The Social Network
Ben Mezrich, Aaron Sorkin, and David Fincher, 2010
#4, 2010 Skandies

I first heard of Facebook, under its maiden name of "Thefacebook," when my online pal Alex "Phoenixy" Hoffer wondered on her Livejournal why "a Friendster-like site primarily for college students" was serving up ads for a heartburn medication. I was long out of college by that point, so I didn't get a Facebook account of my own for another several years, after it opened to the general public. It's a handy way to keep up with what your old classmates are up to. Of course, Phoenixy doesn't need Facebook for that. The reason she was so far ahead of the curve where Facebook was concerned is that she went to Harvard, where Facebook started. She was even in the same class as Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder. And if she ever wants to see what he's been up to, well, she can just rent The Social Network, a feature film about what motivated Zuckerberg to become the youngest billionaire in the world.

he's only doubling it if you don't count the basement

When Zuckerberg started Facebook, I was still living with Jennifer, who watched the Cartoon Network a lot. Once while passing through the living room I overheard an ad in which a ditzy-sounding anime chick declared her intention to become a billionaire as well. And she left no doubt as to her motivation for wanting that money, chirping, "I want it for the comforts I can acquire!"

Karl Marx would have agreed. Or so said Steve Fish, at least, in his comparative government course which I audited last year. Fish kicked off the course by doing a quick survey of what various thinkers have claimed motivates people in general, and by Fish's account, Marx was the standard bearer for materialism. Here's an example of a materialistic argument. For a few weeks now the political blogs have been abuzz about Occupy Wall Street, a movement that's been surprisingly successful at finally turning the national conversation to the fact that the past thirty years have seen a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the already rich. Money that in the mid-20th century might have gone to provide some dignity to the lives of people who contribute to society — a starter home for a teacher, a reliable car for a secretary, braces and checkups for the kids of a factory worker, piano lessons for the kids of a nurse — is instead being turned over to gamblers who are not only unproductive, but have taken active steps to destroy the economy in pursuit of quick profits. Which raises the question: Why? What do they want the money for? And the materialistic answer, as offered by a visitor to an economics blog whose comment was picked up and reprinted in full by Paul Krugman, is very simple: "The markets want money for cocaine and prostitutes." The secret to understanding "the markets," this poster continued, is to realize that "the markets" are not made up of financial masterminds; "the markets" consist of a bunch of assholes in their early 20s, "supervised" by similar assholes in their late 20s, whose investment strategy is based on using barely-understood formulas in the manner of script kiddies to generate immediate cash so that they can sate the appetites of assholes in their 20s.

The observation that Wall Street demographics skew young struck me as an important one, but not because it strengthened the case for a materialistic explanation. I'd already been taking it more or less as a given that tens of millions of people had been forced onto food stamps so that the directors of Goldman Sachs could buy multiple yachts, and changing that to recent Stern grads banging seven-gram rocks didn't seem to add much. I suppose you can argue that it might be useful as a rhetorical move, and that argument might go something like this. Premise one: American culture in general tends to disdain the concept of lagom, and lots of people see nothing obscene about Mitt Romney quadrupling the size of one of his many houses in the midst of a foreclosure crisis. They hold that life is a contest, the goal is to maximize your own prosperity, and to suggest otherwise makes you a goddamn socialist. Premise two: these are the same people who tend to fulminate against sex and drugs and rock and roll. Conclusion: maybe highlighting the spending habits of young traders rather than old ones will therefore change their minds? Maybe, but I doubt it. People rarely choose sides on political issues based on their principles; they choose their principles based on the side they identify with. So, sure, hedonism on the other team is godless depravity... but hedonism on our team — and if you lean right, Wall Street is part of your team — well, that's just boys being boys! Try to make a case out of it and soon Tucker Carlson will launch a talking point that self-righteous whiners on the left need to shut up because Wall Street wouldn't be any fun without hookers and blow.

I had the breaded mozzarella in red curry sauce

A more satisfying take was offered by another article I ran across a while back. The writer, a fellow named Charles Pye, agreed that it was useful to keep in mind that the typical trader is, as Matt Yglesias put it, a "young smart arrogant dude with limited practical experience and a burning desire to get ahead" — but for non-material reasons. Pye offered his own first-person account of his days as an aspiring investment banker:

I had always thought I was smarter than everyone else, and it was a chip on my shoulder. I needed to prove it, somehow. And what better way than by making a boatload of money? And to make money by manipulating arcane mathematical formulas and computer models, even better. [...] It wasn't even about the money — it was all about ego, and pride. Making money was just a means of keeping score.

Here we have someone who was motivated not by the comforts he could acquire but by status, which, according to Fish's schema, was what Max Weber considered the primary human drive. Not that Weber would have denied that people want material wealth, any more than Marx would have denied that people want to climb the social hierarchy. But they would have disagreed over which was the means and which the end. Do you work for that promotion so you can get a fancy car, or do you get a fancy car to show off that you got that promotion? Consider the menu at the restaurant Elizabeth and I went to when we stopped in Grand Junction, Colorado, during our road trip this past summer. I noticed that one item on the menu was a ribeye steak that cost seventy-four dollars. My theory was that the point was to make the rest of the prices look comparatively reasonable — one look at that steak and suddenly the $38 rack of lamb seems like a steal! But the followers of both Marx and Weber, by Fish's account, would disagree. A Marxist would argue that, no, when people walk into what is supposed to be the best restaurant in town, they're not looking for bargains; they're looking to indulge themselves, and the higher the price, the more self-indulgent they feel like they're being. And a Weberian would counter that the restaurant is playing an even subtler game: it's offering patrons the opportunity to show off that they're the kind of people who can pay $74 for a steak.

Pye's notion of "keeping score" arose from the fact that, as aristocracy has over the course of centuries given way to plutocracy, we now live in a world where status is conferred overwhelmingly through wealth rather than through birth. Practically there's not a huge amount of difference, given how much of the capital controlled by the top 1% is inherited wealth, but there is a widespread sense that if you're smart enough you should be able to figure out a way into the upper class even if you weren't born into it. So this is what these traders set out to do. They've long thought themselves better than everyone else because of their intelligence, but intelligence by itself doesn't confer social status — on the contrary, it marks you as a nerd. Now they're finally out of school and have a chance to leverage that intelligence into the money that will force people to acknowledge them as their betters.

hurl that spheroid down the field

The Social Network makes it manifestly clear that Zuckerberg also considers himself smarter and therefore better than everyone else, but as the movie opens, he's still in school and hasn't yet figured out how he's going to demonstrate his superiority. Up to this point there have been well-established hoops to jump through: get into the top private academy, ace the college entrance exam, proceed to the top university. But now the issue is, as he muses in the first scene to the girl he's dating — or, more accurately, "in the presence of the girl he's dating" — how to distinguish himself from his peers, who by definition have successfully jumped through all the same hoops. There is no prescribed next step for him to take; it's just "do something groundbreaking." And it seems to me that his eventual choice of ground to break was prefigured by his determination that the top university was Harvard.

At this point you might pull up one of those lists by U.S. News or Washington Monthly ranking colleges and say, look — Harvard is the top university. And some years, it is. Other years it's Yale. Or Princeton. When I was deciding where to apply, the top-ranked school was Berkeley, which is a big part of the reason I wound up going there. (For a huge digression about some of the other reasons and how I feel about them in retrospect, click here.) After I graduated, I got a job as an SAT tutor, and while at the time it was just supposed to be a stopgap before grad school, teaching test prep became my primary source of income in most of the years that followed. So I wound up learning a little bit more about the admissions process. And one tidbit I picked up was the widespread perception that what distinguishes Harvard from other schools, even from other Ivies, is that it's the place you go if you want to make contacts. If the purpose of a university is to give its graduates a better chance of financial success — I don't think it is, but the vast majority of people seem to — then it's important to keep in mind the old saw that what you know isn't as important as who you know. And as Phoenixy once pointed out, Harvard is the sort of place where the options under "Title" on the alumni association surveys include not just "Mr." and "Ms." but "Chief Justice" and "Her Imperial Highness Crown Princess." Even if the circles you travel in happen to be slightly more pedestrian, it's still comforting to know that if your investment bank collapses you can always get one of your old college pals at one of the surviving investment banks to pull a few strings for you so you can land on your feet. Or if you're of a more entrepreneurial bent, it's helpful to have a roommate in line to inherit a venture capital firm.

And The Social Network depicts Zuckerberg as someone who clearly chose Harvard for the social networking. In the first scene, the girl he's dating chides him for being "obsessed with finals clubs," Harvard-specific quasi-fraternities that mark their members as the elitest of the elitists. Zuckerberg replies that they're actually called "final clubs" and chides her back for being insufficiently appreciative of the fact that dating a guy from Harvard means that "you'll be meeting a lot of people you wouldn't normally get to meet" as a lowly B.U. girl. Which raises the question of why Zuckerberg thinks this is such an amazing perk.

The most obvious answer, as I've just noted, is that some of those people can be of use to you. This is the big question underlying the lawsuits that form the scaffolding of the movie: does Zuckerberg just use people? Did he use the privileged Winklevoss twins as the source of the get-rich-quick idea he couldn't come up with on his own, pretending to accept their offer of employment in order to keep them from hiring someone else to implement it while he busied himself ripping it off? Did he use his supposed best friend Eduardo Saverin as a piggy bank, helping himself to Saverin's $300,000 commodities windfall to get Facebook off the ground and then coldly cutting him out of the company once he had another source of capital? But this line of inquiry seems to me to skirt around the deeper question. If Zuckerberg does use people, if he chose Harvard in order to find people to use... what does he use them for? To get Facebook off the ground, okay. But what was the point of that?

David Letterman has a different definition

The reflexive, materialistic answer is to say, duh — the point was to make $17.5 billion and counting. Yet Zuckerberg is portrayed as being quite honest when he says that "money isn't a big part of my life." We learn that one of his earlier projects attracted an offer from Microsoft, which he turned down in order to upload the program for free. His indifference to money becomes all the more apparent once Napster co-founder Sean Parker enters the picture to serve as a foil. Parker wears expensive suits; Zuckerberg wears a hoodie and cheap flip-flops everywhere, even after striking it rich. Parker ends up getting caught with a handful of coke obtained from the midriff of a shirtless sorority girl, while Zuckerberg sits back at the office programming late into the night. Zuckerberg isn't an ascetic. He's not averse to beer and blowjobs. But the pursuit of the comforts he can acquire is not what drives him.

Is it status, then? As his rivals note, despite his claim that he can throw together a "classier" social networking site than Harvard can, Zuckerberg gauchely splashes "A Mark Zuckerberg Production" on every page of Facebook. Clearly he wants to be some kind of big man on campus. What would that do for him, if it's not a route to living the high life?

I remember that back in 1995 I went to Barnes & Noble to look at the magazines and Drew Barrymore seemed to be on the cover of all of them. Drew Barrymore was the biggest celebrity in the world, at least that week. Which got me wondering: what good did that do Drew Barrymore? Yes, it meant that she could probably command a bigger salary for her next movie, which in turn meant that she could buy cocaine and prostitutes, though she'd already been through her cocaine phase at age 13, and presumably wouldn't have any trouble getting laid even if she weren't famous, given that she looked like Drew Barrymore. Yes, it meant that a lot of people were talking and thinking about her, but what good did that do her? For one, in the vast majority of cases she'd never know it, and for another, they weren't really thinking about her but about her media persona. Ultimately, it seemed to me that the main effect of Drew Barrymore's fame was to make a particular arbitrary series of glyphs appear on many sheets of glossy paper. I still think of this as "Drew Barrymore Effect."

According to Steve Fish, Weber would say that I had it all wrong. He would argue thusly: What does a materialist get out of a Prada suit or a shot of 62-year-old booze? The pleasure of the senses. He looks at himself in the suit and the image pleases him. He drinks the liquor and likes how it tastes. And what does someone motivated by status get out of being famous? The pleasure of esteem. Knowing that people like you, respect you, envy you, desire you, is intrinsically pleasurable, even if you'll never actually interact with any of those people. Even knowing that all those half-circles and top-left-corners on those sheets of glossy paper refer to you is pretty cool. If it weren't, why would Zuckerberg have made sure that his particular series of squiggles popped up on everyone's screen?

The problem here is that Zuckerberg doesn't seem to be after esteem, per se. Yes, status is important to him — when it looks like Saverin may have endangered Facebook's growth, Zuckerberg freaks out and, his voice shaking, demands, "Did you like being nobody?!" But consider the Facemash story arc. One of the first things Zuckerberg does in the movie is create a site that allows users to weigh in on the relative attractiveness of their female classmates. This move makes him persona non grata both among the women of Harvard and its administration. This becomes part of the Winklevosses' pitch to him: implementing their social networking site will "rehabilitate his image." But Zuckerberg takes this as a deep insult. As Saverin testifies, "Mark resented that they thought he needed to rehabilitate his image after Facemash. Mark didn't want to rehabilitate anything. [...] He'd gotten a lot of notoriety. Facemash did exactly what he wanted it to do." The Weberians thus seem to have correctly pegged that status would be important to Zuckerberg, but not why — it's not that he wants to be well thought of. But then what is it?

celebrating our shared citizenship in flavor country

Let's bring in a third entry on Fish's list of motivations: community. This he associated with Émile Durkheim, who according to Fish maintained that the main thing people sought was to belong to a group; without that sense of being integrated into a larger social framework that provides its members with a set of norms, a way to measure how they're doing, a guide to show them what they should be doing, people succumb to anomie, and in the immortal words of Cosmo Kramer, "You don't want that!"

Is this the missing ingredient in our discussion? Nah. But I think a related idea might be. While we were on our road trip, Lizzie and I listened to a bunch of recorded lectures from Dacher Keltner's course on human emotion. The dominant theme of the class was that emotions are key to how humans fold into groups, which in turn is crucial to human survival. No matter how much the right may cherish the myth of the rugged individual, a lone human in a state of nature is unlikely to last long, certainly not with any kind of quality of life. We have to work together in groups if we don't want to end up huddling in a cave and occasionally running out to gather berries. Nowadays we depend on vast networks encompassing millions of people we never see, but for 99% of our species's time on Earth we have lived in bands of around 30 to 50 people with whom we felt a direct bond. Much of our cerebral apparatus reflects this legacy.

In yet a third class I've audited, Paul Groth's course on the American built environment, a particular slide tends to pop up a lot. It's an old photo of a trio of decrepit robber barons in starchy clothes sitting in big chairs on the roof of San Francisco's Palace Hotel, as a servant lurks in the background waiting to hop to any command they might utter. This is one answer to a question I used to ask a lot: why do people keep accumulating money beyond the point that it has any further meaning? What's the point of gathering more when you've already got more than you can spend? And that answer is: the point is to get you into the club. Become obscenely wealthy and you can hang out with the obscenely wealthy. For a sum that would measurably improve the standard of living for every member of a medium-sized city, you can have the privilege of sitting in a chair next to a couple of other rich old dotards. Similarly, what do vapid celebrities get out of their fame? The privilege of hanging out with other vapid celebrities and dropping each other's names on Twitter. So, yes, maybe the point of punching the Porc or one of the other final clubs is to add a bunch of powerful contacts to your whatever-it-is-that-replaced-the-Rolodex. But after listening to Keltner's course I'm more inclined to think that that's just a side effect. Weber may have been right, and people may be primarily motivated by status. But what's important is not their personal status so much as membership in a high-status group. And the real benefit is not the pleasure of reflecting upon the esteem in which others hold you, but the positive feedback from the area of your brain that says you're in a prosperous tribe.

I should move on, but I want to make one more point. A materialist might counter the above by saying that the movie shows us the point of these clubs. While Zuckerberg works on Facemash, we see a party at the Phoenix. And ultimately it boils down to cocaine and prostitutes. Or at least ecstasy and bused-in Girls Gone Wild. But what is a party? If you want to take drugs, why not take them alone at home? If you want to make out with one of what the screenplay refers to as "the hottest and the easiest," why not take her back to your place first? It seems that for most people, being surrounded by a group while partaking in these activities is a big part of what makes them fun. Which isn't to dismiss materialism — the drive to fold into groups is an additional factor, not an alternative one. I think that the most banal materialism really does explain a lot. The engine that drives much of history is utterly mundane — people want blue pants, and the result is that an ethnic group gets slaughtered to clear the ground for an indigo plantation. Voltaire pointed out in 1756 that the economy of the time consisted of slaves "sacrificing their lives to gratify our newly acquired appetites for sugar, cocoa, coffee, and tobacco." But speaking of tobacco, here's something that still kind of blows my mind. In 1995 I arrived at Northwestern for my first year of grad school. Northwestern's English Department had recently changed its policy regarding graduate admissions; instead of admitting fifty people and making them compete for a handful of second-year fellowships, it had accepted just eight of us and given us each four years of funding. Of the eight of us, two smoked. When we hung out after class, or had a get-together at someone's apartment so we could all get to know each other better, those two would occasionally go off somewhere to light up. Now, note: we were not stupid, and we were not twelve years old. We were all adults intelligent enough to be accepted into a graduate program at a prestigious university. And yet, by the end of the first quarter, I was the only one who wasn't smoking. The other five chose, on purpose — they even talked about it, planned it out in advance — to get themselves addicted to a potent carcinogen, and it wasn't because they'd heard that tobacco was a hell of a drug. It was just that important to them to feel like they were part of the group.

what ever happened to Licorice Pizza

Possibly the best clue to what motivated Mark Zuckerberg to create Facebook is this: when do we see him happy? Okay, yes, he's pretty blissed out at the end of the "we have groupies" scene. But the main time we see him with stars in his eyes is in virtually any scene with Sean Parker. In the frame story an attorney asks Eduardo Saverin whether Zuckerberg had been excited to meet Parker. "Yes," Saverin replies. "Very." And the moment Parker shows up — before he shows up, really — Zuckerberg is in his thrall.

Why is meeting up with, hanging out with, and eventually even living with Parker so important to Zuckerberg? Because it means that, thanks to Facebook, he's made it into the club. Not a club of trust fund babies like the final clubs at Harvard. Not even the club of dotcom zillionaires, as despite his free-spending habits, Parker is actually broke and has been couch-surfing for a while. But he's still a rock star to Zuckerberg, because he's part of the club that really matters to him: the club of people who have used technology to change the world. The old-line music industry may have won in court, neutered Napster, forced its founders into bankruptcy. But as Parker asks Saverin, "You want to buy a Tower Records, Eduardo?" Every shuttered brick-and-mortar store full of empty CD racks has Sean Parker's fingerprints all over it. He is a historical figure. And that's the club Zuckerberg has been aiming for all this time.

Fish's list included a thinker who seems appropriate to mention here, and that was Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche, as presented by Fish, held that people are motivated by power. Unlike Bertrand Russell, who Fish said agreed with Nietzsche on this last point, Nietzsche didn't think that was a bad thing; on the contrary, it was only through the strong amassing and directing power — "lording it over the weak," as Fish put it — that humanity could achieve great things. You don't get the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal without pharaohs and emperors to order them built. An especially interesting aspect of Fish's presentation was his contention that it was crucial to Nietzsche that "the strong" be plural. Nietzsche, said Fish, hated singular dictators almost as much as he despised democracy. His ideal was a brotherhood of the strong, reveling together in their shared contempt of the weak.

I don't really know whether what follows applies to the actual Mark Zuckerberg. But here we have the answer to the question of what the cinematic Zuckerberg gets out of having created Facebook. It's not the money; as Saverin tells the Facebook lawyers, "Mark doesn't care about money." It's not the esteem of the public; he doesn't care about his reputation. It's the power Facebook gives him to express the contempt that fuels him. As Saverin notes, Zuckerberg's earlier project, Facemash, had done "exactly what he wanted it to do," including giving him the opportunity to sit before Harvard's Administration Board and sneer about how much better he was with computers than their IT team. Now, with Facebook, he can do much more. He can go to meetings with ad executives and make stupid noises. He can tell high-powered lawyers that they have "the minimum amount" of his attention because they aren't "intellectually or creatively capable" of the feats he has pulled off. After he meets Parker, one of the few people he considers worthy of the appellation of "colleague," he can wear a bathrobe to a meeting with a venture capitalist, tell him "fuck you," and return to Parker's SUV so the two of them can giggle about it. This may make him look bad, so bad that he has no chance with a jury and has to pay a $65 million settlement, but thanks to Facebook, $65 million is nothing to him. It's a small price to pay for the thing that does give him pleasure: making people angry, making people feel bad about themselves, making people suffer because they are beneath him and suffering is what they deserve. *

the brotherhood of evil mutants

Zuckerberg isn't the only one who acts like this. There's Parker, of course. The "fuck you" stunt is his idea. His obnoxious remarks ("You know how much I've read about you? Nothing") set the template for Zuckerberg's ("I'm just checking your math on that — yes, I got the same thing"). It's very telling that Parker is 25 minutes late for his first meeting with the Facebook crew, and that Zuckerberg is impressed by this: "He founded Napster when he was 19, he can be late." I.e., he's in the club of dotcom world-changers and can therefore flaunt his disregard for others — exactly what Zuckerberg wants.

But someone else makes a big impression in the film with what the B.U. girl aptly terms "snide bullshit": Larry Summers. Again, I don't really know whether what follows applies to the actual Larry Summers. Maybe it's just that all of Aaron Sorkin's characters sound the same. But the cinematic Summers is basically just an old, fat version of Zuckerberg. "Darkness is the absence of light and stupidity in that instance was the absence of me." "Anne? Punch me in the face." "I'm devastated by that." Every word out of Summers's mouth drips with contempt. Which would be obnoxious coming from anyone. Coming from a guy who was a driving force behind the repeal of a host of financial regulations in the late '90s, and who was therefore largely responsible for the resulting economic collapse, it's infuriating. And it's people like this who run the world.

At the beginning of this article I talked about the motivations of the top 1% who have gobbled up virtually the entirety of the past thirty years' worth of economic growth. If you take the Benthamite view that money should be distributed where it can do the most good, this represents a colossal misallocation. Consider the case of John Thain, a fellow whose job was to sit in an office and place bets, which he did very poorly. His company tanked under his watch and no longer exists as an independent enterprise. Nevertheless, our economic system routed over $83.7 million to this fellow in a single year, $1405 of which he used to buy a wastebasket. Now, think of the other uses to which that $1405 might have been put. To someone struggling to make ends meet, it might have meant two months of freedom from anxiety about keeping a roof over her head. To someone with a broken tooth he couldn't afford to get fixed, it might mean the end of weeks of constant agony. Instead it went to give John Thain a little tingle every time he threw away a piece of junk mail, knowing that he was the sort of person who could spend $1405 on a wastebasket.

With just his salary and signing bonus, Thain would have had an eight-figure income, as a reward for helping to destroy the economy by gambling on derivatives. But he didn't get just a salary and signing bonus; he got $68 million in other bonuses on top of that. Take that money away from him, and there's virtually no harm done — he's still a millionaire many times over. On the flip side, imagine how many people that $68 million could have made a real difference for if you divided it up among them — people who work very hard, people who more importantly actually contribute to society, who teach kids to read and help sick people get well. So why do the one-percenters insist on funneling the nation's wealth where it does so little good?

Until recently, I would have said that the answer was self-centeredness. That John Thain thinks the fun of using a $1405 wastebasket is more important than whatever value others could have derived from that money, because it's his fun. And the thing is, that's understandable. We're all guilty of that to varying degrees. I spent more than $1405 on plane fare and hotels when Elizabeth and I were on our road trip. In a purely Benthamite system there would be better uses to which that money would be put than to show us some mountains and feed us some sopaipillas. Everyone draws a line between what's inexcusable extravangance and what's just a decent standard of living. I still find a $1405 wastebasket outrageous, but it's an outrageousness I can relate to. Give me $83.7 million, and sure, that could be me.

But look at what's been going on lately and it becomes clear that a lot of the top 1% have different and more sinister motivations. Look at the ceaseless drumbeat among the elites for austerity, austerity, austerity. We've got debts to pay! We racked up a tab of trillions of dollars dropping bombs on wedding parties and torturing cab drivers to death! Then trillions more on Wall Street's gambling debts! With debts like those, we can't afford to pay for things like retirement plans, or medical care, or schools! Of course, we actually can pay for them, pretty easily. It's not that we don't have the money. It's that the money has been siphoned away to a tiny class of plutocrats, and they're sitting on it. And they're not doing so in order to buy cocaine and prostitutes and $1405 wastebaskets. It's so that we can't have it. It's so that we lose our retirement plans and our medical care and our schools. Because we are beneath them, and watching us suffer provides them with satisfaction.

We see it indirectly when austerity sends the economies of the world into freefall — "manufacturing had one of its sharpest declines ever" ... "12.1 percent plunge in demand" ... "industry contracted for a third month" — and the response is that we need more austerity. And we see it directly when pundits on Fox News deliver foam-flecked diatribes about how much they despise teachers and how poor people shouldn't be allowed to have refrigerators. They, and their would-be brethren who hang out on the bottom half of the Internet calling the poor "animals" and "savages," are fueled by the same thing as Mark Zuckerberg: contempt. So when their economic proposals call for more "belt-tightening," deeper cuts, further suffering, it's not because these things are necessary to fix the economy — inflicting pain isn't the price of these policies, it's the point of these policies. Those who propose them don't want to fix the economy. The economy is doing exactly what they want it to do: hurting people. What The Social Network points to is that the plutocrats aren't selfish. They're sadistic.

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