It's time for some public damage control from two of the masters of the universe. According to CNN, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan claim they're "disgusted" by Donald Trump's statement that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" he broadcast on social media in response to the ongoing Black Lives Matters protests. The statement arrives just days after Zuckerberg defended his decision to allow the highly incendiary post to remain on the world's biggest social network.
What they say now — The statement was made to a group of scientists backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. It comes after at least 140 of those scientists called on Zuckerberg to reconsider his obsequious allegiance to free speech absolutism and weigh the real-life damage such words can do — and have done — to vulnerable people.
According to CNN, several individuals voiced their concerns about Trump's violent rhetoric and Zuckerberg's decision to trivialize the criticism around it. In an email to this group, obtained by CNN, the couple said:
We are deeply shaken and disgusted by President Trump's divisive and incendiary rhetoric at a time when our nation so desperately needs unity. This is an extraordinarily painful inflection point in our nation's story, particularly for the Black community and our Black colleagues, who have lived with the impacts of systemic racism for generations.
This is a decidedly different tone than what Zuckerberg previously exhibited during a company call, where he admitted that only one of the six people involved in keeping the Trump post up was Black.
What Zuck said before — In a company call right after Trump shared the controversial words, The Verge reported that Zuckerberg said:
I knew that I needed to separate out my personal opinion ... from what our policy is and the principles of the platform we’re running are — knowing that the decision that we made was going to lead to a lot of people being very upset inside the company and a lot of the media criticism we’re going to get. Likely this decision has incurred a massive practical cost for the company to do what we think is the right step.
Moreover, in a bout of particularly egregious spinelessness, Zuckerberg added:
The presumption on our service is that you should be able to say what you want unless you’re causing a specific harm and we enumerate what the harms are and try to enforce them. And I do think that default is right.
Let's not fool ourselves — Not once during the call did Zuckerberg mention feeling a sense of disgust or even mild disagreement with Trump openly promoting an armed response to protesters. The couple's comment about feeling "disgust" is as effective as Facebook's supposedly "independent" oversight board. More than anything, the boilerplate response appears to be an effort to manage optics and appease the social network's board of directors whose main interest is in revenue, not protecting people from a heavily armed police force with a history of violence.