Corporate Fragility

Cynicism–the anecdote to overblown claims and false promises! Or is that skepticism? Maybe it’s both, and when it comes to the alleged war between corporate America and the Republicans, I’ll happily wear both labels. Mitch McConnell isn’t wrong when he says, “[P]arts of the private sector keep dabbling in behaving like a woke parallel government,” but what exactly is he going to do about it? Raise taxes to 35%? Statements from McConnell and his ilk regarding corporate America are as empty as the 2020 Republican Party Platform. McConnell knows it, his peers in Congress know it, and so does corporate America.

Under the Trump Administration, the corporate tax rate was permanently cut from 35% to 21%, aggressive de-regulation was pushed through both via Executive Order and legislation, the wealth gap grew to unprecedented levels, corporate stock buybacks exploded, and to top it off the COVID-19 pandemic left one-third of the country behind on housing payments, yet in a seeming paradox, housing prices are currently rising at levels not seen since the mid-2000s bubble

Yes, big business and shareholders are thriving under the Trump-era policies, so why is corporate America suddenly seemingly ready to embrace the social justice issues of our time? Profit, of course! The Republicans sure as hell aren’t going to raise taxes or regulate business and white-collar corporations have much to gain by supporting social justice issues popular with the middle and working class. Cue the DE&I Industrial Complex!

A Starbucks manager calls the police because two black men sit down without placing an order, Gucci had a sweater some said looked like blackface, John Schlatter, founder and former CEO of Papa John’s uttered a racial slur, all behaviors that certainly don’t indicate and inclusive environment, but also can cost companies a pretty penny when it comes to lawsuits and the PR image affecting the bottom line.

From the perspective of profits and fiduciary duty to shareholders, what better solution is there than to acquiesce the left with corporate virtue signaling by bringing in Diversity Officers while still reaping the benefits of a deregulated economy that allows corporations to continue to shift the burden of healthcare and retirement costs to their employees (not to mention taking advantage of global wage disparities by hiring workers in poorer and/or oppressed countries)? After all, they can defend the next lawsuit due to a Schnatter-esque outburst by saying, “Look, we train on diversity and that guy got fired!” Boards of Directors can point to gains in areas such as diversity hiring in fields where women and minorities are traditionally under-represented, make strides to ensure that pay is equal across sex, race, gender, and age (these, of course, are admirable goals), but then ignore the larger systemic class issues that span across all demographics. Don’t fall for the sleight of hand, these initiatives aren’t getting us anywhere near what should be a societal goal to eliminate poverty, provide equal opportunity and ensure workers (in America and around the globe) are paid their fair share in an increasingly productive society. Corporations aren’t going to fix this problem, neither is the Democratic Party who is in bed with them, nor the Republican Party who stands in the hallway pretending to be a jilted lover but then happily joins in the threesome behind closed doors.

Call me a cynic.  

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The Ends Do Not Justify the Means

“The ends do not justify the means.” 

While the Catholic Church is far from the only world religion or philosophy that espouses this virtue, having been thoroughly immersed in the Church’s teachings growing up, the Catechism was one of the first places I encountered this precept: “A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means…On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good.“ It is repeated with a different twist several lines later “An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention” (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means.”

These two lines very succinctly summarize the push and pull in the age-old debate between Consequentialism and Deontological ethics. Without delving further into a philosophical quagmire, we’re left with a widely agreed upon pair of statements that most modern societies adhere to: 1) Intentions are not everything; 2) Consequences are not everything.

So where does that leave us when it comes to what currently stands as the exclamation point to the worst Presidency of my lifetime and quite probably since the Pierce/Buchanan/Johnson trifecta in the years surrounding the Civil War? Wherever you may fall on the spectrum of intentions vs. consequences, it can be inferred that accomplishing a goal (the ends) is better done through actions that are more, rather than less, virtuous; that is, if you are not someone who falls into the camp of being an absolutist on the Consequentialism end of the spectrum, you’d agree that accomplishing a goal with more intrinsically just actions is better than the alternative.

This is not where we are in America and it has not been where avid Trump supporters nor the zeitgeist of the Republican Party has been for quite some time now. I’ve run into countless justifications for supporting the outgoing President such as, “He got us the judges,” “He cut my taxes,” or “he made the military stronger,” (but maybe not as bigly as others). Those are the ends. I’ll get to the means momentarily, but first look back at the debate stage at the 2016 Republican primaries. Which of these men could not have appointed the judges (hint: It wasn’t Trump’s expert knowledge of the judicial bench in America that got hundreds of judges appointed), cut taxes (second hint: none of these men were proposing tax increases), or made the military stronger (third hint: since Eisenhower warned of the danger of the Military Industrial Complex, no Republican since Richard Nixon, albeit dealing with a heavily Democratic Congress, has ever decreased military spending, not in peace-time, not in war-time, not in times in between where Congress ceded powers to declare war to the Executive Branch)? In case the hints didn’t resonate, the answer is none. None of these men were incapable of delivering these desired things, and one could reasonably argue that many were eminently more qualified to deliver upon even more of their promises.

Now, what was the price? Democratic Majority Rule. How are those judges working out for the Die-Hard Always-Trumpers who can’t seem to fathom that they won’t hand Trump cases on a silver platter; or, that believe it or not, even the most conservative judges took an oath to uphold the Constitution, but not to promote his or her own ideology or prove loyalty to a demagogue? 

Now, the means. In the latest line of unethical acts that pave Trump’s road of bad intentions, he threw the rioters that he incited under the bus. He riled up an angry mob that he and his sycophants spent weeks feeding bullshit-line after bullshit-line about the election he legitimately lost, and then pretending that “people are just concerned,” not unlike a mafia racketeering outfit that insists people are concerned about the vandalism in the neighborhood that’s taking place because the store owners aren’t paying up. Tony Soprano has nothing on Donald Trump.

Brad Raffensberger voted for Trump, and upheld his Constitutional oath to oversee a free and fair election in the state of Georgia. What did Trump do? Fed him to the wolves. These are just the last two instances, we need not recount the numerous other people Don the Con has dismissed from his circle for insufficient loyalty.

For four long years, the means have been “Deny, divert, discredit.” For those who followed Trump’s rise to fame, we know this tactic has gone on for far longer, mentored by the Chief Counsel to Joseph McCarthy and mob lawyer extraordinaire, Roy Cohn. Cohn was the first in a long line of cartoonish thugs to grace Trump’s inner circle, an expert propagandist, brilliant (even if he used this brilliance towards the wrong ends) lawyer, and pre-eminent fast-talker. Remind you of anyone, brilliant lawyer aside? If it doesn’t, maybe you’ve fallen prey to Trump’s long con as well.

Books can be written (and, boy have they ever) about these topics and many others surrounding the life of Donald Trump, but to close out I’ll focus on some of the subjective fallout of this man’s Presidency that I’ve experienced.

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From the time I registered to vote in 1998 until early 2020, I remained unaffiliated with any political party. One of the lessons I remember (when I wasn’t sleeping due to class starting at 7:30 AM) from my 11th grade High School teacher were the words from George Washington’s Farewell Address: 

However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

If you find yourself prone to pareidolia, you may be tempted to attribute Washington with soothsaying abilities. In this case, the likely reality is that he was an astute observer of the human race making a keen observation about human nature. The lesser well known part of his quote to which the bracketized “political parties” refers to is the preceding description of their nature, which includes: 

They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

I can think of no better description for the hard-core Trumpists and their agenda, an agenda fully driven by the desires of a narcissistic demagogue who only wishes to use people to his own self-promotional ends (there’s that pesky problem again), a trait that is perhaps innocuous in the realm of reality television, but toxic to liberal democracy when self-promotion is the means and adulation is the desired end. 

Over the last four years, I’ve had some lifelong and nearly-lifelong relationships with friends and family members end in no small part due to “ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction,” seemingly reasonable people who appear to have exchanged their personal relationships for fellating a wannabe dictator. I highlighted some of these problems in my post Why I Left FB. In addition to these experiences, I was once called a supporter of eugenics because I fact-checked a claim that Planned Parenthood traffics in aborted fetal body parts, I was called a Nazi because I dared say that while I support the efforts of Antifa supporters rescuing injured civilians in the Charlottesville Rally, I will not endorse Antifa’s philosophy of free speech suppression and violence, I’ve been called a Communist for daring to propose that health care should not be contingent upon one’s wealth or ability to work; and as a more amusing insult, an Ivory Tower elitist who votes for people based upon their looks…One day, I may write about how I came to be a Nazi Communist Liberal Free Speech Advocate, but at the moment the right combination of words escape me.

For the record, I live in a Cape Cod style house in a blue collar neighborhood, still have student loan debt, and pay more than my fair share in taxes, especially after the poorly planned tax cuts mentioned earlier. These same people, from whom I never received so much as an acknowledgment that they’d publicly misrepresented my views (with the sole exception one of the multiple Nazi allegations were removed at threat of lawsuit and a trip to HR–yes–this person was at the time a coworker), much less an apology, continue to litter Facebook with the typical ad hominem attacks, straw men, insults, and whataboutery (ironic given its origins). 

Allegiance to a man above principles, allegiance to a cult of personality over ideas, and allegiance to a man who would not hesitate to abandon them when they are no longer useful to him, all for what? Run-of-the-mill Republican policy wins in exchange for burning down trust in Government, trust in each other, and the effective function of our Government

To all the die-hard supporters of this man, especially the religious hypocrites who exchanged their embrace of moral character in leaders for rank opportunism–are the damaged relationships, the riots in the streets, the hundreds of thousands dead of a virus we handled worse than just about every country on earth, the dead civilians and cops at Capitol Hill, the thrill of adrenaline in “owning a lib” all worth it? 

Did the ends justify the means?


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Why I Wear A Mask

Would you say the Vietnam War has made an indelible impact on the zeitgeist of America, even as we approach half a century since it thankfully ended? Or, in the spirit of a soon to be former President, Vietnam had TREMENDOUS CONSEQUENCES! DEATH LIKE YOU’VE NEVER SEEN!

Oh, my bad, that last link was supposed to go here

The Vietnam War sucked in 8.744 million Servicemembers, wounded 153,000, and killed another 90,000. Spanning over a decade, it was met with widespread protests against the senseless loss of life and the Federal Government’s lack of willingness to put an end to it. COVID-19 has striking parallels, only it has surpassed Vietnam’s 8.744 million “cases” by a few million, the 153,000 wounded by an order of magnitude and the 90,000 dead three-fold. And it has done it in just 8 months! Now, you can look at the COVID numbers and say ultimately, it has killed only a couple percent of the people it infects, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are more likely to die, and we shouldn’t worry ourselves with ridiculous notions about trying to stop the spread. After all, Vietnam only killed about 1% of its participants, and besides, if you weren’t a young man between the age of 18 and 30, you were much less likely to die. Why bother protesting this when we can go to Woodstock instead?!

Of course, in this analogy, we can do both, we can go on living and we can protest this disease. We can’t live life to the fullest like we were doing when 2020 started, but we can make a collective sacrifice and have much more control over the death toll this pandemic ultimately creates than we did over Vietnam with our street protests. In an era where a significant percentage of society has the good fortune to be able to work remotely, an even bigger portion has unparalleled access to in-home entertainment, and those of us in those categories have the ethical obligation to reduce the spread to essential workers who don’t have this good fortune, what the hell is wrong with a society that can’t agree to put on a fucking mask and stay apart from each other for the collective good , especially the collective good of the most vulnerable, the elderly and the sick? My grandfather fought in Guadalcanal and was enlisted as a Marine right through Korea and Vietnam; whenever I find myself irritated that my mask is fogging up my glasses or that it sucks to be working in the basement again today and damn I’d like to hop on the train, put in a day’s work and enjoy a beer with coworkers at the basement bar across from the office, I think of my him and the true sacrifices he made for the good of his family, his country, and the world.

We’re being asked to isolate in an age where isolation is less isolated than it ever has been in human history. I don’t wear a mask and stay home because some politician tells me to. I wear it and stay home because we are goddamn lucky to be living in a time where we understand what causes plagues and have the ability to reduce their impact. Vaccines are on the horizon, it’s time to bear down and see this thing through. Your sacrifice literally saves lives. I’d say my grandfather would be proud, but he’d more likely say man the fuck up and do what you need to do, this ain’t Guadalcanal. 

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Steam of Consciousness VP Debate Thoughts

The first half of this debate has served to remind us of an era of relative sanity in Washington, a time when politicians told bald-faced lies with a straight face. Small bit of irony here…Pence repeatedly used Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s quote about being entitled to your own facts, but not your own opinions, without attribution, while bringing up that zinger about Biden’s plagiarism in the 80s. Just to lay on a thicker coat, the last time he used it, he then proceeded to state an incorrect stat about the state of manufacturing jobs in America. Despite this I give Pence a slight edge thus far (about an hour in), but both candidates have full out ignored questions to go on random spiels. 

Some real time thoughts…Pence brought up Suleimani twice and Kamala failed to note that he’s doubling down on a war crime as a great act of leadership? Come on, hit that hanging curveball out of the park!

Pence says, ”29 justices nominated in election years, will you pack the courts?” Let’s leave out the inconvenient fact that the last time no action was taken on such a candidate prior to 2016 was in 1853

Finally, a focused answer on police reform. Harris: “Bad cops are bad for good cops!” Fully agreed and this issue needs some systemic reform. Decriminalizing marijuana is a nice step in that direction, a crime that disproportionately is enforced on minorities. Now Pence’s response is on rioters and looters…”systemic racism is a great insult to law enforcement”, what happened to being entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts?!

Time out…there’s a fly on Pence’s head. He must be Satanic!

Point for Pence on Kamala’s record as a prosecutor not helping minorities. Funny to see him attacking her from the left, but the point stands.

Pence on the peaceful transition of power: “We’re gonna win…” <<talking points>> To Kamala: “Your party has tried to overturn 2016 for 4 years.” Tally it as another unanswered question and another slam dunk on the opportunity to fellate Dear Leader.

The final question for a child watching the debate…nothing substantial here, though it was refreshing to hear Mike Pence hold up some political norms.

Overall, Trump needed Pence to steamroll Kamala tonight. He didn’t do it. On technical debate merits, he dodged a lot of questions, which is terrible, but he probably appealed to a much broader audience than Trump did last week. Overall, Kamala was flat, Pence might have COVID, and overall I think the state of the race will remain unchanged.

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We’re Suffering From Mass ADD and It’s Killing Us

Society has supposedly never been more connected, yet the sheer volume of information provides a sea of distractions, all competing for our collective attention.

Feel like continuing to read this post or was that little snippet all you needed? That sentence was 138 characters, 2 short of what Twitter’s limit was up until November 2017 when it expanded to a Stephen King-esque 280 characters. Brace yourselves, you might have to invest a full 10-15 seconds reading a maximum-length tweet these days! Can’t we just turn these damn things into Hollywood action films and proceed with amusing ourselves to death?! Coming soon to a theater near you (as soon as we figure out this COVID problem), Sea of Distractions directed by Michael Bay. Shit’s gonna blow up, sexy actors will make out, some trained martial artists will do some choreographed round-house kicks, there will be at least a couple of hot lesbians, the guy gets the girl and the world will be whole again–what exactly fractured it? We don’t know but watch this damn movie because this is surely time better spent than doing the minimal level of critical thinking to elect competent public officials.

We are suffering from mass ADD, and no I don’t think I’m minimizing the disease in terms of individuals who actually have this diagnosis, just look at the Mayo Clinic’s description: “Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder that includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.” 

This description fits our society to a tee. We prefer sound bites and easily digestible tweets over the rigorous analysis it takes to navigate the modern world. We’d rather take the comforting view that most people who get COVID-19 don’t die or become severely ill rather than put the risk in context when it applies to an entire society. Derek Thompson writes in The Atlantic

For men in their 30s, like me, about 1.2 percent of COVID-19 infections result in hospitalization, according to a July study published in Science. Once the disease has progressed to this point, the risk of chronic illness soars. Research from Italy found that roughly nine in 10 hospitalized patients said they still had symptoms after two months. A British study reported a similar risk of long-term illness.

Now the math: When you multiply the hospitalization rate for 30-something men (about 1.2 percent) by the chronic-illness rate of hospitalized patients (almost 90 percent), you get about 1 percent. That means a guy my age has one-in-100 chance of developing a long-term illness after contracting COVID-19. For context, the estimated infection-fatality rate for a 60-something is 0.7 percent, according to the same study in Science.

Still with me? That quote from Thompson, nearly 4 modern-day full-length tweets, touches upon the math involved but neglects to take it further. Considering the best words of the current U.S. President, “You know, a lot of people say we should have gone herd, let’s go herd,” such a policy would result in approximately half a million 30-somethings in the U.S. being hospitalized. (The fact that “a lot of people” is actually Trump’s own White House pushing herd immunity at the moment is another story entirely.) Half a million 30-somethings being hospitalized is no small problem, but it pales in comparison to the initial CDC projections of 200,000-1,700,000 deaths and the toll that would take on our system. 

There is certainly a good portion of the population that takes these numbers seriously, listens to experts, and makes an effort to assess the risk and what it takes to mitigate it. However, there is too much of the population takes the sound bite approach without understanding how relatively low risk behaviors on an individual basis result in guaranteed societal suffering. Much of this is emotional, COVID-19 is a new disease, so we naturally create heuristics to compare it to something we know, like the common cold or flu. Combine this with out of context facts like the likelihood that any individual who contracts COVID-19 will be okay and voila–time to short circuit the analysis!  We’d all rather take comfort in the probability that even if we get sick, we’ll probably be okay and fail to take the analysis any further. Even among those of us who take this pandemic seriously, it is easy to intuitively take comfort in seeing the number of new cases flatten out at a relatively low level.

Exponential growth isn’t intuitive. Nor is risk assessment intuitive. Some will take comfort in statements like, “Even the worst-case model only has 0.7% of the population dying, those odds are in my favor!” But many of the same people will refuse to fly on an airplane because it doesn’t feel safe, despite the risk of any American dying in a given year in a plane crash being about 77,000 times lower than the worst-case COVID scenario. Hell, today is the 19th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history, an event that killed fewer people than the number who died of COVID while the RNC put on its alternative reality show. We need not go into the details of the scope and scale of our 9/11 response to know that it blows the COVID response out of the water both in length and in cost. When the enemy has a face, our mental shortcuts allow us to rally around it far more easily than we can rally around fighting an invisible enemy that has no agenda, just an evolutionary drive to reproduce, and to do it at our expense. Thus, we fall back on the simple narratives rather than looking for complex answers. The failures of the U.S. as well as the world at large in containing COVID-19 are many, but they can all be linked to our collective ADD to varying degrees. I’ll close with a quote from one of my favorite articles, a writeup on big numbers, which spends a good deal of time on exponential growth, an area certainly applicable to COVID-19 as well as area where we fall prey to distractions rather than pushing forward with critical analysis. Now go get back to watching Sea of Distractions!

“It’s not hard to fathom why physicist Albert Bartlett asserted “the greatest shortcoming of the human race” to be “our inability to understand the exponential function.” Or why Carl Sagan advised us to “never underestimate an exponential.” In his book Billions & Billions, Sagan gave some other depressing consequences of exponential growth. At an inflation rate of five percent a year, a dollar is worth only thirty-seven cents after twenty years. If a uranium nucleus emits two neutrons, both of which collide with other uranium nuclei, causing them to emit two neutrons, and so forth—well, did I mention nuclear holocaust as a possible end to population growth?”

-Scott Aaronson

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Why I Left FB

Sitting at Pub L’Oncle Antoine situated in historic Quebec City, one would be forgiven for thinking they’re sitting on Rue Mouffetard in the heart of Paris. There, pictured below, I made one of my final #beerOfTheDay posts late in July 2019. My Facebook activity over the final year or two had largely been relegated to such posts–a beer I was drinking, oftentimes accompanied by an interesting locale or scenery, a way of life that is incomprehensible a year later in the face of a global pandemic.

Occasionally, I’d scatter in a political or philosophical post–subjects I enjoy having informal chats about, even if at times we’d get deep into the weeds on a particular topic. The same would go for my circle of acquaintances on The Social Network, from people I hadn’t personally seen in a couple decades to current friends and coworkers to a handful of people I maintained only an online relationship with, having met through real-life acquaintances or on various groups. Opinions spanned the political spectrum and it seemed as if Zuckerberg’s wet dream of an open and connected society where opinions are shared and people gain a greater understanding of humanity might actually be taking shape. 

The internet has never been a glowing example of humanity’s better angels, particularly in comment sections and even more so when the comments are cloaked by anonymity. But Facebook, for a time, seemed to change that. The network was predicated upon enlisting your existing networks and growing from there, eliminating the issue of anonymity and yielding a feeling that we were sitting in each other’s virtual living rooms. As Facebook exploded into a service utilized by one-fifth of the world’s population, the rhetoric decayed. Well-funded organized interests inserted themselves into the equation. Billions of people had access to public posts and interest groups that removed the intimate feeling and sent the level of discourse spiraling towards what one usually observes in YouTube comment sections or the darker corners of Reddit and 4chan. 

Facebook itself played an increasingly ominous role. Legally speaking, The Communications Decency Act of 1996 relegate it and other social media platforms to no more than platform providers–providers who cannot be legally held accountable for the content their subscribers post. Ethically, morally, and realistically speaking, they have become a platform so large that one might mistake them for the public square. Make no mistake, Facebook is not a public square. It is an intensely analyzed forum where not only is every interaction you make with it  logged and fed into machine learning algorithms, but numerous other interactions you make across the entire Internet on all your devices is also collected. The end result is every user gets a feed tailored to their interests, with advertisements and posts based on their profile and interests rising to the top. It is a manufactured echo chamber masquerading as a forum for open discourse. The issues I had with Facebook as a company are numerous enough to dedicate multiple posts to, but range from their unethical psychological experiments on users to their complicity in the Myanmar genocide  to their current warped view of free speech (ironically forgetting that in the living room analogy, the host’s own right to free speech allows him to refute factually incorrect claims or comment when an ad is materially false), a stance that will prevent me from returning to their service anytime soon. However, a recurring theme that ultimately was one of the major deciding factors in my departure was their brazen indifference towards personal privacy. 

Facebook’s privacy settings are in a constant state of flux and they absolutely stack the deck in their favor. In Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World, author Bruce Schneir states, “Basically, there are two ways [for companies] to obtain consent. Opt-in means that you have to explicitly consent before your data is collected and used. Opt-out is the opposite; your data will be collected and used unless you explicitly object. Companies like Facebook prefer opt-out, because they can make the option difficult to find and know that most people won’t bother. Opt-in is more fair, and the use of service shouldn’t be contingent on allowing data collection.” Without Government regulation, social media companies (and most companies in general) have zero incentive to go with an opt-in system. Under a true opt-in system, not an iota of your information would be shared with advertisers or app developers without your explicit consent. In Facebook’s case, they’ve grown into such a powerhouse than even with Government regulation, they have next to no incentive to do so. Ten figure fines from the likes of the FTC and EU amount to nothing more than a month or two in profit for the tech giant, these fines are swatted away while a society addicted to notifications remains blissfully ignorant and Wall Street rewards the company with an ever-increasing stock price. As of this writing, in the year since the FTC fine, Facebook’s market cap has increased approximately 60 times more than the value of the fine, nothing more than a speed bump in their drive to monetize data. To be sure, there are ways a user can try to circumvent these problems. My account had no personal information beyond my name. I kept my DOB private, didn’t list a hometown, employer or any of the other items FB asks for. I used a Chrome add-in to frequently wipe my history clean, automatically deleting posts and comments once they were not being viewed anymore. Facebook constantly changes their design to thwart such attempts; in the weeks before I finally wiped my account completely, they’d removed the ability to easily untag yourself from posts, requiring a report and reason to be filed. When I had to go through this process to remove my name from being tagged in a “joke” on a post where someone said “Found you” on an article about a pedophile, it illuminated an excellent argument for a completely opt-in system. After all, it isn’t unheard of for false allegations of pedophilia to end disasterously

With the explosion of monetized social media, smartphones and ever-increasing internet access, intermittent reinforcement served as an irresistible siren call for the masses to put their cares for personal privacy aside and join the fray. Combined with the evidence that controversial posts get more attention, our political system is increasingly polarized and society is regressing further into tribalistic tendencies, the past decade has created a perfect storm for societal chaos. Increasingly, across the pages and people I followed, I observed the tendency to virtue signal a political stance to one’s tribe override family relationships as well as friendships that had lasted for years, often for the sake of that brief adrenaline rush to get a “like” from one of the ingroup. My personal interactions were not immune, with increasing instances of either direct insults, name calling or ad-hominem attacks. No longer were there vibrant conversations with people sharing different opinions sharing a mutual respect for open discourse and more importantly each other, it was simply a contest to score a point for the team. Notably, a peer of mine once told me when I suggested he get control of his Facebook wall with a mutual acquaintance who insisted on insulting and slandering those he disagreed with at every turn that “It’s Facebook, don’t take it personally.” Therein lies the problem. It is personal, that’s what Zuckerberg’s vision entailed, and in our globally connected society, we’ve lost sight of that. In the minds of many, it is better to score a point against “the enemy” than to focus on our shared humanity, mutual respect for each other and an understanding that it is the marketplace of ideas with all our differences of opinion that has driven us forward since the Enlightenment. Progress has halted. This can be a brief speed bump in humanity’s forward progress or a u-turn directly back towards the Dark Ages. Facebook in its current form is too often a tool for the latter. 

So, I left.  

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