I thought I hated Facebook but, compared to the angry English writer Tom Hodgkinson, I'm actually a huge Facebook fan. In yesterday's Guardian, Hodgkinson launches the most sustained and relentless attack on Facebook that I've ever read. In "With friends like these..." Hodgkinson buries not only Facebook but also the dreadful dreadful (un)reality of social networking. It's a shockingly nasty polemic that well and truly fries the boy Zuckerberg and his libertarian investors.
What Hodgkinson does particularly well is link up Facebook with the libertarian right-wing in American socio-political culture. He analysis of ex Paypal CEO Peter Thiel is appropriately chilling. What he doesn't do, however, is connect the dots between Facebook and the rest of Silicon Valley. YouTube, for example, was also founded by ex Paypal Thiel acolytes. And many of the most fashionable and well financed new companies in the Valley are financed and lead by dubious characters from this libertarian Paypal mafia.
"I hate Facebook", Hodgkinson begins his memorable essay. But the truth is that he hates Silicon Valley (even though the English writer probably hasn't even been here). I wonder, for example, what he would make of the Google boys and their evangelical faith in space travel and artificial intelligence. Or how he would make sense of the fact that Second Life's founder and CEO is an evangelical Christian. There is a really serious book here somewhere -- a Bonfire of the Vanities, perhaps, or a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Tom Hodgkinson is the author of three books including How to be Idle. I hope he turns "With friends like these..." into a fourth book. He needs to come and live out here for six months, get real intimate with the Valley crazies, keep a straight face as they preach their faith in the virtual, then turn the surreal experience into a full blown, relentless attack against their religious faith in technology. Given the refreshingly vitriolic style of his writing, a Hodgkinson book about the Valley would make Cult look tame. And maybe he could bring the great animator Ralph Steadman with him to do the graphics for the book. It will need pictures from a Gonzo artist like Steadman. Otherwise readers won't be able to visualize quite how awful people like Thiel actually are.