“No!” shouted the goblin. “No Facebook shares can settle our debt. The child is mine!”
— Malcolm Harris (@BigMeanInternet) December 1, 2015
Successful advertising salesman Mark Zuckerberg’s wife Priscilla Chan gave birth to their first child, a daughter named X-Pro II, sometime early last week. The new family feature was in limited beta until yesterday, when it was released to the public with a touching open letter Mark and Priscilla’s corporate public relations team wrote to their newborn in their names. The letter is mostly standard new parent Facebook-update stuff, like “today, most people die from five things–heart disease, cancer, stroke, neurodegenerative and infectious diseases,” “medicine has only been a real science for less than 100 years,” and “we understand you’ll have many questions about why and how we’re doing this.” The sort of sappy stuff all sleep-deprived parents write to their infants.
sometimes i get excited and spell things wrong pic.twitter.com/qLRtd9NOP3
— ಠ_ಠ (@MikeIsaac) December 1, 2015
But the big news was the formation of The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, named by Robert Ludlum and headquartered deep within a South Pacific volcano. This was generally reported with some combination of the words “donates,” and “charity,” which were words Zuckerberg’s press release somehow managed to suggest, but only as negative space around the words that were actually there. The New York Times’s Vindu Goel and Nick Wingfield eventually came as close as anyone to reporting this accurately, and the gist was that Zuckerberg is forming an LLC, plans to transfer most of his Facebook shares to it over time, and wants to use this wealth to achieve reasonable philanthropic goals, like “curing disease.” Not a particular disease, but just, you know, disease in general. It’s entirely likely that a lot of this money will eventually find its way to charity, although so far Zuckerberg’s philanthropic results have been poor. It’s also likely that tax and inheritance implications figured heavily into the structure of this new wealth management tool. An LLC can become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, but so far there’s no indication Chan and Zuckerberg plan to do that, and Google and Pierre Omidyar have both recently chosen to forgo the tax benefits of a charity in favor of the much greater privacy and control of a philanthropically oriented for-profit.
Maybe letting the ultra-rich buy the rest of us whatever kind of future they want is looked down upon by wild-eyed leftists and German shipping millionaires. And maybe, as John Herrman explained, what to do with 100,000 lifetime supplies of gorditas is not an easy question for anyone to answer. But two things are for sure: first, the rollout of this quasi-philathropic effort was a world-historical public relations masterpiece, and second, as Anil said:
No matter how good their intentions, the net result of most such efforts has typically been neutral at best, and can sometimes be deeply destructive. The most valuable path may well be to simply invest this enormous pool of resources in the people and institutions that are already doing this work (including, yes, public institutions funded by tax dollars) and trust that they know their domains better than someone who’s already got a pretty demanding day job. That may not be as appealing to the cult of disruption within the tech echo chamber, but would be exactly the kind of brave and unexpected move that might offer Max a great example of how to engage with the real world that the rest of us live in.
Don’t want to alarm anyone but just saw Mark Zuckerberg carrying a huge novelty sized check into Zach Braff’s house
— Richard Lawson (@rilaws) December 2, 2015
That irresistible “babies now being named after Instagram filters” post on Time was picked up by NYMag popup blog “Gawker”, Re/Code, Vanity Fair, and, like, everyone else yesterday. Supposedly according to Baby Center data, the names Lux, “Ludwig, Amaro, Reyes, Hudson and Kelvin… increased in popularity for boy names, while baby girls were named Juno, Valencia and Willow.” This is not social security data, as Katherine Miller pointed out, but the story is not even particularly true on its own terms. Lux, Ludwig, and Amaro are down from peaks in 2013, Reyes has risen back to its 2012 peak, Hudson and Willow have been rising steadily since the 1990s, Valencia has just exceeded its 2001 peak for the first time this decade, and Kelvin is actually down, from 107 per million to 100. Juno is possibly the only valid example, going from 43 to a still-negligible 93 per million, but that one, too, has been generally rising since 2007.
So that was apparently pure clickcraft from the start, as was yesterday’s other nonsense story, Drudge’s “DiCaprio Raped By A Bear In Fox Movie.” Jeb!’s team, with nothing much else to do, looked into it, and it eventually sucked up enough pre-Zuckerbaby attention that Fox had to deny it. Yesterday was a day suffused with an unusual amount of bullshit, even for the internet. And as Ronald Reagan knew, and Leo found out, for some people the bullshit is easy to see, but others don’t see it at all.
Today’s Bright Spot: This Businessweek story by Karen Weise about Dan Price, the “pay everyone $70,000” guy, is a masterpiece of reporting past the sunshiny press release to the truth, and explains pretty well why I’m skeptical of Mark Zuckerberg’s charitable proclamations.
Pando is selling gift memberships, if you need a gift for someone you hate. I’m not sure I’d describe what’s going on between The Washington Post and The New York Times as a fight exactly, but it’s cute that Chris Cillizza thinks so. The world continues to wait breathlessly for the solution to its two greatest mysteries: why does anyone care about “Iterating Grace“ and what exactly is Yahoo’s “core business?” Everyone was super shocked to learn that the Planned Parenthood shooter was an angry fundamentalist with a history of violence toward women. North Korean boats full of corpses keep washing up in Japan. Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” just entered the public domain, in plenty of time for the Trump administration. A Bitcoin mining startup was ruled a Ponzi scheme, as the trustless currency continues to attract all of the most trusting idiots. And Tom Scocca wondered “If Police Are Using Reasonable Force, Why Do They Lie About It?”
Oh my God José I’ve been writing these Tabs for hours, please save me.
I’m not sure what happened at the end there, but you know what? I’m not even gonna ask.
It Me: “Giant Draft Horse Sinking in Muddy Pond.”
Today’s Net.Toy: Look at the old web on old browsers today with oldweb.today.
Today’s Song: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, “Bear Trap“
~Sometimes you eat the tab, and sometimes, well, the tab eats you.~
Whatever man, I’m not even sure I’m going to survive today. ↩