Like Internet trolls And the Online extremists Are ‘kidnapping’ of American politics
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is in the FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. My guest, Andrew Marantz has spent the last three years of reporting on the alt-right is the use of social media is It is embedded in the people he describes, like the trolls and fanatics and propagandists, the experts in the conversion of fanatical meme in the policy.
Marantz is a staff writer for The New Yorker and began his reporting project during the 2016 presidential campaign. He watched as extremist memes and lies were created and went viral, and he profiled the people, the means the. Marantz was also claiming the reporting on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, that you are always striving after, to freedom of expression, but have weak points that allowed you to be the primary means for the dissemination of disinformation.
His latest article on the social media platforms, and have refused to do, in order to prevent the bearer of false news and lubricates the use of social media during the election in 2020. Andrew Marantz, the author of the new book “anti-social: Online extremists, Techno-utopians And the kidnapping Of The American conversation.”
Andrew Marantz, welcome to FRESH AIR. Your book is about disinformation, propaganda in social media, trolling before and after the choice of trump. Think she has enough changed to prevent that from happening again, if we look at the 2020 election?
ANDREW MARANTZ: no, definitely not. It has a couple of small gaps, which were closed, here and there. But no, I think we’re pretty much for what we were in for the last time.
GROSS: I want to be a good example for what you cover. They were spread with Mike Cernovich from the whole Hillary-ambulance, Hillary-has-a-neurological-problem-meme viral. So to start, let us – who is Mike Cernovich? is
MARANTZ: He is a lawyer and a misogynist and a man who is married with children and lives in southern California. And he also sells a dietary Supplement and hair care products online. And he is also the mastermind behind a lot of memes that travel through the Internet in a very dubious way. He is a lot of things. And, of course, he presents himself as a very serious investigative journalists. I mean, he is a journalist in a sense, but he’s not, in my opinion, very good.
GROSS: So tell us, how he came up with the meme that Hillary is sick, that you have Parkinson’s disease.
MARANTZ: Yes. So…
GROSS: And that was, of course, in the election.
MARANTZ: that’s Correct. So, when I reached the first him, I was in the middle of 2016. And when I reached the first one with him, he said, Yes, you know, I’m happy, just let them sit in my living room and look at this day in and day out. And so I sat with him and watched him. He was not anonymous. He was totally proud of what he did.
And you, one of the things he did know was, as you say, is he said, OK; I want the people trust Hillary less. And I don’t want to use sort, you know, forehead-with gerunzelter concern to do the. I really want to do visceral emotions, such as fear and disgust, the to. So I’m just to go, that you really, really sick. Although, of course, I have no evidence that you have Parkinson’s or anything, I’m just going to say that.
And so he would know it, not just sit around and think about it, or somehow insinuate, he would be really active, it is a plant in the bloodstream of the national discourse. So, how would he do it, he would open – open an iPad. He would do a periscope livestream; it’s an app owned by Twitter where you can do a live stream.
He fans over a thousand of his hardcore in the periscope. And he would say, OK, guys, this is what we do today; we all think Hillary is sick. We need a hashtag. And you would know all kind of workshop is a hashtag-you, him talking to the camera, which you input in the comments. They would come with the hashtag, you thought that it would be the best, then you would
And then, once you have it trending, then would every journalist in the world to see. It would be on the Drudge Report. It would be directly from the Drudge Report to Fox News. From Fox News, it would be on CNN, almost to the point where I could open the newspaper the next morning and say, I think this story is reported in the newspaper, because of what I saw this guy in his living room yesterday.
So he did the with the disease rumors. He did it almost every day, what he wanted.
GROSS: And what was the, quote, “evidence” that he used Hillary was sick?
MARANTZ: Oh, Yes, for some, it was like she was trying, in a way that he found strange – in a video. Or, you know, you had parts of your public schedule, could not be taken into account. And, I should say know, that the Clinton campaign was not very transparent with the press. So there were things that couldn’t jump to conspiracy-minded people, because you’re always aware of where she was. So you could say, ‘ oh, that’s when you went to the hospital in secret.
LARGE: And it did collapse. I think she had a lung inflammation.
MARANTZ: Right, exactly. So before that happened. He planted this disease rumors, what happened, and then she had pneumonia. Again, she was not very transparent with the press about the fact that she had pneumonia, and then they showed up for the 9/11 memorial and collapsed. And it was captured on video. And people trying to your campaign were the people to hide it from the cameras. So it was all kind of this perfect storm of secrecy, on the one hand, and the nature of the all-too-eager-to-point connection on the other. And when I saw that happen, I said – Oh, you know, that could mean that something in the actual sense, but it is very useful, in a kind of appearance, semiotics, sense.
GROSS: And one of your points, here’s a guy home with a phone or a laptop, and followers. is And he really can be something that is not true at all to go viral and picked up by the media.
MARANTZ: Yes. If I thought I was the first one with him, – wow, I’m really happy today. You know, I’m a see him and move the needle of public discourse in a more discreet manner. You don’t know, it’s only Hillary was sick, there were rumors about your E-Mail; there were rumors about the immigration. It was – you know, I was every day, multiple times a day, I would see that. And I thought – man, I must now luck really. And then, I was like, you know, he just makes this kind of whenever he wants – in the morning, noon and night.
you know, the way we have built our data ecosystem is that, if you are good and you are motivated enough and you’re not ashamed of, against all kinds of variOrganizational units standards of human behavior, they just do it whenever you want.
GROSS: of course, I asked myself, how, how he makes funds themselves? This is something that he can earn money to spread things virally? But, apparently, part of that was how he funded himself through his divorce to his wife…
GROSS: His wife had worked for Facebook and had a lot of shares. He got some of these shares in the framework of the divorce settlement. And when Facebook went public, which translates to $2.6 million. But I think he, too, is financed by all the things he sold, that had nothing to do with politics, such as the vitamin supplements and diet stuff, and…
MARANTZ: And books – he sold a lot of books on Amazon. And they were self-published, and he gave a large share of the revenue. This was just one of the many details that came in the Wake of the reporting, you know, to him and to all the other people, where there were a lot of details that you couldn’t really you. Or have you had them in a novel, you would be too on the nose. You know, the idea that one of the biggest social media propagandists, I was tracking and got his money from the Facebook IPO through a divorce – you know, he didn’t want me to learn, but I went to court, got the files – or you know, the fact that Richard Spencer, the way of the king of the Nazi-trolls, has his family’s wealth, the dissipation of the cotton fields in Louisiana – these are things that, if you put them in fiction, she seems a little over-determined. But you know, it is a reality.
GROB: One of the other things that Mike Cernovich, we talked, he was the co-host of the DeploraBall, it was basically the framing device for the book. Why don’t you explain what the DeploraBall was and why you made it the framing device?
MARANTZ: Yes. So, there was a campaign event during the 2016 campaign, where Hillary Clinton is famous – or notorious, depending on your point of view – said about half of the Trump-trailer are what I was taking a basket of deplorables would call. You could put in a basket deplorables.
And it was one of those interesting political moments, in which it was at first a very strange, memorable sentence. Like, who the people in the baskets? And it was only a totem, how easy it is to take, what is your political enemy in the process, rhetorical, and only flip on the head. So the people you describe supposedly, only immediately said Yes, we are deplorables. We are proud to call us that. We make hats that say top adorable regrettable. And it is not easy to immediately just lost his power, but it’s a counter has a weapon. You know, that’s a thing that happened with the concept of fake news. That – again and again it was, you know, this kind of taking the club out of your enemy’s hand and then back to the beat with him.
So this means that the height of this was the inauguration at the weekend. The people she’s like – the way it is, we memed Trump in the White house. To use as you like meme as a verb, this is a pretty good description of what you do. And so the people, the memed Trump said in the White house, we are going to be proud to wear this label, which is deplorable. We have an inauguration ball, called DeploraBall, and we celebrate the fact that, you know, the thought of Hillary, we were so unfortunate and yet we are still struck.
And why am I such a device and why I wanted to know in the room, it was definitely a human part in me that wanted to not be in this room. There were a lot of people in the room, were manipulative, people who tried to troll me or deceive me or get my attention, as a mainstream journalist. And that made me feel uncomfortable.
But I felt that something had happened, that was adequately described anywhere else, there is a lot of energy was in this room. And the people were nice, the response to the energy, either in good or in evil, but in quite a kind of simple ways – you know, putting out to tell a story the next day, wow, there were a lot of people in this room. But I didn’t want to see a lot of kind of deeper, more patient analysis. And so I just thought, what if you are not in the room, but then those people follow, you know, a year or two years or go back really, and to reconstruct, as you to this place? I think you will learn a lot more than just reporting on the immediate effects. The immediate effects were the trump card of the President. But I thought it was much more of the background was story, could be uncovered.
GROSS: If you just look at us, my guest is Andrew Marantz, author of the new book “anti-social: Online extremists, Techno-utopians And the kidnapping Of The American conversation.” We take a short break, then we be right back. This is the FRESH AIR.
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GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you just look at us, my guest is Andrew Marantz, author of the new book “anti-social: Online extremists, Techno-utopians And the kidnapping Of The American conversation.” He is a staff writer for The New Yorker.
If you have decided to follow some of the trolls before and after the presidential election, you had to decide whether, in doing so, the free set of them, and therefore do a productive thing, or if they were to give them a platform by knowledge of you in The New Yorker, and then write a book about you, let you, the people, their names. And my impression is, from reading your book that a lot of people who put the disinformation to the American social media, they want attention. I mean, going viral is really important to you, and get attention seems to be really important for you. And you give it to them.
MARANTZ: Mmm hmm, Yes. I lost a lot of sleep. I wanted to not be used as a vector for propaganda. I didn’t want someone else’s character. And look, I mean, I think it would be naive to ignore the fact that there is a transaction type for all journalism, and especially this kind of journalism, which, as you say, is really about the attention. There are a lot of people in the book that any kind of attention, whether positive or negative. They make money on it. It to use to build your brand. So I knew that would be a part of it. And a lot of time, if a person or an event or an action do not meet, a certain amount of novelty or instrumental activity or any of these other things that I don’t belong. And this is not reaching the majority of things, the threshold.
But I have the feeling that it was worth the struggle, that tension, and sometimes writing about them, anyway stick around long enough to see when people take their masks begin to slip, and also to be seen in the context of what it means for our larger information ecosystem. And again a lot of it was because I was part of this type of alleged fringe just looks, the feeling that a lot of people who are, what to do on the edge, you are really preventing yourself in the situation, you need to vaccinate, yourself and the rest of the company, prior to these tricks. You know, you’re sitting ducks, in a way.
GROSS: One of the people that you write in your new book, Mike Enoch. He is the founder of the blog, The stuff – and that’s right, as in the right – and the founder of the podcast “the Daily Shoah,” which is obviously a joke about the name “The Daily Show” and the Shoah, the Holocaust. And…
MARANTZ: Yes, it is hilarious.
GROB: Yes. And no surprise, the podcast is very anti-Semitic and white supremacy. So tell us about Mike Enoch, and what is The Is right.
MARANTZ: Yes. The other, where I fought really, whether to pay this any attention, or whether to just leave her alone. You know, clearly, it is extremely toxic stuff. And you know, I’m a Jew. I didn’t want to particularly spend a lot of time looking in, you know, probably the nation’s leading anti-Semitic propagandists. It was no fun for me. But the time came when Mike Enoch got doxxed. So – Mike Enoch is not his real name. And doxxing is, if you are the type, as a retribution or punishment, to put people’s personal information against their will.
So that some online activists found out who he really was, put that information out there, and who he turned out to be, was a guy by the name of Mike Peinovich, living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He was married to a Jewish woman. He came out of Maplewood and Montclair – this is the very kind of progressive, kind of multi-cultural suburb in New Jersey. He went to high school with Lauryn Hill and Zach Braff. His father was a professor of “Beowulf.” He had an adopted brother with an Afro-American.
happened again, as so often, when I would immerse themselves in this stuff, it’s just – none of it was what I had thought it would be, if I just so with my cartoon, fill-in-the-blanks imagination. And at this point, I was fascinated. So I actually – I wrote to him, the propagandist, and I also wrote to another E-Mail address Mike Peinovich, and this proved to be his father, Mike Peinovich, Sr., And then – I ended up finding a kind of family saga buried in it.
GROB: So we come back to what you seem to be in his blog, “The Right Stuff” and his podcast “The Daily Shoah,” how and how much influence they really have.
MARANTZ: Yes. As with a lot of fringe things, you anti-Semitic, racist are very open. The aesthetic is kind of like a drive-time radio shock jock from the ” 90s kind of thing. They were big fans of The Jerky Boys and “Opie and Anthony.” So it was that the nature of the aesthetic, mixed with just shockingly, shockingly racist things.
as for how influential it is, on the one hand, you know that you don’t hear a lot of people walking around, just talk openly, but on the other hand, because all these things are connected to each other, and because the whole, you know, circulatory system, the American media is a great thing – you know, sometimes, see, meme, which you have invented, they penetrate the entire system. So, you know, you can – for example, she invented the meme of the placement of the three brackets around the name of the Jewish people. This, then, was something you saw everywhere. So much…
ROUGHLY say: How, on Twitter, a lot like the Jewish journalists have the three brackets to each side of your name, Yes, I’m Jewish, and I’m proud of it. This is in order.
MARANTZ: Yes, type of reclaim.
LARGE: Yes, to reclaim, so that you will not be attacked for the Jewish. You say, Yes, I am.
MARANTZ: Yes. And so that was the kind of thing where most of the people that did that probably had no idea where it originated, and is not yet, when you go to actually trace-mem back to its source, what you see is that this was – it was obviously not just innocent fun. It was not only a way to have Jews feel disturbed and afraid, although it is that too. It was – what they were interested in was naming the Jew. You are so very turned off by the fact that the Jews can be shown to be white, but in your pseudo-scientific hierarchy, the Jews are not white. And they are very, very concerned with this. You know, Jews are shape-shifters, these eerie creatures to you.
And so the first order of business was to point out where the Jews were all so innocent white people and white could, and could stand up against them. So many people were around the game this meme on Twitter is not his true origin would be known, and in a certain sense, that’s how you like it. You know you want to remain in the shadows.
ROUGHLY: There seems to be this strange mixture, to remain in the shadows and want to be famous and have a lot of energy.
MARANTZ: Yes, it is…
GROB: I think that he maybe more of an in-the-shadow-man (laughter).
MARANTZ: He is like the man behind the guy. I mean, he is, in a way, this type of Cerna (ph), who sets words to Richard Spencer in the mouth. But…
GROSS: Literally? Like, I mean, not literally, Cerna, but literally, the words in Richard Spencer’s mouth? You worked closely together?
MARANTZ: Often, Yes. They were very close allies, and Richard Spencer would often go to “The Daily Shoah.” And what would Enoch – he called them narratives. So he’d kind of stories. So Enoch and his co-hosts would kind of say, OK, well, I think, a good story, for this moment would be to do X, Y or Z. So, for example, they were very interested in the word cuck-servative (ph) to penetrate the national discourse. Now, this is such a gross word, not define I can almost really, it is in the public radio. But in a way, that’s the point, right? Your goal would be that people like me, say that word in polite company.
The way that starts is by kibitzing on your podcast and say, OK, how can we do this? And who should we go after Twitter? What are the emotions we create in this person, you will be given almost to be a host for this intellectual virus, which can then continue through the rest of the society? So, yeah, definitely, people such as Richard Spencer, people like Jason Kessler, organized by the Charlottesville-rally – all of these people would sort of gather in these little rooms, in which there is only the inner circle of the hardcore, to hear the goods, and then from there, it is the nature of the flow in several directions.
GROSS: My guest is Andrew Marantz, editor Of the New Yorker and author of the new book “anti-social: Online extremists, Techno-utopians And the kidnapping Of The American conversation.” After a break, we talk about what are Facebook and Twitter, and not do, to prevent false news, and smears by political ads. And our TV critic David Bianculli, the preview of the new Disney-streaming-service. I’m Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.
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GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. We come back to my interview with Andrew Marantz, author of the new book “anti-social: Online extremists, Techno-utopians And the kidnapping Of The American conversation.” He has spent the past three years, starting with the 2016 presidential campaign, the embedding with online extremists, the profile position, and watching them create viral meme. He also wrote on social-media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, and what have you, and you have not done, in order to prevent their platforms are used to spread lies, smears and hatred. When we left, we were talking about Mike Enoch, the Marantz is described as a white supremacist. Enoch founded the blog The Right Material, and the podcast “the Daily Shoah.” The title is an allusion to “The Daily Show” and the Shoah-a Hebrew word for the Holocaust.
As Mike Enoch was doxxed, the information came out that his wife is Jewish, and I think you confirmed that.
GROSS: Have you talked to him about it? I mean, because he is basically a white supremacist. Is that…
MARANTZ: Mmm hmm, Yes.
GROSS: White nationalist – whatever word he…
MARANTZ: He prefers white nationalists. I think that white supremacist, is more than fair.
GROSS: There you go. And I suppose anti-Semitism is a part of it.
MARANTZ: definitely, Yes.
MARANTZ: Yes. Yes – I spoke with him about it at length. And part of it was simply that he had been there, what he met as the red-pilled yet, if you. So he’s this transformation had experience, but when he met you. When he met her, it was not to him that she was Jewish, because he grew up in the idyllic suburbs of New Jersey, where half of his friends were Jews. Then, on his way of the eyes to the Central role of the Jews in this massive conspiracy.
And then it was essentially like a Greek tragedy for him. Like, he was a very isolated man, and his wife was really the only person, the mind of the world. And in a way, he had the drives, a thing that could risk you. And, in a certain sense, it just felt like a random tragedy to him. But as I learned more about his history, it seemed fitting, because he was just one of those people – and there are many of them in the book – who was so addicted to contrarianism, that you will find a way, in contrast to something in your life, even in the deepest layers.
So there are some people that just want to talk, to oppose, where you know you hear something on the news, and you do not say, I know it. I’m skeptical of that. Some people take it so far to ruin that you are trying to be contrary, even to the point to your own marriages and your own life. It is tragic, in a way.
GROSS: Is he still married?
MARANTZ: No. No, they parted. She claimed that she was really aware of what was on his podcast while it happened. I…
BIG: “The Daily Shoah”?
MARANTZ: The Daily – exactly, Yes. It is not only implausible, but I have some reports that pretty clearly shows that to be true. And you know, it makes you wonder how, as a Jewess, was sat there and stayed, got married to this guy? And just one of the things I found again, and again, and again, that people are just weirder than we might imagine. You have more flexibility. You might have more of a kind of emptiness at the core of their political ideology, than we think.
It has me, change really, to be honest, the way I think about policy. You know, if we are talking about people, the political convictions and say – and some voters, such as free trade, and other, as you know, protectionism – it – just how a lot of people are just much more open to big, strange conversion for all kinds of things, than we had ever thought possible.
GROSS: So Enoch is anti-Semitic, racist, and promotes these thoughts in his blog and podcast. He has the support of Donald Trump in the election? He has the support of President Trump now? He has no role to play in promoting Trump?
MARANTZ: Yes. So he and the rest of the alt-right is definitely the trump card supported in the election campaign and saw him as the best thing you ever get from a plausible presidential candidate. I mean, they saw him as someone who would give voice to their type of white identity movement in a tacit kind of way, but in a way that the sound is very clear.
After he became President, he began to alienate you by irregular and inconsistent – a bit too radical. Many of these people came from the anti-war organization, either from the left or right or both. So, if he started dropping bombs on Syria, a lot of the old law ceased to be trump supporters. And to adopt, then, even if he failed to build the wall and failed, what they wanted, which was essentially a proto-white nationalist agenda, he lost a lot of their support, also.
But many of them – you don’t know, in a way, the anti-Semitism, it is only a kind of purely irrational – I mean, of course it is irrational, but it does not come from nothing. A lot of it comes from what you perceive as the libertarian or anti-war policy.
LARGE: So, if Trump were to run, do you think he would with the support of Mike Enoch, or other the people you have written about in the book?
MARANTZ: Yes, it’s a really good question. A lot of you have moved on to other people, such as Tulsi Gabbard. A lot of people in my book are really in Tulsi these days.
GROSS: Really? How comes that?
MARANTZ: Because – well, for one, it is only the most anti-war candidate. And some of them are almost single-issue voters like that. But others, you really are so far outside of the political system that you don’t know that they are going to make the most of what you want from a particular candidate. So are you – you know how to get all the kind of radical politics, it is the question of what they receive from the mainstream system.
you do this by having it done as you put it, in 2016 – say, you know, Trump could not be a nationalist, a complete white, but he knows signaling enough in the direction of nationalism, he is our man, or they do it by, you know, what to try the opposition and the acceleration of things – you know, to support, who is so against what you believe, that you are going to somehow speed up my system in a state of chaos from their point of view?
GROSS: So, Hillary Clinton said that Tulsi was Gabbard, get support from Russia.
GROB: do you know anything about that? I only mention this because I was surprised that you are getting so much support from extremists on the right-hand side.
MARANTZ: Yes. So I think there are two plausible ways to read this. One is that Gabbard is outside the mainstream on foreign policy issues, and pushing an agenda that you feel strongly about it, and your opponents, former and current, are smearing them for it. Another way to look at it is, it seems that their agenda is so tight with Putin and Assad is that this is perhaps not a coincidence. Now, I don’t know. It is possible that someone with a subpoena, will find out at some point.
But in a way, if she is a Russian state actor, the nature, everything what you need, only that the position and the lack of clarity. We don’t know exactly what Putin wants, but it seems from the reporting that I’ve read, to believe that what Putin wants, is usually confused for the Americans, and suspicious, and will not be able to, that your own eyes when you see something. So, if the Americans are looking for in a presidential candidate and not knowing whether you are a Russian asset or not, it seems to meet a large part of Putin’s motives, whether she is or is not.
GROSS: Well, let’s take a short break here and then we’ll talk some more. If you just look at us, my guest is Andrew Marantz is. He is the editor Of the New Yorker and author of the new book “anti-social: Online extremists, Techno-utopians And the kidnapping Of The American conversation.” We will be right back after a short break. This is the FRESH AIR.
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GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you just look at us, my guest is Andrew Marantz, editor Of the New Yorker and author of the new book “anti-social: Online extremists, Techno-utopians And the kidnapping Of The American conversation.” And while 2016 presidential campaign, and then after, he followed, and, you know, interviewed and spoke with, spent time with a lot of people on the far right, the found out had how to get things viral spread, and in this sense, a great contribution to the American conversation about Donald Trump and American politics.
you see as an echo of the extremists, you write in your book on Fox News? Fox-News-pick-up on the blog posts and memes that these people are from?
MARANTZ: Yes, definitely. This is another case where, you know, I don’t have subpoena power. I can’t turn to Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham, and whoever else, on their mobile phones to me. But I could-thought-out questions, the “old rights” of the people, what you. And she told me, Yes, when I see Laura Ingraham, I get the feeling that if she speaks globalist elites and uprooted cosmopolitans, they really speak to the JQ. And if you say, the JQ, which is their abbreviation for the Jewish question. So your sense was often, Yes, you know, these people like things to say, as the globalists and elites, but you are really talking about the Jews. Or Tucker Carlson could say that the immigrants are dirty, which means that he was not concerned about the literal issue of collective action at the border, but we know that – what he means when he says that immigrants are dirty. She saw these things as dog whistles. Now, the nature of a dog, which is a whistle, I can’t prove definitively what is in someone’s mind or heart, when you said it, but the echoes are very strong.
COARSE: There is a lot of pressure now on social media, in order to prevent stains, hate speech, threats, disinformation, propaganda. And you know, Facebook is a good example of a company that seems to be to deal with it. So, what did Facebook recently, to try to cut down on the propaganda, disinformation, smears, threats?
MARANTZ: So in a sense, Facebook is doing a lot of stuff. In another sense, they are a kind of running away from the responsibility. Often, something really terrible is about to happen, on Facebook. How are you adding fuel to the fire of the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar or in Sri Lanka, they had only turned off the mouth, down – in essence, the Internet for a few days, because people instigate much of the violence. Well, we can’t lay at the feet of Mark Zuckerberg. Obviously, violence and ethnic conflicts and all those things that existed before the semiconductor.
But for a long time, the reason why I was so obsessed with this ideology of laissez-faire – the reason for this is that techno-utopianism is the subtitle of my book is that if you only believe to your core that everything is resolved by the market of ideas in the long run, they are much more reluctant to do something in the present, to hinder, people to say what they want to say. And I think we have reached a point where we truly recognize how irresponsible this is. What worries me about Facebook now is that they keep the way of the falling again, the rhetoric.
I think, Mark Zuckerberg gave a speech recently at Georgetown University It was a 40-minute written speech from a lectern with a Teleprompter. I mean, for someone who is not thought of as a politician-as the political figure that he really made himself seem somehow analogous to a politician, in this context. And his whole speech was about freedom of expression. You know, we love the freedom of expression. Facebook is here to the protection of freedom of expression. And it’s the kind of airy abstraction, that sounds nice. But to avoid in practice, what is it used for is the responsibility that Facebook has a responsible gatekeeper, a curator of information. It is essentially a cop-out.
GROSS: Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook continues to be political ads, and it’s not fact-check or reject this view. He does not see it as their task to do that. And then there’s a letter from over 250 Facebook employees, was there to offer, to eliminate proposals for the improvement of the policy on political ads, without them together. Was told, what is in this letter?
MARANTZ: It was really particular. You know, this are the Facebook employees who know how to speak a language, the Facebook executives understand, so that you can lead with a lot of broad, sweeping political statements. You said, here are six things we can do improve our policies are. And, you know, we can reduce the amount of micro-targeting by political advertisers. So, yeah, maybe you can put false information, but perhaps we should not give them the tools to be able to target, the wrong information to single moms in the Dayton, Ohio, the drink Bulleit Bourbon, and go to Church on Wednesdays, you know? Again, this is the kind of thing where the executives and Zuckerberg remain really, really seem determined to, at the level of abstraction, and the debate to keep focused, good such as freedom of expression or not? And this set of anonymous engineers within the company was prepared to say, no, no, no. Let’s drill down on what we are actually talking about. This is not to – I mean, Yes, it is possible for the First Amendment, right? – because Facebook is not the government. But it is not it is about…
GROSS: Because the First Amendment is about government intrusion on the speech. It is not a question…
GROSS: …Private enterprise.
MARANTZ: Yes. The First Amendment says Congress shall make no law reduction in freedom of speech to. Now, there are people who say that Facebook should be governed, which is more like a utility company, and I think this is a worthwhile conversation to have. But now, Facebook is not part of the government, and it is not to be treated as such. And so rather than retreating in this kind of sense sayings that could be carved, marble-statues, you know, these engineers and sort of activists outside the company, are a way of saying, well, let’s talk about what we actually mean, and how you’re actually money by doing these things, rather than, you know, you are for free speech or you are against it? Not actually describe what is happening.
LARGE: So, what is another suggestion that has been made is, in this letter, of the Facebook employees?
MARANTZ: you mentioned the idea of shutting down political ads as a whole, but only on the kind of closing. She told me, well, that is out of the question. And then, of course, Twitter, have, that, like, two days later.
GROSS: I assume that political ads are an important part of Facebook revenue.
MARANTZ: Well, even that is questionable. I mean, Zuckerberg has made, to say a point, this is such a small part of our revenue, you know, trust me, it’s worth it for the hassle. We do this because we believe in you. Now, how many of the things he says, it is hard to believe how much. He says that it is not purely because of the revenue. Now, it may be that he is projecting, the political ads are a major source of income is, over time, or that even if it is a small part of its revenues, it is not one he is willing to give, or it could be that he knows that these lines are so blurred that, when he says, OK, we are the ban on political advertising, well, what does that really mean? I mean, that’s the Problem that Twitter is facing today, when you said you went to ban political advertising. Immediately, it led to a flood of questions. You know, it means the Problem view? This means that the view of activists, the only climate-science? You know, it is a slippery slope. And go to the move that these companies have always done, is for the simplest, clearest, most ideologically consistent response that the minimalist laissez-faire response. If your answer is not that we will do everything that it allows you to, in a consistent and ideologically pure. As soon as you say we do something, then all of the questions that arise are. OK, will you do this? Will you do that?
GROSS: Social media platforms have been criticised for their role in the election 2016, in the dissemination of disinformation, smears, and fake news. So now, as we head to the 2020 election, we are in better shape than we were in terms of social media? – because there is more awareness of the people who think the platforms and I, by the users of the platforms. Some of the people you’ve about dropped to Reddit, Twitter and other social platforms – social media platforms have been written.
GROB: Yes. So, how have we made progress? We are in better shape in terms of the American social media? Russia is still quite a wild card (laughter). But in terms of…
GROSS: …Of America social media, are we in better shape?
MARANTZ: Yes. Russia is a wild card. Iran is a wild card. China is a wild card. And many of the things I focus on, the book is not even shadowy secret-state actors, but American citizens who willingly and voluntarily muddy the waters, again and again, minute to minute, from hour to hour. So, Yes, some of the people that I have to do to write this kind of rise and fall narrative. And one of the things that kind of slightly hopeful about the story, I can tell that some of the bad people, in a sense, get their comeuppance just by way of being pushed back to the edges, where, I believe, to which they belong. But that does not mean that the problem is fixed in a permanent structural sense.
GROSS: Andrew Marantz, thank you for the interview.
MARANTZ: Thank you, Terry. That was really great.
GROSS: Andrew Marantz is a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of the new book “anti-social: Online extremists, Techno-utopians And the kidnapping Of The American conversation.” After a break, our TV critic David Bianculli previews Disney-Plus, the new Disney-streaming-service. This is the FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF DAVE MCKENNA’S “WHEN you WISH UPON A STAR”)
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Released on Tue, 12 Nov 2019 18:43:22 +0000