Ken Burns says that Mark Zuckerberg is an enemy of the state. As an actual enemy of the state, I resent that.
In an interview with New York Times’s Kara Swisher, the legendary documentarian hinted that Facebook’s upper management, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, should be treated like the former Nazi leaders. “The Nuremberg of this, is if it ever happens, which it won’t, will be pretty interesting,” said Burns.
Strangely, some conservatives agreed with Burns’s assertion that Zuckerberg “belongs in jail.” The right hates Zuckerberg because of Facebook’s efforts to combat “misinformation” through censorship and fact-checking. The left hates Zuckerberg because he hasn’t purged all non-leftist thoughts from Facebook yet. But the conservative comments section intelligentsia seems to think that Burns is right simply because he hates Zuckerberg like they do, even if it is for the exact opposite reason. Burns is parroting the standard talking points dictated by the mainstream media/DNC. Biden similarly said about a week before that Facebook is “killing people” by not censoring enough.
There’s a story in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago about a Communist Party Meeting in Moscow where, after passing a resolution affirming the local party’s loyalty to Stalin, everyone stood fiercely applauding, clapping and yelling, for over ten minutes, as no one wanted to be seen as the first to stop. Finally, the director of the local paper mill sat down, allowing the applause to end at last. Later that night, the NKVD showed up on his doorstep. “In this way, independent men are known,” writes Solzhenitsyn. (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago, trans. Adaisa A. Jesus, p. 121-123)
The revolutionary left always cancels their own. The Russian Gulags held very few actual counter-revolutionaries and “enemies of the state.” The NKVD was able to exercise such total control because anyone who betrayed the slightest hint of only being lukewarm to the cause would disappear soon after.
Despite the rapid and radical shifts in Democratic and popular attitudes toward free speech, despite the bogus fact checks, the algorithm manipulation, and the general hostility from Facebook, the Daily Wire is not only still on the platform but is also the most popular news publisher on Facebook. Zuckerberg has not eliminated all conservatives. That’s why Burns is required to hate Zuckerberg. That’s why he is to be labeled a counter-revolutionary. He has failed this loyalty test.
This reliance on loyalty tests is not just a feature of the left. In any group with a shared ideology there is a tendency for members to want to prove their loyalty, so as not to be suspected of doubt, and for busybodies in the group to look for those signs of doubt and possible dissent. It happens with libertarians and conservatives all the time, and even Alex Jones is suspected by some hard-core Conspiracy Theorists of not being fully committed to the Conspiracy Theory ideology and therefore a disinformation agent because he doesn’t blame everything on the Jews.
It may be a common or even universal human problem, but it becomes dangerous when these ideological groups have the power to send dissidents to the Gulag or excise them from the culture. Libertarians and conservatives should try to create movements that tolerate doubt, cultures that don’t want to destroy people for imperfection.
Do we destroy those who doubt, or do we help them and lift them up? The teachings of Christ are an example of the latter. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith – even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.” Believing in true and false and right and wrong does not task us with destroying others for their imperfections.
I can’t read Mark Zuckerberg’s mind. I think that while he’s a natural liberal, deep down in his mind there are principles of free speech that he picked up from the 2000s programming culture, principles that Jack Dorsey might also have shared before he joined the hippie commune. But whatever Zuckerberg does at this point, he’s already marked as someone not properly dedicated to the leftist cause. Solzhenitsyn wrote about the fate of the man who sat down at the Communist Party rally: “With extraordinary ease they gave him ten years, claiming a totally different motive. But when he had signed the summary of charges, the investigating judge reminded him: never be the first to stop clapping.”
Top Image: Party officials applaud at the 15th Congress of the All-Union Communist Party in 1927. Joseph Stalin is in the bottom right.