Extreme Media

By utilizing mass media, America has created a most impressive engine of economic growth by way of an army of consumers ready to buy their way to happiness. Sales, bargains, and upgrades for all!

Advertising is a powerful tool in the arsenal of any message maker. So it should come as no surprise the use of mass media by extreme voices in the far right would lead to a radicalized portion of the American citizenry who are constantly exposed to such messages. Whether it’s cable television (FOX News), social media (Facebook), or dark places of the Internet (Breitbart), when the reinforcing message heard everyday is to be afraid, that has dire consequences. It not only leads to terrible debate full of conspiracy theories and outright lies, it can also lead to violence.

Media is powerful. Media shapes us. We need to look at media as engaged citizens with critical thought and due diligence. That’s a must. Otherwise, there’s no telling what we’ll be convinced of. That we need a new LED flat screen, or a caravan of criminals and terrorists is frantically scaling our walls. That a fragrance is the key to sexual fulfillment, or our only recourse to save the republic is to turn to violence.

Open your eyes America, before it’s too late.

Putting the sweet corn in the trunk was a bad idea

My Grandpa Joe was a farmer through and through. My uncle, Joe Jr., worked the farm with him. Every August was time for sweet corn. They would drop off buckets of deliciousness to all the homes of family members. My grandpa would also drive around our small town selling it to people on the street. Everyone looked forward to his delivery operation.

While I was in college, Uncle Joe and I decided to expand the enterprise a bit. Our target was the city of Lincoln. He’d bring me corn from the farm, we’d fill the back of my Dad’s pickup, and I’d setup shop in a parking lot somewhere and just see what happens.

The first time we did this we sold quite a bit of sweet corn. It was a Sunday and I setup in an bank’s lot at a busy intersection. From their cars, people would see my sign and the corn in the back of a pickup truck. They flocked. We sold a few hundred dollars worth. Not bad for an afternoon of sitting around and handing people bags of corn.

The second time was different. It was during the week and I wasn’t able to use my Dad’s pickup. Instead, we thought it would be fine to put the corn in the trunk of my beige Ninety-Eight Oldsmobile. This proved fatal.

I had a hard time finding a place to setup. A grocery store kicked me out of their parking lot and a gas station wanted a hefty location fee for its use. The nail salon I ultimately convinced to let me use was an okay spot. It was on the corner of a busy intersection but with my new setup, selling corn out of the back of my trunk just didn’t add up for folks. I mean, if you want a legit, from-the-farm product, who in their right mind would trust corn out of the back of a car that looked like it was made for selling Mary Kay® beauty products? No one, that’s who.

The purveyors of the nail salon even felt sorry for my sad looking state of affairs. I had given them $20 for use of their lot but when they came out to see what I was doing they gave the $20 back. And then they bought a couple bags of corn out of pity.

This entire episode taught me something important in a very real-world way: when it comes to selling sweet corn, it has to be on brand.

That corn remained in the back of my trunk for a week. Almost all of the corn my uncle had brought me was returned to him. On the day I handed over the unsold corn, we both just sort of shrugged. Deep down, I think we knew we tried to cheat capitalism in brand America. And we both knew we would never do it again.

Again, on Facebook

Primer #1: The Facebook Dilemma

Primer #2: Operation Infektion

Primer #3: What Facebook Knew and Tried to Hide

Primer #4: On Facebook

I loved the middle years of Facebook. The optimism and the spirit of it all. Connecting the world, making it more open and better for everyone. And that optimism was everywhere in the world of tech startups. I worked with one during that time. It was great. Until it wasn’t.

There’s something to be said about thinking the thing you’re working on can never be bad. That notion can really fuel your day. It can drive you to work harder, faster, and more often. It can also blind you. When you refuse to stop, look twice, and listen more, you fail to see if the place you’re heading could end up being bad. I’m not talking about failure and failing often, all that pep talk stuff. I’m talking about the opposite of good. To the point where there are significant consequences.

I was hesitant to create a Facebook account all those years ago, but then close friends would tell me how great it was for getting your ideas out there. When true believers told me Mark Zuckerberg just had a more advanced view of privacy and that was a good thing, I paused, but then nodded and went along. Having a big private company control all my personal data sounded wrong, but then I continued to share personal data on my “timeline” anyway. Using the Login/Signup with Facebook button for other sites was weird to me, but eventually I used it all the time. The idea of scrolling forever looking for content to hit the like button on seemed sad, but there I was, scrolling and liking because it felt so delightful. So many red flags ignored, all in the name of wanting to be “liked.”

As the story of fake news, Russian trolls, and data misuse has continued to grow, my rage at the company has followed suit. It’s funny to think about how I used to see Facebook. It was a massive company full of young people working hard to change the world for the better, in a liberal state, with a cool vibe, building a product and a culture everyone was on board with. Despite my innate suspicion with corporations and cults, I failed to scrutinize Facebook in any real way. And as with most people who have used their product, that’s changing now.

Because now it’s painfully obvious they’re just like any monopoly who has abused power throughout history. They lack ethics, they fail to take responsibility, and they simply want their customers to trust them, no matter what. Those days are over.

At the top of the tech/startup food chain, Facebook set the tone. How it chose to work, what it valued, and what lines it would not cross. (Apparently there are no lines it would not cross.) In my experience in the tech space, so often companies were trying to be the Facebook of this or that, or create something like a Facebook feature or engagement metric. And it’s my biggest issue with the world of tech, as well as design, that can be found in so much of the scandals at Facebook.

That issue is this. In its vision, it proclaims it’s doing world-changing stuff that’s making a real difference in the lives of everyone who comes into contact with their mighty product/idea. Yet on the flip side, when something goes awry, the tepid response deflects any notion of responsibility because they are in no way in the business of effecting the real world lives of anyone who comes into contact with their inconsequential product/idea.

Facebook, as well as anyone in the tech or design space, can’t have it both ways.

The lesson in all of this, establish your ethics, and then hold firm. Because without them, you’re just an asshole trying to make a quick buck, regardless of the consequences. And as with Facebook, those consequences can be dire.

We can all hope for Facebook to be better. I want them to be. I’ll be following along from the outside as I deactivated my account last week. But also, anyone in the world of tech and design needs to take a hard look at Facebook and not be like them. We need more technologists, designers, and entrepreneurs to take responsibility for what they create, all the time. Not only when it’s making us look good, but also when it’s making us look really bad. Because with both the good and the bad, things turn out that way due to the actions we chose to take. And we simply have to take responsibility for our choices, there’s no other way forward.

Anecdote: Brad, Kara, Don, Barack, and Chris

Brad Ashford, a Nebraska Democrat, was my congressman in 2014–16. He ran again in 2018 and everyone assumed he’d make it out of the primary. That was not the case. He lost to a more progressive candidate. A woman named Kara Eastman who brought new voters into the fold. She ultimately lost to a vanilla Republican named Don Bacon. He’s not a terrible racist like other House Republicans but he did vote to take health care away from millions of people, which is the main reason I despise him. I very much wish Kara would’ve won but NE-02 has been gerrymandered all to hell since its electoral vote went to Barack Obama in 2008. Republicans here, like the national party, are into rigging the system in their favor. In just this last election they got term limits on the ballot for Lincoln’s mayor, an office currently held by a Democrat. It passed and now the guy, Chris Beutler, who has led Lincoln into the 21st century with a big, bold vision can no longer run. Just goes to show you, today’s GOP, no matter where you go, is full of anti-democratic partisan hacks who either cheat or change the rules to stay in power. The whole party is fucking horrible and every last one of them should never be voted for ever, ever, ever again. #VoteDemocrat

Full Case Study »

Deactivation

I’m on an unsubscribing spree. Email lists be damned, I’m removing myself. In most cases, nothing against you the sender, I just need a break. Post election, I’m cutting back. News notifications on my phone? Nixed! And I’m really not liking Facebook very much at all these days. Hence, time to deactivate. Very much looking forward to a less “noisy” next few months. Still love Instagram. Because I’m a sucker for the visual. Anyway, carry on. Also, follow me on Twitter.