Facebook and the neocons

January 18, 2008

First off, apologies for blogging again about Facebook, but the recent Guardian article on the politics of the people behind the site is well worth reading, arguing as it does that there is something of an agenda behind the bland exterior of social networking.

Whether you buy this is, of course, a matter of opinion, and the always-interesting Potlatch has taken the article to task for the sloppy use of the term “neoconservative” as a descriptor for Facebook’s political philosophy. On the other hand, little things discusses Facebook in the light of the likes of John Gray and Aubrey De Grey, and comes to the conclusion that Facebook should probably be steered clear of.

Interesting stuff. I was sounding off in the pub last night, as I do, about wanting to shut down my Facebook account, the only drawback being the lack of online Scrabble, although it looks like that option may soon be gone anyway!

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2 Responses to “Facebook and the neocons”

  1. Tom Says:

    Yeah, the Guardian article is a bit over the top,
    saying that Facebook was concieved as “a social experiment” is to say the least, overstating it a bit. But then I think charactersing Thiel as a neo-con is only a little out. My understanding is that neo-conservatism is basically neo-liberalism with a side order of nationalism, an aggressive foreign policy and a bit of millenarian spice. Thiel is definately a neo-liberal as I understand the term (free trade, privatisation, deregulation). Hodgkinson is using the term as a slur though and it weakens his case.

    (Also i don’t think the distinction between neo-Cons and plain old Cons is really too subtle for general discussion, maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about though, it wouldn’t be the first time)

    Having said that, the Potlach article neatly points out the flaw in the article when he lists “Enabling people to poke each other online, write on their friends walls, play Scrabulous and tag photos of themselves.” as a feature of neo-conservatism.

    It’s not always obvious how the politics of a CEO relate to the end user experience of something like Facebook because it’s really not simple. Hodgkinson doesn’t effectively address that, relying instead on his usual Fearnly Wittingstall-esq luddism to carry the article. However, by focusing on the innocuous end uses of the site site Potlach is in danger of ignoring what’s going on under the bonnet. Kind of like saying there’s no ethical problem with a company like coca-cola or nike because all they do is make lovely fizzy drinks and help people to run better, maybe.

    I don’t know, my thoughts on this are still only half formed but my gut is telling me that I don’t a part in making facebook any bigger than it is. Google, now that’s a whole lot more tricky.

  2. neilstewart Says:

    Yeah, I was challenged on Google last night when talking about this, along the lines of “well, if you’re going to object to Facebook, what about Google”? I didn’t really have much of an answer, despite having thought about Google a fair bit. There does seem to be something particularly insidious about Facebook, though. There’s something creepy about it- being trapped in the walled garden perhaps?


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