The grotesque inequality embodied by Musk, Bezos and Zuckerberg is a threat to democracy | Jeff Sparrow

The higher the monkey climbs, the more it exposes its back.

Likewise with the super rich.

Oxfam tell us that just 10 people now own more wealth than the bottom 40% of humanity – and that the 20 richest tycoons collectively own more than the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa.

You’d think that such obscene inequality would encourage the wealthy to adopt a certain modesty – if only for self-preservation. But today’s very online billionaire loves nothing more than raising his metaphorical posteriors for the admiration of the crowd.

Taking Elon musk.

Between April 2020 and April 2021, Musk reportedly made almost US$140bn.

In the United States at the time, the average annual wage it is about US$75,000.

In other words, Musk earns 1.86 million times more than the average American: about $383 million every day.

What morality can justify such a difference?

Does musk work 1.86 million times harder than everyone else? Is he, perhaps, 1.86 million times smarter?

The last few weeks, quite definitively, settled such questions.

After acquiring a social network seemed to be shockedKasturi set about running Twitter via Twitter, a process that provided a tweet-by-tweet glimpse of the very management energy of David Brent.

He posted a video of himself carrying it a sink into Twitter HQ. He fired thousands of employees – then, as the site’s functionality wobbled, asked some of them came back. He forced the rest of the staff to print out the code they’d written, then told them to break. He tweeted – then deleted – a link to conspiracy theory about the attack on Paul Pelosi, even while touting Twitter as a news source.

Most spectacularly, he monetized the blue-tick certification, a policy that (as everyone correctly predicted) released torrents of verified parodies.

An account claiming that pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly is promising free insulin, sending the company’s real-world stock plummeting. “Pepsi” tweeted, “Coke is good”. A blue check “George W Bush” declared, “I miss killing Iraqis” – and his friend “Tony Blair” tweeted back, “Same tbh.”

Mario gives the finger from the “official” Nintendo account; verified Mr. Bean invited users to take advantage of his cunnilingus skills.

On Thursday, Twitter staff pushed back, rejecting Musk’s request for them to be “extremely hardcore”. Speculation mounted that the entire platform would collapse.

When the site descends into a Marx Brother skit, Groucho’s line from the movie Duck Soup. comes to mind: “Gentlemen, [he] can talk like an idiot and look like an idiot. But don’t let that fool you. He’s really stupid.”

Meanwhile, over at Meta (the company previously known as Facebook), Mark Zuckerberg put on a similar display of concentrated ineptitude.

Not long ago, Zuck was earning $28,538 per minute. Business Insider counted The founder of Facebook could, at that stage, give up $ 100 to every person living in the US, and still keep more than half of his fortune intact.

The wide gulf that separates Zuckerberg from the rest of the species seems to explain his obsession with the virtual reality world of the metaverse. When, in the latest presentation, he was enthused about Meta’s new avatar legsHis excitement suggested the blue fairy finally promised that he would one day become a real human boy.

Unsurprisingly, most normal people don’t want to work in the metaverse (think three-dimensional, endless Zoom meetings, conducted in nausea-inducing headsets) and so, the more money Zuckerberg throws at virtual reality, the more Meta shares. plunges. its market value has dropped a staggering $700bnwith that result 11,000 people lost their jobs.

It’s easy to mock the vanity projects of the tech elite. That is also important.

A few years ago, our Guardian Arwa Mahdawi noted thatif you have earned $5,000 each and every day from 1493 onwards, you will still have less money than Jeff Bezos – even after his divorce.

The sheer scale of global inequality makes genuine democracy difficult. A few years ago it was reported that about 40% of Americans unable to raise $400 to cover an emergency. Does anyone think that his vote gives him the same political power as Bezos, which, according to a calculationmakes US $ 3,715 every second?

To put it another way, Musk shelled out a dollar with a billion or more to spare.

Disgraced crypto-tycoon Sam Bankman-Goreng
Disgraced crypto-tycoon Sam Bankman-Goreng Photo: FTX / Reuters

Something goes terribly wrong when the maintenance of basic infrastructure seems utopian, while the mastermind schemes of man-child oligarchy become routine.

In part, we can blame the media too often prone to slobber over the intersection of wealth and technology.

The disgraced crypto-tycoon Sam Bankman-Fried managed to part so many investors from their money partly because of the fawning coverage he so regularly receives. As Vox puts it, it is press portrayed SBF “As an irreverent, bookish person, often noted for his ancestry, his messy hair, his preference for wearing shirts and shorts, his Toyota Corolla.” Investors were enamored with that fact he is not a button businessman; he is playing computer games during pitch meetingsand like other modern founders, his eccentricities were taken as evidence of his different genius.

In Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fable, those who ignored the king’s nakedness revealed their craven servility. With the reportage about the man dubbed “crypto emperor“, The New York Times went one step further: its headline explicitly praised SBF’s no-trump pants clothing as central to his scruffy mystique.

In fact, as an analyst Mike Burgersburg pointed outLong before his company collapsed, Bankman-Fried’s flaws have always been obvious – at least, to those who care to look.

Weekend application

“[H]He never came into the light,” Burgersburg said, “Like, he either admitted he committed fraud, or said some ridiculous shit.”

When people show you who they are, Maya Angelou warned, believe them the first time.

To that end, the relative transparency of the internet is a tremendous boon, providing plutocrats in abundance with all the digital ropes they need to publicly hang themselves.

For example, Musk’s new antics reveal how many bullets we stopped during his promises land a man on Mars by 2021 failed to happen: one shudders to imagine an interplanetary colony organized according to the method currently reigning on Twitter.

The grotesque inequality that billionaires embody provides no basis for running society in space. It is even more toxic here on Earth.

Jeff Sparrow is a columnist for Guardian Australia

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