Robert McNamee’s book Zucked is a testament to how big corporations are willfully ignoring responsibility by simply resorting to, “That’s not our mandate”.
‘All I want is to win’. At a debate, a person once asked a Congressman, “Sir, what is your take on foreign policy?” The politician, to the person’s amusement, replied, “That’s not my mandate.” The person countered with a question on economy, to which the politician smugly replied, “That’s not my mandate.” Tired after a few rounds of questioning and getting nothing but the same reply, the person frustratingly asked, “Sir, what is your mandate?” The politician, confounded by the question, said, “All I want is to win.” The story is not about Donald Trump, but today’s corporations. All they have is a mandate to win, at all cost, and the rules have gone out of the window.
Robert McNamee’s book Zucked is a testament to how big corporations are willfully ignoring responsibility by simply resorting to, “That’s not our mandate”. Facebook is not the only corporation, but it’s one of the prime culprits in “that’s not our job” phenomenon. Robert McNamee being an insider — he was one of the early investors in the company — gives us a peek into the workings of the company and the constant shirking by its top management. McNamee, thus, presents an insider account of what went wrong with the largest social media conglomerate of our times. Not just that, in this 14-chapter saga, he also provides a historical perspective on the making of Facebook and the Silicon Valley phenomenon. Methodically, each chapter starts with the author’s findings, and how he went about uncovering things. Although exciting at first, the pattern becomes repetitive. After a point, it seems like a script right out of conspiracy theory shows that are often featured on TV, concerning aliens. But this is no conspiracy theory account; the author does substantiate his claims with facts and data. Mostly, with people having witnessed scandals arising out of Cambridge Analytica and the US presidential elections, Robert McNamee’s account is the “Oh! This is what happened account”, where you end up wondering why it took so much time to uncover all these.
The best part about McNamee’s work is that he goes beyond Facebook in revealing the future of society and the future of people, amid the rising spate of corporations. Although he does not allude to a Marxian notion, he does come close to defining an empire-like situation where corporations are becoming more significant than nations.
McNamee presents a compelling case of what went wrong at Facebook, and how the top management was responsible for this debacle. But he also posits an important question, is it Facebook’s responsibility? A lot of people would contend, at the end of the day, Facebook is a platform and what people post (good or bad) should not be the mandate of Facebook. Good for someone can be bad for another, and does Facebook have the wherewithal to decide the greater good? More important, would people let Facebook decide the greater good? But then again, Facebook does have a responsibility. Even if it does not censure all content, it certainly can filter what reaches the masses and what doesn’t. McNamee does the job well by taking the phenomenon beyond Facebook, and contending the future that society beholds.
The book is a must-read for Facebook enthusiasts or, must I say, addicts and those trying to understand the big bad. It may seem like a sensational account, but McNamee does give you insights into how the world got Zucked.
(The writer is a former journalist)