced the hiring of 3,000 new content monitors because its widely touted livestream service is giving voice to too many murderers and other violent criminals. Social media are just reality television 2.0: crass, shallow entertainment fueled by petty grievances, often fake, but at least we get to be the stars of the show, plugging our personal brands, curating our best selves, optimized for advertising. Thanks, Zuckerberg.

Our favorite tech firms, meanwhile, have evolved from plucky underdogs into corporate behemoths that commoditize our daily lives and employ hordes of lobbyists on Capitol Hill, yet they somehow manage to evade the animosity and skepticism directed at Wall Street and “Big Business.” Why not put them in charge of the government? We’d hardly notice if they started slipping constitutional amendments into our terms-and-conditions contracts. Do you agree?

– Mr. Stiles is a freelance journalist in New York City.

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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