My Facebook friends are up in arms. Aghast. Outraged.
It seems that a plan has been outlined (forgive me if I have the details wrong--I read it on Facebook) to charge users of the site a dollar to deliver messages to members who are not in one's circle.
"A dollar for an email?!?" "Stupidest thing I've ever heard!" "Fuck you, Facebook!"
Indeed, the thought of charging people a buck to deliver a message instantly and effortlessly is a bit silly at a time when people are balking at shelling out less than half that to have an actual, physical, paper missive hand-delivered across a continent is a bit absurd.
But the stupidest idea ever? Not if you work at Facebook.
Think about it. This is a company full of enthusiastic, decicated people, people who believe in their organization and yearn to have it subsume the rest of the known universe. Not only that, but they are heavily invested in that vision, to the tune of billions of dollars, whether or not the value is real or vapor. To maintain their share of this value, they have to find more ways--infinite ways--to monetize their little, blue universe.
It's pretty much the same with any media company, whether it be a television network or a film production company or a newspaper or radio station or a conglomerate that owns scores of such. They're so absorbed in the success of their enterprise that any idea to keep you stuck to the tube or computer or page, along with any scheme to squeeze a little more profit out of the racket seems, well, reasonable. Brilliant, even.
I was thinking about the Great Facebook Message Outrage today after reading Upper West's diary lambasting Tom Ashbrook's radio show On Point, though UW's complaints could apply to just about any talk show involving politics.
On any given day, you'll likely hear an exchange something like this:
Serious Journalist: So, professor, you're saying people actually support higher taxes?That's your cue to leap to your feet and scream at the top of your lungs, "No, damn it! The debate isn't a debate! It's one guy with facts and one guy with a bullshit talking point!"
Economist: Not just regular people, Jim. In a recent poll, even the wealthy support higher taxes on themselves.
[author's note: that's a real poll, btw]
Serious Journalist: What do you say to that, congressman.
Career Pol: Jim, the American people have made it overwhelmingly clear. They are against tax increases on our job creators.
Serious Journalist (looks to camera): So there you have it. The debate continues.
Followed by a blistering condemnation of pols, journalists, professors and the whole racket.
But sometimes it's good to remember that it is a racket. The pols, the journos, the think tankers are no different from those dedicated, enthusiastic people brainstorming to gin up more revenue at Facebook. They're trying to keep the gears turning on a machine that brings in the chow and pays the rent.
What's more, they work in organizations with insular and endlessly self-referential cultures. Whether we're talking CNN, NBC or the US Congress. And they are invested, to the tune of billions of dollars, in the success or those organizations.
And in such insulated, self-referential cultures, it's amazing the sort of crazy, stupid ideas that you can think up.
Like dollar emails. And false equivalences.