No matter how much you hate Facebook, Wired’s “beaten Mark Zuckerberg” cover is a disgrace

The magazine have published a photograph that wouldn’t look out of place on The Daily Stormer.

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The competition to be the most boring person at the party used to between the guy with the acoustic guitar playing Wonderwall, the person loudly discussing veganism, that bloke explaining why The Beatles are overrated, and the couple with the impressive knack for managing to bring up how they don’t even own a TV. Now, the top of the pain-in-the-arse pops is the person who doesn’t use Facebook, and wants to tell you why you shouldn’t either.

Facebook is awful. There are lots of reasons: it’s an extension of the surveillance culture we’ve become almost bored of discussing, it pretends to have hippy ideals while being utterly gimlet-eyed about destroying whole industries, it was a conduit for misinformation on industrial scale during the 2016 Presidential election, and it constantly forces you to find out about the lives of smug couples who you can’t quite bring yourself to unfriend.

But  like Mark Anthony  today, I come not to bury Mark Zuckerberg but to, well, not praise him either, but mildly defend him.

The latest cover of the US edition of Wired magazine features a composite image of a bloodied and bruised Zuckerberg. The photograph  created using a lookalike and a picture of the real Facebook founder and CEO  is a metaphor for the strife he has faced in recent times. You can see why the editorial staff and photographers at Wired were so jazzed about this concept  it is already on its way to becoming a modern classic. But there are some big problems with this choice...

With the surge in “populism” (a nice cuddly name for fascist and pseudo-fascist movements) across the Western world, antisemitism and violence towards minorities has also spiked massively. The figures get heavily disputed by the right because, well, they don’t want to face up to the side-effects of even their low-level bigotry. In this climate, Wired publishing a cover story featuring an image of the probably the world’s most famous Jewish businessman battered and bruised is tone deaf.

To Wired Pravda for the Silicon Valley set the imagery is just metaphorical. They are so proud of their achievement that they have written an entirely separate article about how the effect was achieved. And the journalism in the feature that the image trails is excellent deeply reported and insightful on the fundamental problems that confront Facebook’s leadership in the age of misinformation. But that doesn’t make up for the cover.

The cover is succour to fascists. I’ll be accused of hyperbole but I don’t believe it is such: Let me spell it out Wired have published a photograph that wouldn’t look out of place on The Daily Stormer. Fascists will be getting tumescent at the thought of beating up one of the world’s most successful (and richest) Jewish businesspeople. That is the reality.

In a wider sense, the image is a great example of how Wired’s distorted world view skews its reporting and the visual and journalistic choices it makes. To Wired — aside from the occasional semi-critical article like the Facebook feature — technology is the balm for all ills. That’s a highly dangerous standpoint in a century where technological advancement is faster and colder than ever before.

Technology has always disadvantaged the poor first. Now, it has brought us to a situation where the so-called gig-economy has revitalised a kind of feudalism. We need to ask more questions about the deployment and development of new technologies, from gene therapies, AI and robotics to consumer-level tech like augmented reality, machine learning and social networks.

Silicon Valley is less inspired to disrupt the world of the rich. It builds things to make their lives easier and ‘disrupts’ the existences of the poor and disadvantaged. The future is not evenly distributed and we should all be deeply concerned about that. But Wired virtually beating up Mark Zuckerberg? That’s not the answer. 

Mic Wright is a freelance journalist and CEO and partner at The Means Agency.