Catching Up: Richard Blumenthal, Facebook

Because of travel and related chaos, have been behind the news on both these topics. But two recent Atlantic posts provide handy shortcuts to points I meant to make.

Blumenthal: This story is simply strange. On the one hand, men of that generation do not easily forget whether they were "in" Vietnam. On the other, if a public official gives hundreds and hundreds of speeches over the decades, it's possible that, innocently or not, he could say the wrong, self-serving thing several times. Without knowing how the story would finally shake out, something about the initial NY Times stories struck me as trying too hard and pushing the evidence beyond its natural limits. (Disclosure: I don't know Richard Blumenthal, but his younger brother, David Blumenthal MD, has been a friend for many years.)

This Atlantic item, by Richard Blumenthal's long-time friend Ben Heineman Jr., seems to me to do the fairest job of weighing the overall evidence pro and con. To me it's a more convincing presentation that that of the NYT's ombudsman Clark Hoyt, whom I generally agree with and admire but who in this case seemed (to me) defensive on the paper's behalf. We'll see how the evidence emerges.

Facebook: This has become a cliche, but I really hate the way Facebook runs its business and deals with its customers. I've been through round after round of trying to keep one step ahead of its ever-changing "privacy" settings by removing info from public view. As I mentioned a few months ago, I made a mistake early on by mixing actual friends -- family, people I "know" -- with "contacts" in the professional sense. But something changed for me a few weeks ago when I was at the Washington Post site and saw, unbidden, the list of my "friends" who were also reading the Post and emailing articles from it. So if I'm seeing what they are doing, then they are seeing....

Facebook's declining reputation is also satisfying on karmic grounds. The story of Wall Street gives no indication that excessively grasping behavior backfires in the long run, but Mark Zuckerberg's path through life in his 25+ years may momentarily be catching up with him. (I don't usually sound this harsh. I make an exception for this company.)

For tech-based explanations of the anti-Facebook case, see here and here. And -- to return to the original point -- yesterday the Atlantic's Derek Thompson made the case against Mark Zuckerberg's recent "apology," here. I hope the company really can change its culture and values. Until then...