Pivot on Facebook PR
How Nick Clegg & co. Game the Media
Of all the media hats that Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway wear, it’s the Pivot podcast that brings out the best in both of them. Sure Kara’s “Sway” draws an eclectic mix of boldfaced names and “The ProfG Show” gets philosophical and downright wonky in exploring today’s most salient business trends and issues. But, together, the back and forth banter of these two astute observers of the technosphere and life itself strikes a most engaging and resonant chord, at least for me.
Today’s episode opened with their respective thumbs up, from different perspectives, of Monica Lewinsky’s HBO Max doc “15 Minutes of Shame,” which examines public shaming and cancel culture through the eyes of someone who knows a thing or two about the subject.
The hosts soon pivoted to Nick Clegg of Facebook’s recent media charm offensive, which prompted me to pen this post. It’s not just that Clegg, a forked-tongue Brit, knows how to suck up the live TV airtime with obfuscatory blather on everything Facebook supposedly is doing to ferret out the miscreants and militiamen on its platform, but it’s how and where he chooses to tell his tales that speaks volumes. This is where Swisher and Galloway weighed in on just how insidious Facebook PR is. Read some excerpts for yourself, but do listen to the full episode:
Kara: “Nick Clegg…speaking of people who deserve the consequences, went on a non-apology tour this weekend and spoke to everybody except people who actually cover the company.” (Plays Clegg audio clip from his Dana Bash interview on CNN).
Scott: “Facebook, the bottom line is, their arability to control the externalities, their incredible ability to overrun all externalities to create delay and obfuscation [which] has resulted in this noxious emissions that make a bunch of very important things: teen health, elections, our discourse…makes all of these things just little bit shittier every fuckin day.”
Kara: “A little bit shittier. I think that should be their motto…I want to walk into these meetings as they’re strategizing and slap them all, like back to last Sunday. Just speak English to all of us.”
Scott: “People have just had it. People see through this sh*t. No, you’re lying.”
Kara: “The fact that they’re going to non-people who covered it, they won’t return. I have a dozen declines [from Facebook] on any interview, even off the record. They’re trying to avoid people who know them and they’re trying to make their case directly.
Scott: “I need to say this. You know who they’re going to? They’re going to very talented, very well-known journalists who don’t know a fucking thing about technology and can’t ask follow-up questions. Brian Stelter, Dana Bash, Chuck Todd. They’re fantastic journalists. They’re purposely cherry-picking people who feel like a real interview but don’t have the domain expertise to really drill down on these questions because technology is complicated. These people have no domain expertise.”
Kara: “Well, why would you pick the ones who’d say ‘that’s bullshit, Nick.’ They wouldn’t like that.”
Kara’s right of course. Why would Facebook’s PR consiglieres, of which Nick Clegg is the grand poobah, expose any of their executives to delicate questions, no matter how much King’s English their paid shill can serve up? Also, it’s not only the choice of which program hosts Facebook can steamroll, but it’s the choice of format, i.e., a live, unfiltered TV interview versus a recorded, editable one. In this way, the obfuscator can usurp finite airtime, not unlike how former AG Bill Barr acted in a hearing before Congressional Democrats.