Institutions and Competition

Facebook and “The Decline of Power”... A treatise for useful idiots.

January 26, 2015

According to Moises Naim, social conversations and the internet of feelings are replacing institutions like the National Security Agency, GCHQ and the Russian Federal Intelligence Service by providing solutions to complex security issues. Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk are replacing Renault-Nissan and Siemens and General Electric, and the equality of languages insures that all nations, ethnic minorities and indigenous groups have an equal voice in the conversation.


All of this Naim, the former editor of Foreign Policy, writes in english.


Naim's Venezuela baggage

Before becoming part of “the solution” Naim was part of “the problem.” A Venezuelan national, Moises Naim served during the 1980s as development minister for the man many consider to be the most corrupt president in the history of South America, Carlos Andres Perez.


Known by the acronym CAP, Perez, supported by American interests like the Rockefeller-controlled Council of the Americas, squandered Venezuela's oil wealth. During two terms as president, CAP used corruption and political handouts to keep the nation stable. No longer to able to control food prices and public transportation costs, popular reaction to CAP's policies caused the military to support maverick officer Hugo Chavez, paving the way for the Bolivarian Revolution. Moses Naim was part of CAP's project.


Naim continues to evangelize to Latin Americans in Spanish, hosting an opinion show synidcated by cable network NTN out of Colombia.



Crowdsourcing. How data becomes “democracy”


Based on “crowdsourceing” (input provided for free by the Facebook community and data mined by Facebook) Zuckerberg decided one of his New Year's resolutions for 2015 is to add more reading to his media diet. He says he finds it intelectually stimulating.


So that others can obtain the same intellectual stimulation as the 30 year old Facebook chairman-- who is pegged as the world's 16th richest person with a net worth of $33.3 billion-- Naim's work is the first selection for the new, by invitation only, Facebook Book Club. After all, Zuck got his idea based on feelings that were made popular by “the people.”


But what about the majority of people on the planet who can't afford to be part of the conversation. The billions who don't have the economic power to own computers, use internet cafes, pay monthly internet provider fees, and who don't even have electricity and sometimes don't have water where they live. The people who are marginalized and live on the wrong side of the “digital divide.” Can “The End of Power”power help them stay away from extremism, AK-47s and other forms of organized violence associated with relative deprivation?




From Chairman Mao to Chairman Mark.

Statista dot com claims Facebook boasts 1.3 billion monthly visitors, making it a virtual community the size of the population of China.


That considered, it seems that qualifying for membership in Mark's book club is a bit like trying to get into the Moscow club “Propaganda” on a crowded evening. Not everybody gets inside.


The online version of Time reported that Zuckerberg's minions invited 30 million members to join the club. Are you one of the lucky 2.2 percent who was deemed appropriate by algorithms and other Facebook data science to be offered membership?


The Guardian has weighed in with a critique of the Facebook book club. It isn't likely to stop the sales of the books the club recommends though.



Changing how people look at the world does not change the institutions that make it work

When “The End of Power” went on sale back in March of 2013, it created a splash among intellectuals and policy wonks similar to what one saw in 1992 with the appearance of Francis Fukayama's “The End of Diplomacy.” Fukayama received a flurry of hype thanks to the internet as it existed at that time.


Using social media marketing, Naim's PR team even got a promotional quote from William Jefferson Clinton for the 2013 launch. The former US president claimed that The End of Power” ...“will change the way you look at the world.”


Meanwhile diplomacy did not come to an end. It continues to muddle through and nobody has called for an End of Diplomacy 2.0. The Bretton Woods institutions, notably The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, continue to be power players as they mediate the shifting sands of global economics. Bill Clinton will probably be an important traditional power broker and fund raiser for his wife, Hillary, in her campaign to become the next president of the United States.


Zuck's latest choice “The End of Violence”

“The Better Angels of Our Nature” by Canadian psychologist Stephen Pinker is the latest choice by the Facebook Book Club. It's sales will no doubt increase accordingly. Pinker argues that violence in the world is on the decline.


Tell that to the likes of Boko Haram, Joseph Kony, the Islamic State and the citizens of Cleveland, Ohio and Ferguson (metropolitan St. Louis) Missouri.


As for the problems of managing institutional change, this blogger recommends learning from the pre-social media, pre-Cold War era. “Trotsky and the Problem of Soviet Bureaucracy” a new book by Tom Twiss, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. A stellar analysis too close to the truth and too relevant today to make Zuck's list though.

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