Archive Monthly Archives: October 2018

‘The third era of Zuck’: how the CEO went from hero to humiliation

The Facebook chief has carefully crafted his image of boy genius turned mature leader. Now hes losing control

At this time last year, it seemed reasonable to assume that Mark Zuckerberg was taking the first steps on a journey toward Washington DC – 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to be precise.

The Facebook chief executive had just completed one leg of a whistlestop tour around America that was fueling rumors of a Zuck 2020 presidential run. His Facebook profile was serving up a stream of photographs featuring Zuckerberg in a variety of politically symbolic encounters wearing politically appropriate facial expressions: serious and engaged at a boardroom table with military leaders; warm and open at lunch with military spouses; respectful and besuited at a black church in Charleston; confident and manly at a Nascar racetrack.

Twelve tumultuous months later, Mr Zuckerberg is indeed going to Washington – but it’s to testify before both houses of Congress about the massive data harvesting scandal that has enraged the public, knocked tens of billions of dollars off Facebook’s valuation and reignited calls for government regulation.

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Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook ‘didn’t do enough’ – audio

The shine is off Zuckerberg’s attempt to play statesman. The upcoming spectacle of the aging wunderkind being forced to entertain the probing questions of actual statespeople promises to recast Zuckerberg in a very different role: the embattled CEO eating congressional humble pie.

The exercise is practically an American tradition – executives from airlines, banks, credit agencies and tobacco companies have all been there. But for Zuckerberg, a CEO whose personal image is inextricable from that of the company he founded, it is symbolic of his loss of control of the narrative.

“We now are entering what I would call the third era of Zuck,” said Tim Hwang, who founded the California Review of Images and Mark Zuckerberg, a journal of academic essays on the “visual culture of Mark Zuckerberg”. Hwang sees Zuckerberg as a sort of techie Madonna, cycling through personas as he matures, both shaping and reflecting the culture.

First there was Zuck the “plucky in the college dorm room hacker guy”, said Hwang, who is also director of the Harvard-MIT ethics and governance of AI initiative. Then came “Zuck as world leader” – a period that saw the CEO travelling the world, meeting with elected leaders, occasionally donning a suit and speaking authoritatively about his global ambitions and social values. Zuckerberg and his public relations team successfully exploited Facebook’s signature blurring of the lines between the personal, political and commercial to create “Mark Zuckerberg”: the responsible boss, good husband, loving father, daring philanthropist and credible world leader.

Mark
Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, with their daughters in Palo Alto, California. Photograph: Charles Ommanney/AP

Hwang calls this new era Zuckerberg’s “in the wilderness phase”. “This is one of those moments where we’re really fascinated because this huge PR machine has sort of cracked and we can see through, and what we can see is someone way over his head,” he said.

The tarnishing of Zuckerberg’s carefully constructed image had begun well before the Observer’s 18 March report that a Trump-connected political consultancy had improperly obtained Facebook data on 50 million Americans – a number which, on Wednesday, Facebook revised up to possibly as high as 87 million.

That was clear when Wired magazine’s March 2018 issue featured a photorealistic illustration of Zuckerberg’s face bruised, bloody and dripping with sweat – a complete transformation from the same publications December 2016 cover, which presented Zuckerberg the way he likes to look: casual, smooth-faced and neutral. “Could Facebook Save Your Life?” the banner headline asked. (No, 2018 responded.)

It wasn’t just Cambridge Analytica, the 2016 election and Russian influence operations. The scandals of the past 18 months are too numerous to count, and encompass issues as serious as violating civil rights laws, collaborating with dictators and fueling ethnic cleansing.

But Zuckerberg’s flat-footed response to the data harvesting scandal felt like a turning point. For five full days, Zuckerberg remained silent. People who turned to Zuckerberg’s Facebook profile in search of a response from the company’s leader found only a snapshot of the CEO and his wife baking hamantaschen for Purim.

It was the kind of photo that, in earlier times, burnished Zuckerberg’s appeal to the middle-aged moms who wish their daughters would settle down with a nice, rich boy from Jersey like him. But with tens of millions of users feeling that their trust in the boy wonder had been misplaced, the message was more millennial Marie Antoinette: “Let me eat cookies.”

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At the end of the Illmore, rap’s most mythical after-party

Claire Bogle doesn’t want to tell me the password.

“It’s like the briefcase in Pulp Fictionyou’ll never know,” she says.

Tall, blonde, rocking a black leather jacket, and speaking with the dialed-in composure of a made pro well beyond her 26 years, Bogle is the coolest person to hang on the Scholz Garten rooftop since the German-themed bar opened in 1866. She’s talking to the Daily Dot late Saturday in Austin, Texas, about the end of the Internet’s most FOMO-inducing hip-hop house party, the Illmore. But she doesn’t want to tell me the password that’s been the bane of existence for fans online.

For the first time since 2011, Bogle, who co-owns concert promotional hub ScoreMore, opened up her guarded and viral event to the Internet during SXSW. To get in, the kids on Twitter needed a password to enter a website thatfor an instance so fleeting it’d make Ticketmaster blushlet you purchase three-day wristbands.

“We wanted the general public to be able to experience what we’ve been doing,” Bogle says. “If we’re going to go out, might as well invite everybody.”

The New York Times noted that at 2.5 percent, the Illmore has a lower admission rate than Harvard. (Disclosure: The Daily Dot coincidentally shares a PR company with the Illmore, which this reporter learned upon arrival.)

Security is layered and uncompromisingon Friday, police halted rap duo Rae Sremmurd’s loose, anthem-churning set about 15 minutes early because the main hall, according to security, vastly topped out its 540-person capacity.

“Security: Let the people have fun, y’all gotta stop tripping,” a muffled voice said from the stage.

But after hosting a generation of rap’s brightest heroes since 2011Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky, Future, Chance the Rapper, andDrake, whowas in last year before a European scheduling conflictthe invite-only SXSW party is ending tonight.

“Everything’s just king of changing,” Bogle says. “South by is transitioning as well. …We felt we should kind of go out with a bang.”

Unfortunately for Bogle and ScoreMore co-founder Sascha Guttfreund, the Reddithaters are here. And they’re drunkenly booing what should be a feel-good reunion show by Chicago clique the Cool Kids.

2 Chainz Greg Noire/the Illmore

The Illmore was never supposed to be a concert. At its core, it’s a house party. Performances are loose and subject to last-minute texts. Behind me, rap trio the Outfit, Texas, mingles by a foosball table. A young man standing near the backstage bowling lanes has a plastic baggie and is handing out blunts.

Corporate sponsorsTito’s vodka, Red Bull, Tunes Headphoneshelp foot the bill. The talent shows up reportedly unpaid because it’s already in town for SXSW and, well, it’s a historically lit occasion.

Greg Noire/the Illmore

At its most essential, Chance the Rapper meets producer Nate Fox; the duo goes on to write breakout SoundCloud indie recordAcid Rap. DJs Diplo and Skrillex spin back-to-back Illmore sets, and Bogle says this leads to them partnering up to formJack .

Now that people bought tickets, however, they want not playful pass-the-mic sessions or aux cord stream-offs, but a structured festival. When the Illmore 2016 is dominated in running time by staring at the stage and hearing Metro Boomin’s radio singles (the St. Louis producer performed Friday night, but his inescapable hits droned over the PA all weekend), people will grow restless.

Shortly after 3am CT Sunday, an ocean of boos and chants of “fuck this shit.” On social media, about the same:

And when Snapchat clips of Drake hanging out in Austin are stuffing timelines, no other headliner will do. Such is the double-edged sword of secretive, digitally branded SXSW live music.

As BuzzFeed noted last year: “The steady supply of rumors fuels an annual snipe hunteveryone in town stands at the ready for a pop-up Kanye or Rihanna or Drake performance that, more times than not, never materializes.”

It’s fallen on Chuck Inglish of the aforementioned Cool Kids to save this thing. They played the first one of these five years ago, and are here for what is supposed to be an epic sendoff.

“I came here and did this shit for free,” Inglish tells the thinning crowd. “Don’t boo.”

After reviving breezy blog hit “Black Mags,” the room mellows out.

Jazz Cartier Greg Noire/the Illmore

Bogle admits that the Web noise became a turnoff for her. I ask if the Internet killed this thing.

“I don’t think anybody ever has the power to kill the Illmore,” she says. “People use the Internet as an outlet to get out their aggression, and those people just don’t need to be here. It’s not for them.”

But she admits that “it just got too big.” Bogle clarifies: “The Internet is also kind of what made the Illmore.”

That’s certainly true. More than 11,000 accounts follow the Illmore on Twitter. In 2015, a reported 22,000 people RSVP’d online.

In another era, the Illmorewhich has had to upgrade facilities to accommodate demand three years runningwould have been able to quietly exist as a literal house party for well beyond that first 2011-2013 window.

“When we brought in more production it slowly transitioned to more of like what felt like a show,” Bogle says. “And it’s just been that way a little more every year, which is another reason we decided to end it because it’s not a show, it’s a party.”

Three years ago, Kendrick Lamar’s audience caused what Bogle calls “foundational issues, structural issues” to the second story of a suburban Austin mansion. He was performing “m.A.A.d city.”

This weekend, well, apparently Johnny Manziel showed up and bowled.

The three-day output of performances is a mighty list of captivating artists: 2 Chainz, DJ Drama, Desiigner, Dreamville Records, Flatbush Zombies, Jazz Cartier, Kehlani, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, Texas legend Trae the Truth. The final, 20-minute set from Tory Lanez was a crowdsurfing coup from a rapper who will be twice as famous this time next year.

The point of SXSW is to wander and find new musicless so to gawk at celebrities. The reputation was shrouded by selling tickets to the unknown, but more importantly ScoreMore can point to its record of fist-bumping new names in hip-hop. It can bet on this lineup to look twice as impressive with time.

Skywalker Greg Noire/Illmore

“I have zero regrets with the Illmore, I think we smashed it,” Bogle says. “I think it’s legendary, and I think it’ll always go down in history that way.”

Photo by Greg Noire/the Illmore

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