conflicts-of-interesteconomic justicepolitical economy

Frankenstein Had More Class Than Facebook

In response to the Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, a recent  New York Times article likened Facebook’s deficient advertising policy as an out of control Frankenstein monster.

No one in control of the system

While there is some truth in comparing Facebook, as well as Google and some of the other mega social-media sites to out-of-control systems, this article does a great disservice to the reputation of Frankenstein.

In the article, writer Kevin Roose grabbed a line from the groundbreaking Mary Shelley novel in which the creature’s creator, Victor Frankenstein said “I had been the author of unalterable evils,” he says, “and I lived in daily fear lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness.”

It’s true the creation of “some new wickedness” is now a daily feature of modern life, or at least we know more about these new forms of wickedness in real time than at any other time in history. But as far as the Frankenstein analogy is concerned, Facebook as a model for other social media and online companies (Google and Amazon included) differs from the fictional monster because Frankenstein had a heart.

Most importantly, the monster was not interested in money, power or control, but in acquiring and displaying human feelings. In the gothic novel (written in 1818 to popular acclaim), Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus (as the book was  formally titled) was fascinated by playing with a child and made friends with a blind man living in a cabin in the woods who gave him food and beckoned him to sit down and drink.

Shelley’s novel was written at the time of the anti-mechanization Luddites, complimented with a Romantic world view. But it was definitely anti-technology.

But like Frankenstein, it looks the multi-billion company Facebook is now in the process of developing a corporate consciousness. Like other Silicon Valley companies, including Amazon and Twitter, Facebook has adopted the selfish Libertarian philosophy that dovetails well with its policy that technology is blind, has only positive repercussions, is too big to be controlled, does not need regulation, and that any form of control will interfere with its huge 24-hour a day profit generating capabilities.

Now, it seems like the bad guys, what Facebook call the Russian “actors” as if this is a stage performance, did derail the U.S. elections to elect the most tyrannical president in U.S. history to a deceived and uninformed U.S citizenry.

As these revelations become more definite due to the Robert Muller investigation, Facebook should abandon its Libertarian excuses and say the technology is neutral and that we have no control over our own system. In the book, the monster tells his creator, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, that “You are my creator, but I am your master.”

If that is the case, than Facebook is an out-of-control organization (like Equifax) and is unworthy of its lofty stock market valuations.  How else could Facebook allow advertisers to target users with offensive terms like “Jew hater,” according to a ProPublica report, while simultaneously profiting from that ad campaign? This no-accountability profiteering is the worst form of social media pollution, on par with such corporate disasters as the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the subsequent cover-up by Exxon about how it happened.

This may be why the monster Frankenstein said:

“Yet mine shall not be the subject of abject slavery: if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear; and chiefly towards you, my archenemy, because my creator do I swear inextinguishable hatred.”

Alternately, if Facebook is in control over its own systems, it should dump the Libertarian policies and face the fact that is a media company with social and some neo-journalistic responsibilities. Ideally, this means more self-regulation and public accountability from its board and adult employees. But there is a good possibility this will never happen.

It would also be helpful to read Frankenstein, which was essentially an anti-technology book (Shelley would never have used the word technology) written during the Industrial Age by a far-sighted woman who saw that machines would never replace humanity. She wrote that in 1817 and never became a billionaire who said he was not responsible for whatever it was that he created.

Facebook executive should also keep in mind that the monster Frankenstein developed human capabilities, including an idea for revenge.  In the monster’s own words, he said:

“Yet mine shall not be the subject of abject slavery: if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear; and chiefly towards you, my archenemy, because my creator do I swear inextinguishable hatred.”

(Chapter 17, page 1, 1891 edition)

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Chuck Epstein

Chuck Epstein

Chuck Epstein has managed marketing communications and public relations departments for major global financial institutions and participated in the launch of industry-changing financial products. He also has written by-lined articles for over 50 publications, five books and served as editor and publisher of nation’s first newsletter on the topic of using the PC for personal investing and trading. (“Investing Online, 1994-1999). He also is a marketing consultant, writer and speaker on topics related to investor protection and opportunities in the very dynamic cannabis industry.

He has held senior-level marketing, PR and communications positions at the New York Futures Exchange, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Lind-Waldock, Zacks Investment Research, Russell Investments and Principal Financial.

He has won national awards from the Mutual Fund Education Alliance (MFEA) and his web site, www.mutualfundreform.com, was named best small blog in 2009 by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW).

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