Magazine | May 29, 2017, Issue

Sociopolitical Media

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 Stiles — Andrew 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 ...

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

Letters

Letters

Girl with Bull I read Jay Nordlinger’s piece about Fearless Girl (“Girl, Misplaced,” May 1) and her placement opposite Charging Bull and agree that it’s an injustice that the new sculpture ...
The Week

The Week

‐ We were for firing Comey before the Democrats were against it. ‐ President Trump fired FBI director James Comey, who had made himself eminently fireable. Last July, Comey took it ...
Poetry

Poetry

MOONLIGHT IN NASHUA The moonlight rouses me at half past three, piercing through thick curtains I had drawn, but for this gap. My heavy-lidded eyes return the glare. What’s this bald rock to me but ...

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More