When a Social Media Behemoth Owns the Government

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This is an excerpt from a lengthy novel I've recently completed. This passage appears early on, and it: provides the reader critical information about the novel's dystopian setting; and introduces a major character, Matt Silverman—an unsubtle spoof of Mark Zuckerberg.

If there is anything topping perceived invasions of Matt Silverman’s privacy—broadly, and thus, conveniently, defined—on the long and varied list of things known to send Matt Silverman into notoriously brutal and personal diatribes (the same that’d induced the settlement and N.D.A. signatory of a lot more than one former employee’s lawsuit against Matt Silverman), it is any perception of the superiority of those assclowns at Brickster. “Brick–ster.”  Even the cutesy, metaphorical similarity to his own company’s nomer makes Matt Silverman nauseous with fury.  

Brickster was, of course, founded before FrienDexx, though woe to the soul of anyone or –thing unlucky enough to remind Mister Matthew Silverman, “C.E.O., Bitch,” of this inconvenient fact.  Matt Silverman has long considered facts supremely inconvenient nuisances, and it’s only lost on a rare few on the bell curve’s far left tail that Matt Silverman’s company sprung from the (as it turns out, rather convenient) fact that a product enabling one to construct realities out of only those facts one desired be included would be a very popular product indeed.  And lo.  

And while that’s a not-inaccurate description of where FrienDexx began, it’s less precise in describing where Matt Silverman and his company find themselves at the present.  

While the assclowns at Brickster had gotten started first, the two rival titans had, at least initially, operated from different premises—which only later evolved into a single business: information.  Notwithstanding the not-inaccurate depiction of Silverman and his company in a wildly commercially successful and critically acclaimed motion picture—born from the lawsuit filed by a pair of silly WASPs of Harvard’s self-described “royalty,” who alleged Matt Silverman to be a thief of the intellectual property stripe—that FrienDexx began as little more than a scorned lover’s vanity project, once FDX really got under way in earnest, the corporate mission’s quasi-initial iteration was to index, and thereby understand, how individuals and groups thereof relate to one another.  

Brickster, conversely, began in a garage on the left coast instead of a dormitory on the right coast and simply could not have cared one single bit less about people; in fact, they might well have barely existed as far as Brickster’s founders were concerned.  Brickster, rather, started closer to the heart of the matter: desiring to understand, and thereby order and index, how facts—as least as they manifest themselves on the Network—relate to one another.  This too, as it turns out, was quite the popular, and thus profitable, product.  

So it’s not difficult now, with the benefit of hindsight, to abstract the whole matter up a level and see that FDX and BKR were really in the same business: collecting, indexing, ordering, and—yes, of course—selling information.  

Whether they were webpages or webpages people created about themselves became unimportant in a hurry.  

Silverman loathes Brickster and everything it represents—with its kitschy “Do No Harm” slogan that its founders hawk to anyone or –thing with an auditory and/or visual function—not least of which because the populace tends to regard Brickster and their kitschy slogan as a whole lot more easy to like—or, perhaps more accurately, not-dislike.  See for instance the commercial success of the film about how unlikeable Matt Silverman is and how everyone and their friend ultimately ends up suing Matt Silverman.  He gives new meaning to the phrase “The People Against Matt Silverman”—like, as in the not-criminal-indictment context.  Silverman has a peculiar effect on other people, something rather akin to the unexpected horror of biting into a whole peppercorn.  Which, of course, is not the least bit unrelated to Matt Silverman’s relationship with facts, their inconvenience, and hence his interest in constructing realities exclusively out of the desirable ones.  

Because here’s the thing about Matt Silverman and the peppercorn-chomping effect he has on other people:  It turns out that people will endure rather a lot of this kind of unpleasantness for the right amount of money.  Which, perversely enough, is a very convenient fact about Matt Silverman and FrienDexx: he and it, respectively, have rather a lot of it; mullah; cheez; that which makes the world go round; that which cannot purchase love (false—at least ostensibly—which is also a convenient fact); that which gets politicians elected, policies enacted, regulations enforced, secures favorable judicial outcomes, and generally enables just about anything that benefits FDX; M O N E Y.  

Which, at this point in time, has Matt Silverman feeling rather fantastic vis-à-vis the assclowns at Brickster.  For this November past had seen the horse that Matt Silverman had favored—“sponsored” or simply “bought” being a whole lot more accurate here—had come out ahead of Brickster’s preferred-slash-sponsored-slash-purchased shill in the Electoral College.

It’s been quite some time now since the U.S. presidency (‘POTUS’) became the only political position that mattered in any meaningful way.  The cruel Mistress of Entropy seemed to have attained a critical mass in her mucking up the cogs of electoral politics a few decades beyond the country’s bicentennial.  

Before the populace’s real apathy set in—meaning the total atrophying of the collective will to care—more than a few people laid the blame squarely on the feeble shoulders of retired U.S. Supreme Court (‘SCOTUS’) Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.  The criticism has its validity, sure, but it’s a gross oversimplification to hold her singularly responsible, and it’s downright abhorrent the way some went after Ms. O’Connor’s personal safety with such vehemence, which began during the winter of 2017.  It got so bad that Ms. O’Connor spent the twilight of her mortal existence on this planet in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (‘F.B.I.’) Witness Protection Program (‘W.P.P’).  

There are plenty of quote-unquote conspiracy theories that these acid-throwers eventually managed to hit their bull’s-eye, which proliferated across the Network like wildfire following the announcement of her passing—and they were thus actually responsible for her passing, contra the official (and officially convenient) narrative that she “passed peacefully in her sleep at age 85.”  But it hardly seems worth caring one way or another, given that the truth, or something marginally resembling it, has long since been committed to the bowels of   PERPETUAL CLASSIFICATION of the Top Secret variety, Compartment’s Existence: [REDACTED] Compartments’ Name: [REDACTED].  

So with Sam Alito—O’Connor’s replacement—and his four G.O.P.-appointed brethren maniacally crying: “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?!” as they threw open to the firehouse-pressurized tap of money into electoral politics, there is unquestionably plenty of blame to go around. See, e.g., the U.S. Census conducted after the turn of the century, which—paired with the recent well-publicized developments—more or less committed the lower Chamber of Congress to perpetual gerrymandered irrelevance. 

The upper chamber is—by its very design—inherently undemocratic.  Thanks a lot, Roger Sherman!  See for instance the myriad quote-unquote conspiracy theories abound that a half-dozen sparsely populated states out west have been overrun or invaded by enough insane rednecks—according to the most favorable accounting, no more than a few dozen—to ensure the U.S. Senate remained committed to the double-digit circle of Hell that Dante failed to include in the Inferno: The Tenth Circle, d/b/a the Filibuster.  So between a (few) dozen insane rednecks out West possessing the ability to grind the upper chamber to a complete halt, paired with entropy, hubris, apathy, et al., the Senate thus also rendered itself utterly irrelevant.  

So the U.S. of A. ended up stuck with the statutes already on the books—given the Legislative Branch’s full-blown abdication—which, of course, gifted an inordinate amount of authority to the Executive Branch’s creative (read: insane) re-interpretations of the existing statutes via its regulation promulgating authority—plus also the courts’ deference to the Executive’s regulations. 

Despite the courts’ deference to the regulation promulgators, judges initially feebly refused to play ball with the Executive’s creative/insane regulation re-writing. But, alas, the matter was ultimately out of the courts’ metaphorical hands, given the whole “Advice/Consent” function of the U.S. Senate remained firmly entrenched in the Tenth Circle of Hell in perpetuity.  And judges, alas, for their many (or few, depending on who you ask) gifts, cannot count immortality among them.  Meaning the U.S.’s judicial function requires living, breathing, not-senile humans to keep the docket moving.  So with Art. III firmly in the throes of Alzheimer’s (or worse), there really wasn’t anyone or –thing left as a quote-unquote check or balance on the Executive’s insane reinterpretations of the statutes on the books.  

And, & c., & c., you get the picture. Let’s not even get started on the state governments and their brazen abdication of anything having the slightest whiff resembling duty.  

Hence, the Electoral College, and, thus, really, the sponsors of the shills appearing on the ballot, hold something like fifty out of a full deck of cards, at least in terms of governmental authority.  

So Matt Silverman is feeling rather terrific indeed, as FrienDexx and Brickster were now the only two remaining entities with both the will to care and sufficient amounts of that, as it turns out, can, in fact, purchase (the illusion of) another’s affection.  The net result being, for at least the next four years, Matt Silverman’s allies in D.C. will be singularly dedicated to a frenetic spasm of churning out as much possible Red Tape to benefit FDX at the expense of BKR.  Ergo, Matt Silverman has been rather busy indeed—preparing a long and detailed wish list from the new administration and ensuring the installation of the people responsible for running the machine that churns reams-upon-kilometers of Red Tape.

There is always, of course, the concern that FrienDexx’s sponsored horse would go off the reservation:  Human self-preservation of the political stripe essentially means that POTUS could make the calculation that BKR’s sponsorship during the re-elect would give POTUS a better shot at another four years.  And keeping the soon-to-be-newly-minted POTUS squarely on the reservation was, at this moment in time, of the utmost importance. Because—while FDX and BXR had snatched up the major defense contractors back in 6 b.s.—the U.S. military (‘DOD’) retained a certain degree of recalcitrance to allowing the so-called Titans of Tech to run around their R&D (‘DARPA’) facilities like an unsupervised child in a high-fructose corn syrup brick-and-mortar establishment.  

Unfettered access to lots and lots and lots of weapons apparently has this spine-stiffening effect that neither FDX nor BKR had encountered elsewhere.  The DOD, of course, isn’t totally immune to the alluring benefits of the influx of FDX and BKR cash, but it’s that pesky ready access to weapons that made DOD and DARPA quite the difficult nut to crack—both apparently having concluded, accurately so far, there was very little the two Titans could or should expect in terms of benefits conferred in exchange for all that mullah. That said, the DOD couldn’t be too brazen about sticking its thumbs in the eyes of FDX and BKR, since the DOD needs to keep the tap of money flowing—and, of significantly less importance, at least create the impression of answering to the sponsored horse residing at 1600 Penn. Ave, N.W.

So FDX’s and BKR’s attempts to snatch up the juiciest bits of DOD’s intellectual property were a rather delicate dance indeed. Something akin to a three party tango, with the perimeter parties each trying to inflict a mortal blow on one another without drawing the ire of the party sandwiched between them.

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