Man this Facebook Beacon situation is getting ugly out here in Palo Alto. An angry mob of MoveOn.org people (photo) has formed outside the Facebook headquarters, and they’re not going away. It’s like a hostage type situation. The Facebook kiddies are inside, afraid to come out. They’ve been trying to send out for pizza but the police won’t let the delivery guys through. Turns out the cops are pissed too, because one of them bought some jewelry for his girlfriend and his wife got notified on her news feed. I’m telling you, man, do not mess with the boys from the Palo Alto SWAT. They will fuck you up.
Meanwhile the PR squad at Facebook is in major damage control mode. Katie says this is just about the worst PR team she’s ever seen. Luckily they’re being bailed out by friendly hacks who are providing ground cover with articles like this one where Fortune’s eternal optimist David Kirkpatrick (the guy who once famously defended Ebay’s ridiculous $4 billion purchase of Skype) now straps on his rose-tinted glasses again and explains why the whole Beacon fiasco is overblown, and how there’s nothing to worry about, and Facebook is the greatest company ever created in the history of the world, and the whole Beacon “scandal” is a tempest in a teapot which “may say more about the press – and today’s blog-led penchant for sensationalism – than it does about Facebook.”
Um, right. Of course. It’s not Facebook’s fault. It’s those bloggers. And — gasp — the sensationalist media. Including, apparently, Kirkpatrick’s own colleague, Josh Quittner, who penned this piece criticizing Facebook a couple days ago. Yeah, Kirkpatrick makes sure he cuts Quittner a new one in his article.
So what’s the big deal? Sure, it’s nice to see filthy hacks having a lively debate, and different people have different opinions, even when they work for the same magazine. In this case, however, my spider sense is tingling. Katie’s is too. Her take is that Quittner’s piece rattled some cages out here — it was picked up and linked to pretty widely — and so someone in Facebook PR or someone at the Borg or someone among Facebook’s investors reached out to Kirkpatrick and reminded him that you can’t go around pissing on people’s shoes if you want to keep getting interviews for your big slurpy cover stories about the Valley. It’s kind of like the Sopranos. It’s about respect. It’s about making things right. You know? (And yes, this is kind of what Katie told Kirkpatrick recently when one of his other colleagues at Fortune was trying to do a hatchet job on me.)
Real lesson from all this? Facebook may be just a startup, but they have a lot of powerful friends out here. Zuckerberg has been clever enough to spread around little pieces of his company to a lot of important people — sort of the Valley equivalent of the “walking around money” that Democrats like to sprinkle around to preachers and other “influencers” at election time, to help get the vote out.
Those folks with a stake in Facebook are all counting on that big pot of gold at the end of the IPO rainbow. Guess who their favorite reporter in the whole wide world happens to be? Guess which magazine is always happy to oblige when you need a nice splashy cover saying how smart and brilliant and creative and wonderful and special you are? Yeah. It’s like dat, y’all.
Kirkpatrick’s piece is like a shot fired across the bow of every filthy hack in the Valley. Message is this: Don’t mess with Zuckerberg. He’s a made man.