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Someone To Watch Over Me

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So Mark Zuckerberg got hauled in this week to testify before Congress. Now, the spectacle of one of the world’s wealthiest persons having to answer questions while perched on a booster seat (he’s 5’ 7”) should be enough soap opera to satisfy even the most drama addicted among us.

Of course, ten hours stretched over two days is a good deal of grilling. (As a point of reference, Hillary Clinton took eleven hours of it in one day back in 2015.) And it may be that the booster seat was just for the comfort of Mr. Z’s butt, which was worth $3 billion more when he got up than when he sat down, as reported by CNN Money.

So it is no wonder that Mr. Z was composed and respectful, even deferential, when answering the questions posed to him. And even if he had to “dumb it down” a little a bit, his tone never crossed the line to exasperated.

Maybe I’m missing something in all this Facebook stuff and its somewhat nefarious connection to Cambridge Analytica. Maybe I should be horrified that the “private” information of millions of users was leveraged in an attempt to manipulate their voting behavior. I’m sure Howard Beale would be “as mad as hell,” but I’m not. I’m used to it.

Every ad on television, in every magazine, and on the margin of our Facebook scroll has been targeted to us. We’re consumers—of everything from deodorant to toothpaste, from skin care to the latest special effects blockbuster—even to politicians. And anybody who hasn’t figured that out has not been paying attention. They’ve promised us a better love life, smoother skin, the richest entertainment experience—hell, they’ve even told us they’ll make America great again. And some folks buy it.

The pharmaceutical companies encourage us to self-diagnose and then to self-prescribe, so that all the doctor has to do is write the script. No wonder we spend more in the United States on prescription drugs, but less on actual health care, than nine other high-income countries to which we were compared in a recent study by the Commonwealth Fund. And opiods? Don’t even go there.

When the powers that be realized that news could be entertainment—and entertainment is always big business—we watched the blossoming of “media” designed for its target audience. From the Palmer Report on the left to Breitbart on the right, they say what some want to hear, regardless of its accuracy or bias. As Mr. Beale said, “We’ll tell you any shit you want to hear.” Just click here, while we expose you to more targeted advertising.

And as for concerns about privacy. Puh-leeze. We’re living in a world where cameras are ubiquitous. When we go through a traffic light, get on the toll road, get in an elevator, walk down the street. Not to mention the fact that most of us are carrying a camera with us at all times.

It’s a shame Norma Desmond didn’t live to see this day. She had to wait for them to send in the cameras for her close-up. Not today. Don’t bother; they’re here.

As for Mr. Z. He didn’t amass a net worth of $66 billion by supplying a service that isn’t addictive, now did he? And we won’t know how to quit him until something newer and better comes along—which there’s a strong possibility he will have invented, too.

P. S. I guesstimate he made another $100 million while I wrote this column. Nice work, if you can get it.

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Well, Let Me Say This About That is an interesting twist on current events, as told by Dallas' finest and funniest Craig McCartney.

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