Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Friending the President

In the movie The Social Network screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher suggest that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was motivated by a desire to get back at the social elites that snubbed him as an undergrad at Harvard. Zuckerberg was a socially awkward outsider consigned to second-rate clubs, but by coming up with a brilliant idea (perhaps purloined in part from three members of the ultra-exclusive Porcellian) and becoming unimaginably wealthy, he surpassed them all and created a new paradigm of what it means to be an elite insider.

If this scenario is even partly correct, then Zuckerberg must have felt a sense of satisfaction when George W. Bush -- a poster boy for inherited privilege and status, a member of Yale's Skull & Bones -- sat down next to him for an interview at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto. President Bush was there to plug his memoir Decision Points, and he acquits himself well, delivering some great stories that made me want to go out and buy the book. W is a gifted salesman!

Watching the interview is fascinating on a number of levels. Most fascinating to me was watching the body language of the figure seated to the president's left, nervously clutching a handheld mic. At first I wondered why they didn't use lapel mics (it couldn't be money), until the thought struck me that using handhelds gave Zuckerberg something to do with his right hand (his left was usually thrust into the sidepocket of his black hoodie).

There are lots of "wow, just wow!" moments -- for instance the fist bump between Mark and W at 14:30. It's too bad this encounter didn't take place in time to make it into Sorkin and Fincher's film. It would have made the perfect epilogue. The former leader of the free world joshin' around with Mark: the Harvard drop-out and personality-challenged computer geek who made himself into a new kind of powerful man, one on whom presidents come to call. Very impressive.

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