“You’re going to have to write about Kim Kardashian this morning,” said my editor.
“Hold on a sec,” said I. “OK, I’ve got the rusty nails and I’m banging them into my hands.”
“Wait, you can spare yourself a tetanus shot, this is a serious story. She’s joined an army of clebs boycotting Facebook. There’s also Leo DiCaprio and Katy Perry and Sacha Baron Cohen and Ashton Kutcher and Jennifer Lawrence. They’re coming off Facebook and the ’gram for a whole day.”
Bang, bang, bang, OWWWWWWW.
But perhaps I’m being a little unfair. The boycott is part of a campaign led by #StopHateforProfit and there are some good people and organisations behind it. Worthies such as the US’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, for example.
The work they’re doing in keeping the spotlight on Facebook is important given the foulness that can easily be found on the social network - that is if its algorithms don’t actively push the stuff down your throat, as they do to too many people who then get dragged into deep, dark swamps.
Pedlars of falsehoods and hatred towards disadvantaged groups, racists, bad actors, rogue governments; they’ve formed an unholy alliance that’s helped to turn social media into a throbbing bile-filled pustule.
They may yet tip the scales in what’s shaping up to be an era-defining election in the US, the politics of which they have helped to poison (although the Republican Party was doing fairly well without their help).
A one-day boycott involving a group of celebrities wouldn’t appear capable of moving the Facebook needle very far. It’s a mosquito bite on the company’s right shoulder at best.
Wall Street’s reaction was illuminating. The shares wobbled a bit when it was announced, exciting some reporters who noted that $7.6bn (£5.9bn) was knocked off boss Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune at their low point during the day’s trading.
That looks like a lot until you realise $7.6bn to him is basically the same as the cost of a cup of one of Starbucks’ fancier coffees to you and me. And the shares soon recovered to finish the day before the boycott, buying Zuckerberg enough pumpkin spiced lattes to fill Lake Superior in the process. In other words: investors said “meh”.
Not that their opinions count for much given Zuckerberg has voting control of the company and can basically do whatever the hell he wants. By far the more significant action aimed at Facebook was taken by companies like Unilever; a big advertiser which was among several to suspend their use of the platform for the same reasons, but for a rather longer time period than did the celebs.
Even that scarcely troubled this financial behemoth. Facebook functions as a de facto monopoly. History tells us that it’s very hard to move monopolies, much less hurt them.
The only people who have a realistic shot are regulators and lawmakers.
The former take their lead from the latter and right now there’s too many of the latter who profit from the hate, bile and venom spat out by the pustule. Donald Trump and his party have formed an unholy alliance with the rabid fringe of its nether regions.
There is an argument that holds his re-election would suit Zuckerberg, which could explain Facebook’s seemingly limp and woolly response to date.
So back to the boycott: worthless when set against all this? Not necessarily. CEOs, especially high-profile CEOs who are celebrities themselves, don’t much like being portrayed as Darth Vaders running corporate Death Stars. Even if you have enough money to buy a small country, or a large one in Zuck’s case, it isn’t much fun if you’re a pariah in polite society.
So loud and noisy campaigns like this one aren’t without value. By keeping the debate alive, they can also ultimately serve to fortify those who are in favour of reform, real reform. People like Senator Elizabeth Warren, for example.
So yes, much as it pains me to say it, this could yet prove to be a worthwhile act on the part of Kardashian and her celebrity pals. Now. Where’s that rusty nail. OWWWWWWW.
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