Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey didn’t kick Trump off Facebook and Twitter, respectively; Stacey Abrams did.
Within 72 hours of Democrats taking control of the Senate, Dorsey and Zuckerberg found their better angels and suspended Trump’s account. You think it’s because they finally came to the realization that this was bad for America? Or that Trump had crossed a new red line? No, it was because they recognized that Democrats were going to be the heads of the Senate committees regulating them. Zuckerberg and Dorsey got tough on Trump 1,447 days into his 1,461-day tenure.
Twitter and Facebook built businesses in which shareholder value was directly correlated with the president’s rage and disinformation.
Twitter stock, which I bought for the first time in 2019, was in the teens when he became president; it was in the 50s last month; and now that Trump’s account is gone, it’s off by 10 percent. Hannah Arendt alluded to tyranny as an informal alliance between the elites and a mob. What we have in Twitter and Facebook is tyranny with stock options.
During the most dire threat to democracy, we were left hoping our tech overlords would save us.
Our outrageous current reality is that when we have an insurrection, we don’t turn to our laws, our enforcement agencies, or even the media. We turn to 30-something CEOs, some of them sociopaths, hoping that they’ll mete out justice. I’m happy that Parler is out of business. But I’m uncomfortable with a private entity putting another private entity out of business on 24 hours’ notice. It should have been shut down by the FTC or by lawyers who sued them for libel and slander.
The only way for the government to shift the power dynamic will be to dole out harsh and swift financial ramifications or perp walks.
The attorney general in Texas is accusing Facebook of cartel activity and price-fixing with Google. That’s significant because it could open the door to criminal charges. There’s nothing like leveraging a negotiation by sitting down with the CEO and telling him or her that they could go to jail. That changes the game. Which is why I think Amazon will prophylactically spin off one of its companies. Jeff Bezos recognizes that if he spins Amazon Web Services, not only could he avoid becoming the target of antitrust lawsuits but he and all his shareholders will get wealthier.
Trump has been the gift that keeps on giving to Fox as well as to MSNBC.
If it bleeds, it leads, and the Trump administration has been hemorrhaging for four years. It’s hard to imagine any media company focused on politics won’t register a decline in viewership and revenues after Trump.
But his own brand is trashed.
If I were CEO of the Trump Organization, I would change the brand name, bring in a progressive to manage the company, and institute a strict policy against nepotism. I’ve worked in New York for 20 years, and I’ve had some exposure to the Trump Organization. They had a very clear reputation as a small company with generally B-league people who were underpaid. They wanted to do deals where they would lend the Trump name but wouldn’t provide any capital or operational input: “Yeah, we’ll license our brands to your steaks, and Donald Trump will go on Oprah and talk about steaks.” It wasn’t much of a company. To call it the Trump “Organization,” even that is a bit of a reach.
*This article appears in the January 18, 2021, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!