At first sight it is a wildly improbable connection,
but in a strange way the ultra-new America and old white America reflect each
other. Neither flatters the other in the process. One is a classically subdued
study in blue and white, the other is orange on top and red from the neck down.
Each has profoundly changed the United States of America but there are loud
questions whether that has been for the better.
Each is a magnet for a public whose attention span shortens by the day, but by a miracle of perpetual motion and controversy they have managed to remain the cynosure of all eyes. Each has inspired a hundred million words of typescript from every shade of opinion, praise, blame and derision. Their actions are the subject of heated discussion in the US Congress, with much finger-wagging, lip-pursing and head-shaking. The two have fed public dependence to a degree that people in their thrall behave suspiciously like addicts, exhausted and aware that it may not be good for them but unable to shake off their fixation.
President Donald Trump is, of course, no stranger to the spotlight. Even in his early days as a bumptious young New York builder he craved attention. Over the decades this craving became insatiable. He conducted everything, property deals, affairs with innumerable women, bankruptcies and divorces in the lurid glare of the city’s tabloids. Indeed, he could justly claim a share of the millions they made reporting “Donald Trump Live” from New York in a print version of the creepy but gripping Truman Show. In his relations with the press he resembles sacked Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, a character from a different universe. Ferran Soriano, chief of Manchester City football club and formerly at Spanish giants Barcelona, once said the Catalans rejected Mourinho because he “generates media conflict almost permanently”. But a large section of Americans obviously love it because they made Trump president.
Some banks are too big to fail, some people seem too important to jail.
Facebook, on the other hand, was immeasurably better known
across the world almost from inception. It was also everyone’s darling until
just the other day; to be precise, when the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted
in March. Facebook had allowed the obscure (then) UK firm to harvest the
private data of millions of users to help
Trump campaign chief Steve Bannon build his “psychological warfare tool”
for the 2016 election and construct a media blitz targeting voters suspicious of
Hillary Clinton. Facebook stock lost $30 billion in the first two hours after
publication. The increasingly frantic denials and evasions of the company and
founder Mark Zuckerberg’s cut no ice. Today its market valuation is down by
In December, The New York Times produced a second devastating expose, showing Facebook lied for years to its users about flagrant violations of privacy rules to let Silicon Valley titans like Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo, among others, access user data in a mutually profitable exercise in self-preservation and product improvement.
While few think Trump is or was ever a great or even good businessman, Mark Zuckerberg is perhaps the most successful of the insurgent new generation of IT boy billionaires, many of whom look like they should be in school. But both have fallen foul of the media, law makers and law enforcement because of the lies they told. Most rational people, including White House staff, believe President Trump is a habitual liar but Facebook enjoyed greater trust, though there were always those who questioned its veracity. But people were inclined to go easy until the ground-breaking investigations into Cambridge Analytica by the Observer, The New York Times and UK’s Channel 4 were published in March. The latest revelations leave no questions about its duplicity. Regular new revelations keep hammering away at its reputation as well as stock prices. Like Trump, it seems the nadir is yet to come.
And just like him Facebook, too, is remarkably secure. Billions of people continue to use it every day, income streams are largely intact and there is no effort so far to hold either the company or its serial-offending officers accountable. Its reputation may be tattered but the normal processes of law do not seem to apply. Likewise, Trump who has been savaged by critics and mainstream media almost from day one refuses to be held to account. He seems freer than ever now, after disposing of all his senior advisers. While no one is sure what he will do next everyone knows that they can’t stop him. Just as some banks are too big to fail, some people seem too important to jail.