The Agenda Economy – and a bit of summer fun!
Posted at 11:18h, 07 Jun 2016 in List Archive by Bonnie Halper No Comments 135 Likes Share

Some of this you know – some of it you may not: After Hulk Hogan was awarded $140M in his lawsuit against Gawker, it was revealed that it was Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel who funded the lawsuit to the tune of $10M and the online media went ballistic. Thiel-Gawker Fight Raises Concerns About Press Freedom, said the New York Times, and the tenor out there in general is that, by underwriting the lawsuit, Peter Thiel is stifling innovation, what to speak of the dangers of a billionaire exerting that much power/potential control over a ‘news’ organization. We take no sides here, but for the record, “Curiously unmentioned in the piece is Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, one of the richest men on earth, with a net worth of more than $51 billion… is the largest shareholder of one of the most prominent media firms in the world: The New York Times Company…. His current stake in the company is valued at more than $300 million. The Times apparently did not consider this connection “fit to print.” Or maybe they just forgot to mention it? It’s weird, though, especially since one of the concerns raised in the Times piece is that billionaire owners might be exercising undue influence (including censorship) over news coverage.” (New York Times Is Very Concerned About Billionaire Media Investors—But Not Their Billionaire Investor).

For the record, “Much of Slim’s fortune is derived from the mobile phone empire he built in South America through his company América Móvil, whose U.S. subsidiary, TracFone, recently paid $40 million settlement to the Federal Trade Commission after being accused of deceiving customers,” according to the piece.

While unicorns might have fallen somewhat out of favor, Silicon Valley still clings to its sacred cows, one of the most revered of which is their political agenda, and being politically conservative (as is Peter Thiel) is a huge taboo, lest we forget Brendan Eich and how he lost his job at Mozilla, thanks to an unpopular political donation he made, which was several tax brackets shy of $10M. But as we know, often when it comes to agenda, money is no object.

And remember: it’s the Silicon Valley disruptors who like to do the disrupting. Exclusively. And heaven forefend if you buck the trend.

Want to see how easy it is to manipulate the narrative? Red Herrings are always fun and a good way to divert attention from a larger, or at least equally important, issue. Let’s have some fun! Especially since we all know about a certain – ok, we’ll say ‘politician’s’ – involvement with a certain online university and its fraudulent practices – which earned the family some $16+M, according to their tax returns. And a certain ‘politician’s’ viewpoints on immigration. Don’t be too sure you know the answers – and no spoiler alerts forthcoming. Click on the links and enjoy!

As for the Thiel/Gawker debacle, we find ourselves agreeing with Megan McArdle, who opined, “I find myself in agreement with the basic sentiment — powerful folks using their power to shut down speech they don’t like is deeply worrisome. That’s true whether those folks are Silicon Valley billionaires going after low gossip, or state attorneys general trying to shut down climate change advocacy they don’t like, or politicians using the power of the Federal Elections Commission to keep critical movies about them from airing during election season (Attention, Media People: Peter Thiel Changes Nothing).

Speaking of powerful people shutting down speech, this just in: freedom of expression is fast disappearing – which has nothing to do with the aforementioned lawsuit and everything to do with what governments are now dictating to the big online players – who are readily complying. As The Economist warns, “watchdogs report that speaking out is becoming more dangerous—and they are right. As our report shows, curbs on free speech have grown tighter. Without the contest of ideas, the world is timid and ignorant.” Speaking of social media censorship,  “Some Members of the European Parliament have characterized the EU’s code of online conduct — which requires “offensive” material to be removed from the Internet within 24 hours — as “Orwellian.””

The Hulk Hogan/Gawker case was a right to privacy issue which morphed into a freedom of speech issue: it’s all about agenda, see above and where’s the hue and cry from the Free Speech advocates here? Lest we forget, many social media sites – and Google – control a citizenship greater than those of most nations. They’re not only potentially a political force, but also potentially a deciding factor in issues (Mark Zuckerberg is ‘dictator’ of Facebook ‘nation’: The Pirate Bay founder). If these companies like Google and Facebook are complying, what’s the payoff for them? And you know there is one…In fact, Tracking not allowed (unless you’re Google).

We make no judgments. We’re just sitting here watching the clouds go by. And keeping a close eye on the gathering storm as we go onward and forward.