Thursday, December 10, 2020

Saving Facebook

NPR's Morning Edition had a segment this morning on the antitrust lawsuits against Facebook.  Host Noel King went after Connecticut Attorney General William Tong aggressively.  Her opening line was  "Facebook crushes the competition. That's one of those cliches we use to talk about big, successful companies."  In other words, it's not true, just a cliche, probably thrown around by envious losers who can't cut the mustard.

When Tong tried to explain how Facebook crushes competition and takes away users' freedom of choice, King interrupted.  (The transcript doesn't convey her snotty tone, so it's worth listening to the audio.)

Let me jump on you there. Facebook argues that there is competition. And I will tell you, the young people in my life - the teens, the tweens - they don't care about Facebook at all. They're all on TikTok. Is it possible that in five, 10 years, Facebook will be kind of irrelevant or at least not the behemoth it is now, and that this is just sort of panicking over something that - companies become dominant for a few years, and then they tend to fade? 

And so on.  Tong was stoical and answered King patiently.  But I noticed something unusual.  Ordinarily whenever NPR does a story about Facebook, the host begins by acknowledging that "Facebook is one of NPR's financial supporters."  This story, posted on Wednesday, includes the disclaimer as an editor's note.  But Noel King never mentioned it, nor was any note to that effect added to the transcript.

One of the other trials of my morning patience is Marketplace Morning Report, which also had a segment this morning on the Facebook antitrust actions.  Marketplace is an American Public Media product, so maybe Facebook isn't one of its underwriters and a disclaimer wasn't needed.  At any rate the program was clearly pro-Facebook, though not as stridently as Morning Edition was. Missing from the linked audio is an interview with an academic who predicted derisively that nothing was likely to come from these lawsuits and investigations, any more than the Microsoft antitrust case twenty years ago.  He neglected to note that what stopped that process, which began during the Clinton administration, was George W. Bush's accession to the presidency: he (or his lackeys, which amounts to the same thing) announced that the action would be dropped.

To belabor a dead horse, Morning Edition also had a brief segment on the December 21 Great Conjunction today.  They talked to a planetary geologist who gushed,

You cannot help but notice these incredibly bright stars. And every night, you can go outside, and you can see them getting closer and closer. And just a couple days before Christmas, they'll kiss. And then they'll wander apart again.

Noel King explained that the planetary geologist was "describing a phenomenon that's known as the Christmas star."  No, it's not, since this conjunction only happens every several hundred years.  Cohost David Greene continued:

The Christmas star, even though we're not talking about a star or two stars, it's actually two planets, Jupiter and Saturn, closely aligning in the sky. Astronomers call this a conjunction. And this year, its peak will come on December 21st. Jupiter and Saturn will appear to be right on top of each other.

 "Kiss"?  "Right on top of each other"?  Sounds hot, but it won't be, any more than it'll be a Christmas star.  Next up was an astronomer, who explained that "They are nowhere near each other. The separation between the two is something on the order of 400 million miles."  Just another Christmas Grinch, throwing the ice water of fact on people's lubricious fantasies.

Noel King concluded with another reference to "the Christmas star."  That can't be meant to suggest anything but the (probably mythical) star over Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth, which is not what viewers will see as Jupiter and Saturn align in the southwestern sky this month.  That's NPR for you: sober, just-the-facts, professional journalism.