I quit Facebook a while back, after having enjoyed being FB friends with a bunch of people with whom I like being connected. I left because Facebook's price of "friendship" was too high for me. What Facebook wanted – what it expected, actually – was for me to be okay with Facebook's tracking and sharing with my "friends" and others my minute-to-minute physical location and other information about me. Facebook also expected me to be okay with its quietly changing its privacy settings so as to steadily and stealthily narrow users' privacy options. I'm not okay with those things. So I left. And I'm happily in touch with people in other ways.
One thing about which Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been brutally honest, though, is his willingness to exploit what people will tolerate. Online privacy, he has said publicly, is an increasingly outmoded social norm. So the audacity of Facebook's suddenly making public what it formerly declared to be strictly private information about users is something Zuckerberg expects FB users to accept as a trade-off for the ease and pleasure of continuing to hang with their friends on Facebook. For this pleasure, he thinks, Facebook users will tolerate a sliding slope of eroding power over what is told about them and to whom. And it appears he is right. What we're really talking about here is Facebook creating a new normal – that is, a new low – for people's expectations of online privacy. The idea is that if you make people sufficiently accustomed to an experience, they'll roll over and just go with it. There is plenty of evidence that this is true.
This is one way in which the National Rifle Association's nonsensical and seemingly self-destructive war cry for more guns in K-12 public schools makes tactical sense: the NRA is trying to create a new normal for the borders of mainstream negotiation about guns. As covered by corporate journalists who will repeat virtually any claim (unless it threatens basic capitalist norms), NRA representative Wayne LaPierre's insane call for "a good guy with a gun" in every school succeeds, perversely, in extending the lunatic fringe of public gun debate by about 100 miles. So now a question like, "Is there an argument for having guns in every grade school?" can shove its way into the realm of respectable talking-head commentary while, just weeks ago, it was rightly ignored as craziness.
I'm not saying the NRA's gambit will work. As I'll write in an upcoming post, in the past few weeks the NRA has had a spectacular Christmastime collision with reality. Along with its cartons of cash, audacity is one of the few remaining weapons in the NRA arsenal.
But, as NRA-purchased political demagogues and Facebook's Zuckerberg have learned very well, a little audacity can go a long way.