Mark Zuckerberg is a small man — five foot seven, according to Google — but that is not very widely known, because the only images of him available to the public are carefully crafted to make him look taller, according to former Wired writer Graham Starr. Having once read Starr’s remarks on this subject, it becomes impossible to see photographs of the Facebook founder without also seeing the stagecraft employed in nearly every image to conceal the truth about his height.
Zuckerberg is a brand, the chief executive of one of the world’s most valuable companies, and a would-be presidential candidate. Making him look taller is important because everything about a brand and a would-be president must be crafted to evoke warmth, admiration, and good feelings so the people keep coming, keep reading, keep liking, keep paying. And eventually, someday, maybe, keep coming out to vote.
Taller people tend to win elections, they say.
So here he is in the New York Times, traveling the country, sitting way up high on a tractor in Wisconsin, a native companion looking deferentially up at him. Here he is, smiling, having quite recently decided he’s “no longer an atheist” in the Charleston church where Dylann Roof killed nine people. Here he is, giving a commencement speech at Harvard, informing those assembled that “Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for.”
Thus the public is taught to believe that Mark Zuckerberg is tall, and also generous, a thoughtful and responsible custodian of our private information, a wise and intelligent leader. And how surprised can we be, when literally anyone — no matter how corrupt, greedy, base, or stupid — can be president, a fact that has never been more obvious than it is now.
But look a little closer and you’ll find that Zuckerberg is about one Persian cat shy of a Bond villain. Just in case you hadn’t already noticed that billionaires don’t make good world leaders. This man has no business running for office, and as someone who hired a full-time pollster to monitor his approval ratings, it really would appear that he intends to.
(I’m not saying that small people are evil. I am small myself…okay, we are totally evil.)
People who seek high office should have a long record of honesty, good judgment, and good character. That should not be too much to ask, but it disqualifies a lot of people, Mark Zuckerberg among them.
Here’s Facebook denying that Russian propagandists bought ads from the company during the 2016 presidential campaign, and admitting, just a little while later, that they did. Here is Facebook admitting a little later still that, well, actually, the company distributed Russian propaganda to nearly 150 million people during election season. The company sold advertising to Donald Trump’s campaign much more cheaply than to Hillary Clinton’s (because Trump’s ads were so much more “provocative,” and, you know, algorithms). Advertisements which, by the way, could be so microtargeted that buyers could serve them up to groups of “Jew haters.” But here’s Mark Zuckerberg, saying he considered the notion that Facebook had influenced the election in any way to be “a pretty crazy idea,” a remark he later said he regretted.
It’s now beyond question that in the run-up to the 2016 elections, Zuckerberg’s company was paid an unknown amount of money to enable secret cabals to spread a thick layer of informational manure over the voting public of the United States. Many believe Zuckerberg’s evident (and profitable) dereliction of responsibility played a key role in ushering in not just the Trump presidency, but also a toxic hellscape of media mistrust and a damaged democracy.
Despite his refusal to acknowledge his responsibility for that fiasco, Zuckerberg and his company have issued plenty of apologies for other derelictions. He “visited” hurricane-torn Puerto Rico from a distance (3,588 miles) that makes George W. Bush’s infamous flyover tour of New Orleans after Katrina look like Albert Schweitzer ministering to lepers in Lambarene. (Sorry!)
Here’s the Facebook booth at the recent Tea Party shindig, CPAC, where visiting conservatives were offered a chance to pretend-shoot “resistance forces” with guns — “resistance forces!” — not two weeks after 17 people were shot and killed in a Florida high school. (Sorry!)
Here they are, apologizing for secretly manipulating the news feeds of nearly a million people in an in-house “experiment” (Sorry!); for getting a Palestinian man arrested for saying “good morning” (Sorry!); for censoring Palestinian journalists (Sorry!); for blocking Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King (Sorry!); for fat-shaming a plus-size model (Sorry!); for suspending a black activist’s account after she posted threats she’d received (Sorry!); for helping themselves to commercial rights of user photos posted on its Instagram service (Sorry!); for overstating their video metrics (Sorry!); for tolerating violent imagery toward women (Sorry!); for permitting a suicide victim’s photograph to be used on a dating site ad (Sorry!).
It would benefit Mark Zuckerberg, it would be worth it for him to pay a lot of money for you to believe that he is a good leader, worthy of your trust, and there’s evidence that he does just that. But a clear-eyed assessment of the record forces us to conclude that Mark Zuckerberg is not remotely a good or trustworthy leader.
Personal messages written in 2003 and leaked to Business Insider in 2010 exposed the private, unvarnished Zuckerberg, the pre-Potemkin Zuckerberg, before any PR flacks, pollsters, or media coaches had arrived on the scene. He started his career as a rapacious plutocrat with a bang by getting rid of his initial seed investor, Eduardo Saverin, massively diluting Saverin’s investment; the two later came to a settlement. Private messages were also leaked to Silicon Alley Insider in the wake of the legal scuffle between Zuckerberg and the Winklevoss twins, Cameron and Tyler, who claimed that Zuckerberg had lied to them and stolen their ideas in order to build TheFacebook.com; they too came to an eventual settlement.
Here’s Zuckerberg explaining to a friend over IM, back then, what he intended to do about the Winklevoss twins:
FRIEND: so have you decided what you are going to do about the websites?
ZUCK: yea i’m going to fuck them
ZUCK: probably in the year
Confronted with these allegations six years later, Facebook issued a nondenial denial worthy of Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “We’re not going to debate the disgruntled litigants and anonymous sources who seek to rewrite Facebook’s early history or embarrass Mark Zuckerberg with dated allegations. The unquestioned fact is that since leaving Harvard for Silicon Valley nearly six years ago, Mark has led Facebook’s growth from a college website to a global service playing an important role in the lives of over 400 million people.”
Well…that’s just the problem, isn’t it. Nobody had ever doubted that Facebook was huge. The question was, then as now: Was — is — Mark Zuckerberg fit to lead a company of this magnitude and influence?