After reading 2018’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism — Shoshana Zuboff’s incisive, deeply unsettling look into the digitally-integrated future being constructed for us (and from us) and the antisocial elites responsible for its architecture — Mark Zuckerberg and his ilk take on a whole new degree of malevolence. With biting clarity, Zuboff shows that these people’s endgame is to bore their way into every nook of our public and private selves in order to extract and exploit precious data points. As they sell us all on a mix of utility and innovation in the foreground, they simultaneously lurk the shadows, stalking and consuming our individuality like ghouls.
Zuckerberg, especially,reallymakes you think. From his bizarre public appearances to his company’s sociopathic, for-profit manipulation and exploitation of user data, you get the sense that there is something off, something preternaturally strange about him. No matter his efforts to come off as a paternalistic technocrat, it often seems like he’s lording over all of us from a higher dimension, free of consequence and corporeality.
On “Mark Zuckerberg”, Halifax’s Nap Eyes ponder his true nature. “Is Mark Zuckerberg a ghost? Maybe, maybe . . .” goes the first line of the new single off their upcoming record Snapshot of a Beginner. The accompanying video adds to the absurdity: as the band jams away, made up as a quartet of animated ghosts, an eerily-rendered Zuckerberg (complete with the “normal guy” t-shirt, dead-eyed stare, and receding hairline) slowly climbs through a TV-set Samara-style, imposing his presence on the animated pastoral landscape. “Where are his hands? And why don’t you ever see them in public?” asks Nigel Chapman. By the logic of the video, there is nowhere his reach cannot extend. His hands are everywhere and nowhere, prodding into any space he pleases as he dances and smiles like a real honest-to-god human being.
Over the song’s muscular, nuanced jangle-pop, Chapman’s words are a revelation: absurdly efficient, funny, and poignant. They manage to offset and make light of our strange new reality, if only for a few minutes. He reminds us that there are moments of redemption left to us, even as all our private and shared spaces are calibrated for intrusion by the tech giants. He finds one on a nighttime stroll through Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park as he stumbles across “three teen boys laughing with a bong made from a Granny Smith.” As the boys sing “transcendence is all around us” (I imagine a sort of pagan folk dance; the boys passing the sacred apple in joyous revelry; their singing only halted by fart jokes and huge tokes) we are reminded that there are still small slivers of private, natural space left for us to enjoy spontaneity, to be idiots, and to find organic joys away from the slow haunt of datafication.