A good number of members of the Kennedy clan took up the challenge articulated by President John F. Kennedy on the Capitol grounds that cold January day in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
John, his sisters and brothers, and generations of their descendants were weaned on the notion that with privilege comes the responsibility for forming a contract (commitment) to make society and the world a better place than when they entered it.
Some of the tangible outcomes from this family contract beginning with “The New Frontier” has expanded to include the Peace Corps, Special Olympics, infrastructure improvement, the Civil Rights Law of 1964 and the Voting Rights Law of 1965, funding for public education and for the arts, and increases in the minimum wage and social security benefits.
Several extraordinarily privileged individuals throughout the generations have signed this “contract” by giving of themselves and their material wealth to improve the chances and conditions of people in the world community.
Others, while possibly motivated by good objectives, have failed miserably in their implementation, and created dangerous disconnections between their intent and their impact.
Facebook co-founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, falls into the latter category.
As one of the wealthiest people on the planet, his mind and intellect carried him vastly farther than his birth family’s station in life. Working in tandem with other remarkable young technical wizards, he has helped to establish a platform to bring together people across the landscape of nations and ideas.
Zuckerberg, while classified as a computer genius, however, apparently lacks a social conscience. He failed to protect the theft of personal information by Russian hackers who were intent on influencing the 2016 U.S. elections through the political data mining firm Cambridge Analytica.
An initial billionaire contributor of Facebook, Sean Parker, admitted that Zuckerberg consciously designed the social media platform as a source of addiction, as a “drug” to get people hooked to staying online by “exploit[ing] a vulnerability in human psychology.”
Paradoxically, in the act of people consuming Facebook, Facebook metaphorically consumes people.
In addition, during the direct aftermath of the disastrous hurricane and flooding of Puerto Rico, Zuckerberg took to the internet to introduce his software allowing people to “take a virtual tour” of the devastated island in the comfort of their living rooms to observe the water flowing and the damage from several angles.
Media critics interpreted Zuckerberg’s timing as insensitive at best.
Zuckerberg opened yet another social hornet’s nest during an interview with the technology website Recode. When asked about Facebook’s response to “Fake News,” he offered an example in his commitment to permitting a wide range of views and perspectives.
“I’m Jewish and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened,” he said. “I find it deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”
Mark Zuckerberg again shows a complete lack of social consciousness and understanding of the uses of propaganda. He clearly demonstrates the danger when extreme power and privilege comes without an obligation to social responsibility.
Holocaust deniers consciously attempt to rewrite history by tossing facts into garbage bins of their own creation. This has real-life consequences in the development and growth of the white supremacist movement in the U.S. and abroad. People and democratic institutions are hurt and forever damaged by these fabrications.
Zuckerberg, while his stated intent has been to allow a free-flow of ideas, his impact has been hurtful throughout his tenure at this monster of his own making.
Zuckerberg would do well, instead, to consider following a concept from Jewish tradition known as Tikkun Olam, meaning the transformation, healing, and repairing of the world so that it becomes a more just, peaceful, nurturing, and perfect place.
Until that time, he should consider stepping aside and allow someone who is willing to sign the social contract of responsibility to take over the reins.