Responding to widespread criticism for sidelining conservative voices on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg summoned Glenn Beck and a small group of Republican media figures to meet him at his office in Menlo Park, CA. Curiously, all but one of those attending the meeting with Zuckerberg are anti-Trump figures. Glenn Beck is by far the most prominent in the group. The sole exception to the opposition to Trump is Zac Moffat who has stated in the past that his firm would work for Trump if asked.
The group consists of Beck, former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino, S.E. Cupp, and Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute. All are on the record against Trump. Beck and Cupp both wrote essays for National Review’s infamous “Against Trump” special issue. Beck’s loathing of Trump is well documented. He has even warned listeners that a vote for Trump could mean facing hellfire and the eternal wrath of God. Really.
So why does Mark Zuckerberg want to meet with Beck? He’s not a credible representative of American conservatism (see Cheetos video below) and he’s also not among the most popular conservative outlets on Facebook – not by a long shot. Beck’s The Blaze does not even rank in the Top 25 media sites on Facebook whereas 3 conservative oriented sites do – Fox News (#3), Breitbart (#15), and the Daily Mail (#9). But Beck and The Blaze are aligned with Zuckerberg on some big issues which might explain the meeting.
The folks over at Breitbart clearly aren’t expecting much. And why should they? The long history of conservatives dealing with liberal media organizations is largely unhappy. Over the years these institutions have found it expedient to identify a few “approved conservatives” to innoculate them against charges of bias. But actual conservatives usually don’t find much in common with these folks. Witness David Brooks at the New York Times or the decades long love affair between the Washington Post and John McCain that came to an abrupt end when he became the Republican nominee for President.
In Beck’s case, Zuckerberg has an opportunity. After being dismissed from Fox News, Beck’s media empire has been in decline but that decline has accelerated recently. The Blaze has been eclipsed by other sites – including this one – that have a real following with the conservative base and he needs something to prop him up. Support from Facebook would be a shot in the arm for his struggling business and would buy Facebook some good publicity but it would undermine actual conservative news on the popular social media platform.
Lee Stranahan of Breitbart made this prediction:
But in fact, I'm very sure you'll issue a big A-OK about all the common ground you found, and screw conservatives. https://t.co/HdKBiDz8y0
— Lee Stranahan (@stranahan) May 16, 2016
Photo Op or Budding Alliance?
Zuckerberg and Beck agree on a few big things. To start, Beck changed his position last year and now supports “a path to citizenship” which is code for amnesty. Zuckerberg is also an outspoken advocate for amnesty and open borders. In addition to founding Facebook, Zuckerberg is also the founder and financier of Fwd.us – an open borders advocacy group In 2015 he and other tech CEOs filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging the justices to allow Obama’s executive amnesty program.
But perhaps more than immigration, both are opposed to the candidacy of Donald Trump – as are all but one of the other Republicans meeting with Zuckerberg. Is this meeting just a photo-op meant to blunt criticism of Facebook arising out of revelations that it suppressed conservative sites or is it the beginning of an alliance? In practical terms, is Facebook looking to align with some self-described conservatives who are willing to undermine Republican candidates and causes? Beck would seem a good choice if that were Zuckerberg’s strategy.
If Facebook really were neutral in the way it selects the Trending Stories it shows users, as they claim, they wouldn’t need to meet with anyone. The proof would be readily apparent to everyone using Facebook. So in that sense the meeting is a tacit admission of guilt. But it also signals that they are ready to go a step further in their manipulation of Trending Stories. Those stories are supposed to be selected by a neutral algorithm based on popularity with other users. But after revelations from a whistleblower, Facebook confirmed that, in fact, there is a human editorial team that oversees Trending Stories. And that the chief editor, Tom Stocky, has given the maximum legal contribution to Hillary Clinton.
Only time will tell if Mark Zuckerberg is planning an alliance with Glenn Beck, but the opportunity certainly exists. Beck’s company desperately needs a boost and Facebook needs some sort of a fig leaf to show that it is not censoring conservatives. And both want to defeat Donald Trump. Promoting a conservative critic of Trump would serve both of their purposes. We’ll be watching the results of the meeting Wednesday, but more important, we’ll be watching Facebook’s Trending Stories.
And here’s the Beck Cheetos video.